Almarai plans hybrid sukuk

Updated 12 August 2013
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Almarai plans hybrid sukuk

DUBAI: Saudi Arabian dairy producer Almarai Co. has chosen four banks to arrange the sale of a hybrid Islamic bond, or sukuk, banking sources said on Wednesday, in what would be a first for the Kingdom's debt market.
The Gulf's largest dairy firm has mandated the investment banking arm of Banque Saudi Fransi, BNP Paribas, HSBC's Saudi Arabian unit and Standard Chartered to arrange the transaction, two bankers said.
The offering, which is not imminent, is likely to be denominated in Saudi riyals, although the company could opt to issue in dollars instead, four bankers said, speaking on condition of anonymity as the information is private.
A spokesman for Almarai was not reachable for comment.
"Both dollars and local currency are on the table," said a Saudi-based banker who pitched for the deal but whose institution was not selected.
Hybrid structures are rare in the Gulf region, although two banks in the United Arab Emirates have tested markets with hybrid sukuk since last year. Majid Al-Futtaim, a UAE conglomerate, met investors in May ahead of a possible corporate hybrid bond but unfavorable market conditions stalled the sale.
Hybrids are usually accounted for as subordinated debt on a firm's balance sheet, and contain some equity characteristics.
Almarai's Chief Financial Officer, Paul Louis Gay, told reporters in May it could opt to issue a hybrid Islamic bond in the next 12 months to help fund its ambitious growth plans, with a target amount of around $500 million.
Almarai announced in May 2012 it was targeting SR15.7 billion ($4.2 billion) of capital spending over five years to fund its expansion.
This followed the acquisition in December 2011 of Argentine farm operator Fondomonte to secure supplies of animal feed.
However, Gay said in May it was looking to raise the cash from international investors, rather than the local debt market.
There are positive and negatives with both currency options, the Saudi-based banker said.
The local debt market is extremely liquid and Almarai could achieve better pricing because of the guaranteed high demand. Although, international investors would be more comfortable with the hybrid structure, given that such deals have been sold by corporates in other parts of the world.
Traditionally, Saudi companies have relied on bank loans and retained earnings to finance their expansion. But many are now diversifying their financing requirements into the bond market.
Almarai was last in the market in March with a SR1.3 billion Islamic bond - its second local currency sukuk.
Earlier this month, Almarai posted a 4.9 percent year-on-year rise in second-quarter net profit on the back of growth in its core business. The SR398.2-million figure narrowly missed the average forecast of nine analysts.
Its shares have gained 16.9 percent year-to-date and are trading at their highest level since February 2006. The stock offers a diversification play away from the Kingdom's dominant banking and real estate sectors.


Costa Coffee to go solo pressed by investors

Updated 38 min 34 sec ago
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Costa Coffee to go solo pressed by investors

LONDON: Latte king Costa Coffee is to go it alone following pressure from activist shareholders on Whitbread, the global coffee chain’s parent company, a statement said Wednesday.
UK company Whitbread, which will hold onto hotel chain Premier Inn, said the spin-off is part of a restructuring drive that is set to be completed within two years.
“Given the progress Whitbread is making, we are confident that both Premier Inn and Costa will soon be businesses of sufficient strength, scale and capability to enable them to thrive as independent companies,” Whitbread chief executive Alison Brittain said in the statement.
“The board, therefore, believes that it is in the best long-term interests of Whitbread’s many stakeholders to separate Premier Inn and Costa, via a demerger of Costa,” she added.
Analysts welcomed the move.
“A cleaner operation should enable greater operational focus and afford investors greater clarity on profit and cash generation,” said analyst Greg Johnson at Shore Capital.
Whitbread’s announcement comes after activist investor, US group Elliott last week became its biggest shareholder with a six percent interest.
“The question will of course arise over whether CEO Alison Brittain jumped or was pushed into this proposal by the arrival of two activist investors on the shareholder register,” said Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown stockbrokers.
Whitbread bought Costa in 1995 from founders Sergio and Bruno Costa and presently runs about 2,400 stores in the UK and some 1,400 around the world.
Its shops are popular with a wide array of coffee lovers, ranging from students in London, to journalists and Beirut, and tourists in Paris.
Premier Inn has 785 hotels in the UK plus some more in Germany and the Middle East.