• APRIL 29, 2002

Essel Propack: Great expectations

Laminated tubes major, Essel Propack has shown strong growth in its consolidated earnings and topline growth. The company's topline has shot up by 75% during the March quarter (1QFY03) largely due to the Propack acquisition in April 2001. Therefore the figures are not strictly comparable on a like to like basis.

Essel Propack consolidated numbers
(Rs m)1QFY021QFY03Change
Net Sales6511,13874.8%
Other Income2916-46.2%
Operating Profit (EBDIT)21336772.9%
Operating Profit Margin (%)32.7%32.3% 
Interest (net)930234.7%
Profit before Tax14421247.8%
Minority Interest-5-10-
Profit after Tax/(Loss)8714364.7%
Net profit margin (%)13.3%12.6% 
No. of Shares 24.331.2 
Diluted Earnings per share*11.118.3 
P/E Ratio 17.9 

The consolidated entity's operating margins took a slight dip reflecting a difficult market. Higher interest and depreciation outgo caused profits to grow by a lower 65%. Net margins too were adversely affected. The increase in interest cost is due to the additional debt taken for funding the acquisition of Propack's tubing operations and for funding equity contribution in the overseas ventures.

Due to the merger with Propack, Essel has touched base volume of 3 bn tubes and should cross 7 bn tubes in 2005. According to Mr. R. Chandrasekhar, Director, Essel Propack, by 2005, the company is looking at an 80% market share in both India and China and a 60% share of the global laminated tubes market.

Now let's look at Essel's India operations. Its India operations also include Nepal. During the March quarter the company's sales were up by merely 2% but bottomline growth was up over 15% YoY. Strict control on material costs (down 18% YoY) saw operating margins improve significantly to 38%. As a % of sales material costs stood at 37.8% (46.8% in 1QFY02). A higher interest burden also reflected in the Indian operations. Had it not been for lower taxes due to deferred tax write back the company would have recorded a marginal 4% growth in profits.

India (and Nepal) operations
(Rs m)1QFY021QFY03ChangeFY02*
Net Sales5785902.1%1,702
Other Income5717-70.0%39
Operating Profit (EBDIT)16221835.0%640
Operating Profit Margin (%)28.0%37.0% 37.6%
Interest (net)311243.8%60
Profit before Tax1461524.2%404
Extraordinary expenses00 -19
Profit after Tax/(Loss)9510915.4%292
Net profit margin (%)16.4%18.5% 17.2%
No. of Shares 24.331.2 31.2
Diluted Earnings per share*12.114.0 9.4
P/E Ratio 23.4 35.0
*FY02 results are for nine months ending December 31, 2001

The India numbers give us an insight to the difficult market conditions that the company is facing. A downturn in FMCG sales has hindered Essel's growth. The FMCG sector is the major user of Essel's laminated tubes.

India (and Nepal) operations cost break-up
(Rs m)1QFY021QFY03Change
Material costs271223-17.6%
Staff costs3232-1.1%
Other expenditure1131173.4%
Total expenditure416372-10.6%

At the current price of Rs 328, the stock trades at 23x its 1QFY03 annualised earnings (India operations). The stock has run up by nearly 40% in the last six months. At these valuations the stock looks evenly valued. However, if we consider the consolidated entity numbers then the valuation stands at 18x 1QFY03 numbers. Since Essel's growth is directly related to the growth in FMCG sector, any upside is likely to come from a growth in FMCG demand. However, the management expects strong growth from China in the coming years. The stock may see a short trigger as the management has indicated that it will record dividends of Rs 180 m from subsidiaries in 2QFY03.

The company has recently entered into a five year contract with Procter & Gamble (P&G) to meet the entire tube requirements of its North American operations. For this purpose, Essel Propack will be investing US$ 15 m for setting up a manufacturing facility in North Carolina, USA. The plant is expected to go on stream in the first quarter of 2003. Essel is the global leader in laminated tubes and is able to charge high margins for its products. The company's growth prospects are attractive. However, the company's chief promoter has had his name embroiled in the stock market scam. Thus there are concerns about management credibility.

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