Cementos Progreso Grows In Central America

Irtra

We start 2022 with the news that Cemex is selling up to Cementos Progreso in Costa Rica and El Salvador. On 20 December 2021 Cemex announced that it was selling one integrated cement plant, one grinding plant, seven ready-mix concrete plants, one aggregate quarry and one terminal in Costa Rica and one terminal in El Salvador. The sale is valued at around US$335m with an expected completion date in the first half of 2022 subject to regulatory approval.

This sale is noteworthy because it concerns Mexico-based Cemex selling off assets in its ‘back yard’ of Central America. Once the sale completes it will retain operations in Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Colombia under its Cemex LatAm subsidiary. It will also continue to operate in the Caribbean in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Puerto Rico. Previous divestments by Cemex over the last five years or so have tended to focus on piecemeal (or bolt-off) divestments in the US and Europe. This latest sale could be viewed in a similar way if Central America and the Caribbean are seen as a region rather than individual countries. For its part Cemex describes the divestment as part of its ‘Operation Resilience’ plan to optimise its global portfolio.

Why it chose to sell up in Costa Rica is curious given that Cemex LatAm’s cement sales volumes for the region were reported as ‘flat’ in 2019 with the exception of Colombia and El Salvador. 2020 was then a shock, like almost everywhere else, as coronavirus caused disruption reducing sales volumes. 2021 saw recovery in all of Cemex LatAm’s national markets over the first nine months. Notably, both Cemex’s revenue and operational earnings in Costa Rica grew when comparing the first nine months of 2019, before the pandemic, to the same period in 2021, unlike Colombia and Panama. For the third quarter of 2021 Cemex said that growing cement sales volumes in Costa Rica had been driven by infrastructure and housing sectors. It also added that “Our cement footprint in the country is also a very relevant component of our regional trading network. We continued exporting during the quarter, mainly to our operations in Nicaragua.” In may be coincidence but it was interesting timing to add a comment like that.

From Cementos Progreso’s perspective the new assets in Costa Rica and El Salvador are part of an ongoing expansion phase outside of its home base. At home in Guatemala the company operates three integrated plants. The third, the San Gabriel plant, started up in 2019. In the same year the company purchased Cemento Interoceanico and its grinding plant in Panama. Then in July 2021 the group commissioned its new Belmopan grinding plant in Belize as part of its Cementos Rocafuerte subsidiary. The new proposed acquisitions in Costa Rica and El Salvador start to fill in the gaps in Cementos Progreso’s network between Guatemala and Panama. The price seems on the high side for a 0.9Mt/yr integrated plant and a 0.9Mt/yr grinding unit. Yet the associated quarry, concrete plants, terminals and, crucially, the location may have made it one well worth paying. For comparison Peru-based Unacem agreed to purchase a grinding plant from CBB in Chile this week for around US$30m. Back in 2013 Lafarge sold assets in Honduras, including an integrated plant and a grinding unit, to Cementos Argos for Euro232m.

Both parties may do well out of this transaction. Cemex continues to show that it is fully prepared to sell assets anywhere as it sharpens up its operations. Cementos Progreso meanwhile is turning itself into a regional player to watch. (https://www.globalcement.com/news/item/13485-cementos-progreso-grows-in-central-america)

Nestle

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