Although Cemex sales fell in Mexico in 2013, the Mexican producer saw improved demand in most U.S. markets.
Cemex Although Cemex sales fell in Mexico in 2013, the Mexican producer saw improved demand in most U.S. markets.

The top public companies producing concrete in North America benefited from a recovering U.S. economy in 2013, and many had success in markets where residential construction rebounded. However, one-half still reported lower revenue.

Dallas-based Trinity Industries ended its long run in TCP’s Top 10 when the diversified industrial company sold its remaining ready-mix operations to former Dallas competitor, TXI, to focus on producing aggregates. Trinity’s exit made way for former Top 10 regular, MDU Resources Group and its subsidiary Knife River Corp. The high-profile Lafarge-Holcim merger, expected to be complete in 2015, will open another spot.

1. CRH (Oldcastle)
U.S. HQ: Atlanta
Global HQ: Dublin, Ireland
North American ready-mix plants: 280
2013 revenue: $7.46 billion*
2012 revenue: $7.60 billion*
Change: -1.8%

*reflects North American sales of ready mixed concrete, precast, aggregates, and asphalt.

2013 was “another challenging year” for CRH. Although renewed economic activity in the U.S. created momentum, the producer blames bad weather for a decline in the first half of the year. CRH invested $105 million in North American acquisitions, including 13 quarries and seven ready-mix plants. Precast accounts for 25% of North American earnings.

2. HeidelbergCement (Lehigh Hanson)
U.S. HQ: Allentown, Pa.
Global HQ: Heidelberg, Germany
N.A. ready-mix plants: 146
2013 revenue: $4.63 billion
2012 revenue: $4.71 billion
Change: -1.7%

Heidelberg still follows a strategy defined in 2011: improving efficiency, reducing debt, and investing in growth markets and aggregates. Debt reduction is a high priority in 2014, especially “the sale of the building products business line in the United Kingdom and North America and other assets that do not belong to our core business.” North American ready-mix sales remained lower than 2012.

3. MDU Resources Group (Knife River Corp.)
U.S. HQ: Bismarck, N.D.
N.A. ready-mix plants: 72
2013 revenue: $4.47 billion
2012 revenue: $4.08 billion
Change: 9.6%

MDU’s business largely consists of electric and natural gas utilities and energy infrastructure; subsidiary Knife River Corp. contributed roughly 38% of total revenue with ready-mix, aggregates, and asphalt operations in 12 states. Construction materials earnings increased by about 57% in 2013, the producer’s highest since 2007. In 2013, Knife River secured its largest road construction contract, a $55 million highway bypass in North Dakota.

4. Lafarge
U.S. HQ: Reston, Va.
Global HQ: Paris, France
N.A. ready-mix plants: 180
2013 revenue: $4.27 billion
2012 revenue: $4.62 billion
Change: -7.6%

“2013 ended on a more positive note than it began,” for Lafarge, says Bruno Lafont, chairman and CEO. North America accounts for 21% of total revenue, although the group has aggressively sold its U.S. cement, concrete, and aggregates operations for the past two years. Lafarge completed its 2013 divestitures (including six quarries and all gypsum operations) and $1 billion-plus debt reduction before the April announcement of its “merger of equals” with Holcim.

5. Holcim
U.S. HQ: Waltham, Mass.
Global HQ: Zurich, Switzerland
N.A. ready-mix plants: 263
2013 revenue: $3.55 billion
2012 revenue: $3.69 billion
Change: -3.8%

Holcim reported “a solid result in 2013,” but with lower volumes in its three major segments—cement, aggregates, and ready-mix. The group had moderate growth in North America, but regional sales were down almost $150 million compared to 2012. Holcim cited lack of demand in advanced economies and declining growth in emerging markets as factors. Holcim initiated the merger to create LafargeHolcim, which will operate in 90 countries.

6. Cemex
U.S. HQ: Houston
Global HQ: Monterrey, Mexico
N.A. ready-mix plants: 667
2013 revenue: $6.50 billion
2012 revenue: $6.44 billion
Change: 0.9%

Cemex’s U.S. sales increased for cement (5%), ready-mix (8%), and aggregates (4%), driven primarily by residential construction. The producer will expand its Odessa, Texas, cement plant capacity to almost 900,000 metric tons per year to meet demand from the oil and gas industry. Cemex increased its use of alternative fuels to 28% in 2013, claiming “the highest [utilization] among our global peers.”

7. Colas
U.S. HQ: Roseland, N.J.
Global HQ: Boulogne-Billancourt, France
Operations: 27 U.S. states, seven Canadian provinces
2013 revenue: $3.32 billion
2012 revenue: $3.54 billion
Change: -6.3%

Roadbuilding accounts for about 80% of the group’s business, supported by its 34 operations in the U.S. and Canada producing ready-mix, aggregates, and asphalt. Colas reported “a very bad year” in the U.S. when expected recovery did not occur in the roads market, but business recovered gradually by year-end. Revenue also fell in Canada, with bad weather in the first half of the year and infrastructure budget cuts.

8. Vulcan Materials
U.S. HQ: Birmingham, Ala.
N.A. ready-mix plants: 127
2013 revenue: $2.63 billion
2012 revenue: $2.41 billion
Change: 9.1%

The largest U.S. aggregates producer saw “strong volume growth” across all segments, including ready-mix and asphalt, in the second half of 2013. Private construction activity, mostly residential construction, picked up in most of its key markets. Vulcan sold its “non-strategic” cement and concrete assets in Florida to Cementos Argos for $720, but will continue to supply aggregates to the divested plants.

9. Martin Marietta
U.S. HQ: Raleigh, N.C.
N.A. ready-mix plants: 39
2013 revenue: $2.16 billion
2012 revenue: $2.03 billion
Change: 6.4%

The vertically integrated aggregates supplier has concrete plants in Arkansas, Colorado, Texas, and Wyoming that produced 1.7 million cubic yards of ready-mix in 2013 (7% of total revenue). The producer attributes its recent success to a dramatic acceleration in residential and commercial construction, tempered by a lack of federal infrastructure funding. In early 2014, Martin Marietta and Texas Industries said they will merge to become an $8.5 billion company.

10. Buzzi Unicem
U.S. HQ: Bethlehem, Pa.
Global HQ: Casale Monferrato, Italy
N.A. ready-mix plants: 125
2013 revenue: $1.59 billion
2012 revenue: $1.57 billion
Change: 1.5%

For the first time, more than 85% of Buzzi’s revenue came from operations outside of Italy, and the producer reported favorable results in the U.S. and Mexico. Due to strong business in Texas and Oklahoma, Buzzi will invest $250 million to almost triple production capacity at its Maryneal, Texas, cement plant.