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BILT: Growth, Execution, and Stability?...Hardly - Outside View by Luke Verghese

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BILT: Growth, Execution, and Stability?...Hardly
Jan 12, 2011

A lucky inheritor

Ballarpur Industries, a part of the Lala Karamchand Thapar Group, is a classic example of the saying that no investment is a permanent investment. This 65 year darling of yesteryears is now under the stewardship of Gautam Thapar, a scion of the third generation of the family, and, merely coasting along. Gautam is indeed a lucky man having inherited the undivided share of the group assets of the crown prince of the group, the late L M Thapar, who died issueless. This is in addition to the share that befell him as a part of the B M Thapar agglomeration, when the group spoils were carved up. This branch of the extended family is now rechristened as the Avantha Group. According to the latest annual report, BILT and Gautam Thapar, along with the 'following' entities constitute a Group as defined by the MRTP Act, 1969. Guess how many companies are involved in this listing? A humungous 111 companies or so, and the list appears to include a liberal sprinkling of companies incorporated across the seven seas. What pray is the crying need to incorporate so many entities?

Not quite getting it right

In his annual brief to the shareholders, Gautam extols at length on the many virtues of Ballarpur Industries - 'BILTs production facilities are in the low cost economies of India and Malaysia, the company continues to strive to squeeze out every element of cost in its day to day operations, its focus on technology, distribution and innovation'- the works if you wish. The ground realities are not exactly on the same wavelength as the conclusions he has drawn, based on his learned observations. The point is that, besides focusing on the main objectives of the company, the management has more colorful designs too in mind.

Ballarpur continues to be a one product wonder and has not really strayed from its initial moorings of manufacturing paper and paper boards. Specifically, the company makes writing and printing paper, and tissue paper, in five locations in India. It has three factories in Maharashtra, including the mother unit at Ballarpur, one in Orissa, with the fifth unit in Haryana. Its consolidated operations include its captive unit in Malaysia; through a 97.8% owned subsidiary called Sabah Forest Industries Sdn. Bhd. (Separately it also makes wood pulp, the very raw material that goes into the manufacture of the end product). It also appears to have another strangely structured manufacturing unit going by the name of BILT Graphic Paper Products Ltd, which is a 99.9% subsidiary of Ballarpur International Paper Holdings B.V. with the balance stake held by the parent! (The initials B.V. for the uninitiated denote a type of Dutch private limited liability company.) By the way is Netherlands also a tax haven of sorts? Gautam also appears to have a fetish for matters Dutch, but more on this later.

The figures do not add up

As stated earlier, Ballarpur appears to be merely meandering on, judging by the very statistics that the company has put out. It has an installed capacity to manufacture 232,000 metric tons of paper, including wrapper and coated paper. The installed capacity remains unchanged over that of the preceding year. This is bit difficult to believe, as the company incidentally has spent Rs 3.6 bn over the last two years in fixed asset mollycoddling. (The increase in installed capacity in FY09 over that of the preceding year is not known.) In this giant jigsaw puzzle the management adds to the confusion by stating that it has been on an expansion drive over the last few years. Consequently an additional capacity of 355, 000 tons has come on stream (190,000 tons at Bhigwan and 165,000 tons at Ballarpur). Unless I am hallucinating here, this is an impossibility, as the total installed capacity of all the five units is only 232,000 tons. What is even more amusing here is that different pages give different figures of the additional capacity that has come on stream! The fact of the matter also is that in reality BILT per se manufactured 650,000 metric tons of paper in FY10, and its Malaysian subsidiary another 150,000 tons. Together it adds up to a total production of 796,000 tons for the year. (It also purchased Rs 566 m worth of paper. Whether these purchases were affected from its Malaysian subsidiary is not known. But in any case it does not alter the picture). Unless I am getting something drastically wrong here, the figures simply do not add up. The people dreaming up the contents of the annual report should pay a little more attention to the accuracy of the statements.

The total installed capacity of all the paper units operating in the Indian geography is stated as 10.8 m metric tons per annum (MTPA). In other words the company's share of the cake is a mere 2.2%. Even going by the production it achieved during the year, its share of the cake in the domestic market is only 6%. Another 1.2 m MTPA capacity addition is expected over the next two years. There is no mention of what the company's contribution to this expanded kitty will be. And what is more, in either year, going by the appended schedules, the company's production was less than 90% of its installed capacity levels.

A tectonic shift in focus

As I stated earlier, the focus of the management is undergoing a tectonic shift. Whether this shift in focus is a harbinger of better times to come or not for the non management shareholders is difficult to tell at this point of time. But in any case I leave it to the better judgment of the readers of this copy. But suffice to say that this Avantha group company had at last count 11 subsidiary companies, of which 7 are based out of ‘Dutchland’. It had related party transactions with 6 of them, and there are 19 enterprises in which key management personnel have significant influence.

So what appears to be cooking in the melting pot? The company generated Rs 8 bn, as net cash inflow from operating activities during the year, against Rs 1.4 bn that it generated in the preceding year. Significantly however, the bulk of the application of funds during the year and amounting to Rs 8.7 bn was for the purchase of equity shares, all of which was funneled into one company. A billion bucks was also ploughed into capital assets. Since it was out of pocket after this dual splurge, the company resorted to a two pronged issue of additional capital comprising of pure equity and of the zero coupon variety. It issued additional equity to the tune of Rs 1.4 bn and zero coupon bonds for the value of Rs 1.7 bn or for a total of Rs 3 bn. The cash flow statement has however come to the brilliant conclusion that the company raised equity capital to the tune of Rs 13.5 bn! So much for number crunching! (Following this issue of capital the management has a firm hold on matters of import, with a stake of close to 50% in the voting stock of the company).

The subsidiary imbroglio

BILT has a direct equity stake in only 6 subsidiaries. The other 5 unfortunates are step down subsidiaries or some such. Its diciest investment is in the majestically named wholly owned subsidiary, Ballarpur International Holdings BV, in which the book value of its investment at year end was Rs 11.4 bn against Rs 2.6 bn in the preceding year. These shares were collectively acquired at an average price of Rs 67.8 per share, against an average price of Rs 58.5 per share in the preceding year. Its total investment in its subsidiaries adds up to Rs 11.5 bn. In other words, the company’s investments in the other subsidiaries are mere pinpricks.

The company has provided the working results of 10 of the 11 subsidiaries. It has not provided any details of Ballarpur Packaging Holdings Private Ltd, which was previously known as Labuan Offshore Financial Services Authority. (A complete makeover in the name plate from one curious name to another equally curious name, or so it would appear). Four of the 11 subsidiaries, including 2 based out of the Netherlands and the one based out of Malaysia are subsidiaries of Ballarpur International Holdings B.V. But the most curious aspect here is that Ballarpur International Holdings does not appear to have any investments in any company, or so its abridged balance sheet shows. How is this possible? And, what is one to make of this muddle? More importantly, what of the combined financial performance of the 10 worthies? Collectively they generated a turnover of Rs 28.8 bn and recorded a pretax profit of Rs 2.8 bn. But just 2 of the 10 recorded any revenue of any sorts. Namely BILT Graphic Paper with a turnover of Rs 22.6 bn with a pretax profit of Rs 1.2 bn and Sabah Forest industries with a turnover of Rs 6.2 bn and a pretax profit of Rs 1.1 bn.

Where the money is going?

(BILT Graphic Paper with a total asset base of Rs 41 bn also controls more than 33% of the gross total assets of Rs 124 bn of the 10 subsidiaries combined. Compare this for size with the total asset base of BILT which is a mere Rs 26 bn and one gets the big picture. Besides, there is no specific mention of BILT Graphic Paper in the annual report!) All the other siblings recorded piddling profits or mostly recorded losses on zilch revenues. Combined, the 10 companies have an equity capital base of Rs 38 bn. Just one of the 10 declared a dividend of Rs 100 m. This cash return must rank as a neat return on total investment any which way that one looks at it. (Now you know in which direction the moneys are flowing).

And what of the king pin Ballarpur International Holdings which has just been infused an additional capital stake of Rs 8.7 bn, and which boasts the second highest paid up capital among the subsidiaries after Sabah Forest Industries? Well if it is of any consolation to anybody it has negative reserves of Rs 1 bn for starters. It also recorded a loss of Rs 179 m, and has no income streams. This implies that it is merely a rubber stamp, and exercises no control over the companies that it has founded. But who is complaining anyway? There is still more, but I have prattled enough.

If one must know this is simply a fantastic muddle.

Disclosure: Please note that i am not a shareholder of this company

This column Cool Hand Luke is written by . Luke has been a business journalist, financial analyst and knowledge management head with a professional experience of more than 20 years. An avid watcher of the stock market, he has written extensively on stock market trends. His articles have featured in Business Standard, Financial Express and Fortune India amongst others. He has also been the Deputy Editor, Fortune India and the Financial Editor of The Business and Political Observer.

Disclaimer:

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13 Responses to "BILT: Growth, Execution, and Stability?...Hardly"

srinivasan

Jul 24, 2011

Luke,
Excellent insights of frauds. I do not know how come BILT has so much reputation among investors. Even economic times was giving a buy call in BILT. Now that I read this and seen Crompton Greaves results this quarters, Iam going to stay away from any of the Thapar Group companies in future. I saw a recent interview in ET now, Gautam Thapar interviewed by Abha bakaya or some like name. She coming in a short dress asking all the nice questions only and over indulgant in the interview all the time. I think the questions itself were prepared by Avantha group only. Shame !! Looters!!
Thanks for your service luke.

Like 

Rajendra Pratap

Feb 5, 2011

I would also like to correct Luke's article that for BGPPL, the correct dividend amount is Rs. 382 million for the year 2009 - 10 and the details of BGPPL are covered in the Annual Report of the Company under the section Management Discussion and Analysis.

How many more blunders one can do? I am thinking whether i should continue visiting equitymasters.com or not?

Like 

Luke Verghese

Feb 4, 2011

Nachiketa--Pl see page 50 of the annual report.The company has generated a net cash flow of Rs 8 bn and has invested Rs 3 bn in additional capital.

Sheela---I was doing a write up of the standalone results of Ballarpur Industries--Pl see page 63 of the annual report for installed capacity and juxtapose this with the production details.My figures are right.

Daisy--Pl refer to my comments above

Shivangi--I was only commenting on the information given in the annual report .I did not write about any court approved schemes.All the other points mentioned by Shivangi do not merit any reply.

Pink--I am unable to understand what these comments have to do with what I have written

Like 

nachiketa

Feb 4, 2011

The writer does not seem to have basic understanding of finance and is trying to create a false image of the Company. The standalone results of the Company generated Rs 0.8 billion and not Rs 8 billion, as stated.

Even this was not enough for him that he wrote, “The promoter had infused Rs 3 billion into the Company to meet its funding requirements at a premium of over 13% on guidelines prescribed by SEBI and reflects the promoter’s commitment.” Luke is just going on and on and on without even understanding the financials and falsely blaming the promoter group.

Like 

sheela

Feb 4, 2011

It seems that Luke’s relationship with numbers is slightly disillusioned. Here is the correct picture of the figures of the company which is available on internet:

The figure of 10.8 million MTPA includes News Print, Writing & Printing Paper, corrugated boxes and all other varieties of paper. The total demand for Writing and Printing Paper in India is 3.7 million tones per annum. The Company commands a 51% market share in the Coated Writing & Printing paper (total market volume – 425,000 MTPA) and 37% in the Hi Bright Uncoated Writing and Printing paper (total market volume – 5, 49,000 MTPA).

Also to reiterate, Company is primarily in the business of manufacturing and marketing of Writing & Printing Paper and has successfully completed expansion of its paper manufacturing in the year 2009-10.

Like 

daisy

Feb 4, 2011

The writer seems to have only taken into account the installed standalone capacity of the Company.



It also seems that you have not perused the consolidated accounts of the Company which reflect the increased turnover and profit which is substantially higher than the standalone financials of the Company.

Like 

shivangi

Feb 4, 2011

The writer seems to be totally ignorant about the Court Approved Scheme. The Company had implemented a Scheme of Arrangement and Reorganization (“the Scheme”), sanctioned by the Hon’ble High Court of Judicature at Bombay, Nagpur Bench vide its order dated 30 November 2007, effective from 1 July 2007, whereby three undertakings of the Company comprising assets and liabilities at Units Bhigwan, Ballarpur and Kamalapuram were transferred to and vested in its then wholly owned subsidiary, BILT Graphic Paper Products Limited (“BGPPL”), by way of a slump exchange. The shareholding of BGPPL was also transferred to the step down subsidiary of the Company in the Netherlands.



Global Leading Private Equity Firms i.e. Government of Singapore Investment Corporation and JP Morgan Mauritius Holdings VII Limited have invested and hold 20.47% in the step down subsidiary of the Company in the Netherlands. Further, the step down subsidiary in Netherlands is in the process of premium listing on the London Stock Exchange which will substantially increase the value of the step down subsidiary and the Company.



Also, the related party transaction with 6 of its Netherlands subsidiaries and 19 other Companies are in the normal course of business.



I am unable to understand that how come this gentleman write so irresponsibly about any company when he hasn’t done the proper ground work.

Like 

pink

Feb 4, 2011

Luke should brush up his know how about BILT. While he is still dreaming of BILT being involved only in manufacturing and marketing of Writing and Printing Paper, BILT has expanded in the Office Supply & Stationery Business (OSSB) and Retail Business under brand name ‘P3’. I would also like to add to his little knowledge that not only P3 has reflected a strong growth over the years but also achieved a turnover of Rs.296 crore for the financial year ended 30th June, 2010.

Like 

standforright

Feb 4, 2011

Dear Mr. Verghese, no company would misguide about the company’s growth to its shareholders and loose their trust and support. The group companies have been drawn and listed as per SEBI norms and have shown growth in terms of revenue, production & sales volume and profitability.



The Group Companies of Mr. Gautam Thapar reflect the strength of the group which has shown tremendous growth over the years. Do not tarnish that image by writing such ill-informed articles.

Like 

Rajeev

Jan 29, 2011

Hi,

Given that there is a recommendation and target for this stock from Equitymaster, has the view changed? Is it a sell?

Like 
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