KUALA LUMPUR: Tek Seng Holdings Bhd , a Penang-based polyvinyl chloride (PVC) product manufacturer, which is ramping up its solar energy business, expects the segment to drive earnings growth as the world shifts further towards energy efficiency and sustainability.
Interest in solar products should see rising interest after the Paris Climate Conference last month, as nearly 200 countries have agreed to limit temperature rises by cutting down fossil consumption in power generation.
Tek Seng, which derived most of its earnings from PVC flooring and packaging product business, ventured into the solar energy business when it became clear that the segment would not be able to generate double-digit growth in years to come.
“Earlier, we projected that [the] PVC business may continue to post double-digit growth in the next three years, but given the current market situation, we think it is not realistic anymore,” its executive chairman Loh Kok Beng told The Edge Financial Daily in an interview recently.
But it is not all doom and gloom for the group. Its solar segment has started to gain a stronger foothold and reversed its losses in the third quarter ended Sept 30, 2015 (3QFY15).
“Based on the segment’s track record, we expect the revenue contribution of the solar segment to grow to 60% from 40% currently in the current financial year ending Dec 31, 2016 (FY16), while the PVC segment’s contribution may fall to 40% from 60% presently,” Loh said.
With the strong performance of the solar segment, Loh is optimistic that the group is likely to achieve double-digit growth in revenue in FY15 and FY16.
“The order book for this year and [the] first quarter of 2017 has been filled up,” Loh said, expecting more orders to continue to flow in as China, the world’s second-largest economy, plans to increase solar power capacity to reduce environmental pollution.
“Further, we are not bound to the anti-dumping duties and this could further boost our sales,” he added.
Tek Seng’s solar cells are sold mainly to Taiwan, China and Eastern Europe. Taiwan and China accounted for 80% of the total sales.
In view of rising demand, Loh said the group had set aside RM200 million in FY16 to boost its production capacity to capture growth of the multibillion business.
According to him, the funds will be utilised for the installation of four additional new production lines, which would boost its total production capacity to 490mw from 210mw currently.
“One of the new lines is expected to start operation by early next month, while the other three, which will be housed in the new plant, will commence operation in phases towards the end of the year,” he said.
Currently, Tek Seng has three solar production lines at its solar energy plant in Penang, which gives it a total manufacturing capacity of 210mw per annum or 70mw per line.
“According to our internal estimation, each of the production line has the potential to generate about RM100 million in revenue per year, should it run at an average utilisation rate of 97%,” Loh added.
Claiming it as the only solar cell maker in the country, Tek Seng is in the midst of constructing its second solar energy plant, which can house approximately 10 new manufacturing lines, bringing its total production capacity to 680mw.
“The construction work is expected to be completed by [the] third quarter of this year,” Loh said.
Tek Seng’s solar segment swung back to profitability in 3QFY15 with a profit of RM7.53 million from a loss of RM3.65 million in 2QFY15. It registered revenue of RM55.77 million in 3QFY15, accounting for 56% of the group’s total turnover.
On its PVC business, Loh is hopeful that the segment could maintain its performance in FY16 as production costs come down amid low commodity prices.
“Last year, the segment’s orders declined as much as 20%, mainly impacted by a stronger US dollar against all major currencies. But orders normalised after we slashed our prices by about 10%,” he said.
“Our products are mainly exported to emerging countries, such as Indonesia, [the] Middle East and Africa, and a strong [US] dollar will erode our clients’ purchasing power,” he explained.
Although currency volatility has hurt the company’s performance, it has no plan to hedge itself.
Instead, Loh said the group plans to offer various options, for example, a client can choose to pay according to the exchange rate on the invoice date or goods delivery date, whichever deemed best for them.
“We are also considering to bill our clients in other currencies that would benefit them,” he added.
Tek Seng posted a net profit of RM5.04 million in 3QFY15, a 183% jump from RM1.78 million in 3QFY14, while revenue surged 63.5% to RM99.33 million from RM60.75 million.
Shares in Tek Seng hit their all-time high of RM1.25 on Jan 11, and have been hovering between RM1.13 and RM1.21 after coming off the peak.
Loh’s family is the single largest shareholder of Tek Seng, with a collective shareholding of 57.15%.