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Analysts turn cautious on banking

PETALING JAYA: In line with the central bank’s view of heightened downside risks in 2019 emanating from external uncertainties, analysts have turned cautious on the banking sector’s core net earnings growth in 2019.

Affin Hwang Capital currently pencils in a growth rate of 2.5% year-on-year against a stronger growth rate of 6.9% year-on-year as seen in 2018.

“We continue to see higher earnings downside risks arising from deposit competition within the sector itself, of which will drive up funding costs and erode bank’s net interest margin,“ the research house said in a report today.

It said market participants are currently worried about a potential cut in the overnight policy rate (OPR), of which will be negative for the banking sector earnings in the near term before the downward repricing effects of deposit start to kick-in in the next six to 12 months.

Despite that, Affin Hwang believes that the banking sector is underpinned by sound asset quality (as implied by a gross impaired loan ratio of 1.45% as at January), of which is also underscored by the high debt-servicing capacity of the business sector.

On the asset quality of household debts, it said the decline in aggregate impairment ratio to 1.2% (2018) from 1.4% (2017) implies that banks continue to be watchful of unproductive growth of household credits (especially for unsecured lending) and exercise stringent approvals only for borrowers with sound debt-servicing capacity.

It maintained its neutral stance on the sector, noting that business and consumer outlook in 2019 will be dampened by external uncertainties and a lack of domestic catalysts.

“For 2019, we have a loan growth target of 5%, against a higher target of 7-8% set by some key banking players in the industry. On a more positive note, our strong economic fundamentals – resilient consumer spending, business growth and low unemployment rate, are holding up. We expect consumer sentiment and business activities to gradually improve in 2H19 as trade tension may dissipate.”

Kenanga Research said loans growth will remain to be moderate, but valuations seem more attractive with most of the banking stocks under its coverage being rated as outperform except for CIMB, Hong Leong Bank Bhd, Public Bank and RHB Bank Bhd which are at market perform.

It warned that further external risks might put a dampener on business sentiments with softer demand and applications with higher risk perceived lowering approval rates. The dampening credit demand might be exacerbated by an increase in corporate bonds as upside pressure on interest rates lessens.

Meanwhile, AmInvestment Bank maintained its “overweight” call on the sector due to the anticipation of global liquidity into emerging markets from a slowdown in normalisation of the US monetary policy that is widely expected.

“The fund inflows are expected to benefit share prices of banking stocks which are liquid, offering decent dividend yields with banks still expected to deliver positive growth in earnings despite challenging conditions,“ it said.


E&O has deep value, says Affin Hwang Capital

PETALING JAYA: Affin Hwang Capital reiterated its long-term “buy” call on Eastern & Oriental Bhd (E&O) with a reduced target price of RM1.44, after a visit to the property developer’s Seri Tanjung Pinang Phase 2A (STP2A) project.

“We reduce our RNAV (revalued net asset value)/share to RM2.88 from RM3.12 previously to reflect the dilutive impact of the private placement. Based on the same 50% discount to RNAV, our target price is cut to RM1.44 from RM1.56. We see deep value in the stock as it is currently trading at price/RNAV of 0.3 times,” it said in its report.

According to Affin Hwang Capital, overall reclamation work is 73% complete at STP2A and the group is on track for full completion by end of 2019.

The reclamation work was initially slated for completion in June 2018, but was delayed to December 2019 due to complications encountered in undertaking large scale reclamation projects namely a 253-acre island and 131-acre Gurney Wharf.

The 131-acre Gurney Wharf will be handed over to the government upon completion.

“We saw a substantial portion of development land on the island has surfaced during our visit. We gather that non-financial foreign parties, including several from Singapore, are exploring joint venture opportunities with E&O to develop part of STP2A,” said Affin Hwang Capital.

Meanwhile, the entry of Tan Sri Wan Azmi Wan Hamzah as a strategic partner is expected to support E&O’s fund raising efforts to accelerate the development of STP2A.


Fourth-quarter 2018 corporate earnings among worst in recent years

PETALING JAYA: Corporate earnings of Malaysian stocks in the fourth quarter of 2018 (4Q18) were among the worst seen in recent years with large-cap companies turning into a drag.

“On the surface, the 4Q18 reporting season looked better; 26% of companies in our universe (121 companies under coverage) reported earnings that were ahead of our expectations, a marked increase of 16% in 3Q18,” said Affin Hwang Capital in a report today.

It noted that companies whose earnings that disappointed shrank to 31% from 48% in 3Q18, implying that a higher number of companies delivered a better set of earnings after the successive disappointments in the previous quarters.

However, a review of the larger-cap companies (27 of 30 under its coverage) showed a higher number of companies reporting poorer performances with 33% of the companies registering earnings below expectations while a smaller proportion registered earnings above expectations.

“Being heavyweights, the impact of this disappointment was significant. Cumulative 4Q18 core earnings fell a sharp 23% year on year (yoy) or 14% quarter on quarter (qoq), one of the largest ever quarterly earnings contractions in recent years,” said Affin Hwang Capital.

In 4Q18, only 40% of the 20 sectors under coverage managed to deliver yoy earnings growth with telcos, transport and utilities being the key heavyweight sectors that were a drag, contributing a combined RM3.1 billion qoq decline in 4Q18 earnings.

Post 4Q18 results season, the earnings per share (EPS) growth rate for stocks under Affin Hwang Capital’s coverage has shrunk to -4.5% and for the FBM KLCI companies -0.6%. This makes 2018 the fourth year of frail corporate earnings over a five-year period from 2014 till 2018.

Its current market earnings growth forecast is 6.7% and 4.2% for 2019 and 2020. For the FBM KLCI companies, this growth is at a lower 3.8% and 2.9% for 2019 and 2020, implying weaker earnings growth for the larger-cap companies.

“Nevertheless, we are of the view that the larger-cap company earnings will better hold up in 2019 considering that their 2018 earnings were distorted by a lot of bulky items that may not recur,” it added.

Due to the lack of major catalysts, it expects the FBM KLCI to continue to trend sideways over the near term, maintaining its neutral rating on the FBM KLCI and year-end 2019 target of 1,810 points.

“We would, however, recommend investors position themselves in the large-cap stocks and favour sectors that are still delivering growth on a yoy basis,” it added.

Meanwhile, CGS-CIMB has lowered its FBM KLCI earnings growth forecast to 5% for 2019 from 6%, but maintained its growth projection of 6% for 2020. Its 2019 FBM KLCI earnings growth projection of 5% is below Bloomberg consensus, which forecasts a 6% growth.

“This is lower than the 6% core net profit growth rate we estimated before the 4Q18 results season, as we adjust for the downgrades in earnings forecasts for several big-cap names like Axiata, Tenaga, Petronas Gas and Maxis,” it said in its report.

In 4Q18, only 18% of the 127 companies actively covered by CGS-CIMB reported results that were above expectations while the percentage of companies with results below expectations rose to 39% from 38% in 3Q18.

“The high ratio of earnings disappointment suggests that Malaysian corporates are facing a challenging operating environment due to local and external (US-China trade war, rising rates) factors,” it said.

Although its revision ratio improved to 0.46 times during the quarter versus 0.29 times in the previous quarter, the 4Q18 revision rate stood out for being among the lowest historical revision ratios for 4Q, matching 4Q12’s revision ratio.

Market earnings for stocks under its coverage fell in 4Q18 at a higher rate of 7.5% yoy due to lower earnings from the agribusiness, aviation, construction, oil and gas and telco sectors. Corporate earnings under its coverage fell 2.1% in FY18 due to lower sales, provisions for receivables and weaker profit margins.

CGS-CIMB maintained its end-2019 FBM KLCI target of 1,638 points with no change to its top three picks namelym Dialog, Astro and MPI.


Banking sector loan growth seen slowing in first quarter

PETALING JAYA: Banking sector loans kicked off 2019 with a 5.5% year-on-year growth in January, underpinned by sectors like manufacturing, retail, business services, construction and households (residential properties, personal use, credit cards).

With less than a month to go before the first quarter (Q1) comes to an end, AffinHwang Capital expects loan growth to be slow in the first three months of 2019, in tandem with slower business activities due to the seasonal effect of the Chinese New Year. It maintained its neutral sector stance, with Maybank and Aeon Credit Service (M) Bhd as its top picks.

“For 2019, we keep our loan growth target of 5% unchanged, noting that loan disbursements may gradually taper down due to a more cautious business and consumer outlook in 2019, largely dampened by external factors. The downside risks are largely supported by our strong economic fundamentals – resilient consumer spending, business growth and low unemployment rate, of which are holding up. Longer term, with new government policies after the Budget 2019 announcement, we expect consumer sentiment to gradually improve and drive consumption spending,” said AffinHwang Capital.

Macquarie Research is overweight on banks on resilient fundamentals and capital optimisation. It prefers corporate banks (Maybank, RHB, AMMB Holdings) over retail-centric Public Bank Bhd and Hong Leong Bank Bhd.

The banking sector accounts for about 32% of weightage in Bursa Malaysia’s benchmark FBM KLCI, hence the sector’s prospects would provide an indication of the performance for the index.

According to Bank Negara Malaysia, the local financial sector is envisioned to grow beyond its role as an enabler of growth to be a key driver and catalyst of economic growth, with growth in the financial system firmly anchored to growth in the real sector.


Malaysia’s auto industry off on a positive start

KUCHING: Malaysia’s automotive industry is off on a positive start this year, led by strong numbers recorded by national carmakers. Analysts expect the industry to continue this strong momentum, underpinned by healthy demand and favourable foreign exchange (forex). According to the research arm of Affin Hwang Investment Bank Bhd (AffinHwang Capital), the automotive industry’s January […]


All-over optimism for Serba Dinamik’s maiden 2019 contracts

KUCHING: Analysts across the board gave two thumbs up for Serba Dinamik Holdings Bhd (Serba Dinamik) catching its first batch of contract wins in 2019 totalling US$110 million (RM448 million). The announced values consist only of the international contracts – United Arab Emiraes, Uzbekistan and Qatar – as the Malaysian contracts are all call-out in […]


E&O loses RM318m in market cap on cash call news

PETALING JAYA: Investors reacted negatively towards Eastern & Oriental Bhd’s (E&O) proposed fund raising exercise of up to RM550.3 million with its share price tumbling 24 sen or 22.02% to a multi-year low of 85 sen today.

The heavy selling pressure led to RM318 million of its market capitalisation being wiped off.

It was the top fourth loser on Bursa Malaysia today on 36.7 million shares done.

On Monday, E&O announced a proposed fund raising exercise which would raise proceeds of RM250 million to RM550.3 million, to fund its Seri Tanjung Pinang (STP) Phase 2 project in Penang and repay bank borrowings.

“Although the company seems to have identified a taker for the placement shares, we think investor sentiment on E&O may turn cautious given the magnitude of the equity call,” RHB Research said in its report today.

The research house, however, noted that the need for financing is understandable, based on the funding requirement for the reclamation and infrastructure capital expenditure on STP 2A, 2B and 2C, as well as working capital to kick-start new high-rise projects such as The Conlay (GDV: RM900 million), which is slated for launch at the end of 2019, and The Peak (GDV: RM280 million) in 1H 2020.

“We believe that as a result of tight cash flow, slow high-end property sales and weak market sentiment, the maiden launch of STP 2A’s Plot 14 has been delayed until 1H 2020,” it added.

The total proceeds of around RM350 million to RM400 million from the fund raising exercise would be about 24-28% of the stock’s current market cap. After factoring in the impact from the placement and rights issue, RHB Research reduced its target price to RM1 from RM1.24 previously.

It maintained E&O’s net profit estimates but reduced its earnings per share (EPS) forecasts due to the expected dilution from the placement and rights issue.

PublicInvest Research maintained its “neutral” call on E&O but reduced its target price to RM1 from RM1.30 previously.

“This comes as a negative surprise as we had believed earlier that the group would raise funds by disposing non-strategic assets and/or get more strategic partners for its STP Phase 2 development. Based on illustrative issue price of RM1.12, our RNAV (revalued net asset value) could be diluted from RM4 per share to RM2.80 to RM3.30,” it said.

Meanwhile, Affin Hwang Capital, which maintained its “buy” call on E&O with RM1.55 target price, believes the long-term prospects for the group remain good, despite the short to medium term impact of the fund raising exercise on investor sentiment.

“We believe the overhang from the equity issuance will dampen sentiment on the stock in the short to medium term, but the long-term prospects for E&O remains good with the scheduled completion of 253-acre STP 2A by September 2019,” it said.

“We gather that the entrepreneurs and substantial shareholders Datuk Seri Tham Ka Hon (owns 20.6% stake) and Datuk Tee Eng Ho/Tee Eng Seng (owns 15.2%) will likely undertake to subscribe for their rights issue entitlement. This will show the entrepreneurs’ commitment and shore up support for the proposed equity issuances,” it added.


Uptick in Malaysia’s banking sector scorecard for 2018

  KUCHING: Malaysia’s banking sector ended 2018 with a slight uptick in its figures, recording 5.6 per cent year on year (y-o-y) growth while expanding by 0.6 per cent month on month (m-o-m). The annual growth was underpinned by sectors such as manufacturing, retail, business services, construction and households – specifically residential properties, personal use […]


FBM KLCI to retest 1,700-point level next week

KUALA LUMPUR: Trading on Bursa Malaysia is expected to be reinvigorated next week with the market moving in a tight range as most investors flock back from the Chinese New Year celebration, analysts said.

Bank Islam chief economist Dr Mohd Afzanizam Abdul Rashid said the benchmark FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI (FBM KLCI) had been struggling to pierce its immediate resistance of 1,700 points over the last few weeks.

“External developments continue to take centre stage. Issues surrounding the trade negotiations between the US and China has always been the source of market instability,“ he told Bernama.

If latest news are any indication, the resolution of trade negotiations will still be a long way to go before the US struck a trade deal with China, according to the National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow.

Additionally, Mohd Afzanizam said the meeting between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping might not happen before the March 1 trade deadline.

Despite this, Mohd Afzanizam said foreign investors turned net buyers on Feb 4 and 7 snapping up RM138.6 million worth of stocks while the ringgit appreciated to 4.067 against the US dollar at the time of writing.

“Against such backdrop, we could expect the FBM KLCI to continue remaining in a tight range next week,“ said Mohd Afzanizam.

Additionally, Malaysia’s 2018 fourth-quarter (Q4 2018) gross domestic product numbers would be announced on February 14.

“Perhaps, investors would also want to assess the resilience of the Malaysian economy.

“This is especially true in the context of weak business and consumer sentiment as indicated by the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research’s survey recently,“ the chief economist said.

The Business Condition Index and Consumer Sentiment Index fell to 95.3 points and 96.8 points in Q4 2018 from 108.8 points and 107.5 points in the previous quarter, respectively.

Affin Hwang Capital Asset Management managing director Teng Chee Wai remained optimistic on the US-China trade negotiations as the backdrop of the global economy was actually very strong, while the vision of a downtrend in local corporate earnings is still an ongoing process.

“Putting the two together, this year will probably be a better year than last year from the equity market standpoint,” said Teng.

On a Friday-to-Thursday basis, the benchmark FBM KLCI settled 2.99 points higher at 1,686.52.

The market was closed on Tuesday and Wednesday for the Chinese New Year.

The FBM Emas Index was 64.9 points higher at 11,725.52, the FBMT 100 Index increased 56.33 points to 11,601.54 and the FBM Emas Syariah Index improved 40.42 points to 11,593.03.

The FBM 70 gained 215.69 points to 14,032.9 and the FBM Ace Index added 153.12 points to 4,555.22.

Sector-wise, the Financial Services Index rose 127.14 points to 17,642.11, the Plantation Index increased 19.36 points to 7,299.6, and the Industrial Products and Services Index inched up 0.86 of-a-point to 161.97.

On a Friday-to-Thursday basis, weekly turnover dwindled to 4.94 billion units worth RM3.8 billion against 8.77 billion units worth RM8.13 billion.

Main Market volume shrank to 3.77 billion units valued at RM3.57 billion versus 6.32 billion units valued at RM7.66 billion.

Warrants turnover declined to 690.66 million units worth RM149.03 million from 1.38 billion units worth RM301.90 million.

The ACE Market volume decreased to 483.1 million shares valued at RM83.25 million against 1.05 billion shares valued at RM152.46 million. — Bernama


Unchanged Fed rate likely to push BNM to maintain stance

KUCHING: The US Federal Reserve (US Fed) decided to keep its federal funds rate (FFR) unchanged between 2.25 to 2.50 per cent in the latest January meeting, leading analysts in Malaysia to predict for Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) to maintain its accommodative monetary stance. Affin Hwang Investment Bank Bhd (AffinHwang Capital) saw that US’ job […]