Lafarge-Holcim merger to rattle the cement sector in Africa, Latin America


The creation of Lafarge Africa, the clearance of the Cemex West acquisition by Holcim in Germany and the sale of Lafarge's assets in Ecuador all hint at the scale of business that LafargeHolcim will command when it comes into existence. The implications in developing markets are worth exploring, especially in Latin American and Africa.

In sub-Saharan Africa, Lafarge is merging its cement companies in Nigeria and South Africa to create Lafarge Africa. Analysts Exotix have described the move as, 'the birth of a leading player on a continental scale'. Indeed, if Lafarge wanted to grow Lafarge Africa to encompass its many other African cement producing subsidiaries it could hold at least 17 integrated cement plants (including plants in north Africa) with a cement production capacity of at least 40Mt/yr in 10 countries and infrastructure in others. That puts it head-to-head with Dangote's plans to meet 40Mt/yr by the end of 2014 through its many expansion projects. Following these two market leaders would come South African-based cement producer PPC with its expansion plans around the continent.


Meanwhile across the Atlantic in Latin America the Lafarge-Holcim merger threatens Cemex. Unlike in Africa where Lafarge has a ubiquitous but disparate presence, Lafarge and Holcim's cement assets are more evenly scattered around the Caribbean, Central and South America. In terms of cement production capacity Cemex and Lafarge-Holcim will both have around 30Mt/yr, with Cemex just in front. The next biggest cement producers in Latin America will be Votorantim (present mainly in Brazil) with just over 20Mt/yr and Cementos Argos (Columbia) with about the same. This includes some new acquisitions in the United States for the growing Columbian producer. In Ecuador Lafarge and Holcim held over 50% of the market share, hence the sale by Lafarge of its assets to Union Andina de Cementos for US$553m.


Depending on how well the merger integrates the two companies, corals the various subsidiaries and implements strategic thinking the merger could just create business as usual with little disruption to the existing order. Yet in both continents the merger has the opportunity to shake up and reinvigorate the cement markets as existing players suddenly discover serious new competition and react accordingly.


Africa has a population of 1.1bn and it had a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$2320/capita in 2013. South America had a population of 359m in 2010 and a GDP of US$8929/capita. This compares to US$27,250/capita in Europe and US$54,152/capita in the US. The economic development potential for each continent is humongous. Post-merger, LafargeHolcim will be first or second in line for some of this potential in Latin America and Africa.