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Sep 12,2017 18:29:14

Plantation – Is The Current CPO Price Strength Sustainable?

Malaysian inventory levels are now at 1.94m tonnes, translating to an annualised stock/usage ratio of 10.3%. This is above the historical average of 9.5%, signalling that stock levels are officially in a surplus. With demand continuing to disappoint, with most of the main markets in negative territory YTD, we do not expect the current strength in CPO prices to persist. This would coincide with an anticipated softening of soybean prices once the initial impact of hurricanes in the US wear off and weather normalises. No change to our UNDERWEIGHT stance on the sector.

  • Malaysia’s CPO production rose 13.6% YoY in YTD-Aug, although August’s output was down by a slight 0.9% MoM from July. We believe production would pick up in the next couple of months, as most planters are expecting peak output to be in September/October. For the whole of 2017, we expect Malaysia’s CPO output growth to moderate to 10-12% YoY. 
     
  • Exports rose by 6.4% MoM in August, bringing YTD exports to a 2% increase YoY. In YTD-Aug, exports saw a rise to Pakistan (+14% YoY) and Philippines (+6%). This was offset by a decline in exports to China (-4% YoY) India (-29%) and the US (- 20.5%), while exports to the EU was flat YoY.
     
  • Inventory rose 8.8% MoM to 1.94m tonnes in August, despite a dip in output. Annualised stock/usage ratio for August is now at 10.3% (up from 9.5% in July), which is now above the 15-year historical average of 9.5%. This means that stock levels are now officially in a surplus situation. We expect to see a continuation of rising inventory levels, as production resumes its recovery during the peak seasonal period. 
     
  • 2Q17 results disappointed, as six companies (IOI Corp, Genting Plantations, TSH Resources, Kuala Lumpur Kepong, IJM Plantations and Felda Global Ventures) reported results that were below expectations. Two (Sime Darby and Sawarak Oil Palms) reported results above expectations, with only CB Industrial Product in line. We continue to see strong YoY FFB output growth in 2Q17, although most companies saw lower QoQ production growth. We observe Indonesia continuing to drive this growth, despite most companies guiding for growth to start moderating in 2H17. In Malaysia, while the growth recovery has not been consistent throughout the country, most companies are guiding for output to pick up more strongly in 2H17, with the peak output slated to be in September/October for Malaysia. Most companies continued to guide for strong double-digit FFB growth in 2017, coming from a low base in 2016. For those with downstream operations, we saw stronger QoQ margins, as feedstock prices fell. Most companies continue to guide for stronger margins at their downstream divisions, as selling prices have risen, while feedstock prices continue to weaken.
     
  • We maintain our UNDERWEIGHT rating on the sector, on the back of a strong output recovery and weak demand dynamics. Catalysts include a positive change to global demand and any extreme weather occurrences that would have an impact on global vegetable oil output. Our Top BUY is Sarawak Oil Palms while our Top SELL is London Sumatra. (Hoe Lee Leng)

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