Archive for April, 2009

Nokia gets thumbs up from China

china-mobile2Following on from the distribution of 3G licences earlier this year for China’s three mobile networks, China Mobile, China Telecom & China Unicom, along with the convoluted technology demands imposed by the regulator, signs are that Nokia will be sitting a little higher up the table at the tea party, as Chinese news portal Xinhua reports :

“China hopes Nokia will enhance cooperation with China’s information sector and play an active role in developing China’s TD-SCDMA industry, Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang said”

As we reported earlier this year, China looks to 3G networks to help stimulate economy, each of the operators is working on a different standard, China Telecom will work on the US standard CDMA 200, Unicom has gone down the W-CDMA route, whilst China Mobile (NYSE : CHL) has invested a veritable fortune in its home-grown standard TD-SCDMA.

From a political standpoint, it is pretty much a given that TD-SCDMA will not be allowed to fail, as the government is very much behind these moves. So what does this mean for equipment vendors ?

Basically, it has resulted in Western vendors like Alcatel-Lucent & Ericsson being marginalised when it comes to participation. Alcatel (NYSE : ALU) has managed to win business in 14 regions to partially satisfy China Unicoms requirements, whilst also signing $230 million worth of contracts with China Telecom.

“The drive for 3G (in China) is a very important stimulus for what I think is a very exciting market to come,” Ben Verwaayen, chief executive of Alcatel-Lucent, told reporters in Beijing yesterday. “If you look to the market and the economic crisis today, it is good to see that China is going to play a more prominent role than ever before.”

Ericsson (NYSE : ERIC) has stated that it has picked up 30% of China Unicoms 3G network requirements, leaving Chinese vendors Huawei & ZTE to fight over the spoils, with Huawei reportedly being the big winner.

So what about Nokia ?  Back in March, Nokia-Siemens Networks (NSN), a subsidiary of the Finnish mobile giant, announced the signing of framework agreements with both China Mobile and Unicom for up to US$1.1 billion in orders. NSN is one of the less recognised parts of Nokia’s business, however, it is definitely a division not to be ignored, Q1 2009 showed that NSN contributed  34% of group revenues.

Nokia has already provided major infrastructure deployments on China Mobile’s Phase II deployment of 3G network, on its testing rollout in Hainan province. Now with equipment currently being deployed across 28 major cities throughout China, Nokia Siemens Networks has provided the top performing city networks based on 3G TD-SCDMA commercial readiness, as laid down by the Chinese telecoms regulator.

“We are very confident of our 3G TD-SCDMA solution and feel proud to showcase its capabilities. Nokia Siemens Networks has provided us such tremendous on ground support, that our 2G and 3G TD-SCDMA networks are optimized and ready to handle high throughput and access rates demanded by cutting edge applications,” said Zhou Chengyang, President of Hainan MCC. “We have laid a solid foundation to launch commercial services in the Hainan province and are looking forward to working closely with Nokia Siemens Networks towards large scale and high quality TD-SCDMA services.”

So the expectation is that this suuccess will bleed over into Nokia’s main revenue driver, handsets. China Mobile is now becoming more of a commodity player with regards to handsets, as it is now looking to more rural areas for subscriber growth. My expectation is that Nokia will play a major part in this area, as discussed in a previous post, Nokia has a very strong back-catalogue of handsets to pick from & also enjoys higher margins in the low end sector than its competitors.

Having picked up on the Nokia ADR (NYSE : NOK) earlier this month & also enjoyed the $0.52 dividend yesterday, I had planned to drop 50% of my holding to place elsewhere. With this mornings news on official support for Nokia, I will now be holding a little longer term, looking for a target of $18.50 towards the end of the year.

Brazil remains bullish on oil as Petrobras sets new production record in March

offshore-oil-rigPerennial favourite Petrobras (NYSE : PBR), has announced that in March of this year, it surpassed February’s output record by 52,00 bpd. Last month, the Brazilian oil giant produced a record 1.99 million bpd from its domestic holdings. The increase has been attributed to a number of new wells in the offshore Campos Basin being brought into commercial production. Petrobras has also reported domestic production of combined oil & gas for March reached 2.3 million bpd of oil equivalent, a 9.5% month on month icrease, adding in international operations, brings an enviable 2.5 million bpd production average for the month of March.

Following up on Petrobras’ unveiling of its $174 Bn, five year investment plan, this can only be good news for investors, as the company has based its 2009-2013 plan on Brent crude running at $42 a barrel, with financing needs for 2009 based on Brent averaging at $37 a barrel. With Brent crude trading at $50.46, depressed fears over swine fever, a fiar cushion is in place.

On May 1st, President Lula will officially open Petrobras’ new Tupi operations.  Tupi,which is located in the pre-salt region and is estimated to contain between 5 billion and 7 billion barrels of crude, will initially pump 15,000 bpd through a test phase, finally ramping up to 100,000 bpd in 2010. The pre-salt region covers an offshore area 800 kilometers long and 200 kilometers wide between the states of Espirito Santo and Santa Catarina, is estimated to contain up to 80 billion barrels of light crude under a thick layer of salt far beneath the ocean floor.

As we previously discussed, the planned $175 Bn investment, is also good news for companies supplying the oil business. With offshore oil development vessels likely to be in high demand.

“In the next five to six years, we are looking for 240 different vessels… drillships, storage units, supply vessels, transportation vessels and others,” Petrobras CFO Almir Barbassa told reprorters at recent a seminar held in Seoul. “Petrobras will soon issue tenders for eight floating product storage and offloading units and seven drill ships”

Trading off a 52 week low of just $14.73, Petrobras is currently trading in the $32-$34 range (5 day spread) & the ADR has grown by 37% in the last three months of trading.

Brazil’s Itaú-Unibanco rides wave of banking consolidation

itau-unibanco1Following last years merger between the number four & number two banks in Brazil last November, the newly forged conglomerate, Itaú-Unibanco (NYSE : ITU) is the frontrunner in a race for consolidation in the Brazilian banking market. The result being that Itaú-Unibanco is now 13% larger than Banco do Brasil and 58% than the other two main rivals, Bradesco (NYSE : BBD) & Spain’s Santander (NYSE : STD). At current prices, Itaú-Unibanco’s combined assets total $201 billion, while Banco do Brasil holds $178 billion and Bradesco $128 billion, only one billion ahead of Santander.

In the credit card segment, Itaú-Unibanco serves an estimated 30% of all credit cards issued in Brazil, which brings circa 36% of all cc revenues, making them far & away the market leader overnight. Unibanco brought a number of strategic assets with it in the November deal, notably Wealth Management with more than R$32.7 billion in assets under management, 14,356 points of service and 17.5 million customers.

Although there are obvious challenges in merging two large companies such as these, Itaú-Unibanco’s Chairman Pedro Moreira Salles remains bullish on expansion. Company executives are rumoured to be looking for international acquistion targets, Mexico being one of the favoured target countries.

“We want to be a bank that has the skill to operate around the world. We aspire to have a global scale” said Salles.

Sector watchers claim that Brazil’s banking consolidation will continue apace in 2009, the expectation being, in three to five years, five banking giants will control 85 percent of the market, with a balance between one public bank (Banco do Brasil), two private Brazilian banks (Itaú-Unibanco & Bradesco), with two foreign banks (Santander & HSBC).

Miners to benefit from change to Indonesian law

copper-miningUnder Indonesian law, foreign mining companies operating in the country are required to sell 51% of their local holdings back to the government after 5 years of commercial operation. However, Newmont (NYSE : NEM), will only be asked to relinquish 17% of its subsidiary, PT Newmont Nusa Tenggara (PTNNT), as 20% of this entity is already held by a local partner. An international arbitration panel on March 31 gave Newmont and minority partner Sumitomo Corp. a 180-day deadline in which to divest 17% of PTNNT to local buyers, ruling that the companies were in default of their contract of work for failing to meet divestiture schedules in 2006-2008.

With the Indonesian government estimating the total value of PTNNT at $4.9Bn , Newmont & Sumitomo are locked ina valuation battle with the governmet & local companies, who are keen to pick up a share in the companies gold & mining concerns. Some 10% of PTNNT is earmarked for regional governments in Sumbawa, the location of the company’s Batu Hijau copper and gold mine, and the central government will have first right of refusal on the rest of PTNNT.

“We are still discussing the pricing formula” for the stake in PTNNT, with other government departments” Bambang Setiawan, director general at the Department of Energy and Mineral Resources “the department is also conducting preliminary negotiations with Newmont over the sale of the unit as yet it is unclear when a deal might be reached.”

It’s not all grim news for Newmont though. This week, Indonesian officials met regards mining rights in areas of protected forest. As we have written before, (Indonesia the long road back), The country has vast natural resources that Indonesia is keen to exploit, using the above formula to develop modern facilities in the country. Now ministers are expected to pass a decree that will allow mining companies to carry out underground mining activities in areas of protected rainforest.

“The presidential decree will give legal basis so that underground mining is allowed in protected forest areas.The existing law only forbids open-pit mining in protected forest areas,”  said Setiawan.

Information from the mining & energy ministry show that Indonesia has mineable nickel reserves of 547 million tonnes, 112 million tonnes of bauxite and 43 million tonnes of copper,  tin stand at 336,911 tonnes, measured in terms of refined tin, while gold reserves were 4,341 tonnes,

Two other mining majors that will also look to profit from this law change are Rio Tinto (NYSE : RTP) & Freeport-McMoran (NYSE : FCX).

Rio Tinto is currently looking to develop a new nickel operation on the island of Sulawesi, Rio estimate that the mine could produce up to 46,000 tonnes of nickel metal a year, estimated investment costs stand at $2 Bn. Sulawesi is densely forested & the change in law should mean that the company can expand its operations significantly.

Meanwhile, Freeport-McMoran has been active in Indonesia for a much longer time. PT Freeport Indonesia has operated the Grasberg mining complex since the early 70’s, Grasberg is one of the world’s largest single producers of both copper and gold & as Freeport claims, contains the largest recoverable reserves of copper and the largest single gold reserve in the world. Grassberg will continue surface mining until 2015, at which time it will then begin sub-surface mining, according to Freeport’s website.

Indonesia looks to be well on the way to attracting large amounts of FDI into its commodity sector, providing an economic boost to local populations spread across this vast country. India & The Emirates have already committed to investing $4Bn into an aluminium smelting plant, with fully integrated power & logistics last year, with the relaxation of the rules governing mining concessions, the country could well benefit from China’s projected expansion.

BHP & Rio Tinto to extract billion dollar contracts as well as uranium

australian-flagAustralia could be looking at a new multibillion-dollar export market as China looks for a steady supply of uranium, which it needs to underpin a massive expansion in its nuclear power industry. Chinese officials this week announced they would start building five extra power plants this year on top of the 24 already under construction and 11 already in operation. Australia could add A$17 billion ($12 billion) to gross domestic product by 2030 by maximizing suppliers to meet rising global demand for nuclear energy, the Uranium Association said last month.

The acceleration of China’s nuclear programme stems from mounting concerns about climate change, energy security and the more immediate task of kick-starting the economy as part of the Government’s 4 trillion yuan stimulus plan.

Vice-Premier Zhang Dejiang announced at a Beijing conference this week that China would “accelerate the development of nuclear power and increase the ratio of clean energies like nuclear power”.

Analysts say the country’s dearth of uranium is “the tiger in the road” to fulfilling its nuclear power ambitions and that Australia is the most obvious solution.

“There are not enough uranium resources in China to support the aggressive nuclear power development plan for the next 20-30 years,” said Professor Liu Deshun, of China’s Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology. “Australia has the uranium resources that could be exported and in China we have the demand,”

Chinese companies are lining up to invest directly in Australian uranium mining & exploration companies and have begun signing long-term supply contracts with Australia’s established mining companies, betting on the expansion plans receiving Government approval.

Australian Minister for Resources, Martin Ferguson, indicated the Federal Government was unlikely to stand in the way, subject to environmental and investment tests. Today, ERA (Energy Resources Australia), a Rio Tinto (NYSE : RTP) subsidiary, is expected to say more about a new plant to extract uranium from low-grade ore and an exploration pit for the expansion of its Ranger Mine in Kakadu, which already produces 10% of the world’s uranium.

Next week BHP Billiton (NYSE : BHP) will move a step closer to a massive expansion of its Olympic Dam mine in South Australia, the world’s biggest proven uranium reserve , with the release of an environmental impact assessment. Extending into the Yeelirrie deposit in Western Australia, which is estimated to  have a 10 to 12-year lifespan and a resource of 35,000 tonnes of uranium, will put BHP at the head of the pack, when it comes to talks with the Chinese buyers. This as a result of the WA government lifting a siy year ban on uranium extraction in the state.

Chinese analysts have said the country’s nuclear power expansion plans will not succeed unless China secures the necessary uranium supplies. Australian analysts say the local mine expansions are unlikely to proceed without the certainty provided by long-term supply contracts to China.

“The two go hand in hand,” said John Wilson, uranium analyst at Resource Capital Research.

Uranium was trading at $41 per lb yesterday & now analysts are benchmarking the yellow cake as being able to reach the $70 per lb mark in the near future.

Nokia to remain the market leader … helped by Emerging Market expansion

nokiaNokia the worlds biggest manufacturer of mobile devices , still enjoys a 40% global market share, dwarfing it’s nearest competition; Motorola (NYSE : MOT), Sony-Ericsson, Samsung, & LG. The company is particularly strong on an international basis, with top market share in practilally all markets served. More importantly, from a MyStockVoice perspective, 80% of sales come from outside the US. With recent advances in 3G licensing in Asia, notably Vietnam, India & China, Nokia (NYSE : NOK) looks well set to come out as the real winner from the mobile broadband explosion.

The company’s scale allows it to produce what is now regarded as a commodity product (low-end cell phones) at a much cheaper prices than it’s competitors. Nokia’s dominace in the mobile handset market sees it  earning roughly 15% profit even on entry-level units, while it’s most profitable competitor, Samsung, reputedly earns slightly above 13%.

Nokia is also working on growing it’s service offerings, expanding into music & games, whilst adding compatible location based services (LBS)with the recent acquisition of NAVTEQ. The strategy being that Nokia can earn incremental revenue from these services whilst building brand loyalty/customer lock-in, as users become accustomed to Nokia’s services & will opt to replace their existing handset & existing services with another Nokia model instead of migrating to a competitor.

From a financial point of view, Nokia holds an enviable position. The current balance sheet shows €5.5 billion against about €4.4 billion in debt, 70% of which is in short term notes.  Return on capital is pretty impressive to date, since 2004, ROIC is over 160%, & standard return on capital is equally impressive at 75%. Operating margins run at circa 13%, with free cash flow at 9%. For the long term investor, Nokia also has a track record of delivering a dividend yield of close to 4%. That said, the dividend rate was cut by 20% in January to reflect the impact of the gloabl downturn.

Nokia is clearly facing some major competition in the high end “smartphone” category, which is judged to be the fastest growing sub-sector of the market. While Nokia is still the world’s biggest smartphone maker, competitors Apple (Nasdaq : AAPL) with the iPhone & Research in Motion (Nasdaq : RIMM) with its Blackberry range have both  quickly gained market share , whilst Asian manufacturers such as HTC are also proving to be a thorn in the flesh.

My take is that if Nokia can crack some key markets in SE Asia, India & China, they will be able to surpass their upstart rivals, although in China, native handset makers will obviously have a first pass; e.g. TD-SCDMA with China Mobile . Nokia has a long track record with Vodafone, Orange & Telefonica, all of whom are increasingly active in Emerging Markets. With a retrospective look at the last quarters results & with the current overly sold price, I am looking at Nokia as a winner, 6 moth personal target price of $18.50 on the ADR

Malyasia – not in recession, but government steps up cash injection

petronas-malaysia1

Malaysia is facing a difficult time due to the global economic downturn but the country has still not entered into recession, Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop said. The government is prepared to take proactive measures to stimulate the economy in the country and ensure that the people, especially the unemployed get better treatment through the strategy that will be presented under the country’s
upcoming mini budget.

“We are not in recession yet. Recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth in real gross domestic product (GDP),” noted the Minister when asked to comment on the current economic scenario in the country.”We are facing a challenging time,” Yakcop told reporters after winding-up the debate on the motion of the King’s address at the Parliament per Bernama.

The country recorded a GDP growth of only 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008 compared with a growth of 4.7 percent in the third quarter. For the whole of 2008, Malaysia recorded a GDP growth rate of 4.6 percent compared with 6.3 percent in 2007.
Being an open economy, the global economic downturn will have some impact on the economic growth of the country.

“The economic slowdown in other countries like the United States, Europe and Singapore where many companies have gone bankrupt and many workers have lost their jobs has become a challenge for Malaysia, which is small and dependent on global trade,” the Second Finance Minister said.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak will table the mini budget at the Parliament on March 10. Yakcop also said that among the major items that will be discussed in the mini budget will be on ways to boost the level of confidence among the public, especially investors.

“We believe that we can retain confidence level in the economy through a strategy that we will take, and via working very closely with the private sector.”

Meanwhile in his speech, he said the second economic stimulus packagewas not expected to have a significant impact on inflation. In fact, the country’s inflation is expected to subside this year, supported by moderating commodity prices and the price reduction campaign undertaken byseveral retailers.

In January, Malaysia’s Consumer Price Index stood at 3.9% compared with 4.4% in December 2008. To date, a total of RM5 billion out of the RM7 billion allocated under the first economic package has already been distributed to more than 20 ministries andagencies involved and they are in various stages of implementation. A total of 8,474 projects worth RM567.9 million have been carried out to date.