Economy

Cement sales, key economic indicator, drop for 3rd straight month

Cement sales are one of the indicators used to diagnose Puerto Rico’s economic health.

Puerto Rico’s cement production and sales levels dropped for the third month in a row in June, when totals reached 1.51 million and 1.56 million, respectively, figures released by the Government Development Bank showed.

Last month’s numbers are the lowest on record for the last three months, which spells even more bad news for a local construction sector that has been severely crippled by the island’s protracted economic downturn that has just recently begun showing signs of improvement.

Cement sales are one of the indicators used to diagnose Puerto Rico’s economic health.

In June, the three local cement producers — CEMEX Puerto Rico, ESSROC San Juan and Antilles Cement Corp. — put out 1.57 million, 94-pound bags of cement, down from the 1.67 million on record for May.

Sales outweighed production as Cemex and ESSROC reported movement of 1.8 million and 1.7 million bags in May and June, respectively.

The most recent production totals contrast results reported for March and April, when an average of 1.7 million 94-pound bags were produced each month. More bags were sold — 1.8 million and 1.6 million, respectively — than what was produced in those two months.

But despite the dwindling numbers for the local market, at least one of the three firms, Cemex, has been reporting positive activity in the U.S. mainland market where it boosted sales during the second quarter.

Cemex reported net sales of $795 million, up 15 percent from the same period in 2011. Operating EBITDA increased to $27 million in the quarter, versus the loss of $17 million in the same quarter of 2011.

“We are pleased with our 22 percent growth in operating EBITDA, on a like-to-like basis, on back of a 1 percent percent growth in consolidated net sales, said Cemex Executive Vice President of Finance and Administration Fernando A. González. “This is the highest EBITDA generation since the third quarter of 2009 and the fourth consecutive quarter with a year-over-year EBITDA increase.”

Meanwhile, Cemex’s operations in South, Central America and the Caribbean reported net sales of $529 million during the second quarter of 2012, representing an increase of 20 percent over the same period of 2011. Operating EBITDA increased 58 percent to $189 million during the three-month period, from $120 million in the second quarter of 2011.

Author Details
Business reporter with 25 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other areas of the economy.

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