Basic Materials 4Q23 Earnings Rose, LMC Shines

Malayan Cement Berhad (LMC) exceeded expectations while Cahya Mata Sarawak and Press Metal fell below estimates.

RHB Investment Bank’s (RHB) Malaysia Sector Update today (Mac 5) said they continue to favour LMC due to its direct exposure to the  rebound in construction and property activities, and its position as the largest  cement brand in Malaysia.

With numerous local infrastructure projects on the  horizon, building materials players – particularly cement producers – are  expected to reap significant benefits from the infrastructure initiatives.

RHB D/Gs the basic material sector to NEUTRAL from Overweight; Top Pick: Malayan Cement (LMC).

Aluminium. PMAH’s FY23 core earnings fell slightly below RHB’s and Street’s estimates, in tandem with softening metal prices and regional premiums. 

The 4Q23 topline declined 10% YoY but improved QoQ, mirroring the LME price  trend (+2.2% QoQ, -4.6% YoY). 4Q23 core earnings amounted to MYR311.7m  (+6.4% QoQ, -7.6% YoY) from a higher contribution from associates (+78%  YoY) and enhanced smelting profitability as PMAH continued to reap further  savings in raw material costs, especially carbon anode, due to the lag effect. 

RHB toned down their optimism on prospects of the aluminium sector due to  expected surplus in FY24. Despite historically low aluminium inventory levels,  global aluminium demand remains unexciting, hindering the resurgence of  ASPs.

Weak demand persists in Europe, with mixed performances among sub sectors in China. While RHB recognised PMAH as one of the lowest-cost smelter  in the world, they revised their recommendation on the stock to Neutral, given the  lukewarm sentiment of the aluminium industry, coupled with limited upside  potential in PMAH’s current valuation.

Raw materials trend & outlook. Carbon anode prices have decreased to below the CNY4,000/tonne mark, and RHB anticipates it to remain at the current level barring any significant supply shortages.

In contrast, alumina has risen, reaching c.USD367/tonne as of end January (+10% MoM) on concerns  over supply chain disruptions following a fuel depot blast in Guinea which impacted bauxite supply.

Bulk cement prices have stabilised and continue to  sustain at MYR380/MT as of January, and we foresee it remaining within this  range given the expected demand.

Cement. Within RHB’s coverage of the two cement players, LMC surprised  the Street yet again, while CMS fell short of expectations.

LMC’s 1HFY24 earnings constitute 85% and 70% of RHB’s and consensus’ full-year forecasts. The surge in topline performance and margins were attributable to  improvements in volumes, cement and concrete ASPs, and reduced coal cost. 

Conversely, CMS’ FY23 earnings fell short of ours and Street’s full-year  projections at 96% and 86%. Although CMS’ cement division demonstrated  sequential improvement – supporting RHB’s positive outlook on the cement  prospects in Sarawak – the disappointing results were influenced by widening  loss in the Phosphates division, and a slowdown in other business segments.

RHB cited their Top Pick as Malayan Cement (LMC MK) with a Target Price of BUY MYR5.65.

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