Glove stocks in a massive rut

PETALING JAYA: Gone are the days when Top Glove Corp Bhd made almost RM3bil in net profit within a single quarter at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In its latest financial quarter, the world’s largest glove manufacturer unexpectedly plunged into operational losses, as its revenue dropped to below pre-pandemic levels.

Amid reduced glove demand, Top Glove’s free-falling bottom line showed that the glove industry’s overall earnings outperformance might have come to an end.

Top Glove’s biggest competitor, Hartalega Holdings Bhd, also saw its net profit in the quarter ended June 30, tumbling to below pre-pandemic levels. In August, CGS-CIMB Research said the “worst is yet to come” for the company. Investors do not seem convinced that a rebound could happen in the glove industry soon.

Top Glove’s share price lost 70.5% of its value year-to-date, closing at 70 sen yesterday. As for Hartalega, the stock closed at RM1.54, a far cry from the year-to-date high of RM6.10 in early January.

Along with the drop in share prices, the glove makers have been dragging down the FBM KLCI. It is widely expected that both the stocks would be booted out of FBM KLCI in the next review.

The glove manufacturing industry has been suffering from oversupply of gloves, at a time when global demand has been reducing.The entry of non-glove players into industry, including from China, has resulted in a glut.

Nevertheless, Top Glove has expressed confidence that once customers’ stockpiles are depleted and glove restocking activity resumes, the market would stabilise and be better positioned to absorb the additional supply from new capacity.

“As the glove industry is estimated to be running at below 50% utilisation, glove supply is expected to reduce accordingly.

“The group anticipates that industry consolidation will follow, further reducing glove supply and paving the way for recovery,” it said in a statement yesterday.

According to Top Glove managing director Lim Cheong Guan, glove demand would resume its 10% growth per annum as projected by the Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association, once the demand and supply mechanism rebalances.

Beset by oversupply and excess customer stockpiles, the world’s largest glove maker posted a net loss of RM52.59mil in the fourth quarter ended Aug 31, 2022 (4Q22), on the back of revenue that dropped by over 52% year-on-year RM990.1mil.

The group incurred a loss of 0.66 sen per share, down from an earnings per share of 5.59 sen in the same quarter in 2021.

“The group’s 4Q22 performance is not reflective of our business or the sector’s true potential, both of which remain very promising in the longer term.

“We have delivered exceptionally strong profits over the last two years and are now going through a period of normalisation as glove demand and supply stabilises,” Lim pointed out.

Top Glove did not announce a dividend for the fourth quarter under review.

For the financial year of 2022 (FY22), Top Glove reported a net profit of RM235.97mil, from the net profit of RM7.71bil recorded in the previous year, as revenue contracted to about a third at RM5.57bil. The group’s full-year profit after tax margin plunged to 5% in FY22, as compared to 25% and 48% in FY20 and FY21 respectively.

Top Glove said customers had adopted a “wait and see” approach in anticipation of further declines in the average selling price (ASP) of gloves.

The group said it wrote down its inventory value to net realisable value by RM56mil in the recent quarter and RM229mil in FY22.

Additionally, the group contended with a natural gas tariff of about 60% over the course of the financial year as well as a 25% increase in the Malaysian minimum wage to RM1,500 since May 2022.

As for mitigation measures, Top Glove has increased its ASPs by 5% for October 2022, in order to enable cost pass through, in view of the rising cost in the past one year.

Lim said the group would defer all capital expenditure for new capacity in 2023 in view of the lower utilisation levels.

Top Glove has also embarked on streamlining facilities to enhance those producing its in-house supply of materials, and continues to collaborate with suppliers on cost-effective procurement.

In the United States, the group will attempt to recapture sales via more cost-efficient and value-added products, and enhance its green product line.

“The industry’s fundamentals remain intact as there are no structural changes to the industry, gloves remain an essential item in the medical sector with no viable replacement, and are also disposable which means demand is recurring. Hence, this setback is temporary and part of the business cycle, which we are confident of navigating successfully,” Lim said.

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