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The financial year 2017-18 seems to be an inflection point for the economy and as can be seen later in this message, for the company as well. The turbulences caused by structural reforms seems to have calmed down now. After turning the corner, the country seems to be picking up speed along a faster growth track; by any reckoning, the country is set to retain its position as the fastest growing major economy for years into the future.
Most macro trends in our sector are looking up including the tax revenues, gross capital formation & the demand is gathering momentum. The Cement industry is no exception, which is undergoing a phase of consolidation. After a spurt in capacity additions that was witnessed during last decade; during which the industry capacity has almost doubled to over 450 Million MTPA; the pace of new capacity addition has considerably slowed down.
However considerable surplus has already been created in the system because of sub-optimal demand growth in last 3-4 years; which fortunately now has gathered momentum. Nevertheless even at current pace of growth, the surpluses will take at least 3-4 more years to be fully absorbed. Though, this is not to say that the new capacities shall not be added until existing capacities are fully absorbed but hopefully it would be more mature and responsible.
Locations of the cement capacities are largely a factor of availability of the lime stone, which is not uniformly available in all geographies. As a result, while there is an overall surplus in the system, there are pockets of huge surplus, while there are areas which are relatively well placed. The cement prices in these pockets of excess have been a big casualty so much so that the retail selling price in many markets today are what prevailed 5 years back. The cost pressure on the other hand has accelerated considerably owing to the steep increase which the oil prices has seen in the international market. The overhang of supplies has impacted the cement prices considerably especially in the markets of high surplus.
The cement industry to some extent is witnessing predatory pricing in some segments of the market. In our response to the prevailing industry and market conditions we have adopted a calibrated approach. Starting with completion of various projects that we have undertaken in last 3 - 4 years, we are now focusing on consolidating our presence in operating markets. This is with a view to optimize our logistics costs. The efficiencies and cost parameters of the new capacities and expansions are being brought at the level, which the mature plant at Sirohi has already achieved and which has enabled the plant to be in the league of the least cost producers. Absence of adequate captive power capacity in our eastern operation was one of the cost handicaps that we sought to correct first by installing WHRP at Durg in FY 2018 and the balance power requirement shall be met by the captive thermal power plant which shall be completed during the ongoing financial year. We are confident that the steps we are taking on all fronts would hold us well in the emerging growth period notwithstanding the short term challenges of unremunerative prices and incessant cost push.
While the future looks to be full of promises, the year gone by was full of challenges. If on one hand industry witnessed softening of prices especially in non trade segment to an unprecedented low levels, it also faced the challenge of rising input costs especially in fuel, energy, and logistics. In respect of fuel, besides the increasing prices, challenges were also faced on account of uncertainty of availability of Pet coke - which is a source of energy as well as feedstock in clinker manufacturing. Undoubtedly these have taken their toll on the operating performance of the industry, with your company not being an exception. Yet with our heads high and feet firmly on ground, despite such challenges, your company grew its turnover by 8% and operating profits (EBITDA) by 10% in FY18.
Future is all about team work, collaboration, and cooperation. Different functions, departments, teams, and individuals in the organization have collaborated together to deliver world class manufacturing facilities, operational efficiencies, and have set benchmarks in project execution. For me, this word ''together'' has larger meaning as it pertains to not only the company and its people, but includes its other group associates, their people, all the stakeholders, the community and the environment. If together we have come this far i.e. growing from a modest capacity of 0.5 million MTPA to more than 12 million MTPA now, collectively we can go even farther. Even for the country, with ever increasing focus on democratic values; and cooperative & collaborative federalism; the word together has far deeper meanings and insights. With India considerably improving its international ranking and the states competing between themselves on ''Ease of Doing Business'', there can never be a better opportunity than this to collaborate, cooperate, and work together to take the next big leap.
For India to retain its position as a strong economic contender it will continuously have to invest not just in the physical infrastructure but in its social health and education infrastructure too. Number of initiatives taken by the government in this direction are a precursor to these developments, and the pace of these developments will only step-up in the coming years. We are keeping our antennas open to scout opportunities for aligning our own growth with economic growth that our country is witnessing.
As, we take bold and firm steps into the future, I would like to express my utmost gratitude to all our customers, shareholders, channel partners, business associates, financial institutions and all our employees who have bestowed confidence and faith in us. Their continued trust and invaluable support motivates and inspires us to keep delivering a concrete performance year after year.
BHARAT HARI SINGHANIA -
CHAIRMAN & MANAGING DIRECTOR