Botswana competition law coming

Against the backdrop of ever-rising demand for cement, PPC Botswana has set aside P5,78 million for a huge expansion drive to increase production.

The expansion, which is expected to be completed by the middle of next year, will include a new warehouse.

In an interview with Mining Weekly, John Gomersall, the CEO of PPC Botswana's parent company PPC, said the expansion included palletising equipment, which will stack bagged cement onto portable platforms automatically.

"Demand for PPC's general all-purpose cement, Botcem, a brand manufactured exclusively in Botswana, has soared from a few hundred tonnes a month when we opened the Gaborone depot in 1996 to more than 20 000 tonnes per month currently," Gomersall said.But PPC's expansion could raise eyebrows as it comes shortly after the company retrenched 30 employees last month after closing down its ready mix unit. A big factor in the demand for cement is the FIFA World Soccer Cup to be held in South Africa in 2010, which has spurred several SADC countries into building more hotels and spots complexes or upgrading existing ones in order to tap into the anticipated bonanza.

In the host country, demand for cement is projected to rocket by up to 60 percent to 24-million tons a year between now and 2014, as housing and infrastructure development take on an unprecedented scale.

Demand for the building materials has already grown by 50% in the last four years.

Botswana and South Africa are also experiencing new and renewed investments in the mining sector, partly spurred on by improved commodity prices.

"Significant projects are under construction or planned that will drive the demand for cement," PPC said in a note to the JSE. "The most significant of these is investment in housing, with anticipated demand of nearly 16-million tons in total between 2007 and 2014."

Despite operating in an ailing economic environment in Zimbabwe, the company continues to post healthy profits largely driven by exports and a steady local demand.

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