When it comes to building the US-Mexico border wall proposed by US president Donald Trump, it’s hard to imagine a company better positioned to benefit from the project than Cemex, the largest cement maker in North America. The company has plants on both sides of the border, and a US headquarters in Houston to complement its global headquarters near Monterrey, Mexico, a two- to three-hour drive from the border.
But amid intense political pressure, on March 16 the company confirmed that it would not supply cement for the project, after previously saying it “would gladly” (link in Spanish) provide quotes for it if asked. This week Mexican lawmakers ramped up pressure on companies to avoid the project. One proposed bill would bar the government from doing business with any company that worked on building the wall, and amendments to existing laws would apply the same logic to public works projects and government purchases.
“It seems dishonorable for Mexican companies to participate,” said Mexican senator Manuel Bartlett in January. “They would be putting money above national interests. Obviously the wall construction is an offense to Mexico.”
For Cemex it will mean missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime bonanza. The wall’s construction will require about $1 billion worth of concrete and cement, according to estimates. In recent months the company’s stock hit eight-year highs as investors contemplated what the wall project—and other infrastructure work proposed by Trump, such as roads and tunnels—would mean for its bottom line.
On the bright side for the company, a broad increase in demand for cement would still work in its favor, albeit indirectly.