While cement remains the most widely used building material in the world, its ubiquity has proven to be a blessing and a curse for large cement companies. Stalled construction worldwide has spurred a dramatic slump in sales for the three largest cement manufacturers, Cemex, Lafarge and Holcim, whose acquisition debt has just made financial matters even worse. Photo: C.J. Schexnayder / ENR Cemex’s only presence at World of Concrete was a mixer in the Peterbilt booth. With prospects dour for 2009—Cemex expects demand to drop 15% in the U.S. this year—the pressure on the firms’ bottom lines has only increased.
The market is generally healthy and steadily growing, and margins are up for large specialty contractors. Further, advances in design tools and owner demand for collaboration are giving subcontractors a seat at the table early on in projects.