Indian Companies Flourish in Pro-Asbestos Climate
With an annual growth of 9%, the lucrative market for asbestos-cement in India continues to provide industry stakeholders with a powerful incentive to fight calls for a national asbestos ban. India's appetite for asbestos-cement has been spurred by reductions on asbestos custom duties brought in between 1995 and 2004.1 In this pro-asbestos environment, the industry has flourished:
One of India's largest asbestos-cement companies, Visaka Industries Limited, reported a net income of US$10,599,890 for the quarter ending September 30, 2004, an increase of 25% on the previous quarter's results. The company's new asbestos plant in Tumkur, Karnatak will begin operations in April, 2005.
Everest Industries (formerly Eternit Everest), has a 16% share of the domestic market for asbestos-cement sheeting; the vast majority of its output (80%) is used for rural low-cost housing and industrial structures. Although growth in this sector is predicted to continue, Everest is hedging its bets and now produces non-asbestos building boards for use in false ceilings, panelling, doors and prefabricated structures; sales of these have increased by 44% during 2004.
Financial analysts report that healthy profits make Ramco Industries, another major asbestos-cement company, a good investment.2 Increasing manufacturing capacity over recent years has driven up revenue and earnings.
Hyderabad Industries, formerly known as Hyderabad Asbestos Cement Prod. Ltd., manufactures Charminar brand asbestos cement sheets and is another major player in this industrial sector.
In recent years, industry's domination of the Indian asbestos agenda has been challenged by public health campaigners and new NGOs. On November 8, 2004, The Centre for Education and Communication (CEC) and Toxics Link are running an asbestos conference in New Delhi entitled: National Conference on Workers Plight and Status of White Asbestos Trade. This event continues the debate generated by the September 2004 international conference held in New Delhi at which speakers from India, Canada and the US explored the tragic effects asbestos consumption is having on workers throughout the country.
November 5, 2004
2 Madhan G. Ramco Industries: Buy. Oct. 17, 2004. Online: http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/iw/2004/10/17/stories/2004101701890100.htm