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Cement Sector Consolidation Sustains – Implications for Investors

Introduction

The article discusses the ongoing consolidation trend in India’s cement industry led by top players acquiring assets of smaller firms to expand capacities.

Analysis for a Layman

India’s cement sector has seen many large companies buying out smaller cement makers recently. Top companies like UltraTech, Ambuja-ACC combine, Shree Cement, and Dalmia Bharat are increasing their share of industry capacity by acquiring plants of regional players. UltraTech itself has added over 50 million tonnes capacity by taking over 4 cement firms in the last 7 years as it aims to reach 200 million tonnes eventually. Buying existing cement units is cheaper and faster for large firms compared to setting up new plants completely from scratch. Analysts estimate enough smaller cement companies are still there for large players to keep buying as they want to keep expanding quickly to dominate their regions across India.

Cement Sector Consolidation Sustains

Original Analysis

While augmenting scale economies, the relentless pace of consolidation raises market power concerns with the top four firms controlling over half of the national capacity now. Beyond costs, success hinges on turnaround capabilities given regional players often battled sub-optimal utilization, working capital gaps. Labour rationalization risks persist too. For smaller firms, valuations seem attractive to cash out amidst limited growth capital visibility. However, this shifts their leverage to ancillary sectors like limestone. And realizations on offer now may still not adequately compensate the next generation entrepreneurially. Lastly, as producer clout grows in a largely B2B category, price controls risk on consumer-facing government if cartelization allegations emerge during demand troughs.

Impact on Retail Investors

For stock investors, the cement buyout spree signals appetite of top players to deploy accrued cashflows for strengthening market dominance rather than high dividend pay-outs. This offers revenue visibility amidst cycles. However, smaller firms now left with limited growth headroom face risks of becoming takeover targets rather than wealth creators. Retail investors still need sufficient understanding of regional dynamics even among larger cement names. Outperformance tends to concentrate in efficiently run companies beyond balance sheet size alone. Mature players also seem fully valued. So investors should await major dips to accumulate quality names.

Impact on Industries

Cement and construction raw material firms witness steady cement demand tailwinds near term, aided by consolidator’s expansion strategies. However, smaller manufacturers will struggle without scale while facing input cost pressures too. Industry structures turn more oligopolistic. Ancillary sectors may gain more bargaining leverage temporarily to offset pricing pressures but may face limited competitiveness for their outputs longer term. Vendor health still depends on nurturing adequate market competition.

Companies That May Gain:

  • UltraTech Cement
  • Ambuja Cements
  • ACC
  • Dalmia Bharat

Companies That May Lose:

  • JK Lakshmi Cement
  • Birla Corporation
  • The Ramco Cements
  • Nuvoco Vistas Corporation

Conclusion

While boosting sector efficiency, unchecked cement consolidation also risks driving socio-economic imbalances. Policy vigil required to spur competition.

Citation:

Naidu, Rajesh. “Consolidation in Cement Sector Here to Stay.” The Economic Times, 14 Dec.

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