CNBM consolidates its cement businesses

Consolidation of the Chinese cement industry looks set to take a major step forward this week. China National Building Material Company (CNBM) announced that it is restructuring its cement production assets and companies under one subsidiary, Tianshan Cement. The move is significant since CNBM is the world’s largest cement producer, with a production capacity of over 500Mt/yr. That’s more than the total output of any single country except China. It’s also between a quarter and a third of national capacity domestically.

Little information has been revealed except that it concerns most of CNBM’s cement producing subsidiaries. Namely: China United Cement, South Cement, North Cement, Southwest Cement and Sinoma Cement. Note that this leaves out Ningxia Building Materials and Qilianshan Holdings, although some commentators have suggested that they may be merged in later on. It was announced to stock markets as a proposal with a ‘letter of intent of cooperation’ exchanged between CNBM and Tianshan Cement. CNBM will remain the controlling shareholder of Tianshan Cement after the restructuring. However, the assets concerned – the cement companies are still being discussed and considered. The aim of the reorganisation is to ‘facilitate resolving industry competition’ among the subsidiaries of CNBM.

The move is expected to significantly increase operational efficiency at the cement companies as they start to act in a more coordinated manner. It also fits the government-requested drive for the industry as a whole to consolidate and follow supply-side reform initiatives by, hopefully, eliminating old production assets and other measures. Indeed as CNBM’s president Peng Shou said in the company’s report for 2019, “Production overcapacity of the industry has not been fundamentally resolved. The task of cutting production overcapacity was arduous, and the supply-side structural reform remains the major task.” The company says it is committed to building a three-pillar development platform of cement, new materials and engineering services.

How much more operational efficiency the world’s largest cement producer will need to do this is a key question. In 2019 the sales revenue from its cement business rose by 12% year-on-year to US$18.7bn and its earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) increased by 19% to US$5bn. Growth at this level is novel to western-based multinational cement producers! So the implication might be that CNBM is hoping to turbo-charge its financial performance before (or if) the serious government-forced supply side cuts occur or a general economic slowdown happens so that it can return to ‘normal’ Chinese performance afterwards.

The Chinese Cement Association presented a good overview of the history of CNBM that you can read here. The quick version is that it’s the embodiment of the Chinese government’s desire to build and merge its cement industry since 2005. The latest restructuring with Tianshan Cement is the latest chapter in this 15 year story. What the reorganisation means internationally is ‘probably not much’ in the short term. Better coordination between CNBM’s cement companies could have implications in the longer term if they acted together on an international strategy, such as a strategy on exports for example, or if group-wide suppliers were agreed upon.

That’s all on China but finally if readers were not able to join us for Global Cement Live last week on 23 July 2020, we recommend watching the playback of Arif Bashir, Director (Technical/Operations) of DG Khan Cement Nishat Group Pakistan. He gave a great overview of Pakistan’s cement industry and the challenges it is facing and overcoming. Be sure to tune in for this week’s guest speaker, Regina Krammer from Loesche who will be discussing how the coronavirus crisis will change communications in the sector.

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