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ERoad first-half loss widens on US investment, taps First NZ Capital to review North American business

Tuesday 28th November 2017

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ERoad widened its first-half loss as the logistics and fleet management firm ramped up spending to drive its US business, which it wants First NZ Capital to put under the microscope to see how it can drive faster growth. 

The Auckland-based company reported a net loss of $3.6 million, or 6.03 cents per share, in the six months ended Sept. 30, compared to a loss of $241,000, or 0.4 cents, a year earlier, it said in a statement. That was largely due to a 57 percent jump in operating costs to $16.9 million as it spent more acquiring customers in the US which ERoad sees as its major engine of growth. It's since restructured the business to reduce staff numbers and expects to fatten margins in the second half. 

Revenue climbed 35 percent to $20.9 million, with the profitable Australia and New Zealand division posting a 32 percent increase in sales to $17.4 million while US sales jumped 71 percent to $3.2 million.

"The US business invested in sales capability in line with our business plan which saw the US business grow total contracted units by 81 percent and incur a net loss of $3.1 million," chair Michael Bushby said. "While our investment in sales capability and a more targeted strategy is generating positive results, we continue to focus on growing the total contracted units to achieve scale and move towards breakeven and profitability for the US business." 

ERoad faced roadblocks in developing the North American business as entrenched firms lobbied to delay a new compliance regime to adopt and use electronic logging devices. Since those objections failed, the Kiwi company has posted record sales in the US and was this month selected to join an inter-state pilot programme. 

Chief executive Steve Newman said ERoad is focused on lifting US sales and has hired First NZ Capital to undertake a strategic review of the North American business to accelerate growth. Those prospects include potential partnerships, joint ventures, and other ways to expand distribution in the US. 

The company secured a $33.4 million credit facility with Bank of New Zealand with an initial drawdown in July, and since the Sept. 30 balance date said it's signed a deal to extend that credit line by another $16 million to fund its growth aspirations. The new facility is expected to be finalised in December and push out the maturity to April 2019. 

ERoad's operations generated a cash inflow of $45,000 in the half, compared to $3 million a year earlier, while spending on investment rose 18 percent to $11.2 million. The firm drew down $10.1 million from its bank in the period and posted a net cash outflow of $1 million as at Sept. 30, leaving it $111,000 in overdraft. 

The directors adopted a going concern assumption in signing off on the accounts based on the latest refinancing deal, which will push out the debt's maturity. 

ERoad shares last traded at $3.36 and have soared 110 percent so far this year, making it the seventh best performing stock on the S&P/NZX All Index and one of just eight poised to deliver triple-digit gains this year. 


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