ALS reports financial recovery

Company News

by Glenn Dyer

As expected, Brisbane-based global testing company ALS (ASX:ALQ) has ensured that its shareholders will not feel the financial pain of its Nuvisan adventure—the wasted millions of dollars invested in the European drug testing company and the quarter of a billion dollar impairment wrote down.

Thanks to the $248.8 million write-down, ALS reported a tiny profit of $12.9 million for 2023-24 (down from more than $291 million a year earlier) as it tidied up the loss-making Nuvisan investment.

However, the company still managed a 19.6 cents per share final dividend for shareholders, which took the full-year payout to 39.7 cents per share, down just 1.3% from a year ago.

The dip in the dividend came alongside a 0.2% rise in underlying EBIT to $491.8 million, while underlying net after-tax profit eased 1.3% to $316.5 million.

Chairman Bruce Phillips said in Tuesday’s announcement, “This was a solid performance by our global business despite the continued challenging market environment."

"Underlying NPAT was down only 1.3%, reflecting the strength and diversity of our portfolio. The operating performance, solid financial position, and encouraging outlook support the declaration of a 19.6 cps final dividend for our shareholders. This has been achieved while continuing to increase our growth investments."

CEO Malcolm Deane said on Tuesday the company "has continued to deliver revenue growth and maintain industry-leading margins despite challenging market conditions. Our balance sheet remains well-positioned, benefiting from high cash flow generation."

"While near-term focus is on integrating recent acquisitions, the balance sheet and cash flow strength support future growth from disciplined allocation of capital in accordance with our new value creation framework," he said.

The Nuvisan write-down was announced in late March (just before the 2023-24 balance date on March 31) and involves that company being subsumed into ALS’s operating structure.

This decision came after the company started a review in November 2023 (announced with the interim results) which looked at sale or retention and merger into ALS. There were no buyers, so ALS was left with the underperforming business and a huge write-down.

Looking to 2024-25, ALS did not issue figures-based guidance (from past experience more detail and a trading update are offered up at the annual meeting around late July).

But the company did forecast generally - "the medium to long-term outlook for both Life Sciences and Commodities remains positive. The Group’s portfolio remains well-leveraged to attractive end markets, supported by industry tailwinds. The Group is well-positioned to execute on near-term financial objectives."

ALS said it is "Targeting mid-single-digit organic revenue growth for the Group and excluding acquisitions, modest improvement in operating margins for Life Sciences, with continued margin resilience in Minerals."

"Risk-weighted growth prioritization to Environmental and Minerals businesses, in-line with the value creation framework.

"Strong focus on integration of acquisitions and Nuvisan transformation program" while "Leverage expected to operate at the top end of the targeted range (of two times)."

Glenn Dyer

Glenn Dyer has been a finance journalist and TV producer for more than 40 years. He has worked at Maxwell Newton Publications, Queensland Newspapers, AAP, The Australian Financial Review, The Nine Network and Crikey.

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