Enough to go round

Posted On Friday, 13 July 2007 02:00 Published by
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The new National Credit Act may be having a dampening effect on the rampant demand for cement in the country, according to PPC CEO John Gomersall.

john gomersall"Demand from residential developers is slowing, the banks' conditions are tighter they're not giving 100% bonds anymore," he says, adding that PPC anticipated last year that this could precipitate a slowdown in cement demand.

This, he says, has reduced to some extent the necessity for PPC to import cement to keep its customers supplied.

Gomersall is visibly annoyed by suggestions that the country is experiencing cement shortages and claims that those who voice opinions on looming cement shortages are speaking from ignorance.

He says large projects such as the Gautrain and Eskom power stations will not use as much cement as everyone believes, and that the quantity needed will be spread over a number of years, while cement production will be growing incrementally.

"I still think cement demand will grow at a compound 6%/year until at least 2014, but I am not sure there will be an equivalent 6% growth in skills over that same period," says Gomersall.

"I'm talking about the managerial and engineering skills needed to design, tender, contract and manage projects."

Asked about an investigation into building material prices alluded to by President Thabo Mbeki in a TV interview last week, Gomersall says he has not heard of any such investigation.

He says cement is a cyclical commodity, and it's important in the up-cycle that those who take the risk and invest large sums of money in new capital equipment should be rewarded.

He says the reason PPC's accounts look so good is that the group's assets are depreciated to a value of about R2 billion on the balance sheet but the insurance value of these assets is closer to R16 billion.

In the six months to March the group reflected an operating margin of 38% on revenue of R2,6 billion, one percentage point lower than the previous year.

"The retailers say they would love margins that look like that, but they can't have them because they haven't made the capital investments," he says.

Cement demand grew 12% last year, outstripping the 8% projection and exceeding forecasts for a third year in a row.

But the feeling at PPC is that it is unlikely to be as high this year. Chief operating officer Orrie Fenn says demand in Cape Town has dropped steeply.

The group hopes to have its R4bn empowerment transaction completed by September, "broad-based with staff participation", says Gomersall.

A 15% equity stake will be transferred.

Earlier this month, Barloworld said that for every one share held in Barloworld, shareholders would get the equivalent of 1,8555 PPC shares in the unbundling of PPC.

On Monday the PPC shares also started trading after a 10-for-one split, part of the restructuring exercise and meant to encourage liquidity.

Gomersall says he does not expect the split to create much change in the two share registers - though there there may be some shorting of the shares.

PPC closed up 90c at R52 after its first day after the unbundling.

 

Last modified on Tuesday, 15 October 2013 13:53
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