Lafarge SA, the world’s biggest cement maker, agreed to sell its North American Gypsum business with an enterprise value of $700 million to an affiliate of Lone Star Funds.

The business, which manufactures gypsum wallboards and joint compounds in plants in the U.S. and Canada, had 2012 sales of $310 million, the Paris-based company said in e-mailed statement today. The deal, which is predicted to close “very soon,” will help Lafarge to focus on the cement, aggregates and ready-mix concrete businesses, the company said.

Chief Executive Officer Bruno Lafont is selling assets to repair a credit rating that has fallen below investment grade. He’s also cutting jobs and procurement costs and pushing sales of higher-margin services and products to counter a construction slump in Europe and political turmoil in the Middle East.

The stock rose 1.9 percent in Paris trading today, giving the company a market value of 13.6 billion euros ($17.8 billion). Lafarge has dropped 2.2 percent this year, while the French benchmark CAC 40 index declined 1.3 percent. Lafarge’s debt shrank by 4 percent at the end of first quarter from a year earlier to 11.8 billion euros. Lafont has set a goal to trim the company’s debt below 10 billion euros this year.

(Source: Bloomberg)