Paring debts image july 11
LafargeHolcim group was forged from last year’s merger of French group Lafarge with Swiss counterpart Holcim
© AFP/File Franck Fife

Paris (AFP) – Swiss construction giant LafargeHolcim, the world’s largest cement maker, said on Monday it had agreed to sell its Indian operation to Indian cosmetics and detergents manufacturer Nirma for $1.4 billion.

The operation, which remains subject to clearance by India’s Competition Commission, would allow LafargeHolcim “to continue to reduce group debt,” the firm said in a statement.

“This agreement is an important step in our 3.5 billion Swiss francs disinvestment programme,” chief executive Eric Holsen said.

“With this deal, two thirds of the programme has been secured and the remainder of the programme is well on track.”

Holsen added that in Nirma, based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat state, “we have found the right partner who will be able to develop the business further in the interest of all our stakeholders.”

The group, forged from last year’s merger of French group Lafarge with Swiss counterpart Holcim, has already offloaded its South Korean operations and signed an agreement to do the same with its Saudi Arabian interests.

Unveiling first quarter results down 22 percent in May the Swiss group cited falling prices in India as a key concern, while shares have fallen by some 40 percent on the year to date.

Lafarge India operates three cement plants and two grinding stations with a total annual capacity of around 11 million tonnes.

It is one of India’s leading ready-mix concrete manufacturers.

LafargeHolcim said it would continue to operate in India through subsidiaries ACC Ltd and Ambuja Cements Ltd with a combined cement capacity of more than 60 million tonnes and a nationwide distribution network.