Sunday, November 17, 2019

Where are our stocks heading? Is Malaysia Inc. happening and strategies for our Bursa market. Part 1

At the time of writing, we already know of the landslide victory that BN had with its MCA's candidate winning more than 15,000 votes turning around a lost to a win. This by-election win by BN will bring a more challenging situation for the market at least for the next 1 year - if not beyond the GE 15.

This first part of the writing, I am focusing on Malaysia Inc. - a strategy that was close to Tun Mahathir during his 22 years tenure between 1980 till 2003. During then, we know that many government corporations were turned into corporate companies - from LLN to Tenaga Nasional, STMB to Telekom Malaysia Bhd and beyond which includes Axiata today. Bank Bumiputera through several exercises is a corporate that is now called CIMB.

We also have know of Tun Daim - the mastermind of Mahathir's Malaysia Inc. strategy with several associates which includes Halim Saad (UEM, Renong), Wan Azmi of Land and General, Tajuddin Ramli (the original Celcom owner and later MAS), Samsuddin from Granite Industries and several more. There were of course many businessmen whom have made it through that tenure of Tun Mahathir, as he is a person who is keen to allow capitalism to succeed. Those businessmen are Ananda Krishnan, Tan Sri Gnanalingam, YTL (of course), and to a lesser extent Genting's Lim Goh Tong and his son, Hong Leong's Quek Leng Chan and Tan Sri Mokhtar al-Bukhari.

After 9 May 2018, we would have expected the similar strategy to be revived. Khazanah Nasional among its first move was to sell off a stake in IHH - almost controlling stake - to Mitsui. There were talks of MAS being divested or investors invited, PLUS's stake being reduced or fully sold. Tun M himself had mentioned before he is more keen of government encouraging businesses to excel while the role of the government is to get a share of the profits through taxation.

Well, that strategy has yet to see any movement - at all - except for the IHH's stake sale. Even then, it was a change of shareholdings rather than management. As mentioned above, the Tanjung Piai's results may probably see the strategy which already as it is difficult - to be even more challenging. Mahathir will have groups whom will be objecting to several of his strategies, and he is running out of time. At the moment, nothing concrete is coming and we know that for any corporate moves to make them happen, will take a few years. Tun M does not have that time - more so there are 3 main parties involved (Bersatu, DAP and PKR - the other 2 Amanah and Warisan seems to have lesser say and would probably be more obliging). For any private companies, there is this worry as well  additionally, will the next administration be open to private businesses.

After the 1998 Asian crisis, Khazanah if one can remember was growing and active. Several of its moves were to rescue companies like Time, UEM, Renong and Bank Bumiputera. If Tun M had his way, I believe that rescue were not meant to be for long. However, since then, administration changed twice and government linked companies were getting stronger. There are arguments that with government in business, it is curtailing the growth of private businesses. At the moment, about 15 companies under the KLCI are government controlled. Malaysia especially the GLCs head are already comfortable with GLCs controlled companies.

That situation is going to be hard to change. In the past, we parachuted business owners to own the business - think Tajuddin Ramli with MAS. I believe that will be very hard to happen given the challenge that Mahathir has - case in point PLUS. Khazanah is against it, the Finance Ministry is against it as well. One cannot fault these two entities to be against the purchases though, as PLUS is among the more lucrative assets that the government owns.

This is the reason why KLCI will be a bad performer

With about half of the companies under the KLCI government controlled and the strategies of the government in limbo, many investors rightfully would be staying on the sideline. It does not help when these counters are not cheap in their valuations. The ones that seem to do the supporting are again the government controlled funds. How much can they support as ultimately the one that is important is the financial results? That is also why GLCs cannot afford to slack. If any one of the company is slacking, it may impact KLCI. Example: Telekom Malaysia when a year ago the Minister in charge opened up the fiber broadband to other players. It was the right thing to do, but it affects Telekom and ultimately KLCI.

What do we do then?

We have to basically avoid the large counters especially the ones which are not founder or privately driven. When there are situations whether things will be changing or not is causing the GLC companies to be less attractive. When government is not coming up with a certain and solid direction, employees would be waiting at the side - doing the waiting game. That is not efficient.

If we want to still invest into Bursa, the way forward for now is to look for companies that are less impacted by government policies. And that is the one which I am going to discuss in my future article as Malaysia Inc. policies is not clear and it is not going to help either party.

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