Fox Marble CEO Chris Gilbert: “I think it’s well documented it’s a little slower than we thought it would be.”
Fox Marble, the company listed on the alternative Investment Market (AIM) of the London Stock Exchange, started the year by announcing an agreement worth €600,000 to €800,000 to sell its marbles into oil rich Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman.
Shortly afterwards it raised another £3million from shareholders and lenders, about £2million of it from Kesari Tours, the company that will be selling the stone in the Gulf.
Another £759,750 was raised by placing shares at 10.5p each (a discount of about 2% on the trading price), and £235,000 through the issue of convertible loan notes.
Commenting on the capital raised, Chris Gilbert, Fox Marble’s CEO, said: “The funds raised will considerably strengthen our position, enabling us to deliver on our plans for sustained growth as we look to accelerate the development of our quarries and processing capabilities.
“We now enter 2018 well placed to meet the expected demand for our products and look forward to updating the market in due course.”
Fox has previously signed an agreement to supply major Turkish stone company Simsekler Mermer with a minimum of €400,000-worth of its marble, and Indian company RK Marble Pvt Ltd with at least 1,000 tonnes of block in a deal said to be worth US$1.8million.
Sales are also starting to go through to America on a less formal basis.
Fox Marble has four quarries in production: Cervenillë, Syriganë and Malishevë in Kosovo and Prilep in Macedonia. There is another not yet in production and it expects to be able to open four or five more as demand grows. The existing four quarries deliver nine named stones, such as white Illirico Bianco, grey Grigio Argento and the multi-coloured Etrusco Dorato.
In October, the company completed the first sale of polished marble slabs from its factory in Lipjan, Kosovo, the opening of which had been delayed by a fire at the factory of Italian company Gaspari Menotti that was supplying machinery for it. Now it is opened, it has the only resining line in the Balkans. “We are the only international-standard factory in the region,” says Chris.
That was just one of the issues Fox Marble has encountered. It has also blamed bad weather, Brexit and UK stone wholesaler Pisani going into Administration for failing to reach previous targets. Chris Gilbert, Fox Marble CEO, told NSS: “I think it’s well documented it’s a little slower than we thought it would be.”
However, he says that although it has taken longer than expected, everything promised is coming to fruition. He maintains the stone being produced is as good as Italian marble but half the price, thanks both to the ease with which it can be extracted and because it is being produced and processed in a low cost, low tax part of the world with short routes to market. And it is achieving the sort of prices expected – averaging €574 a tonne last year. “It is all taking place the way we said it would,” says Chris.
And he says: “Today, I have more back orders than I can fulfil immediately. At the moment, demand exceeds supply.” He says the pinch point is at the quarries, not in the factory, which was, in any case, built so it could quickly double production capacity if necessary.
“We have got the sales. We have got the order books. We have the customers. Business is growing fast. We have planned for this day for a long time.” He expects to be making plenty more announcements about sales this year.
Fox had always intended to sell the marble to an international market, but wanted to be in London for the legitimacy the London Stock Exchange gives it and because winning prestigious projects in the city (it has supplied stone for multi-million pound apartments such as Chelsea Creek and Lillie Square) give it bragging rights to the rest of the world.