Kumar Birla gets all of Pantaloons chain


April 30, 2012

Meghna Maiti, Yassir A Pitalwalla, Financial Chronicle

Mumbai, April 30, 2012

Kumar Mangalam Birla has done what Mukesh Ambani could not. Birla has sewn up a deal to acquire a 50.01 per cent in Pantaloons, the retail format of Pantaloon Retail India (PRIL). For this, Pantaloons will be demerged from PRIL.

It is a two-stage deal involving a Rs 800 crore cash payment, assumption of a similar amount of debt and an open offer for a minimum 26 per cent to shareholders of the demerged Pantaloons format-owning company.

The Future group on Monday said it intended to demerge the Pantaloon retail format from the listed PRIL. The demerged entity will be automatically listed in the National Stock Exchange (NSE) and the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), said a press release issued by the Birla group.

Officials associated with the deal told Financial Chronicle that the Pantaloons format was being valued at over Rs 2,600 crore. PRIL’s market capitalisation was Rs 3,895 crore at the end of Monday.

“It is a good deal for the shareholders. Since a sizeable business is going out of the group, there could be a dent on future numbers,” said Sangeeta Tripathi, senior equity research analyst at Sharekhan.

But Kishore Biyani of PRIL will still retain a stake in the fashion retail business through formats such as Central, Big Bazaar and Brand Factory, among others.

Devangshu Dutta, CEO of Third Eyesight, a specialist retail consultancy firm, said, “Certainly, by hiving off part of the company, the Future group will pay off debt and ease the load on it to an extent.”

The demerged unit is expected to have sales of Rs 1,700 crore in the year to June 30 this year. It is also expected to expand its network by around 20 stores a year.

In contrast, the Aditya Birla Nuvo (ABN) subsidiary Madura Fashion & Lifestyle recorded revenue of Rs 2,145 crore in calendar 2011. A Future group press release said that Nimesh Kampani’s JM Financial acted as the sole financial adviser to the transaction.

“This is a very interesting combination and shows consolidation is happening in the industry. The cash infusion will help PRIL focus on the food business and make its balance sheet healthy,” said Nikhil Chaturvedi, managing director of Provogue (India).

“The retail business is very time consuming and needs deep pockets. The deal shows that Biyani must have taken a decision to become debt free. The Birlas will have better controls and will be able to extract better margins from this business,” said Dilip B Jiwrajka, MD of Alok Industries which controls the H&A chain of apparel stores.

The deal brings together the first generation Biyani family that’s behind India’s largest organised retailer and the Birla family, which runs the $35 billion Aditya Birla group. It is a win-win transaction for Birla who gets the most profitable fashion retailing business of PRIL. As for PRIL, which had a debt of Rs 4,200 crore, it gets to reduce its net debt load by Rs 1,600 crore to Rs 2,600 crore.

“This deal is positive for the industry as Madura has experience in fashion retailing. This will be a good extension for the Birlas, as they are putting in money in an established store chain. The Birlas will also be able to push their own brands through these stores,” said Asim Dalal, managing director of The Bombay Store.

“PRIL has always been vocal about debt-restructuring. This is a good step towards re-aligning the organisation,” said Saloni Nangia, senior VP of Technopak Advisors.

ABN will pay PRIL Rs 800 crore in lieu of debentures, which will get converted, into equity of the demerged entity. PRIL, in turn, will transfer the net assets of the Pantaloons format business via a court scheme of arrangement with debt of Rs 800 crore and Rs 800 crore convertible debentures.

ABN will make an open offer for a minimum 26 per cent of shares in the de-merged entity so as to ultimately hold a minimum 50.01 per cent of the spun-off unit post conversion of the debentures.

Biyani, who founded the Future group and is its CEO, said in a statement, “We are honoured to be associated with India’s pre-eminent and among the most respected business houses. We always had a great admiration and respect for the businesses developed by Madura Garments. This marks a unique coming together of brands and enterprise that will create significant value for customers, suppliers and all stakeholders.”

“There are massive synergy benefits between Pantaloons and Birla’s Madura Fashion & Lifestyle. The combined business will cater to the entire value chain of consumers from the value conscious middle class to top end customers,” said a senior official involved in the deal who requested anonymity as both Pantaloons and Aditya Birla Nuvo are in a silent period ahead of their results announcements for the quarter ended March.

Biyani started his retail sojourn in Kolkata with the first Pantaloons store in 1997 and the format has been very close to his heart. It operates a chain of 65 stores in 35 cities and another 21 Pantaloons factory outlets, making it one of the biggest fashionb retailers India. It has a combined retail space of over 2 million sq ft.

Madura’s brands Louis Philippe, Van Heusen, Allen Solly, Peter England, People and The Collective together have retail space of 1.6 million sq ft in the country. “The de-merged entity will hold the rights to the Pantaloons format for eternity and the valuation takes into account the brand valuation too,” said the man privy to the details of the deal.

“A fashion council comprising Rakesh Biyani, CEO of the retail business of the Future group, Kailash Bhatia, head of the fashion business of the group, and Pranab Barua, CEO of apparel and retail of the Aditya Birla group will form the council that will aid and advise the management of the de-merged entity,” he said.

“Rakesh Biyani and Bhatia will continue to manage the business. Madura Fashion & Lifestyle brands — Louis Philippe, Van Heusen, Allen Solly, Peter England and People — will join the reach, distribution and customer loyalty enjoyed by Pantaloons across the country,” said a Future group press release.

Kumar Mangalam Birla, chairman of the Aditya Birla group, said in a statement, “The proposed acquisition is in line with our strategic intent to be on the top of the league and to create the largest integrated branded fashion player in the country through an extension into the value segment. This acquisition will catapult the BSE listed Aditya Birla Nuvo to the pole position in the branded fashion space in all the segments with a pan India presence.”

“On completion of the acquisition, the two entities, ABN’s Madura Fashion & Lifestyle and PRIL, will work closely as partners to derive operational synergies, in terms of back end, supply chain and many other important value drivers of the business. We are delighted to have Kishore Biyani as our partner in the Pantaloons format business. Furthermore, to ensure continuity the current management team will continue to run the business,” added Birla.

PRIL said its board of directors would meet on May 3 to consider an issue of equity shares or instruments convertible into equity shares to investors on a preferential basis, subject to approval by an extraordinary general body meeting.

Aditya Birla Co To Buy Pantaloon In Rs 800-Cr Deal


April 30, 2012

Vishal Krishna, Businessworld

Bangalore, 30 April, 2012

It is a marriage of two companies with their business roots firmly entrenched in Kolkata. The $4-billion Aditya Bitla Nuvo has acquired a part of Pantaloon Retail India Limited’s lifestyle business called ‘Pantaloon’. Eighty-six such stores will now form part of a new entity, controlled by Aditya Birla Nuvo (ABN), which will be automatically listed on the BSE and the NSE.

A source from the Future Group added that ABN has for the moment acquired a minority stake by infusing Rs 800 crore through debentures, which will be converted to equity when the new entity is formed, where ABN will have a majority stake of 50.1 per cent. ABN will have the majority stake only after it makes an open offer to the shareholders of Pantaloon Retail India Ltd (PRIL). ABN will also infuse another Rs 800 crore to service the debt of Pantaloon. Both groups which are being advised by JM Financial are yet to decide the swap ratio that will determine the shareholding in the new entity. The word on the street is that PRIL will own 25 per cent in the new entity and will manage the operations of the 86 stores whose turnover is expected to touch Rs 1,700 crore this financial year ending June 2012.

More importantly it means that Rs 1,600 crore of debt will be wiped out from the balance sheet of PRIL, which has a debt of Rs 5,256 crore. “This is the first of the many steps to wipe off the debt in the Future Group,” says Devangshu Dutta, CEO of Third Eyesight.

According to SMC research the retail industry gathered new momentum during the year 2011. Different international brands were established. New shopping malls and department stores were seen sprouting across the country. In terms of growth, the organised retail segment in India is projected to be 9 per cent of total retail market by 2015 and 20 per cent by 2020. ABN’s business generates $ 4 billion in revenues, but its lifestyle business generates only $400 million in revenues.

Madura Fashion and Lifestyle is the largest premium branded apparel player in India. Louis Philippe, Van Heusen, Allen Solly and Peter England are the brands retailed through 1,082 exclusive brand outlets spanning across 1.6 million square feet of retail space. These brands are also retailed in more than 1,250 departmental stores and multi brand outlets. It has a strategic distributorship tie-up with leading brand Esprit and retails international brands under ‘The Collective’, a luxury store. But the day-to-day management of the new entity will be run by Pantaloon’s management team. Rakesh Biyani and Kailash Bhatia will continue to manage the business and a “Fashion Council” which will have the best talent from Madura Garments and Future Group will aid and advise the management with the objective to fully leverage the strengths of Madura Garments and Pantaloon.

This buyout will allow ABN to access markets where it was previously absent. Pantaloon is well suited for tier II and III towns. “The exponential growth experienced by retail sector is not just limited to the major cities,” says D K Aggarwal, MD of SMC Investments in Mumbai. He adds that the growing population and urbanization provides a huge market for organized retail. But why sell stake in a venture that was highly profitable for the Future Group and which had the highest concentration of private label in the business? “The rising debt levels of Pantaloon have been impacting the growth of the Group,” says Aggarwal of SMC. He adds that they have been paying about 60 per cent of their revenues as interest cost. This move is a bit surprising because the company had indicated rationalizing its non-core business and other JVs. But Pantaloon, due to its cash crunch was not able to grow its topline. This shows that Kishore Biyani, the MD of PRIL, had to sell one of his jewels which he essentially nurtured since 1997.

But some analysts call this a clever move by Mr Retail because retaining management control of the new entity will allow Kishore to continue his quest to win the Indian shopper. And this time with the help of the $35 billion Aditya Birla Group he can keep his story of making history in the Indian retail market intact.

Next, Vijay Sales and other retailers go slow on Samsung after margin cut


April 24, 2012

Writankar Mukherjee and Sarah Jacob, The Economic Times

Kolkata/Bangalore, April 24, 2012

More than 750 electronics outlets have either stopped selling Samsung products or cut back on fresh orders after the Korean brand slashed dealer margins on its televisions and home appliances early this year.

Samsung has initiated talks with several retail chains to resolve the issue, but says the development will not impact its sales.

Videocon-owned Next Retail, the country’s largest electronic retail chain, and large regional chains such as Vijay Sales, Kohinoor, Girias, Adishwar and Great Eastern all say Samsung’s new terms are unacceptable in an industry that is struggling with high operating costs and wafer-thin margins.

These chains, which sell more than 500-crore worth of Samsung products a year, warn that Samsung’s move may benefit its rivals, particularly LG.

"There is a strong possibility of rival brands increasing their share due to the scenario," said KS Raman, director at Next Retail, which has reduced its order book with Samsung. But Samsung said its overall business plans are in place and that besides a couple of channel partners, all key dealers continue to maintain healthy stocks.

"Given the fact that our business is growing very strongly, we need to keep evolving and strengthening our channel policies so that channel partners sustain their healthy growth," Samsung India VP (Home Appliances) Mahesh Krishnan said. "We are confident that these couple of channel partners will soon be getting back on the growth track with Samsung," he added.

A team from the firm’s South Korean headquarters visited India during March-April to draw feedback from its key dealers.

Samsung cut dealer margins by 3-8% early this year after a tough 2011 when soaring raw material prices and depreciating rupee drove up input and import costs, and sales took a hit. Retailers say they work on a net margin of 5-7% and face high operating costs from rentals, promotional expenses and manpower payouts. Samsung’s margin cut has significantly dented their profitability.

"Smaller dealers can survive but big ones with high overheads are already bleeding and will bleed more due to Samsung," said BA Kodandarama Setty, CMD of Vivek’s Retail, a Chennai-based electronic chain with more than 50 outlets.

"We are evaluating the scenario, even though we have not reduced Samsung business till now," he said.

Adishwar India, which operates a chain of 50 stores across Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, and Vijay Sales, which operates 43 stores across Maharashtra, Gujarat and New Delhi, have stopped fresh orders from Samsung since February.

Samsung accounted for 120 crore of Vijay Sales’ business of around 1,500 crore last fiscal.

Vishal Mewani, director of Kohinoor Televideo, a 12-store chain in Mumbai, said that although it is not possible to avoid a brand like Samsung, the retailer has stopped pushing the brand. This may help rival brands such as market leader LG. The two Korean firms together control almost 50% of the 38,000-crore Indian consumer electronics market.

LG India, which lost out to Samsung in overall revenue for two consecutive years, tempered its margin cuts to 1-2% to take advantage of the situation, retailers say.

"LG is also undertaking changes in the market system and talking the same language, but the margin cut is not hurting us and its much more gradual," Mewani said.

Nitesh Giria, director of Girias, which runs 27 durable stores in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, said: "As most product features are similar across brands, it is not hard to draw customers to other brands if they are displayed well in a large store."

Giria said his chain is in talks with Samsung and although a deal is yet to be signed.

Girias stopped stocking Samsung products since January. It raked in 90 crore worth of business from Samsung in 2011, on a turnover of 550 crore this fiscal.

Under its new channel policy, Samsung reduced the direct dealer margin and added norms such as uploading details and serial numbers of each Samsung product sold, retailers said. The dealer also has to assure greater in-store display for the brand. If these norms are met, margins can be increased by 1% for each parameter.

Samsung India’s Krishnan says the objective is to ensure healthy sales momentum and profitable growth for the channel and the company.

"The policies are now more oriented towards driving sales to end customers and growing the business in a healthy manner through joint business planning with our channel partners," he said.

The idea is to increase average sales price, which will benefit dealers. "If we can increase the average selling price of the company’s products, the margin cuts will be some what compensated," said Pulkit Baid, director of Great Eastern, a 13-store chain based in Kolkata.

This is probably the first time in India that retailers have joined hands to put pressure on a consumer goods company for better margins. Earlier, there were some individual cases, like Future Group boycotting some products. The trend shows the growing importance of modern trade.

Analysts tracking the sector say there is a possibility that Samsung may lose some market share. "But it is not clear whether consumers would trade up to higher-priced brands or trade down," Devangshu Dutta, CEO of retail consultancy Third Eyesight, said.

Tata International forms JV with Wolverine World Wide


April 24, 2012

Meghna Maiti , Financial Chronicle

Mumbai, April 24, 2012

Noel Tata-led Tata International on Monday said it had entered into a 50:50 joint venture with Wolverine World Wide for the wholesale distribution of Wolverine’s ‘Merrell’ and ‘Caterpillar’ footwear and apparel brands in India.

“This venture is in line with Tata International’s strategy of growth, focusing on growing presence in footwear distribution and retail in domestic and international markets,” said Noel Tata, managing director of Tata International and half brother of Ratan Tata, the chairman of Tata Sons. The joint venture will have an arrangement with Trent, where Noel Tata is the vice chairman. Trent operates more than 50 department stores in India and the Star Bazaar range of hypermarkets in addition to Zara stores in India. Devangshu Dutta, chief executive of retail consultancy firm Third Eyesight said, “Tata International has experience in footwear while Trent has expertise in retail. With that combination they should be able to manage the value chain well.”

“This new partnership demonstrates the progress we are making towards our goal of expanding the retail presence of our brands through stand-alone stores, shop-in-shops and selected wholesale distribution. This joint venture model follows the successful strategy of our owned operations in the US, Canada and much of Europe,” Blake W Krueger, chairman and CEO of Wolverine Worldwide said in a statement.

“Operating this new business model in India allows the Merrell and Caterpillar footwear brands to get close to their target consumer, while providing keen insights into brand development opportunities,” the company said in a press statement.

Wolverine World Wide is one of the world’s leading marketers of branded casual, active lifestyle, work, outdoor sport and uniform footwear and apparel. The company’s portfolio of brands includes Bates, Chaco, Cushe, Hush Puppies among others.

Jawed Habib to open 50 salons abroad with P&G help


April 23, 2012

Writankar Mukherjee, The Economic Times

Kolkata, April 23, 2012

Hair stylist Jawed Habib, who runs a chain of more than 300 salons across India, plans to take his venture global in a strategic partnership with Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest consumer goods company.

Procter & Gamble will not pick up equity in the venture, but will provide bridge financing and help identify locations as well as the kind of services to offer and how, said Habib who has finalised plans to set up three salons in London and one in Singapore.

"Our initial thrust will be Europe and we want a big presence in London and Paris," the chairman and managing director of Jawed Habib Hair & Beauty Ltd said. He said the company plans to open more than 50 salons abroad over the next two years. An email sent to P&G India regarding its business plans in this partnership remained unanswered.

But why would the maker of Pantene shampoo and Gillette razors support Habib’s global foray? Because his salons use P&G’s Wella brand hair colour and hair care products-a practice that his international salons will follow.

Experts feel it’s a good branding opportunity for P&G since consumers tend to show allegiance to brands that good salons use.

"For P&G, reaching out to consumers through Habib, who has attained an influential status among consumers, can be a smart way of building the brand," Devangshu Dutta, CEO of retail and brand consultancy Third Eyesight, said.

Habib plans to invest in his first set of salons abroad. He will use the franchisee route to expand. Habib says each salon will need an investment of Rs. 50-60 lakh.

Other Indian salons brands such as VLCC, Shahnaz Hussain, Blossom Kochhar and Naturals Beauty Salon too are expanding their business overseas. VLCC, for instance, recently announced plans to invest Rs. 50 crore to set up salons across Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

"The potential is much more in overseas markets, since consumers in matured markets like Europe spend almost 20-25% of their earning on grooming and beauty as compared to some 5% in urban India," said Habib whose salon chain reported a Rs. 50-crore turnover last year.

Habib is also launching a range of hair care products that he plans to roll out in the global salons. There will be 20 products, manufactured under third-party arrangement.