CRH buys 26.3% stake in Spanish concrete group


Building materials giant CRH has spent €300 million on a stake in a Spanish-based multinational cement and concrete group.

CRH said yesterday that it had bought 26.3 per cent of Corporación Uniland SA, a major Spanish manufacturer of cement, readymixed concrete, mortar and aggregates (quarried stone) for €300 million.

Uniland also has cement and readymixed concrete interests in Tunisia, Argentina and Uruguay.

In 2004, Uniland had sales of €423 million and operating profits of €111 million. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation came to €143 million.

Uniland operates two integrated cement plants in Catalonia, where CRH said it is the market leader.

It has the capacity to produce 3.2 million tonnes of cement per year and also has concrete, mortar and aggregates interests in the region.

In Tunisia it owns 88 per cent of a modern two million tonne capacity cement plant and it is also active in readymixed concrete there.

CRH already has operations in Spain through its wholly-owned subsidiary Beton Catalan SA, which is also a major operator in Catalonia and has a strong position in the Madrid market.

Elsewhere in the Iberian peninsula, it has a 49 per cent holding in Secil, a leading manufacturer of cement, readymixed concrete and aggregates in Portugal, which it bought last year.

CRH already has a presence in the Tunisian and Argentinian markets.

Commenting on the deal yesterday, CRH chief executive Liam O'Mahony said the Irish group's existing Spanish operations have had a long business relationship with Uniland.

"We look forward to working constructively with the company in the future," he said.

The markets received the news positively. By close of business yesterday, shares in CRH had risen 42 cent to €24.85 in Dublin.

The Uniland deal signals that the CRH is firmly back on the acquisitions trail after what many regarded as a quiet period.

Earlier this month it emerged that CRH had entered exclusive talks to buy Winsol, a Belgian manufacturer of products such as sunblinds and window fittings. That is likely to set the company back somewhere in the region of €40 million to €60 million.

At this stage, it looks like CRH's purchases for 2005 will top the €1 billion mark. Last month it spent €344 million on a number of companies in the US.

It has also bought French player Stradal, Austrian company Quester and is said to be in the running for German operation, Bauking.

CRH is due to issue a trading update next week.