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First the wall, then the peso – Mexican cement and building materials maker Cemex has enjoyed a boon lately on the back of the fallout from Donald Trump’s presidency.

The collapse in the Mexican currency helped propel a tenfold increase in net income last year and Mr Trump’s insistence that he will build a big border wall has pushed Cemex shares to their highest in more than eight years.

Net income reached $750m, up from $75m in 2015, and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation rose 15 per cent on a like-for-like basis in 2016.

Both EBITDA, and the company’s EBITDA margin, which increased 1.7 percentage points, were the highest achieved since 2007 and 2008 respectively, writes Jude Webber in Miami.

The company, the world’s second-biggest producer of cement and other building materials, has been aggressively selling off non-core assets to pay down debt in a quest to regain its coveted investment grade status. It reported free cash flow after maintenance capital expenditure of $1.7bn, almost double last year’s level and the highest since 2008.

Cemex said it had so far disposed of nearly $2bn in assets, slightly more than half of which was sold in 2016. The assets are being sold at double digit multiples on average, the company noted.

Net sales rose 4 per cent in 2016 to $13.4bn and were also 4 per cent higher in the fourth quarter, at $3.2bn, helped by higher prices in most operations and higher volumes in Mexio, the UK and Germany.

Cemex CEO Fernando González called it “a very good year for Cemex” despite volatility and uncertainty in markets.

He said Cemex’s total debt was now almost $2.3bn lower than at the end of 2015, a reduction

Net sales in Mexico rose 25 per cent in the fourth quarter but were flat in the US. In the rest of the world, sales contracted.

Cemex shares hit an eight-and-a-half year high of 18.9 pesos on January 20 as President Donald Trump reiterated his plans to build a big border wall and had climbed as high as 19.98 pesos per share on January 25. The stock’s 82 per cent advance in 2016 already made it the second best performer on Mexico’s IPC stock index. Cemex shares have since dipped back to 17.78 pesos.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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