If you like cement -- and really, who doesn't? -- then you ought to take a look at Lafarge
First of all, we saw Lafarge deftly dodge the deflating U.S. housing bubble. Sure, volumes were down in North America, but pricing and penny-pinching allowed the firm to do well with operating earnings. That's a neat trick, especially given that, at nearly 20% of revenues, the U.S. is Lafarge's biggest single market.
Overall, revenues increased 6%, to 3.7 billion euro. Had it not been for currency fluctuations, the increase would have looked more like 11%. Central and Eastern Europe experienced strong growth, with sales more than doubling.
But the real star of the report is cost control. Cost of sales improved 170 basis points, and sales, general, and administrative spending was reduced by 150 basis points. By the time you trickle it all down to near the bottom line, operating earnings rose 58%.
The final net tally came to 2.07 euro per share. Lafarge also delivered a pretty rose-tinted outlook, with modest volume increases and a bit of pricing power. Management seems to believe that strength in emerging European markets, Africa, and elsewhere will more than make up for the slack in the States.
That said, shares currently look pretty richly valued to me. Lafarge may continue to prosper over the coming year, but with shares at their 52-week high and, by my math, banking on better than 10% long-term growth, I think there are better bargains out there.
Seth is a member of the Motley Fool Global Gains team, which loves a good company but likes a good price even better. Check out what he and the rest of the crew have come up with by taking a free trial.
At the time of publication, Seth Jayson had no positions in any company mentioned here. See his latest blog commentary here. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Cemex is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Fool rules are here.