Vulcan Materials Co. announced results for the quarter ended March 31. First-quarter total revenues were $1.068 billion, versus $1.049 billion in the first quarter of 2020. Net earnings were $161 million. Trailing 12-month totals were $4.876 billion versus $4.982 billion.
First-quarter Aggregates segment sales increased 3% and gross profit increased 15% to $224 million. Gross profit margin increased 260 basis points due to modest growth in both volume and price as well as effective cost control. Earnings improvement was widespread across the company’s footprint.
Aggregates shipments increased 3% from the prior year’s first quarter. Average daily shipping rates were lower year-over-year in February, though higher in January and March. This cadence was due to winter weather that moved from Texas into parts of the southeast and mid-Atlantic during the month of February. Aggregates unit profitability increased 12% year-over-year to $4.82 per ton.
The pricing environment continues to be positive across the company’s footprint as demand visibility continues to improve. For the quarter, freight-adjusted pricing increased 2% (mix-adjusted pricing increased 1.3%). Mix-adjusted pricing improved sequentially in March, reflecting recently announced price increases in certain key markets. Prices are expected to continue to increase sequentially during the remainder of the year.
Operating efficiency gains helped drive year-over-year declines in freight-adjusted unit cost of sales – down 2% in total and 3% on a cash basis. Flexible operating plans and disciplined cost control mitigated the impact of any operational disruptions caused by the uneven start to the year.
Overall, nonaggregates segments – Asphalt, Concrete and Calcium – gross profit was collectively $5.6 million compared to $7.6 million in the prior year’s first quarter. Asphalt segment gross profit was a loss of $3.0 million, as compared to a loss of $2.4 million in the prior year’s first quarter. The year-over-year decline was driven mostly by the impact of weather conditions in Alabama, Tennessee and Texas.
First-quarter Concrete segment gross profit was $7.8 million compared to $9.2 million in the prior year. Shipments decreased 16% versus the prior year, again due to weather in Virginia, and average selling prices increased 3% compared to the prior year. Calcium segment gross profit was $0.9 million, in line with the prior year quarter.
Tom Hill, chairman and chief executive officer, said, “Our first quarter results are a testament to the resiliency of our best-in-class aggregates business. While severe winter weather conditions in February resulted in an uneven start to the year, strong execution from our teams allowed us to drive earnings growth and margin expansion. As the construction season got underway during March, many of our key markets began to see shipments rebound. Our four strategic disciplines helped us grow our aggregates cash gross profit by 9% to $6.56 per ton.”
Hill stated, “We continue to see strength in residential construction activity, driven by single-family housing. Recent growth in highway awards and construction employment trends in our markets also bode well for further recovery in construction activity later in 2021. Shipments into private nonresidential continue to benefit from heavy industrial projects, such as data centers and warehouses, while leading nonresidential indicators suggest growth opportunities in other categories are on the horizon. The pricing environment remains positive, and we continue to execute at a high level, positioning us well for 2021. These trends in the key drivers of our aggregates business lead us to an improved earnings outlook for the remainder of the year.”