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Taiwan Cement heads west

Taiwan Cement Corporation (TCC) has struck a deal to take control of the Türkiye and Portugal-based parts of OYAK’s cement business. The arrangement will see TCC grow its share of the joint-venture business in Türkiye to 60% from 40% at present and it will fully take over the Cimpor joint-venture in Portugal by purchasing OYAK’s 60% stake. Overall TCC is expected to pay around Euro740m for its acquisitions. A final agreement on the deal is expected to be signed in early December 2023.

The proposed deal follows on from when TCC originally spent US$1.1bn towards setting up joint-ventures as a junior partner with OYAK back in 2018. The situation now appears to have reversed with TCC becoming the main owner of the cement business in Türkiye and the sole owner of Cimpor in Portugal. In Türkiye this gives TCC control over the largest cement producer with seven integrated plants, three grinding plants, 47 ready-mixed concrete (RMX) plants, three aggregate quarries and one paper packaging plant. In Portugal (and Cape Verde) this puts TCC in charge of three integrated plants, two inactive grinding plants, 42 RMX plants, 15 quarries, two mortar plants and a cement bag unit.

This contrasts with last week’s news that CRH is buying one cement plant in Texas (with associated assets) for US$2.1bn. TCC is taking control of 10 plants in Türkiye and Portugal for Euro740m. It is not a fair comparison given the woes of the Turkish economy in recent years, prior joint-venture business ownership and so on. Yet it is one more example of the changing nature of cement company ownership around the world since the mid-2010s.

The state of the economy in Türkiye may well be a factor for the change in ownership at OYAK and Cimpor as well as negative exchange rate trends. High inflation has caused problems in recent years, although the government changed its stance on avoiding putting up interest rates following the elections in May 2023. Yet, in a statement about the OYAK deal, chair Nelson Chang said that “companies that do not understand carbon will not survive in the future.” His company is about to spend Euro740m and become the fifth largest cement producer in the world on the assertion that it does understand carbon. Good luck!

Accordingly, the language in the press releases both OYAK and TCC have released is all about sustainable growth and reducing carbon emissions. However, the detail on how exactly they intend to do this is vague. What is clearer though is that OYAK is hoping that TCC invests in energy storage and related industries such as lithium-ion battery additive carbon black in Türkiye. To this end a TCC subsidiary and OYAK are collaborating on a carbon black plant in Iskenderun and further investments may be in the pipeline. TCC and OYAK are also responsible for a couple of calcined clay projects in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Readers may recall that the chair of Chang pronounced in June 2023 that TCC was aiming to diversify the business towards over 50% sales from non-cement sectors by 2025. However, the share from the cement business was around 68% in 2022 and this latest deal with OYAK will likely send it in the ‘wrong’ direction. The company already has a production capacity of around 77Mt/yr from its cement plants in China and Taiwan. Majority ownership of OYAK Çimento and Cimpor Portugal will bump this up to 99Mt/yr and put the company into the top five of the world’s largest cement producers by capacity.

The final question here is what kind of owner TCC intends to be to its growing cement businesses in West Asia and Europe. Publicly at least, it has come across as a backseat investor since 2018 although it has been a minority owner. This has now changed but it will be interesting to observe whether the subsidiaries in the west will be run at arm’s length or more closely and if TCC unifies its global branding and so on. Watch this space.

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