Consequential deals cap a year that couldn’t end fast enough

As we closed our 2020 work schedule producing this issue, a slew of post-Thanksgiving developments quickly sealed December as the most consequential month of a year we are pleased to see in the rearview mirror. While absent CRH, HeidelbergCement, LafargeHolcim, Martin Marietta, Summit Materials, Vulcan Materials and other deal catalysts or newsmakers of the past decade, the developments warrant cement, concrete, masonry and construction stakeholder attention as 2021 begins:

St. Marys Cement, McInnis Cement. A proposed joint venture will bring new portland cement and cementitious materials capacity and distribution efficiencies to concrete producers and highway contractors in markets from the Great Lakes to upper Mid-Atlantic regions and points north. Pending regulatory approvals, an entity led by St. Marys parent Votorantim Cementos North America will be more competitive in markets dear to Lehigh Hanson Inc. and LafargeHolcim Ltd. U.S. operations.

General Shale, Meridian Brick. General Shale’s $250 million offer for its larger peer will create an undisputed leader in clay brick, with companion concrete block and manufactured or natural veneer stone production. By our estimates, the merged business will control at least 30 percent of the clay brick market, comfortably ahead of one-time leader Acme Brick (22 percent) and the next largest player, Brickworks North America (9 percent). Financial commitments by General Shale parent, Austria’s Weinerberger AG, and Australia’s Brickworks Ltd. bode well for North American clay and concrete masonry unit and manufactured stone veneer businesses. Upon its 2019 entry, via Glen-Gery, Brickworks offered a market profile suggesting ample U.S. and Canadian producer consolidation opportunities.

Wells Concrete, Spancrete. As we showed in our October cover story, Wells Concrete had already made one of the biggest industry statements of 2020: Opening a $40 million-plus, Brighton, Colo. plant to succeed two Rocky Mountain Prestress sites bordering downtown Denver. On the heels of the successful 2019-2020 RMP integration, Wells Concrete further established leadership in precast, prestressed by acquiring Spancrete, a bedrock brand known the world over for its namesake hollowcore machinery. Spancrete brings Wisconsin and Illinois production sites—strengthening its new owner’s grasp of building markets from the Great Lakes to the Rockies—as well as a Florida (Sebring plant) beachhead. Two major deals in as many years firmly position Wells Concrete among the top five North American precast, prestressed operators, alongside Coreslab Structures, Gate Precast Co., Metromont Corp. and Tindall Corp.

Command Alkon. Last year marked an inflection point for the leading information technology services provider. Shortly after ConExpo-Con/Agg, Command Alkon announced a new owner, Thoma Bravo. The tech-wise San Francisco investor effected two significant bolt-on acquisitions through the third quarter, Trimble Construction Logistics and Libra Systems, then closed out Command Alkon’s fluid calendar with a December deal for Ruckit Inc.

Knife River Corp. The construction materials business of North Dakota-based MDU Resources Group enjoyed an eventful Q4 2020. It outlined a five-year capital investment plan topped by a new prestressed concrete operation in eastern Washington plus an ambitious workforce development center in Oregon, home to the (Knife River predecessor) Morse Bros. team that parlayed the hugely successful Mentor Driver training series. MDU then announced a deal for Wyoming’s McMurray Ready-Mix, adding concrete and aggregate assets strategic to existing Knife River properties.

Knife River completed a late-2020 hat trick with an investment in Blue Planet Systems Corp., whose carbon dioxide-mineralizing process yields concrete-grade synthetic aggregate. The stake could serve as a ticket to carbon capture, use and sequestration (CCUS). Equal parts intellectual property, process methods and politics, CCUS is a leading greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategy weighing on Knife River and its cement, aggregate and concrete peers this year.