CRH to Buy Ash Grove in $3.5 Billion Bet on U.S. Cement Growth

Updated on
  • Irish supplier swoops in on a Kansas-based, family business
  • Rivals LafargeHolcim, HeidelbergCement also see U.S. growth

In the latest sign of global consolidation among building-materials suppliers, Irish producer CRH Plc agreed to buy family-controlled Ash Grove Cement Co. of the U.S. in a $3.5 billion deal that will reinforce its bet on growth in North America.

CRH will pay shareholders of the Overland Park, Kansas-based cement maker between $449 to $454 per share, according to a statement Wednesday from Ash Grove, majority-owned and run for the past century by the Sunderland family. That’s as much as 59 percent more than the $285 closing price in New York. CRH shares rose 2.1 percent to 2,711 pence at 1:35 p.m. in London, giving a market value of 23 billion pounds ($31 billion).

The planned acquisition of Ash Grove follows a string of deals for Dublin-based CRH, which agreed in August to sell an interior building-products division for $2.63 billion to Beacon Roofing Supply Inc. It also bought cement assets for 6.5 billion euros ($7.7 billion) from Lafarge SA and Holcim Ltd. as part of their 2015 merger. The Ash Grove deal, coming the same week as another competitor, HeidelbergCement AG, sealed a transaction to expand in Italy, will further focus CRH on North America where it already bills itself as the region’s largest building-materials company.

CRH was quick to recycle capital from the Beacon Roofing deal “into a higher margin business at a much lower multiple,” in-line with recent U.S. cement transactions, Davy Research analysts said in a note, adding that the Irish company has “strong capital discipline and relentless focus on return on capital.”

Trump Infrastructure

CRH was seen as being one of the biggest potential gainers from a pledge by U.S. President Donald Trump of massive investment in infrastructure. Even though that plan has yet to materialize, increased demand in the country for building materials like cement and aggregates is also underpinning the growth outlook of rivals including LafargeHolcim Ltd. of Switzerland and HeidelbergCement.

Ash Grove operates eight cement plants across eight U.S. states and the Irish company is its biggest customer, CRH said in a statement. Last year it reported profit before tax of $215 million and gross assets of $2.5 billion.

Ash Grove has “enjoyed a close and highly productive relationship” with CRH for decades, said Chairman Charles Sunderland, who is part of the fourth generation of the family at the 135-year-old company. Ash Grove doesn’t publicly disclose regular financial statements.

The transaction, announced one month into the tenure of new Ash Grove Chief Executive Officer J. Randall Vance, has been unanimously approved by the board of directors and is expected to close in late 2017 or early 2018, subject to stockholder approval, regulatory approval and other customary conditions. J.P. Morgan Securities was financial adviser to Ash Grove for the transaction.

The exact payment amount to shareholders will not be determined until after the transactions close as components may fluctuate, said Ash Grove, which didn’t elaborate on how the price was calculated. The purchase will be financed through existing financial resources, CRH said.

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