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Holcim profit crumbles

Swiss cement maker Holcim's first-quarter net profit has plunged by 80 per cent as the financial crisis dampened construction activity in many of its markets.

It fell to SFr74 million ($65.22 million) compared with SFr370 million for the same period last year.

The world’s number two in the sector said on Wednesday that its sales had tumbled by 17.9 per cent to SFr4.5 billion, adding that 2009 would be a “difficult year”.

Business in Europe and North America had suffered from the economic downturn and the severe and prolonged winter, Holcim said in a statement from its Zurich headquarters.

However, the group regions of Latin America and Asia Pacific posted organic growth, while India had made “remarkable progress”. Holcim has a 46 per cent stake in India’s Ambuja Cements.

Analysts expect Holcim to benefit from increasing investment in railways, shopping centres and airports in India and in particular in the capital, New Delhi, which hosts the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Also on Wednesday market leader Lafarge of France announced a first-quarter net loss of €17 million (SFr25.66 million) compared with a profit of €150 million for the same period in 2008.

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