Land Transport – CIMB

Cool winds of change

With changes to the public bus system just announced by the government, both CD and SMRT can expect to eliminate operating losses in this segment of their business and improve their cash flow through lower capex and asset disposals. Conventional thinking favours CD (Add, target S$2.59) as the biggest winner, owing to its larger bus fleet and experience with cost-plus models, but we think that SMRT’s (upgraded to Add, target S$1.67) performance will also improve, as this development could serve as a prelude to a new rail financing framework. We upgrade the sector to Overweight from Underweight, with catalysts from more government initiatives and SMRT as our top pick.

What Happened

The government is revamping Singapore’s public bus industry to a “government contracting model”, starting 2H14. Under the new system, the government will own all bus infrastructure (depots, buses and systems).

Implementation only in 2H16. Initially, LTA will tender out three packages of bus services (out of a total of 12), starting with the first package in 2H14, for implementation in 2H16. The three packages will cover 20% of the existing buses. LTA will negotiate with the incumbents to run the remaining nine packages (80% of existing buses) under the contracting scheme, for durations of about five years when their Bus Service Operating Licences (BSOLs) expire on 31 Aug 16. After their expiry, more bus services will gradually be tendered out. The contracts will be valid for 5+2 years.

What We Think

The devil is in the detail. Details of the first bus package will be out next week. After 2022, all packages will be tendered out, with the aim of having at least 3-5 bus operators in the market. While some numbers regarding margins, the transfer of assets to the government and contracting are not out yet, we have made certain assumptions for CD and SMRT, to estimate the impact on their earnings, balance sheets and fleet-disposal plans to reflect these landmark changes.

Earnings upgrade; reduced capex and some disposal cash flows. Both Public Transport Operators (PTOs) should benefit from the transition to a more sustainable model, as this should ward off operating difficulties for them. CD, through SNS Transit, operates about 75% of Singapore’s 4,500 public buses, while SMRT runs the remaining 25%. CD’s Singapore bus business (19% of revenue) made a small operating profit of S$3.2m (only 1.8% EBIT margin and 3% of group EBIT) in 1Q14, while SMRT Buses (also 19% of revenue) incurred an operating loss of S$28.4m in FY14. CD’s bus assets on its books are valued at c.S$820m and SMRT’s, at S$250m. While EBIT margins for both may not spike immediately, both certainly have advantages over any new competitor, given their extensive knowhow and track record in running public buses in Singapore.

What You Should Do

Sector upgraded to Overweight. We keep our Add rating for CD with a higher DCF-based target price (WACC 7.1%) after upgrading our earnings. It should be a clear beneficiary of the most significant development in the local bus industry in recent times. We upgrade SMRT to Add from Hold, given its greater earnings sensitivity to this move (see separate notes on CD and SMRT).

Land Transport – CIMB

Cool winds of change

With changes to the public bus system just announced by the government, both CD and SMRT can expect to eliminate operating losses in this segment of their business and improve their cash flow through lower capex and asset disposals. Conventional thinking favours CD (Add, target S$2.59) as the biggest winner, owing to its larger bus fleet and experience with cost-plus models, but we think that SMRT’s (upgraded to Add, target S$1.67) performance will also improve, as this development could serve as a prelude to a new rail financing framework. We upgrade the sector to Overweight from Underweight, with catalysts from more government initiatives and SMRT as our top pick.

What Happened

The government is revamping Singapore’s public bus industry to a “government contracting model”, starting 2H14. Under the new system, the government will own all bus infrastructure (depots, buses and systems).

Implementation only in 2H16. Initially, LTA will tender out three packages of bus services (out of a total of 12), starting with the first package in 2H14, for implementation in 2H16. The three packages will cover 20% of the existing buses. LTA will negotiate with the incumbents to run the remaining nine packages (80% of existing buses) under the contracting scheme, for durations of about five years when their Bus Service Operating Licences (BSOLs) expire on 31 Aug 16. After their expiry, more bus services will gradually be tendered out. The contracts will be valid for 5+2 years.

What We Think

The devil is in the detail. Details of the first bus package will be out next week. After 2022, all packages will be tendered out, with the aim of having at least 3-5 bus operators in the market. While some numbers regarding margins, the transfer of assets to the government and contracting are not out yet, we have made certain assumptions for CD and SMRT, to estimate the impact on their earnings, balance sheets and fleet-disposal plans to reflect these landmark changes.

Earnings upgrade; reduced capex and some disposal cash flows. Both Public Transport Operators (PTOs) should benefit from the transition to a more sustainable model, as this should ward off operating difficulties for them. CD, through SNS Transit, operates about 75% of Singapore’s 4,500 public buses, while SMRT runs the remaining 25%. CD’s Singapore bus business (19% of revenue) made a small operating profit of S$3.2m (only 1.8% EBIT margin and 3% of group EBIT) in 1Q14, while SMRT Buses (also 19% of revenue) incurred an operating loss of S$28.4m in FY14. CD’s bus assets on its books are valued at c.S$820m and SMRT’s, at S$250m. While EBIT margins for both may not spike immediately, both certainly have advantages over any new competitor, given their extensive knowhow and track record in running public buses in Singapore.

What You Should Do

Sector upgraded to Overweight. We keep our Add rating for CD with a higher DCF-based target price (WACC 7.1%) after upgrading our earnings. It should be a clear beneficiary of the most significant development in the local bus industry in recent times. We upgrade SMRT to Add from Hold, given its greater earnings sensitivity to this move (see separate notes on CD and SMRT).

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