26 April 2009
PRAJ INDUSTRIES : A FOOD VERSUS FUEL DEBATE
Praj is an Indian company that offers solutions in bio-ethanol, bio-diesel, brewery plants and process equipment & systems. It is a knowledge based company with expertise and experience in Bioprocesses and engineering.
The world of Biofuels is yet to attain its level of maturity and will continue to generate passion amongst both, ardent believers and detractors, equally. The classic food vs. fuel debate seems to be far from culmination. It presents conflicting ideas of livelihood versus survival. An investment in this company would depend on which side you want to lay your bets on. The price of oil is another reason why such an investment would make economic sense.
Praj is a 25 year old engineering company based out of Pune. It aims to apply biotech/ bio based tech for a sustainable future. The company is engaged in the design, manufacture, supply and commissioning of fermentation and distillation equipments for the manufacture of ethanol . It has a market share of 60 per cent and is a leader in ethanol plant and equipment manufacture. The company, in collaboration with Vogellbusch Gmbh, Austria, introduced cascade continuous fermentation process. It also manufactures :-
(a) Plate head exchangers in collaboration with REHEAT, Sweden.
(b) Solvent recovery systems under the brand name 'Ecofine'.
(c) Pressure fermentation breweries in collaboration with Dab Brav Consult Gmbh, Germany.
In 2005 it's R&D facility Matrix- the Innovation Center developed 'MashTone' a new bionutrient for the ethanol industry. In 2007 it announced a joint venture with engineering and construction company Aker Kvaerner and with Brazilian Engineering Major for Ethanol Plants.
Its geographic spread across 40 countries on 5 continents creates a natural hedge. An expanding area of influence to include Phillipines, Mexico and partners in Europe and Brazil augment its India and US operations. Exports make up to 55% of its revenues but in the current recessionary scenario managing growth may not be easy. That the existing ethanol plants in the US have either shut shop or are underpowered demonstrates the slowdown in demand. The management expects to offset this against its EU and local operations. Starting 2011, 10% blending of fuel in the EU is to be completed by 2020. This coupled with the local and other global emerging standards on bio-fuels suggest a stable long term revenue projection.
On a revenue of Rs 774 Cr, Praj made an operating profit of Rs 158 Cr. Though at the operating level, it has maintained a margin of 20%, its net profit margin has dropped to 16% due to a higher outlay for taxation. This has resulted in a 15% drop in EPS, adequately reflected in the current market price of Rs 72.
Praj has been a debt free company for the past five years, managing its growth through internal accruals and an equity dilution in 07-08. This reflects in its consistently high Return on Equity which currently stands at about 44%.
The trailing twelve month EPS of 7.08 discounts the current market price of Rs 72 by 10.27(TTM PE) times. At a cost of equity of 14.75% the stock is currently valued at Rs 91.
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