CEO: Wiliam Long
About: Epicore BioNetworks Inc. is a major supplier of products to the aquaculture industry with a strong focus on the shrimp farming industries of Central and South America and Asia.
WSR: Good day from Wall Street, this is Juan Costello with the Wall Street Analyst, joining us today is Bill Long the CEO for Epicore BioNetworks Incorporated, the company trades on the TSX Venture and their ticker symbol is EBN. Thanks for joining us today Bill.
Bill Long: Juan I’m delighted to join you.
WSR: Certainly, now. Starting off please give us a brief history and overview of the company for some of our listeners that are new to your story?
Bill Long: Okay, Epicore had its start in the early 1990s in Calgary, Alberta, Canada as an environmental biotech company. The company was formed based on the lifelong science and technology of Dr. Howard Worne who lived here in South New Jersey. After struggling a bit to generate a business in Canada the company stumbled into an application of biotechnology in shrimp farming. That’s what interested me to join the company in 1995 and that’s been the basis of our business ever since then. We built up a business of selling products to companies involved with raising shrimp in hatcheries and in shrimp farms.
WSR: Great, so what were some of the drivers there behind the company’s full-year results?
Bill Long: This has been an interesting year for us. We’ve been in this business now since the mid 1990s and about two years ago a disease hit Asia that has been really devastating to the shrimp industry and if you follow agricultural commodity prices or pay attention to what you are paying at the grocery store, you’ll see that shrimp as an agricultural commodity has skyrocketed in price and it skyrocketed because this disease has drastically cut production in Asia, so our sales in the last fiscal year are flat compared to the year before and we consider that quite an accomplishment because so many of our customers in Asia have gone out of business.
WSR: Right and what are some of the other trends on the positive side that you are seeing in the sector and how are you positioning the company to capitalize on them?
Bill Long: Well the interesting thing about these kind of supply side shocks like diseases and natural disasters like the typhoon that just hit Southeast India is that one consequence is that when the supply goes down the price goes up and so other farmers around the world try to increase their production to get a more profitable market for their product and since we are positioned around the world, what’s a disaster in one area like Southeast Asia becomes a benefit for others. Say for example we have a subsidiary in Ecuador, one of the major suppliers of ingredients to shrimp farms in that country and in that country if there is a bare piece of land, they are digging a hole and pouring it full of water trying to grow shrimp because the shrimp is so valuable today. So that’s what we’ve done to sort of capitalize on the problems in Asia outside of Asia.
WSR: Certainly and what are some of the factors that makes Epicore unique from some of the other players in the sector?
Bill Long: I think the science base that we have in this field of industrial environmental microbiology makes us somewhat unique. We sell a wide range of different sort of additive-type products that are used in the growing of the shrimp maybe applied to feed, as additives to feed and then our products indirectly get into the shrimp farms through the feed or it maybe applied directly by the farmer to his shrimp pond, but we combine a very strong expertise in the microbiology with a strong expertise in shrimp farming and that’s how we can develop products that give us a range of products to offer that other companies can’t really match.
WSR: Right and perhaps you could walk us through your background and experience Bill and talk a little bit about the management there?
Bill Long: Okay, well I definitely didn’t grow up a shrimp farmer; I’ve learned all that since 1995. I started my career as a chemical engineer in the specialty chemical industry and did that for 29 years in different positions leading up to being an international general manager of a business. In the business in the specialty chemical industry we killed microorganisms and in Epicore we do just the opposite, we grow them, harvest them and resell them to do things. So I’ve seen both sides of the microorganism picture. Most of the employees today of Epicore are – we have more employees in our subsidiary in Ecuador than we do anywhere else and we have people scattered around the world, most have strong backgrounds in agriculture science. Some have actively farmed shrimp themselves. We actually have a couple that still own shrimp farms, so we have quite a depth of expertise in this field of shrimp aquaculture, but we are also a public company as you said, we are listed on the Toronto Venture Stock Exchange, so we have administrative offices here in New Jersey, a full time CFO, audited by Grant Thornton, so we’ve got – for a small company we’ve got all the trappings of a larger company because we are a public listing.
WSR: Great and what are some of the goals or milestones that you are hoping to accomplish over the course of the next year?
Bill Long: Well, in the past year we made a major investment in our site here in New Jersey, actually in the last two years. We now own our site in New Jersey, previously we leased. We’ve got bank financing for that. We also got bank financing to make a major expansion of our production capacity and so our ability now to provide microorganisms and specialty feeds for shrimp aquaculture is even greater than it was in the past. In this past year that investment was costly and some of that hit our bottom line, so we had a temporary hit to our bottom line, but its all in place now and its productive and we are expecting to have a very, very good year this year because of the investment that we made.
WSR: And as far as investors and the financial community are concerned Bill, do you believe that the Epicore story and your message and the company’s upside are completely understood and appreciated by them and if not, what do you wish investors better understood about the company or your sector?
Bill Long: Well, we are a small company and we are on a stock exchange with a lot of other small companies. We are quite a unique company if you look through the other listings on the Toronto Venture Stock Exchange; you have a lot of mining, forestry related companies listed on that exchange. So people that stumble across us and find out who we are, they need to do a little homework and find out the nature of our business, but we are quite a bit different than the other Toronto Venture issuers. This story for some may not be of interest, if you are looking for somebody who is going to hit a vein of gold, we are not likely to do that, but if you are looking for a company that’s got a solid background and an agricultural commodity that’s a precious commodity, a profitable commodity for a lot of companies, then that’s where we are positioned and that would be – that should be attractive to a number of investors.
WSR: Right and so once again joining us today is Bill Long, CEO for Epicore BioNetworks, the company as mentioned trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange Venture, ticker symbol EBN, currently trading at 17 cents a share, market cap north of 4.2 million and before we conclude here Bill, to recap some of your key points, why do you believe investors should consider the company as a good investment opportunity today?
Bill Long: Well I’m not a stockbroker and I’m not in a position to really advise investors on what to spend their money on, but I think if you try to make a generalization about it because we are small company with a low priced stock in a market that is a very, very large market and we think we have a lot of potential to grow. If we grow the stock should grow. If investors read our story and believe our story, then what they are buying is a growth stock and considerably different than a lot of the other issuers on the Venture Exchange.
WSR: Well, we certainly look forward to continuing to track the company’s growth and report on your upcoming progress and we’d like to thank you for taking the time to join us today Bill and update our investor audience on Epicore BioNetworks, EBN.
Bill Long: Juan it’s been my pleasure. Thank you very much.