BAT’s plans may be affected by postponement


PETALING JAYA: The postponement of the excise duty on electronic cigarette’s and vaporiser product’s nicotine-laced liquid and gel could put British American Tobacco Bhd’s (BAT) plans to move into the segment in limbo.

On Jan 3, the Royal Malaysian Customs Department (RMCD) announced that it would postpone the levy, which was supposed to begin on Jan 1, 2022, to a later date.

No reason was given for the delay, but CGS-CIMB Research noted that this could be due to the vape industry players’ discontentment over the excise duty rate.

“Even we were negative on the amount that the government had posited at Budget 2022’s tabling,” it said, noting that the proposed excise duty rate of RM1.20/ml was on the high side.

“It may not seem punishing for closed-system vapes or vape pens, as their gel and liquid are highly durable.

“However, the issue comes for the other vape variations that require more gel and liquid than the closed-system type.

“The retail prices of the existing open-system vapes’ liquid bottles can more than double if the RM1.20/ml excise duty is imposed,” it explained.

Nonetheless, this indefinite postponement would place BAT’s plans to distribute vapes in Malaysia in a limbo.

That said, the delay should be neutral for the group’s prospects as CGS-CIMB pointed out that users would be fiscally burdened by the proposed excise duty rate anyway.

“We think that these industry players were not protesting against the excise duty’s imposition. Rather, we believe that they want the industry to be legitimised and regulated – just that the excise duty should not push up the vape liquid’s retail prices to levels that the consumers can ill afford.”

However, rather than simply revising down the excise duty rate, RMCD is postponing the levy indefinitely.

Based on its conversations with vape industry players, the research house said the government had mulled taxing vape liquid since at least 2015.

It also opined that making vapes unaffordable may spawn a whole new black market, just like the one that has devoured much of the cigarette industry in Malaysia.

The research house has maintained its “hold” call on BAT with a target price of RM14.38 a share.

It believes a re-rating catalyst for the stock will be the government’s decision to revise down the excise duty rate on vape liquid.

It cited downside risks to its recommendation include more down-trading to value-for-money cigarettes, and smokers cutting down their cigarette intake once the economy reopens.

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