Monday, 24 March 2014

Plantation Companies With Best Growth Potential (Part 2/2)

At least for me, it is not easy to value a plantation company.

Since most companies' financial year end in December, at this time we can get their latest PE ratio for direct comparison.

However, I think current actual PE ratio does not show or predict the true value of plantation stocks, as the most important factor to value them is their future growth in earning, which are linked to FFB growth and future CPO price.

CPO price might not be easy to predict, but FFB growth is largely predictable.

If we have detail palm age profile or yearly new planted area, then we can roughly calculate the future FFB production base on historical FFB yield per hectare for certain tree age groups. 

So, companies with high PE ratio because of poor earning at the moment may see their earning suddenly jump tremendously due to substantial increase in FFB production, as majority of trees enter prime age.

As stated in Plantation Companies With Best Growth Potential (Part 1), companies with the largest percentage of immature & young trees below 7 years are as follow:

       Chart 1: Companies With The Most Young & Immature Trees

I think it is still useful to look into the latest PE ratio of those 10 plantation companies. All companies' PE ratio shown in the table below are the latest with FY end in December, except IJMP (Mac) & JT (Jun).

Table 1: PE Ratio

PE Ratio
FR 13.4
TA 17.3
TSH 18.7
BUMI 19.7
IJMP 24.4
THP 28.0
SOP 29.3
TDM 30.0
GENP 35.0
JT 113.8

From the table above, JT might have a sky high PE ratio. However, it also has the highest FFB growth potential with the highest percentage of young & immature trees.

Both TSH and BUMI have relatively low PE ratio below 20x, and they also possess the highest percentage of young trees after JT. Thus, it seems like TSH and BUMI are the better bet at the moment.

FR has the lowest PE and decent percentage of young trees at 58.8%. It definitely looks good as well but why the market gives it a lower PE compared to its peers? There is a reason behind it.

There is another method to value a company which is Enterprise Value Multiple (EVM). It is calculated as EV/EBITDA. It roughly shows how many years it would take to pay off the acquisition cost if the company is to be acquired at enterprise value. Similar to PE ratio, the lower the better.

Table 2: EV/EBITDA
FR 13085.1 1121.3 11.7
BUMI 6054.7 425.8 14.2
GENP 8185.4 373.1 21.9
TSH 3737.2 224.7 16.6
JT 3539.2 144.6 24.4
SOP 3296.7 250.0 13.2
THP 3015.3 169.9 17.7
IJMP 2938.8 *159.5 *18.4
TA 1877.6 155.9 12.0
TDM 1557.9 96.1 16.2

* EBIT only

From calculation of EVM, FR still has the lowest or best value. Besides, SOP, TDM & THP also looks better compared to their relatively high PE ratio. JT still has the highest numbers, but not as high as its PE due to its high depreciation and amortization in FY2013.

With limited information on hand, I'm unable to calculate the estimated FFB production and earning of these companies in the future. However, those professional analysts can.

Below are the current price and latest target price by analysts for these 10 companies. For consistency, I will quote the target price given by RHB as RHB covers most of these stocks. All the target price are derived after the release of company's latest financial results.

Table 3: Target Price & Potential Upside
Stocks Actual Price Target Price Analyst Potential Upside (%)
FR 2.33 2.70 MB 15.9
TA 4.28 5.00 RHB 16.8
TSH 3.16 3.19 RHB 1.0
BUMI 1.05 1.39 RHB 32.4
IJMP 3.3 3.80 KNG 15.2
THP 1.99 2.10 MIDF 5.5
SOP 6.5 7.04 RHB 8.3
TDM 0.93 1.04 RHB 11.8
GENP 10.5 11.20 RHB 6.7
JT 2.73 2.95 RHB 8.1

       Chart 2: Potential Upside of Share Price    

JT and TSH are thought to have exponential growth in the future, but the potential upside of their share price are just 8.1% & 1.0% respectively. However, this target price is for calendar year 2014, which means it has limited upside for this year only. In the next few years, "barring any unforeseen circumstances", both companies' FFB production and profit will go up substantially and their target price will be revised upwards.

Many investors have already taken position in some hot and great plantation stocks. This results in their relatively high share price with limited upside at the moment. For long term investors, the target price by analysts might not be that important.

Anyway, it is still desirable to find one with high potential upside in year 2014. Obviously there is one here, which is Bumitama. 

In term of NTA (net tangible assets), most companies' share prices are 2-3 times more than their NTAs. Only TDM which is not a pure plantation stock has share price closest to its NTA.

Table 4: NTA

Price NTA
FR 2.33 0.80
TA 4.28 2.72
TSH 3.16 1.19
BUMI 1.05 0.39
IJMP 3.3 1.60
THP 1.99 1.35
SOP 6.5 2.82
TDM 0.93 0.84
GENP 10.5 4.52
JT 2.73 1.80

Fundamental investors always look for companies with high ROE. Higher ROE means higher profitability in which the company can generate more profit from its shareholders fund.

Besides ROE, it is also important that the gearing is at a comfortable level. The lower the gearing, the less risky it is when unforeseen disaster strike the company or plantation industry.

       Chart 3: ROE and Gearing

First Resources has excellent ROE at 21.8%, while Bumitama and TSH also meet my selection criteria of around 15 and above.

It is obvious that those companies with high percentage of young trees through aggressive new planting in recent years have the highest net debt/equity ratio. If you own those companies with high gearing ratio, then better pray that their FFB production grows according to plan and no unforeseen circumstances strike within the next few years.

Personally I hope to own a pure plantation company but TA, JT, GENP, SOP & TDM are not. 

If not mistaken, only First Resources and SOP are involved in downstream business with palm oil processing and refining facilities. This is a plus point for me.

In summary, there is no "the best" plantation stock.

However, the one that caught my eyes is Bumitama, which stands out in all aspect except its lower FFB yield, slightly higher PE ratio and high gearing.

First Resources is also not bad at all with its excellent management (high ROE, low gearing with unbelievable margin), low PE ratio or EVM and more than 50% of young & immature trees. 

The worries for First Resources are the recent significant fall in FFB yield and also the expiry of its locked-in CPO forward sales at a high average selling price of around RM2850 throughout year 2012-2013. So, FR will depend more on its FFB production growth to drive up its revenue and profit in 2014, not the CPO price.

This may explain why the market gives FR a lower PE as the growth in profit for 2014 might be only a little or negative.

Anyway, I think FR is still a superb plantation stock to own in long term.

For Malaysia's side, I think I will go for a pure plantation company with high percentage of young trees, if I were to invest in one.


  1. sorry to disturb, bumitama is privately held company right?

  2. Chris, it is listed in Singapore.

  3. PEGGY, you can use your method to choose. Personally I'm more likely to invest in Bumitama or First Resources, but I haven't decided yet.


    Can look at A&M.
    But the RM4.2 billion i think may not be accurate. Still checking. Anyway, even if RM400mil, slso can.

  5. PEGGY, Thanks for the info. Though I'm not too interested in property at the moment, but if can make good money everything is welcomed :) I'll watch and follow A&M.

  6. Me too. Don't really like property at the moment. But besides property, hard to find stock with low PE.

  7. anyone here using hlebroking to trade foreign share ?

  8. Chris, I'm applying for one, any problem with HLebroking? The minimum brokerage fee is SGD30...

  9. Great article. Very detail and factual.

    Yes, buying any stock has to compare with its peers, which is the best among the group.

    You have covered many aspects; growth potential in ffb, debts level, NTA etc. The best growth potential does not mean the best bottom line, or ROE as it also depends on the cost of production, yield etc. You have also covered these. Perhaps ROIC may be a better metric to compare efficiencies as different companies have different cash and debt levels. Perhaps if you can forecast the growth and the profits for the next say 5 years and transform that to the bottom line would be better. Yes, difficult for us to do that. it is the job of professional analysts.

    Yes again a good company may not be a good investment. You have rightfully covered that with PE ratio, EV/Ebitda. Good, you are using EV now. Perhaps another good metric to use is EV/hectare. The E in PE, and Ebitda may be better to use future expected figure rather than the past. Not easy to forecast though.

    In my opinion, forecasting the price of palm oil is much harder than the production. As far as I know, nobody is able to do that with significant result so far. That is shown everywhere in the academic research papers.

    Forecasting the production is easier as long as you know the age profile, the yield etc, one can come out with more confident forecast. It involves a lot more work though.

  10. insightful analysis, i am new to your blog..your stock selections are way better than mine.

  11. KC, thanks for your encouragement. I'm learning from you, and also many others who share their knowledge & experience online :)

    James Law, thanks, about stock selection, I think luck is by my side at the moment, and we always need it :)

  12. i just asking, but your article really gave me alot new perspective way to analysis plantation stock. thnx to u :)

  13. Chris, you're welcomed. I'm glad that I can help, but I'm only a beginner. Just few mths ago (Nov13), I still know nothing much about plantation, even not sure what is FFB...

  14. everything start from first step as long u willing to do. thnx alot ya..haha

  15. HI BD. Can I request a part 3 of this blogpost?

    Looking forward to read it

    1. Hi Ariff, so far I have no plan to write about plantation in general, but I will study some plantation companies later.