New Look Vision Group Reports Record Results for Q4 and Year End Fiscal 2019, Provides COVID-19 Response

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MONTREAL, Québec—New Look Vision Group Inc. (TSX: BCI), a leader in the Canadian retail optical industry with 394 stores across Canada and Florida, reported financial results today for the period ended Dec. 28, 2019. Annual revenues increased by 2.3 percent to reach a record $297.9 million, resulting mainly from comparable store sales growth as well as from newly acquired stores, offset by revenue from scheduled store closures, the company said. Comparable store sales orders were up by 2.3 percent compared to last year.

Adjusted EBITDA attributed to shareholders reached $55.9 million, an increase of $1.4 million or 2.5 percent over last year. Net earnings attributed to shareholders were $18.8 million, an increase of 32.1 percent over last year. This increase is driven by higher EBITDA, lower financial expenses and depreciation. Adjusted net earnings attributed to shareholders(a) increased by 13.5 percent to $26.1 million.

New Look Group cash flows related to operating activities reached $43.6 million, an increase of $8.8 million or 25.4 percent over last year. The company invested $8.9 million in Bespoke Eyewear and the technical component that underpins the omnichannel strategy.

New Look Group's total debt was reduced by $9.8 million through voluntary and contractual repayments, improving the net debt to adjusted EBITDA attributed to shareholders ratio to 2.60, compared to 2.76 last year.

The Group's Q4 revenues increased by 3.9 percent over last year to reach a record $73.9 million. Comparable store sales orders were up by 3.6 percent in the fourth quarter, compared to the fourth quarter of last year, marking the 22nd consecutive quarter of comparable store sales growth.

New Look adjusted EBITDA attributed to shareholders reached $14.3 million, an increase of 3.7 percent over last year. The company said the increase is principally due to improved performance from existing stores and improved employee productivity that lead to lower remuneration expenses.

Net earnings attributed to shareholders reached $5.0 million, compared to $3.1 million last year, the increase being attributable to higher EBITDA and lower financial expenses.

As VMAIL reported on Friday, when the results were issued, New Look Vision has initiated partial or full store closures across its network in response to COVID-19. The company established an emergency pay program to supplement unemployment insurance for the employees placed on temporary leave.

In view of the current uncertainty driven by reduced store capacity and regulatory restrictions, the board of directors has elected to suspend the regular quarterly dividend and the corresponding dividend reinvestment plan for Q4 2019. The company believes it is well positioned to withstand the current disruption given its efficient operations and strong balance sheet. New Look Vision continues to diligently control its cost structure while actively monitoring market conditions, it said.

Antoine Amiel, president and CEO of New Look Vision, stated, "New Look Vision had a strong fourth quarter capping a strong FY2019. This was the 22nd consecutive quarter of same store sales growth. 2019 saw an increased pace of comparable store sales growth, increased profitability and store network expansion, notably in the U.S. Those results materialized into further deleveraging of our balance sheet giving the company a solid footing to withstand the COVID-19 disruption and uncertainty."

He added, "New Look Vision responded swiftly to the onset of COVID-19. We have reduced our store network capacity to participate in the collective effort to stem the pandemic’s spread and to protect our teams and customers, while keeping open a minimum access to vision care and products for those in need.

"We have implemented a supplemental pay program for our employees placed on temporary leave. We have downsized our cost structure and taken cash conservation measures. We are actively monitoring the situation and will adjust our stance proactively. While our stores and manufacturing activities are reduced, our development initiatives are ongoing to continue building a competitive advantage. Our thoughts are with those most affected by the current crisis"