Kingspan has €500m war chest for acquisitions

Building materials group says it has baulked at asking prices and may yet consider diversification as sales jump 47%

Kingspan chief executive Gene Murtagh said the  acquisition of  Joris Ide and Vicwest last year have performed ahead of the company’s expectations. Photo: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Kingspan chief executive Gene Murtagh said the acquisition of Joris Ide and Vicwest last year have performed ahead of the company’s expectations. Photo: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Insulation specialist Kingspan is prepared to spend up to €500 million on buying rivals to expand its business, according to chief executive Gene Murtagh

Sales rose 47 per cent to €2.8 billion at the Cavan firm last year from €1.9 billion in 2014, aided by contributions from Joris Ide in Belgium and Vicwest in Canada, which it bought in 2015. They contributed 35 per cent to both sales growth and trading profit during the year.

Kingspan said that they had delivered underlying profits ahead of schedule and boosted its presence in Europe and North America.

Mr Murtagh confirmed yesterday that the company has both “the appetite and capability” for further acquisitions. “We have up to €500 million,” he said. “We have even considered some businesses that are larger than that.”

However, the company found that price was the biggest stumbling block to any deals as low interest rates fuelled sellers’ expectations of what their businesses could fetch.

Mr Murtagh suggested the market turmoil that marked the opening weeks of the year could force some owners to reconsider this.

Kingspan could also consider broadening its business into related areas such as roofing as the opportunities to buy companies engaged specifically in its core area decrease.

Trading profit rose 72 per cent to €256 million in 2015 from €149 million while its post-tax surplus grew 79 per cent to €191 million from €107 million. Margins also improved, to 9.2 per cent from 7.9 per cent.

Basic earnings per share grew 70 per cent to 106.7 cent. Kingspan is proposing to pay a final dividend for 2015 of 17 cent bringing the full-year payout to 25 cent, a 54 per cent increase on 2014.

Kingspan said sales volume in Ireland grew by just over 10 per cent in 2015. Its chief executive noted that this trend had continued into 2016.

“At an absolute level, construction is still quite depressed relative to what it should be for a population our size,” he said.

The group’s net debt increased by €202.5 million over the course of 2015 to €328 million at the end of the year. The biggest contributor to that was €438 million raised to fund the purchase of Joris Ide and Vicwest, which cost €459 million.

The net liability is just over one times it earnings before interest, tax and write-offs, which came to €316.4 million in 2015, 67 per cent more than the €189 million reported the previous year.

“Our confidence in the long-term prospects of the business, supported by our conservative balance sheet, has underpinned a decision to increase the total dividend for the year by 54 per cent,” Mr Murtagh said.

In its outlook Kingspan said that 2016 got off to a strong start, aided by a mild winter in most of its markets. It said that exchange rates, which had benefitted the company, had begun to drift and remained uncertain.

Its statement also said that the company was aware of what has been happening it capital markets and was conscious of its potential to influence its business. However, it stressed that Kingspan intended to focus on factors that it can control.