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Lafarge Touts Net Profit Jump

Lafarge S.A.'s net profit jumped in the fourth quarter despite lower sales, thanks to strong demand from emerging markets and North America.

Fourth-quarter net profit jumped to 213 million euros ($293 million) from EUR83 million a year earlier, while revenue fell 2 percent to EUR3.71 billion, the company said.

"In the fourth quarter we saw much more positive operational trends, accelerating compared to the third quarter, while exchange rates continued to be adverse," Chief Executive Bruno Lafont said. "The Group implemented targeted actions to promote innovation and reduce costs and debt. These measures continue to gain momentum and I am confident that we are particularly well positioned to succeed and deliver on our objectives in 2014 and beyond. Looking at 2014, we are determined and confident, and we expect an overall growth in our markets of between 2 to 5 percent. In this improving environment, the Group will take full advantage of its three organic growth drivers: emerging markets, where construction trends continue to be very favorable, accelerated growth through innovation and the progressive recovery of developed economies, starting with North America.

"We will continue to apply the utmost discipline in capital allocation and our aim is to return to an investment grade profile this year," Lafont said. "In line with this objective and targeting a step-improvement in our return on capital employed, we will pursue the development of our most promising positions through selective organic investments. We notably plan to add more than 10 million tonnes of cement capacity in existing locations in the coming four years in Sub-Saharan Africa, to further reinforce our leadership position in this region and benefit from accelerated growth."

Overall, Lafarge sees cement growth in its markets of between 2 to 5 percent in 2014 versus 2013. Markets shall increasingly benefit from the recovery in the United States and the continuing growth in emerging markets as Europe overall stabilizes.