Weak trade affects seaport, logistic firms

PETALING JAYA: The weakened outlook in global trade growth continues to dampen both the seaport and logistic sectors, says Kenanga Research.

The research house said the World Trade Organisation had trimmed its 2023 global trade growth forecast in October 2022 to 1% from 3.4% previously.

This was on the back of the protracted Russia-Ukraine war, energy crisis in Europe and China’s gradual reopening.

“China’s reopening is likely to be gradual, which means there will not be an immediate end to global supply-chain disruptions.

“Globally, consumer confidence and spending are likely to take a beating on sustained elevated inflation, rising interest rates and a slowing global economy,” it said in a report.

Additionally, Kenanga Research said a recession in Europe is “almost a foregone conclusion” triggered by the Russia-Ukraine skirmish that resulted in soaring energy prices in the region.

Such circumstances are unfavorable for seaport operators like Westports Holdings Bhd, of which the research outfit has maintained a “market perform” call with a lower target price of RM3.40.

On a whole, Kenanga Research has a “neutral” call on the sector.

However, Kenanga Research remains optimistic in the local logistics sector, primarily driven by domestic demand and eCommerce boom.

“Industry experts expect local eCommerce gross merchandise volume to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 11% from 2022 to 2027, while its size could reach RM1.65 trillion by 2025 from RM1 trillion currently,” said the research house.

Furthermore, demand for distribution hubs and warehouses will likely be driven by the eCommerce boom to enable just-in-time delivery and re-shoring or near-shoring to bring manufacturers closer to end-customers.

Besides, demand for automation systems that includes inter-connectivity with the customer system as well as warehouse decentralisation that reduces transportation costs and de-risk the supply chain, will also be spurred by eCommerce.

The research house’s top picks are Bintulu Port Holdings Bhd and Swift Haulage Bhd, both of which are given “outperform” rating with a high target price of RM6 and RM1.01, respectively.

For Bintulu Port, the group is expected to sustain growth, underpinned by its operation in handling liquified natural gas (LNG) cargoes and the potential tariff hike in Bintulu Port.

“We like Bintulu Port for the steady income stream from handling LNG cargoes for Malaysia LNG Sdn Bhd, which typically makes up close to 50% of its total profits.

“It will also be a potential step-up in earnings if Bintulu Port is granted a significant hike in its port tariffs.

“Also, the company stands to benefit from the tremendous growth potential of Samalaju Industrial Port, backed by rising investment in heavy industries in the Samalaju Industrial Park,” it said.

Samalaju Industrial Park has caught the attention of investors like Sakura Ferroalloys Sdn Bhd, Malaysian Phosphate Additives Sdn Bhd, Pertama Ferroalloys Sdn Bhd, OM Holdings, Press Metal Bintulu Sdn Bhd, OCIM Sdn Bhd and Wenan Steel (M) Sdn Bhd.

These industries are expected to boost Samalaju Industrial Port’s growth to achieve breakeven by 2025, said MIDF Research.

For Swift Haulage, the research house liked the group for its leading position in the local haulage business, commanding close to 10% market share.

The firm’s ability to generate pre-tax profit margin of 10% compared to the industry average of 4% due to its value-adding integrated offerings also makes it more attractive.

Last year, Swift Haulage announced that it is looking to widen its customer base locally and regionally to utilise its recent warehouse expansion.

On this note, Kenanga Research said the group will benefit from its warehousing business that is also riding on the growth of the domestic eCommerce market.

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