Nov 29, 2016 09:50:17

Plantation: Overpowered by the Bull Factor

We expect favorable CPO fundamental and better soybean prospect to outweigh the impact of weaker Indian palm oil import as a result of India’s demonetization policy. We believe Indian palm oil import should normalize by Jan-17 once the issues have been settled. Maintain overweight with LSIP as our top pick.

Favorable CPO fundamental still prevails. In our previous report, The Time is Ripe!, we highlighted that CPO fundamental will remain strong because of 1) pressure on emerging market currencies, such as IDR and MYR, since 8 Nov post the US presidential election, 2) expectation of subdued output till 1Q17 and 3) slower minimum wage hike set by the government at 8.25% for FY17. Note in previous years, this ranges between 13-19% since FY12. According to the latest estimates by MPOB, Malaysia's palm oil production guided a 3.5% MoM decline in the first 20 days of Nov. This follows a 2.2% MoM decline in Oct-16. Given this, and higher Dec demand in anticipation of Chinese New Year, we expect CPO price to trade within the range of MYR2,800-3,000/ton until year-end.

US proposal for higher biofuel quotas in FY17 an added boost for CPO price. On 23 Nov-16, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set higher biofuel quotas at 19.28bn gallons or 72.98bn liters (+6.5% YoY) to be blended into gasoline and diesel for FY17, which is higher than the initial 18.8 billion gallons (71.1bn liters) proposed in May. The revised quota also includes 280mn gallons (1.1bn liters) of increase in advanced biofuel quota, which may boost demand for soya oil-based biodiesel by 700-800mn lbs (0.3-0.4mn tons), according to a Bloomberg article. Increased demand for soy-related products will boost soy products' prices, hence positive for CPO price.

India’s high-denomination banknotes ban poses short-term hiccup for palm oil demand. On 8 Nov-16, India announced immediate ban on the use of 500 Rupee (USD7.50) and 1,000 Rupee (USD15.00) banknotes, which account for 86% of total cash in circulation, in an effort to combat corruption and counterfeit money in the country. Citizens will have until 30 Dec-16 to exchange their old notes for the new ones. We think the ban of high-denomination notes will affect India palm oil import negatively in the short-term, given that India is the largest importer of palm oil, accounting for 19% of total Malaysian palm oil export (10M16) and 22% of total Indonesia palm oil export (8M16). Due to slow distribution of the new notes, cash crunch in India will temporarily disrupt retail demand, including purchases of necessities, as well as delayed shipment of vegetable oils to India. As a result, we could see weaker Indian palm oil import translating into Malaysia’s Nov and Dec CPO export figures, before normalizing in Jan-17. According to Intertek Testing Services, Indian palm oil import fell 75% MoM to 58,360 tons in the first 20 days of Nov.

Maintain overweight. Overall, we expect favorable CPO fundamental and better soybean price prospect to negate the negative impact of weaker Indian palm oil import. Moreover, we believe Indian palm oil import should normalize by Jan- 17 once the issues have been settled. Maintain overweight on the plantation sector with LSIP as our preferred pick.