THE recently concluded results season showed some sectors reporting profits exceeding or at least meeting with market expectations but on the whole, cautiousness continues to dominate going into the rest of the year, and even beyond.
The plantation sector was the clear winner for the quarter under review, according to Kenanga Research, with most companies reporting profits that exceeded expectations thanks to strong average selling prices of crude palm oil (CPO).
“Plantations stood out as all 11 stocks outperformed our expectations except for IOI Corp Bhd and PPB Group Bhd that came in within and United Malacca Bhd that came in below expectations,“ it tells clients in a report.
“Against our estimates, the plantations sector had an overwhelming 73% of stocks surpassing expectations,” Kenanga says, adding that the other two sectors that surprised positively were utilities and healthcare while sectors leading the misses were construction, gaming and consumer.
The banking sector – always one to be watched – also did relatively well with no major negative surprises.
Some banks even declared dividends higher than what the market was anticipating.
Thomas Yong, CEO at Fortress Capital Asset Management, (pic below) opines that on the whole, second-quarter corporate earnings for Malaysia came in largely within expectations.
“This is viewed positively considering the movement restrictions imposed as a result of the Covid-19 situation, as well as the political uncertainty.
“Overall, exporters benefited from external demand recovery but domestic-centric companies were affected by lower domestic consumption demand,“ Yong tells StarBizWeek.
He points out that risks associated with the banking sector were a concern for investors during the earlier part of the pandemic but so far, credit risks are perceived to have been well managed.
“Having said that, hiccups in delivering better earnings in the coming quarter due to the protracted movement restrictions are expected.
“In our view, the banking sector is a good proxy to any recovery of the broader economy going forward and the overall risk-reward profile is favourable, given the undemanding valuations of the sector,“ Yong adds.
For the coming year, he believes the technology sector would continue to do well due to favourable external semiconductor demand, particularly in the segments of 5G, electric vehicle and renewable energy.
That said, there could be some short-term disruptions due to chip shortages and logistic issues.
Meanwhile, in view of a higher rate of vaccination among regional countries going forward, he believes that a recovery of tourism-related sectors is possible, as countries are likely to adopt the “endemic approach” and open up their borders.
“In summary, the sectors which performed poorly in the recently-concluded results season might perform well due to pent-up demand when the Covid-19 outbreak is brought under control,“ says Yong.
For the second quarter, sectors that delivered poorer results were those hit hard by the movement restrictions including tourism, automobile, construction, retail and gaming.
“Technology and commodity sectors reported good earnings due to strong external demand and higher commodity prices,“ Yong adds.
Rakuten Trade Sdn Bhd head of equity sales Vincent Lau (pic below) notes that the recently concluded quarter saw better results compared to the quarter before.
“Banks, plantation, technology and semiconductor all performed better than expected while gaming, construction, automotive, retail and hospitality were impacted by the lockdowns,“ he says.
Lau believes that as the local economy gradually opens up, banks will continue to do better, being direct proxies of the economy.
“The worst is over for banks,“ he says.
To be sure, in their respective statements released last week, two of the country’s largest banks – Malayan Banking Bhd (Maybank) and CIMB Group Holdings Bhd – indicated that they were not overly optimistic in their outlooks.
Maybank group president and CEO Datuk Abdul Farid Alias in the lender’s statement said that given the expectations of a more challenging second half, the group would continue its strategy of focusing on robust risk management, strengthening its capital and growing its current account savings account (CASA) deposit base to provide sufficient buffers for unexpected events.
The lender, the larger of the top two, said given the prevailing challenging situation, it would continue with its preemptive provisions and management overlay largely due to the weakening macroeconomic outlook and the continued repayment assistance accorded to borrowers impacted by the pandemic.
CIMB Group was equally conservative in its outlook with group CEO Datuk Abdul Rahman Ahmad stating that the bank remained cautious “due to potential downside risks in the second half.“
“This is primarily due to the Covid-19 Delta variant, which has added to the uncertainty surrounding the opening of regional economies and economic recovery.”
The lender has consequently lowered its loan growth guidance to 2%-3% and expect provision levels to remain elevated, coupled with higher modification loss as it continues to provide repayment assistance to affected borrowers, it said.
Meanwhile, Rakuten’s Lau also picks the technology sector as a top choice moving into the next quarters.
“And so is plantation my choice. With CPO price remaining elevated, we will continue to see good results ahead,“ Lau adds.
He remains “cautiously optimistic” on the whole, cautioning that US markets, which are correlated to regional markets, are trading at all-time high levels.