Thursday May 3, 2012
Glove makers to gain from wage rule in long run
PETALING JAYA: While the new minimum wage will dent glove makers’ earnings in the near term, it is expected to be beneficial for the industry in the long run, CIMB Research said.
“It will encourage glove makers to reduce their use of low-skilled labour and improve their manufacturing processes by using more advanced technology and methods.
“Also, we believe that wage inflation will make the smaller glovemakers less competitive and catalyse consolidation in the sector. This will strengthen the positions of the large glove makers, favouring those with more efficient processes such as Hartalega (Holdings Bhd),” the brokerage said in a note to clients.
On Monday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced the details of the country’s wage floor for the private sector, with the monthly benchmark set at RM900 for Peninsular Malaysia and RM800 for Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan.
This translates to an hourly rate of RM4.33 and RM3.85 respectively.
The policy applies to all workers in the private sector, save for those in domestic services, but it will only take effect six months after the Minimum Wages Order is gazetted.
The law, which will be reviewed every two years, affords some flexibility to employers as they can absorb a certain amount of allowances and fixed cash payments in calculating the new wages.
According to CIMB Research’s forecasts, the minimum wage could shave some 1% to 7% off glove makers’ financial year 2013 core net profit, but the brokerage has kept its “neutral” rating for the sector and estimates for the companies under its coverage as they may yet find ways to mitigate the impact of higher staff costs.
Other research houses have also maintained their ratings pending further clarification from the companies and the actual gazetting of the law.
Among the glove makers, Hartalega is the least affected by the setting of a wage floor due to its highly automated production facilities and high margins relative to its peers.
“We believe Hartalega will emerge the strongest from the higher wages as its operations are already lean and management is working hard to further automate its manufacturing process.
“With the highest margins (lowest post-tax cost base), technologically advanced manufacturing process and an aggressive eight-year expansion plan, Hartalega has the most wiggle room in the sector to price gloves competitively and gain market share,” CIMB Research said.
Management was aggressively working on further automating the stripping and packaging portions of its manufacturing process to reduce the use of low-skilled labour and optimise operating expenditure, it added.
CIMB Research said Top Glove Corp Bhd would be the hardest hit as a result of low margins and an oversupply for its gloves that could take two to three years to work off.
“We believe it would be challenging for management to pass on the cost of the minimum wage to customers. This would put further pressure on margins and Top Glove’s high-volume low-price model.”
Top Glove shares have reflected this, with the counter losing 13 sen, or 2.72%, to RM4.65, making it one of the day’s top losers.
For Supermax, CIMB Research said the manufacturer was ramping up nitrile production to 53% of capacity by financial year 2013. This could help curb rising staff costs, the brokerage added, as the cash cost of producing nitrile gloves was 20% lower than natural rubber.
Kossan, meanwhile, is poised to tap on the growth in China, where glove usage is a mere two gloves per person per annum versus 50 in Europe and 96 in the United States. Kossan entered the market in financial year 2012 via its 53%-owned Cleanera HK Ltd.
Moving forward, HwangDBS Vickers Research expects the additional staff costs to be passed on to customers over time.
Affin Investment Bank, in a report, also noted that Top Glove had previously said it would likely pass on 80% to 90% of the higher costs by increasing prices, which could prompt other glove makers to do the same.