Like high oil prices back in the day where the oil majors were sloshing in cash, the same now may be said of our glove manufacturers. Peak gloves WHEN the price of crude oil was onward to its historical highs, we were introduced to the phrase “peak oil.” Peak oil was to show how production of crude oil was at its high and why the world will not see oil gushers in the frequency it has in the past. Well production did rise, given the historic prices that made marginal fields, deepwater and fracking viable. But demand unfortunately did not keep up because the high prices meant the world started looking at alternative and renewable energy. Like high oil prices back in the day where the oil majors were sloshing in cash, the same now may be said of our glove manufacturers. The role and importance of gloves cannot be understated in the global fight against the Covid-19 pandemic although there is much room for improvement in terms of how some in the industry handle the welfare of their workers. Top Glove Corp Bhd’s extraordinary profit of RM2.38bil in the first quarter of its 2021 financial year was symbolic of high demand and prices, and it was more than the RM1.87bil it made for the whole of its 2020 financial year. There is no doubt other glove companies will be making super-normal profit for some time but it will be unfathomable to expect that trajectory of profit increases to continue. As the world starts rolling out vaccines and as more people get inoculated against Covid-19, then the catalyst for the huge profits would increasingly get muted. The argument that the vaccine rollout will require the use of gloves is true but much of that will be one time use. The world has a population of 7.8 billion people and 16 billion pieces of gloves, or 32 billion if there needs to be two injections, to administer a vaccine to each and every person. Top Glove alone makes way more than that. Then there is competition from new suppliers. Germany is starting to make rubber gloves seeing the demand and profits companies are making, which would indicate that the barriers of entry are not high for a business that can be automated to a way larger degree than it is in Malaysia. Then there is the production increase from existing manufacturers and new players just in Malaysia that are entering the business. The glove players will make more money than prior to the pandemic but how will the supply dynamics change and prices react will bear watching over the long run. One too many placements EVEN if the best of the oil and gas companies have difficulty securing bank loans to fund its projects and expansion, it says a lot on the state of affairs of the industry. It has been six years since oil price dropped from its dizzy heights of US$120 per barrel in 2014. It fell to less than US$30 per barrel in January 2015. The steep price gyration was a shock to the oil and gas sector and its financiers as well. Bankers stopped their line of financing to oil and gas companies, which is something that is happening even now considering that companies such as Serba Dynamic Holdings Bhd are finding it difficult to raise funds via borrowings. Serba Dinamik is easily the pick of funds in the oil and gas sector. But the fact that the company has to undertake private placements to fund its expansion and working capital for new contracts probably means the banks do not share the same view as investors. Earlier this week, Serba Dyamic proposed a 10% private placement to raise an indicative amount of RM515mil based on the shares being placed out at RM1.53 each. The share price dipped after the announcement, which is not surprising considering that this would be the second private placement this year. In April this year, Serba Dynamic completed a 10% placement, raising RM456.7mil that was utilised to reduce borrowings and for working capital. Serba Dynamic has debts of RM3.9bil. But it has several big jobs with the latest in Abu Dhabi where it has the mandate to build an IT city and data centre. The contracts are worth more than RM9bil cumulatively. Serba Dynamic also acquired a large fabrication yard in Johor a few months ago to beef up its oil and gas business. The company stated that the latest placement is to pare down its debts and bulk up its working capital to cater for jobs in Abu Dhabi. But perhaps the company should look at issuing bonds instead of a private placement. The cost of debt, after all, is cheap these days. Will next year be a year for IPOs? IT appears that there is some sort of silver lining, a sliver of it if you will, amid the current global Covid-19 pandemic which has so far seen some of the largest and hottest IPOs both here and globally. Despite the persistent virus which is seeing no obvious signs of let-up, companies are raising capital like they have never done before. Even if it just a selected few firms. Just this week, three tech firms in the US – rental booking firm Airbnb, food delivery company Doordash and AI software-maker C3.ai – made their debut on the American stock market. Shares of Airbnb did so well that it more than doubled in value on Thursday, valuing the entire firm at over US$100bil – the biggest US IPO of this year. Amid the pandemic, investors chased the stock on hopes of a vaccine and recovery play. Back home, home products company Mr DIY gave the local mart a boost when some US$360mil was raised in a time where more people were staying at home and possibly buying more household stuff from the company. Up to mid-October, it has been reported that some US$481mil or close to RM2bil has been raised on Bursa Malaysia, exceeding the total amount raised for the whole of 2019. Still, initial expectations were that there would be 40 listings this year as opposed to the 18 as at end-November. And can Malaysia ever have a tech company the likes of those overseas to go public here? If things get better next year, expectations are that all the IPOs that were supposed to happen will happen. While we are expecting that, can we wish for some quality tech firms to be among them? It is about time Malaysian companies moved up the value chain. As of now, we have a “solid pipeline” of IPO deals, says one banker. Well, a pipeline is just that – a pipeline. What is to come, we will know only when the time is right.
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