On January 19, 2018 EMP closed at 7.97, just -5.12% below its 52-week high of 8.40 set on July 11, 2017. We believed EMP can still go higher that its 52-week high of 8.40. Following is a discussion on why we believe EMP can soar beyond its recent high.
The “premiumization” strategy of EMP will bear fruits in this TRAIN regime. TRAIN imposes a new excise tax of 12 Pesos per liter on drinks using high-fructose corn syrup. This affected the major beverage companies like Coke and Pepsi. In reaction, Coke and Pepsi will reformulate their beverages to utilize local sugar. This, we believe, will increase the demand for local sugar, thus, increasing local sugar prices. To take advantage of this sugar boom, sugar millers will have to make their plant more efficient. That means they will extract more sugar from the production leaving little molasses for the production of ethanol. Short supply in ethanol will cause its prices to increase.
While we project that TRAIN law will make ethanol in short supply another law is projected to shore demand for ethanol. The Biofuels Act of 2006 mandates the blending of locally-produced bio-ethanol into fuels. The demand from fuel companies will further fuel the rise of the prices of ethanol.
How this will result to the positive impact of the “premiummization” of EMP? EMP domestically is mainly competing on liquor companies utilizing ethanol as raw materials. Those ethanol-based liquors are generally cheaper than EMP’s “premium” products. Those ethanol-based liquor products will have to increase their prices. The price increases of the ethanol-based products will make the EMP’s “premium” product price competitive. We see a switch by the consumers to EMP’s “premium” product.
As of year-end of 2016, revenue fell by 6.02% yet revenue increased 10.54%. This means margin is improving. In 2018, we see volume growth and revenue growth from the switch. We see no factors that can cause an increase in the costs of EMP so we believe margin will be sustained. Revenue growth with a sustained high profit margin will result to a much more improve bottomline of EMP.
Another factor that will shore up the valuation of EMP, is its buy-back program. EMP maybe committed to buy-back up to 480 Million of its shares, but so far as of December 29, 2017 only 45.2 Million shares have been bought-back from the market. Of the total 5 Billion Pesos appropriated for the buy-back, only 0.32 Billion has been spent purchasing its own shares. Further exercise by EMP of the buy-back is expected to increase the stock price of EMP.
We believe EMP at below 8.0 is a good buy.