Richard Pieris, a listed group of companies with around 40 businesses ranging from retail to manufacturing, plantations and financial services, gave shareholders 25% average annual returns in the five years to March 2016. Over the next three years, group revenue is estimated to grow 10% annually to Rs57 billion and earnings 14% to Rs3.5 billion, according to First Capital Equities. But where will the growth come from?
First Capital put Richard Pieris through the Boston Consulting Group’s (BCG) Growth-Share Matrix, classifying its business segments into four categories called stars, cash cows, question marks and dogs. The matrix was developed in 1970 to help companies decide what businesses to keep, sell or invest more in.
According to the BCG matrix, stars have large market shares in sectors with high-growth potential, and ideally companies should invest more in these businesses. Richard Pieris’ star is its retail business led by Arpico, a chain of hypermarkets (the combination of a department store and a supermarket) that contributed 50% to group turnover.
Retail is a high-growth business, with economic growth and urbanisation improving people’s incomes and lifestyles. “Demand will grow for luxury and semi-luxury goods, which represents most of Arpico’s offering,” First Capital says. Arpico’s revenue is estimated to grow 16% annually over 2017-19, and will benefit from economies of scale if the group invests in expansion.
Cash cows generate high turnover in mature, low growth sectors, and these businesses should be ‘milked’ for as long as possible. Richard Pieris has three of these.
The plastics and furniture manufacturing business is one cash cow, contributing 15% to group revenue. Earnings are estimated to grow 7% annually over the next three years to 2019, riding the housing and hotel construction boom.
The second cash cow is the rubber products business, which contributes 8% to the group’s topline. The group exports latex and hard rubber-based products like floor mats, jar seals, mattresses, pillows and shoe soles mostly to Europe. Group exports account for less than 10% of topline revenue, but Richard Pieris plans to grow the business by focusing on the Chinese market.
The third cash cow is the tyre re-treading business, which is expected to benefit from the 6.3 million vehicle population and growing secondhand car market, with high duties curbing imports. Margins are expected to improve due to a growing supply of low-cost used tyres – an input for the re-treading business – and rising demand for heavy duty vehicle tyres.
Questions marks are businesses with a small share of the pie in fast-growing markets. Companies need to decide what to do with these—either turn them into cash cows or stars with more investment, or sell. Richard Pieris has several question marks: the financial services business, including two finance companies (Richard Pieris Finance and listed Chilaw Finance), listed Arpico Insurance, and fund management firm Arpico Ataraxia Asset Management. These businesses yield relatively low returns.
Oil palm and rubber plantations managed by the group are other question marks.
The group manages three listed plantation companies – Namunukula, Maskeliya and Kegalle – that are diversifying into oil palm to improve profitability. Rubber plantations are making losses, which are offset by the group’s manufacturing and export businesses.
The loss-making tea plantations are the group’s dogs, according to First Capital. Dogs are those businesses that are best let go of.