Legacy Ardagh investors face wait for tradable stock

Increased demand for beverage cans on both sides of Atlantic lifted earnings by 4%

Ardagh’s chairman and chief executive Paul Coulson attributed some of its volume growth to increased sales of beverage cans on both sides of the Atlantic

Ardagh’s chairman and chief executive Paul Coulson attributed some of its volume growth to increased sales of beverage cans on both sides of the Atlantic

 

Long-standing indirect shareholders in glass and metal containers giant Ardagh Group, which floated in New York two years ago, will have to wait until well into next year before they will get their hands on company shares that they can trade.

“That’s something for next year, or perhaps the back end of next year,” Paul Coulson, the group’s chairman and chief executive, told analysts on a conference call on Friday after it reported its earnings rose by 4 per cent in the first three months of the year.

Ardagh’s initial public offering (IPO) in March 2017 involved the sale of an 8 per cent stake in the business to stock market investors for more than $350 million (€313.5 million). The remaining 92 per cent is held by a holding company whose investors include Mr Coulson, company managers and high-net-worth individuals.

The company first flagged early last year that it was looking at ways to “materially” increase the amount of tradable stock by giving investors in the unlisted holding company direct shares in the publicly-quoted business.

Earlier on Friday, the US-listed giant reported a slight dip in first quarter sales to just over $2.2 billion, although underlying global sales rose 4 per cent once currency fluctuations were stripped out. Its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) rose 4 per cent to $363 million, or 9 per cent on a constant-currency basis.

Volume growth

Mr Coulson, controls a near one-third stake in the listed group through his interests in the holding company, attributed some of its volume growth in the quarter to increased sales of beverage cans on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

“Our first quarter performance was good, with growth in volumes, earnings and cash generation,” he told investors in a filing to the New York stock exchange. “Demand for our sustainable packaging solutions is generally strong and we grew volume in both our Americas and European metal packaging divisions notably in beverage cans, as well as in glass packaging in Europe.”

Globally, the company sold 6 per cent more beverage cans to drinks manufacturers than over the same three-month period last year. It also sold more glass bottles in Europe, although sales in this division slipped marginally in the US.

In its annual results released earlier this year, the group recorded full year revenues of $9 billion, although it swung into a net loss due to problems with its US glass division and a weak European food harvest, which affected its metal packaging unit.

Closure

The company has shut, or announced the closure of, two beer bottle plants in the US over the last year. Company executives told analysts on the call that restructuring in the North American Glass division is on track to deliver improved profits as the mass beer market remains under pressure.

Ardagh has taken advantage of favourable market conditions to refinance billions of euros of debt in recent years to save money on interest payments. However, Mr Coulson said that the company has no current plans to refinance bonds that it is entitled to redeem, or call.

“Not everything is callable. Some of what’s callable is quite expensive to call,” he said. “Clearly when you have a strong market there’s a risk you miss the market. But there are other calculations.”