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Blue Circle legacy fades as Lafarge NA unloads Georgia quarries

Sources: CP staff; Bluegrass Materials Co., Jacksonville, Fla.; Vulcan Materials Co., Birmingham, Ala.

Lafarge North America's sale of its Georgia quarries-four to Bluegrass Materials, two to Vulcan Materials-marks a retreat from the Southeast and Blue Circle America assets parent company Lafarge Group placed under its control the past 12 years.

Binding agreements for the transactions, totaling $160 million, bring Lafarge NA's asset sale tally to at least $1.5 billion in 20 months, as Paris-based Lafarge Group pinpoints U.S. holdings for ongoing debt reduction. In September 2012, Lafarge NA unloaded a major Great Plains market stake in a $446 million cement, ready mixed and aggregate deal with Eagle Materials Inc., Dallas. Earlier in the year, the Lafarge Front Range ready mixed and aggregate operations in Colorado were exchanged for Martin Marietta Materials quarry assets and undisclosed cash considerations.

A $760 million deal in May 2011 transferred cement and concrete operations in Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana (outside New Orleans) and South Carolina to Argos USA. Much of Lafarge NA's Southeast concrete, cement and aggregate portfolio emanated from Lafarge Group's mid-2001 takeover of Blue Circle Industries Plc.

The most recent transaction involved properties accounting for less than 1 percent of Lafarge NA 2011 revenues, and furthers a strategy in which Lafarge NA focuses on the most promising geographic areas where it has integrated cement, aggregate and concrete positions. Citing 11 million tons of cement capacity across nine mills or grinding plants and associated cement terminals-concentrated in the Great Lakes and Mississippi River region-the company notes, "The U.S. market remains a priority for [Lafarge] Group, where it intends to accelerate the development of its innovative products and services."