Beverage maker and marketer Wisynco Group Limited will invest more than $5 billion in capital projects to put its money to work, CEO Andrew Mahfood said.

This marks a shift in the company’s stance from a strategy of safeguarding cash in the event of a pandemic fallout to spending on growth projects as the economy continues to recover from the health crisis.

“The beverage machine industry is capital-intensive and the projects we are looking at right now are over US$20-30 million, or around US$5 billion. Yes, we will use some of our reserves as equity in these projects and as competitive bank financing,” Mahfood said in response to questions at the company’s annual general meeting held virtually on Tuesday.

Wisynco, one of the top five makers and distributors of beverages and snacks across Jamaica, increased its cash holdings to $8.9 billion in December 2021 from $6.8 billion a year earlier. At the same time, the company has seen its level of debt decrease.

Since the company went public and listed on the stock exchange in 2017, its debt ratio has more than halved, from 30% then to 14.3% today. Typically, companies like to keep this ratio below 50%, to avoid the debt trap, but this varies from industry to industry.

“There is plenty of room for future leverage for the expansion that we are actively considering,” CEO Mahfood said.

Wisynco Group chairman William Mahfood told shareholders that since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the company had reduced its investment plans, prioritizing liquidity by increasing its cash.

“We have gone through several quarters with uncertainty during the pandemic. And we’ve now seen the worst – hopefully,” said William, who added that the company now looks to the future with optimism.

It is betting on that outlook, having paid out $750m in dividends in the six months ending December, or twice earlier, and will make another $750m payout on March 1, under investment plans think.

“We will continue to pursue opportunities with this cash, to deploy for inorganic growth through acquisitions. We have a number of opportunities in view and hopefully they will materialize,” the chairman said.

Wisynco’s capital expansion program aims to increase production capacity and improve profitability to meet growing demand.

The increase in business prospects stems from the recovery in hotel arrivals, growing demand for catering services and the reopening of schools – all lucrative markets for food and beverage companies.

In addition to producing its own beverage brands, Wisynco Group, based in Sainte-Catherine, bottles Coca-Cola products and distributes a range of beverages, food and paper products. Its total annual sales currently stand at $32 billion.

For the second quarter ending in December, the company made a profit of $1.16 billion on sales of $9.5 billion. This represents an increase of $688 million in profits and $8 billion in sales over the comparative period of 2020. Six months from July to December, sales climbed to nearly $19 billion, while that profits reached $2.13 billion.

REDUCED COSTS

To better serve West Jamaica and the tourism market along the North Coast, Wisynco is developing a second distribution center to reduce delivery times to customers in these areas. The North West distribution center under construction in Trelawny is expected to be commissioned in March.

“[Expect] increased volumes and improved customer service. It will lead to overall cost reductions, but it’s more in terms of service,” William said of the reason for the investment.

Wisynco also plans to invest in new software and processes to improve warehouse and inventory management. Its WATA brand of plain and flavored waters will have new packaging; while for the brands he is responsible for representing, new juice offerings from Tru-Juice, St Mary’s snacks and the Worthy Park sugar estate will be added to his sales portfolio.

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