UPDATE 1-Cemex says will seek to regain investment-grade rating
(Adds quotes, details on Cemex credit rating)
MONTERREY May 20 (Reuters) - Mexican cement maker Cemex will seek to regain its investment-grade rating, which was lost in 2009 after a debt-fueled acquisition spree, the company's new Chairman Rogelio Zambrano Lozano said on Tuesday.
Zambrano Lozano, who was named to the job on Thursday after the sudden death of former Chief Executive Officer Lorenzo Zambrano last Monday, said the company's vision and strategy would remain much the same under its new management.
"The vision that Cemex has at the moment comes from the same strategy that we have been following and that we don't intend to change," he told a news conference.
"Our principal objective is to regain our investment-grade rating."
Fernando Gonzalez, newly appointed as chief executive, said that the company will look at opportunities for acquisitions as the cement industry consolidates, but Cemex's priority will be to reduce leverage by improving core profit and return to financial flexibility.
"Exploring opportunities is something we're obligated to do," he said. "But at the same time, we have said that our number one priority is to obtain financial flexibility."
Cemex has struggled with large debts and cost-cutting since former CEO Zambrano's ill-timed $16 billion takeover of Australian rival Rinker in 2007, when the U.S. housing market was already months into a downturn.
Its credit rating was downgraded by by Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings and now stands at B-plus, which is four notches below investment grade.
(Reporting by Christine Murray, Gabriela Lopez and Elinor Comlay; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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