Lascelles Chin envisions greater future for Lasco companies

Business

Lascelles Chin envisions greater future for Lasco companies

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

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EXECUTIVE chairman and founder of Lasco Group of Companies, Lascelles Chin remains confident that the manufacturing, distribution and financial companies will be able to invigorate the market with growth in operations and expansion plans.

After staging the simultaneous listing of all three companies on October 12, 2010, Chin is confident that the Lasco companies will continue to grow on a positive trajector even with the 50 per cent tax remission ending in less than three months.

“We are looking forward to the future, notwithstanding the problems with COVID-19. With all companies, we have to be very efficient and conserve our expenses and make sure that we spend very wisely to make sure we stay on top of the game,” Chin told the Jamaica Observer.

The latest financials to be released for the Lasco Group came from the manufacturing arm, which posted a 21 per cent increase in net profit to $341.8 million.

This was in a quarter when St Catherine went into lockdown and there was a constant change in the operating environment. Despite these issues, the company was able to safeguard the well-being of its employees and negotiate strategies with their customers and suppliers on various business deals.

Chin's reasoning for the success of the company came down to confidence in management's ability to manoeuvre the evolving situation.

“We were making sure we had good managers and were concerned on the impetus of the company. We have done a lot in motivating the managers to perform better – that was the major reason for the improved results – and we still have a long way to go in making our processes more efficient,” Chin said.

The drink segment of the product portfolio took a big decline mainly due to the closure of schools, decline in the tourism industry, and cancellation of events. Some of the products in this category include iCool, Konka, iDrade and the lyRix drink, introduced just two years ago.

However, the rest of the portfolio, from the Lasco Food Drink, Lasco-branded and other food-based products, all saw sales increase during the period.

The manufacturing arm's gross profit increased to 39 per cent compared to 37 per cent from the prior year, while operating expenses declined by six per cent to $310.9 million, mainly as a result of greater cost-saving measures and investments in machinery. When combined with a 49 per cent decline in financial costs and slightly higher taxes, the firm was able to achieve an earnings per share of $0.08 versus $0.07 in the prior year.

Lasco Manufacturing's total assets rose to $9.9 billion in the quarter, with the company spending $38 million on capital expenditure as part of its expansion of the powder plant at the White Marl Factory in St Catherine. Capital expenditure was restricted based on the company's focus to preserve cash and remain well capitalised during the pandemic. Cash and cash equivalents inclusive of short-term investments stood at $1.4 billion by the end of the quarter.

A $250-million dividend was paid out on July 24 to shareholders,which showed the company's ability to return value to investors.

As the company's tax break nears its end, Chin hinted towards new products since the focus is to maintain an adequate level of growth in the future.

“We have a lot of cash and are prepared to become even more efficient when we take the tax break into consideration. We are making plans for future expansion in new products.

“This includes the financial arm which recently launched LascoPay as part of its diversification strategy, which should enhance synergies with the distributing arm's numerous clients.”

Chin believes that the Lasco companies will be able to create a similar level of excitement to what they managed to achieve five years ago at the end of their initial, 100 per cent tax remission.

Although the last major acquisition by a Lasco company was in 2017 with Lasco Financial acquiring CrediScotia, Chin did indicate that the companies are always looking for new opportunities to acquire other firms. Lasco Manufacturing and Lasco Distributors both have acquired stock portfolios of $171 million and $303 million, respectively, in the last year.

— David Rose


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