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Holcim to Push Through Plant Closures as Workers Picket AGM

Holcim Ltd. Chairman Rolf Soiron pledged to push through plant closures while employees of the world’s largest cement maker demonstrated against job losses outside the company’s annual general meeting today.

“There will be plant closures,” Soiron told investors at the meeting in Dubendorf, a suburb of Zurich. “If the market is no longer there, we have to reduce capacity.”

About 200 Holcim workers were outside the meeting hall protesting against Europe-wide job cuts and plant closures announced last year.

Chief Executive Officer Bernard Fontana is guiding Jona, Switzerland-based Holcim through a cost cutting program to save 1.5 billion francs ($1.6 billion) with efficiency gains in areas from procurement to a 10 percent reduction of cement capacity in Europe to counter slumping demand for building materials. Holcim has announced measures to close plants or reduce operations from Spain to Hungary.

Fontana, who took over in February 2012, said Holcim eliminated 1,678 positions in Europe and 407 in North America last year, responding to a question from Rudolf Meyer, who heads the Actares shareholder group. Holcim continues to talk with worker representatives as some initiatives are “ongoing,” Fontana said.

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