Cement giant Holcim sees profits drop on strong franc

Swiss cement giant Holcim said on Thursday its 2011 first half net profit fell by 4.2 percent to 586 million francs ($735.3 million), due to the franc's strength.

“An appreciable number of other Group companies improved their results in local currency terms, but these successes were cancelled out in the consolidated financial statements by the strength of the Swiss franc,” it said in its quarterly statement.  

The currency also affected sales, which dropped 7 percent to 10.1 billion compared to a year ago, even though volumes increased in all segments, Holcim said.  

“In the first half of 2011, demand for building materials followed a positive development in many markets in the emerging countries, with Asia and Latin America in particular continuing to grow,” it said in a statement.  

The group’s outlook was mixed, the world’s number two cement maker said.  

“As a leading supplier for the construction industry, Holcim depends heavily on developments in economic activity, which are currently not easy to read,” it said.  

“In Europe, a rise in demand for construction materials is expected in many places. By contrast, there is not yet a sign of an upturn in the construction sector in North America.  

“Most emerging markets in Latin America and Asia are expected to remain on a positive track for growth, while no change is anticipated in business conditions in Group region Africa Middle East,” Holcim concluded.


It’s official! Switzerland is the most expensive country in the world

While anyone living in Switzerland might not have needed the reminder, a new study shows the cost of living in Switzerland is the highest of anywhere in the world.

It's official! Switzerland is the most expensive country in the world

Switzerland topped the list well ahead of Norway in second place, with Iceland, Japan and Denmark rounding out the top five. 

The rankings, put together by CEO World magazine, took into account rent, groceries, purchasing power, restaurants and the cost of living in 132 countries across the globe. 

European countries featured prominently in the top 20, while countries in Asia and the Caribbean were also prominent. 

Switzerland top of the list

Not only did Switzerland top the overall list, but it also ranked highly in several individual metrics, making the cost of living there officially the highest in the world. 

READ: Everything you need to know about the cost of living in Switzerland

Groceries in Switzerland are also more expensive than anywhere in the world, ranking a full 30 points higher than second-placed South Korea. 

But if you’re looking to avoid the grocery shop, eating out in Switzerland is also more expensive than anywhere else in the world. 

The only bright light in the rankings is Switzerland’s national purchasing power – which is also top of the list – perhaps explaining why the Swiss love to travel or even just shop abroad. 

This is of course more beneficial elsewhere, with the benefits of the country’s excellent purchasing power somewhat eroded by high prices at home. 

Photo: CEO World

In fact, the only metric Switzerland doesn’t top is rental costs. That’s not to say renting in Switzerland is cheap, but it trails Hong Kong, Singapore and Luxembourg on the international rent index. 

READ MORE: Eight things you need to know before renting in Switzerland 

Least expensive countries

Among the least expensive countries, central Asian nations rank highly. Pakistan is officially the least expensive, followed by Afghanistan, India and Syria. 

The least expensive European country on the list is Kosovo (124th) followed closely by Georgia (123rd). Romania is the least expensive European country on the list, in 99th place. 

Top ten most expensive countries as per CEO World magazine

1. Switzerland

2. Norway

3. Iceland

4. Japan

5. Denmark

6. Bahamas

7. Luxembourg

8. Israel

9. Singapore

10. South Korea