Monday, March 03, 2008

Analysts expect slower corporate earnings growth mainly because of a global economic slowdown and inflation 2008

By Biz Times

THE recently concluded reporting season saw most of the country's top 100 listed companies posting solid numbers, thanks to bright results by lenders, oil and gas service companies, palm oil producers, and property and construction firms.

A closer look at the top 25 companies by market capitalisation showed that five registered lower net profits in their quarterly results, while three posted lower earnings in their cumulative financial results. None, however, made losses.

Analysts, in general, were happy to see the results of Malaysia Airlines and Public Bank, while those of Malayan Banking, Puncak Niaga, YTL Power and conglomerate Sime Darby were below expectations.

"Most of the companies under our coverage are either above or within our expectations," MIMB Investment Bank research head Pong Teng Siew said.

However, analysts expect slower earnings growth this year, due mainly to a global economic slowdown and inflation.

"We expect companies under our coverage to grow by about 10 per cent this year, slightly below the 12. 2 per cent growth in 2007," said Pong.

The good news is that the weaker earnings estimates do not apply across all industries. Companies involved in steel, plantation, and oil and gas are seen as major beneficiaries.

Steel companies are expected to benefit from ceiling price adjustments and demand from China, plantation firms to see better numbers helped by higher crude palm oil prices, and multi-billion-ringgit jobs to be up for grabs by oil and gas firms this year.

Construction companies are also expected to see earnings growth as many major infrastructure projects under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP) have yet to be awarded.

"We expect the award of contracts to take place after the elections, which are critical in meeting the objectives of the 9MP," Kenanga Investment Bank said in a report.