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Nuplex sees 8.2 % earnings growth in 2015FY as it restructures ANZ

Nuplex Industries, the specialty chemical manufacturer, expects earnings growth of up to 8.2 percent in the 2015 financial year, as it sells businesses in Australian and New Zealand to become solely focused on its global resins business.

Annual operating earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation will be between $127 million and $137 million, up from $125.7 million in 2014, chief executive Emery Severin told shareholders at their annual meeting in Auckland. Last year the Auckland-based company revised its earnings guidance twice, citing competition across the Australia and New Zealand businesses that squeezed margins for both resins and specialty chemicals.

Last month the company announced the sale of its Nuplex Masterbatch plastic additives business and Nuplex Specialities distribution business for A$127.5 million. Once the sale is finalised, operating Ebitda for the group is forecast to between $115 million and $125 million, including a five-month contribution from the specialties segment, Severin said

The company expects the deal to be completed by the end of this month and the initial loss of income from the sale will be offset by expansion in Asian operations.

"The expected growth outlook for the company is not reduced by the divestment of Nuplex Specialties and Masterbatch," Severin said, according to speech notes. "We continue to expect to deliver improved returns and earnings growth in the short to medium term as a result of the strategic initiatives already undertaken over the past few years."

In the coming year, ANZ operations will benefit from the restructure, while modest growth in Asia and Europe is expected. Steady demand in its US market underlies the "expectation that this region will maintain the strong level of earnings delivered," Severin said.

The company is targeting a return of funds employed of more than 16 percent by 2018, with its ANZ unit expected to deliver a 10 percent ROFE following the sale of the non-core plastics businesses. In 2014 Nuplex had a ROFE of 11 percent.

Capital spending was $42 million in 2014 as Nuplex invested in its Changshu and Suzhou sites in China, upgraded its Wacol site in Queenland, Australia, and invested in plant in Russia and Indonesia. For the 2015 year, capex was expected to fall to about $35 million, the company said in August when it announced its results.

Newly appointed chairman Peter Springford said his predecessor Rob Aitken will serve his last term as a non-executive director.

Shares of Nuplex fell 0.6 percent to $3.12 and have declined 7.7 percent since the start of the year. The stock is rated an average of "buy" according to the consensus of six analysts surveyed by Reuters, with a median price target of $3.46.