ConExpo-Con/Agg leaders say equipment industry remains optimistic, despite COVID-19 concerns

Multiple construction and construction materials industry segments converged on the Las Vegas Convention Center and Festival Grounds as they came together for ConExpo-Con/Agg & IFPE last week to unveil new technologies and products, share knowledge, network with industry peers, and buy equipment.

Registrations for the show totaled over 130,000. At the conclusion of the show, cancellations from international attendees totaled less than 1 percent.
“We refer to ConExpo-Con/Agg as the ‘heavy metal’ show, but it’s more than that. It’s also small equipment, education and technology. And that was reflected in every way this week,” said Mary Erholtz, vice president of marketing at Superior Industries and ConExpo-Con/Agg 2020 show
chairperson. “Giant machines, incredible exhibits, fantastic education, and huge expectations.

Organizers of ConExpo-Con/Agg have a legacy of building and innovating on previous shows, and the 2020 gathering extends that record of success.
“This has been one of the best editions of ConExpo-Con/Agg – ever,” continued Erholtz.

Exhibitors across the show, from the Festival Grounds to North Hall to Bronze Lot to South Hall, expressed enthusiasm for the engagement they received from contractors and producers looking to purchase equipment.

According to IFPE Show Chairperson David Price, global marketing manager of HydraForce Inc., “The crowd was much better than expected under the circumstances, and, most importantly, the right buyers were on the show floor. We were very pleased with the strong showing from the 300-plus exhibitors at IFPE 2020, and we are looking forward to the 2023 show.”

Mike Ballweber, president, Doosan Bobcat echoed those sentiments, “Tuesday for us was record breaking in terms of leads and attendance at our booth, which is how we measure how successful the show is for us. We had more people to our booth on the first day than all of the 2017 show. This is a one-every-three-years show, and our dealers and customers were really excited to be here.”

With growing concerns about COVID-19, show management worked closely with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and the Southern Nevada Health District to make sure exhibitors, vendors, and attendees were provided with heightened cleaning services and hand sanitizers to help reduce the spread of germs and enable show participation to stay healthy onsite at the show.

“We have been pleased with the success of the overall show and attendance in our booth,” said Ingo Schiller, president and CEO of Tadano America Corp. “The management team at ConExpo-Con/Agg has been monitoring the situation, and they made a very difficult decision to close the show a
day early. We appreciate their leadership, and we look forward to ConExpo-Con/Agg 2023.”

Key metrics reflect overall quality of ConExpo-Con/Agg and IFPE 2020 attendees:
– U.S. buyer attendance increased 8 percent from the 2017 show, and total buyer attendance improved by almost 5 percent.
– Overall contractor and producer attendance grew by 14 percent.
– 6-in-7 attendees serve in a decision-making role.
– Total registered attendance reached over 130,000 for the week.
– Attendees purchased a record-breaking 75,622 tickets for education sessions at the show, a 46-percent increase from the 2017 show.

At the same time, the technological change revolutionizing these industries was pervasive across the shows’ record 2.7 million-plus net square feet of exhibits featuring 2,300-plus exhibitors from the leading U.S. and global manufacturers, from multinational giants to small firms with specialized products.

Other highlights included:
– Partnership with women in construction groups to highlight the growing role women play in the industry, including the unveiling of the world’s largest 3-D printed statute of a human to honor the growing role women play in the construction industry.
– Workforce solutions area in the Festival Lot that showcased industry recruitment best practices.
– The Tech Experience returned for a second year and focused on modern mobility, sustainability, and smart cities.
– The first-ever Fluid Power Hour for the co-located IFPE show.

ConExpo-Con/Agg ends early as COVID-19 impact widens

AEM released the following statement regarding ConExpo-Con/Agg:

Due to the growing concerns about COVID-19, the travel restrictions put in place by the President, and changing corporate travel policies that impact many of our attendees and exhibitors, we have made the decision to close ConExpo-Con/Aagg & IFPE one day early, closing on Friday, March 13 at 5 p.m.

We made this decision based on conversations with our AEM officers and other leadership, several top exhibitors, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and the office of the Nevada Governor.

As we have said from early February when the first news of COVID-19 became available, we were committed to monitoring the situation daily and keeping our top priority focused on the health and safety of all participants at ConExpo-Con/Agg & IFPE 2020, including attendees, exhibitors, vendors, staff, industry partners, and others involved in the show.

After 5 p.m. on March 13, we will begin to dismantle booths and begin the scheduled process of removing equipment from the show floor.

We thank our exhibitors, attendees, vendors and the City of Las Vegas for its support throughout this week.

Final attendance numbers will be available soon.

Aggregate Industries kicks off annual apprenticeship program

In the U.K., Aggregate Industries launched its 2020 Apprenticeship Program, designed to offer people the chance to earn while they learn. Successful candidates are given the opportunity to gain on-the-job experience, while achieving professional qualifications – helping them to lay a solid foundation for a career in construction.

Each year, the Aggregate Industries offers placements for the apprentices across a variety of business divisions, including working at some of the U.K.’s largest quarries, state-of-the-art asphalt plants, and on major road improvement projects – as well as areas such as finance and HR.

“With the continued need to address the ongoing skills gap faced by the sector, a key focus for us is our 2020 Apprentice Program, which demonstrates our commitment to training and investing in the next generation of talent,” said James Roberts, human resources director at Aggregate Industries U.K., in a press release. “Successful applicants will be exposed to a wide range of roles within the business and learn valuable skills.

This year’s program will include nearly 30 nationwide positions, including apprenticeship roles in areas such as business administration, mobile and stationary plants, minerals management, electrical and mechanical engineering, plant operations, and sales. In the program’s 15th year, Aggregate Industries has successfully trained more than 300 graduates and apprentices in a number of these roles to date.

“In recent years through our Diversity & Inclusion Strategy, we’ve also worked hard to increase the uptake of the females,” Roberts added. “To support this, we’ve introduced a successful female mentorship program designed to help our female apprentices tackle the unique challenges they may face within the sector. We look forward to welcoming this year’s recruits and helping them reach their full potential in the future.”

LafargeHolcim decreases debt, increases North American sales in 2019

LafargeHolcim CEO Jan Jenisch described 2019 as “a very successful year,” noting that the company achieved record results in operating profit, net income, EPS, and free cash flow. “Our sharp decrease in net debt has significantly strengthened our balance sheet,” he added in a press release. “We have achieved all our targets for 2019 and have moved our company to a new level of performance.”

Midway through its Strategy 2022 “Building for Growth,” the company has achieved almost all of its 2022 targets. It significantly strengthened its balance sheet and is now well positioned to continue growing profitably with strong market positions in all regions. It also completed eight bolt-on acquisitions in the ready-mix and aggregates markets in 2019.

LafargeHolcim had 2019 net sales of $27.9 billion, which grew 3.1 on a like-for-like basis, driven by growth in Europe and North America, good prices dynamics across all business segments, and higher prices in most markets.

Recurring EBITDA reached $6.4 billion, up 6.5 percent on a like-for-like full year. Contributing to the increase is a $418 million SG&A cost savings program. Net debt was reduced by $4.9 billion.

From a global perspective, aggregate sales were down 3.1 percent to 269.9 million tons in 2019, while cement sales were down 6.3 percent to 207.9 million tons and ready-mixed concrete sales were also down 6.3 percent to 47.7 million cubic meters.

In North America, aggregate sales were up 3.6 percent to 113.5 million tons, cement sales were up 5.3 percent to 20.8 million tons, and ready-mixed concrete sales were up 7.6 percent to 10.2 million cubic meters.

Celebrate Women in Construction Week with educational opportunities

While celebrating Women in Construction (WIC) Week, March 1-7, consider opportunities at next week’s ConExpo-Con/Agg show to sign up for one of several events focused on women in the industry.

“As the largest construction industry-focused trade show in North America, ConExpo-Con/Agg seeks to draw attention to and celebrate the important role women play in the industry,” said Dana Wuesthoff, vice president of expositions and event services with the Association of Equipment Manufacturers and ConExpo-Con/Agg show director in a press release. “Working together, Con-Expo-Con/Agg, NAWIC, and WOFA, will not only showcase women industry leaders, but reinforce the career growth potential for women, who today represent a small percentage of the workforce and the opportunity to diversify the industry.”

“According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics Survey, women make up only 9 percent of total workers in construction,” said Chrissy Ingram, executive administrator of NAWIC National. “As our industry continues to grapple with a labor shortage, women are poised to help play a greater role in all areas of construction. By teaming up with ConExpo-Con/Agg, organizations like NAWIC and WOFA can help women thrive in a male-dominated industry.”

The partnership kicks off with a breakfast event, Genders on the Jobsite, on Wednesday, March 11. It features Vicki O’Leary, founder of Be That One Guy, and Lorein Barlow, director and producer of Hart Hatted Women, who will have a candid discussion on how women experience job site opportunities and challenges and explore how everyone has a role in keeping job sites productive and safe for all workers.

On Wednesday afternoon, a panel discussion and networking event will be held in the Tech Experience. It features social media influencer and construction business owner Missy Scherber, Aaron Witt of BuildWitt, Keaton Turner of Turner Mining Group, and Stacey Tompkins of Tompkins Excavating.

To sign up for these and other women events, click here. And, if you know of a woman in the aggregates industry who deserves recognition, email me about a potential profile in Rock Product’s Women who Rock.

Granite named one of the world’s most ethical companies for 11th year

For the 11th consecutive year, Granite has been named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies by the Ethisphere Institute. It was chosen as one of the 2020 World’s Most Ethical Companies by Ethisphere, a global leader in defining and advancing the standards of ethical business practices. Granite is among 132 honorees who are exemplifying and advancing corporate citizenship, transparency, and the standards of integrity.

“We are extremely honored that Granite has once again received this award,” said President and CEO James H. Roberts in a press release. “Congratulations to all Granite employees for earning this distinction.”

Grounded in Ethisphere’s proprietary Ethics Quotient, the World’s Most Ethical Companies assessment process includes more than 200 questions on culture, environmental and social practices, ethics and compliance activities, governance, diversity, and initiatives to support a strong value chain. The process serves as an operating framework to capture and codify the leading practices of organizations across industries and around the globe. Best practices and insights from the 2020 honorees will be released in a report and webcast in March and April of this year.

“Congratulations to everyone at Granite for earning this recognition,” added Ethisphere CEO Timothy Erblich.“This is a moment to acknowledge the leaders working to advance corporate cultures defined by integrity and affirm those companies contributing to broader societal imperatives and the greater good.”

U.S. Concrete reports results for fourth quarter, full year

Its focus on operational, technology, and financial improvement initiatives led to strong results in 2019 for U.S. Concrete, Inc. “Our record-high EBITDA in the second half of 2019 highlights the traction that our profit improvement initiatives are gaining within our operations,” said William J. Sandbrook, chairman and CEO, in a press release.

“While our fourth quarter of 2019 results were negatively impacted by a significant increase in our self-insurance reserves, cost claims, and premiums year-over-year,” he added, “we experienced good growth in our aggregate products segment and are seeing positive momentum in ready-mixed concrete pricing to further increase profitability.”

While consolidated revenue in the fourth quarter was down 0.2 percent to $369.2 million, aggregate product revenue increased 7.5 percent to $49.9 million. Aggregate volume increased 7.1 percent to 2.9 million tons. During the quarter, the average selling price increased from $11.35 to $11.93 per ton.

For the full year, consolidated revenue fell from $1.5 billion in 2018 to $1.48 billion. Aggregate product revenues increased 6.9 percent to $195 million, and aggregate volume increased 2.5 percent to 11.4 million tons.

The company’s outlook for 2020, which incorporates its acquisition of Coram Materials, calls for consolidated revenue of $1.5 billion to $1.6 billion and total adjusted EBITDA of $195 million to $215 million.

U.S. Concrete acquires New York-based Coram Materials for $142 million

U.S. Concrete, Inc. completed the acquisition of Coram Materials Corp. for a purchase price of $142 million and significantly expanded its East Coast aggregates reserves. “The acquisition should produce a margin profile in excess of the company’s average within the first full year of ownership,” said William J. Sandbrook, chairman and CEO, in a press release. “Post synergies, which we expect to achieve within two years, the deal represents a multiple of approximately seven times EBITDA.”

The acquisition includes significant, premium sand reserves that will not only supply U.S. Concrete’s ready-mix operation in New York City, but also allow for external sales to third-party customers. “Coram’s 50 million tons of reserves, located in the quickly depleting Long Island sand market, increases the vertical integration of our New York operations, strengthens our competitive position, and advances the continuation of our strategy of expanding into higher margin aggregates businesses,” Sandbrook noted. “Following our successful Polaris acquisition, we continue to seek out accretive opportunities of coupling the pull through capabilities of our large regional footprints of ready-mixed concrete operations with attractive aggregate assets.”

CEMEX announces plans for further CO2 emission cuts

CEMEX, S.A.B. de C.V. announced a new Climate Action strategy, which outlines the company’s vision to advance towards a carbon-neutral economy and to address society’s increasing demands more efficiently, noting ” we believe that climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our time and support the urgency of collective action.”

To date, it reports that it has reduced net specific CO2 emissions by more than 22 percent compared to its 1990 baseline. “But we acknowledge that this is not enough,” the company wrote in a press release. The company has increased its target to a 35-percent reduction of net specific CO2 emissions by 2030. It is also establishing a new ambition to deliver net-zero CO2 concrete by 2050.

“Climate change has been a priority for CEMEX for many years. Our efforts have brought significant progress to date, but we must do more. This is why we have defined a more ambitious strategy to reduce CO2 emissions by 2030 and to deliver net-zero CO2 concrete by 2050,” said Fernando A. Gonzalez, CEO of CEMEX. CEMEX has an alternative fuel substitution rate of 27 percent.

The company has created a detailed CO2 roadmap to accelerate the roll-out of proven technologies in all of its facilities, including investing in energy efficiency, using alternative fuels, expanding the use of renewable energy, and increasing the substitution of clinker with alternative cementitious materials.

Higher aggregates and asphalt earnings drive Vulcan’s fourth quarter

Vulcan Materials Co. announced results for the quarter ended December 31, 2019, noting that higher segment earnings in Aggregates and Asphalt helped drive 15 percent year-over-year growth in the company’s fourth quarter earnings from continuing operations. 

Full year revenues were $4.9 billion, up 12 percent as compared to the prior year, and net earnings were $618 million, an increase of 20 percent.  Adjusted EBITDA increased 12 percent to $1.27 billion.  At year end, total debt was $2.8 billion, or 2.2 times trailing-twelve month Adjusted EBITDA.

“2019 marks another year of strong earnings growth and cash generation. We are particularly proud of our people who worked hard to achieve these results while ensuring another year of world-class safety performance,” said Tom Hill, Vulcan chairman and CEO, in a press release. “Widespread improvements in pricing helped drive 8 percent growth in our industry-leading unit profitability and double-digit growth in Adjusted EBITDA, a strong result despite some higher-than-expected costs in the fourth quarter. Industry leadership in safety and pace-setting unit margins are both evidence of our strong and healthy business. Going forward, our compounding unit margins and our disciplined capital allocation position us to increase our cash flows and improve our return on invested capital again in 2020.”

Aggregates results

Fourth quarter sales increased 10 percent, while gross profit grew 7 percent to $275 million or $5.32 per ton. Fourth quarter aggregates shipments increased 4 percent compared to the same quarter a year prior. The freight-adjusted average sales price increased 5.5 percent to $13.96. The fourth quarter was negatively impacted by higher repair and maintenance costs, geographic volume mix including higher sales volumes in rail-served remote markets, and lower tipping fees for clean fill.

For the full year, segment sales increased 14 percent, driven by volume growth of 7 percent and price growth of 5.6 percent. The freight-adjusted price per ton for the full year was $13.99. Gross profit increased 16 percent, and unit profitability grew by 8 percent to $5.32 per ton. Cash gross profit for the year was $6.74 per ton.

2020 outlook

“Looking ahead, demand in our markets will continue to benefit from higher levels of highway funding and continued growth in residential and nonresidential markets,” Hill said. “This visibility into demand growth has already set the stage for solid price improvement in 2020. Price improvement coupled with our four strategic initiatives (Commercial and Operational Excellence, Logistics Innovation and Strategic Sourcing) should continue to increase unit profitability.”