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(Bloomberg) -- Holcim Ltd., which is merging with French competitor Lafarge SA to form the world’s largest cement maker, reported fourth-quarter earnings that beat analyst predictions and said cement volumes will accelerate outside of Europe.
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization increased 6.5 percent to 1.01 billion Swiss francs ($1.07 billion), the Jona, Switzerland-based company said in a statement today. Profit exceeded the 984.4 million-franc average analyst estimate. Sales rose 1.9 percent to 4.87 billion francs.
U.S. economic growth and expansion in emerging markets including India helped Holcim stick to a 2015 operating-profit growth target outlined in November, before a Swiss National Bank policy shift in January sparked a surge in the franc’s foreign- exchange value. Paris-based Lafarge is also predicting profit growth this year, helped by demand in emerging markets and a drop in oil prices.
“Holcim achieved solid like-for-like performance in the financial year with a strong fourth quarter,” Holcim Chief Executive Officer Bernard Fontana said in the statement.
Lafarge and Holcim, which announced their merger in April, agreed this month to sell 6.5 billion euros ($7.38 billion) of assets to CRH Plc to win antitrust approval and complete the combination by mid-2015. Lafarge CEO Bruno Lafont, who’s due to be run the combined company, said on Feb. 18 that some proceeds from the merger may be used to reward shareholders.
Holcim sees 2015 operating profit excluding merger costs in a range of 2.7 billion francs to 2.9 billion francs as the Swiss manufacturer reduces spending and cement markets rebound. Full- year operating profit adjusted for one-time items rose 4.6 percent to 2.47 billion francs.
The company plans to pay a dividend of 1.3 francs, compared with a 1.4-franc payout estimated in a survey by Bloomberg.
Lafarge is forecasting that earnings this year, excluding some items, will climb 10 percent to 18 percent in 2015, also helped by the euro’s decline on currency markets.
To contact the reporters on this story: Jan-Henrik Förster in Zurich at firstname.lastname@example.org; Francois de Beaupuy in Paris at email@example.com To contact the editors responsible for this story: Simon Thiel at firstname.lastname@example.org Andrew Noel, Thomas Mulier