AFFINITY REMAINS ON BACKFOOT AFTER $2M LOSS

AFFINITY REMAINS ON BACKFOOT AFTER $2M LOSS

AFFINITY Education Group (ASX:AFJ) has done little to improve its position in its takeover battle with G8 Education (ASX:GEM) after posting another loss in the latest half year.

The childcare centre operator, which is still advising its shareholders not to act on G8's 80c-a-share takeover offer, has reported a bottom-line loss of $2.1 million for the six months to the end of June.

While this is a big improvement on the half year ending 30 June 2014, when it recorded a loss of $5 million, the latest profit result keeps the pressure on the Affinity board to sway shareholders from accepting the $185 million G8 offer. 

"The important aspects of these results is the significant uplift compared to the half year ended June 2014, executing significant growth and investing in the creation of the corporate platform that will benefit the company in the long term," says Affinity CEO Justin Laboo (pictured).

Compared to the same period in 2014, the group delivered a 76 per cent increase in underlying earnings before interests, income tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) to $8.6 million.

Underlying operating cash flow grew more than 300 per cent to $15.6 million.

Revenue surged 128 per cent to $87 million through acquisitions and price increases at existing centres.

Laboo says the outlook for the company remains positive with strong fundamentals leading to increases in demand for childcare services.

"The company has created a strong corporate platform that will drive further efficiencies and continued growth," he says.

"The company is well placed to continue growing shareholder value with a strong balance sheet and over $70 million of undrawn available debt facilities." 

Affinity says it is on track for a maiden dividend in FY15, payable in February 2016.

Affinity has reiterated to shareholders to "take no action at this point" in regards to G8's takeover offer. G8 holds more than 46 million ordinary shares in Affinity which represents 19.89 per cent of ordinary shares on issue.

Affinity chairman Stuart James says in the director's report that the group remains positive and plans to continue its growth plans for shareholders.

"The education sector is set to continue to receive strong support from government and still provides high levels of fragmentation, where the group's aim is to continue to achieve growth for shareholders through organic and acquisitive opportunities," says James.

"By delivering efficiencies and economies of scale through effective integration the group will improve its current margin performance and increase shareholder returns.

"Disciplined investment will continue to target growth in our people and deliver greater value to our families and children, which will underpin the group's improved financial returns."

The company has grown its portfolio to include 161 centres which are currently at 81 per cent occupancy. 

Meanwhile, G8 Education has sought an abridgement to its scrip offer for Affinity while it seeks to address issues in its supplementary bidder's statement raised by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. The offer was due to open today, but is now waiting on confirmation by ASIC to proceed.

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