LafargeHolcim (XSWX:LHN) (+31%; +1.5%), the world’s largest global cement, aggregates, and ready-mix concrete producer, was also a top contributor. During the quarter, CEO Eric Olsen and his management team made progress with respect to divestitures, merger synergies, and pricing. The company sold assets in India, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam at attractive prices. These sales coupled with previously announced transactions in South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and China got the company to its 2016 CHF3.5 billion divestiture goal ahead of schedule and helped LafargeHolcim reduce its debt from CHF18 billion to CHF13 billion in 2016. An announced CHF1.5 billion of additional divestitures are targeted for 2017, which will move the balance sheet to investment grade quality and allow management to return free cash flow (FCF) to shareholders. Expected synergies from last year’s merger between Lafarge and Holcim have come through on target with an expected CHF450 million this year. Industry cement pricing is moving in the right direction. During the quarter, prices increased 2.2% sequentially versus 1.2% in 1Q 2016 and -1.6% in 4Q 2015. LafargeHolcim now has higher prices in almost 70% of its markets versus 2015 levels. Even though volumes did not grow in all markets, higher prices and large cost savings resulted in strong earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA). Despite the stock’s rise, the company remains one of the more undervalued securities in the portfolio.
Southeastern Asset Management's Longleaf Partners third quarter 2016 commentary. Continue Reading »