Index keep falling; upcoming policy decisions may snare bulls
With a modest recovery in the first couple of days, the benchmark Index of Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX), lost most of the gains posted recently. The week ended 7th September closed at 40,855 points, down 2.1%WoW. Showcasing all the tell-tale signs of a highly volatile, illiquid (average weekly daily trading volume shrinking 22%WoW) and dampened near term outlook, investors remained cautious. The news impacting the market included: 1) a number of crucial and time sensitive decisions for the new government where clarity is awaited and 2) growing risk of a cyclical downturn in consumption led demand where monetary tightening and high fuel prices suggest reduced spending. Other news affecting investors’ sentiments were: 1) US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo stating that his visit to Islamabad led to an agreement that it’s time for the United States and Pakistan to deliver on their commitments, 2) the central bank announcing auction of Rs5.15 trillion worth Market Treasury Bills and Pakistan Investment Bonds during the four remaining months of the current calendar year, 3) Prime Minister Imran Khan approving 46 percent increase in gas prices as proposed by Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA), along with ordering steps to control annual gas theft of Rs50billion and 4) President on the advice of the Prime Minister reconstituting the Council of Common Interests (CCI), and constituting the Cabinet Committee on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CCoCPEC).
Volume leaders for the week were: BOP, KEL, AGL and EPCL. While the gainers were led by: ABL, KAPCO, UBL, KEL, the laggards included: PIOC, DGKC, CHCC and NCL. Volatility is expected to mar investors’ sentiments over the coming weeks because of some difficulty to comprehend decision, also lacking prudent thinking. Accumulating positions on dips and tactical sector switching could yield returns.
Overall, market participants will be closely monitoring policy decisions, particularly regarding gas and electricity tariff hikes (proposed by OGRA and NEPRA with ECC’s formal decisions pending) and near term measures to curtail the external account deficit.
Ballooning current account deficit (CAD) due to the hefty debt repayments have led to a mammoth external financing gap (US$20.42billion for FY18) as insufficient external inflows (US$14.35billion loans in FY18) plunged the foreign exchange reserves held by State Bank of Pakistan to US$9.79billion, down US$6.34billion during FY18. Going forward, an estimated CAD of US$17.8 billion for FY19 with additional drags from upcoming redemption of Eurobond and commercial borrowing repayments are likely to push gross external financing to US$22.44billion for FY19. In this regard, inadequate external inflows estimated at US$13.45billion (excluding bailout financing should translate into a net shortfall of US$8.84billion by the end of FY19, plunging the reserves to unsustainable levels.
Moreover, for recent policy makers, the path to possible remedies for the prevailing Balance of Payment (BoP) shortfall include: 1) approaching international debt market, 2) investments from non-residential Pakistanis, 3) Chinese bailout, 4) ‘gifts’ from friendly countries, and 5) eventual IMF financing facility. With each mode of financing carrying inherent benefits and associated risks, GoP conceding to another IMF financing facility along with accompanying caveats (with the sole purpose of improving on external vulnerabilities). Under an IMF facility, GoP could likely tap in other external avenues as well as fetch better yields in international debt market to create a blend of financing to bridge the external gap.
Pakistan’s largest exploration and production company OGDC has announced its FY18 earnings at Rs78.74billion (EPS: Rs18.31) as compared to Rs63.80billion (EPS: Rs14.84) for FY17, up 23%YoY. The Board of Directors has also approved payment of a final dividend of Rs2.5/share, taking the cumulative full year payout to Rs10/share for the year. The results are above market expectations on account of higher gross profit, translating into higher profitability. Net sales were up 19%YoY mainly due to the hike in international oil prices by 25%YoY and depreciation of Pak rupee by more than 5%, despite falling hydrocarbon volumes. Exploration expense were reported at Rs16.19billion, may be due to recording of a previously suspended well at Ranipur. The quantum of other income was almost at the level of previous year. During 4QFY18 fourthearnings rose to Rs21.92billion (EPS: Rs5.10) from R16.21billion (EPS: Rs3.77), on the back of favorable macro/oil price shifts, overcoming the drop in volumetric output (gas volumes were stagnant but oil volumes declined by more than 7%YoY).
At present the scrip is being traded at a heavy discount to its 3 year historical price. While the likely positive is further hike in international oil price, the dry wells in Balochistan or a decline in global oil prices could pose risks to the profitability of the company.
The decline in petroleum, oil and lubricants (POL) sales plunged by 18% MoM/46%YoY during August 2018 as volumetric offtake declined to 1.35 million tons, proving to be the lowest monthly for sales since February 2007. The lofty decline was observed in FO sales falling by 46%MoM/79%YoY. Along with this retail fuel segment also tapered (HSD and MOGAS sales also posted decline of 20%MoM/38%YoY and 1%MoM/11%YoY) respectively, the 8MCY18 cumulative volumes also declined by 18% YoY. Among all the products, only MOGAS recorded a 3%YoY increase, while HSD/FO offtake declined 7%MoM/45%YoY, sapping growth from overall sales. Sizeable shifts in market share PSO, APL, and HASCOL during 8MCY18 was observed as smaller unlisted players were seem to be claiming bigger chunk in the pie.
Some of the worth mentioning corporate announcements were: 1) National Foods (NATF) announced its 4QFY18 result posting consolidated EPS of Rs4.37 up 100% YoY as compared to EPS of Rs2.19 for the corresponding quarter last year. Sales improved by 13% YoY, while distribution cost declined by 18% YoY. Earnings were considerably up despite 1) increase in administrative expenses by 75% YoY, 2) hike in financial charges by 37% YoY, 3) decline in gross margins and 4) fall in other income by 65% YoY. NATF also announced cash dividend of Rs3.75 per share along with issue of 20% bonus shares. 2) Engro Polymer and Chemicals (EPCL) informed PSX that the Company has decided to enter Hydrogen per Oxide business through a Greenfield manufacturing facility with a CAPEX of US$23million, funded through internal cash generation, 3) Pak Suzuki Motor announced that it would stop production of its much sought-after and low-priced Mehran from next year.