Business

A look at some of Jamaica's top industry performers

SSL In The Money

with Sutanya Chedda

Wednesday, May 25, 2011    

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Over the years, there have been several Companies in Jamaica synonymous with success. These steady-growing, nimble and well-managed Companies have risen to the top, setting the pace for their respective industries.

From 1889 until now, Scotia Group Jamaica Ltd (SGJ) stands firm as one of the largest financial institutions in the Country, having weathered a great deal of challenges. What started as a small Bank of Nova Scotia Jamaica Ltd (BNSJ) office in Kingston is today an islandwide network of commercial banks, insurance offices, investment houses and building societies. Backed by experience which accompanies years of progressive banking operations, SGJ has demonstrated consistency and stability, powering ahead on sustained earnings and generating organic growth through innovation and a backbone of sound management.

Just last year, the Company embarked on efforts to shift its business model to one that is less reliant on Net Interest Income amid the post-Jamaica Debt Exchange (JDX) low interest environment. SGJ continues to focus on the development of innovative and value-added product solutions, implement cost management and efficiency initiatives and provides quality customer experience - and the results show. For its first quarter ended January 31, 2011, SGJ's productivity ratio climbed to 54.38 per cent from 52.1 per cent in the prior year as the Company applied tighter expense management. Likewise, Shareholder's Equity surged $8 billion to $58 billion, placing the Company in a strategic capital position to take advantage of future growth opportunities.

Similarly, cigarette giant, Carreras Ltd (CAR) has grown to become the leading marketer and distributor of cigarettes and tobacco-related products in the Country and is also the first Company that established a manufacturing plant in post-independent Jamaica. CAR has built a reputation of high quality products and diversity since 1962. In the early 1990's, CAR expanded its operations to include a variety of businesses, however, the Company later divested many of these businesses in a bid to focus on its core.

As CAR revolves its efforts around growth and productivity, it remains well-positioned to weather the negative effects of unprecedented levels of tobacco tax increases. Though CAR maintains a relatively high dividend payout ratio, the Company also manages to reinvest in its operations, placing significant support and resources into the optimization and efficiency of its marketing and distribution efforts. In addition, CAR's sound management practices enable it to produce solid results despite challenges, rising as one of the Country's largest Companies and industry leaders.

On May 05, 1958 the dream of three entrepreneurs became Jamaica Broilers Group Ltd (JBG). Sydney Levy who was involved in a family-operated import business, Larry Udell who supplied chickens from the US, and Byron Coombs who owned a cold storage facility were the founding partners of what is today a leading Company in Jamaica. Over the years, JBG has boosted production at its flagship Best Dressed Chicken operations to a rate of over 24mm birds annually from as low as 1.2mm in its earlier days. Supported by a team of approximately 2k employees, the Group's operations has expanded to include other products such as fish, beef, fertilizer, feed, ethanol and co-generation.

Like CAR, JBG also reinvests its profits in its business, which also provides footing for further expansion. More importantly, JBG's strategic planning and innovation coupled with prudent financial planning and quality products have kept it at the pinnacle of the Jamaican Manufacturing industry. Not surprisingly, for its most recent quarter ended January 31, 2011, Profit increased to $362 million from $327 million a year earlier on improved performance in its Best Dressed Foods and HIPRO-ACE Divisions. Needless to say, JBG has grown into a manufacturing titan of sorts and it is this emphasis on diversity and innovation that has helped it propel to the top of its industry.

Even as SGJ, CAR and JBG continue to maintain strong positions in their respective industries, they present a wealth of opportunities for prudent investors. Take SGJ for instance -- not only has the stock increased 8.85 per cent year-to-date (YTD) but it continues to have one of the best dividend yields in the industry of 6.53 per cent. Likewise, CAR has surged 19.18 per cent YTD and also has an attractive dividend yield of 7.91 per cent. JBG has also seen its stock price appreciate, rising 4.49 per cent YTD.

As these Companies continue to grow amid the challenging economy, armed with their respective strategies, it is important to remember that these giants weren't "built in a day". It took a team of forward-thinking entrepreneurs who implemented prudent business principles that have been able to withstand a constantly changing environment.

Sutanya Chedda is a Client Services Officer at Stocks & Securities Ltd. You may contact her at schedda@sslinvest.com.

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