Weekly Ratings, Targets, Forecast Changes – 20-05-22

Weekly Reports | May 23 2022

Weekly update on stockbroker recommendation, target price, and earnings forecast changes

By Mark Woodruff

Guide:

The FNArena database tabulates the views of seven major Australian and international stock brokers: Citi, Credit Suisse, Macquarie, Morgan Stanley, Morgans, Ord Minnett and UBS.

For the purpose of broker rating correlation, Outperform and Overweight ratings are grouped as Buy, Neutral is grouped with Hold and Underperform and Underweight are grouped as Sell to provide a Buy/Hold/Sell (B/H/S) ratio.

Ratings, consensus target price and forecast earnings tables are published at the bottom of this report.

Summary

Period: Monday May 16 to Friday May 20, 2022
Total Upgrades: 5
Total Downgrades: 4
Net Ratings Breakdown: Buy 59.90%; Hold 33.53%; Sell 6.58%

For the week ending Friday May 20 there were five upgrades and four downgrades to ASX-listed companies covered by brokers in the FNArena database.

As Boral had two ratings downgrades by separate brokers last week, it was unsurprising to see the company heading up the table for the largest percentage decrease in target price set by brokers, as well as the largest percentage downgrade to forecast earnings.

Following management’s-$45m downgrade to full year earnings guidance (excluding Property), Credit Suisse decreased its target price to $2.60 from $3.80 and lowered its rating to Underperform from Neutral. 

The broker attributed two thirds of the downgrade to the impact from eastern states rainfall, while the balance resulted from elevated energy costs. It’s estimated gross energy costs could increase a further $70m in FY23 and realised prices are unlikely to provide a full offset.

In a similar vein, Morgan Stanley noted cost issues may persist for some time and was disappointed by the lack of price offset. Management also flagged transformation program benefits would be lower than prior FY22 guidance by -$15-25m, though the $200m benefit target is unchanged. The broker cut its rating to Underweight from Equal-weight and reduced its target to $2.80 from $3.20.

Coming second on the table for the largest percentage decrease in earnings forecasts was United Malt Group, after the release of first half results.

First half profit of $10m was bang on Macquarie's estimate though a miss versus the consensus forecast of $13m, and the broker reduced its FY22 EPS forecast by around -7% to incorporate a higher than expected tax rate. Nonetheless, Management reiterated FY22 earnings guidance and remains confident in the outlook after FY22.

Morgans also downgraded it profit estimates due to the higher than expected rate of taxation, and was troubled by a lack of catalysts on the horizon. A Hold rating was maintained due to above-target gearing and near-term earnings risk. 

On the flipside, Xero received the largest percentage increase in forecast earnings iafter brokers further reviewed FY22 results released in the week prior.

Despite lower than anticipated subscriber growth in the second half, 29% full year revenue growth beat UBS's expectations. Even so, a lack of cash flow is thought to be a challenge and the broker retained its Sell rating and decreased its target price to $70.00 from $88.00.

Cit correlated lower than expected UK subscriber growth to increased investment by competitor Sage, yet still expects Xero can continue to deliver strong growth in the region. The broker retained its Buy rating and $108 target price.

Following the release of FY22 results. Webjet was next on the list for the largest percentage increase in forecast earnings.

Macquarie noted travel activity continues to recover though revenue and profit margins face headwinds from lagging international travel and travel mix, which is likely to persist in the first half of FY23. Nonetheless, it’s thought the company remains well placed in the medium term, underpinned by strong market share gains and a structurally lower cost base.

Citi pointed out the key metric for Webjet in the current environment is revenue, which was slightly ahead of the consensus expectation, while UBS noted all the company’s businesses were profitable in April, and May profitability is expected to be significantly higher versus April.

Viva Energy Group received forecasts earnings upgrades from Credit Suisse as Australian fuel retailers stand to benefit from exposure to elevated refinery earnings. Demand from Europe and export restrictions from China are expected to support strong refining margins through 2022.

Finally, earnings forecasts were lifted for James Hardie last week. While FY22 profit of US$621m was at the low end of the US$620-630m guidance range, 42% year on year underlying profit growth in the fourth quarter came in ahead of Ord Minnett's forecast.

In raising its rating to Buy from Accumulate, the broker acknowledged rising interest rates will pressure the company’s PE multiple though low expectations are already factored into the share price. Price rises are also expected to counter some of the rising costs. 

Morgan Stanley agreed housing market weakness has been priced-in after a recent share price de-rating, especially given the company's skew towards the repair and remodel (R&R) markets. The broker upgraded its rating to Overweight from Equal-weight, while the target price was reduced to $51 from $57.

Total Buy recommendations take up 59.90% of the total, versus 33.53% on Neutral/Hold, while Sell ratings account for the remaining 6.58%.

Upgrade

ARISTOCRAT LEISURE LIMITED ((ALL)) Upgrade to Buy from Accumulate by Ord Minnett .B/H/S: 6/0/0

A solid result across the board from Aristocrat Leisure in its first half has reflected the resilience of the gaming sector according to Ord Minnett, delivering a significant beat to the broker's underlying net profit forecast with a reported $530.7m compared to an anticipated $386.0m.

The broker highlighted the land-based segment was a major driver with strong year-on-year volume and fee growth, but continuing robust performance from the digital segment should quiet concerns around digital weakness.

The rating is upgraded to Buy from Accumulate and the target price decreases to $46.00 from $49.00.

JAMES HARDIE INDUSTRIES PLC ((JHX)) Upgrade to Overweight from Equal-weight by Morgan Stanley and Upgrade to Buy from Accumulate by Ord Minnett .B/H/S: 5/1/0

James Hardie Industries' FY22 adjusted profit was broadly in-line with Morgan Stanley's estimate and the consensus forecast. While margins were a beat for the North America Fibre Cement division, they were softer than anticipated for the APAC region.

Management reiterated FY23 profit guidance. The broker feels housing market weakness has been priced-in after a recent share price de-rating, especially given the company's skew towards the repair and remodel (R&R) markets.

While the target price slips to $51 from from $57, Morgan Stanley upgrades its rating to Overweight from Equal-weight. Industry view is In-Line. 

James Hardie's 42% year on year underlying profit growth in its fourth quarter came in ahead of Ord Minnett's forecast. Full-year profit of US$621m is at the low end of the US$620-630m guidance range.

The 30c final dividend declared meant 70c for the full year, which is in line with FY21 but well below market assumptions.

FY23 will see a volatile path for margins, the broker warns, with costs the main headwind, although the company has shown its willingness to push through price rises. Rising rates will drag on James Hardie's PE multiple, although low expectations are already factored in.

The broker nevertheless sees longer term value, and double-digit earnings growth over the next two years. Upgrade to Buy from Accumulate on share price weakness. Target rises to $53.10 from $52.70.

OZ MINERALS LIMITED ((OZL)) Upgrade to Neutral from Underperform by Credit Suisse .B/H/S: 1/5/0

OZ Minerals continues to pursue growth, looking to enter into a definitive option agreement with Havilah Resources ((HAV)) on its Kalkaroo copper-gold project.

Credit Suisse expects OZ Minerals will spend up to $76m on the project during the 18-month option, but as much as $346m if the project is pursued. 

The broker highlights Kalkaroo presents a material increase to the already significant growth capital spend OZ Minerals is committed to over the next three years.

Pre-feasibility studies suggest the project offers 30,000 tonnes of copper and 72,000 ounces of gold annually over 13 years. 

Given recent share price performance, the rating is upgraded to Neutral from Underperform and the target price of $21.00 is retained.

PREMIER INVESTMENTS LIMITED ((PMV)) Upgrade to Buy from Neutral by Citi .B/H/S: 5/1/0

Citi retains a positive view on the Retail sector despite depressed expectations due to increased fuel prices and the interest rate outlook.

The broker upgrades its rating for Premier Investments to Buy from Neutral, while the target price eases to $29.00 from $30.80. It is felt Smiggle and the fashion brands will be reopening beneficiaries, while Peter Alexander is expected to hold up well.

Downgrade

BORAL LIMITED ((BLD)) Downgrade to Underweight from Equal-weight by Morgan Stanley and Downgrade to Underperform from Neutral by Credit Suisse .B/H/S: 1/3/2

Morgan Stanley lowers its rating for Boral to Underweight from Equal-weight following another (-$45m) FY22 guidance downgrade, driven by wet weather across Eastern Australia (-$30m) and inflationary impacts.

The broker estimates the cost issues may persist for some time and a lack of price offset is disappointing. Management also flagged transformation program benefits would be lower than prior FY22 guidance by -$15-25m, though the $200m benefit target is unchanged.

The target price falls to $2.80 from $3.20. Industry view: In-Line. The analyst sees better value in the sector via Fletcher Building ((FBU)).

Credit Suisse notes the -$45m downgrade to Boral's full year earnings guidance, excluding Property, is reflective of poor pricing power in the current inflationary environment, with -$30m being attributed to Eastern states rainfall and -$15m to elevated energy costs. 

Further, the broker anticipates energy costs will continue to impact in the coming financial year, estimating gross energy costs could increase a further $70m in FY23, while realised prices are unlikely to be able to fully offset. 

The rating is downgraded to Underperform from Neutral and the target price decreases to $2.60 from $3.80.


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