Sri Lanka’s Hemas Holdings’ weak 1Q results reflect seasonality: Fitch Ratings

Aug 21, 2018 (LBO) – Fitch Ratings said the weakness in Sri Lanka-based diversified conglomerate Hemas Holdings first-quarter financial results is temporary and is mainly due to the cash flow seasonality of its new school stationary business.

The agency expects Hemas’ performance to improve during the remainder of the fiscal year to end 31 March 2019 (FY19), and the agency have therefore maintained their expectations that the company will achieve revenue growth of 21 percent and EBITDAR margin of 13 percent for the full year.

Hemas acquired its school stationary business – Atlas Axillia (Private) Limited (Atlas) – in the last quarter of FY18.

“The stationary business tends to see a significant pickup in demand towards the later part of the calendar year as students return to school after the holidays,” Fitch Ratings said.

Hemas’ stationary segment was only able to break even on an operating profit basis in the quarter ended 30 June 2018, compared with Fitch’s expectation that this segment will contribute around 1.2 billion rupees to Hemas’ FY19 EBIT, which is around 25 percent of the group’s consolidated operating profit.

“Operational challenges in Hemas’ fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) business in Bangladesh also played a part in the company’s underperformance in 1QFY19, although we believe that earnings from this segment should also improve,”

“We expect the Bangladesh operation to benefit from Hemas’ investments in the distribution network and product re-launches in the past few months.”

Fitch Ratings says the segment’s top line already reflects some of these benefits, rising 6  percent YoY in 1QFY19, compared with a 10 percent decline in FY18, when the performance was weighed down by issues with its distribution channels and intensifying competition.

“As a result of the above, Hemas’ EBITDAR margin fell by 140 bp to 10.2% in 1QFY19 from 11.6% in 1Q18, and compared with our FY19 forecast of 13%,” the rating agency said.

“The company’s lease-adjusted gross debt / trailing 12 month-EBITDAR weakened to 2.0x at end-1QFY19, which is the upper limit for its ‘AA-(lka)’ National Long-term Rating, from 1.7x at FYE18, but we maintain our view that leverage will recover to 1.3x by FYE19.”

The depreciation of the Sri Lankan rupee and regulated pricing in Hemas’ pharmaceutical distribution business may threaten the group’s profitability in FY19 unless industry stakeholders are able to negotiate a better cost pass-through mechanism with the regulator.

However, this could be partly offset by continued solid performance in the logistics and maritime segment and recovery in the hotel sector, in which occupancy levels and yields show signs of improving.