Holnam Inc. History
P.O. Box 122
Dundee, Michigan 48131
Telephone: (734) 529-2411
Toll Free: 800-831-9507
Fax: (734) 529-5368
Sales: $1 billion (1998 est.)
NAIC: 212321 Construction Sand and Gravel Mining; 32731 Cement Manufacturing; 32732 Ready-Mix Concrete Manufacturing
Holnam continually works toward fulfilling commitments to its customers, employees, neighbors, and shareholders. As a leader in the production of cement and related construction materials, product quality and consistency, fiscal responsibility, and protection of the environment are more than goals--they are the foundation upon which our business is operated. Key Dates:
- Ernst Schmidheiny founds Aargauische Portlandcement-Fabrik Holderbank-Wildeggbegan.
- Swiss holdings are organized under Holderbank Financière Glaris, Ltd.
- Holderbank opens first North American subsidiary.
- Dundee Cement Co. is founded.
- Dundee acquires Santee Portland Cement Corporation.
- Holdernam Inc., a subsidiary of Holderbank, forms its own subsidiary, Holnam Inc.
- Holderbank acquires majority interest in Ideal Basic Industries.
- Holnam created out of Dundee and Ideal; becomes largest U.S. cement maker.
Holnam, Inc. is the largest cement manufacturer in the United States. Its parent company, the publicly traded Swiss company Holderbank Financière Glaris, Ltd., is the world's largest manufacturer of cement. Holnam operates 14 manufacturing facilities and more than 70 distribution terminals across the United States, and it has the capacity to produce more than 12 million tons of cement and mineral components annually. Besides cement, the company manufactures and markets mineral components such as fly ash and granulated blast furnace slag, which can be added to concrete and cement products, and it also manufactures a line of masonry products. Holnam was originally formed as a subsidiary of Holdernam Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Holderbank Financière Glaris. Beginning in March 1990 a succession of mergers and acquisitions made Holnam the largest cement company in North America. Holnam controls about 13 percent of the U.S. cement market, the leading share.
Holnam produces and delivers more than ten million tons of cement, the primary ingredient in concrete, each year. To produce cement, varying amounts of limestone, shale, clay, iron ore, and sand, are ground and mixed and then burned in a kiln where temperatures range from 350 to 3,400 degrees Fahrenheit. The resulting substance, known as clinker, is then mixed with gypsum and ground into the fine, gray powder that is cement, which may be mixed with sand, gravel, and water to produce concrete. The basic Portland cement, said to have the qualities of a particular building stone quarried on the British Isle of Portland, is available in several strengths suited for various applications in sidewalks, highways, building foundations, dams, and retaining walls. Holnam's masonry cements, including Rainbow brand custom color masonry cement, are used in both stone and stucco constructions, including walls, chimneys, manholes, and catch basins. Other construction needs are filled with Portland Pozzolan cement, which contains volcanic ash. Finally, Holnam also produces concrete mixtures for mass pourings as well as fly ash admixtures that serve to strengthen concrete by incorporating fly ash, a man-made byproduct resulting from the combustion of coal.
Swiss Roots Early in the 20th Century
Holnam Inc. was first developed as a holding company for the U.S. interests of Holderbank, the world's largest producer of cement products and related services. Holderbank originated with a Swiss cement company called the Aargauische Portlandcement-Fabrik Holderbank-Wildeggbegan, founded in 1912 by Ernst Schmidheiny. The company was a success, and increased production capacity and earnings enabled it to acquire its rival, the Rheintalische Zementfabrik of Ruthi, in 1914. Beginning in the 1920s, the founder and his son expanded the company beyond Swiss borders, acquiring the Nederlandse Cement Industrie and the Ciments d'Obourg in Belgium, as well as constructing plants in Egypt and in Greece. To control its growing international empire, the company regrouped its interests in 1930 under an umbrella company known as Holderbank Financière Glaris Ltd.
The companies that would eventually comprise Holnam originated as early as 1953, when Holderbank founded its first North American enterprise, St. Lawrence Cement Inc., in Canada. Within two years, the first of St. Lawrence's cement plants was completed in Beauport, Quebec. The company's second plant, in Mississauga, Ontario, was established in 1956 and would become Canada's largest cement plant. St. Lawrence eventually gained a third plant in Canada and two more in the northeastern United States.
Holderbank's first U.S. venture, the Dundee Cement Company in Dundee, Michigan, was formed in 1958, becoming fully operational two years later. Like St. Lawrence, Dundee continued to expand under Holderbank's supervision. Its second plant in Clarksville, Missouri, on the Mississippi River, was completed in 1967 and featured the world's largest cement kiln, which measured 760 feet long and 25 feet in diameter and could accommodate 1.4 million tons of clinker a year. In 1978, Dundee acquired the Santee Portland Cement Corporation of Holly Hill, South Carolina, which marketed cement and mortar exclusively in the southeastern states. Dundee's final acquisition, the January 1990 purchase of Northwestern States Portland Cement Co., located in Mason City, Iowa, provided the company with another large facility.
In 1986 Holderbank reportedly paid nearly $110 million for a 66 percent interest in the struggling Denver-based Ideal Basic Industries. Ideal maintained nine plants in the mid-central, western, and southwestern regions of the United States, allowing Holderbank to explore new markets. Soon after the purchase, renovations were begun on Ideal's obsolete production facilities. Holderbank reportedly absorbed an extra $5.7 million increase in interest charges to renovate the Fort Collins, Colorado, plant alone. Ideal continued to struggle, however, posting a $24.1 million loss on sales of $245 million in 1989.
With the acquisition of Ideal, Holderbank gained a commanding 14 percent market share in the United States, ahead of its foreign competitors Blue Circle Industries of the United Kingdom and Lafarge Coppée of France. Furthermore, employing superior, highly cost-effective production techniques to gain a market advantage over rival U.S. cement makers, Holderbank had established a significant presence in North America during the building boom of the 1980s. However, recognizing the dependence of the cement industry on both business cycles and the construction industry, and becoming aware of the threat of a worldwide economic downturn, Holderbank began to consolidate its global activities for greater profitability toward the end of the 1980s. In 1988, preparing to consolidate and reorganize its U.S. companies, Holderbank contributed its interests in St. Lawrence, Dundee, and Ideal to Holnam Inc., a corporate shell established nine years earlier as a subsidiary of Holdernam Inc., Holderbank's U.S. arm.
A New Holnam for the 1990s
Two years later Holnam had been recreated, through mergers and acquisitions, as the country's largest cement manufacturer. First, in March 1990, Dundee and Ideal merged under the name Holnam Inc., which was then listed on the New York Stock Exchange. In the transaction, Holderbank acquired the remaining 34 percent interest in Ideal and retained 89.3 percent of Holnam's outstanding common stock, with minority shareholders owning the remainder. Holnam remained a direct subsidiary of Holdernam.
In its new form Holnam was comprised of Ideal Basic Industries, Dundee Cement Company with its subsidiaries Santee Cement Company and Northwestern States Portland Cement Co., and a 60 percent interest in St. Lawrence Cement, whose stock was traded separately on the Montreal and Toronto exchanges. The company established headquarters in Michigan, and Mark von Wyss, who had served as president at Dundee since 1971, became Holnam's president and chief executive officer. Peter Byland was named chairperson, a position in which he also served at St. Lawrence.
In the months immediately following the merger Holnam continued to expand. In August 1990, the company purchased the United Cement Company, whose facility represented the only cement plant in Mississippi, for approximately $60 million. Two months later the company paid approximately $2 million for Diversified Manufacturers, Inc. (DMI), an Alabama-based producer of masonry cement and stucco. C-Cure of Florida, a business similar in scope to DMI, was purchased by Holnam in March of the following year. During this time Holnam reorganized, providing a central management structure for manufacturing, transportation, distribution, and marketing.
Financially, Holnam experienced difficulties during the first two years after the merger. Although revenues in 1990 reached one $1 billion, and the company was ranked in the Fortune 500 list, Holnam sustained an overall loss of $28 million. A downturn in the construction industry as well as higher costs for fuel and pollution control equipment were cited as principal reasons for the heavy losses. The following year sales fell to $979 million as the company posted a net loss of $95 million. Furthermore, for the first time ever, St. Lawrence also reported losses. Analysts noted, however, that the economic recession during this time caused similar losses to be realized by Holnam's competitors throughout the industry.
Environmental issues also played a major role in Holnam's operations in the early 1990s. Public concern over Holnam's cement kilns arose in several areas of the country, when the company applied for permits to burn chemical wastes to fuel their kilns. Referring to the proposal as a 'win-win situation,' Holnam maintained that besides providing the company with an economical alternative to burning coal or oil, it offered the country a safe and practical means to dispose of municipal and industrial waste, thereby reducing the need for landfills and conserving the natural resource of coal. Objections were raised both by local residents and environmentalists, who feared that the chemicals released into the air during the burning would be hazardous to plant and animal life in the area. Although protestors in Colorado convinced Holnam to abandon plans to burn wastes at the LaPorte and Fremont County kilns, subsequent research did not conclusively find the burning to be dangerous. Holnam did receive permission from other state regulatory agencies, and by the end of 1991 kilns in California, Alabama, Michigan, Missouri, and other locations began burning paint thinners and dry cleaning solvents for fuel. Others, including the Seattle operation, burned shredded tire scraps. Yet Holnam was unable to resolve other environmental problems so economically. The Dundee plant reportedly spent $17 million on controlling the emissions from its smokestacks, while another $2 million was spent to clean up the plant in Mason City, Iowa.
In 1991, forming a committee to work in cooperation with a consulting firm, Holnam studied the market, seeking ways to make the company profitable. Deciding to streamline its operations, the company closed its Denver offices as well as some of its bulk distribution terminals, maintaining its shipping fleet of five tugs, 75 barges, and 397 railroad cars. Renewing its commitment to its core products, Holnam introduced bagged cement and mortars into its Wisconsin, Missouri, Michigan, and Ohio markets, setting up new warehouses in the Midwest and promoting the products through new packaging and advertising.
During this time, the company terminated its relationship with BoxCrow Cement Company, a Texas-based company whose business and assets Holnam had acquired with an option to purchase before the merger in 1989. As part of the original agreement, the company had extended working capital loans to BoxCrow. By 1991 these loans totaled over $30 million, and BoxCrow was still experiencing cash flow problems and weak sales. Believing it unlikely that BoxCrow would be able to repay the loans, Holnam cut its losses by terminating the agreement. In another reorganization move, Holnam's Swiss parent decided to buy back all the company's outstanding stock. By February 1994, Holderbank Financière Glaris had acquired 100 percent of Holnam, and it operated the company as a private subsidiary.
Increasing Production in the Late 1990s and After
In its relatively new role as the country's leader in cement production, Holnam continued to seek out ways of making operations more efficient and cost-effective, while exploring new, related product lines. The company had a range of facilities across the United States, and it began spending money in the mid-1990s to make upgrades and improvements. One of its largest projects was the upgrade of its Devil's Slide plant in Morgan Canyon, Utah. The plant had been built in 1948, and Holnam planned to spend around $100 million on new, state-of-the-art equipment that would double the plant's capacity. Plans to improve the facility got underway in 1996. That year, Holnam also made a key acquisition. It bought the granulated blast furnace slag business of a company called Koch Minerals. This gave it production facilities in Weirton, West Virginia, and in South Chicago. Holnam had marketed slag, which could be used as a cement additive, for five years. The acquisition of Koch's slag assets assured Holnam a source for this mineral product.
Demand for cement in the United States continued to boom in the late 1990s, and Holnam added production to other plants. In 1999, the company announced it would spend approximately $200 million to build an addition to its existing plant in Florence, Colorado. The addition would make the finished plant one of the largest in the country. Like many of Holnam's other facilities, the Florence plant had a long history. It had been producing cement since 1898. The plant had been expanded once in 1948 and again in 1974. Colorado was a major market for cement. The state was estimated to need 2.3 million metric tons of cement in 1999, but total production capacity locally was only 1.7 million metric tons. When Holnam finished its work in Florence, that plant alone was expected to be able to supply 1.9 million metric tons. Holnam also looked at plans in 1999 to double the capacity of its cement plant in Holly Hills, South Carolina. The company also neared completion of upgrades at a large plant in Midlothian, Texas, and tripled capacity at its Chicago plant for slag-bearing cement. Next, the company considered building what would be one of the world's largest cement factories on land it acquired near the Mississippi River in Ste. Genevieve County, Missouri. The new plant was to mine limestone from a rich vein under the 3,900-acre site, and a kiln would produce some four million tons of cement. In working to persuade local officials of the need for the huge facility, Holnam explained that its plants were all producing at capacity, yet the U.S. still needed to import cement.
Principal Subsidiaries: Braswell Concrete Products, Inc.; Braswell Industries; Braswell Sand and Gravel Co., Inc.; Graysonia, Nashville & Ashdown Railroad; Ideal Concrete; Kevaland Corp.; Kevaland Texas Corp.; St. Lawrence Cement Inc.
Principal Competitors: Lafarge Corporation; Southdown, Inc.; Cemex, S.A. de C.V.; Heidelberger Zement AG; Blue Circle Industries plc.
- 'Holnam, Inc.,' Concrete Products, December 1999, p. 41.
- 'Holnam Inc. to Buy Koch Operation,' Pit & Quarry, June 1996, p. 15.
- 'Holnam Oversubscribed,' Private Placement Report, December 14, 1998, p. 2.
- Jones, Lara, 'Cement Producer Planning $100 Million Upgrade of Morgan County Plant,' Enterprise/Salt Lake City, March 25, 1996, p. 3.
- Kohler, Jeremy, 'One of the World's Largest Cement-Making Operations May be Built in Ste. Genevieve,' St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 27, 2000, p. JC1.
- Mitchell, Jerry, 'Chem Waste, Holnam Linked: Joint Venture to Supply Kiln Fuel,' Mississippi Business Journal, January 11, 1993, p. 1.
- Raabe, Steve, 'Cement Plant to Expand in Colo.,' Denver Post, February 2, 1999, p. C2.
- Seebacher, Noreen, 'Cementing a Spot on the Fortune 500,' Detroit News, April 15, 1991.
- Wernle, Bradford, 'Dundee is Home to New $1 Billion Company,' Crain's Detroit Business, March 26-April 1, 1990, pp. 1, 47.
Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 39. St. James Press, 2001.