Grupo Bimbo steps back from share offering

by Josh Sosland
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MEXICO CITY — Two days after gaining shareholder approval in September for a secondary share offering, Grupo Bimbo S.A.B. de C.V. said a global $700 million raise would move forward quickly “if the conditions are there.” In an Oct. 24 conference call with investment analysts, the company’s top executive said conditions have not been conducive for the capital raise.

Daniel Servitje, chief executive officer, discussed the offering suspension in comments about the company’s elevated debt levels.

“While we ultimately determined that market conditions weren’t right at that moment, we are fundamentally committed to a strong balance sheet and financial flexibility,” he said. “Given the dynamics in our industry and the opportunities we foresee in the market, we will continue to monitor market conditions and keep you updated on this.”

Following the company’s May 2014 acquisition of Canada Bread, total debt to EBITDA rose to 3.0 from 2.3 at the beginning of the year. Mr. Servitje called the debt level “manageable” while also expressing a “strong commitment to delevering.”

For now, the company has tabled plans to sell stock, he said.

The company’s shareholders approved the management plan at a Sept. 18 general extraordinary meeting, allowing for the sale of as many as 231,437,500 Series A shares. In the weeks that followed, the stock market has been highly volatile and somewhat weak. Between Sept. 18 and Oct. 24, the Bolsa Mexicana fell in value by 5% while the S.&P.500 declined 2.2%. Shares of Grupo Bimbo over this period appreciated in value 1.4%.

In questions during the conference call, an analyst asked the Bimbo executives to elaborate on the share sale plans. Guillermo Quiroz, chief financial and administrative officer, noted that the authorization for the capital increase will remain open until Dec. 19 and that the offering still could go forward. Meanwhile, “we don’t really need those funds in the short term,” he added.

 “What we really wanted to do is to reduce our debt in order to gain flexibility to be able to take advantage of any opportunities that would come or might come in the future,” he said. “If conditions are more favorable and stable, then we would proceed during the time we have the authorization.”
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