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Convenience Retail to offload Circle K Guangzhou

Sep 28, 2015


Convenience Retail Asia, the Hong Kong-listed operator of Circle K convenience stores and Saint Honore Cake Shops in Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong province, has reported a 36.8 per cent decline in first half year profit.

While sales increased 5.8 per cent in the half year to HK$2.368 billion, labour and raw material costs increased, reducing its gross margins, and it incurred substantial investment costs in its eCommerce business.

Along with its results, the company announced it would sell its stake in the loss-making Circle K Guangzhou business to its controlling shareholder and focus on the Circle K business in Hong Kong and Macau. Fung Holdings (1937) Limited will pay CRA HK$104.5 million for its share of the business.

“The sale of the Circle K Guangzhou will help to create positive momentum for the Group’s financial performance in a difficult retail and economic environment that continues to place pressure on the results of the group,” said Richard Yeung, CRA CEO.

“This sale, which will also result in a one time gain ($50 million), underlines our focused commitment to delivering long-term growth, profitability and shareholder value.”

In the half year, turnover for the Circle K business increased 5.7 per cent to HK$1.902 billion, with comparable store sales rising 8.8 per cent in Hong Kong and 2.6 per cent in southern China.

Turnover for Saint Honore Cake Shops rose 5.5 per cent to HK$498 million, with 4.1 per cent growth in comparable stores sales in Hong Kong. Core operating profit of the group decreased by 34.6 per cent to HK$42 million and net profit declined by 36.8 per cent year on year to HK$31 million.

During the first half, the group incurred higher expenditure to support intensive marketing campaigns for its e-commerce platform FingerShopping.com, and because of investment in a pilot programme launched in late 2014 with Sinopec Marketing. The pilot program manages 10 petrol stations in addition to Easy Joy convenience stores on behalf of Sinopec Marketing in Guangzhou. Excluding the Projects expenses, core and net operating profit would have decreased, respectively, by 18.5 per cent to HK$57 million and by 16.1 per cent to HK$45 million.

Gross margin and other income as a percentage of turnover decreased slightly by 0.8 per cent to 36 per cent compared to the same period in 2014, due to rising raw material prices and factory labour costs. Operating expenses as a percentage of turnover increased from 33.9 per cent to 34.2 per cent because of the higher operating costs as well as increased marketing and investment expenditure in projects.

“Our ability to drive higher comparable store sales despite adverse external conditions is also a reflection of our unwavering commitment to excellent customer service, in-demand products and services, and timely, effective marketing,” Yeung added.

“We believe these indications of strong brand equity and customer loyalty will be invaluable once the retail sector begins to improve. However, we anticipate that higher costs and declining spending will continue to affect our operations for the remainder of 2015.”

Yeung said the company’s online consumer platform, FingerShopping.com, continued to make encouraging progress in the first half of the year. Health and beauty is the platform’s most successful anchor category.

“FingerShopping.com is enjoying increasing customer loyalty and continues to expand its product roster, which includes a number of popular brand names. The group is now testing FingerShopping.com’s delivery services in Guangzhou and has also secured partnerships with leading Hong Kong banks as well as promotional campaigns with major retailers in Hong Kong.”

CRA says it expects the retail market to remain weak in the foreseeable future and operating costs are likely to remain high.

“We are trying our best to mitigate the adverse market conditions through our exit from the convenience store business in Guangzhou while continuing to invest in FingerShopping.com, strengthening our operations to retain talent, delivering first-rate customer service and driving cost efficiency,” Yeung concluded.

Source: insideretail.asia

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