Cementing the positives
Pakistans cement industry is going quite strong at present. Recently, positive measures taken-up in the FY13 budget brought further good news for the sector as a whole. Now that FY12 is gradually drawing to a close, numbers for cement dispatches for 11MFY12 present a clear picture of how the industry sales have fared during the year relative to the previous one. As far as local dispatches are concerned, sales have risen on a year-on-year basis for both the cumulative 11 months and for May FY12. The improved domestic sales volumes come at the heels of post-flood reconstruction activity this year. Partly, a low-base effect may also explain the year-on-year improvement as the Great Floods of 2010 stunted construction activities considerably in FY11. Besides that, industry experts also claim that house construction has been robust this fiscal year, thus helping beefed up volumes relative to the previous year. A month-on-month analogy between April and May, however, shows a decrease in local dispatches. The fact that many construction labourers, particularly in the North, go for wheat harvesting around mid-April to mid-May means that construction work in May is relatively slow. Consequently, local cement sales in this month are low relative to the previous one. Export sales, on the other hand, were relatively lower this fiscal year. While exports to Afghanistan remained more or less at the same levels as the previous year, and those to India showed a 13 percent year-on-year improvement during 11MFY12, exports via sea decreased considerably. Industry players claim that with better retention prices of cement locally, lower margins, especially in GCC countries, means that export sales had been rendered unfeasible for cement players. Consequently, the year-on-year decline was witnessed. There were expectations of exports to Afghanistan crossing the 5 million ton mark this year, but with the number having reached 4.3 million tons so far, the likelihood of this happening seems dim. However, Afghanistan continues to be a strong export market for the industry as a whole. Going forward, the industry is expected to round up the current fiscal year with domestic sales in growth of about 8 percent. For the coming fiscal year, prospects are bright in terms of volumetric growth, especially keeping in mind PSDP expenditures. At Rs.873 billion, the increase in the size of PSDP rounds off to 19 percent more than what was expended in the previous years budget, and the allocations are expected to materialise due to the run up to the elections. Domestic sales may well see a growth of more than 8 percent in FY13 on a year-on-year basis. Export sales are also expected to improve in the coming fiscal year as depreciation of the rupee is expected to help local players. Besides, declining coal and oil prices are also expected to help margins in export markets and, hence, export sales in the coming year. Overall, the sector stays upbeat about FY13.