Berjaya Sports Toto's luxury car segment to cushion slower NFO recovery

KUALA LUMPUR A slower recovery in Berjaya Sports Toto Bhd's numbers forecast operator (NFO) business could be cushioned by the group's luxury car dealership, as the latter's earnings contribution in FY21 showed considerable growth despite operating restrictions.

According to Hong Leong Investment Bank Research, the group's luxury car unit's robust growth was owing to a pick-up in demand from high-net-worth individuals.

During the lockdown period, this segment of consumers turned to purchasing luxury goods as they were not able to spend on travel due to movement restrictions.

"The luxury car segment recorded its highest operating profit in FY21 (since it was acquired in 2014) despite a four months closure during the financial year.

"The segment has now grown to be a significant earnings contributor for the group (22.2% of operating profit in FY21) which should help to cushion the impact of a slower recovery in the NFO segment," said the research firm.

In addition, the group is expanding to a new 5.4-acre site in Harfield, UK, which is a more centralised location compared to its current sites that are distributed around London.

This new site will house HR Owen’s HQ office, multi-brand showrooms and aftersales centres.

A total of GBP42mil (about RM235mil) capex has been budgeted for this expansion with RM73mil spent in FY21.

Meanwhile, there was a weak recovery in the group's NFO segment in the July to September 2021 quarter (1QFY22) with ticket sales only coming to 59.5% of the total sales registered in the same quarter a year ago.

"From what we gathered, the recovery for BToto’s NFO segment currently is hovering at around c.70-75% of pre-Covid levels (vs.c.80-85% post-MCO1.0)," said Hong Leong Investment.

It added that this was owing to stricter SOPs in the outlets, slower pick-up rates during the initial resumption of operations, and the later, Oct 1 opening of its Sarawak outlets.

The brokerage added that the prolonged shutdown of NFOs had further aggravated the shift of betting towards the illegal operators as punters were not able to place their bets through the legal NFOs.

Moving forward, it expects the NFO segment to continue to lag behind pre-Covid levels in the near term due to lower visitation from working adults due to work-from-home arrangements and stiff competition from illegal NFOs.

Hong Leong Investment maintained its "buy" call and forecasts on Berjaya Sports Toto with a target price of RM2.26.
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