ANALYSIS: The Problem With International Breweries N165bn Rights Issue

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Image Credit: Olumuyiwa’s Blog

By Dipo Olowookere

Not too long ago, the board of International Breweries announced that it plans to raise about N165 billion from its existing shareholders through rights issue.

According to board, proceeds from the exercise would be wholly used to refinance part of the N245 billion debts the brewery giant incurred from five local and foreign lending institutions; Citibank N.A, Zenith Bank, Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria, Stanbic IBTC and Rand Merchant Bank Nigeria.

Analysts at Meristem Research said if this exercise is 100 percent successful, the company’s debt burden should significantly reduce by 66 percent to about N81.90 billion, with the finance costs hovering between N5.5 billion and N6 billion in 2020.

But it noted that while this should be good news to shareholders of the firm, the bitter truth is that International Breweries has been operating at a loss since 2017 and that the N165 billion rights issue may have little impact on the overall performance of the company without a strategy to effectively cut costs.

“We note that the financing decision does not solve the operating problems of the company which is responsible for the poor margins,” the investment firm said in its report seen by Business Post.

It further said, “Costs have been high and hampering profits and if this persists, the company’s performance will not improve. Therefore, we believe that International Breweries’ current operating profile negatively affects its ability to deliver value to shareholders.”

“In addition, the potential dilution in earnings will erode the near-term benefits. We also expect that the company will require additional capital to boost its working capital needs, a measure that will not materialise with this issue.

“Hence, we expect it to raise debt in the near term or equities with the potential for more earnings dilution. We therefore do not expect the benefits of this financing decision to improve margins in the near-term,” the report also stated.

Giving an insight on the brewery giant’s performance, Meristem Research said before it became a subsidiary of AB InBev, the largest beer producer in the world, the brewer operated an average cost to sales of 55.12 percent, second to Nigerian Breweries at 52.88 percent, the cost leader in the industry.

However, since this deal was finalised, the firm has made consecutive losses, which worsened to N16.45 billion in 9M:2019, with cost to sales trending northwards at 60.75 percent in 2018FY, 64.42 percent in Q1:2019, reaching its highest point of 68.00 percent in 9M:2019 due to a spike in production costs- raw material costs and production staff salaries shot up by 27.99 percent and 45.22 percent respectively.

In addition, revenue has continued to decline despite initially rising after the completion of its new plant in Sagamu, Ogun State, which ranks as the second largest in Africa.

The turnover first grew YoY by 32.16 percent and 23.54 percent in Q1:2019 and Q2:2019 respectively, but went down by 5.32 percent to N28.63 billion in Q3:2019 from N30.24 billion in Q3:2018 as increased excise duties and competitive pressures constrained topline growth. Also, the firm’s depreciation charges rose in 9M:2019 by 31.54 percent YoY, contracting the gross margin to 32.00 percent (vs. 38.67 percent in 9M:2018).

It was noted that high operating costs has been another worrisome trend post-merger, a major factor for the thinning operating margin which turned negative in 9M:2019 at -11.25 percent, saying the firm has been expending higher costs on advertising (+36.10 percent in 9M:2019) as well as transportation and distribution expenses (up by 36.53 percent during the same period) in order to stay competitive.

“Apart from the high production and overhead costs pressuring margins, finance costs, which increased by 45.81 percent to N13.14 billion in 9M:2019, has been a drag on the company’s performance.

“Benefits can only accrue to shareholders if the company maintains a lid on costs, which seems to be slipping out of hand,” the report stated.

International Breweries, which controls 20.35 percent of the beer sector in Nigeria as at FY2018, is raising N165 billion by selling 18,266,206,614 units of shares on the basis of 17 new shares for every eight held by shareholders whose names were on the register of the company as at November 6, 2019 at N9.00 each.

Meristem Research, giving its verdict on the exercise based on the above issues it highlighted, declared that, “We do not recommend that shareholders take up their rights.”

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