By TJ Strydom, Noor Zainab Hussain and Padraic Halpin
JOHANNESBURG/DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish building materials firm CRH <CRH.I> has made a cash bid for cement maker PPC <PPCJ.J>, taking on South African rival Afrisam [AFRSMV.UL] and Switzerland's LafargeHolcim <LHN.S>.
PPC, which did not disclose the value of CRH's non-binding offer, said on Monday it would give the Irish group time for due diligence and to submit an updated bid next week.
The cement producer, which has been a consolidation target on-and-off for several years, said in a statement CRH's updated expression of interest would include a per share value, adding that its discussions with LafargeHolcim and CRH "may or may not lead to the submission of firm intention letters".
CRH, the world's third-largest building materials supplier by market capitalisation behind LafargeHolcim and France's Saint Gobain <SGOB.PA>, said in August it had around 5 billion euros in cash to spend on M&A over the next 18-24 months.
It has committed 3 billion euros (£2.6 billion) of that to buying Ash Grove Cement Co <ASHG.PK>, reinforcing its grip on the North American market where it is the biggest maker of concrete products and second largest supplier of aggregate materials for construction.
Shares in PPC, which has a market capitalisation of 10.12 billion rand (£531.2 million) and had net debt of 4.7 billion rand at the end of March, were down 2.8 percent at 6.51 rand by 1243 GMT, while CRH's stock was down 1.8 percent at 30.03 euros.
A spokesman for Dublin-based CRH said it had no further comment at this stage.
AfriSam's third attempt in three years to merge with PPC is an all-share merger bid valuing PPC at $700 million. AfriSam is backed in the transaction by the African unit of Canada's Fairfax Africa Holdings <FAHu.TO>.
LafargeHolcim has said that it was in talks with the board of PPC regarding a possible transaction in Africa, while Dangote Cement <DANGCEM.LG>, majority owned by Africa's richest man, Aliko Dangote, is still interested in it too.
Dangote Cement made an approach in September, but later withdrew, saying it did not want to get into a lengthy process with an uncertain outcome.
PPC flagged an increase of as much as 40 percent in half-year profit this month, citing robust performance in Zimbabwe and Rwanda and lower finance costs.
(Reporting by TJ Strydom in Johannesburg, Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru and Padraic Halpin in Dublin; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Alexander Smith)