By Stella Goh – As published in Inve$t Malaysia 5 June 2020 issue
Taliworks Corporation Berhad (8524) is an infrastructure company that was founded in 1987. Known as LGB Group it was one of the pioneers in the privatisation of potable water treatment and supply services in Malaysia. The company is involved in operating and maintaining water treatment plants in Selangor as well as supplying and distributing water systems in Pulau Langkawi, Kedah.
TALIWRK was listed in Bursa’s ACE Market and successfully transferred to the Main Board of Bursa Malaysia under the utilities sector on 27 October 2000. The company operates in Malaysia and China, of which its main revenue is derived from Malaysia.
TALIWRK is involved in four core businesses namely (i) water treatment, supply and distribution (ii) highway toll concessionaire, operations and maintenance operator (iii) engineering and construction and (iv) waste management.
TALIWRK is involved in the business which entails an operations and maintenance (O&M) contract for water treatment plants and water distribution systems. For example Sungai Selangor Phase 1 Water Treatment Plant (SSP1) that supplies treated potable water to Selangor and Kuala Lumpur. Both Sungai Harmoni and Taliworks Langkawi manage a total of 6 water treatment plants with a combined design operating capacity of 1,037 litres per day.
TALIWRK is also engaged in the provision of operations and maintenance services of toll highways. The company owns and operates two highways, specifically the Grand Saga Highway and the New North Klang Straits Bypass Expressway, also known as the Grand Sepadu Highway.
Since May 2016, TALIWRK entered the waste management business when it acquired a 35% equity interest in SWM Environment Holdings Sdn Bhd (SWMEH). SWMEH is a waste management and public cleansing service provider in the southern region of Malaysia, namely Johor, Negeri Sembilan and Melaka, established in line with the National Privatisation of Solid Waste Management.
TALIWRK’s engineering and construction activities are undertaken by its wholly owned subsidiary, Taliworks Construction Sdn. Bhd. Taliworks secured its first project in 2002 and has since undertaken several other projects in the infrastructure sector. Some of the more notable projects include the RM120 million Projek Bekalan Air Kedah Tengah that was implemented on a turnkey basis, the RM149 million design and build Padang Terap Water Supply Project in Kedah and the RM339 million Mengkuang Dam Expansion Project which comprised site clearance, earthworks, construction of reinforced concrete structures and pipe laying works.
TALIWRK has achieved the highest dividend growth rate of 9.38% at 5.25sen in FY2019 amounting to RM105.8 million from a total dividend of 4.80sen in FY2018. TALIWRK also has paid the highest dividend yield of 5.83% in FY2019 with a dividend payout ratio of 138.9% indicating that the company has exceeded its dividend policy of paying out 75% of its normalised profit after tax over the years, backed by the existing mature and long-term contracts and concessions in water treatment, supply and distribution and highway and toll operations that provide stable recurring income and cash flow. (refer to Prospects & Challenges and Insight at the end of this article)
TALIWRK achieved a stellar improvement in its quality of earnings over the past 3 years (8.313 times) in FY2019 compared to 0.478 times in FY2018. This was mainly attributed to the operating cash flow generated from the business being more than the net income suggesting that the business has strong cash flow and is financially sound.
Based on the computation of liquidity ratio, TALIWRK has achieved the highest current ratio of 3.705 times in FY2019 over the past 3 years indicating that the company does not face any liquidity issue as it is capable of paying back its current liabilities (RM218.028 million) if any unforeseeable circumstances occur. TALIWRK is able to do so by using its current assets such as inventories, amount due from contract customers, trade receivables, other receivables, deposits, prepayments, tax recoverable, investment designated at fair value through profit or loss, deposits, cash and bank balances amounting to RM807.899 million.
TALIWRK’s gross profit margin has tapered down to its lowest over past 3 years at 38.38% in FY2019 reflecting the reversal of loss allowances of trade receivables of RM65.3 million in the previous year from the amount due from Syarikat Pengeluar Air Sungai Selangor Sdn Bhd (SPLASH) arising from the re-measurement of expected credit loss rate. However TALIWRK was still able to maintain a favourable gross profit margin of more than 30% over the past 3 years indicating that the profitability of its core business activities is sound without taking into consideration its indirect cost.
TALIWRK’s Return on Equity (ROE) has decreased marginally to 7.38% in FY2019 from 9.47% in FY2018 but was still higher than the 2.76% in FY2017. The company was unable to maintain the ROE at a double digit indicating that the net income generated relative to the value of its equity in FY2019 was lower as compared to FY2018. The company has a lower asset turnover ratio of 16% in FY2019.
Weak ROE can also mean that the company is reinvesting capital in unproductive assets. For example, the engineering and construction segment’s revenue was significantly lower by RM8.08 million. Moreover this division only managed to chalk up the revenue to RM34.5 million in the previous year due to the completion of a new access road project to the New North Klang Straits Bypass Expressway (Jalan Haji Sirat) since the third quarter of 2018. Also the lower contribution from two other on-going projects, namely the development of the Langat 2 water reticulation system in Selangor Darul Ehsan and Package 7 for Pengurusan Aset Air Berhad (L2P7 Project), which commenced in the fourth quarter of 2017 and the construction and completion of the Ganchong water treatment works, main distribution pipeline, booster pump stations and associated works in Pekan, Pahang Darul Makmur (GP3A Project). Overall, the division only contributed close to 9% of the total revenue of the company.
TALIWRK’s Total Debt to Equity ratio has been increasing over the past three financial years to 0.470 times in FY2019. Despite this increase in debt, the company is still able to pay off its obligations as the Total Debt to Equity ratio based on 3 years is less than half of its liabilities compared to its equity. This may also indicate TALIWRK has a lower risk since the debt holders have less claim on the company’s assets.
Cash Flow Statement
The net cash from operating activities has provided a positive cash flow of RM642.753 million in FY2019 as compared to RM61.446 million in FY2018 indicating that the company is healthy and has enough cash to use for business expansion.
The net cash from investing activities in FY2019 (-RM540.538 million) was mainly due to the purchase of investment designated at fair value through profit or loss (RM598.800 million), placement of deposits pledged as security (RM31.356 million) and purchase of Property, Plant and Equipment (RM3.403 million). The negative cash flow indicates that the firm is continuing to invest in its business.
The net cash from financing activities in FY2019 (RM119.524 million) was mainly due to dividend paid (RM96.760 million), interest paid (RM24.972 million), dividend paid by a subsidiary to non-controlling interest (RM15.680 million), repayments of borrowings (RM10 million), repayment of lease liabilities (RM2.108 million) and capital distribution paid by a subsidiary to a non-controlling interest (RM4,000).
Prospect and Challenges
During the movement control order (MCO), all of TALIWRK’s businesses, except for construction activities, continued to operate as usual as those services were deemed as essential services. Other than the toll highway division which recorded a substantial reduction in the volume of traffic during the movement control order, there was minimal financial impact from the water and waste management divisions.
TALIWRK’s business continuity plans (BCP) were activated and actions were taken by the respective business divisions to minimize the risk of their operations being affected. The nature of business activities undertaken by the company is predominantly in the provision of essential services to the public. Thus, the company anticipates that its long-term business outlook will remain relatively intact.
According to TALIWRK’s executive director Dato’ Ronnie Lim, the management will maintain its strategies to focus on mature operational cash-generating utilities and infrastructure businesses to continue delivering long-term consistent results to its shareholders.
Return on Equity (ROE) = Poor
Revenue [3 Years CAGR] = Average
Net Earnings [3 Years CAGR] = Average
Dividend Yield = Good
Interest Coverage = Excellent
Quality of Earnings = Excellent
Taliworks Corporation Berhad Share Price Over 3 Years
Based on the calculation on Gordon Growth Model, TALIWRK has an intrinsic value of RM1.103. The current share price of TALIWRK is RM0.835 which makes it an undervalued stock (as at 4 June 2020). TALIWRK has a beta of 0.616 times (500 days) indicating that the share price is less volatile than the current market. Based on computation of Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR), TALIWRK has an expected market return of 2.07%.
In conclusion, TALIWRK may look attractive to investors due to its consistent revenue growth and its commitment to a dividend payout ratio of more than 75% of its profit after tax. The company’s growing debt, although well within its ability to pay, may not be comforting to those investors who find a company’s growing debt reason for concern during economic uncertainties as well as lockdowns. However the company has plans to continue with its strategy to focus on mature operational cash generating utilities and infrastructure business with a view of generating new income streams that provide recurring and stable sources of cash flow. Nevertheless investors will still need to assess other key aspects like renewal or extension of contracts and concessions, the uncertain political environment, the uncertainty in the recovery of the global economy and the extent of Covid-19 pandemic impact on the construction sector, all of which could affect future revenue and growth prospects.
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