The company has been facing difficulty in maintaining volumes and profitability due to intense competition, high inflation and down-trading by customers
Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), the unit of Anglo-Dutch Unilever Plc, has said that it has called for a meeting of its board of directors on 11 June 2010 to consider buyback of its shares. No other details were provided.
Earlier in 2007, the company announced buyback of its shares at Rs230 per share and up to Rs630 crore. It was about 17% higher than HUL's average price for the six months prior to September 2007.
"As per SEBI guidelines a company can spend 25% of its net worth on buyback. Thus HUL can spend about Rs650 crore for the buyback of around 1.2% stake. We believe the company will buy back at a similar premium as 2007. With increasing competitive intensity the earnings for HUL were muted. The buyback to an extent would support the share price," said Kisan Ratilal Choksey Shares and Securities Pvt Ltd in a note.
For the quarter to March 2010 end, the company reported a 47% increase in net profit on a one-time gain as its net sales rose 8%. However, on a consolidated basis, HUL's net profit fell 14% as sales declined 13% to Rs17,764 crore.
During the quarter, the company reported a net profit of Rs581 crore compared with Rs395 crore in the same period last year, due to a one-time gain of Rs143 crore related to sale of property, long-term trade investments and lower provisions for retirement benefits(see:http://www.moneylife.in/article/8/5594.html).
"We had highlighted the corrective action taken by HUL in our earlier updates-to rejuvenate ailing brands and categories-through aggressive promotions, brand re-launch, corrective pricing and positioning, in pursuit of regaining the growth momentum. The recent price cut in Rin, a mass-market detergent brand is probably a step in the same direction. Though we are surprised by the extent of price cuts, it highlights the aggressive approach to regain market shares and agility in the fiercely competitive environment. These tactics will continue to distort profitability in the short run," said Emkay Global Financial Services Ltd, in a research report.
HUL, the country's largest fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) company has been facing difficulty in maintaining volumes and profitability due to intense competition, high inflation and down-trading by customers. Soaps and detergents, which are the highest contributor to HUL's topline with about 46% share, have been impacted the most with muted growth during FY10. According to AC Nielsen, HUL has lost around 320 basis points in soap market share during the last one year. This remains a key cause of concern for the company as almost half of its revenues are driven by the soaps & detergents segment. During 2010, the company has undertaken price correction and aggressive advertising and promotion spends to augment volume growth.
In a research report, Sharekhan Ltd said, "As a consequence of losing market share and intense competition, we believe HUL will continue to invest more in brand-building exercises posing a pressure on margins. Improving topline would be the key focus for HUL. In FY10 we witnessed profitability coming from exceptional gain and not core business. We remain cautious on HUL's performance going ahead on concerns mentioned above."
During the past 52 weeks, HUL shares have reached a high of Rs306 and a low of Rs218.
Before the announcement, HUL shares closed Thursday 4% higher at Rs247 on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), while the benchmark Sensex ended 1.7% up at 17,022 points.