Ester Industries ltd, a company into packaging film business has seen its share price multiply 4x in last one year and 5x since the March 2020 low. Whatever happens in the market, there is always a reason behind that. Let me try to explain that in the blog “Ester Industries Ltd- Analysis”
Industry: PET Films
Here film doesn’t mean movie films but packaging films as shown in the image below. Polyester/PET/BOPET film is used for flexible packaging. The market for PET Film is growing by a robust 10-12% in India and by 6-6.5% globally. But the supply outstrips demand domestically, so some part of the domestic produce is exported.The total production capacity of Thin BOPET films in India at the end of 2019 was at about 750,000 metric tons per annum whereas the domestic demand was in excess of 560,000 MTPA. The remaining 190KT was exported. BOPET Film uses PET resin as raw material.
Flexible packaging is also made via another route i.e. using another raw material(PolyPropylene). Smaller companies focus on manufacturing products via one particular route where larger companies do it by using both the raw materials.
Given that packaging films are commodity products, various countries take measure in the form of trade defense via anti-dumping duty, counter-veiling duty etc. to protect their domestic businesses.
Ester Industries Ltd- About the Company
Ester Industries Ltd was founded in the year 1985 by the current Chairman & CEO Arvind Singhania. The manufacturing of PET began since 1988. Now, the second generation is also involved in the business.
The co. is in the business of manufacturing Polyester Films, Specialty Polymers and Engineering Plastic compounds. The company is backward integrated with its own capacity of PET resin which is the raw material for PET films. The company exports about 30% of its production of polyester films.
As of today, Ester industries has only one plant located at Khatima, Uttarakhand.
The company is setting up a new capacity through its wholly owned subsidiary by the name ‘Ester Filmtech Ltd’ in Telangana with an investment of ₹1350cr. In the first phase of the project, the company will invest ₹580cr to set up Polyester film capacity of 48,000 MTPA which is expected to be completed by the third quarter of CY 2022.
Since these products are commodity in nature, companies always try to enhance sales by adding further value to its products to increase their margin and reduce the cyclical nature of the business. Ester industries as of Q2FY21 derived 16% of its revenue from value added products and strive to reach 30% by 2022.
Ester Industries Ltd- Analysis : Products
1. Polyester Film (BOPET Film)
BOPET film is most common type of Polyester film. It is called by various names such as PET films, Polyester films, BOPET films etc. . PET films are made from PET resin which is first heated to transform it into liquid form & then extruded/drawn into films.
BOPET film find application in flexible packaging. Used to package, preserve and distribute food, beverages, personal care, other consumables, pharmaceuticals etc
Ester industries manufacture these films PET resin inhouse & then convert it into BOPET films. If the company is not able to utilize the PET produced inhouse or the demand for Polyester film is low, the company then sells PET resins/chips in the open market. Since, PET resin is at a much lower level of value chain, it generates negligible margin. PET resins are made from crude oil.
Polyester films contribute about 70% of total sales in plain & metallized form.
2. Specialty Polymers
In the specialty polymers segment, product portfolio consists of 22 products. Out of which patents have been filed in respect of 8. These are the products developed as a result of the company’s R&D efforts. Although the management has been very positive on this segment, it has remained small for a long time. The positive point being the strong margins for this segment(EBIT margin >30%).
It find application in textile, carpet industry.
Its a niche segment and contributes about 5-10 % of total sales.
3. Engineering Plastics
Engineering plastics business consists of Polybutylene Terephthalate(PBT),
Polyamides(PA) and Polycarbonate(PC). These products find application in automotive, electrical & electronics, construction, medical, consumer durables and telecommunication.
Engineering plastics segment contribute about 15-20% of total sales.
Ester Industries Ltd- Analysis
Product Wise- Sales Volume & Value Data
Ester Industries Ltd- Analysis
How are the product prices decided?
As you can see in the images, the products belonging to the two segments, PET Films & Engineering Plastics(90%+ contribution) are very basic commodity products.
Commodity prices are determined by Global Demand-Supply situation.
Price of raw material for PET film i.e. PET Resin is dependent on 2 factors:
1. Crude oil prices. So, if the crude oil prices fall, the prices of raw material will fall.
2. Then comes the demand-supply factor (more important)
Now, coming back to the PET film prices:
1. The most important factor driving the prices and margins are demand-supply situation. If demand declines(i.e. demand for end products decline) or supply increase(new capacities come on stream), these leads to drop in BOPET film prices.
2. If PET prices increase, the prices of BOPET also increases. But if the demand for PET films is higher, then the increase in prices of BOPET film is higher than the increase in prices of PET resin, thus improving the profitability(current situation).
Packaging film are used mainly in FMCG product packing. So these companies would finalize contracts with the FMCG counterpart but supply the products to converters i.e. those companies that print on these films such as Huhtamaki PPL, a publicly listed Indian company. Film manufacturer may also work directly with these converters.
Ester Industries Ltd- Analysis
Current product prices
In the images below, I have shared the prices of product prices for the company’s products for the last 3 months.
There has been good demand growth for the flexible packaging product since last year but the supply has been limited.
As COVID emerged, the demand for flexible packaging went through the roof and the capacity expansion by various players got delayed, thus pushing the demand-supply further in the favor of product’s price. People started stockpiling packaged food, household supplies, flexible packaging in medical supplies, such as gowns and swabs etc, all of which uses flexible packaging solution.
The demand continues to remain strong which is quite visible from the regular price increase.
For petrochemical products such as PET, the contracts are made quarterly where half the products are sold at the prices derived from the existing price and is fixed for the quarter whereas for remaining quantity prices are determined based on the spot price.
Increasing price scenario is ideal for commodity businesses. Not only the product prices are increasing leading to increase in revenue but they are also able to sell the previous inventory at a higher price, thus leading to increased margins. On the other hand the falling prices are equally bad.
Ester Industries issued more than 2 cr warrants to an non-promoter entity ‘Vettel International Limited’, a Mauritius based company which led to the reduction in Promoter shareholding from 72% to 54% in 2016.
Even the current promoter holding company is also based out of Mauritius ‘Wilemina Finance Corp’.
Management did not explain the reason for this. And I think it was unnecessary.
Post that the management has been increasing their shareholding and most recently in September 2020 by 4.91%.
Ester Industries Ltd- Analysis : Competitors
There are a lot of listed and unlisted companies in this space.
Ester Industries Ltd- Financial Analysis
The 27% sales jump between 2018-2019 was mainly on account of increase in PET film prices(as volume had declined) (Image: Ester Industries Ltd: Product Wise- Sales Volume & Value Data). While the sales remained at similar level for FY20, the margins improved on account of increase in spreads.(Difference between raw material and en product prices)
With increased profitability, the ratios improved for FY20.
Looking at Line item no 7, the company hás been struggling with profitability due to unfavorable demand-supply, leading to lower revenue and profitability. But things began coming gradually to company’s favor since FY19 and then from Q1FY20, there was good jump in company’s profitability (Image: Quarterly Numbers- Ester Industries Analysis)
As you can see in the line item 14, the company has been consistently reducing debt from ₹376cr in FY15 to ₹156 cr in FY20. The debt has further come down to ₹99cr as of Q2FY21, given the favorable business environment for the company. This along with improving profitability, has led to increase in interest coverage ratio. Hence, improved credit rating. The improvement in credit rating reduces the interest rate charged to the company.
Ester Industries Ltd- Analysis
The company’s performance is totally dependent on its end product prices and the global demand-supply scenario, which is very difficult to understand or track.
These kind of businesses should NOT be considered for long term investment. Commodity businesses are highly cyclical and if anyone wants to hold on for medium, it should be bought at a bottom point of the cycle.
According to the management interview, they expect the current spread(difference between raw material and en product prices) to continue for atleast next 1.5-2 years. But one should always be alert for movement in the product prices.