Cemex: Still Solid

It was just about the same story as last quarter, and it's a slant that's been uttered by more and more big companies this time around. Mexico's giant cement producer, Cemex (NYSE: CX  ) , has encountered a sort of reverse turista in the United States, only to be saved by being in fine fettle in its other markets.

For the past quarter, the company, which recently paid $15.3 billion for Australia's Rinker, saw its net income slide by 7% year over year to $780 million, from $836 million in the same quarter of 2006. But last year's number included a nearly $100 million gain from the company's sale of Indonesian cement manufacturer Semen Gresik, while the most recent period was affected negatively by expenses related to the Rinker acquisition. And with the Rinker assets added to the mix in the quarter, Cemex's revenues rose 31% vs. the third quarter of 2006.

Looking at the array of markets served by the Monterrey-based company, its U.S. sales were up substantially in the quarter, as it benefited from the addition of Rinker's operations. But even with the added assets, cement volumes decreased 1% from a year ago, and the company noted that the dynamics of building materials in the U.S. "continued to be driven by the ongoing downturn n the residential sector."

Globally, the company generated double-digit sales increases in Spain, the U.K., the rest of Europe, and South and Central America. Africa and the Middle East added 8% to last year's sales. Asia and Australia? 515%. (Recall that Rinker is based in Australia).

Cemex joins a diverse group of other big companies, including giant equipment manufacturer Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT  ) , oilfield services leader Schlumberger (NYSE: SLB  ) , and aluminum manufacturer Alcoa (NYSE: AA  ) in noting soft U.S. results in the quarter that were compensated for elsewhere.

In the face of the U.S. housing decline, Cemex's shares have slid about 25% from their highs earlier in the summer. And while I can't call housing's bottom any more effectively than anyone else, I nevertheless believe that the company's international presence and its strength in its other markets can provide a solid opportunity for Foolish investors. That's particularly true for those willing to extend their investment time horizons slightly beyond a one-year timeframe.

For some solid previous Foolishness:


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