The Swiss cement and aggregates firm, Holcim, has announced a fall in profits for the year 2001.
Holcim, which is the world's second largest cement group, reported a net profit fall of 8.4 per cent for the year 2001 to SFr812 million - down from SFr886 million in 2000.
But the group also announced better than expected figures for the first quarter of 2002. It said the outlook for the construction industry for the rest of the year remained favourable although further difficulties were expected.
Holcim (formerly Holderbank) said the difficult market conditions during the second half of last year, together with restructuring costs, were to blame for the drop in profits last year.
But the lower profits are in line with industry analysts' forecasts for the group, who predicted profits of around SFr818 million.
Holcim's outlook also compares well with its main rivals, French cement firm Lefarge and Germany's Heidelberger Zement, both of which are also bullish about prospects for 2002.
Steady world market
Holcim bases its optimism for the coming year on the completion of restructuring measures at several group companies in Europe and North American, together with sustained profits in Latin America.
In addition, Holcim believes the expected economic upturn in the second half of 2002 will have a positive impact on the group's earnings.
The group also announced plans to issue two million bearer shares, on top of around 30 million outstanding, as an equity boosting measure.
Holcim has interests in over 70 countries around the world, employing 47,000 people.
swissinfo with agencies