The first quarter was tough for two leading U.S. construction aggregates producers, with high diesel fuel costs, record bad weather and slow-moving stimulus work combining to hammer revenue and profits for Vulcan Materials Co., Birmingham, Ala., and Martin Marietta Materials Inc., Raleigh, N.C. But both saw some improvement going into the second quarter and predict more stimulus demand by year’s end.
For the first quarter ended on March 31, Vulcan, the largest U.S. aggregates maker, reported on May 3 a $39-million loss—$6 million higher than for the same period in 2009. Shipments fell 14%, and revenue dropped 18% to $493 million.
But CEO Don James says shipments were up in March and April, 4% and 9%, respectively, from 2009. “We’re encouraged about the restoration of regular federal highway funding through the HIRE Act and the momentum of stimulus-related projects in Vulcan-served states,” he says, adding that highway contract awards in those states rose 26% for the six months ending in March.
Martin Marietta reported on May 4 that first-quarter revenue fell from $374.5 million in 2009 to $340 million; also, the firm lost $13 million. Volume in its Heritage aggregates line fell 12%for the quarter but was up 9% in March. CEO Ward Nye says, “This marks the first month of volume growth compared with the prior-year month in the past several years.” He predicts “greater stability” in overall aggregates demand this year.