Tuesday, 24 November 2009

BAT’s dividends in jeopardy

BAT’s dividends in jeopardy
Tags: BAT

Written by The Edge Financial Daily
Monday, 23 November 2009 11:12

Maintain hold at RM45.08, target price RM42.50: BAT’s nine-month (9MFY09) net profit of RM573.9 million came in just within our expectations and consensus, constituting 70% of both our FY09 net profit forecast and street estimates. A second interim dividend per share (DPS) of 61 sen tax-exempt was below our expectation.

Double-digit volume contraction continues as illicit trade reaches all-time high of 38.7%. BAT’s 9MFY09 sales volumes contracted by 17.3% year-on-year (y-o-y), steeper than total industry volume (TIV) shrinkage of 14.6% and is the third consecutive quarter that BAT’s volume has decreased more than the TIV’s.

This was due to the acceleration in consumers’ downtrading in response to tough economic conditions and timing of pre-budget trade loading by retailers and distributors.

Lower sales volumes, particularly in the value segment, caused revenue to decrease by 7% y-o-y. Pall Mall’s retail audit market share slid to 7.8% (-0.6% y-o-y) as consumers bypassed value and extremely low-priced cigarettes (ELPC) for illegal cigarettes. BAT premium brands Dunhill and Kent however both grew market share in 9MFY09 by 1.7%.

The timing of marketing expense and higher finance cost saw 3QFY09 pre-tax profit decrease by 13% q-o-q, steeper than the 6% dip in revenue. Higher advertising and promotion expense for the launch of new compact cigarette product Kent Nanotek, consolidation of distribution network and higher finance cost (for the borrowings overlap as RM150 million medium term notes matured on Nov 2, 2009) caused the decline in pre-tax profit.

3QFY09 net profit slid further by 17% q-o-q, due to a 3% increase in tax rate due to the non-deductibility of interest expense from BAT’s move to single-tier tax system and a one-off adjustment for shortfall in dividend franking credits due to tax refunds.

Dividends are at risk, with the second interim DPS of 61 sen being 20% lower than 3QFY08’s 76 sen. While BAT will continue to pay out at least 90% of net profit in dividends, the practice of increasing absolute DPS y-o-y is under review. We have lowered FY09 net DPS estimate to RM2.53 (compared to FY08’s RM2.65). That translates to FY09 dividend yield of 6%.

We have revised FY09 and FY10 net profit forecast downwards by 2% and 3% respectively. We have raised our FY09 BAT volume contraction assumption to -10% (from -5%).

We maintain a hold recommendation with lower target price of RM42.50 predicated on a discounted cash flow (DCF) valuation with the weighted average cost of capital (WACC) at 6.3% and terminal growth rate of 2% from RM45 previously. — Kenanga Research, Nov 20

This article appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, November 23, 2009

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