Apr 4, 2014

MARC has affirmed the ratings of MARC-1IS /AA-IS on special purpose vehicle TSH Sukuk Ijarah Sdn Bhd’s (TSH Ijarah) RM100 million Sukuk Ijarah Commercial Papers (Sukuk ICP) and RM300 million Sukuk Ijarah Medium Term Notes (Sukuk IMTN) programmes with a stable outlook. As at February 28, 2014, TSH Ijarah has RM275 million outstanding notes. TSH Ijarah is a funding vehicle of Bursa Malaysia-listed TSH Resources Berhad (TSH, or the group). Accordingly, the ratings are primarily driven by the consolidated credit profile of TSH. The affirmed ratings take into account the improvement in TSH’s oil palm production, improved operating cash flow generation and satisfactory debt service coverage. These credit strengths are moderated by the group’s persistently high capital expenditure which has impeded free cash flow generation and the sensitivity of its financial performance to crude palm oil (CPO) price.

TSH is involved in a range of agribusiness activities including oil palm cultivation and bio-integration, wood product manufacturing and trading, and cocoa manufacturing and trading, although about 90% of group revenue and earnings are derived from palm oil operations. MARC notes that TSH’s palm oil operations registered stronger performance in 2013 on the back of a 28% year-on-year (y-o-y) increase in fresh fruit bunch (FFB) production to 542,951 metric tonnes (MT) in line with the plantation division’s improving maturity profile. Total hectarage of mature palm trees rose by 11% to 20,151 hectares (ha) as at end-November 2013, accounting for 22% of the group’s oil palm land bank of 91,482 ha. Given that 95% of the group’s oil palm land bank is located in Indonesia, MARC continues to view TSH as being exposed to operating, foreign currency and regulatory risks.

TSH has only limited unplanted land in Malaysia, and as a result the group is seeking to acquire 26,794 ha, of which 89% is unplanted, in Sabah for RM180 million. Future growth of its palm oil segment will be supported by oil palms entering maturity phase as only 18% of cultivated land of 36,413 ha is in prime age. The financial performance of the group’s other segments continue to fluctuate, although the wood and cocoa divisions turned around to register operating profits in 2013.  Sales of wood products benefited from the group’s strategy of focusing on non-European markets, including the domestic market.

For 2013, TSH’s revenue rose marginally by 3.3% y-o-y to RM1.0 billion in 2013 on higher sales volume, which has partly offset the impact of a lower average crude palm oil price of RM2,251/MT (2012: RM2,650/MT). MARC notes that the sharp increase in pre-tax profit to RM165.8 million (2012: RM100.0 million) was mainly attributed to a RM85.3 million gain from disposal of equity investment in Pontian United Plantations Berhad, a company that has oil palm plantations in Sabah. The gain was, however, moderated by RM63.0 million unrealised foreign exchange losses on US dollar denominated borrowings. The currency volatility risk in the group’s US dollar borrowings is naturally hedged against its CPO sales which are quoted in US dollar. TSH's core pre-tax profit, which excludes the one-off gain and unrealised foreign exchange losses, would have registered an increase of 30% y-o-y to RM146.4 million, supported by higher share of profit from jointly-controlled entities.

TSH’s cash flow from operations (CFO) rose significantly to RM162.5 million (2012: RM44.8 million), leading to improved debt and interest coverage metrics. Nonetheless, the group’s continued high capital expenditure, mainly for plantation development, has resulted in negative free cash flow generation of RM95.5 million as at end-2013. MARC opines that TSH’s free cash flow generation is likely to remain constrained, but the group’s cash and cash equivalents of RM139.6 million as at end-2013 and ability to roll over its maturing debt will alleviate near-term liquidity pressures. TSH’s debt-to-equity ratio improved to 0.79 times (x) as at end-2013 (end-2012: 0.99x) mainly due to debt repayments and a larger equity base following its private placement exercise. MARC expects TSH to maintain prudent financial leverage position should TSH choose to fund any future acquisitions of oil palm land bank through debt. Another of the group’s funding vehicle, TSH Sukuk Musyarakah Sdn Bhd (TSH Musyarakah) has a RM100 million Guaranteed Islamic Medium Term Notes programme that carry AAA/stable, reflecting the unconditional and irrevocable financial guarantee insurance provided by Danajamin Nasional Berhad. As at February 28, 2014, TSH Musyarakah has RM50 million outstanding notes.

The stable outlook reflects MARC’s expectations that TSH’s steadily improving oil palm maturity profile will support its business performance and there is no material weakening in its financial strength. Any negative developments in the palm oil industry and/or foreign currency exchange that could lead to deterioration in financial performance could prompt ratings and/or outlook revision. 

Se Tho Mun Yi, +603-2082 2263/ munyi@marc.com.my
Sharidan Salleh, +603-2082 2254/ sharidan@marc.com.my .

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