Monday, February 25th, 2019

 

Wall St rises as trade optimism boosts tech, industrials

NEW YORK, Feb 25 — US stocks climbed today, boosted by technology and industrial shares, after President Donald Trump said he would delay a planned hike in tariffs on Chinese imports. Trump said yesterday the trade talks were "productive" and that…


Toll highway operators top losers on Bursa

PETALING JAYA: Toll highway operators Gamuda Bhd, Lingkaran Trans Kota Holdings Bhd (Litrak) and IJM Corp Bhd were among the top losers on Bursa Malaysia today following news of the government’s plan to take over four highway concessions.

Share prices of Litrak tumbled 9.35% or 43 sen to RM4.17, while Gamuda skidded 5.92% or 18 sen to RM2.86 and IJM was 5.53% or 11 sen lower at RM1.88.

The four highways involved in the takeover talks are the Lebuhraya Damansara Puchong (LDP), Sistem Penyuraian Trafik KL Barat (Sprint), Lebuhraya Shah Alam (Kesas) and Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel (Smart).

According to a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office issued on Saturday, the government has commenced negotiations with Gamuda for the acquisition of toll concessions on four highways in which the company has a majority stake. They are Kesas (70%), Sprint (51.8%), Smart (50%), and Litrak (43.6%). LDP is wholly owned by Litrak. Litrak also owns a 50% stake in Sprint.

IJM operates the Sungai Besi Express-way (Besraya), New Pantai Expressway (NPE) and Kajang-Seremban Highway (Lekas). It is currently constructing the West Coast Expressway.

Meanwhile, Ekovest Bhd, which operates DUKE (Damansara-Ulu Kelang Expressway) and is constructing the Setia-wangsa-Pantai Expressway, declined 5.83% or 3.5 sen to 56.5 sen today.

Taliworks Corp Bhd, another toll high-way operator, closed 3.93% or 3.5 sen lower at 85.5 sen. It has a 51% stake in the Cheras-Kajang Highway and operates the New North Klang Straits Bypass Expressway.

In a filing with the stock exchangetoday, Gamuda confirmed that it is in talks with the government in relation to the proposed highway takeover.

“As the board of directors of Gamuda have a fiduciary duty to deliver fair and reasonable value to all its shareholders, Gamuda has to ensure that the proposed transaction will be based on market valuation norms and practices.

“Gamuda will make the necessary announcement once there is a material development in relation to the above matter,” it said.

Analysts opined that the takeover plan is a negative for highway operators.

MIDF Research said for Gamuda, the concession segment made up about 41% of its FY18 pretax profit and it would mean a notable loss of stable recurring income to the group upon full acquisitions.

“We believe the impact to Gamuda’s earnings is net negative, as the move will result in earnings vacuum. However, we opine that it is too early to ascertain the impact, as we are still short on details. On that account, our forecasts on the group earnings remain unchanged until further development on the acquisitions.”

The research house believes that future acquisitions, if implemented, will likely be done in phases. This is in consideration of the cost required, coupled with the government’s priority to rein in its finances.

“We consider the news as a surprise, as it was initially announced by government, that scrapping of tolls nationwide would be deferred until fiscal conditions permit. While we initially aware of the possible takeovers, we think that the move comes sooner than expected. On that note, we believe the news will elevate uncertainties on Gamuda, which we expect will put investors on tenterhooks with overtone of caution.”

It noted that Gamuda’s share price has been on significant uptrend thus far in 2019, which has partially reversed some of its losses in second half 2018. It has recovered by 35.1%, reaching a level beyond its target.

“While our target price remains unchanged, we think the news warrants a downgrade (to neutral) as we incorporate an overhang factor into the share price. At this level, we think the share price is attractive for profit-taking. On the other hand, we suggest investors to track the share price closely, as possible rise in volatility is likely and that will unveil good trading opportunity,” said MIDF.

Similarly, the research house believes the news will elevate uncertainties on Litrak, which it expects will put investors on tenterhookswith overtone of caution. It also reckons that the impact to Litrak’s earnings is net negative, as the move will result in earnings vacuum.

However, MIDF maintained a “buy” call for Litrak with an unchanged target price of RM4.92 per share, explaining that Litrak is still a defensive play with decent dividends yield.


China's foreign investment law rushed to appease US, EU firms say

BEIJING, Feb 25 — European businesses said today they fear a Chinese foreign investment law allegedly fast-tracked by Beijing to meet Washington's demands on trade has inadequate protections against forced technology transfers. The law will…


Invest Selangor to help promote UMW high-value manufacturing park in Serendah

SHAH ALAM: UMW Development Sdn Bhd (UMWD) today signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Invest Selangor Bhd to leverage on the latter’s local and foreign network to attract investors to UMW High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Park in Serendah.

The MoU will serve to facilitate discussions leading to the marketing and promotion of the HVM park, and at the same time captivate more foreign direct investments into Selangor through UMWD’s land offerings.

Speaking to reporters after the signing ceremony today, UMWD president Dr Wafi Nazrin Abdul Hamid said apart from leveraging on Invest Selangor’s local and international network, the MoU will also allow the park to be recognised as a “high impact project”.

Wafi Nazrin said the park is developed by UMWD with a prime focus on HVM industry, driven by aerospace but also encompassing industries that require advanced manufacturing processes.

The park, which is next to an automotive manufacturing facility in Serendah, consists of 861 acres of land with planned supporting commercial development, mixed-use development as well as for industrial use, he added.

Additonally, UMW Aerospace Sdn Bhd’s RM750 million fan case manufacturing facility for Rolls-Royce serves as the park’s pioneer catalyst to draw in HVM ecosystem stakeholders, he said, adding that it seeks to create an ecosystem of complementary HVM activities that support each other.

“We look forward to working closely with Invest Selangor to attract potential investors to UMW HVM Park, especially those who are looking to move up the value chain by incorporating high-tech innovations and advanced manufacturing.

“The gated and guarded park will provide the potential investors with a significant address in Malaysia’s most-developed state. UMWD is going beyond the role of a traditional landowner-cum-developer as we also assist to address matters such as available incentives and human capital, among others,” he added, noting the land development will likely span 12 to 15 years.

UMWD is a wholly-owned subsidiary of UMW Group, while Invest Selangor is the investment promotion agency of the Selangor state government.

The signing of the MoU was witnessed by the Selangor Mentri Besar Amirudin Shari and Selangor State Senior Executive Councilor Datuk Teng Chang Khim.


Better margins boost SunCon Q4 profit

PETALING JAYA: Sunway Construction Group Bhd’s (SunCon) net profit for the fourth quarter ended Dec 31, 2018 rose 26.6% to RM36.57 million from RM28.89 million a year ago, driven by better profit margins.

However, the group’s revenue was 16.3% lower at RM626.02 million compared with RM748.17 million in the previous year’s corresponding quarter.

SunCon has proposed to declare a second interim dividend of 3.5 sen per share amounting to RM45.23 million for the quarter under review, payable on April 17.

For the full year period, the group’s net profit rose 9.4% to RM144.69 million from RM132.3 million a year ago on the back of an 8.7% increase in revenue to RM2.26 billion from RM2.08 billion.

SunCon, which secured RM1.6 billion new order book in 2018, is targeting for RM1.5 billion new orders in 2019. To-date, it has bagged RM781 million orders comprising the proposed TNB Campus, Bangsar Kuala Lumpur. With this new award, its outstanding book now stands at RM6 billion.

Despite the government’s move to reduce cost and to cancel and put on hold certain mega projects, the group believes there are still pockets of opportunity in Malaysia with the Large Scale Solar 3 worth about RM2 billion, development of hospital by JKR worth RM29 billion and the Subang Aerotech Park by Khazanah.

“During the current quarter, our LRT 3 Package GS 0708 from Kawasan 17 to Sri Andalas was progressing albeit at a slower pace as certain works could not proceed due to the on-going review to redesign the six stations in our alignment. We do not know the impact of this cost review to our contract yet but we expect to get clarity from our client soon. As for our KVMRT V201 from Sg Buloh to Persiaran Dagang, our client MMC Gamuda has confirmed that the above ground works will continue and hence this project will progress as planned albeit some reduction to those scope relating to the stations,“ it explained.

The group said it will mitigate the anticipated slowdown in the local construction growth from its proposed overseas expansion in the Asean region coupled with in-house projects by its holding company, Sunway Bhd.

As the raw material cost is expected to be soft for the coming year, SunCon said this should result in more competitive pricing.

Meanwhile, the group foresees its precast unit, which predominantly operates in Singapore, will be resilient due to its healthy outstanding order which stands at RM286 million.

“Our new order book to date obtained under precast amounted to only RM229 million. For year ending 2019, this segment will continue to have margin pressure due to low margin jobs secured earlier.”


Q4 net loss for Boustead Plantations

PETALING JAYA: Boustead Plantations Bhd registered a net loss of RM12.9 million for the fourth quarter ended Dec 31, 2018 (Q4), against a net profit of RM22.17 million in the same quarter in 2017.

The loss was attributed to the decline in palm product prices and increase in interest expense attributed to the acquisition of Pertama estates, the group said in Bursa Malaysia filing today.

Revenue for the quarter decreased 28.2% to RM156.56 million, compared with RM218.16 million in the previous corresponding quarter.

For the full year of 2018, the group posted a net loss of RM51.78 million, from a net profit of RM620.17 million, while revenue declined 23.2% to RM584.01 million, against RM760.1 million previously.

Boustead Plantations said average crude palm oil (CPO) selling price for 2018 was RM2,261 per metric tonne (MT), a decline of 20% compared with last year. Average palm kernel price dropped 29% to RM1,780.

Fresh fruit bunches (FFB) production for the year was 966,134 MT, consistent with last year’s FFB production of 973,513 MT.

Average oil extraction rate was 21.2%, while average kernel extraction rate was 4.4%, both marginally higher than 21% and 4.3% respectively in the previous year.

On its prospects, Boustead Plantations expects the coming year will be challenging, but noted that its earnings will be boosted by the recognition of the gain on disposal of land in Seberang Perai Utara upon completion.

“Although selling prices are expected to improve and growth in production is forecasted, the accounting treatment for oil palms under MFRS will dampen profits,” it added.

Meanwhile, it said fresh fruit bunch (FFB) production for 2019 is projected to see some improvement from the slow production in 2018 supported by the expected increase in crops from existing operations and the Pertama estates.

The proposed acquisition of more than 4,000ha of mature fields and a palm oil mill in Sandakan, Sabah, upon completion in second quarter 2019, will also contribute to the group’s performance.

However, the group said production in Sarawak is likely to remain weak given the operational difficulties in the region.

Boustead Plantations expects CPO price to climb towards RM2,400 per MT by early part of second quarter in line with expected stocks drawdown.

The biodiesel mandates of Indonesia, reduction of duty on crude and refined palm oil in India coupled with China’s positive outlook from the trade dispute with the US are some of the factors supporting CPO, it added.


CIMB partners SimplySiti on halal beauty biz

KUALA LUMPUR: CIMB Islamic Bank Bhd and local beauty brand SimplySiti have announced a collaboration that will see CIMB Islamic enabling SimplySiti to expand its halal beauty care business beyond Malaysian borders.

The homegrown brand will also leverage the end-to-end support of the CIMB-Asean Halal Corridor and CIMB’s strong regional network, to meet the demand for quality halal beauty, cosmetics and skincare products across the region.

CIMB Group Islamic banking CEO Rafe Haneef said for any homegrown business and SME, opportunities for growth are aplenty but the challenge is always on how to scale up.

“This is where CIMB Islamic’s expertise, the CIMB-Asean Halal Corridor and CIMB’s regional network provide a strong value proposition to our customers. Through this collaboration, we are excited to facilitate SimplySiti’s move into its next growth phase by reaping the vast halal business opportunities within Asean,” he said.

The CIMB-Asean Halal Corridor is an enhanced trade network linking halal businesses with trade infrastructure and ecosystems across Asean to take advantage of increasing demand for halal products in the region and beyond.


Unisem Q4 earnings down on lower sales

PETALING JAYA: Unisem (M) Bhd’s net profit for the fourth quarter ended Dec 31, 2018 fell 26.6% to RM23.49 million from RM32.02 million a year ago mainly attributable to the decrease in sales volume.

The group’s revenue was 7.2% lower at RM331.82 million compared with RM357.41 million in the previous year’s corresponding quarter.

It has recommended a final dividend of 3 sen per share for the quarter under review.

For the full-year period, Unisem’s net profit decreased 39.9% to RM95.83 million from RM159.46 million a year ago mainly attributable to the depreciation of US dollar/ringgit exchange rates as compared to the prevailing rates a year ago.


Oil tumbles after Trump tells Opec to 'relax'

LONDON, Feb 25 — Oil fell today, reversing earlier gains after US President Donald Trump told Opec producers to “relax” as prices were too high. Brent crude oil futures were down 91 cents at US$66.21 a barrel at 1246 GMT, having earlier risen…


Banks losing battle to be no-deal Brexit ready

LONDON, Feb 25 — Major banks are still not ready for a 'no-deal' Brexit as they grapple with delays in licences for new European Union businesses, staffing problems and snags in redrafting contracts. Despite thousands of staff working on…