STEng – Kim Eng

Prized for stability and attractive yield

The big picture. Investors buy ST Engineering (STE) for its attractive 5% dividend yield. On its part, the company continues to deliver on its earnings despite a challenging environment. However, share price upside is limited by a lack of fresh catalysts. While we believe that the negative press on its India defence issue is overblown, any pullback on the back of this presents a good entry point. Fundamentally, the stock remains a Hold as the forward PER of 17x represents full value.

India debarment not a big deal. STE’s defence-related subsidiary ST Kinetics was blacklisted by India’s Criminal Bureau of Investigation in connection with a corruption probe at India’s defence procurement agency. STE said there is no evidence implicating them. However, with a reputation to protect, we understand its insistence in clearing its name. Though India has never been a major contributor to its defence earnings, the country’s potential as a major arms buyer is significant. A clean reputation is useful in bidding for defence contracts globally.

Yields sustainable. Following its 7% growth in net earnings for FY11, STE declared a final and special dividend totalling 12.5 cents per share for a full-year payout of 15.5 cents per share, or a yield of 4.9%. Exdate is 25 April 2012. Even though STE expects to maintain its healthy payout ratio of 90% of earnings, we note that it was cash-flow-negative in 2011 due to higher working capital on negative variances in receivables and advances, as well as higher capex. We expect this situation to normalise in FY12. Cash and equivalents stands at $1.36b.

Neutral, all things considered. STE’s $12.3b orderbook supports earnings across the different divisions. It also has a healthy mix of commercial and military contracts. The company expects to achieve higher earnings for FY12, which is in line with our forecast of a modest 7% earnings growth. This will support its dividend payout and mitigate any downside. However, a lack of clear catalysts also limits upside, hence our Hold recommendation on the stock. Our target price of $2.88 remains pegged at 15x forward earnings, in line with its historical mean.

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