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Europris ASA
OSE:EPR

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Europris ASA
OSE:EPR
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Price: 67.35 NOK -0.37% Market Closed
Updated: Jul 21, 2024
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Earnings Call Transcript

Earnings Call Transcript
2024-Q1

from 0
Operator

[Audio Gap] On revenue growth, but slightly higher OpEx. My name is [indiscernible], covering the consumer companies and also some tech companies in Arctic. And with me, I have the CEO of our business Espen Eldal and CFO Stina Byre, which will take you through the presentation, then followed by a Q&A presentation at the end. So feel free to send your questions during the presentation. Thank you.

P
PÃ¥l Wibe
executive

Thank you, [indiscernible], for the introduction. It's a pleasure to be here, and thank you to Arctic for hosting today's event and hospitality you've shown us. That's great. As [indiscernible] said, CFO Stina Byre will join me on stage today, and she will present the financial details. And -- we will answer questions at the end of the presentation, and we will start with the questions in the room, and then we will continue with questions from the web. And feel free to send in your questions as we speak. Well, as [indiscernible] said, the numbers are out there. We are satisfied with the revenues. We had a cost issue, and I will come back to that a little bit later. But let's have a look at the highlights for the first quarter. Sales have had a good start to the new year and footfall to the stores increased. And that is, of course, the most important thing that we attract the customers. Total sales grew by 4.8%, and the chain store sales grew by 6.3% with a like-for-like of 5%. Easter was early this year. And despite an early Easter, we actually saw record sales during the Easter season. And having that growth in the important quarterly season is, of course, a driver for Europris and demonstrates that we are a seasonal store for the Norwegian consumers, and that demonstrates our strength. We're also a concept that is relevant in the current financial climate, and we see that the current -- the trends we see now are the same as we reported last year. We continue to see high sales growth for consumables and the campaign products, and we also see high demand for our private label product. So the consumers are more cautious and that is positive for the Europris concept. Looking at gross margin, that was 43.5%. That is almost on par with last year. And the operating expenses to sales was 29.5%, which is an increase of 2.1%. And as [indiscernible] to that, that is where we are not in line with the consensus for this quarter. The increase was caused by overall inflation effects and also higher electricity costs. Stina will provide some more details on the OpEx development, and I will also come back to this when I talk about the outlook as we see that parts of these effects will continue to impact the numbers for this year. On the financial side, we have strengthened the financial position and reduced net debt by almost NOK 600 million. And finally, we have reached an agreement on the purchase price for the remaining 80% of the shares in ÖoB, and that is good news. So it's been an eventful start to the new year for Europris with a lot of actions. I'll continue with the ÖoB transaction. And of course, I'm really satisfied to announce that we have made good progress and that we have finally reached an agreement on the acquisition. After we exercised the option back in January, we've had a good dialogue with the sellers and we reached an agreement on the final purchase price, which landed on NOK 200.5 million, of which NOK 30 million will be paid in cash and the remaining will be paid in Europris shares, and those shares will be subject to a 12-month lockup period. The closing is still subject to approval from the foreign direct investment agency in Sweden, and that is expected to be received within a few weeks, and we prepare for a closing of the transaction in May. It's not a big statement, but of course, this has been a very long process. And I'm really happy to see that we now can start the hard job. The work has begun and together with ÖoB team, we are working very close these days. And I'm really looking forward to continue that process and work on how we can improve the profitability and sales in ÖoB. And of course, I know that many of you would like to see detailed plans and financial targets and time lines for ÖoB already now, but this is too early. We have to wait until we have received the final approval, and we also have to wait until we have communicated and detail these plans together with the staff in ÖoB. Europris has a very clear view on what needs to be done to lift sales and profits in ÖoB. And now we are working closely with the ÖoB team to detail these plans and make sure they get the right ownership of these [indiscernible] because Europris will, of course, support the ÖoB organization, but it's important for us that they take ownership, and they will actually carry out the implementation. We believe that we have a good plan on how profit should be increased, and we also see that the same culture, the same values is shared among the employees of ÖoB. It's been a really good start when we have started the collaboration, and I'm looking forward to continue this in the coming months. With that, I will leave the floor to Stina to talk more about the financial details.

S
Stina Byre
executive

Thank you, Espen. I will then talk about the first quarter financials. Group sales were NOK 2 billion, up 4.8%. For the Europris chain, the total growth was 6.3%, and the like-for-like growth was 5%. The quarter had 2 fewer sales days, but this was more than outweighed by positive timing effects from an earlier Easter. And the Easter sales were strong with all-time high sales in the weeks leading up to Easter. And as Espen said, the same development that we saw last year has continued into this year. We saw strong growth for campaign sales and especially so for the products on the front page of the marketing leaflet. We also saw higher growth for consumables than for nonfood and we saw higher growth for our private labels than for branded goods. And these are all testament to the relevance of the Europris concept in the prevailing market conditions. Where online sales are concerned, the first quarter is seasonally relatively small. In total, these sales were NOK 153 million, down 8.4%. Lekekassen had lower sales in both the Swedish and Danish market, which more than offset growth in the Norwegian market and growth for Strikkemekka. The gross margin was 43.3%, down 0.2%. And we had higher unrealized currency gains on our hedging contracts this year than last year, meaning that the margin change was positively impacted by 0.7 percentage points. And the lower margin was explained by product mix with a higher share of consumables, a higher share of campaign sales and also from higher input costs, especially following the weaker NOK. We are satisfied that the margin continues to lie above where it was before the pandemic. OpEx was NOK 597 million, up 13%. This is, of course, a high increase, but it is important to see the development over time. Over the past years, we have had -- if we exclude structural growth, we have had OpEx growth below inflation. And this growth last year was only 2.5%. We have gradually benefited from the central warehouse in Moss, and we have significantly benefited from our hedging strategy when it comes to electricity costs. Over the past 3 years, we have avoided more than NOK 80 million of costs due to this compared to if we had had market prices. But this year, our prices are more in line with the market, meaning that those who are in the spot market will actually see lower costs while we will see higher costs. There are also some timing effects that will lead to a higher OpEx growth in the first half this year than in the second half. And for the full financial year, we expect the OpEx to grow by around 10%. As the OpEx growth was higher than the sales growth, the OpEx to sales ratio increased and ended at 29.5%, up 2.1 percentage points.EBITDA was NOK 281 million, down 9.8%, and this development mainly reflected the higher OpEx. EBIT was NOK 107 million, down 26.6% and this also reflected higher lease depreciations following CPI adjustments on rent. The net profit was NOK 47 million, down from NOK 71 million last year. Sales growth was offset by the higher OpEx. And it should also be mentioned that our interest rate swaps had a positive impact of NOK 7 million this year compared to a negative impact of NOK 5 million last year.The first quarter is normal seasonal pattern with negative cash. Net change in cash was roughly on par with last year, ended negatively at [ NOK 490 million ]. The financial position is strengthened. The net debt was almost NOK 3.5 billion. And excluding lease liabilities, it was NOK 841 million compared to NOK 1.4 billion last year. And cash and liquidity reserves were NOK 1.7 billion at the end of the first quarter. And then I will hand it back to Espen. Thank you.

P
PÃ¥l Wibe
executive

Thank you, Stina. Before we conclude with the outlook, I will have a short look at some of the strategic initiatives we're working on in Europris. As we talked about before, renewing the categories has been an important growth driver in the past years. And in the first quarter, we have successfully upgraded the kitchen category. And once again, we have seen very strong sales results from this upgrade and the customer feedback has almost been overwhelming. We have upgraded the store layout and also improved the assortment. And I would actually like to claim that with this upgrade, we have taken the specialist trade into the discount store, and I challenge all of you actually to go to a store and experience the new concept. On the membership club, we have continued to grow the membership base. And also, we see very positive effects from more personalized communication. The work we have done on personalized newsletters and also product recommendations has doubled the click rate from already high levels. So we see that we are now making progress on being more relevant for the consumers. And we also supported the launch of the kitchen category upgrade with more relevant digital communication, and that has been an important driver to the sales growth we have seen after we launched the new category. On the store base, we have not opened any new stores this quarter, but developing the current store estate is a very important driver for sales growth. And in the first quarter, we have carried out a total of 8 different projects. One store has been relocated, 2 stores has been expanded and 5 stores are modernized. And for the pipeline going forward, we have 6 new stores, of which 3 are subject to planning permissions. It's time to summarize and wrap up the numbers and also have a look at the future ahead of us. I believe that the current market conditions is very optimistic for Europris. It presents opportunities, and I see that, that has also contributed to the sales growth in the first quarter. We expect Norwegian consumers to remain cautious with spending in the coming months. And this is an opportunity for the [ concept ] -- because we have attractive campaigns and also low prices on products everyone needs. We are well prepared for the important spring and summer season. We have received all goods on stock despite the challenges that has been in the freight market due to the Red Sea situation. As we talked about, OpEx will be closely monitored. However, it's expected that the growth in OpEx will be around 10% from the financial year of 2023. So we see higher growth this year. And last but not least, we're looking forward to work on the implementation of ÖoB and the closing of the transaction and are very optimistic that this Nordic expansion will be an important goal for out of this in creating shareholder value in the years to come. With that, I will end the presentation and open up for questions.

Operator

We will then first open up for questions from the audience [indiscernible] the questions.

U
Unknown Analyst

Did I understand you right when the new OpEx is more normal OpEx that you have been hedged before [ a year ] freight rights and so on. Is this more the more normalized, the more well what we can expect forward? Or...

P
PÃ¥l Wibe
executive

Yes. Now the OpEx we guide for this year is an increase of 10% from last year, and that includes the effect on electricity, which was significantly below the market standard last year due to the hedging. So this will -- now we are more in line with the market prices on electricity as the rest of the competitors.

U
Unknown Analyst

Also transporter.

P
PÃ¥l Wibe
executive

Transport is part of the -- the cost of goods sold in our books. So it's not part of the OpEx.

Operator

So from the web. Can you break out the mix on organic growth between price and volume?

S
Stina Byre
executive

We had price growth in the quarter and the volume was down. We will not give specific numbers on that, but I think we're quite in the same -- have quite the same development as for other retailers.

Operator

Yes. How was the Easter effect on the Q1 results?

S
Stina Byre
executive

I would estimate around a couple of percentage point effect in positive failure.

Operator

What was the consumable share in Q1? And what was the share in Q1 last year?

S
Stina Byre
executive

It's in -- seasonally, it's normal with a higher share of consumables in the first quarter than for the year in full. For the first quarter this year, it was slightly below 60%, up by 0.7 percentage points compared to last year.

Operator

For the year and full year last year was around 55% or...

S
Stina Byre
executive

A little bit lower than that. It's above 50%, but lower than that.

Operator

Yes. On the cost side, how much was the electricity cost in 2023? And what is the current electricity -- the cost -- the current spot prices?

S
Stina Byre
executive

Well, normally, over the past years, we have been south of NOK 40 million when it comes to electricity costs. And this year, we estimate to be above NOK 60 million. And of course, the main quarters where the cost increase come is the first and the fourth quarter.

Operator

Several peers are talking about improved gross margins going forward due to lower [ chasing ] costs? Do you see a similar trend?

S
Stina Byre
executive

Well, it's always difficult to predict. We work as good as we can with both ensuring sales and the gross margin. We need to stay true to our low-price concept, but we see that the Norwegian krona continues to weaken, which is, of course, not favorable for us. But we also have a strong team that negotiate hard with our suppliers and we see also prices going down on some products. So I don't wish to guide specifically, but we will do what we can to safeguard the margin. And we continue to see that we have a margin above the pre-pandemic level, and we'll work to keep that -- to continue that development.

Operator

What was the private label share in Q1?

S
Stina Byre
executive

In the first quarter, it was 43%, and it was up by 0.7 percentage points.

Operator

On ÖoB, could you give any color on the portfolios in Q1? And when you will provide an updated guidance on targeted synergies?

P
PÃ¥l Wibe
executive

The ÖoB, of course, working in the Swedish market, which is somewhat tougher than the Norwegian. I think that overall, the consumption is a little bit more weak in Sweden. So the results also there are weaker than what we see in Norway. So I think you should expect that ÖoB this year will be tougher than last year. We will now work on the plan and make a detailed plan, and we will communicate this in the ÖoB organization and also in the Europris organization before we go to the market. But we will come back. As soon as we have done the closing, we will finalize the plans, and then we will come to the market and present the detailed plan with financial targets and also the detailed time line for what we're going to do with the acquisition.

Operator

And [Technical Difficulty] been how much do you expect to spend on refurbishing [ best ] stores? What is the time line on that CapEx can say anything about [ this ].

P
PÃ¥l Wibe
executive

Yes. As I said, we will come back to this and of course, provide details on both the financial targets we have, the CapEx it will take and also the time line for the investments. And right now, we are working very good with the organization ÖoB to detail these plans because from the outside, we have a pretty clear view on what we're going to do. And we know the company, but now we are really going into the details, and then we will be more specific on exactly what kind of actions we have to do in the different stores. And that will, of course, impact the investment numbers and the details of the plan. So we need this time to work together with the team, and then we will come back with the communication.

Operator

You have previously in the Q1 reports given sales year-to-date, including April due to the Easter effect. Is it possible to give this figure or give some comments regarding the sales development in Q4 so far?

P
PÃ¥l Wibe
executive

In April, we see the same trends basically as what we saw in the first quarter. So that's why we don't give a detailed comment on this this time. And as Stina said, the sales effect of the earlier Easter is around 1.5 to 2 percentage points compared to last year.

Operator

First regarding the new warehouse. Is it more efficient gains to expect in 2024?

P
PÃ¥l Wibe
executive

It's always more efficiency gains to expect. I'm expecting a lot of it. And I know that the team is working really hard to realize everything. And we have done -- the major part is already taken. But of course, we always strive to be a little bit better, and we will continue to work on that. But we would be -- we will not give guidance on that cost saving for this year because that will be relatively small compared to the savings we have seen in the past.

Operator

What is the product mix impact on gross margin this quarter?

S
Stina Byre
executive

I think, hopefully, I have covered those questions, but if you feel I haven't covered it, please reach out to us after the presentation.

Operator

Also one question about ÖoB. Can you give some more details on how the [indiscernible] retail market in Sweden are different from Norway and why Europris should be successful in Sweden?

P
PÃ¥l Wibe
executive

I think, first of all, the ÖoB has been in the market for more than 30 years. They know the market very extremely well themselves. They are good salespeople. They have the same sales culture as we have. So they have a good knowledge of the market, and we see that there are some differences. Of course, it's the shopping centers or shopping is more concentrated around big cities and the demographics is a little bit different. The sales per store is about double the size of what we see in Norway. So there are some differences in the market. But I think I actually forgot the last part of your question.

Operator

Why Europris should be successful?

P
PÃ¥l Wibe
executive

Yes, why we should be successful. It was an important part of the question as well. I think it's important to understand that the main competitors of ÖoB are actually the same as those of Europris. We see those competitors every day here in Norway. They are situated around us. They have been successful over the past years and so have we. So I think that it's demonstrated from the Norwegian market that the Swedish retail is coming here with their concepts are working -- competing with us, and we are doing fine. And I'm sure that also our concept would do the same in Sweden. So this is about looking at the best parts of ÖoB and the best parts of Europris and unite those, and I think you will be well fit to meet the competition, both in Sweden and in Norway.

Operator

One question about -- on the gross margin in Q1, did Easter have a negative year-over-year effects?

S
Stina Byre
executive

Well, not very large. We had, of course, the higher share of consumables. And of course, it is some higher campaign share, also impacted by the Easter. So yes, slightly, but not in a major way.

Operator

Could you please elaborate a bit on the timing effects, listing OpEx in first half relative to second half?

S
Stina Byre
executive

Yes, we have some marketing spend that is skewed a little bit more to the first half than the second half. There is also some timing on supplier bonuses, and we also have some timing effects when it comes to accruals for variable remuneration of employees.

Operator

Question about OpEx growth, what should we expect in 2025, yes [indiscernible].

S
Stina Byre
executive

Yes, of course, we will not have this kind of OpEx growth as the run rate. So we will work to -- around 60% of our cost base is employees, and that is impacted by collective agreements. And for the other part, we will, of course, do what we can to keep that as low as possible.

Operator

All the questions from the web. Any further questions?

U
Unknown Analyst

What is the share price in the merger the Europris share price?

P
PÃ¥l Wibe
executive

In the merger with ÖoB?

U
Unknown Analyst

Yes.

P
PÃ¥l Wibe
executive

Yes, it's... The share price was when we recalculate the purchase price to shares, it was used the share price of NOK 72 to NOK 73. I don't remember the exact figure, but that was the number. And these are treasury shares that Europris has bought in the market at earlier, and I think the average cost price for Europris was around NOK 40 to NOK 45 per share.

U
Unknown Analyst

On ÖoB, the EBITDA for 2020, you have [ a grid in ] 2019. But could you give any color on the grid [ if there ] for 2020 for ÖoB?

P
PÃ¥l Wibe
executive

For ÖoB, it's -- the purchase price has been settled. And of course, that concludes the whole discussion and [ there was no ] disagreement on the EBITDA for 2020. And we ended actually quite close to what I expected was the right number, and that was slightly below what the reported EBITDA was for that year.

Operator

Any further questions?

U
Unknown Analyst

[indiscernible] you got that result or [indiscernible]

P
PÃ¥l Wibe
executive

I think maybe we should take that after the presentation. Yes. Yes. That's fine. Absolutely.

Operator

Yes. Thank you.

P
PÃ¥l Wibe
executive

Thank you.

S
Stina Byre
executive

Thank you.