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July 17, 2018

James Hardie profit surges, but asbestos claims still rising

Building materials firm James Hardie has more than doubled its profit and announced a special dividend.

The company’s statutory net profit rose to $US99.5 million for the year to March 31, up from $45.5 million in its previous financial year.

James Hardie says its underlying full-year profit was $US197.2 million when its significant asbestos compensation exposures, ASIC expenses, New Zealand product liability, asset write-downs and tax adjustments are excluded, up from $US140.8 million last year.

The firm’s chief executive Louis Gries says James Hardie’s US and European businesses contributed much to the profit surge.

“Net sales increased 22 per cent in the quarter and 19 per cent for the full year, reflecting stronger volumes, a higher average net sales price and the continued strengthening of the US housing construction market,” he noted in the report.

The company says US single family housing starts were 615,400 for the year to March 31, up 9 per cent on the prior year according to the US Census Bureau.

In the Australian market, the number of detached home approvals – which generate the most demand for the firm’s key fibre cement building products – was up 16 per cent to 104,394, but James Hardie says that has been partially offset by a fall in renovations.

Mr Gries says the construction turnaround is prompting significant investment to increase its manufacturing capacity.

“During financial year ’14, we confirmed our commitment to build the infrastructure to grow our business with the reopening of our Fontana, California location, the commencement of capacity expansion projects at our Cleburne, Texas and Plant City, Florida locations and the construction of a new manufacturing line at our Carole Park, Queensland location,” he said.

“To further capitalise on the projected growth in the US housing market, and our anticipated market share growth across all of our businesses, the company intends to increase its levels of capital expenditure to an average of approximately US$200 million per year over the next three years.”

In addition to the capital investment, James Hardie has announced a full-year special dividend of 20 US cents per share, in addition to its ordinary dividend of 32 US cents per share.

James Hardie securities were up 3.7 per cent to $14.19 by 12:20pm (AEST) on the Australian market as a result.

Asbestos exposures

James Hardie has reported $US195.8 million in adjustments for asbestos liabilities in its annual accounts, up from $US117.1 million last year.

The company says accounting firm KPMG’s current estimate of total asbestos liabilities for Australia, net of insurance claims, has risen to $1.547 billion this financial year from $1.345 billion last.

The main reason for the rise, according to the report, is a continued increase in claims by asbestos victims suffering mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer generally affecting the lungs and typically caused by asbestos exposure.

James Hardie says actuaries had previously assumed a peak in mesothelioma claims to have occurred in 2010-11, however the past two years of claims have been above expectations.

In the year to March 31, a total of 608 asbestos-related claims were received, a 12 per cent rise from 542 claims the previous year, and well above expectations of 540 claims.

James Hardie says 604 claims were settled in its 2014 financial year, with an average settlement of $253,000, resulting in a total payout of $140.4 million for the year.

Mesothelioma claims jumped almost 20 per cent in the year to March 31 2014, to 370, up from 309 the year before, 259 in 2011-12 and 268 in 2010-11.

KPMG had previously expected only 300 mesothelioma claims in its forecasts.

Mesothelioma claims are far more expensive for the company, with the average settlement sitting at $308,000, compared to around $100,000 for asbestosis or lung cancer.

There were also seven “large” mesothelioma claims over $1 million, worth a total of $11.6 million.

The company warns that, if claims do not start reducing until after 2018-19 the estimated claims total of more than $1.5 billion could rise a further 22 per cent on top of this financial year’s increase.

KPMG says it is too early to tell whether the higher number of claims will be sustained based on one year’s worth of increased claims.

However, James Hardie’s chief financial officer Matt Marsh says the impact on the company’s bottom line will be capped, and it is fulfilling all its requirements to the asbestos compensation fund.

“We’ll make a payment in July of $US113 million and that will be in compliance with our obligation under the [agreement] to contribute up to 35 per cent of our operating cash flow,” he told analysts on an investor briefing.

“The second part of that question is will that be enough to pay for the liabilities, and that’s a question that’s better asked of the AICF [Asbestos Injuries Compensation Fund].”

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James Hardie profit surges, but asbestos claims still rising

Midwest Asbestos Litigation Conference Provides Forum for Judges, Attorneys and Doctors

ALTON, Ill., Sept. 27, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Simmons Browder Gianaris Angelides & Barnerd LLC, a nationwide leader in asbestos and mesothelioma litigation, will sponsor and co-host HarrisMartin’s Midwest Asbestos Litigation Conference. The event will take place Friday, Sept. 27, at the Four Seasons Hotel in St. Louis. This is the fourth consecutive year Simmons has co-hosted and sponsored the event.

The one-day conference will bring together attorneys — plaintiff and defendant — from around the Midwest to learn about ongoing trends in asbestos litigation. Firm shareholder Amy Garrett will serve as the conference’s co-chair.

“The Midwest Asbestos Conference is an opportunity for attorneys, doctors, and judges to exchange information and ideas about this unique area of litigation,” said Garrett.

Other Simmons Firm attorneys joining the conference as presenters are Conard Metcalf, Of Counsel, and Nick Angelides, Shareholder. Metcalf and his co-presenter, Dwayne Stanley, of Husch Blackwell LLC, are scheduled to present in the afternoon session “Concepts in Causation: Lung Cancer Cases, Part I.”

Angelides will appear as a panel member in the session “Local Court Procedures in Asbestos Cases.” He and other panel members, Judge Clarence Harrison, Judge Steve Ohmer and Rebecca Nickelson of HelplerBroom, will address Pro Hoc rules, motions to accelerate participation in depositions and jury selection.

Other conference topics on the agenda include Medicare and case settlements, deposition practice, Minnesota Asbestos Litigation Update and professionalism and ethics.  For more information about the conference or to register, visit www.Harrismartin.com.

About Simmons Browder Gianaris Angelides & Barnerd LLC:
The Simmons Firm is a national leader in mesothelioma and asbestos litigation. Headquartered in Alton, Ill., with offices in Illinois, Missouri and California, the firm has represented thousands of patients and families affected by mesothelioma throughout the country. The Simmons Firm has pledged nearly $20 million to cancer research and proudly supports mesothelioma research throughout the country. For more information about the Simmons Firm, visit http://www.simmonsfirm.com.

Contact: Mark Motley
Simmons Browder Gianaris Angelides & Barnerd LLC
618.259.2222
mmotley@simmonsfirm.com

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Midwest Asbestos Litigation Conference Provides Forum for Judges, Attorneys and Doctors

Swiss billionaire gets 18 years jail for Italian asbestos deaths

MILAN (Reuters) – A billionaire Swiss industrialist convicted for his part in Italy‘s biggest asbestos scandal had his jail sentence lengthened to 18 years on Monday, in a ruling campaigners said would set a precedent for work-safety lawsuits.

Stephan Schmidheiny, found guilty of negligence that led to more than 2,000 asbestos-related deaths, was also ordered to pay millions of euros in damages to local authorities, victims and their families by an appeals court in Turin.

The former owner of Swiss building material maker Eternit was found guilty in February last year and originally sentenced to 16 years in prison and ordered to pay other damages.

He was not immediately sent to jail – prison sentences in Italy are often not enforced until appeals processes, which can take years, are exhausted

The 65-year-old was not in court when the appeals judges rejected his appeal against the sentence and extended it on Monday.

A spokesman based in Zurich said the industrialist would now take his case to Italy‘s top appeals court and dismissed the ruling as “scandalous” and “absurd”.

The Turin court also dropped charges against Belgian Eternit shareholder and former company executive Jean Louis Marie Ghislain de Cartier de Marchienne, who died on May 21 aged 91.

A WORLD WITHOUT ASBESTOS

Relatives of the victims and hundreds of others filled the courthouse, some holding banners reading: “Eternit: Justice!”

“This verdict encourages the battle by victims and their families for a world without asbestos and without that thirst for profits that sacrifice human lives,” victims’ association Osservatorio Nazionale Amianto said.

Prosecutors had said Schmidheiny intentionally failed to install measures to prevent workers’ health being affected by asbestos at Eternit’s Italian plants, which closed in 1986.

More than 6,000 people – including former employees and residents of the four towns where the plants were located – are seeking damages in the case.

Compensation awarded by the court included 20 million euros to the Piedmont region and 31 million euros to the Casale Monferrato townhall where Eternit had its main Italian plant.

Prosecutors said the lack of safety measures led to the deaths of more than 2,000 people, mostly from cancer triggered by contact with asbestos, and thousands of other cases of chronic pulmonary disease, tumors and other illnesses over the past four decades.

They affected workers and residents of Casale Monferrato and Cavagnolo, two hill towns near Turin; the village of Rubiera in northern Italy; and the seaside town of Bagnoli, outside Naples.

Asbestos fibers became popular from the late 19th century onwards as a way to reinforce cement, often for roofing and cladding, as well as adding sound absorption and heat resistance.

Asbestos is now banned from building materials in much of the West, but is still being used as insulation in developing countries. The inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause lung inflammation and cancer, and symptoms do not tend to appear for many years.

(Reporting By Silvia Aloisi; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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Swiss billionaire gets 18 years jail for Italian asbestos deaths