July 30, 2020 / 5:08 AM / 12 days ago

'Sticking to facts': HeidelbergCement cautious after rival says it has weathered storm

FILE PHOTO: A logo of HeidelbergCement is pictured at their headquarters in Heidelberg, Germany, June 21, 2016. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski/File Photo

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - HeidelbergCement (HEIG.DE) said the future was still shrouded in uncertainty this year, striking a starkly more cautious tone than its bigger rival LafargeHolcim (LHN.S) which said it had weathered the “tsunami” of the coronavirus crisis.

Chief Executive Dominik von Achten was circumspect on Thursday as the German company, the world’s No. 2 cement maker, said it was still too early to give an outlook for the full year.

Just earlier in the day, LafargeHolcim CEO Jan Jenisch had said that sales in all five of its regions had returned to 2019 levels by the end of June as lockdowns eased, adding: “This is a tsunami crisis and in our case it is already over.”

“I’m not a fan of phrases, I’m sticking to the facts,” HeidelbergCement’s von Achten said when asked why his view differed during a call with journalists to discuss second-quarter results.

“I cannot predict today how the fourth quarter will look like,” Von Achten said, adding that even though construction activity had recovered in June the company was looking at the impact of the crisis month by month.

Shares in HeidelbergCement were down 4.3%, among the biggest decliners in Germany's benchmark DAX .GDAXI index.

The group said it would continue to tighten its purse strings after a good start to the July-September quarter.

HeidelbergCement said cash savings from its COPE cost-cutting programme launched earlier this year stood at 354 million euros (319.9 million pounds) at the end of June. It is targeting 1 billion euros in 2020.

Those cuts had helped it post higher-than-expected preliminary second-quarter sales and profits earlier this month. It said in its preliminary results on July 14 that sales from April to June were 4.324 billion euros, while earnings from current operations before depreciation and amortisation were 999 million euros.

Reporting by Christoph Steitz; Editing by Thomas Seythal, Maria Sheahan and Pravin Char

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