Gypsum industry news
Australia: Treasurer and Minister for Trade and Investment Curtis Pitt toured the construction site of Knauf Australia's US$53m wallboard manufacturing facility near Bundaberg on Wednesday 15 March 2017. Construction of the plant began in early 2016.
"Knauf Australia is well on the way to completing its plasterboard manufacturing factory at the Port of Bundaberg and is expected to commission the plant by mid-July and begin production in August," said Pitt. "Knauf considered a number of locations for its new plant to service the northern Australian markets, including some offshore options. Attracting a global operation like Knauf to Bundaberg offers many benefits for the local community, including the creation of 60 jobs in the region, and around 70 when full production is reached in two years."
Australia: Boral's revenue from its gypsum wallboard join venture, USG Boral, has risen by 2% year-on-year to US$566m in the first half of its financial year, which ended on 31 December 2016, from US$552m in the same period in 2015. Its earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose by 18% to US$116m from US$98.5m. It attributed the sales growth to growth in its Sheetrock plasterboard product. The on-going rollout of Sheetrock is scheduled to continue until the end of 2017. Regionally, sales growth in South Korea, Australia and Thailand offset a declining market in China.
The building materials company added that its joint venture had started building a new warehouse at its USG Boral's Dangjin facility in South Korea in the reporting period. The upgrade at the site is intended to add incremental capacity and support the longer-term addition of at least 30Mm2/yr of plasterboard production capacity at the site, which has existing capacity to produce around 70Mm2/yr. The investment will be self-funded through the joint venture.
Overall, Boral's sales revenue fell by 5% to US$1.6bn from US$1.68bn. However, its profit after tax rose by 9% to US$114m from US$105m. It attributed this to a 'solid' performance in Australia combined with good earnings from Boral USA and USG Boral.
Australia: The framework is in place for a new wallboard plant that Knauf Plasterboard is building at the Port of Bundaberg in Queensland. A 27.8km gas pipeline that will support the project has also been laid, according to the Bundaberg Newspaper. The next step will be to commission the pipeline and commission off-takes. First gas flows are scheduled for mid-February 2017 whereupon it will supply the new Knauf plant that is expected to start production in June 2017.
Australia: Boral's profit after tax has risen by 8% year-on-year to US$204m in its financial year which ended on 30 June 2016 from US$190m in the previous year. Its sales revenue fell, by 2% to US$3.28bn, but revenue from continuing operations rose slightly. Revenue from continuing operations benefitted from stronger residential activity in Australia and the US, which offset the decline in resource-based and other major project activity. The company's earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) also rose due to operational cost improvements, lower fuel costs and some pricing gains.
"We have continued to improve our performance across our businesses in line with our strategy, managing our portfolio more efficiently and maintaining a strong balance sheet," said CEO and managing director Mike Kane. "The continued growth in Boral's earnings demonstrates the great work that has been done to improve our cost base, grow margins, and efficiently supply market demand, which continues to be strong in Australia and Asia, and is growing in the US."
The group's joint-venture with USG, USG Boral, saw its revenue rise by 10% to US$1.06bn from US$965m. This was attributed to growth in Sheetrock product
wallboard sales resulting in higher pricing, and growth in adjacent product (non-board) sales. Strong volume growth in Australia was offset by contraction in key Asian markets and price competition in South Korea. EBIT increased by 27% to US$136m from US$107m.
Australia: Minotaur Exploration is looking to sell its gypsum deposit at Lake Purdilla, Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. The mineral exploration company reports that the 87Mt deposit has an estimated purity of 91% gypsum consisting of gypsarenite and selenite. The site has been classified as an Inferred Resource based on previous drilling programmes.
Lake Purdilla is believed to be the largest known undeveloped gypsum resource in South Australia. Minotaur Exploration estimates that the site could be mined at a rate of 1Mt/yr for over 50 years. Gypsum from the site would be suitable for domestic use for wallboard production, cement manufacture and agricultural use. It could also be eligible for export to Southeast Asia.
Previously Minotaur Exploration agreed a sale worth US$4.8m for the Lake Purdilla gypsum deposit in late October 2014. The buyer was unnamed.
New Zealand: Fletcher Building has reported that its net profit rose by 51% year-on-year to US$114m in the half year that ended on 31 December 2015 from US$75.6m in the same period in 2014. Its sales rose by 2.5% to US$2.94bn from US$2.87bn. It attributed this to growth in its building products and distribution businesses making up for weaker earnings from Formica and New Zealand housing developments.
Fletcher Building reported that gypsum wallboard volumes via its Building Products division rose by 9% in the half year. Volumes of performance board rose by 12%. Sales volumes of insulation rose by 12% in New Zealand and 9% in Australia. It noted that its market share has also improved in both insulation markets due to competitive pricing following the strengthening of the US Dollar.
Australia: Knauf Plasterboard has started building a new wallboard plant at the Port of Bundaberg, Burnett Heads, Queensland, according to local media. The project was announced in January 2016 and was subject to approvals before construction could start.
The project comprises the construction and operation of a wallboard plant at the Port of Bundaberg, including gypsum handling and processing facilities to support wallboard production and for on-sale of gypsum into the agriculture sector.
The project has been made possible by funding from the Queensland Government for the construction of a 26km gas pipeline from the Australian Gas Network's Wide Bay gas transmission line at Bundaberg to Burnett Heads. This gas supply supplies capacity for the Knauf plant and other industrial users in the region.
"Knauf is very pleased to be playing its part in working collaboratively with the State Government to help build new industries and boost regional and state economies," said Knauf CEO of Asia Pacific, Murray Read. He added that the Bundaberg plant was a great investment for Knauf, as it expanded Knauf's wallboard manufacturing network into Queensland to better serve its customers, create additional trade through an under-utilised port facility, support regional development and, in partnership with the State Government, helped to develop critical infrastructure for Knauf and other industrial users in regional Queensland.
The plant is expected to create up to 200 jobs during the construction of the plant and around 55 new positions when operational.
Australia: Boral's profit after tax has grown by 23% year-on-year to US$97.2m in the first half of its 2016 financial year. It reported a profit of US$80m for the same period in its 2015 period. It attributed the growth to a strong residential market and growth in New South Wales (NSW) with cost cutting, price rises and slightly higher property earnings for its construction materials and cement business. Overall revenue fell by 4% year-on-year to US$1.6bn.
"The success of the first half is underpinned by a very strong residential construction market in NSW, a solid performance in South-East Queensland, further recovery in the US and a successful growth strategy in the gypsum business in Australia and Asia," said Boral CEO and Managing Director Mike Kane.
Boral's gypsum business reported a 13% rise in revenue to US$505m. This was attributed to increased penetration of Sheetrock brand wallboard, resulting in higher overall pricing, and stronger non-board sales. Strong volume growth in Australia was offset by contraction in key Asian markets and a reversal of a short-term market share gain in South Korea.
Australasia: LafargeHolcim has said that, despite what has been reported recently in the media, its Australian and New Zealand operations are not for sale.
LafargeHolcim recently announced a plan to divest almost US$5bn of assets in 2016 after posting unexpectedly weak third-quarter results. Speculation had emerged that it might exit from the Australasia region.
However, according to local media, an internal email sent to staff on 30 November 2015, Holcim Australia Chief Executive Mark Campbell said the company was 'not currently being sold,' but could not rule out an exit in the long term.
"I have checked whether the LafargeHolcim group had made a decision to sell the businesses in Australia and New Zealand and started a sale process without my knowledge and the answer I have received is 'no,'" said Campbell. "That said, organisations change focus over time and it is impossible to say that we will always be part of the LafargeHolcim group."
Australian-listed rivals, including Boral, Fletcher Building and Adelaide Brighton, are seen as potential acquirers, should the multinational giant choose to sell off its local arm. Ireland's CRH may also be interested. However, Morgan Stanley said that many of LafargeHolcim's local competitors might run into competition issues, given that the market is concentrated among several large players. "Should Adelaide Brighton fully participate, we cannot rule out that the 50% share in Cement Australia would be divested due to Australian regulations, given Adelaide Brighton's already strong share in cement," said Morgan Stanley Analyst James Rutledge. "While we think Fletcher Building is unlikely to be in a position to participate in industry consolidation, a change in owner that was less integrated into the region may be a positive for Fletcher Building at the margin," said Rutledge. "Given Boral's strong share in aggregates and the concrete market, we believe it will be difficult to participate in industry consolidation."
While Lafarge has a limited local presence in Australia and New Zealand, Holcim bought a string of Australian assets from Mexico's Cemex in 2009 for US$2bn and now boasts more than 350 sites nationwide.
Australasia: LafargeHolcim is believed to be considering an exit from Australia and New Zealand, with the region under the spotlight as part of a strategic review globally of non-core assets. It is understood that a private equity firm has already made an approach for some assets, amid a period of global consolidation in the industry.
Lafarge sold its Australian gypsum operations four years ago for US$127m to Knauf, but Holcim has remained one of the most dominant suppliers in the Australian and New Zealand market of aggregates, concrete and concrete pipe and products. While the division is likely to be too large for Boral, it may pursue parts of the business or partner with another buyer to secure some of the LafargeHolcim assets. However, it is believed that the most likely acquirers include CRH and Votorantim.
Australia's construction industry has been enjoying strong conditions on the back of a recent boom in residential house prices in Melbourne and Sydney. Brickworks, the country's largest brick and tile maker, recently flagged a lift in its earnings for the 2016 financial year on the back of the strong momentum in its building products group.