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Cemex: mastering the art of acquisitions.

Mexico's love for building things with concrete could have kept Cementos Mexicanos quite content in its role as the top producer of cement products in a burgeoning national market. Instead, the Monterrey-based Cemex went global. And it went global in a big way.

So big, in fact, that it blossomed into the third-largest cement company in the world, and the largest producer of ready mix, the product containing all the ingredients needed for concrete. With facilities in 50 countries, Cemex holds far and away the strongest international presence of any home-grown, non-state (i.e. not Pemex) Mexican company in existence.

That presence just got stronger. With the US$4.1 billion acquisition of UK cement giant RMC RMC Royal Military College
RMC Radio Monte Carlo
RMC Randolph-Macon College (Ashland, Virginia)
RMC Regional Medical Center
RMC Robert Morris College (Illinois)
RMC Rocky Mountain College
 officially in effect as of March of this year, Cemex has increased its profit potential and its international reach (as well as its by no means modest debt, cautious observers point out).

Before the RMC deal, Cemex cash flow was essentially split 50-50 between Mexico and the rest of the world. Now some two-thirds of it is expected to come from non-Mexican soil.

The RMC merger also upped Cemex's profile in Europe, where RMC did two-thirds of its business. While Cemex was already No. 1 in Spain, its presence across Europe was mostly via trading.

"We were patient," says Hector Medina, executive vice-president of planning and finance. "But now we have good positions on into Eastern Europe Eastern Europe

The countries of eastern Europe, especially those that were allied with the USSR in the Warsaw Pact, which was established in 1955 and dissolved in 1991.

"Patient" is not exactly the first word that comes to mind when describing the aggressive acquisition policy that has catapulted Cemex to world-class status. Taking off with a US$1.8 billion move into Spain in 1992, company President Lorenzo Zambrano refused to succumb suc·cumb  
intr.v. suc·cumbed, suc·cumb·ing, suc·cumbs
1. To submit to an overpowering force or yield to an overwhelming desire; give up or give in. See Synonyms at yield.

2. To die.
 to the then-prominent stereotype of the stay-at-home, too-risky Mexican company.

He soon moved into South America South America, fourth largest continent (1991 est. pop. 299,150,000), c.6,880,000 sq mi (17,819,000 sq km), the southern of the two continents of the Western Hemisphere.  and the Caribbean. In 2000, he stunned stun  
tr.v. stunned, stun·ning, stuns
1. To daze or render senseless, by or as if by a blow.

2. To overwhelm or daze with a loud noise.

 the world by purchasing Houston-based Southdown, making Cemex the top cement producer in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. . Asia and North Africa were next.

Making It Work Globally

Going global is one thing. Making it work is another. Observers agree that Cemex proved itself worthy by having mastered the basic efficiencies--inventory management, cultural sensitivity, just-in-time delivery, to name a few--that are make-or-break in a competitive international market.

Also, Cemex leaders like to point out that their geographic diversification isn't haphazard hap·haz·ard  
Dependent upon or characterized by mere chance. See Synonyms at chance.

Mere chance; fortuity.

By chance; casually.
; rather, their international presence is strategically situated to take full advantage of economic cycles that vary from region to region.


But what probably sets Cemex apart from the second-tier global players is the centralized cen·tral·ize  
v. cen·tral·ized, cen·tral·iz·ing, cen·tral·iz·es
1. To draw into or toward a center; consolidate.

 structure of its sprawling empire.

"We run all our global operations Global Operations is a first-person shooter computer game developed by Barking Dog Studios and published by both Crave Entertainment and Electronic Arts. It was released in March of 2002, following its public multiplayer beta version which contained only the Quebec map.  as one," Medina says. "It's a back office company. We have one treasury for the world."

Connectivity and universal standards dominate the big picture. Immediate post-merger integration ensures any newly acquired company gets melded into the operations network quickly.

The eventual result, Cemex spokespersons say, is a quicker payoff of the synergies that helped drive the merger process in the first place. Both the newly acquired company and Cemex as a whole improve in efficiency and profitability. And that, in a nutshell, is the payoff of global expansion.

So what might be next for Cemex? Well, India and China are sitting there with a couple of billion people to serve. Cemex hasn't indicated any plans for those two countries, but as Medina says: "They're too big to ignore."

Kelly Arthur Garrett ( is a former U.S. magazine executive editor who lives and writes in Mexico City Mexico City
 Spanish Ciudad de México

City (pop., 2000: city, 8,605,239; 2003 metro. area est., 18,660,000), capital of Mexico. Located at an elevation of 7,350 ft (2,240 m), it is officially coterminous with the Federal District, which occupies 571 sq mi
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Title Annotation:COVER
Author:Garrett, Kelly Arthur
Publication:Business Mexico
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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