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  • MARCH 19, 2012

ACC v/s Ambuja Cements: Which one is better?

The cement industry went through a sea of change in the last couple of decades. In many ways, leading cement players ACC and Ambuja Cements represent this paradigm shift.

As such, we have provided a comparative analysis of these leading cement players.

Management quality

Both ACC and Ambuja Cements are now controlled by Swiss-based Holcim Group, one of the most respected cement companies in the world. However, both have had very different beginnings.

ACC is one of the oldest cement companies in India. It was born out a historic merger of 10 cement companies in 1936. Until some time back when the Aditya Birla Group consolidated its cement assets under UltraTech Cement, ACC was the largest cement manufacturer in India. In the latter part of the 20th century, ACC diversified into some other businesses and made some wasteful acquisitions. These businesses became a drag on the company's balance sheet. Between 1999 and 2000, the Tata Group sold off its entire 14.45% shareholding in ACC to subsidiary companies of Ambuja Cements. Effectively, the Ambuja Group became the single largest shareholder of ACC and took over management control. From the time Ambuja took over management control of ACC, it revamped the latter's business strategy. ACC decided to exit its non-cement businesses and focus on its main business.

Ambuja Cements, on the other hand, entered the cement industry as late as 1983. Despite being a late-comer, Ambuja managed to grow into one of the largest and most profitable cement companies in the country. What is commendable about the company's management is the fact that it is has focussed purely on its cement business and used its cash quite prudently. It has resisted venturing into new businesses. This shows that the company's leader have been very clear in their vision.

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Cement capacity

As of today, both the companies have almost a similar cement capacity. Ambuja Cements has 27.35 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) of cement capacity. On the other hand, ACC is marginally ahead at 28.68 mtpa. Both Ambuja and ACC account for about 9.5% and 10% respectively of the total domestic cement industry. However, a major differentiating factor is the pace at which both companies have added additional capacity over the year. The chart below shows the cement capacities of the two companies since 1995.

Source: Company Annual Reports

As is evident from the chart, in 1995, ACC was the biggest cement company with a capacity of 9.5 mtpa. In comparison, Ambuja stood much lower at just 2 mtpa. Over these 16-17 years, while Ambuja has managed to grow its cement capacity at an impressive rate of 17.2% CAGR (compounded annual growth rate), ACC has added capacity at a much slower pace of just 6.8% CAGR.

Utilisation rates

Capacity addition must not be view in isolation. The other important parameter to watch along with it is capacity utilisation rate. Utilisation rate (Actual Production/Installed Capacity) measures how well a company utilises its capacities. If a company keeps on adding capacity despite low utilisation rates, it reflects management's inefficiency, lack of vision and frivolity. The chart below shows the utilisation rates of the two cement players.

Source: Company Annual Reports

Over the last 16-17 years, while ACC has reported an average capacity utilisation rate of 86%, Ambuja's average utilisation rate stands tall at 93%. During certain years, Ambuja managed to produce even more than its total installed capacity. So the company has not only added capacity at a rapid pace, but has also achieved high utilisation rates throughout most of its operating past. This shows the high level of efficiency in Ambuja's operations.

Geographical spread

Given that cement is a low-value bulk commodity, it is a freight intensive industry and transporting it over long distances can prove to be uneconomical. This has resulted in cement being largely a regional play with the industry divided into five main regions viz. north, south, west, east and the central region. Though both ACC and Ambuja have a pan-India presence, their sales distribution across different regions is quite distinct. While the southern and western markets together account for 45% of ACC's sales, the western region alone accounts for about 38% of Ambuja's sales. The southern region and central region account for only 2% and 5% respectively of Ambuja's sales. As a result of this, both the sister concerns avoid cannibalisation of their important markets.

Latest Update on ACC and Ambuja Cements

In the years since this piece was posted, both ACC and Ambuja Cements have grown substantially in terms of business, financials and stock prices.

ACC and Ambuja Cement's shares have grown at a 4.2% and 5.6% Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) over the past 10 years.

ACC today has become a leading player in the Indian building materials space, with a pan-India operational and marketing presence.

Currently, it has 9 captive power plants and 90 ready mix concrete plants all over India. It has a total of 33.1 MTPA installed cement capacity as on 31 December 2019.

Average return on equity (ROE) for the company stands at 14.7% over the past 10 years.

It now stands at a market cap of about Rs 2,53,387 million.

You can see the ACC company fact sheet here.

On the other hand, Ambuja Cements has has a cement capacity of 29.7 million tonnes with five integrated cement manufacturing plants and eight cement grinding units across the country.

Average return on equity (ROE) for the company stands at 13.8% over the past 10 years.

It stands at a market cap of about Rs 4,29,296 million.

You can see the Ambuja Cements company fact sheet here.

How the Valuations Changed Over the Years?

For the purpose of our analysis we compare the average P/E, P/BV and EV/EBITDA multiples as on December 2019 financials.

Valuation Ratios EV/EBITDA P/E P/BV
ACC 8.2x 19.7x 2.4x
Ambuja Cements 5.7x 18.6x 1.6x
Data Source: Ace Equity

As can be seen from the above table, ACC is more expensive than Ambuja Cements on all the three chosen valuation metrics.

Keep a track of the latest valuations for ACC and Ambuja Cements here and here respectively.

You can see a comparison between both the companies' latest financials here; and our latest update on the cements sector.

Do check out the current share price of ACC and share price of Ambuja Cements.

You can also see the latest stock prices of paint companies here.

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