Cemex Jamaica will spend US$1 million to set up a new liquid limestone plant next month, which pushes its total investment in Jamaica to US$32 million.
The limestone plant will produce hydrated lime, which forms an essential element in paints, agri-products, construction material and water treatment chemicals, Carlos Gonzalez, president of Cemex Caribbean, told Financial Gleaner at the launch of Cemex Jamaica's New Kingston office on Wednesday.
The plant will obviate the need to import hydrated lime, but Cemex also expects to trade some of the product with overseas markets.
"The country currently imports this product, but the plant will allow companies to buy it locally for the first time," Gonzalez said. "We will also export this product, but we are still in discussions with other countries," he said.
Gonzalez explained that Cemex Jamaica operates five business units locally including its quicklime or burnt limestone plant, which was a US$30-million investment; the hydro-lime plant at US$1 million; environmental equipment, a US$500,000 investment; aggregates at US$500,000; and infrastructure contracting. The latter unit is still evolving.
The company will focus its services on the road and housing sectors, which will see it partnering with local affiliated company, Caribbean Cement Company Limited (CCCL), Gonzalez stated. Cemex owns five per cent of the Rockfort-based operation and 20 per cent of parent company Trinidad Cement Limited.
"We would like to work with CCCL to produce concrete roads. We have the know-how and they have the cement. You have seen the number of roads we have produced globally," said Gonzalez.
"We have a financial interest in CCCL. We are partnering with them but we are not involved with producing cement. They have their own production and we are fine being a silent partner in that regard," he said.
Cemex will avoid entering into local cement production.
In 2006, Cemex bought the 39 per cent remaining stake in a quicklime plant located next to bauxite plant Jamalco from British company Rugby. In 2004, it acquired the two-thirds stake following its acquisition of Rugby's parent company RMC.
Gonzalez explained that Cemex will seek to construct low-income housing.
"Low-income housing doesn't have to be poor housing. They can be good quality housing that fulfils the needs of the people. You have to provide full infrastructure that [fosters] development. You have to make sure that you provide good, quality public spaces," he said.
The unit is yet to receive contracts.
The Cemex group, based in Mexico, aims to return to profitability in three years following its near disaster in 2008 as a result of the financial crisis. The group halved its annual loss to US$853 million for the year ending December 2012, from US$1.9 billion a year earlier.
"Our CEO put forward an optimistic view that by 2016, we will be back to the profitability levels of 2008. We will live as a company," said Gonzalez.
Contracting services is relatively new to the group.
"Since 2008, we look at business from a different perspective. In pre-2008, we were mainly a cement construction company. Now we provide solutions. So now, we look at what Jamaica needs and how we can achieve these goals," Gonzalez said.
Cemex Jamaica, headed by Rafael Villalona, employs 100 directly and 500 indirectly.