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Sugar mills on debt reduction spree

Most sugar mills retire part of their debt, squeeze in margins on high cane cost

Dilip Kumar Jha  |  Mumbai 

Sugar, Sugar mills

The improved cash flow due to a sharp increase in prices has helped to reduce their and improve profitability in the financial year 2016-17.

While most have reduced their over the last two years, their borrowings continued to be substantially higher than the net worth thereby disappearing on high-interest cost. This simply indicates that would continue to face challenges in servicing. A number of mills, including Empee Sugars and Kesar Enterprises, have their negative net worth as per Capitaline data.

Data compiled by Capitaline showed Shree Renuka Sugars (SRSL), India's largest refiner which recently sold its additional stake to Wilmar to reduce its burden, carries a total consolidated on its book to the tune of Rs 6,012 crore for the financial year 2016-17, a sharp decline from Rs 9,104.1 crore for the previous financial year. With the improvement in its net sales at Rs 1,1844.5 crore for FY17 from Rs 9,823.4 crore in the previous year, SRSL posted a net loss of Rs 1,039.7 crore for FY17 compared to Rs 1,802.9 crore loss for the last financial year. Interestingly, SRSL's total is much higher than its negative net worth of Rs 2,652.2 crore for FY17.

"Most mills' balance sheet is heavily loaded with But, a number of them have not only reduced their borrowings but also fund working capital with cash balance thereby, an automatic reduction in With prices have recovered a bit in the past few months, mills' would be able to reduce their further in coming quarters," said a senior analyst with a leading equity broking firm.

like Bajaj Hindusthan and Balrampur Chini though reported a profit for FY17, their continued to remain higher than the net worth. Kolkata-based Balrampur Chini, however, has reported the highest in the industry at Rs 592.8 crore compared to Rs 92 crore loss incurred by the industry leader Bajaj Hindusthan. Balrampur Chini has lower cane crushing capacity than Bajaj Hindusthan.

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Compiled by BS Research Bureau, Source: Capitaline
mills' financial health worsened with a sharp fall in the sweetener prices four years ago when the ex-factory price fell to Rs 1,900 a quintal on bumper output. This level of price could not fetch the production cost resulting into swelling of farmers' cane arrears and repayment issues.

A Care Rating study showed prices in the domestic market that averaged at Rs 36.20 per kg in the December 2016 quarter increased to Rs 38.2 per kg in January 2017, a growth of 5.5 per cent. In February 2017, the prices rose by 3.9 per cent to Rs 39.7 per kg on an m-o-m basis. The prices however stabilised from the month of February 2017 onwards and they hovered in the range of Rs 38.20-39.90 per kg during the period February-June 2017. In the initial few days of July 2017, the prices averaged at Rs 37 per kg. The prices stabilised as domestic production was sufficient to meet consumption requirements in the country, the study said.

Abinash Verma, director general of the apex industry body Indian Association (ISMA) said, "The revenue realisation should be good for the next year."

Rating agency estimates mills' margins to come under some pressure from Q3, FY18 onwards due to high stocks of around 4-4.5 million tonnes at the end of the forthcoming season SY2018. production is likely to be around 24.5 million tonnes in SY2018, up from 20.3 million tonnes in SY2017. However, despite the increase in production, the stocks would at best be at the same level as the estimated consumption too will be around 24.5 million tonnes in SY2018. While this expected tight stock situation, along with the recent increase in the import duty on from 40-50 per cent is likely to support the domestic prices in the near term, the increase in cane costs for the coming crushing season will impact margins.

"The tight stock situation in the domestic market, coupled with the hike in import duty, is likely to support the prices in the near term. But increase in cane prices may result in some moderation in margins from Q3 FY2018 onwards, despite firm prices. Under the emerging scenario, the margins and cash flow generations for most with efficient operations, forward integration and adequate cane availability are likely to remain satisfactory," said Sabyasachi Majumdar, senior vice president & group head, Ratings.

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