BIC Grows Revenue in First Quarter

France-based BIC Group, the parent company of Top 40 supplier BIC Graphic (asi/40480), grew its revenues by 1.3% in the first quarter of 2016 to reach 517.3 million euros ($589.4 million). On a comparative basis (taking into account exchange rates and excluding acquisitions and other events), sales increased by 6.9%. BIC Graphic experienced promotional product net sales growth of 5% in the first quarter and 4.6% on a comparative basis.

“The net sales were good in all three segments: Writing Instruments, Hard Goods and Calendars,” said Mario Guevara, CEO of BIC Group, about the company’s promotional product earnings in a conference call. “All regions contribute to the growth. In Europe, countries like France, Germany and Spain performed well. In North America, our Good Value line and new product introduction continue to perform well, supporting both the Hard Goods segment and the Writing Instruments growth.”

The company also reported that income from operations at its BIC Graphic unit fell by 14% in the period, compared to being down 6.7% in Q1 2015. A special bonus to all BIC employees who weren’t granted with performance share plans in 2015 contributed to the drop. Excluding the effect of the bonus, income from operations would have been down 9.3%, impacted by lower gross profit margin.

“With solid 6.9% organic growth, [overall] Q1 2016 net sales were slightly ahead of target thanks to Stationery and Shavers,” Guevara said. “As expected, we increased R&D and brand support investments to fuel mid- and long-term growth. [Our] Q1 2016 normalized income from operations was also impacted by higher operating expenses, including the impact of the special employee bonus. Nevertheless, we remain confident of achieving all our 2016 objectives.”

In February, BIC announced it would be exploring strategic alternatives for BIC Graphic and its promotional product business. In a conference call for the first quarter earnings, Chief Financial Offer Jim DiPietro confirmed that the timing for the conclusion of the review will be the end of the year, but “at this point, we don’t have any more clear visibility” on what the company’s decision will be.

Guevara is still slated to retire at the company’s annual shareholder meeting on May 18 and Chairman Bruno Bich will be nominated to assume the CEO role. Guevara will remain a member of the board and Bich is likely to retain his title as chairman as well.