By JULIUS ALAGBE
The faces of shareholders of Guinness Nigeria Plc have continued to sour than ever before given the discouraging performance of the Giant Brewer. This depressing result which was made public on the NSE website reveals a steep loss of –(N12.578 billion) in 2020, representing 329 per cent loss from a profit of N5.483billion in the corresponding period of 2019.
The audited results also showed that net assets dipped -18 per cent while earnings per share closed negative at –(572).
Total equity declined -18 per cent from N89.060 billion in 2019 to N73.088 billion in 2020. While no dividend was declared, revenues dipped -21 per cent from N131.498billion in 2019 to N104.376 billion in 2020.
A critical assessment of the company’s scorecard shows that inventories also increased higher by 4.9 per cent from N25.180 billion in 2019 to N26.426billion in 2020.
Guinness appears to be finding itself in a debt trap as its loan burden surged 323 per cent as it ramped up borrowing from N5.2billion in 2019 to N22.800billion in 2020.
On account of what is turning out to be a quite disappointing outcome in its 2020 business year, a slew of equities analysts has presently cut down their estimates and projections on the outlook for Guinness Nigeria Plc, even as the rising scourge of the Coronavirus pandemic continues to affect the earnings and performance numbers of firms.
It would be recalled that before the outbreak of the virus, the brewery segment of the economy was buffeted by rising operational costs on account of increased excise duties, which thus affected major brewers.
Meanwhile, increased competition within the sector had also been a pressure point as challengers for market share were bringing in extra product capacity to the industry even amid declining disposable incomes.
For example, Nigerian Breweries continued to maintain overall industry leadership while International Breweries was from the side encroaching into some of Guinness Nigeria’s traditional market share.
Worse still, the devaluation of the local currency in Nigeria worsened the case for operators as it came with a significant spike in import bills. As a result, Guinness was unable to liquidate inter-company foreign currency loan due to scarcity of FX.
Even now, analysts have remained downbeat on the size of FCY loans in the company’s balance sheet as they say that naira devaluation could aggravate the firm’s exposure levels, with the result that the brewer may need to pay more in naira terms.
Based on some of these variables, Chapel Hill Denham is forecasting a price target of ₦15.38 per share for Guinness Nigeria’s stock, though the market price has already surpassed that region.
“Against our expectation, the company recorded a loss after tax of ₦12.58 billion compared with our forecast of ₦1.24 billion and missed consensus expected profit of ₦256 million”, Chapel Hill explained.
Analysts stated that this loss was largely driven by a PPE (Property Plant & Equipment) revaluation loss of ₦11.72 billion which comprised an impairment loss of ₦1.46 billion and write-off of ₦10.26 bn.
On its part, ARM Securities sheds further light into the brewer’s performance, noting that Guinness’ Q4:2020 result showed a higher than expected hit to their revenue numbers as it declined by 72%.
This led to a steep contraction of 71% in their gross profit to ₦2.53 billion.
Further aggravating the pressure on earnings was the ₦16.5 billion impairment charges booked over the period, resulting in an operating loss of ₦18.05 billion.
However, analysts said tax credit received helped mitigate the loss in the quarter to ₦13.94 billion.
Ex-impairment, ARM Securities explained that Guinness’ loss would have been much lower at about ₦2 billion before the tax credit which points to the impact the impairments had.
“While we expect a swift bounce back for Guinness as the economy gradually re-opens, the risk from its foreign currency loan and an adjustment to our revenue projections necessitated a cut in our fair value to ₦18.94 from ₦26.63”, ARM Securities stated.
While Chapel Hill Denham stays neutral on Guinness, ARM Securities saw an upside and rated the stock buy.
Chapel Hill explained that Guinness is trading at 2021 price-earnings and EV/EBITDA of 25.3x and 2.3x respectively, which is considered to be ahead of consumer sector average of 11.5x and 5.7x.
Analysts said three major factors affected Guinness in the last three years and that they include stiff competition from a reinvigorated International Breweries (IntBrew) and the broader brewing industry in Nigeria.
They also cited the difficulty in raising prices (especially on lager), owing to an avalanche of highly price-sensitive consumers, amidst tightening pockets.
This comes even with the impact of excise duties on net revenue, given the company’s total beverage portfolio.
“This, in our view, has slowed revenue growth alongside the imposed lockdown and restrictions in human and economic activities in Q2-20 (April to June 2020), due to the Coronavirus Pandemic”, Chapel Hill Denham stated.
However, ARM Securities Limited recognises that aside from the lockdown induced decline in volumes that was felt across the whole industry, revenue was also hit by the implementation of strict credit policy to minimise credit risk.
Receivables went as high as ₦31.56 billion at the end of Q220 but following this policy, it declined to ₦18.72 billion at the end of Q4.
It was noted that the policy involved call-backs of stocks from distributors they were no longer partnering with which meant that a reversal of revenue had to be recorded on their books.
The effect of this was more keenly felt in the premium spirits segment which declined 92%year on year over the second half of 2020.
Additionally, spirits, which makes up a more significant part of total revenue for Guinness compared to the others, has had to face higher excise duties.
Meanwhile, analysts explained that the management disclosed that it is de-emphasizing Lager, and focusing on Spirits which is 3 times more profitable.
“We are tracking 2021 turnover at ₦126.98 billion, above ₦104.38 billion in 2020, but below ₦131.50 billion 2019”, Chapel Hill stated.
The firm’s analysts projected earnings per share (EPS) of N0.56 compared to loss per share of ₦5.74 in 2020.
“In line with our expectation, management did not declare dividends for 2020, but we expect dividend payments to resume in 2021 as the economy rebounds, alongside higher alcohol consumption volumes”, Chapel Hill explained.
On debt, the brewer raised its leverage level significantly in the period amidst cash flow tightening and demand for working capital flow
Guinness Nigeria’s debt to equity ratio increased to 31.9% in 2020 from 22.3% in 2019, which is still below the 5-year average of 52.2%.
Recall that the company issued a ₦5 billion commercial paper in June 2020, and is currently trading at a yield of 5.57% (Dec 2020) and 5.11% (Mar 21) respectively, compared to the implied yields on similar Nigerian Treasury Bills of 1.11% (Dec 2020) and 1.67% (Mar 21) respectively.
The management however disclosed holding-off from FX dominated debts in 2021, due to naira devaluation risks.
Despite the uninspiring performance, costs of sales declined significantly in Q4-20 and in full-year results. Guinness recorded a steep decline in costs of sales by % year on year in Q4-20 to ₦5.83 billion, tracking marginally ahead of the 72.2% decline in revenue.
Analysts remarked that the decline is largely due to weaker production in Q4-20 (April to June 2020), a period of economic lockdowns in Nigeria and restrictions in human movements and gatherings.
Going forward, management disclosed that it expects naira devaluation to impact costs of imported raw materials while noting that it is currently challenging to source FX.
“Thus, we expect an increase in consensus estimate for 2021 cost of sales”, analysts held.
Meanwhile, cash flow moves positively despite the hassles faced or rather helped by economic lockdown in part.
The brewer’s net operating cash flow improved 14.1% to ₦15.29 billion from ₦13.41 billion in the financial year 2019 despite weaker earnings in the period.
This was driven by favourable working capital change as trade & other receivables declined by 28.1% to ₦18.72 billion, while trade & other payables were flat.
The decline in trade & other receivables was largely linked to impairment losses and write-offs, with management disclosing that it ended contracts with some distributors and collected returned inventories, as it embarked on a de-stocking strategy and instituted a strict credit policy in Q4-20. The major concern about the performance includes the fact that Guinness lost market share in Q4-20.
Analysts at Chapel Hill Denham had forecasted that the extended lockdown in Q4 of 2020 (April to June) and the impairment expectation by management, will have a material impact on Guinness’s revenue and profitability.
In line with our expectation, Chapel Hill noted that Guinness Nigeria recorded a steep decline in revenue by 72.2% in Q4-20 to ₦8.36 billion and by -20.6% in FY-20 to ₦104.38 billion against analysts’ estimate of ₦108.64 billion and the consensus forecast of ₦115.11 billion.
There was a strong decline in product segment which include Guinness Stouts (-17%), Premium Spirits (-146%), RTDs (-26%), APNADs (-25%), and lager (-45%).
However, mainstream spirits grew by 15% as Diageo (the parent company) indicated that organic volumes in Nigeria were down 10%.
Based on these results, the analysts estimate that Guinness market share has dropped to 14.5% from 21.1% while Nigeria Breweries maintained leadership with a higher revenue market share of 61.1% from 56.3% and International Breweries at 24.4% from 22.7%.
Chapel Hill Denham also noted that Guinness’ exposure to the excise duties, via its total beverage portfolio, and implies lower net revenue for the company.
The phase III of the excise duty programme, which commenced in June 2020, indicates an increase in spirit duty to ₦200/litre from ₦175/litre while duty on beer remains unchanged at ₦35/litre and wine at ₦150/litre.
Operating income also turned negative on impairment losses as Guinness’ operating expenses spiked 9.4% year on year to ₦34.94 billion in 2020, recorded +25.0% hike year on year to ₦8.94 billion in Q4-20.
The breakdown showed that the spike as largely influenced by an increase in administrative expenses which grew by 45.5% to ₦14.34 billion as personnel expenses increased 18.9% to ₦10.43 billion, rental expenses expanded 7.5% to ₦1.20 billion and travel & entertainment rose 283% to ₦1.00 billion, amongst others.
Notably, for the first time in more than a decade, Guinness posted an operating loss of ₦12.83 billion as against ₦8.97 billion in 2020, driven by impairment losses and write-offs necessitated by IAS 36 of the IFRS.
The company recorded an impairment loss on PPE of ₦11.72 billion, impairment loss on financial assets (trade & other receivables) of ₦2.09 billion and impairment loss on export expansion grant receivable of ₦2.33 billion.
Due to increased borrowing, finance costs increased in Q4-20 and for the full year. Guinness’ finance costs rose by 20.6% in Q4-20 to ₦960 million and also increased by 73.8% in 2020 to ₦4.54 billion.
“We link this to the 17.4% increase in total borrowings to ₦23.28 billion, due to the impact of devaluation as well as new borrowings”, the analysts said.
The increase in borrowings was inter-company loans which grew to ₦8.70 billion from ₦8.1 billion in 2019, however, trade finance loans also rose to ₦7.4 billion from ₦5.3 billion in the financial year 2019.
Short term loans increased to ₦2.0 billion from a zero loan position in 2019 and commercial papers of ₦4.8 billion were also issued.
“We note that Guinness was unable to liquidate the intercompany loan, an FCY loan of US$22.5 million in 2020, due to non-availability of foreign exchange.
“The loan still poses an FX risk, considering the naira devaluation seen so far in 2020”, Chapel Hill Denham explained.
Somewhat concurring, ARM Securities also says that Guinness’ stock, has been down 52% year to date, and has not been heavily sold this year. But looking ahead, however, the firm sees opportunities that could yet make the stock an attractive buy.
Well, how do they put it? For the investor, the taste of the pudding is indeed in the eating. So we wait.