Back in demand

2014-01-14 00:00

THE management of Durban-based Corobrik hopes that increased spending on infrastructure will boost the prospects for the building industry and for the company in 2014.

Dirk Meyer, managing director, said yesterday that building activity, which drives the demand for the masonry and landscaping clay bricks, paving, concrete bricks and blocks and building materials that Corobik makes, remains at a low level, but is showing signs of bouncing up.

The company has managed to grow steadily year on year due in part to pro­duct diversification, said Meyer.

“Architects are reportedly busier than previously and the qualitative and quantitative indicators show a general recovery in the building industry.

“The number of commercial buildings plans being passed appears on a gradual upward trend and government spending on low cost housing and new or extended schools is also picking up,” said Meyer.

Work on government infrastructure such as hospitals, low cost housing and police stations already comprises a healthy segment of the groups overall business, said Meyer.

The middle and upper end of the residential market was also on a slight upward trajectory with property prices recovering.

“The middle end of the residential market is slowly coming back off its low base and there has been small growth in home improvements.”

Demand for Corobrik’s products was also increasing in Eastern, Central and Western Africa, spurred by infrastructure development.

“These are all positive factors which bode well for Corobrik in 2014,” Meyer said.

The groups’ new Corojem bricks, a large, single-skin face brick for the affordable housing sector, had been a “runaway success in this segment”, said Meyer.

“Nothing in the market can compete with its combination of aesthetic appeal and good value. We have dedicated more capacity for its manufacture and are moving to near full employment of our manufacturing resources.”

Corobrik’s recently launched PB Pavers has also proved successful, with the Springs factory operating at full capacity.

“This paver, with earthy colour tones, has all the physical attributes of the PA Paver but is cheaper and is proving a popular alternative in the price sensitive concrete paver segment,” Meyer said.

The focus of the group in 2014 would be on consolidation and reinvestment, following three years of product development.

Capital had been committed to a number of planned projects to upgrade facilities, drive efficiencies and introduce robotics. The Midrand facility would be upgraded and expanded, he said.

Research and development to minimise environmental impacts and energy usage would continue.

“Our research to date, supported by eight years of empirical studies of building modules under real world conditions at the University of Newcastle, provides clear evidence we are in good space and that double skin cavity clay face brick walls with appropriate resistance … offers superior thermal performance with lowest life cycle costs here in South Africa,” he said.

Corobrik wanted to continue converting more factories from coal-fired to gas-fired operations — in addition to its more recent Lawley and Driefontein factory conversions — and there are other options for conversion where gas was not available.

A total of 26% of the business is now owned by employees.

“Expert technical ability is driving the process so we are able to offer sustainable value and are confident we are well positioned to keep growing our share in the different segments where we focus,” said Meyer.

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