With the FIFA World Cup fast approaching this is an exciting time for consumer packaging company Rexam (LON:REX) . Group earnings will benefit from the additional beverage can consumption that the summer tournament will bring. However far from solely relying on an Emerging market’s story, trading for the year so far has been ahead of the group's expectations with beverage can volumes in both North America and Europe beating management forecasts.
World Cup fever of not, Rexam is benefiting from a slew of cost cutting initiates and a recovery in demand. Given the region’s love affair with the sport, the group’s expansion in South America could not be better timed however the 63% share of the continental beverage can market will be earnings accretive long after the final whistle of this year’s tournament. South America is one of the three geographic regions Rexam focuses on with the other two being Europe and North America. In South America beverage cans saw volume growth of 9% during 2009 with Rexam reporting that consumer behaviour was unaffected by the global downturn. By contrast in Europe beverage can sales fell 3% and in North America the fall was 1% during 2009.
This year’s first quarter though has brought with it reasons for optimism. In Europe, it seems that drinking through sovereign debt fears is the preferred option with volume growth due to a strong performance in speciality cans. North America remained weak but both regions outperformed expectations allowing for the positive trading update. As expected Latin America continued to see strong growth and overall conditions appear to have turned a corner.
The recovery of demand is encouraging as cost cutting has now been largely completed. Cost savings are now set to be £19m annually with 2010 experiencing the full benefit. Achievements for Rexam's beverage cans division include Red Bull, Prosecco in a can, half-pint slim line Stella Artois cans and a recently launched cider can with thermochromic (heat sensitive ink). The group is trying to work with marketing professionals rather than purchasing managers among its client base.
Beverage cans are the mainstay of Rexam’s earnings with £3.6 billion sales in 2009 and profits of £310 million. As such, a recovery in the European and North American markets (as well as a continuation of growth in Latin America) will prove the catalyst for earnings our performance in the long term. The group's other product lines fall within the group’s Plastic Packaging division which produced sales of £1.24 billion in 2009 and profits of £130 million.
The trading outlook for Plastic Packaging has remained unchanged with weak demand across some product areas. Importantly cost reduction initiatives are on track and will see 10% of the workforce cut and year-on-year savings of £24 million.
Turning to the balance sheet and as expected net debt has increased somewhat to just under £2 billion. However the ratio net debt to EBITDA is still comfortable at 2.2X and is improvement on the figure a year ago of 2.9X. The group has already been able to refinance debt which is maturing in the coming years at better rates than are present in existing facilities.
Half-year results for the group are expected on 28th July and the current valuation remains modest at a P/E of 12X for the year ahead which falls to 10.5X for 2011. The yield for the year ahead is forecast at 3.1%.
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