May 23, 2011 News
Over the past few years profits for regional cement producers, Trinidad Cement Ltd, have been on the slide and it was no different for the 2010 financial reporting period where the takings tumbled to TT $254 million, or 99 percent which equates to approximately US $40 million (TT$1= US$0.157).
Share value for this Trinidad and Tobago based cement company with eight subsidiaries in Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica, Anguilla, and Guyana went down in tandem, recording losses per share of 20 TT cents, compared to earnings per share of 39 TT cents in 2009.
This downward spiral in profits is blamed on declining local and export demands. In addition to weak sales, a negative impact on the Group’s income also came from higher operating costs owing to rising fuel costs and higher personnel costs for termination and pension benefits.
“Undoubtedly, 2010 was the most challenging in the history of the TCL Group … Critically, domestic sales volume which generates the bulk of the Group profit margin fell by 16 percent when compared with 2009,” said Group Director and CEO Dr Roland Bertrand, and Group Chairman Andy Bhajan in the company’s financial statement released last week.
They stated that because of the dwindling demand the kilns in Barbados and Jamaica were shut down for 40 days in the third quarter and 98 days in the fourth quarter, and based on an on-going review process the Group has put up for sale its loss making subsidiaries in St Maarten.
This diminishing performance also had an impact on the company’s ability to manage its debt, which increased significantly because of funding for a six-year expansion and modernisation programme.
This forced the TCL Group to engage its bankers in talks aimed at debt re-scheduling.
“The Group had forwarded to lenders its debt re-profiling proposals which propose a moratorium of up to three years on debt payments but with triggers that that will repay a substantial portion of the current debt over the ensuing five years consistent with the projected net cash flows of the Group,” the company stated.
The moratorium on debt payments for all its subsidiaries was declared on 14 January, 2011.
TCL expressed a commitment to ‘settling in full’ all outstanding debts by the third quarter of 2011.
The company’s external auditors Ernst and Young confirmed TCL Group’s moratorium and stated that prior to this declaration its debt payments were past due, meaning that most of the debt payments are in default. The auditors said that this situation puts the creditors in a position to anytime take legal action demanding immediate payment on outstanding loans, which the Group is not in a position to meet now.
“This condition … indicates the existence of a material uncertainty that may impact on the Group’s ability to continue as a going concern,” Ernst and Young stated.
Despite the dire circumstances and gloomy outlook, the auditors gave the company a vote of confidence. “The directors have a reasonable expectation that TCL and the Group will have from the outlined plans and strategies adequate cash flows and profitability that will allow TCL and the Group to continue in operational existence in the foreseeable future.”
However, if the unaudited financial statements for the first quarter of this year are an indication of what the 2011 performance will be, the TCL group is in for another dismal showing.
For the period January to March, 2011, the group saw a decline in revenue of TT$47 million, representing an 11 percent drop compared to 2010. For January to March last year TCL revenue stood at TT$425,476, and for the similar period this year revenue stood at TT$378,584 million.
“In the first quarter of 2011, the Group continued to be challenged by weak demand as critical domestic volumes declined by 13 percent whilst export volumes were marginally above the prior year comparison by one per cent,” the company stated.
This has resulted to a further decline in its share value, moving from 13 cents in 2010 to nine cents this year.
But Group CEO Bertrand and Group Chairman Bhajan are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. “”The Group is beginning to see improvement in its sales volumes in Barbados and Jamaica compared with 4th quarter 2010.
It is expected that the many construction projects announced in Trinidad and Tobago will commence later this year and that cement and concrete demand will rebound in the near future,” they stated.
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