Lafarge First-Quarter Earnings Miss Estimates on U.S. Winter

Lafarge SA, the French cement maker that plans to merge with Holcim Ltd. of Switzerland, reported first-quarter earnings that missed analyst estimates as the euro’s appreciation and harsh U.S. weather hurt sales.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization were little changed at 343 million euros ($476 million) from a restated 342 million euros a year earlier, the Paris-based company said in a statement today. Analysts had predicted a profit of 356 million euros, according to the average of six estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

“North America was affected by a harsh winter but the underlying market trends are positive,” said Chief Executive Officer Bruno Lafont. “Our volumes were supported by continuing growth in emerging markets and the progressive improvement in several European markets.”

Lafarge has been struggling to revive earnings as a construction slump in Europe, rising global energy prices and strengthening competition from emerging market competitors partly offset cost cuts. The French company is looking to wrap up its merger with Holcim by the first half of 2015.

Net debt shrank to 9.95 billion euros at the end of December from 11.2 billion euros. Lafont has been selling assets to repair a credit rating that has fallen one level below investment grade. He reiterated a pledge to cut debt to below 9 billion euros by the end of 2014

Lafarge forecast that cement demand will grow by 2 percent to 5 percent this year in the markets where the company operates.

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