Fontana raise J$500 million for expansion

Junior Market listed Fontana raised $500 Million of debt capital by way of a private placement of bonds to support the company’s continued growth, which includes plans to develop a warehouse and distribution centre in Kingston and a new store Portmore, the company disclosed.

Artist impression of the Portmore store.

Scotia Investments Jamaica acted as Lead Arranger and Broker for the company that reported its most successful year in 2021, with revenues climbing 14.2 percent to $5.2 billion and profit of $512 million, up a robust 85 percent from $277 million in 2020. The company reported a rise of 17 percent in revenues to $1.3 billion for the September 2021 quarter over that of 2020 and profit after tax rising 35 percent to $61 million. The Portmore expansion, which was telegraphed to investors in late 2018 when it went public, is expected to add to growth in revenues and profit and provide investors with an investment vehicle that seems set to deliver good growth prospects for the future.
“The transaction was executed at a time when BOJ policy rates were increased for the first time in 13 years. The Ministry of Finance and Planning had also recently reopened Government of Jamaica long-term bonds that were taken up at yields that indicated that the long-term rates in the Jamaican Dollar debt space were increasing. Stanley Thompson, Senior Manager Capital Markets said, “In light of the changing market conditions, we pursued a fixed to variable rate bond structure. This financing strategy provided Fontana with the most competitive rate in the short term with the potential for a lower rate in the future if market rates reduce in the longer term.”
Raymond Therrien, COO at Fontana, noted that “Fontana is firmly capitalized for our expansion plans for Portmore in 2022 and continued growth in the various markets we serve across Jamaica.  We continue to explore acquisition opportunities as we grow the Fontana brand. Timing and certainty of execution were important to us. When we approved this transaction, our expectation was to have it closed before the calendar year end.”
Fontana owns and operates a chain of Pharmacies in Kingston, Montego Bay, Mandeville and Och Rios.

 

 

VM Investments buying Mutual funds

VM Investments (VMIL) has entered into an agreement with Republic Bank (Barbados) to acquire all the ordinary shares in Republic Funds (Barbados) Incorporated, the owner and operator of the Republic Bank Barbados family of Mutual Funds.

VM Investment to acquire Mutual funds.

The funds comprise  Republic Property, Income and Capital Growth Funds. The transaction completion is subject to the approval of regulators in Barbados and Jamaica. “VMIL is in an unprecedented growth mode, and we continue to be keen on strategically expanding our footprint throughout the region,” said Rezworth Burchenson, CEO of VMIL.

“VMIL was selected as the preferred bidder following rigorous pre-defined criteria,” VMIL stated. The required regulatory approval process is expected to be completed within six to nine months but could be extended depending on various factors.
ICInsider.com gathers that the total assets under management by the fund could be in the region of J$1.55 billion.
VMIL, a publicly listed company on the Jamaica Stock Exchange since 2017, reported a 69 percent increase in nine months profit to $612 million over the same period in 2020. Profit after tax for the September quarter jumped 82 percent to $348 million, over 2020 out turn of $191 million.
Growth in profits flowed from a 33 percent surge in revenue for the nine months to $1.77 billion, from $1.3 billion in 2020 and a 33 percent increase in the September quarter from $615 million to $818 million. The “performance was primarily driven by the improved investment climate which contributed to significant growth in gains from investment activities which increased by $520 million (270.71 percent) compared with the same period in 2020. These activities generated revenues of $712.17 million for the period,” VMIL informed investors in the release of the results.
Shareholders’ equity increased by $668 million from $3.9 billion at the end of September 2020 to $4.56 billion at the end of  September and net book value per share ended at $3.04, up from $2.60 in 2020.
The company reported earnings per share of 41 cents for the nine months and 23 cents for the quarter and could hit 70 cents for the full year with a low PE of 8.6, well below the average for the Main Market of 15.4 at the last traded price of $6.10.  the stock is one of ICInsider.com TOP10 stocks.

 

Mayberry Jamaica shed 50m Lumber shares

Lumber Depot dominated trading with

Lumber Depot, the 2019 spinoff of the Junior Market listed Blue Power, reported record first quarter results to July, with profit of $72 million, up from $30 million in 2020, with earnings per share of 10 cents and attracted increased buying in the stock as the results hit the exchange on September 8.
Mayberry Jamaican Equities (MJE) pounced on the renewed buying interest and sold just under 50 million units in the market up to October 20.MJE slashed their holdings of 181,538,726 shares, with 25.7 percent of total issued capital at the end of July to 132,468,464, but they remained the largest shareholder at 18.76 percent.
Over the same period, Blue Power Group, the second largest shareholder, reduced their 101,989,250 holdings to 14.4412 percent to 98,989,250 or 14.02 percent. Blue power in January held 113,989,250 shares, with a 16.14 percent holding.  Kenneth Benjamin, a director of Blue Power, holdings in January of 49.95 million rose to 59,954,650 units or 8.4893 percent but slipped to 58.4 million in October.
Since October 20, the average daily trade in the stock has been 773,546 units, with the lowest trade, 522,227, on the 21 of the month.

Barita APO to be priced at $80

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Barita Investments‘ directors have approved the issue of 125 million ordinary shares at $80 each, with an option to upsize the amount issued by 62.5 million shares to raise $15 billion in an additional public issue (APO).
The New Ordinary Shares will be reserved for the benefit of certain specified investors in amounts determined at the discretion of the Company. The APO should open on September 3, or such other date as determined by the Group Chief Executive Officer and is to close on September 21, or such other date as determined by the Group Chief Executive Officers.
The original notice to the Jamaica Stock Exchange stipulated the issue of up to 160 million units that could have been upsized 80 million shares. Since the first notice to the Jamaica Stock Exchange, on August 5, the stock price moved up from the low $83.90 to $92.77, with the proposed price being a discount of nearly 14 percent.
The company reported nine months results to June, with profit after tax for the June quarter coming in at $1.6 billion, up a strong 62 percent from $990 million reported in 2020 June quarter and ended the quarter, with earnings per share of $1.48 versus $1.21 in 2020. Earnings for the nine months ended at $3.38 per share from after tax profit of $3.67 billion, up 82 percent from $2 billion in 2020.

Big savings from Kremi’s power plant

In collaboration with Power Factor Technologies, a power engineering services company, Caribbean Cream has embarked on a major project to install a 630 kilowatt capacity Combined Heat & Power plant fueled by LNG at the company’s premises.

Caribbean Cream post big gains in profit in Q1.

The cost of the project is estimated to be just under US$2 million. The company expects to complete installation and commissioning of the power plant before the end of 2021. “While the company will remain connected to JPS, as to ensure sufficient power supply in the event of higher energy demand, we anticipate greater efficiency and increased market reach,’ a release from the company stated.
The company incurred utility costs of $204 million in the last financial year and is set to grow with more production and expanded cold storage space. Historical data indicates that water is approximately 10 percent of the utility bill; based on this, the electricity cost is currently around $180 million.
“One electricity unit for running machines and the use of heat from electrical generation to be used to heat water and oil to do pasteurization is the maximization of energy efficiency of the plan” an engineer who ICInsider.com spoke to states, the cost savings will be significant, with the estimated savings he stated could be in the region of two thirds which ICInsider.com puts at over $120 million per annum.
The company reported a profit of $101 million for the financial year to February this year, with the first quarter to May coming out at $54 million twice the 2020 first quarter profit.

30% Cement plant expansion on the blocks

Caribbean Cement Company has decided to expand its plant during the second half of 2022 to increase its production capacity by thirty percent.
The company “currently produces and supplies over One Million Metric Tonnes (1,000,000 MT) of cement to the local market annually. The planned capacity upgrade is expected to increase CCCL’s production by Three Hundred Thousand Metric Tonnes,” the company disclosed in a release to the Jamaica Stock Exchange.
“This planned capacity upgrade also involves the implementation of state-of-the-art technologies which will introduce novel grinding additives to the manufacturing process to reduce the clinker content in the cement produced by [CCC]. In addition, this upgrade is intended to minimize Jamaica’s carbon footprint by optimizing the heat consumption involved in the cement production process”, the release from the company further stated.
“The total investment for this capacity upgrade is estimated at Thirty Million United States Dollars, the Company stated. The planned expansion comes against the background of a 33 percent rise in the sale of cement by the company in the June quarter following a 31 percent increase in the first quarter and complaints by some dealers about a shortage of cement in the local market at a time when demand is at an all-time high.
The company’s shares that are listed on the Jamaica Stock Exchange closed at $94.90.

Grace closes EC Insurance acquisition

GraceKennedy completed its acquisition of Scotia Insurance Eastern Caribbean that will be rebranded under the name GraceKennedy Life Insurance Eastern Caribbean.

Grace Kennedy HQ

According to a release from GraceKennedy, the company will continue to offer credit protection on personal loans, residential mortgages, personal lines of credit, personal and small business credit cards in the seven Eastern Caribbean countries in which it operates which are, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
CEO of GraceKennedy, Don Wehby, states, “the granting of the necessary approvals by regulators and completion of the transaction to acquire SIECL marks the culmination of months of hard work by our team and is a major strategic move for our Group. We have been actively expanding our offerings in general and life insurance, as we see this sector as having significant opportunities for growth. GK Life will strengthen GKFG’s position as one of the leading financial groups in the Caribbean as we continue to expand our presence in the region.” In March this year, GraceKennedy announced that it had come to an agreement with Scotia Insurance Caribbean to acquire 100% of the shares.”

Fontana coming to Portmore

Fontana announced plans to open its 7th location in Portmore, St. Catherine to be located at Braeton Parkway and Municipal Drive, adjacent to the new Pricemart and is expected to be opened late 2022 or early in 2023. The branch will be a fulfillment of expansion plans announced when the company went public in 2018.
Ray Therrien, Executive Director at Fontana in commenting on the new development stated, “We’re really excited to bring Fontana to Portmore and its surrounding communities.  It’s a great location that brings with it a large population covering a wide cross-section of people, and Fontana will provide an easy, safe and convenient shopping experience.” he said. “We have been assessing the opening of a store here, and we are honored to have the opportunity to serve them with our best-in-class pharmacy services.”
Following the company’s more modern iteration seen at the uber-popular Waterloo Square store, this new addition to the pharmacy chain will include a state-of-the-art pharmacy, a one-stop beauty hub, a baby and children’s selection, an extensive home décor collection, a business centre, courier services and over 200 parking spaces.
“We plan to deliver exceptional product breadth in a one stop location; it’s what our customers expect,” said Anne Chang, Managing Director of Fontana Pharmacy. “Our strategy is to continue to improve our stores with each new location, expediting innovation to make shopping faster and easier for our customers.  Portmore will benefit from being the latest great Fontana store.”
Furthermore, the new store will also have an entire department dedicated to Jamaican Artisan products, like its counterpart at Waterloo Square; Fontana’s way of embracing and supporting Brand Jamaica. Local authors and creators, who have benefitted from using the company as a distribution chain through shelf placement, will continue to benefit in this regard.
The new location is part of a larger development project and is anticipated to open in late 2022 or early 2023.  While not committing to a specific opening date, Executive Director Therrien commented that “the company is eager to get started on fulfilling the potential of a partnership with the people of Portmore.”
Fontana presently has 6 locations dispersed throughout the island including two in Kingston, Mandeville, Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, and Savanna-La-Mar.
Investment in the new location will be in excess of $100,000,000 and employ roughly upwards of 80 Jamaicans.

Barita’ financials speak eloquently

Financial statements don’t lie; they provide a window into the stewardship of companies for good or bad. There are good management and not so good ones and the financial reports tend to separate the good from the bad. In this regard, investors need to be assured that both interim and audited results are informative and can be trusted.

Barita eyeing expansion

Unfortunately, the stock exchange relies on the ICAJ to set standards for companies to report, but these fall short of what investors need to make a proper assessment in investing. The matter of reporting on the performance of companies to show gross profits separately from pretax profit is an area that is inconsistently applied. Some companies show direct cost and gross profit so investors can see the level of contribution made before selling marketing and administrative cost.
This publication finds Barita’s financials quite up to acceptable levels with disclosures, so why are investors questioning management’s stewardship?
Directors of Barita Investments met on July 14 and are recommending raising additional capital by the Company to be voted on at an extraordinary meeting set for August 3.
The announcement coming after the third such capital raise, with the last being September last year that raised $13.54 billion. The announcement has set off a mini storm within the financial community, with questions raised about the company and what is happening there.

Jason Chambers

Some investors marvel at the approach the directors are taking to fund capital needs. Worse they are asking the question, where has the money raised in public offers gone?
Cornerstone acquired 75 percent of the company in 2019 and set an aggressive dividend policy of 80 percent of net distributable profits. Since they acquired control of the company, profit retained exceeded the total profit reported for the last few years under the former management. But those funds are inadequate to fund the company’s expansion needs, fueled by growth in some critical areas of the Jamaican economy and soon regionally.
In commenting on Barita’s investment activity over the period from its September 2020 Additional Public Offering (“APO”) to March 2021, Jason Chambers, Chief Investment Officer of Cornerstone, said that the Company has “focused on allocating capital across high conviction, value-oriented opportunities.” He cited the marked expansion in credit and investment assets, acquisition of a twenty percent stake in Derrimon Trading Company costing north of J$2 billion as examples of the results of Barita’s year to date investment activity. We have materially expanded capital to our Investment Banking business line. In line with previous guidance, we have also originated and/or acquired significant investment assets, which will eventually form the basis of the launch of new and innovative investment products and structures. We have commenced investing in our footprint expansion and technological overhaul, which we expect will require staged investments over the next several quarters”, Chambers stated.
He cited the doubling of Barita’s 6-month profits to March 2020 as being a by-product of the Company’s ability to deploy the capital it raised in the APO efficiently and profitably. We, therefore, see certain aspects of our business as appropriately funded by long term capital to reduce the risks presented by asset-liability mismatches. This has served us very well, particularly most recently during the height of the market fall-out related to the COVID-19 pandemic last year when Barita maintained healthy liquidity, said Chambers.
Barita Investments was a sleepy little conservatively run investment bank whose directors focused on maintaining the status quo rather than taking advantage of the vast opportunities in the market.

Shareholders at Barita Investments AGM.

The company has gone about raising equity capital, not debt capital, so they don’t have to worry about repayment. They can also vary the aggressive dividend policy, even though that could affect the share valuation.
The argument by investors is reminiscent of two cases. One is the pile of negative comments Access IPO received when going public, back in 2010, by persons who were not adequately informed to be commenting on the issue.  In late 2016, a leading brokerage house concluded their assessment of Barita Investments as follows, “we expect just a marginal increase in year on year net profit. Given this expectation, we estimate BIL shares to be valued at approximately $2.35 by applying the market average P/E to the estimated EPS. Therefore at a current market price of $3.10, we are recommending a SELL on BIL.” At that time, ICInsdier.com placed a BUY RATING on the stock and it occupied the number 2 spot on the main market BUY RATED list.
The rationale by ICInsoder.com, while reported profit was down to $207 million from $242 million in 2015, total comprehensive income, the better measure of profitability was $691 million or $1.55 per share, compared to $201 million, a huge increase. In 2017, traditional profit slipped to $172 million after an impairment on investments charge of $81 million, total comprehensive income ended at $492 or $1.10 per share. For 2018, reported profit jumped to $374 million and total comprehensive income moved to $736 million or $1.65 per share. The lesson, if investors look only at traditional profits, they could miss big gains.
Profit after tax rose from $509 million to $1.04 billion in the March quarter and from $1 billion in the half year ended March 2020 to $2.06 billion in 2021, helped by the improved equity base.
Revenues nearly doubled for the quarter to $2.05 billion from $1.13 billion in 2020 and from $2.26 billion last year to $4.05 billion in 2021.
Total assets are now $79 billion, up from $49 billion at the end of the year ago and $71 billion at the end of September last year. Shareholders’ equity climbed from $14.4 billion in March 2020 to $28.7 billion in 2021. When the majority shares were acquired, total assets were just $17 billion and shareholders’ equity a mere $3 billion. Pledged assets jumped from $21.5 billion in March 2020 to $47 billion in the latest quarter, while loan receivables increased from $1.1 billion to $7.3 billion.

First Citizens Bank closed at 52 weeks’ high on Wednesday.

The 2020 raise of $13.5 billion was invested in increased loans to third parties amounting to $6 billion, net investment instruments of 13 billion and a 20 percent stake in Derrimon Trading amounting to $2 billion and a reduction in amounts due for payables of $5 billion. When the company meets with its shareholders, what is planned for the new raise will undoubtedly be put on the table. In the early months of 2019, this publication pointed to sources suggesting that the first rights issue should bring in fresh capital that is primarily targeted to fund an acquisition that has Caribbean wide locations and will make a big impact on profitability when fully integrated into the existing structure if the deal goes through. ICInsider.com gathers that the deal which is yet to materialize may not be off the table but may be taking longer than originally thought possible. Any fresh raise could well bring such prospects to the fore in addition to funding normal operations.
When all is said and done, First Citizens Bank in Trinidad, a bank group with total assets of J$1,090 billion, bought shares in last year’s APO and added to it subsequently, a strong seal of approval for the strategy Barita is pursuing. With the financial muscle of First Citizens and the small size of Barita there are areas for cooperation, including partnering to acquire assets or businesses. First Citizens is in talks to acquire Scotia Bank assets in Guyana as the bank pushes its regional expansion plans. Will Barita play a major role in this?

QWI nominated for best value creation strategy

QWI Investments, a Jamaica based investment company specializing in stock market investments in jamaica, the USA and Trinidad has been shortlisted and nominated as the Best Value Creation Investment Strategy – Caribbean 2021, by Capital Finance International after just over two years of operating.
The confirmed nomination and shortlisting was driven by voting from our readers, subscribers and staff working for global organisations, Jane Cartwright, CFI Awards Liaison Officer, informed QWI recently.
QWI Investments went to the Jamaica capital market in late 2019 and raised  $900 million after the issue was oversubscribed by three times the $600 million dollars, the initial target of the IPO that attracted more than 4,800 new shareholders to the company’s list of owners.
According to CFI, their publication is supported by groups and readers such as the World Bank Group, various UN and EU bodies, as well as other prominent entities. CFI.co provides insight into some of the more complex areas of international finance and development issues both in print and online, with emphasis on identifying examples and drivers of economic convergence, by combining their journalistic experience with reports from influential organisations.
The CFI.co award selection panel utilises a wide range of criteria to help facilitate informed decisions regarding the awards, lending the critical eye of a collective 170 years of business journalism, corporate leadership and academia, to the exhaustive information gathered by the award body’s own research team including: Demonstrated Shareholder Value Creation, Growth in Enterprise Value, Customer Value-Added Products and Services, Innovations Championed by Management Team, Strategic Alliances, Partnerships and Supply Chain Management, Organic Sales Growth and/or M&A Activity, Corporate Governance and Quality and Strength of Nominations.

For 2020, National Commercial Bank Jamaica won the “Best Digital Banking Services Caribbean award given by CFI.co.