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Holcim 2Q Net Profit Down 12%, Sees No Broad-Based Recovery

By Martin Gelnar Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES ZURICH -(Dow Jones)- Cement and building aggregates maker Holcim Ltd (HOLN.VX) Thursday echoed rivals in warning that weak cement demand in Europe is offsetting steady growth in Asia. Reporting lower earnings for the second quarter, the company said there are no signs of a global economic recovery although some important countries such as the U.S. have stabilized and many markets in the Asia Pacific region continue to grow at a fast pace. Holcim again refrained from repeating its long-standing target of 5% like-for-like growth in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or Ebitda, after dropping that guidance in the first quarter. Net profit fell to 399 million Swiss francs ($382 million) in the three months to June 30, from CHF453 million a year earlier, while sales rose 11% to CH6.16 billion from CHF5.56 billion due to acquisitions. The net profit for the first half of CHF331 million, burdened by a tax-related loss in the first quarter of 2010, was below market expectations of CHF494 million. Cement makers around the world were hit hard by the credit crisis and resulting economic downturn as construction markets contracted and responded by cutting costs and closing plants. There have been some signs of a pickup this year, although companies have reported that Europe is still experiencing a downturn. French rival Lafarge SA (LG.FR) last month posted a 15% decline in second-quarter net profit and reduced its full-year outlook for cement demand due to a slower-than-expected recovery in its European markets. Mexican rival Cemex SAB (CEMEX.MX) said that while it is seeing signs of a turnaround in some markets such as the U.S. and Mexico, it's expecting sharp declines in markets such as Spain. It said it couldn't predict where demand would go, due to continued economic uncertainty. However, Germany's HeidelbergCement AG (HEI.XE) said it expects demand, and its sales and earnings, to pick up this year on growing demand from Asia-Pacific, Africa and North America. Holcim's shares closed at CHF67.70 Wednesday. They have fallen 16% so far this year due to uncertainty over business prospects. -By Martin Gelnar, Dow Jones Newswires, +41 43 443 8042; martin.gelnar@dowjones.com

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