It has shifted from finding ways to responsibly redeploy the strong cash flows of the mid-decade to concerns about the game of supplier-customer musical chairs that is played in every recession. While cement profits may be down right now, the motivation to secure a downstream customer base is as strong as ever.

On the third point above, examples abound of even the most committed pure cement players. Essroc Italcementi Group, for example, which previously did not produce a yard of concrete in the U.S., jumped into the business in just the last year with the acquisitions of Arrow Concrete and Crider and Shockey. Other, intermediate cement firms are considering the same strategy.

So the Consolidation Limited rolls on, and good times or bad, it seems that nothing will get in its way.

— Pierre Villere is president and managing partner of Allen-Villere Partners., telephone 985-727-4310, or visit the Web