August 14, 2014 / 5:50 AM / 3 years ago

UPDATE 2-Poland's Azoty looks to build margins through expansion

* Azoty eyes over 8 pct EBIT margin by 2020

* Has 10 potential acquisition targets

* To keep paying out 40-60 pct of net profit as dividend (Adds details)

By Adrian Krajewski

WARSAW, Aug 14 (Reuters) - Poland’s Grupa Azoty is targeting higher margins through foreign takeovers and the investment of 7 billion zlotys ($2.24 billion) in organic growth, Europe’s second-largest fertiliser maker said on Thursday.

Its strategy until 2020 aims at an operating margin beyond 8 percent and a margin on earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) exceeding 14 percent.

The state-run group ended the first half of the year with an operating margin at 5.6 percent and EBITDA margin at 11 percent.

Both were significantly lower than a year ago, when Azoty booked a one-off 272 million zloty gain after its takeover of rival Pulawy.

Net profit in the first half of 209 million zlotys ($67 million) beat an analysts’ forecast for 190 million.

The group, with a market value of more than $2.6 billion, plans to keep paying out 40-60 percent of its net profit as dividend.

It is also seeks takeovers to broaden its international presence, which is now focused on Germany and Senegal.

“In the last half of the year we analysed selected companies. We chose a few that we would like to take over,” Chief Executive Pawel Jarczewski said.

“As far as producing assets go we are focusing on Europe. When it comes to commodities, we are searching globally,” he said.

The group selected 10 acquisition targets in Europe, where it aims to catch up with top fertiliser maker Yara of Norway.

Azoty is looking to expand while the sector grapples with plunging grain prices that have capped demand for the fertilisers that make up 60 percent of Azoty’s sales.

CEO Jarczewski earlier told Reuters that Azoty planned to spend around 7 billion zlotys on organic growth, aiming to tap banks for 2 billion to help finance its strategy.

Grupa Azoty, itself a combination of several state-controlled firms, was formed as a defence against what the Polish state treasury, which oversees state assets, deemed a hostile takeover bid by Russia’s Acron.

1 US dollar = 3.1261 Polish zloty Editing by Jason Neely

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