Ecoya focuses on growth

JAZIAL CROSSLEY
Last updated 05:00 30/11/2012

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Barefoot blonde millionaire Sarah Gibbs had kicked off her stilettos to pad across the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club deck for a photograph with the new CEO of Ecoya, the company that bought her and sister Catherine de Groot's skincare brand Trilogy for $20 million two years ago.

She was anxious her feet were not shown in the newspaper, dashing back for her heels just in case they got in the frame.

"I've been loving walking around the office barefoot lately, which I normally wouldn't approve of, but the weather has just been soooo lovely," the Karori resident confided.

The sun may be shining on the part of the company Gibbs looks after but the Ecoya group as a whole has had a somewhat stormier time.

NZX-listed Ecoya group reported a loss of $797,000 after tax for the six months to September, further in the red than its $687,00 loss the same period a year earlier.

Despite its seemingly sour result, Trilogy, which Gibbs still runs, has been improving strongly.

The natural skincare based on certified organic rosehip oil extract has doubled production at an Auckland plant since being bought by Ecoya.

The Trilogy division made a $12.1m profit in the six months to September, up from $10.4m a year prior.

The Ecoya brand home fragrance and bodycare products, on the other hand, lost $1.98m following a $1.6m loss at the same time last year.

New chief executive Stephen Sinclair said: "We're really investing in growing our top line, growing our sales and creating some capital value but we do acknowledge and realise that the market is looking for profits along the way so we would like to think next year we are delivering some, by the end of the next financial year.

"Then we can build on from there. But in the short term, from a dividend perspective in terms of returns? No. We are continuing to invest. I'm not sure our shareholders are with us to get dividends."

Its investors include institutional Pie Funds and Milford Asset Management, putting in $2m, and Trade Me founder Sam Morgan, who has a $1m stake.

Craigs Investment Partners adviser Peter McIntyre said the company was in growth mode.

"Their focus isn't necessarily about profit at this stage, it's about generating revenue growth. I think Trilogy is going to prove to be a really good acquisition."

Sinclair was recently promoted from chief operating officer, replacing Geoff Ross, who has taken the reins at boutique brewery Moa, but said the role was "not a whole lot different" to his previous position day to day.

Alongside Ross and Grant Baker, Sinclair was one of three owners who sold 42 Below to liquor multinational Bacardi for $138m in 2006.

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Previously an accountant, he was the numbers man at the vodka company and has been involved in Ecoya since day one.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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