Fox Marble Holdings PLC (LON:FOX) Chief Executive Officer Chris Gilbert caught up with DirectorsTalk for an exclusive interview to discuss their preliminary results, progress in 2018 and what investors should be looking our for.
Q1: Preliminary results out for the year ended 31st December 2017, in your view what were the main highlights from 2017?
A1: Well, these are the preliminary financial results for the year, they’re the full year results and they show the level of loss that the company incurred last year, actually very similar once you factor in non-repeat items, almost identical to the loss the previous year.
What the results also show is that the revenue that we are generating in the company is improving considerably, obviously a way to go yet but the trend is very much in the right direction. This is a function of all of the work that we’ve put into the marketing/sales/distribution side of our business and we are now starting to see the benefits of that.
The results are pretty much in line with what we flagged at the beginning of this year/end of last year when we did our fundraising round which again. Although post-period, it will demonstrate we have strengthen our balance sheet considerably by paying down the debt that we had taken on board through the progress of the development of the company.
Q2: So, how has 2018 been so far?
A2: So, this period, we are starting to see the benefits come through from all of the hard work that we’ve done in the previous year and the year before that in that everything we can get out of the ground now, we can sell. The production in the main quarries where the most demand is is increasing dramatically as a result of the capacity that we’ve been able to put in place by obviously putting the money in.
The company is now in a position where we can multiple customers in multiple jurisdictions repeat ordering the material which is very much in demand. Our key materials are the silver-grey Selene, the Illirico Bianco which is sort of pearly white and obviously our white Alexandrian White from our quarry in Macedonia and the pressure to supply our customers is now our key problem, but it’s quite a nice problem to have.
As I say, everything we can get out of the ground now we’re shifting and what we’re seeing are lots of people coming to the quarries, inspecting the material as it comes out of the ground and saying ‘I’ll take that now’. Just last week, we had a number of customer squabbling over the blocks we had extracted from when the last time they came, as I say it’s a nice problem to have if you have to have a problem at all.
This will start to be reflected in our numbers, our revenue, and obviously feed through to the bottom line results which we’re going to see in 2018.
Q3: You’ve completed your factory in Kosovo and it’s fully operational. What does this mean for Fox Marble, what are the key benefits that this brings?
A3: What our factory provides us with is the ability to process our blocks into slabs and then process our slabs into what the industry calls ‘cut to size’ material, which is typically tiles, with a wonderful brand-new CNC machine which we purchased from Italy and it was finally installed about 6 weeks ago. This thing is working night and day, churning out cut to size material to fulfil orders that we’re winning around the world.
We’ve delivering the material to a big mansion in the south of London last week, we’ve delivered the material to a customer in Australia and we’re delivering slabs and cut to size material through our agency in American into Michigan of all places.
The benefits of this are several. The first is, obviously, that we claw back the margin that we’ve been paying away to third parties to do this for us in the past, we’ve had this done in Italy in the past and now we’re able to do it for ourselves, we get that margin back.
We also have obviously much more flexibility as a company to service our customer and fulfil their needs according to their timeframes and so on and so forth without relying on anyone else.
The third and very significant benefit to us is that we are processing materials from the quarries that we wouldn’t necessarily sell internationally. So, we might get a block out of the ground that’s got a crack in it or it’s got a corner missing, rather than have that a b-grade stock that we would have to sell at a discount, we just take it straight to our factory, process it into cut and polished material which we obviously get top dollar for and the yield in the quarries is substantially increased as a result of that.
So, all of these benefits, again, will start to feed through the bottom line this year and we are enjoying the output of this factory and benefitting from also an increased customer base. We are now starting to get customers come into the factory, I wouldn’t say on a daily basis but every week we’ve got somebody showing up. Again, last week, anecdotally, we had a customer show up from somewhere in the Far East and basically took two containers of one of our materials that had been cut and two containers of another material, just because we happened to have it in stock there. So, we’re starting to see the benefits of that.
The other big advantage is that we get to access the domestic market which has no other processing facility at all so that’s a fairly large market if you take the whole of the West Balkans into consideration, population of 20 million, and we’re going to see the results from local sales as well.
Q4: It seems that global demand for marble is increasing, how well positioned are you to meet this demand?
A4: We have stablished ourselves in key territories that we’ve picked. We’ve spoken about this before, India is a very dynamic territory for us at the moment, obviously Europe is our backyard, so we benefit from sales and our position in the UK and we are infiltrating, but not yet conquered it, but we’re infiltrating America at the moment, we have customers in America now and shipping to the US.
So, we’re pleased with our efforts in these areas, we need to build on that and further our reach into markets like China, the GCC countries and other countries in the Far East such as Korea and Japan where frankly, we’re not visible yet.
So, these are the challenges to meet going forward but it’s a big world and we’ve picked our spots and they’ve been successful so far, so I have no reason to doubt that we’ll be equally as successful as we expand our platform.
Q5: Finally, what can investors expect from Fox Marble in terms of news flow over the 2018 period?
A5: We will be announcing a lot more sales basically, that’s what people will see and that’s what people want to see.
We’ll be announcing new sales in new territories, we’re building on our customer base and what we’re achieving at the moment. As our production increases over the summer and our factory output increases, we can apply a second and a third shift in the factory with ease.
The factory is much bigger than the amount of equipment that’s in it at the moment, there’s a lot of redundancy built in there, if we put more equipment in there to increase production, we’re not there yet, but if we were to do that, that would be another added advantage to the bottom line.
People will start to see all of these things materialise throughout the course of 2018.