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02 December 2019

Roland van Wijnen has a plan to improve the fortunes of cement maker PPC that
will include internal changes and an appeal to government for protection from

Roland van Wijnen has been at the
helm of Africa’s largest cement maker for less than two months, but he has hit
the ground running.

Judging by his strong views on
cement pricing in SA, the CEO of PPC has familiarised himself with the numerous
factors stifling the local cement industry. At his first results presentation
last week, Van Wijnen lamented what he says are low cement prices in SA.

The industry’s profitability has
come under pressure due to the slowdown in construction activity and an influx
of imports. In addition, local manufacturers must now make provision for the
carbon tax. These factors, says Van Wijnen, make it crucial for cement makers
to charge prices that can support their profitability and long-term

PPC named the Dutchman as CEO in
June, but he had to wait for a work permit. He took up the position on October
1, replacing Johan Claassen, who took early retirement.

Van Wijnen worked for
LafargeHolcim for 17 years. During his time there, Holcim Philippines
implemented a new retail business model and a growth strategy to improve
customer service and increase profitability.

From an investment perspective,
PPC has a solid asset base and a good footprint. It’s a “financially
durable” company that has survived many cycles in its 127 years, he says.

But Van Wijnen says the industry
needs urgent attention. Industry body The Concrete Institute has asked the
department of trade & industry’s International Trade Administration
Commission to apply tariffs on imports to protect the local industry. He has extended
his support to the Concrete Institute.

But Van Wijnen will also have to
make internal changes. He says people have told him that PPC is a complex
company in a complex environment. “I do not buy that,” he says.
Cement companies have a limited range of products.

“My drive is to simplify how
we do business. I always say: ‘Simplify, standardise and automate.’ We are a
company that is in multiple jurisdictions but we have similar processes. We
should leverage the fact that we are one PPC. I want people throughout the
business to be performance-driven and to deliver on commitments that we make.
Those commitments will be designed along three lines — economic value creation,
environmental performance and social performance. They should be

Van Wijnen wants to sharpen PPC’s
emphasis on performance. “I like to give responsibility to people who know
what they are doing. With that responsibility comes accountability. That is the
culture I want to create … one of openness and integrity.”

What is in it for shareholders,
who have watched PPC shares plummet by 80% over the past five years? By this
week the PPC share price was down 43.39% since the beginning of 2019 alone.

He says the company is refining
its strategic position, which includes assessing its portfolio to determine
which assets are aligned with that strategy and what to do with those that

But does simplifying the business
entail restructuring?

“You can never exclude
restructuring. But before the summer holidays here in SA, the PPC executive
team will apply its mind on what constitutes group functions and what are SA
support functions,” Van Wijnen says.

“There has been a bit of a
mix within PPC. That is explainable from where they come from. It’s an SA
business that has grown internationally. Now we are an international business
that requires some support at a group level looking after all our

He says the company is developing measurable initiatives that it will take to stakeholders. “We will say to them: ‘This is what we are promising you in the next three years and we feel comfortable that we can achieve those.’ That is the process we have initiated. But it is going to take time to work through that and get back to the market with those commitments.”https://www.businesslive.co.za/fm/fm-fox/2019-11-28-rebuilding-the-ppc-behemoth/

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