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LafargeHolcim to buy Firestone Building Products in US$3.4b deal

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Mr Jenisch expects global market for flat roofs to reach US$65 billion by 2027, noting increasing demand for roofs that generate solar power.

Zurich

LAFARGEHOLCIM, the world's biggest cement maker, on Thursday announced a US$3.4 billion deal to buy Firestone Building Products from Japan's Bridgestone Corporation in its biggest acquisition in more than a decade.

The purchase of the roofing products business is the biggest under chief executive officer Jan Jenisch, who since taking over in 2017 has focused on paying down debts, quitting less profitable markets and smaller bolt-on deals.

It will help LafargeHolcim tap increasing demand for roofs that generate solar energy and cool buildings, with cities such as San Francisco requiring solar panels on new buildings.

Mr Jenisch said his company's focus was now on growth, with plans to roll out Firestone Building Products beyond the United States, where it currently generates nearly 90 per cent of its US$1.8 billion in annual sales.

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"We said we wanted to have a fourth leg for our company - building solutions and products - for this we need a bigger acquisition," he told reporters.

"We needed a platform which had technologies and an innovative product range to kick start this fourth segment and this is exactly what this Firestone business is offering to us."

The Tennessee-based business generated an operating profit of US$238 million in 2020.

LafargeHolcim said it expects the deal to be earnings accretive from its first year, with mid-single digit percentage organic sales growth.

Mr Jenisch said there was scope for rapid growth in the US$50 billion global market for flat roofs, which he expects to reach US$65 billion by 2027, noting increasing demand for roofs that generate solar power and increasing urbanisation.

"We want to become the market leader in flat roofing systems. We are currently number four in this fragmented market," he said.

"We will be significantly increasing the business, we have a lot of opportunities in the core market of the US and then we will expand rapidly into Latin America and also accelerate our business in Europe."

The deal was also a sign of confidence in the construction industry, which was battered early last year but which has since recovered, he added.

"No one thought back in April and May when we were all in the coronavirus shock and sales dropped, we could not see the amazing recovery especially in construction and for LafargeHolcim.

"We couldn't imagine making such a deal, but we made it. Now it is time for us to consolidate this and also to start the growth plans in the US and also outside." REUTERS

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