Advanced Chemical Industries Ltd. Or ACI Ltd. (ACI Limited) is one of the largest conglomerates in Bangladesh. ACI sells a total of 39 categories of products in the four sectors of Healthcare, Consumer Goods and Electronics, Agriculture, and Retail. With a market value of Tk 1500 crore and a revenue of Tk 6300 crore, the conglomerate has 14 subsidiaries, 4 joint venture and associate companies, and 12 manufacturing plants. Despite being involved in so many businesses, ACI’s profit generation has lacked consistency in recent years. On top of that, last year, in the 2018-2019 financial year, ACI incurred a loss of around Tk 90 crore. In today’s video, we will discuss the history of ACI, various business units, and the state of revenue generation and profitability of the company.
Earlier History of ACI
Imperial Chemical Industries or ICI was established in 1926 through the merger of four British chemical companies. The companies were Brunner Mond, Nobel Explosives, The United Alkali Company and British Dyestuffs Corporation. Imperial Chemical’s products included a variety of chemicals, explosives, pesticides, paints and resins. Since its inception, ICI has been operating in several other countries as a multinational company. Following the chain, the company ICI (India) Ltd. started its business as a subsidiary in the Indian subcontinent. After the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947, the Karachi office of ICI (India) was renamed as ICI (Pakistan) Ltd. Later in 1968, the company moved to the then East Pakistan. After the independence of Bangladesh, ICI (Pakistan) started its operation in Bangladesh as ICI Bangladesh Manufactures Ltd. in 1973. The company was listed on the Dhaka Stock Exchange in 1976. Subsequently, on May 5, 1992, the parent company ICI Plc sold its 70% shares to local shareholders. And after this divestment, ICI Bangladesh was introduced as ACI and continued to operate in Bangladesh.
ACI is doing business in four Strategic Business Units (SBUs).
- Health Care
- Consumer Brands
- Agribusinesses and
- Retail Chain
Since its inception, ACI has been mainly involved in the pharmaceuticals and pest control products business, but later the company entered various segments by setting up one subsidiary company after another. The company also has been doing business in the domestic pharmaceutical market for almost thirty years. ACI has a market share of 4% in this industry. So far, ACI has brought more than 250 pharma molecules like therapeutic class A, proteins, amino acids, nucleic acids, etc., and more than 100 vitamins, anti-bacterial, respiratory, oncology, etc. to the market. The company launched 33 new molecules in the 2018-19 financial year. Alongside meeting the demand in the country the company is also exporting medicines to 30 countries on 4 continents. Regulatory activities are also underway to expand business in more than 15 countries in Africa and Central America.
ACI has a presence in the home care segment through product categories such as pest and non-pest control. At the same time, the company is marketing various products as a manufacturing and distribution partner of American consumer brand SC Johnson. ACI Aerosol is the number one choice for customers in the aerosol market. According to Neilson, ACI Aerosol has more than 94% market share in the aerosol market. The share of ACI coils in the Mosquito coil market is about 8%. ACI’s market share has declined in recent years due to the proliferation of other non-branded products in the said market. Among the non-pest control products, ACI is also distributing Angelic Air Freshener and toilet cleaner brand Vanish.
Savlon brand products have been available in Bangladesh for more than four decades. After gaining popularity through its parent company, Imperial Chemicals, the brand came under ACI in 1992. Initially, the brand included only antiseptic liquids and creams, but in 1997, hand wash was added. Later on, under ACI’s toiletries business, Savlon soaps, hand sanitizers, and wipes were included. Savlon’s antiseptic products have a market share of over 84% in the antiseptic industry. Outbreaks of coronavirus have led to an increase in sales of ACI’s toiletries business, specially soaps, hand washes, hand sanitizers, etc. According to a report by Business Standard, Savlon Liquid and Antiseptic Cream had a pre-covid market of worth Tk 34 crore, and a consumer size of 1 million. At present, if one crore people use these hygiene products, then the market size is likely to increase 10 times.
ACI entered the media and communications industry in the year 2000 by establishing a subsidiary company named Creative Communication Ltd. Creative Communication is working in different sectors including media planning, event management. In the 2018-19 financial year, the company’s revenue was Tk 7.5 crore and it made a profit of Tk 1 crore.
ACI started manufacturing, packaging and selling tea in 2003 through Tetley ACI Bangladesh, a joint venture between ACI and Tata Global Beverage Overseas Holdings Limited. The two established brands of this company are Tata Tea and Tetley.
ACI Salt Ltd established in 2004 the company expanded its business in Edible Salt Market. In the salt market, ACI Salt has captured the position of top brand around 8 times in the past decade. Domestic companies including ACI, Molla, Confidence faced heavily competitive business for several years now due to the predominance of low quality salt sellers which are imported without BSTI’s approval. Even in this competition, ACI Salt is still at the top in terms of quality. In the 2018-19 financial year, the company’s revenue was Tk 190 crore and it made a profit of Tk 9 crore.
In the same year (2004) ACI established another joint venture company, ACI Godrej Agrovet Pvt. Ltd India’s Godrej Agrovet through which the company started producing and selling all kinds of animal feeds (poultry, aqua, cattle feed).
ACI started Its Seed Business in 2006. ACI has research and development stations at Bangladesh Rural Development Academy, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University (BSMRAU), and Bangladesh Agricultural University. ACI Seed is working jointly with various multinational companies & organizations including USAID, IRRI, IFC, KATALYST. ACI has been able to capture more than 70% share of the entire seed market by launching new varieties of Boro rice, hybrid rice, maize etc.
2008 was an important year for ACI. The company has established several new businesses that year. In the same year, ACI entered the business of Surface Care category under which Shinex brand products are occupying the market at present as glass & floor cleaners. Savlon Freedom Sanitary Napkin was launched under the Female Hygiene category. Currently, it has the second-highest market share in the sanitary napkin industry. In the last financial year i.e. 2018-19, ACI achieved 95% growth in the Female Hygiene and Baby Care segment.
In the same year, 2008, ACI entered the food business through the establishment of a subsidiary company called ACI Pure Flour Ltd (ACFL). Under the PURE branding the company has introduced flour, semolina, brown flour, multigrain flour etc. were introduced in the market. ACI Pure Flour Ltd has a strong position in the market with more than 30% market share. On the other hand, through another subsidiary called ACI Foods Ltd, ACI introduced products like Basic Spice, Mixed Spice, Noodles, Aromatic Rice, Cake, Chanachur, Candy, Chutney etc. under the PURE and FUN brands.
Shawpna started its journey as a superstore in 2006 under ACI Logistics. The store is doing business in major cities in Bangladesh such as Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet through 130 outlets out of which 61 are their own and the rest are franchise stores. Shawpno is now at the top in the retail chain market with about 50% market share. In 2017, Shawpna also entered the e-commerce market through shwapno.com. ACI Logistics has also been working with GLOBAL G.A.P to expand agriculture in Bangladesh.
Although the inception of Shawpno as a superstore was much later than Agora & Meena Bazaar, it was quick to capture the market share. But in the beginning, Shawpno faced some challenges. Like other super shops, in the beginning, the targeted customer for Shawpna was the affluent class people. And because of this Shawpna faced hard competition from Agora and Meena Bazar from the very beginning. Along with that, buyers also complained about hygiene maintenance and the availability of various products. Due to these reasons, the number of Shawpna’s retail outlets started to decrease at that time.
Later on, Shawpna was able to make a turnaround with some timely steps. The supershop made some strategic changes like reducing product prices and expanding product portfolios and aimed to attract buyers of all classes. Later on, Shawpna with Agrilinks and Logistics started working together to directly deliver the products produced by the farmers to the consumers through the Seed to Shelf policy. Although Shawpna occupies almost half of the super shop chain market, it was never able to make profit since its inception. Extensive expenditure in the ad and marketing department of the company, the bigger loans or interest expense due to taking a large loan can be held responsible for this. The company plans to reduce its reliance on financing through loans in the future and focus on equity financing.
ACI entered the electronics market and packaging business in the same year it entered the Surface Care, Hygiene, Supermarket and Food industries. In the same year, ACI started its journey as the official distributor of world famous brand Panasonic’s products like TVs, refrigerators, air conditioners etc. Later in this segment air conditioners of their own brand “Sparkle” were marketed. In the same year, in 2008, ACI established a subsidiary name Premiaflex Plastics Ltd. that started manufacturing and marketing flexible packaging, consumer plastics and other plastic products through it.
ACI entered the edible oil market in 2012. That same year, ACI Nutrilife Rice Bran Oil came on the market. Nutrilife has a good position in the Rice Bran Oil market with a market share of over 25%. In 2016, ACI launched another brand of soybean oil, PURE. The subsidiary ACI Edible Oils Ltd is also doing business through the imported Sunflower Oil, brand Le Blanc Premium. In the 2018-19 financial year, the company’s revenue was Tk 77 crore and it made a profit of Tk 1 crore.
In 2013, ACI started selling herbal Products through the Acquisition of Neem Laboratories Pvt. Ltd.. At the same time, the company started its journey in the domestic paint market.
After starting the paint business, the company has introduced various paint and coatings of Akzonobel, in the Protective, Marine and Powder Coating segment such as International, Dulux, Interpon, Duwel etc.. However, due to the presence of 44 more domestic and foreign paint companies in the market, ACI Paints has a rather small market share in the paint industry in Bangladesh.
Earlier that year, to begin trading in the US and other regulated pharmaceutical markets a subsidiary company by the name ACI HealthCare Ltd. was established. The company has a manufacturing plant in Narayanganj. In the 2018-19 financial year, the company earned around Tk 300 crore but faced a loss of Tk 35 crore. ACI entered the men’s grooming market in 2014 and the IT and mobile phone market in 2015. However, the company could not create a convenient position in these businesses.
ACI Motors, a subsidiary of ACI, debuted in the bike business in 2016 by acquiring the motorcycle dealership of Japanese brand Yamaha. ACI has the highest revenue from the sale of 150cc segment bikes. In the 2018-2019 financial year, bike sales in this segment have increased by 33%. ACI is the first in Bangladesh to launch a bike with an anti-lock braking system. In May 2019, ACI Motors announced its entry into the lower segment i.e. 125cc and below segments as Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) and started selling Completely Built Unit or CBU bikes as well as Completely Knocked Down (CKD) bikes. For this purpose, ACI Motors associated with Yamaha Motors Company and Yamaha Motor India to set up a bike manufacturing plant costing around Tk 100 crore.
For the last 8 years, local bike manufacturers have been benefiting from VAT, duties and tax rates. In its continuation, foreign bike manufacturers like Yamaha have been encouraged to manufacture bikes by setting up factories in Bangladesh. Although it has been doing business in the higher price segment for several years, ACI Motors is entering the 125cc and below segments. In the 125cc segment, ACI Motors has introduced the Yamaha Saluto Disc Brake priced at Tk 120,000. Yamaha bikes were never available in Bangladesh before at such a low price.
If we talk about notable branded bikes of ACI Motors, FAZER FI, YZF R15 and FZS FI are worth mentioning. ACI is also leading the way in the domestic bike market, especially in the 150cc and higher segments, through events such as the Dhaka Bike Carnival, the Bike Fiesta and the Guinness Book of World Records event.
ACI Motors has achieved 19% growth in the last three years. Another Strategic Business Unit under this company is – Farm Mechanization. Tractors of “Sonalika” brand are the main products under this segment. The product portfolio of this segment also includes diesel engine, reaper, rice transplanter, water pump, mini combine harvester etc.
In addition to agri-machineries, ACI is playing an important role in agriculture. Through the subsidiary, ACI Agrolinks Ltd., ACI is creating forward and backward linkages for farmers and establishing Forward Food Market by bringing their products directly to the market. In this case, the goal of Agrolink is to enter the safe food sector by establishing an efficient distribution channel. A forward market called “Fisharbour” has already been set up in Mohammadpur through which hygienic fish will be sold. Besides, Agrolink is exporting products to China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam etc. by creating opportunities to sell various agricultural products to farmers and marginal consumers.
In the Animal Health segment, ACI is trading in Poultry, Cattle, Vaccine and Aqua. Growth in this segment has faltered to 35% last year as imports of raw materials for animal health vaccines were obstructed. Growth in the aqua segment has seen a decline of 14% due to new restrictions imposed by the government.
ACI also has a presence in the crop care segment. ACI has been able to achieve more than 10% growth in this segment in recent years. But in the last financial year i.e. 2018-2019, the income in this segment declined by about 7%. ACI has been affected by the loss of the domestic fertilizer industry due to low crop prices. However, ACI has been able to capture 20% share of the fertilizer market by marketing the “Ratna” brand fertilizer in this segment. The company has also launched ACI Ready Mix Soil to diversify.
In the international business segment, under the sales of the world-famous Colgate brand product, ACI sees a year-on-year growth of more than 11%. Sales of Equal and Canderel brand sweeteners from Chicago-based company Merisant are also quite good. In 2016, ACI launched Stevia, another sweetener from the brand Equal, with a whole new set of ingredients to bring variety. In the same year, the company launched ‘ACI Sandal Soap’ as a premium product. ACI and Dabur India’s joint venture company, Asian Consumer Care, is marketing various Dabur products in Bangladesh. The company also maintains a presence in the Man’s grooming segment through Laser brand shaving products.
Subsidiaries and Brief Financials:
Let’s take a look at the ACI subsidiaries –
|ACI Edible Oils||85%|
|ACI Pure Flour||95%|
Ever since the divestment of its parent company ICI plc and inception of ACI, the company has been adding new business segments almost every year. As a result, the company’s revenue has increased every year. But due to differences in the profitability and risk factors of different businesses, there was a lack of continuity in the total profit of ACI. As a result, the company has faced huge growth in net profit in some years but also incurred loss in some years. On the other hand, due to major dependency on bank loans, the company went through negative growth in recent years to repay loan interests.