Who would have thought, just 10 years ago, that the UK’s entire cement industry would be foreign-owned or that the World’s biggest cement producer would be a Mexican firm?
A lot has happened in the industry in a relatively short space of time. But some things never change. In the case of the cement market the suspicion, mistrust and accusations of price-fixing by Blue Circle, Castle Cement and Rugby Cement are still with us. Only the names have changed: Cemex, Lafarge and Heidelberg Cement.
The Office of Fair Trading seems to be always on the cement industry’s case and it’s thanks to intervention by the OFT and the Competition Commission that there is now a new player in the market, Lakshmi Mittal’s Hope Construction Materials.
As we report in our feature beginning on page 50 of this issue the CC hasn’t finished with the cement industry yet and wants to see more of it sold off. With demand for the product likely to increase as the economy recovers, there shouldn’t be any shortage of bidders.
While the government worries that the cement boys have had it too good for too long, it seems not to have noticed that another, albeit smaller, materials industry is struggling as a direct result of its so-called “green” policies.
Timber panel manufacturers are watching their raw material go up in smoke as the biomass industry buys up all the wood with its generous public-sector subsidies (see page 32).
It would be justifiable if biomass were saving the planet. But even Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth would rather see it made into building materials.
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