27.02.04

27.2.2004: Meldung: Lafarge 2003 Annual Results

2003 Annual Results


Solid operational performance in a challenging environment

Very strong net debt reduction: €3.2 billion (-30.9%)

Present market trends and continued performance improvement allow us to anticipate a robust growth in our operating income on ordinary activities in 2004, before currency fluctuations


The Board of Directors of Lafarge, chaired by Bertrand Collomb, closed the accounts for the year ending December 31, 2003.

Group highlights:

Underlying sales: +4.6%

Operating income on ordinary activities:
- Up +6.9% on a like-for-like basis excluding €99 million incremental pension costs
- Up +1.7% on a like-for-like basis
- Negative currency fluctuation impact: -8.6% (-€185 million)
- Operating income on ordinary activities down -9.3%
Substantial improvement of the financial structure:
- Net debt down: €3.2 billion to €7.1 billion in 2003 from €10.2 billion in 2002
- Net debt reduction amounts to €1.2 billion, excluding the impact of currency fluctuations and of the rights issue
- Cash flow from operations to net debt ratio improves to 25.5% in 2003 from 19.1% in 2002
Net income per share: +39.8%

Dividend maintained at €2.30 per share, subject to Annual General Meeting"s approval

Outlook:
Bernard Kasriel, Chief Executive Officer of Lafarge, said:

"In 2003, in a challenging environment, the Group has once again demonstrated its solid performance. We anticipate a gradual improvement in our markets in 2004, without predicting its precise timing and pace. In this context, our continuous performance improvement allows us to expect a robust growth in our operating income on ordinary activities in 2004, before currency fluctuation impact."

Consolidated accounts as of December 31, 2003
€ Million December 31, 2003 December 31, 2002 Variation
Sales 13,658 14,61 -6.5%
Operating income on ordinary activities 1,934 2,132 -9.3%
Net income Group share 728 456 +59.6%
Net income per share (in €) 4.92 3.52 +39.8%
Cash flow from operations 1,799 1,956 -8%
Net debt 7,061 10,216 -30.9%


Group and Divisions in 2003:
On a like for like basis, Group sales increased by 4.6%. This organic growth confirms the Group"s potential. The operating income on ordinary activities has been negatively affected by a strong currency impact in 2003 (-€185m), by anticipated incremental pensions costs (-€99m) and by a negative scope effect (-€46m). Excluding these items, operating income on ordinary activities increased by 6.9%. The net income Group share was €728m versus €456m in 2002, a year affected by an exceptional provision of €300m.

The Cement Division recorded, in contrasting markets, a 4.6% increase in volumes and a 4% increase of its operating income on ordinary activities on a like-for-like basis. The operating margin was almost unchanged at 21.2% versus 21.4% in 2002. Excluding the unfavorable and exceptional impact of the two price wars in Germany and in the Philippines and of incremental pension costs, the operating margin would be 22%. The contribution from emerging countries continued to grow, reaching 42% of the Division"s operating income in 2003 versus 39% in 2002.

Some Blue Circle markets have faced difficult conditions in 2003. Additional synergies resulting from the acquisition of Blue Circle have been achieved as expected.

In the Aggregates and Concrete Division, the drop seen in Aggregates in several North American markets along with the exit cost of a paving activity in the US and the decline of the French market have impacted results. They were down 9.3% on a like-for-like basis, despite further performance improvement in Concrete operations. The operating margin was reduced to 6.3%, or 6.7% excluding the impact of incremental pension costs versus 7% in 2002.

The Roofing Division delivered a strong operating income on ordinary activities growth, with a 14.4% increase on a like-for-like basis driven by performance improvement. Margins were up 0.8 percentage point to 9.4% in 2003 versus 8.6% in 2002. Extensive restructuring of our operations since 1999, particularly in Germany, delivered satisfactory results despite a still difficult German market in 2003.

The Gypsum Division recorded strong growth, with like-for-like operating income on ordinary activities up 55.8% and an operating margin for the Division of 7% in 2003 versus 4.4% in 2002. All regions improved operating results despite a strong increase in gas prices. The United States in particular reported a good operational performance of its two large manufacturing facilities as well as an appreciable price increase.

The Other line was mainly impacted by an increase in pension costs not directly allocated to the Divisions.

Operating income on ordinary activities as of December 31, 2003
€ Million December 31, 2003 December 31, 2002 Variation Excluding foreign exchange and scope effects
Cement 1,466 1,606 -8.7% 4%
Aggregates and Concrete 283 336 -15.8% -9.3%
Roofing 142 132 +7.6% +14.4%
Gypsum 84 51 +64.7% +55.8%
Other (41) 7 - -
TOTAL 1,934 2,132 -9.3% +1.7%


Lafarge is the world leader in building materials, and employs 75,000 people in 75 countries. The Group holds top-ranking positions in all four of its Divisions: Cement, Aggregates & Concrete, Roofing and Gypsum.

An interview with Bernard Kasriel, Chief Executive Officer, will be available in video, audio and text from 7.30am CET on www.lafarge.com (see below) and www.cantos.com.

Lafarge"s next financial publication - 2004 first quarter sales - will be on 28 April, 2004 (before the Euronext stock market opens), and not on April 22nd, 2004 as previously announced.

For release worldwide with simultaneous release in the United States.

PRESS CONTACTS: INVESTOR RELATIONS:

Philippe Hardouin
33-1 44-34-11-71
philippe.hardouin@lafarge.com James Palmer
33-1 44 34 11 26
james.palmer@lafarge.com

Brunswick Stéphanie Tessier 33-1 53-96-83-79 stessier@brunswickgroup.com Danièle Daouphars
33-1 44 34 11 51
daniele.daouphars@lafarge.com
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