The Global Cement Industry and Cemex’s Penetration Strategy Into International Markets

Last Updated: 20 Apr 2022
Pages: 10 Views: 523
Table of contents

The Global Cement Industry and Cemex’s Penetration Strategy into International Markets

My report argues that demand and capacity creation in developing economies is a major driver in the global cement industry, which given the nature of the product (high transportation costs arising from its bulk) is prone to major company expansion by mergers and acquisitions. Cemex’s expansion strategy focuses on merger and acquisition (M&A), mainly exploiting its expertise of operating in difficult institutional environments and taking advantage of opportunities arising from difficulties in developing market economies. The company successfully adapts best practices and technologies from its acquisitions throughout the wider company. My report begins with definitions, presents an overview of the global cement industry (section two) key players in the industry (section three) and M&A trends (section four). I then analyze Cemex’s entry strategies by exploring in turn the regions into which it has expanded (section five) drawing conclusions on its penetration strategy. 1Introduction and definitions

Cement is a binding substance, which sets and hardens independently binding other materials together. It is intended for use in building or construction material and can withstand varying environmental conditions. About 75% of cement production is used in ready-mixed concrete to be utilized in construction. The remaining 25%, Portland Cement Association (2009) shows, is used for paving roads or extracting oil. As Selim and Salem (2010) indicate basic raw materials for cement production are iron, aluminum, silicon, and calcium. Normally cement is divided as Portland cement, Portland cement blends, and non-Portland hydraulic cement. Portland cement, which can be roughly divided into White Portland and Gray Portland, is the most commonly used type as it is the basic ingredient of concrete. There are two different processes used in the manufacture of cement – dry process and wet process. In the wet process, the raw materials, after properly proportioned, are ground with water, thoroughly mixed and fed into the kiln in the form of a "slurry" (containing enough water to make it fluid).

Order custom essay The Global Cement Industry and Cemex’s Penetration Strategy Into International Markets with free plagiarism report

feat icon 450+ experts on 30 subjects feat icon Starting from 3 hours delivery
Get Essay Help

In the dry process, raw materials are ground, mixed, and fed to the kiln in a dry state instead. In other respects, the two processes are essentially alike (PCA, 2013). However, the dry process was considered to be more sufficient than the wet one since it consumes less energy. On the other hand, the dry process requires more investment in equipment and plants. Cement manufacturers in developing countries have widely adopted the wet process but the transformation to the dry process is underway on a large scale. 2An overview of the global cement industry This section discusses the nature of the global cement industry, including the market size and market potential, the nature of cement products, market supply and demand, and related environmental issues, to provide a broad view to understand the nature of competition. The following are the main characteristics of the global cement industry. Huge market – especially emerging markets Cement is the primary and indispensable material in infrastructure construction for every country. Although it only accounts for around 6–13% in construction costs, there are few substitutes for it. Hence there is a potentially huge global market with strong contrasts between developed and developing countries. While the developed countries mostly have steady and limited demand for cement, the developing world is a more promising market, as a result of large-scale constructions: the demand for cement is positively correlated with a nation’s economic development. The world demand for cement is growing by 4. 7% per annum reaching 6% growth in 2012, with a total consumption of 3. 78 million tons (CW Group, 2012).

Consumption in developing countries drives this growth in Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East regions; China is the strongest driver. In contrast, consumption in Europe has been stalled and the growth rate of consumption in the US is a steady 2%. Therefore, developing countries are the main drivers of the growth in cement demand – a trajectory likely to continue. Cost is dominated by oil price and transportation Due to the specificity of cement products, in the cement industry, oil price and transportation cost are dominant factors affecting cost. The cement industry is energy-intensive and thus fuel costs are the most critical part of cement manufacturing, constituting 35% of the total cost of production. Therefore, the fluctuation of fuel price, especially oil price, has impacted greatly on production cost. During the first quarter of 2012, the oil price had kept rising and was 12% up by the end of 2011. At that time, the cement industry increased prices to cover higher fuel costs. In June 2012, Caribbean Cement Company Limited increased the price of bagged cement by 9. %, and the company claimed that its ex-factory was still among the lowest in five other regional markets. Cement is, clearly, a type of high weight-to-price ratio product and it is usually purchased in bulk. As a consequence, transportation expenditure is relatively high and restricts the spatial reach of markets. It is more feasible to produce cement domestically or to import cement products from neighboring countries to reduce the transportation fee. Hence, the scale of international cement trade is small (5%-7%) when compared with total cement production worldwide.

The demand for cement can be unpredictable Since cement production is largely dependent on infrastructure constructions, as Wesley (2009) argues, national construction policies and projects drive demand: sales volume is more sensitive to construction levels than to price. Over the long-term perspective, changes in social factors such as population and economic growth also affect cement consumption. The residential day-to-day demand for cement can be uncertain; it may be disrupted by unexpected situations such as bad weather. Constantly related to environmental issues. Although cement is locally produced in most cases, the impact of cement production is global, especially its environmental aspects; as Selim and Salem (2010) argue. The mass production with high-energy consumption brings pollution, producing 5% of the world’s total emission of greenhouse gases Loreti (2008) and Uwasu et al. (2012) estimate This pollution is produced mainly in developing countries, which are the main production locations of cement. China alone, being the world’s leader in carbon dioxide emission and cement production, has 15% of its emission contributed by cement the World Resources Institute (2008) suggests. Since the 1970s, the cement industry in the developed world has been saturated and there is little space for market expansion. Developing countries have consequently become the target market for expanding new capacity and seizing market share a trend clear since the 1990s. The industry is, therefore, becoming more of a monopoly with oligarchic key players taking the important decisions, making M&A decisions, guided of course by changing economic and market conditions. In the 1990s, global cement giants saw great opportunities for M&A and competed to purchase market share in rapidly developing markets at good prices.

For example, the Mexican Peso crisis (1994) resulted in a currency flight to US dollars, and Peso devaluation, a situation Cemex turned to their advantage, Wesley (2009) argues, by purchasing Latin American cement companies at undervalued prices. Similarly, after the Asian financial crisis in 1997, the Asian cement industry fell into a downturn. Global cement giants took advantage and purchased leading cement companies in the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia as bargains. At that time, six global giants purchased seventeen of the nineteen Philippine cement companies leaving Lafarge, Holcim, and Cemex controlling 88% of the nation’s cement capacity. When the regional economy recovered, Cembusiness (2006) suggests, the price of cement rose again quickly and these multinational giants benefited from huge profits in Southeast Asia. 5Cemex’s entry strategy into international markets Cemex is currently the world’s third-largest cement producer headquartered in Monterrey, Mexico. Although Cemex founded 107 years ago, it had been a domestic player for its first 80 years and did not start its global expansion until the 1990s. Its M&A progress has been remarkable: it now operates profitably in 50 countries in the world with 44000 employees and annual sales of US$15. 14 billion (Cemex, 2013a). In general, as Hill (2008) points out, a firm’s entry modes into foreign markets include exporting, contracts (licensing or franchising), foreign direct investment (joint venture and wholly-owned subsidiary, including M&A), and strategic alliances.

In July 1992, as Wesley (2009) reports, Cemex acquired two of the largest cement companies – Valenciana and Sanson – in Spain, with Valenciana becoming its regional hub holding company for all of Cemex’s future international acquisitions. However, significant movement into Spain, Europe did not become the main destination of Cemex as this region had limited potential for growth. More importantly, European players such as the French Lafarge and German Heidelberg controlled the European region. These European giants had advantages of scale, market share, and advanced technology. What Cemex needed was not only the action of acquiring: it needed the advantages of the post-merger integration to catch up and improve. After purchasing Valenciana and Sanson, Cemex integrated its two Spanish subsidiaries by merging and streamlining the organizations and improve their technological and operational implementation. Cemex’s other substantial step in Europe was the purchase in 2005 of RMC, the world’s largest producer of ready-mixed concrete based in the UK. With this acquisition Cemex doubled its size, adding 20 mainly European markets (Cemex, 2013a) and managed to extend its product mix, becoming top producers of not only cement but also concrete and another construction aggregate (China Cement Net, 2005). Latin America Cemex made a series of acquisitions in Latin America, benefiting from the close psychic distance and geographic proximity to Mexico. Furthermore, in the 1990s, Latin America was an underdeveloped market with a high growth trajectory.

Although at that time, Latin American countries were in a turbulent political and institutional condition with poor infrastructure and limited market information, Cemex viewed these conditions as advantages Fleury and Fleury (2011) argue, exploiting its experience in dealing with chaotic market environments in its home country and captured the opportune moment of the Peso crisis in 1994. Cemex moved into Latin America, including Central America and the Caribbean, by acquisitions in Venezuela (1994), Panama (1994), Dominican Republic (1995), Colombia (1996), Costa Rica (1999), Nicaragua (2001), and Puerto Rican (2002) (see Cemex, 2013a). Latin America has been an important destination for Cemex, especially in the decade since the Peso crisis. During this decade foreign cement giants divided up the Latin American market due to the collapse of local producers and Cemex gained the dominant position. After acquiring those companies, Lessard and Reavis (2009) suggest, Cemex also upgraded its administration, production, and technologies in this region, exploiting learning from the company’s operations in Mexico and Spain. Although Cemex has a noteworthy presence in Latin American countries, its production capacity in South,

Central America and the Caribbean account for only 13. 4% of its total sales in 2011, less than its capacity in the United States, Northern Europe, and the Mediterranean respectively, and less than half of its domestic capacity (Cemex, 2011). However, there has been a rapid increase in South America and the Caribbean since the mid-2000s, as a result of higher levels of public expenditure on infrastructure, industrial and commercial development and housing construction (United Nations ECLAC, 2007). Hence Cemex controls its closest emerging market area, with the exception of Brazil. The USA The United States, unlike other developed countries, remains a major consumer and producer of cement products; however, few of its cement producers are American-owned. In the 1970s, Wesley (2009) points out, when Cemex was a domestic firm, most US cement producers were already taken over by European companies. Cemex’s significant incursion into the US market was the purchase of American producer Southdown in 2000.

Southdown was one of the largest American cement producers and it was state-owned. Cemex’s purchase followed a 20-year joint venture with Southdown called Sunbelt in 1986: following disagreements on management fees and the price of imported cement, the partnership dissolved and Southdown supported anti-dumping measures against Mexican producers (Wesley, 2009). By late 1990s, Southdown was making profits from its upgraded plants and lower costs whilst unsatisfactorily performing on the stock market, enabling Cemex to buy Southdown for $2. billion in November 2000 (Cemex, 2000), becoming North America’s largest cement producer, obtaining Sothdown’s advanced production capacity and markets and circumventing anti-dumping duties. Another Cemex step into North America (Black, 2007) was the purchase of the Rinker Corporation, an Australia-based concrete maker that had about 80% of its sales in the US, notably increasing its share of the U. S. concrete market. Asia Cemex turned its attention into Asia after 1997, seeing the potential in Asian growth and M&A opportunities following the financial crisis in southeast Asia (Wesley, 2009).

In the next few years, Cemex made acquisitions in the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, and India. Following rapid economic development and large-scale construction in Asia, by 2011 Cemex only managed to have a capacity of 5. 7 million metric tons in this region, representing only 6% of Cemex global capacity. Cemex failed to gain significant market share in China and India, the two largest Asian cement markets: the company continues to pay attention to the burgeoning Chinese and Indian markets, however, institutional restrictions inhibit its growth. Indeed, the cement industry in China has excess capacity following a slowdown in construction growth: many cement plants having been built during the boom. Currently, Cemex does not have a specific expansion plan for China although it expresses a lot of interest (China Cement Net, 2006). In India, Cemex is more positive and in negotiations to acquire several Indian producers. The Middle East and Africa (MENA) In 1999, Cemex acquired Assiut Cement Company, the largest cement producer in Egypt, started operating in Africa and increased its capacity following acquisitions. Cemex also has operations in Israel and the United Arab Emirates. The total presence in the Middle East and Africa is limited since the African cement market is underdeveloped and as Digital Cement (2010) points out, the MENA cement markets are locally controlled. In summary, Cemex’s expansion into the global market is not only the strategic choice about competing and bidding for acquisitions, but also the integration process that ensued, as an opportunity to drive change, and as a result, continuously evolve as a corporation.


Cemex’s penetration strategy is shaped by the nature of the product and structure of the industry. Since the cement is bulky and costly to transport global-global entry strategies are unavailable to it. The industry structure reflects the product in a wide array of regional-scale producers. Like other major players in the industry (such as Lafarge, Holcim, and Heidelberg) has sought to penetrate international markets by M&A rather than direct investment, strategic alliances, or licensing. Another characteristic of the global cement industry is that developing economies are the drivers of demand. Often these markets remain difficult to enter being overly regulated, protected, or subject to corruption and political interference. Cemex uses its origins in a developing market as an advantage: the company has expertise in overcoming these barriers, the knowledge it has successfully exploited in numerous markets. Additionally, Cemex has taken advantage of other adverse trading conditions in its target markets (Asian financial crisis, Peso crisis) to conclude M&A deals when target company prices are depressed.


  1. http://www. bloomberg. com/apps/news? pid=newsarchive&sid=aJtpqL2z4Lvs>.
  3. htm>.

Cite this Page

The Global Cement Industry and Cemex’s Penetration Strategy Into International Markets. (2017, Jul 09). Retrieved from

Don't let plagiarism ruin your grade

Run a free check or have your essay done for you

plagiarism ruin image

We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Save time and let our verified experts help you.

Hire writer