The Italcementi Group has reported 2008 revenues of € 5,78 billion, down - 3,8 % on 2007 sales of € 6 billion. The company said the global financial crisis was the reason for the "significant" decline in the Group's sales volumes, especially in the fourth quarter, when revenues were further hindered by less favourable weather conditions than those during the same period a year earlier.

Sales in the cement and clinker business were up +3,3 %, from € 4 billion in 2007 to € 4,131 billion last year (or up by +1,9% at constant size and exchange rates).

In the Ready Mixed Concrete and Aggregates division there was a decline in sales of -23,2 % to € 1,33 billion from € 1,74 billion in 2007 (or, at constant size and exchange rates, a decline of -0,2%).

The downturn in sales hit pre-tax profits which totalled € 420,7 million, a drop of -50,6 % compared to the € 851,9 million in 2007. Net profit for the period was € 272,2 million, a decrease of - 55,6 % compared to the € 612,5 million in 2007.

According to the company, however, the drop in sales is due to exchange rate changes and a reduction in the scope of consolidation. At constant size and exchange rates, consolidated revenues improved by + 1,7%.

A spokesman for Italcementi said, "In a global and economic financial scenario that remains highly critical and changeable, no estimate can be regarded as certain. Investment in the construction sector in the industrialised countries where the Group operates is expected to be considerably lower than last year's levels."

However, the company added a possible partial recovery will be triggered by government stimulus packages in the US and Europe towards the end of 2009. Cement consumption may continue to grow in the emerging countries albeit at slower rates, with the exception of Turkey and Thailand, where further reductions in demand are forecast.

Italcementi added it would concentrate in the short-term on cutting costs but said completion of the strategic investments for new production lines in India, Morocco, Italy and the US remain a priority.

Meanwhile, independent advisors have been appointed to determine the share swap ratio for Italcementi's preliminary plan for the upstream merger of Ciments Français into the company.

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