2009 KPMG Executive Roundtable: Positioning for Growth in Uncertain Times
Willy Kruh: Clearly we’re in a global contraction. And while some might argue that it’s less severe than the U.S., we’ve seen consumer confidence at its lowest in two plus decades in Canada. How does that play into your strategy, both in the short and mid-term? And to the extent that your balance sheet is strong and you’ve managed capital, is this a time to own your category, to do opportunistic acquisitions and to really take hold?
Gideon Pollack: From our perspective what we’re seeing today is a lot of the smaller companies that we compete with really having a tougher time accessing capital and interesting investors. So it’s been quite opportunistic for us from an industry standpoint. It’s allowed us to compete in trade in ways that were harder to do when people had more access to capital. And if, in fact, we are living through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, I have a hard time imagining that it’s just over six months later, particularly with the continued bank failures. The market really wants to see a rally and everyone’s very hopeful that this continues, but I just can’t see how it’s possible. So I think we’re going to continue to go through very difficult times.
Steve Diakowsky: The way that we look at the current situation is that this is a time of tremendous opportunity, particularly for those companies that have strong balance sheets. We concluded our debt financing in June 2007 on very favourable terms. And since then we’ve been focused on very aggressive debt repayment. At Allan Candy we’re in the fortunate position to have some capacity, and are looking to leverage that capacity in the form of growth through acquisitions. The one challenge is that I don’t necessarily think that seller valuation expectations have been re-set in line with the current conditions.
Allan Kliger: Well unlike many of the others here in the room, we haven’t grown in a non-organic fashion by acquisition. Our focus has always been to try and do what other companies aren’t doing, to try and really exploit those opportunities. And I think in this economic environment it’s been a real asset for us. The real opportunities that we’ve seen have been on the retail side. I’ve seen retailers try and take two different approaches: some have said, “We’re just going to keep to the mainstream products,” while others have said, “We want to continue to be innovative because that’s where we need to be when all this turns around.” And that’s where we’ve tried to step up and listen to them and try and dance between the elephant’s toes, if you will. As long as you’re open to hearing what retailers have to say, and then saying, “Well, that sounds great…let’s give it a shot and see where it goes together,” then you have their attention. So I think you have to clearly understand where you have a position of platform leadership. Don’t be something you’re not. Let the market know what that is honestly and then try and be your best at it.