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U.K. Quarry Expansion Says a Lot About LafargeHolcim’s Ambitions

Original source: Bloomberg

Screen Shot 2018-12-01 at 1.45.18 PM.png An old English quarry on a wet and windy November day is an unlikely setting for a turnaround of Europe’s biggest cement maker. But for LafargeHolcim Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Jan Jenisch, all he hears is the “sound of money.”

The 52-year-old was leading dozens of visitors around Bardon Hill, in the Midlands, where volcanic rock has been extracted for four centuries. Now, the embattled Swiss cement maker he runs is investing 80 million pounds ($102 million) to further expand the site in an effort to turn the ear-splitting process of crushing stone into a future cash cow.

“We have a huge catch up to do,” Jenisch said, noting that the company is the least profitable among rivals in the aggregates market. “It’s a bit of a sad situation, but has fantastic potential

The plan to bolster this end of LafargeHolcim’s business, which churns out materials for pavement and home-building, is emblematic of the bigger remodeling at hand at Europe’s biggest cement producer. More than three years after a painful tie up between French and Swiss market leaders, investors have pinned their hopes on Jenisch to steady a ship rocked by executive departures, a loss of confidence in his predecessor’s financial goals and a French criminal probe into past operations in Syria.

But there are also challenges, including at Bardon Hill - which is Europe’s biggest quarry and supplies some 15 percent of the U.K.’s annual rock and stone needs. The new investment will come amid a local market slowdown in the lead up to Brexit, which Jenisch dismisses as a blip because “infrastructure investment will continue.”

For the revamp of the company as a whole, outside forces in the shape of higher energy prices and weaker growth in some regions like Latin America are also throwing up roadblocks. The shares are down nearly a......

... GO TO Says a Lot About LafargeHolcim TO READ MORE

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