P Ganesh, chief financial officer, Godrej Consumer Products, responds to questions from Viveat Susan Pinto on how it is dealing with these issues. Edited excerpts:
GCPL announced it would take price hikes in soaps in the month of April. But nothing has happened yet.
We took a four per cent hike in January. This is enough for the moment. As commodity inflation increases, we would need to take more price rises.
But palm fatty acid distillate (a key input) was up by 28 per cent in the past year. Is four per cent enough?
We are monitoring closely. It is impossible to pass everything on to consumers. The approach is to take calibrated price hikes.
What was the rationale, then, for the three to five per cent price rise in household insecticides recently?
What are your estimates of growth in your three key categories of hair colour, household insecticides and soaps?
I am not at liberty to make forward-looking statements. Suffice to say that soaps has seen flattish growth for the entire industry, while hair colour and household insecticides has grown in double-digits in the past few quarters. Both hair colour and household insecticides have the potential to grow even faster. Soaps, on the other hand, is a highly penetrated category. This, coupled with high food and commodity inflation, will keep growth rates a bit muted there. Once food and commodity inflation come off a bit, there will be an improvement in that category.
Is GCPL comfortable with equity dilution in case you go in for a large acquisition in the future?
We are open to that. Promoter holding came down by 2-2.5 per cent when a qualified institutional placement of Rs 530 crore was made last year. This allowed us to bring our debt:equity ratio to a manageable level of 1.1: 1. So, yes, that lever is available to us.
What is the debt like on GCPL's books?
Rs 1,800 crore. This is way below the Rs 3,000 crore board approval we received for raising money for acquisitions. This was largely through the route of debt. So, we don't have to go back to the board just yet. If there is a small acquisition, it can be supported by debt. If there is a larger acquisition, a mix of debt and equity will be used.