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Holcim profit crumbles

Swiss cement concern Holcim managed to turn a profit in 2008 despite a weakening construction industry worldwide and high energy costs, it said on Wednesday.

The St Gallen-based firm announced a net profit of just under SFr2.23 billion ($1.9 billion) last year on sales of just under SFr25.16 billion.

The result, down 54 per cent on the previous year for the world's second-largest cement company, fell below analysts' expectations. 2009 is expected to be a dismal year for the global construction industry.

Holcim, which competes with France's Lafarge, Mexico's Cemex and Germany's HeidelbergCement, sold 143.4 million tons of cement and 167.7 million tons of aggregates last year, it said in a statement.

The global economic downturn has stymied demand for cement and other building materials and the slump in construction has even started to spread to former growth markets such as India and eastern Europe.

"2009 will be another difficult year for the construction and building materials sectors. Although government support programs have been announced, Holcim has to expect a further decline in demand," the group said.

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