Analysts see rubber glove stocks bouncing off

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on March 5, 2020.
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KUALA LUMPUR: The Covid-19 epidemic has pushed investors into stocks of rubber glovemakers, which have seen an uptick in demand.

The Healthcare Index climbed 13.77 points or 1.03% to close at 1,344.72 yesterday, with the Big Four rubber glove players dominating the list of most active counters on Bursa Malaysia.

Among the most active stocks was Careplus Group Bhd, which saw 62.9 million shares change hands. The stock closed up 12.73% at 31 sen with a market capitalisation (cap) of RM165 million.

Shares in Adventa Bhd gained 10.77% to settle at 72 sen, bringing a market cap of RM110 million.

Supermax Corp Bhd rose 5.59% to end the day at RM1.70, while Hartalega Holdings Bhd and Kossan Rubber Industries Bhd were up 3.48% and 1.46% to close at RM6.24 and RM4.85 respectively. Top Glove Corp Bhd shares were unchanged at RM5.70.

Analysts said the stage is now set for a solid growth in the rubber gloves sector in 2020 following three quarters of anaemic quarterly earnings growth.

“From a low base due to the lacklustre demand of the past 12 months, the sector will benefit from restocking activities, ramping up demand as the current outbreak of Covid-19 enforces higher hygiene standards,” Kenanga Research analyst Raymond Choo Ping Khoon said in a sector report on Feb 7.

He noted that even before the Covid-19 crisis set in, the third quarter of 2019 (3Q19) results season had indicated a positive recovery in demand and hence, volume growth of industry leaders such as Top Glove and Hartalega. Both players recorded 6% and 14% sequential volume growth, respectively.

“From our ground checks, demand for nitrile gloves is picking up again with players’ new capacities swiftly taken up. We believe this uptick in demand is turning positive and should be reflected in players’ bottom line in subsequent quarters.

“For illustration purposes, going forward, assuming nitrile:latex [ratio] of 80:20 (currently 67:37) and based on estimated global demand of 308 billion pieces in 2020 (forecast for 2019 is 300 billion pieces and assuming an 8% growth rate in 2020), this implies nitrile growth rate of 30% or an additional 51 billion pieces from switching to nitrile gloves,” he added. Kenanga Research has an “overweight” rating on the sector.

Affin Hwang Investment Bank said earnings growth for rubber glovemakers declined slightly in the just-ended 4Q19 as some of the manufacturers were still feeling the negative impact from the labour shortage issue.

“However, most of them have started to deliver stronger quarter-on-quarter earnings growth due to stronger demand from the US, as buying patterns have started to normalise since the tariff hike in China gloves in 3Q19. We believe that as most manufacturers are already operating at high utilisation rates, the recent surge in demand due to Covid-19 would provide them more flexibility in setting selling prices,” it said in a strategy note on Tuesday.

On Jan 24, Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association president Denis Low announced that its members are prepared to gear up to produce more gloves to meet the requirements if the Covid-19 outbreak becomes pandemic.

At press time, the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 totalled 93,500, with at a death toll of at least 3,204 people worldwide.

Confirmed cases have also been ballooning in other parts of the world, including in advanced and developing economies such as South Korea, Italy and Iran. Malaysia reported 14 new cases yesterday, bringing its tally to 50.

According to Bloomberg data, most of the glove counters are still trading below analysts’ consensus target price (see table), except for Hartalega. At yesterday’s closing of RM6.24, the stock is trading above its average target price of RM6.15.

Those currently trading below the analysts’ consensus target prices are Comfort Gloves Bhd (21%), Kossan (15%), Supermax (14%) and Top Glove (5%).