The Edge Markets (12/01/2021) - KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 12): After Malaysia’s crude palm oil (CPO) inventory declined to a three-and-a-half-year low of 1.26 million tonnes in December 2020 from 1.56 million tonnes in November, analysts believe a seasonal production uptick, coupled with weaker export demand, will help replenish stocks and consequently drive prices down.
In a note, MIDF Research projected CPO prices will continue to increase in the first quarter of 2021 (1Q21) on the back of anticipated supply tightness and higher export demand. However, it presumes CPO prices will soften in the second half of this year (2H21) due to better production levels and lower export demand.
It set its CPO target price at RM2,700 level per tonne this year and maintained its “neutral” stance on the sector.
The average CPO spot price increased by 6.1% month-on-month (m-o-m) to RM3,650.98 per tonne in December 2020, mainly in view of possible supply tightness on a low inventory level, recovery in export demand, anticipation of lower production due to labour shortage and the monsoon season.
Meanwhile, Hong Leong Investment Bank (HLIB) Research analyst Chye Wen Fei also concurred that the palm oil stockpile will likely remain at a low level in the coming months, which will see CPO prices remain elevated at above RM3,000 per tonne until end-1Q21.
“Beyond 1Q21, we anticipate CPO prices to soften on the back of a better supply outlook for major edible oils (based on assumptions that the labour shortage in Malaysia will gradually ease from 2021 and La Nina does not strengthen further), which will result in more balanced demand-supply dynamics,” said Chye.
Chye also has a “neutral” call for the sector as the research house believes current high CPO prices will not be sustained over the longer term. Hence, it maintained its CPO price assumptions of RM2,700 per tonne for 2020 to 2022.
For exposure, Chye said HLIB’s top picks are Hap Seng Plantations Holdings Bhd ("buy"; target price [TP]: RM2.17), IJM Plantations Bhd ("buy"; TP: RM2.29) and TSH Resources Bhd ("buy"; TP: RM1.38).
On a side note, after the movement control order (MCO) enforcement announcement by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin yesterday, MIDF Research remained cautious about the production level due to a lower workforce as well as standard operating procedures (SOPs) in work areas. A lack of labour would lead to delays in harvesting activities, impacting the quality of fruit bunches.
Nonetheless, it opined that the enforcement of the MCO is unlikely to have much impact on the plantation sector as it is categorised as an essential economic sector and allowed to operate.
Read more at https://www.theedgemarkets.com/article/analysts-remains-neutral-plantation-sector-cpo-prices-expected-soften-2h21