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Collaborations poised to cement solid returns

Article - December 10, 2012
Due to new regulation on cement imports, FMN ventures into cement production through its Unicem subsidiary, in partnership with Holcim and LaFarge, but keeps options open for further international collaborations

High prices for its oil, coupled with Nigeria’s urgent need for new infrastructure, whether housing for its expanding population or big-ticket civil engineering works like road, rail and air transport links, mean the country is about to experience an unprecedented construction boom. 

Global sector analysts point out that currently only China and India are ahead of Nigeria in the number of future mammoth public and private-sector construction projects. There will be, they predict, a massive demand for cement, and lots of it.

Flour Mills of Nigeria (FMN) is betting on supplying that need as it sets out to become the top cement producer through its partnership with two European multinationals and there is room for more players.

Group Managing Director Chief (Dr) Emmanuel A. Ukpabi says the copmany is searching for additional foreign investors in the building supplies sector.

“We are prospecting and intend to partner up in the cement business and we are doing a lot of work on this,” he explains.

FMN plans to replicate the success it has had so far with its jointly owned Unicem subsidiary that boasts the second-largest cement plant in the country at Mfamosing with a capacity of 2.5 million tonnes per annum.

Mfamosing produces Portland cement, the most common type of cement used in the world because of its basic ingredients of concrete, mortar, stucco and non-specialty grout.

When it first entered the cement sector, FMN had the intelligence to collaborate with two leading cement companies both with extensive international experience: Holcim of Switzerland and France’s LaFarge, the world’s largest producer.

Today, Holcim and LaFarge each own a 36 per cent stake in Unicem and Dr Ukpabi says the enterprise is sure to continue prospering as a new government edict prohibiting cement imports takes hold.

“We were importing around 2 million tonnes of cement and if we get back between 5 and 6 million tonnes, our share will still be about the same 2 million,” Dr Ukpabi explains.

Now is the time, the global sector analysts say, for interested foreign concerns to join those already poised to benefit from the coming boom.