Huhtamäki Oyj (HOYFF) Q3 2022 Earnings Call Transcript

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Huhtamäki Oyj (OTCPK:HOYFF) Q3 2022 Results Conference Call October 21, 2022 2:30 AM ET

Company Participants

Kristian Tammela – VP of Investor Relations

Charles Heaulme – President and CEO

Thomas Geust – CFO

Conference Call Participants

Justin Jordan – BNP Exane

Robin Santavirta – Carnegie

Jutta Rahikainen – SEB

Calle Loikkanen – Danske Bank

Kristian Tammela

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to our Presentation of Huhtamaki’s Results for January-September, 2022. My name is Kristian Tammela. I’m VP of Investor Relations. We will kick off with a presentation by President and CEO, Charles Heaulme, and as usual, will be followed by our CFO, Thomas Geust. At the end, we will wrap up with a Q&A session.

So please feel free to post questions then.

Let’s get started. Charles?

Charles Heaulme

Thank you, Kristian, and good morning to all of you. Thank you for joining us in this results of quarter three release. As usual, I would like to start by giving you, on the first slide, a quick summary of the quarter. And there would be three key messages. I mean the first key message is volatility continues.

Second key message is we have a strong performance — a continued strong performance in Q3. And third key message is we have some important aspects on our strategy execution that we would like to update you upon. So volatility continues because no surprise for any of you, the significant inflation is persisting in all markets and across most of the input costs. In this context, in line with the previous quarters, we have been successfully mitigating this situation on the external environment, which brings me to the second point, which is the strong financial performance, strong in the sense of delivering net sales growth as a continuation of the first two quarters and exactly in line, we will see that in a minute. Second, in the sense of the EBIT margin that is improving. And third, in the sense of cash flow, even though, year-to-date, the cash flow is still under pressure. The cash flow for the quarter has turned positive in Q3, and we will look into that in a second.

From a strategy execution perspective, three interesting highlights about the quarter. First of all, as you all know from our release in September, we have divested our operations in Russia with a gain, from a P&L point of view of €37 million, and that has enabled a significant reduction of our leverage. Second point, which is important in our — in the execution of our sustainability strategy, we have started a very interesting partnership across the value chain with key stakeholders, meaning partners and from the [3:01 upwards], but as well with customers on an initiative that is called Cup Collective, and this is the first initiative of this kind for collection of paper cups at scale. This is really important that we get traction into recycling, into post-consumption recycling. And it starts — this initiative is starting now with the pilot markets being Benelux market, and then it will, after the successful launch, expand to other markets in Europe and eventually to the U.S.

And it’s important to note that key players of the sector are now hooked up to the initiative. So that’s really a positive move.

A third aspect on the strategy execution is we have been continuing to invest in our operations and technology to enhance our innovation in sustainable packaging solution. And I’d like to give a few additional information on this, that’s on the following page; in terms of the streams where we are investing in technology, and this is basically two streams. Number one, we are investing in developing our proprietary high-precision technology for smooth molded fiber applications. That’s number one.

The first product of this kind that we launched a year ago are the fiber lids, but more to come. The second stream is accelerating our mono-material solutions for recyclable and flexible packaging. And all these investments into technology development for sustainable packaging solutions is creating a quite substantial pipeline of sustainable products coming — to come. We have, as in terms of illustration, some new products coming up into the market recently. One that was announced recently is in North America a paper-based — recyclable paper-based ice cream packaging under the brand ICON that has been launched in early October actually. And then new blueloop laminate tube for personal care products such as toothpaste or cosmetic, which, as well, are into the range of our new recyclable product.

And then, as well, on the technological enhancement of the company going forward, we believe that it’s extremely important to be at the forefront of new technologies. And that’s why we have started a partnership with Emerald Technology Ventures on their sustainable packaging fund. And this is allowing us with a very limited investment, but very good partnership. It allows us to have early access to next-generation technologies for sustainable packaging solution in a much more, I would say, effective and efficient way than if we would try to get into everything by ourselves in-sourcing all and do it alone. We believe that the name of the game is partnering for innovation. This gives us access to experts. So that’s what I thought important to highlight to you before we get now into the business performance for the quarter three. So I’m jumping to Slide 5, for the ones following the presentation offline, where we present our sales development for the quarter three, showing sales up to € 1.178 million and that represents a growth — a reported growth of 31% compared to the same period of last year. This 31% reported growth breaks down between comparable growth of 17%, to be noted, 23% in emerging markets, then 7% from the Elif acquisition, an acquisition that we concluded on the 23rd of September, 2021 last year. Then we have a minus 1% from divestment. That’s the one month of September since we have divested our operations in Russia, and then 9%, a significant positive impact from the currency that accounts for 9% of growth in the 31%.

So that’s for the quarter three.The same net sales now for year-to-date for the three quarters. Well, this is as well a 31% reported growth, which breaks down into 18% comparable growth, 7% Elif acquisition and 7% positive currency impact. Our sales are reaching close to €3.4 billion at the end of the first 9 months of the year.

Next slide, Slide 7 of the presentation, breaking down now this sales growth, actually, the comparable size growth, so the 18% year-to-date and 17% for Q3 by business segment. And you can see that in the quarter, the Foodservice Europe-Asia-Oceania is growing very steadily at 22%, following other quarters, quarter one, quarter two, which were actually strong as well. So year-to-date, that’s 20%.

North America, where the growth has slightly slowed down in quarter three at 10%, year-to-date 16%. Flexible Packaging, 20%, in line with the year-to-date 19% comparable growth. And then Fiber Packaging, which accounts for a strong comparable net sales growth of 19% in quarter three. We’re going to look into more details segment by segment in a minute.

Before that, I’d like to take you through on Page 8, take you through the P&L. In summary, P&L showing that our net sales growth is converting actually very nicely to our profit — EBIT profit — adjusted EBIT profit with a growth of the adjusted EBIT profit in euro by 33%.

The margin is 8.6%, which is slightly higher, basically in line with last year, which was 8.5%. On year-to-date, we are close to 9%, 8.9%. I’d like to remind again that there is obviously an erosion — a dilution of the percentage — of the margin percentage linked to the pricing pass-through, that’s very obvious. But there is, as well, a slight dilution during Q3 because of the divestment of our Russian operations, which had a very solid profitability. The EPS — adjusted EPS is €0.59 for the quarter, growing 16% versus last year. This 16% growth versus last year is slightly lower.

It’s quite lower actually than the EBIT growth, and that’s linked entirely to the increased financial cost which have an impact on year-to-date but particularly on Q3. And then on the CapEx, we are continuing to invest in line with what I was saying at the beginning because of technology development, but, as well, operations and capacity development, and we are, year-to-date, increasing our CapEx by 26%.

Then moving on to give you some details. So now I’m jumping to Slide 10. Details by segment, one slide summary by segment, food, starting with the Foodservice segment, where you see the net sales of 23% I was explaining before, comparable net sales growth of 22%, actually.

The demand for Foodservice packaging has continued to improve. That’s the good news. Not surprising, it’s in line with what we were saying in the previous quarters, basically recovering the level, pre-pandemic, of 2019, even though there are differences — variations between market and product categories and the one that is remarkable — part of the fact that we are still seeing growth in China, however, subdued, but the one thing that is really remarkable versus 2019 is actually the very strong decrease on shift and therefore, decline of plastic products and then the shift towards a paper and fiber-based products. We see that extremely well into the mix of our business. And that is, of course, very positive for us because that’s — our strategy is to drive towards sustainable packaging solutions.

And this is exactly in line with our strategy. And we believe that this is in line with what the market is actually asking. So that’s something extremely important to know when we’re looking at the average. The average is back to pre-pandemic level, but with major variations, which are positive variations, playing a role, as well, in the mix that impacts positively our profitability. You see that the profitability, the EBIT margin of Foodservice is reaching 10%, is actually on — almost 10% on year-to-date and is just above 10% in the quarter, which is, in the context, quite remarkable performance.

North America, now on the following slide. North America, as I said, with a growth, which is comparable growth, slightly more modest. The reported growth is fairly impressive at 27%, but let’s be clear that a very big impact comes from the currency support because of the USD appreciation. So comparable growth of 10%. We see a demand in the market that remains at a good level. And our growth is mainly or entirely actually pricing-related in this quarter, a quarter where we have seen some challenges on the volume side, but not challenges from a volume perspective, but more from a onetime or temporary aspects linked, for instance, to planned machine downtime, which has had an impact on the short-term quarter as well in terms of calendar days for the business and then, as well, some challenges in raw material availability. Nothing to worry because when we’re thinking, are we entering into a recession where we don’t see any, let’s say, decline of the demand in the U.S. in our categories.

The profitability continues to improve. Adjusted EBIT is improving by 17% with a positive impact from the net sales growth, but, as well, the increased operational efficiency. However, as we said in the previous quarter, the sales mix is from a profitability, unfavorable, for the reason that we are growing more — recovering in Foodservice than in the previous two years.

Moving on to Flexible Packaging with a reported sales growth of 48%. Let’s remember that we have here a very big impact from our Elif acquisition, obviously. So if we look at the comparable net sales growth, it’s 20%.

We have an adjusted EBIT growing in euro terms by 55%. The overall demand for Flexible Packaging remains good. There are, however, some variations by markets and particularly in a few markets, which are hit by hyperinflations and where we start seeing some tension from a consumer demand point of view. The adjusted EBIT is increasing. The significant cost inflation has been largely offset by pricing actions and, as well, cost management with, as I said before, a good contribution of the Elif acquisition into our numbers. And then finally, Fiber Packaging, where we see a continued solid performance with a reported growth of 7%, but actually, the comparable growth is 19%.

It translates into a profitability level close to 10%. It’s actually more than 10% on a year-to-date basis, in line with last year. We continue to see a good demand. It’s, of course, not the demand that we are seeing in 2020 for the obvious reason that you remember with the shift of the demand in home consumption. But this is a market that is consistently growing where the raw material prices have started to plateau even though it’s at a very high level. So we believe that this business is now more stable and should continue to deliver accordingly.

Without any further, I will hand over to Thomas now to give us more view and details on the financials.

Thomas Geust

Thank you, Charles, and I will immediately turn to the first page here and highlight a few things that Charles already also mentioned. So the strong growth on profitability is really the theme of the quarter. You can see that it’s growing 33%, 29% adjusted EBIT growth year-to-date, indicating that we have been able to outperform the volume growth, as was our ambition for the year.

Looking then at some other items here, you can see that the finance costs are high for the quarter. They are abnormally high. This will not be the run rate going forward.

So it will be lower. Nevertheless, it is on a very high level for the quarter. And then you will also see that the adjusted taxes are remaining on the 25% level. However, if you look at the reported taxes, you will find that the tax rate is at 22%. And the reason for this one is that the gain from the Russia divestment is a tax exempt item.

The EPS growing 16% for the quarter as an outcome of the increased finance costs. And then we have year-to-date growth of 21% in EPS. Here, you can see some of the items which are also, to some extent, impacting the ratios going forward or the ratios of the quarter, especially those where we are using the income statement to balance sheet. Balance sheet is, as you remember, always calculated on closing rate, while the income statement is calculated on average rate. Therefore, there’s a lag on some of the ratios coming through. You can see it when you look here on the average rate of, for instance, the USD, it’s at USD1.07, clearly, let’s say, more beneficial to us compared to previous year when we, at the same time of the year, had USD1.20, so an 11% improvement.

And this is obviously the biggest currency for us, both from the fact that we have the U.S. business in it, but also the Elif business is denominated in USD. Then the closing rates for the quarter is USD0.97. So USD stronger than the euro first time in a very, very, very long time and let’s see how this will develop going forward. And for this reason, really, we can see then the currency gain translation gain accelerating in the quarter versus year-to-date numbers. So most — as you can see, most of the currency is trending favorably for us on a year-to-date basis.

Moving to the net debt level. Here, we have the main contribution then from the Russia divestment. So here, we can see a positive development on our net debt. Obviously, we will, going forward, also be losing the EBITDA out of the business, but the ratio and deleveraging of — versus previous quarter and versus year-end and also previous year’s Q3 is significant. Cash and cash equivalents, we have over €324 million. Unused committed credit facilities are at €348 million and then the gearing is landing now at 0.73. The net maturities, no new issuances during the quarter. The average debt maturity is at 3.5, so a longer maturity compared to previous year, same period, obviously, reminding of the bond we issued in Q2. And then, if we go to the cash flow, which, on a high level for the quarter, is still not on the level where we would like it to be. But as you saw, we are positive in cash flow in the quarter of roughly €5 million. And if you look at the cash flow development over the quarters, we have been improving them negative €45 million in the first quarter, roughly, second quarter €20 million, and then now a positive cash flow in the quarter. So the work we are doing with improving on the biggest item, which is the high level of inventory is slowly but surely, hopefully, now paying off.

CapEx has remained on a high level. We have €185 million year-to-date. And then maybe to highlight how the Russia divestment is treated, the divestment is obviously not a free cash flow item. However, it is included in the €484 million reported EBITDA, and then it is excluded on the other cash flow adjustment item. So that’s just as a technical explanation to how to look at this bridge.

On the balance sheet, I think I already partly mentioned what is moving the balance sheet. It’s the divestment of Russia to some extent, but to a bigger extent, the currency impact. And then obviously, we have been doing the CapEx and inflating the operating working capital, which all have inflating effects on the balance sheet. Otherwise, here, you can also see the lag on return on investments coming from the fact that I highlighted earlier that balance sheet items are on closing rate and the P&L is on average rate, but then also we did not have the Elif in for the full year yet last year. Otherwise, jump into the long-term ambitions. In the long-term ambitions, obviously, the organic growth part is on a very high level. Remembering that this is, to a large extent, driven by price. And then the EBITDA margin is — sorry, EBIT margin is not quite on the level of ambition of 10-plus-percent here also, to some extent, burdened by the inflation or pricing in the top line.

Net debt now at 2.5, so in the middle of our corridor, and then reminding you of the fact that we paid the other installment of our dividend in the beginning of October, so not burdening our net debt yet in the quarter. With this one, highlighting a few things here from the outlook. Outlook is unchanged. But in the short term, risk and uncertainties, we changed slightly the first sentence highlighting here the decline in consumer demand, availability of raw materials as well as movements in currency rates.

Kristian Tammela

Thank you for the presentations. And with that, we have now time for some Q&A. So handing over to the operator.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

[Operator Instructions]

Justin Jordan

This is Justin Jordan from BNP Exane. I’ve got two quick questions, if I may. Firstly, well done, frankly, on the improving 10 basis points margins from 8.5% last year in Q3 to 8.6% this year. Can you just help us understand — I am assuming, clearly, you’ve achieved additional price increases in Q3 to help improve the margins year-over-year. But just as you think forward, whether it’s Q4 or 2023 overall, can you just help us understand, are we potentially seeing moderating cost inflation?

I’m just thinking there is like polymer. And how confident are you with your pricing power going forward? Potentially, could we see margins improving from 8.6% in Q4 and then throughout 2023? That’s my first question. And then secondly, I guess, one for Thomas. Previously, in previous quarter, you helped break down the comparable sales growth between volume and price.

I appreciate we’re in very, very unusual times in terms of the price inflation. Can you help us understand the breakdown of the 17% comparable net sales growth in Q3 between volume and price, please?

Charles Heaulme

Thank you, Justin, for the questions. I may start, and then Thomas, as usual, you can, of course, complement. On the margin for this quarter and your question about the evolution of the input cost, you’re mentioning, I think, likely, more of the raw material, but we need to think about the overall input costs in this context, because all input costs have been evolving quite drastically in — through the entire year 2022. So what’s happening is, we see on the raw material front, we see some raw materials that are starting to plateau. If you — categories that are starting to show some early declines, but it’s — I think you mentioned polymers already, that’s the only types of materials where we see an early reduction.

But we continue to see increases in other materials as well. So it’s not a one-size-fits-all answer, an average answer about this is — this means that the pricing pass-through is finished. Of course, there is, as well, a time lag in terms of the pass-through of — the pricing pass-through but as well — or the moderating of the pricing going forward. As you understand, when the raw materials are showing signs of increase or decline, then we still need to manage the value chain inventories in the prices that are into the system at this point. So the way we see our margin evolving is, we have shown very stable management of our margins through the year, slightly increasing. We are taking actions on not only on the pass-through, but as well taking actions on our structural efficiencies.

And that is the way to, how should I say, improve our margin, as well, during this year as well as there is an important aspect, which is the mix between the different categories. And as we have underlined, the mix is slightly negative in some of our segments, but positive in others. So positive in Foodservice, more negative in North America this year. So that’s the development that we’re seeing into — as we get into Q4 and 2023. At the same time, 2023 is, at this point, still very early to comment upon because we see some early signs of recession on the demand, which will impact, of course, the business, but we see, as well, many opportunities that are coming structurally into our businesses. I don’t know if, Thomas, you have something to add on this first question?

Thomas Geust

Maybe just on — yes, on the first question, nothing to add, no.

Charles Heaulme

On the second question, the volume versus price, so 17% comparable growth, let’s say, in this quarter, basically, it’s almost all pricing and volume is fairly flat, overall, again, in average, so we could go segment by segment. But in average, at the company level, Q3 is basically flat in volume with some pluses, but as well the declines that we mentioned in some specific areas. Year-to-date, however, on the 18% comparable growth, that’s mainly, as well, pricing, but there is a positive volume growth, a low-single-digit, if I may say, on the volume year-to-date.

Operator

[Operator Instructions]

Robin Santavirta

Robin Santavirta from Carnegie. I have two questions. One bigger structural question and one more detailed maybe for Thomas. So first, the more detailed, looking at the financing costs in the quarter, you said it’s extraordinarily big now in Q3. What would be sort of the good assumption for the sort of future quarters near term?

Is it — I saw it was €17 million, I guess, now in Q3 and €7 million last year in Q3, is it somewhere close to the midpoint of that? Any kind of help here would be appreciated related to the financing costs going ahead. And then the second question is a bigger structural question to what Charles was alluding to related to the plastic substitution to fiber, you see in Foodservice. Is this something that you see? Especially in Foodservice, is it something you see, especially in North America or Europe? And has this trend now accelerated this year?

So those are my questions.

Charles Heaulme

Thanks, Robin. Thomas, you’ll take the first question.?

Thomas Geust

Yes, I will take the first one. So first of all, currently, we are obviously on a quite high gross debt level still, and we got the money in from Russia and all of that. So we are looking how to use that one. So I would say the €17 million is, first of all, including also some onetime items. A good estimate, I think, would be that, on the high side, it would be quarters like €15 million, on the lower side quarters like €12 million.

Charles Heaulme

Thank you, Thomas. So Robin, on your question about basically the overall market in terms of the sustainability traction from an innovation point of view, from a demand point of view, let’s say, and I think you asked whether there is any difference in Europe, U.S., for instance, and the impact on Foodservice. So I would say that the overall traction in the market for sustainable solution is there and is there to stay. One question is that if you, of course, read all the publications and so on, there is a big question mark is if we enter into a recession, is this going to halt a little bit for some time, the way FMCG companies, foodservice companies, the value chain is going to look at sustainability. At this point, we don’t see it. But of course, that’s always a question mark. We need to be agile on this.

Now more precisely, to your question, what are we seeing in terms of plastic substitution. We have talked a lot through the previous quarters, the last two or three years on our intent, number one, our strategic intent, number two, about the fact that there is a strong traction, for instance, in Europe. And that traction continues. Customers are — not only customers, consumers are asking for sustainable solutions.

Actually, when you go to any global account and discuss with the customer what are their strategic — what is their strategic alignment and their strategy and their demand to us. It’s number one, sustainability, number two, innovation for functionality and sustainability, number three, affordability or competitiveness. So nothing that would be surprising to you. Now the thing that is eventually interesting to consider is that this movement towards more sustainable solutions is, as well, getting traction in the U.S. The reality of sustainability is not always exactly the same in the U.S., for instance, because recycling is much more strongly developed in — for plastic solutions than for paper solutions, if you compare to Europe, where it’s the contrary. So the reality is not the same.

But the drive for sustainability is present and takes traction. One very important example that I would like to give you is the polystyrene that is extremely present in the U.S. market, both in foodservice, in cups, in plates, but, as well, in the egg packaging, for instance, is now officially banned in one-third of the states in the U.S., one-third. And we predict that within two years, all the states will have been banning polystyrene solutions, which means that this is a fantastic opportunity that’s, as well, why we are very timely with our investment in the Hammond factory for building fiber capacity for egg packaging because all these — or most of these EPS packaging is going to convert to fiber very quickly. That’s the demand from consumers, and that’s the demand, as well, now linked to the legislation, for instance, in the U.S. So very strong.

And the — in Europe, the legislation is, as well, continuing to evolve or to develop. And therefore, this tendency is there to stay. I’m putting just, between parenthesis, a question mark, is the speed to it going to be altered in 2023 linked to the possible recession? That’s at this point, a question mark, but we don’t see a sign yet, but I think we need to have the question on our desk.

Operator

[Operator Instructions]

Jutta Rahikainen

It’s Jutta Rahikainen from SEB. I would have three questions. I’ll take them one by one. First on the gross profit or actually the profitability. The relative margin was down from last year.

Absolute numbers are big and beautiful. Could you help us a bit like which divisions did see a gross margin decrease and which perhaps an increase?

Charles Heaulme

So the — not sure I get your question on when you say the profitability is down compared to last year because the profitability is 8.6% at EBIT margin level. It was 8.5%, but okay, so it’s not hugely increased in terms of margin percentage, but it’s still a little bit up. However, I take your question as it’s lower than it was at the beginning of the year. So that maybe is…

Jutta Rahikainen

No, I was actually referring to the gross margin.

Thomas Geust

So on the gross margin level, let me get back to you with some details. So if you take your other question before.

Jutta Rahikainen

Sure. Okay. Then comes question number two on your inventory, so you did say that it looks better now on the inventory management and working capital overall. But just a recap of what is keeping your inventory and working capital this high. Is it still the same like input costs and raw materials being highly priced?

And what else is kind of in there, just to make sure that there is nothing kind of inaccurate or old, so to say, in the inventory?

Thomas Geust

Sorry, could you repeat? So in the inventory…

Jutta Rahikainen

All right. Do I maybe have a bad line? Yes, I was interested in the inventory. Like what’s keeping it this high?

Thomas Geust

So the inventory is driven by two elements. So first of all, obviously, the — mainly by the inflation in cost. So that’s obviously a driver already by a comparability point of view that you get the inflated inventory in. But in all reality, we are not trending as well either on the relative terms.

So it means, we do have a — we do carry a higher volume of inventory currently as well because we were, as you might recall, taking actions to offset the very tight supply chain in the early part of the year. The supply chain is now improving. So it’s possible to go back to more than normal — I would say, normal supply chain methods that you would be using, so acquiring more on a timely basis rather than just in case, drive it.

Jutta Rahikainen

Okay. But is it fair to say that you will kind of sort this out? Or is there a risk that there is something you need to write down or stuff like that in the inventory?

Thomas Geust

No. We are quite cautious currently on taking actions as there are some early signs or some — one could assume that if real recession hits, some of the commodities might be going down. And therefore, you don’t want to sit with a lot of stock in order to get a high impact even from inventory revaluation. But write-offs, I don’t really see, no.

Charles Heaulme

I think to summarize on inventory, we have been, this year, managing with a balancing act with between number one, particularly at the beginning of the year, strong raw material scarcity, and therefore, we needed to build inventories in order to be able to supply. And that has been — if you remember, in Q2, we said this has — the raw material scarcity was particularly hampering our possibility to grow more in the U.S. versus the demand. That’s still the case in Q3 actually. At the same time, of course, we’re trying not to have too high inventories because when prices are going to come down, we don’t want to sit on a lot of inventory.

So that’s exactly the point where we are. As Thomas said, in volume, we have more inventory than we used to have, and we’re working on it, and we have very clear signs of already volume decline as we start the Q4. So we are preoccupied because it has an impact on the cash flow so far, year-to-date, very strong, but very clearly taking action.

On your first question, Thomas is going to elaborate, but basically, we have — particularly you were saying, is there something we need to know by segment? It’s particularly North America linked to the mix and to the slightly lower volume in North America during the quarter, as I was explaining at the beginning.

Thomas Geust

If you look at it on the reported numbers, as you — the only availability you have, there’s a very small actually moderation on the gross margin level. In adjusted terms, we are on a slightly higher level in reality. So the impact is slightly more negative. And that really comes from, first of all, what Charles said around the mix in North America, but then also the mathematical part of the inflation. So here, you can really see the inflation part.

Remember that we have now also a slightly softer quarter compared to the year-to-date numbers of the previous quarters. And obviously, you get a higher impact of that inflation in the relative margins than we have had year-to-date when you have added new top line — new volumes on top of the old, so to speak, with no comparison rates in.

Charles Heaulme

And, as well, it would be complete to say that even though it’s only a partial impact at this point, we have the — a small impact from the divestment of Russian operations, which you will have on a full scale in Q4 and the following quarters, obviously, because our operations in Russia were well profitable.

Thomas Geust

So it was on a higher level than group average.

Jutta Rahikainen

And then one last question. Just you mentioned that the good profit — the profit you’ve had been driven by price lift and internal efficiency or — sorry, did you say structural efficiencies? Could you just open up those a bit? Are we talking about scaling, operating leverage or capacity utilization or something else, just so we know what you referred to?

Charles Heaulme

Well, it’s not a one factor. It’s a combination of — we’re working on all the key aspects of the P&L, and it includes, for instance, strong activities in what we call world-class operations, which is implementing methodologies for continuous improvement across all our factories in the world. That is a long-term journey that we started in — actually in 2020 that took traction in 2021, 2022 now. So that’s one structural, very clear aspect. It’s about working on waste, on efficiencies on the equipment and so forth.

It’s, as well, on the structural efficiencies in terms of the structure of our segments and at group level, where we are balancing between from one side, investing into the strategic capabilities that we will need for the future, which has to do with sustainability, technology innovation, digitalization, to give some key examples, but at the same time, making sure that we are making our structure from an SG&A more efficient or growing less rapidly than our sales, and that creates, of course, structural efficiency.

Operator

[Operator Instructions]

Calle Loikkanen

This is Calle Loikkanen from Danske Bank. My question is regarding Flexible Packaging and the EBIT margin, which was slightly better in Q3 than last year’s Q3, but then at the same time, clearly lower than what we saw in the first half of this year. So what’s the kind of the main reasons for this somewhat weak margin?

Charles Heaulme

Yes, indeed, good catch. So the Flexible’s margin is — I mean, first of all, we should start from the demand. Demand for Flexible Packaging is good overall; however, as I said in the presentation at the beginning, with some variations and the variations have to do with a few key markets of the Flexible Packaging, number one India, number two Turkey, so that as the volume challenges in Q3 linked to the demand in these hyperinflation markets, this volume has an impact on our overall margin for the segment in Q3. So that’s a correct assumption or analysis that you’re making. It’s mix-related as well as in some aspect, a delay in some pricing pass-through activities, particularly in Turkey.

So that’s where we are. We believe that — so we are confident to continue driving not only growth, but a better profitable growth going forward, addressing those aspects.

Calle Loikkanen

Then I mean you mentioned India, how did India perform in the third quarter?

Charles Heaulme

Relatively softer than we would expect, let’s say. It has been — Q3 has been a challenging quarter after a better first semester, as I said, particularly linked to the volume. And the volume is linked to the market conditions that have turned more challenging from a demand point of view. That’s the reality of India in Q3.

Calle Loikkanen

And I guess — or that sounds perhaps like the challenges in India could continue for some time.

Charles Heaulme

It will continue for — let’s put it like this, we have put in place a turnaround. I mean the situation in 2021 — we need to restart from the foundation, the situation in 2021 was relatively depressed in India linked to the consequences of the COVID crisis, but, as well, some internal inefficiencies and challenges we had. We have management changes that have happened. We have a turnaround plan that has been put in place in the first part of the year. We have a new Managing Director who started end of August who is a high professional of the flexible packaging sector.

And therefore, if we are realistic, yes, your assumption is correct, the challenges are going to stay for some time because we’re not going to turn it around overnight. At the same time, we are very confident that we come to our strategic plan, which is to make India, not only our growth engine in Flexible Packaging together with Turkey, by the way, but as well, where we’re going to recover a much more, let’s say, profitability much more in line with our expectations.

Thomas Geust

Maybe a general comment on the emerging markets, which really are the ones impacting Flexibles. So we have — you need to remember the fact that there’s three markets where we are operating currently, which are heavily hit by the recession and also on the currency side, if you think about both Egypt, Turkey and then in India, more on the recession side. So I would maybe highlight that the local markets are most likely the ones which are being impacted for our businesses. But remember also that Flexible Packaging is the product in our portfolio which is traveling. So we will need to look for alternative routes for the products going forward as well improved performance.

Calle Loikkanen

Yes. So basically, so Elif, I mean you mentioned Turkey and Egypt and that’s, of course, Elif markets, I guess. Is Elif still doing well on the export side or…

Thomas Geust

Yes. On the export side, we are doing quite well, yes.

Calle Loikkanen

Okay. So it’s more than the local markets that are challenging.

Thomas Geust

Yes.

Operator

It appears that there are no further questions at this time. I’d like to turn the conference back to the speakers for any additional or closing remarks.

Kristian Tammela

Thank you. As there seems to be no further questions — but if you have any, please feel free to reach out to us. And with that, we would like to thank you and wish you a happy day. Thank you.

Charles Heaulme

Thank you.

Thomas Geust

Thank you.



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