Mixed views on Kuala Lumpur Kepong’s 4Q outlook

KLK said profits from its plantation segment will sustain despite CPO and PK prices easing following an increase of 41% and 40.9% to RM4,857 and RM3,364 per tonne respectively in 3Q of FY22.

PETALING JAYA: Analysts are mixed over Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd’s (KLK) fourth quarter (4Q) outlook, as the company could see higher sales from its plantation segment as well as weaker product prices.

RHB Research expects KLK to record improvements in sales volumes in 4Q due to the upliftment of the export ban in Indonesia and inventory normalisation.

KLK’s fresh fruit bunch (FFB) production for the nine months ended June 30 (9M22) increased by 26.28% year-on-year (y-o-y), which is higher than management’s growth guidance of 20% growth and RHB Research 22% growth assumption.”

The research house added that KLK’s 9M22 core net profit came in above estimates.

“This was mainly contributed by higher-than-expected FFB growth which led to lower than expected unit costs, as well as higher than expected palm kernel prices and property division earnings,” RHB said.

Kenanga Research meanwhile expects KLK’s earnings from the plantation business to ease as crude palm oil (CPO) prices have dipped by over 30% since June. It said this was due to a combination of seasonal supply uptrend and aggressive selling as Indonesia faces storage limitations.

“Despite seasonal supply improvement over the next few months, edible oil tightness is likely to ease only in 2023, provided demand recovery is not stronger than 3% to 4% y-o-y.

“An economic slowdown or recession can dampen demand but we suspect buying should pick up as inventories among key buying countries are low,” Kenanga Research said.

Additionally, it said year-to-date Chinese imports of palm oil have been subdued while elevated fossil fuel prices meant that there is latent demand for biofuels. “We are maintaining an average CPO price of RM4,500 per tonne for FY22 and RM4,000 per tonne for FY23 but we are nudging down KLK’ s FY22 FFB production by 2%,” the research house said.

RHB estimates a drop in KLK’s unit costs in 9M22, given the y-o-y decline in plantation division revenue of 37% versus the y-o-y rise in pre-tax profit of 63%.

“This could be attributed to the strong FFB output as well as lower-than-normal fertilisation activities. Management estimates FY22 production unit cost to remain at RM2,000 per tonne as the increase in fertiliser costs will not be reflected fully in FY22, since the prices of fertilisers tendered for 1H22 were manageable,” said RHB Research.

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