Hand it to Cemex's (NYSE:CX) management, folks. Its accountants -- and the international foreign exchange rates -- threw the PR people a softball this quarter, but the company just laughed and let it slide right by. You see, technically, the company's profits grew an amazing 158% in the third quarter of 2004 on just a 12% rise in revenue. Compared with Q3 2003, profits were up from $140 million to $361 million.

Given numbers like those, many companies might have led their PR announcements with something along the lines of: "XYZ Corp. earnings rise nearly 160%!!!" But not Cemex. Rather, the company took the straight and narrow line and calmly announced that its operating income was up 22% and its free cash flow 17%.

The company knew that any investor worth his salt would ultimately read through the entire earnings statement anyway. Doing so would reveal that the reason profits were up "158%" was due in large part to the fact that last year, the company had a $118 million loss on foreign exchange, while this year, the weak dollar gave the company a $24 million gain. Equalize the currency values, and the company's profits would have risen from $258 million to $337 million for a more conservative -- but still mightily impressive -- rise of 30.6%.

The company also continued to make headway in paying down its long-term debt, retiring $290 million in the third quarter alone and nearly $1 billion year to date. That fact may help reassure Cemex investors who were spooked late last month by the company's announced acquisition of British rival RMC for $4.1 billion cash, which will bring with it an additional $1.7 billion in debt. Through this acquisition, Cemex will become the second-largest cement concern in the world, after France's Lafarge S.A. (NYSE:LR). But since Cemex has nowhere near $4.1 billion worth of cash in its coffers, it's likely that the great bulk of the acquisition cost will be financed by debt, with the result that Cemex's total long-term debt will exceed its own market cap by early next year. To service a debt load of that size, the company will need to keep the cash flowing.

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Fool contributor Rich Smith owns no shares in any company mentioned here.