Vulcan Materials Company (NYSE: VMC) is the largest producer of construction aggregates in the United States by sales. Aggregates include gravel, sand, and crushed rock and are used to make composite building materials like asphalt and concrete. The construction aggregates produced by VMC are used in projects as diverse as constructing airports, highways, and home foundations. The company focuses on areas with above-average population and aggregates demand growth. The company earned $2.5 billion in revenue and $31 million in net income in 2009.
Public construction projects, such as bridges, dams and roads are responsible for almost 50% of the company's business. These projects tend to be less dependent on economic factors and provide a degree of revenue stability. That said, approximately 19% of the company's revenue come from sales related to the residential construction market. The slumping U.S. Housing Market has cause the demand for some of the company's products to fall. However, limited competition has resulted in greater pricing power for companies like VMC. As such, in spite of the drop in sales volume, VMC has been able to keep revenue flat by increasing its average prices.
Like nuclear power plants and garbage dumps, quarries, which create noise and dust, are also subject to the "not in my backyard" mentality. Most residents prefer not to have a quarry within close proximity. This makes getting the zoning permits necessary to open a new quarry in a metropolitan area difficult. Construction aggregates are also expensive to transport due to their high density, and most aggregate producers are limited to supplying customers within a 50 mile radius. As a result, aggregate producers in one region do not typically face competition from producers in other regions.
Vulcan Materials Company operates primarily in the United States; it ships roughly 231 million tons of aggregates to 22 states, the District of Columbia, the Bahamas, and Mexico from 334 facilities.
VMC has defined its business into three operating segments, based on the company's principal product lines: aggregates, asphalt mix, concrete and cement:
The slumping U.S. Housing Market has led homebuilders to dramatically reduce the number of homes they build. The drop in the number of housing starts has a negative effect on Vulcan because fewer housing starts means less demand for its aggregates, which are used in foundations and driveways. Furthermore, the housing markets of Florida and California, which are two of Vulcan's biggest markets, are among the most affected..
Vulcan's acquisition of Florida Rock increased Vulcan's reserves by almost 20%. Arguably more important, however, is the expansion of VMCs geographic presence. The company's strategy is to do business in states with populations and metropolitan areas expanding more quickly than the national average, so that demand for their products grows correspondingly fast. The acquisition of Florida Rock gives Vulcan much greater access to markets in the southeastern and southern United States; both of these areas are growing more quickly than the national average. Vulcan's sales will benefit from these fast-growing areas.
Vulcan requires significant amounts of electricity , diesel, and natural gas in the production of construction materials - both in mining raw materials from quarries, and in processing products like asphalt mix and cement.. As such, increasing energy costs have already lowered gross profit, and continue to pose a threat to the company's margins. Furthermore, rising energy costs also increases the expense of transporting the company's products to market via truck, train, or ship.
The company's largest competitors are:
Although Vulcan is the largest construction aggregates company in the United States, the market for its products is highly competitive, including competition for price, service and product performance. The company estimates that the 10 largest aggregates producers in the United States supply about 30% to 35% of the national market. There are, however, a large number of smaller, independent producers, which means that in any given market Vulcan may be competing with large regional and small local producers. As mentioned above, the high weight-to value ratio of aggregates makes long distance transport expensive, so both proximity to the market and transportation costs are important factors for market delivery. Vulcan maintains production facilities near rail lines and waterways, which increases the number of markets the company's products can reach.