UltraTech Expects Subdued Performance As Economy Slows
A construction worker holds a trowel of cement as he lays bricks )Photographer Simon Dawson/Bloomberg)

UltraTech Expects Subdued Performance As Economy Slows

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UltraTech Cement Ltd. expects a "subdued performance" in the wake of weak real estate and overall slowdown in the economy coupled with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the company's annual report for 2019-20.

The nationwide lockdown, amid the coronavirus outbreak, will have a “significant near-term impact” on the cement industry. However, the Aditya Birla Group firm is "confident of its ability to weather the storm" and come out stronger given its healthy credit profile.

"Increase in government spends on health and public welfare; weak real estate and an overall slowdown in the economy is expected to reflect in a subdued performance of your company in the current financial year. Nonetheless, given your company's healthy credit profile, it is confident of its ability to weather the storm and come out stronger," said UltraTech Cement in the Directors' Report and Management Discussion and Analysis'.

According to the company, with anticipated pick-up in private investment, financial sector reforms, resolution of stressed assets under IBC and positive interventions by the government, the outlook for fiscal 2020-21 was seen to remain largely positive.

However, the world was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and India was no exception, where the government had imposed lockdown from March 25 to curb the spread of the virus. The industry was allowed to operate only from April 20.

This had brought cement dispatches of UltratTech to a complete halt and as a result, volumes were negligible during the last week of March 2020 and the whole of April 2020.

"The nationwide lockdown, amid the coronavirus outbreak, will have a significant near-term impact on the cement industry. While the sector witnessed robust demand prior to the lockdown, the event led to the closure of all major cement plants, including those of your Company, and cessation of construction activities at the sites," it said.

While talking about the cement industry, UltraTech said after witnessing a healthy demand growth of around 13% in FY19, it exhibited a decline in growth in FY20 as demand was sluggish in the first half.

Also read: UltraTech Cement Q1 Results: Operating Profit Beats Estimates On Lower Costs

The demand for construction material is fundamentally driven by the economic growth in the country and an economic slowdown and subdued infrastructural development might lead to a slowdown in construction projects, leading to a reduction in cement consumption in the country, it said.

According to UltraTech, growth in construction activity in the country has been slow over the last few years, impacting cement demand.

"In a scenario where incremental cement demand exceeds incremental capacity addition, the government's push on infrastructure and housing will aid the growth in cement consumption and reduce the overcapacity gap," it said.

UltraTech's consolidated net turnover in FY2020 was at Rs 41,476 crore, in which the domestic market had contributed Rs 39,588 crore and Rs 1,888 crore from exports.

Also read: Ambuja Cements Stood Out Among Peers In A Lockdown-Marred Quarter

After acquisition of the cement business of Century Textiles and Industries Ltd., UltraTech has a consolidated capacity of 114.8 million tonne per annum and is the only company outside of China to have 100 MTPA plus capacity in a single country.

Its cement production in FY2020 was at 76.57 million tonnes, lower by 2% as compared to 77.87 million tonnes in the previous year.

This is mainly attributable to the de-growth in the cement industry, witnessed after 20 years. Consequently, capacity utilisation was also lower at 69% as compared to 76% last year, it said.

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