Malaysia’s biggest oil-rig builder faces a double-whammy of collapsing crude prices and rising local borrowing costs as it plans to sell a debut sukuk.
Malaysia Marine and Heavy Engineering Holdings Bhd. has set up a 1 billion ringgit ($306 million) Islamic bond program to fund upgrading works at one of its facilities, according to an Oct. 14 statement from Malaysian Rating Corp. The company, which is indirectly owned by state-oil firm Petroliam Nasional Bhd., is tapping the market as the central bank considers whether to add to its first interest-rate increase since 2011.
A 24 percent slump in crude prices from this year’s peak threatens to crimp earnings from oil and gas services in Malaysia, which Prime Minister Najib Razak has earmarked as a hub for the region’s energy industry. Shariah-compliant debt sales have climbed 65 percent in 2014 to 50.3 billion ringgit from a year earlier and have already surpassed 2013’s total, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
“Rig builders such as MMHE will see their profits falling as oil majors are unlikely to continue pumping given current crude prices,” Lam Chee Mun, a Kuala Lumpur-based fund manager at TA Investment Management Bhd., which oversees about 680 million ringgit, said in an Oct. 27 phone interview. “Companies will have to pay more because borrowing costs are rising.”
MMHE is 66.5 (MMHE) percent-owned by the nation’s shipping company MISC, which in turn is 62.7 percent controlled by Petronas. The sukuk was given a preliminary AA- rating by Malaysian Rating, the fourth-highest investment grade, according to the statement. No details on the debt’s maturity or timing were provided.
Analysts are forecasting a drop in the company’s net profit to 170.5 million ringgit this year, from 236.4 million ringgit in 2013, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey. Crude was at $81.72 a barrel today, compared with the year’s high of $107.26 in June, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
TA Investment’s Lam said MMHE may have to pay a yield premium of one percentage point more than Malaysia’s sovereign securities for its sukuk assuming it’s a five-year maturity.
Yields on the government’s Shariah-compliant debt have climbed since the central bank raised its benchmark interest rate to 3.25 percent from 3 percent in July. The swaps market is pricing in another increase ahead of the next meeting on Nov. 6, with one-year contracts at 3.75 percent.
The yield on the two-year sovereign sukuk was last at 3.49 percent, up from 2014’s low of 3.24 percent in February, while five-year debt yielded 3.81 percent from 3.77 percent in May, Bank Negara Malaysia indexes show.
James Lau, an investment director at Pheim Asset Management Asia Sdn., said MMHE will have to compensate investors for the risk from declining oil prices, the company’s slowing growth and rising borrowing costs.
“Investors will demand a premium,” Lau, who oversees $300 million in Kuala Lumpur, said in an Oct. 27 phone interview. “While investors can take comfort in Petronas being the ultimate parent, it wouldn’t be prudent to rely on that support as they are different entities.”
The Bloomberg-AIBIM Bursa Malaysia Corporate Sukuk Index, a benchmark that tracks the most-traded local-currency notes, gained 2.3 percent this year to an all-time high of 107.51 after rising 2.8 percent in 2013.
Prime Minister Najib is seeking to boost the nation’s oil and gas industry as part of his $444 billion 10-year economic transformation program geared to achieving developed-nation status by the end of the decade.
MMHE has a market capitalization of 3.7 billion ringgit, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The company operates the largest fabrication yard in Malaysia with an annual offshore construction capacity of 129,700 metric tons, according to the statement from Malaysian Rating. It had an order book of 1.8 billion ringgit as of June, down from 2.6 billion ringgit at the end of 2013, the assessor said.
A joint venture started in July 2011 with Paris-based Technip SA has been awarded two contracts from Sabah Shell Petroleum Company Ltd. and Petronas Carigali, according to a Sept. 24 e-mailed joint statement.
“As long as the oil and gas industry continues to thrive, more companies are expected to tap the ringgit market,” Mohd. Effendi Abdullah, head of Islamic markets at Kuala Lumpur-based AmInvestment Bank Bhd., said in an Oct. 27 phone interview. “This is because the oil and gas industry, like infrastructure, has underlying economic activities that fit well with Shariah financing.”