Hunting for value in stock market

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Goddy Egene writes that the decline recorded by the stock market in the first half of 2021 provides an entry opportunity for investors to gain in the second half of the year
The loss of N1.303 trillion in value recorded by the Nigerian stock market in the first half (H1) of 2021 is likely to discourage many risk averse investors from patronizing the market and make others to reduce their exposure.

While the market had recorded a positive performance in 2020, profit-taking, shift to fixed income (FI) market by local investors due to uptick in yields and low participation by foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) led to a negative performance in H1 of 2021. The market capitalisation of equities fell by N1.303 trillion from N21.063 trillion at the beginning of the year to close at N19.760 trillion at the end of June. Also, the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Limited All-Share Index (ASI) declined from 40,270.72 to 37,907.28, showing a depreciation of 5.8 per cent.

No doubt this decline will play a big role in determining the behavour of investors in the market in the second half(H2) of 2021. But while some will be discouraged from staking their funds in the market, it is believed that the depreciation in the prices is a very good entry opportunity for discerning investors.

Executive Director, NOVA Merchant Bank Limited, Mrs. Funke Okoya, said the market is attractive at current level, both from a time-series perspective and compared to frontier and emerging market peers.

According to her, a number of value counters, especially within the banking sector, have compelling dividend yields and may be bellwethers in the quarters ahead, especially as the yield on fixed income instruments may have peaked.

“More so, recent modest increase in foreign exchange (FX) liquidity on the I&E window and expected enhancements in liquidity and policy measures on the back of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) commitment to deepen and enhance the market should be positive in stabilizing the Naira, a development which should support the recovery of the market in the quarters ahead. Thus, our research team at Nova Merchant Bank is cautiously optimistic on a positive return on equities in the H2 of the year, as we expect macro improvements and sustained fundamentals of large and mid-cap companies on the NGX to reinforce our expectation of modest recovery in equity prices, going forward,” she said.

Okoya had explained that the steep rise in yield on sovereign instruments like Treasury Bills and FGN Bonds had undermined the risk appetite of investors for equities, as most high net worth investors (HNIs) and institutional investors took comfort on the low double digit rates in the fixed income environment in the H1 unlike in 2020 when yields on treasuries were near zero and bond yields waned to low single digit.

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“More so, as concerns on probable Naira devaluation continues to fuel speculative demand for foreign currency (FCY), equities have seen notable outflow of funds, notwithstanding the attractive valuation of large- and mid-cap counters with strong fundamental,” she said.

According to her, while the devaluation risk is partly speculative, genuine concerns on reduced liquidity in the foreign exchange (FX) market, which has constrained some foreign investors from repatriating dividend and proceeds of divestment has unfortunately influenced the weak participation of foreign investors in Nigerian equity market.

However, the second half (H2) of 2021 is being seen as an opportunity for bargain hunters to enter the market and look in good value.

Analysts at Cordros Securities envisaged a positive market performance based on the prospects of improved macroeconomic conditions and the possible return of FPIs, interim dividends that accompany the second quarter (Q2) earnings season, and stock-specific events such as GTB’s implementation of a holding company structure and the likelihood of a second tranche of share buy-back by Dangote Cement Plc.

“We expect economic growth to maintain its positive growth trajectory. We believe this bodes well for improved corporate earnings, particularly cyclical stocks, over the medium term. On FPIs, we think the tacit devaluation (Naira has been devalued by 7.0 per cent in the I&E window thus far in 2021) engineered by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) alongside rising crude oil prices raise the possibility that foreign investors may make a gradual return to the local bourse. Specifically, sustained higher crude oil prices will support accretion to the FX reserves,” they added.

According to them, there should be a material improvement in liquidity conditions, bringing some comfort to foreign investors, stressing however, that they did not think that FPIs would return in droves, as in 2017, due to concerns around the exchange rate framework and structural reforms to improve the domestic economy’s resilience.

“Interestingly, in H2 when we expect improved FPI participation also coincides with the period when domestic investors will be taking positions in stocks ahead of half-year dividend announcements. Thus, we think a more robust market recovery post-H1-21 is on the cards,” they said.

Looking at the sectors where investors could focus and make good returns, Cordros Securities pointed the banking sector, saying they remain overweight the sector. However, they recommended, Access Bank Plc, GTCO, United Bank for Africa Plc and Zenith Bank Plc as top picks.

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The analysts explained that the key players had have demonstrated a commendable level of resilience despite the peculiar circumstances of the relatively weak and riskier environment as well as increasingly tight liquidity positions.

“We expect a combination of improved fixed-income yields and relatively stronger risk asset creation, FX revaluation gains from the adoption of the I&E window rate, and strong balance sheet management to support performance for the financial period. Accordingly, we remain overweight the sector and our picks are Access Bank with target price of N14.04; GTCO (39.460;UBA (N11.57) and Zenith Bank Plc (N32.21).

Assessing the cement sector, the analysts said they expected volume growth would remain healthy due to continued growth in the construction sector, led by increased public spending on capital projects.

“We believe the price increments implemented in Q1-21 will protect margins from the impact of the local currency’s devaluation on energy costs. We expect Dangote Cement Plc with a target price of N255.54 to deliver decent earnings per share (EPS) growth of 6.3 per cent in 2021E. For Lafarge Africa with a target price of N29.53, we believe the company’s renewed focus on the Nigerian market and continued gains from its deleveraged balance sheet will support earnings. Thus, we estimate 2021E EPS growth of 13.4 per cent. We have initiated coverage on BUA Cement Plc, Nigeria’s third-largest cement producer, with a target price of N44.50,” they said.

Shareholders of BUA Cement Plc recently shared N70 billion as dividend for the 2020 financial year, which translated to N2.067 dividend per share. The company had ended the year with a turnover of N204 billion and profit after tax of N72.3 billion.

Managing Director of BUA Cement Plc, Yusuf Binji, said the company was committed to remaining a value–driven, oriented company that prioritizes excellence and product quality. He also added that the company was well-poised to sustain current profitability despite the very competitive landscape.

“Our value proposition in terms of product and service support offerings has positioned BUA Cement as a market leader. In addition, we continue to prioritize innovation and continuous improvement, thereby ensuring the continued “fit” of our products to ever-changing customer demands and needs. We are also investing in the latest plant designs which not only drive efficiency but translate into value addition to our customer through the cost savings derived,” he said.

Analysts believe there are good prospects in the BUA Cement that would make discerning investors to buy into the company now.

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In the agriculture sector of the market, Cordros Securities said Okomu Oil Palm Plc and Presco Plc would benefit from the increased crude palm oil (CPO) price amid the reopening of the economy to support demand. They put the target share price for Okomu Oil Palm Plc at N148.20 and that of Presco Plc at N102.27
The analysts said they the brewery sector to record a strong recovery in volumes throughout 2021FY to pre-pandemic levels. However, they said they expected phased increases in prices to support top-line growth across the brewers.

Looking at the agro-allied, they noted that it remained the bright spot for food stocks due to the essential nature of the products, reduced exposure to FX risks following substantial progress in backward integration programmes, and ability to implement more significant price increases than peers.

“Accordingly, we see scope for significant earnings growth for Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc with a target price of N38.87 and Dangote Sugar Refinery Plc with target share price of N24.88,” they said.

For oil and gas, the analysts expect the current price cap on PMS to remain in place, amid the weak macro conditions, saying that on demand, they expect the resumption of full economic activities to continue supporting product demand. “We expect individual product sourcing to remain challenging as structural issues persists. We expect both our covered companies – Total Nigeria Plc and Ardova Plc(AP) to record revenue growth in FY-21. For Total Nigeria Plc, we believe the resumption of full economic activities will enable the marketer to push out substantial white product and lubricant volumes. For Ardova Plc we expect the marketer to consolidate on its increased market share with the acquisition of Enyo Retail and Supply Limited, the partnership deal with Shell, and existing deal with Texaco as the soNle distributor of both companies’ lube products,” they said.

According to AP, by acquiring Enyo, it would become the largest downstream energy company in Nigeria, as it would add Enyo’s 95 existing stations to its existing portfolio of 450 stations nationwide, to bring the combined group to a network of 545 stations.

Chief Executive Officer of AP, Olumide Adeosun, had said that on completion, this acquisition would lead to a stronger downstream energy group that benefits from the increased customer reach and service delivery excellence of both companies, with the combination expected to produce stronger financial results.


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