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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Palm Oil Stocks Hit Bedrock

• Palm oil stocks at 22-month low but… Malaysia’s palm oil stocks fell for the fifth
straight month to a 22-month low of 1.29m tonnes at end-Apr 09 as exports and
domestic consumption exceeded domestic palm oil production.
• … at high end of expectations. Stocks fell 5.4% mom to 1.29m tonnes, which is at
the high end of market expectations ranging from 1.2m tonnes to 1.3m tonnes. The
decline in inventory is bullish for CPO price as it suggests tight palm oil supplies for
Malaysia, a key palm oil producer.
• Stock level may have hit trough in April. Our rough modelling, which assumes
the mom growth pattern for production and exports in the month of May will be
similar to the historical 3-year average growth pattern, suggests that Malaysia’s
CPO stocks could rise 5% mom to around 1.35m tonnes in May due to higher
production and lower exports.
• CPO price forecast intact. For the first four months of the year, average CPO price
fell 41% yoy to RM2,031 per tonne. This is marginally higher than our 2009 CPO
price forecast of RM1,950 per tonne due to lower-than-expected soybean harvests
from Argentina and weaker palm oil production from Malaysia and Indonesia. We
maintain our view that CPO prices will remain firm in the next few months due to
current tight supplies and potential further downgrade in Argentina soybean
harvests but are likely to trend lower in 3Q when palm oil supply improves and
demand weakens due to the higher selling prices. That said, the recent CPO price
strength has taken us by surprise due to deteriorating soybean crop prospects for
Argentina. In view of lower-than-expected yields, Oil World has cut its current-year
soybean crop estimates for Argentina by a further 1.5m tonnes to 33m tonnes last
week or a decline of 28.5% yoy. Although we are not changing our CPO price
forecasts of RM1,950 per tonne for 2009 and RM2,150 per tonne for 2010, there is
RM100-200 potential upside to our forecast for 2009 in view of the recent
downgrade of soybean supply from Argentina.
• Maintain UNDERWEIGHT. Our earnings forecasts for all the Malaysian planters
remain intact, along with our UNDERWEIGHT stance on the Malaysian planters due
to their expensive valuations relative to their regional peers. Potential de-rating
catalysts for the Malaysian planters are falling CPO price in 3Q, lower crude oil price
and improved weather prospects in major planting areas. Our only pick in the
Malaysian plantation sector is Sime Darby as the stock stands to benefit from the
move towards the new FBM 30 index, has the lowest P/E multiple and foreign
shareholding among the three largest big-cap planters in Malaysia and may engage
in earnings-enhancing M&As. We maintain our preference for the Singapore-listed
planters.

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