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Going down: Blue Circle

SHARES IN Blue Circle Industries, maker of half the UK's cement, plunged 10 per cent last week after it said first-half operating profits fell 18 per cent to pounds 100m. It blamed weak demand in Asia and South America. Blue Circle, looking beyond Europe for expansion, is eyeing 30 takeovers worldwide, including an Egyptian firm. It has shed units to focus on building materials. It sold its bathroom division this year and plans to sell its heating unit.

The cement industry "is in the fast lane of global consolidation," according to Rick Haythornthwaite, Blue Circle's chief executive. But in July the company lost out to rival Lafarge in the chase for South Korea's insolvent Halla Group' cement business.