Madras Cements in talks with Lafarge, Holcim to sell West Bengal unit

Madras Cements, part of Chennai-based Ramco Group, is in talks with Lafarge and Holcim to divest its cement grinding unit in West Bengal for around Rs350 crore, The Times of India  today reported, citing sources briefed on the matter.

"We have been approached by a number of cement manufacturers to sell the grinding unit. At present we are only exploring the offers made by these people. No decision has been taken as yet," Chennai-based Ramco Group vice-chairman P R Venketrama Raja told TOI.

New Delhi-based Dalmia Cements was earlier interested in acquiring the plant, but dropped out of the deal, the paper said.

Madras Cements had set up its West Bengal 1 million tonne grinding unit in 2008 at a cost of around Rs120 crore.

Paris-based Lafarge, the world's largest cement maker has recently been selling some its assets in North America to cut debt by €2 billion with an aim to divest at least €750 million this year. The group had net debt of €14.24 billion at the end of March 2011.

Switzerland-based Holcim is the world's second-largest cement maker employing some 80,000 people, with production sites in around 70 countries. With a market presence on every continent, Holcim is more globally spread than any other building materials group.

Holcim's business strategy is based on looking for continuous growth in both developed economies and emerging, high-growth markets, where around three-quarters of its operational capacity, accounting for almost half of the Group's net sales, is based.

In 2010, the Swiss giant recorded sales of over 21 billion Swiss francs.