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TNB’s power generation segment will enjoy the benefit of higher energy demand as the economy picks up, translating into higher earnings in the second half of the year, said Hong Leong Investment Bank (HLIB) Research.

PETALING JAYA: With the imbalance cost pass-through (ICPT) mechanism intact, earnings of Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) will remain relatively stable.

The mechanism under the incentive-based regulation (IBR) framework allows TNB, as a utility, to reflect an increase or reduction in fuel and other generation-related costs in electricity tariffs every six months in the form of a rebate or surcharge.

On the back of this, TNB’s power generation segment will enjoy the benefit of higher energy demand as the economy picks up, translating into higher earnings in the second half of the year, said Hong Leong Investment Bank (HLIB) Research.

However, increasing commodity and fuel costs remain a concern, which could affect the group’s cash flow.

It noted that global commodity fuel costs have been on an increase since mid-2021 and accelerated starting of 2022 when the Russia-Ukraine conflict led to sanctions being implemented against Moscow, which is one of the major commodity fuel producing countries in the world.

“Coal prices have now recorded a high at US$400 per tonne (RM1,760/t), while gas prices have also remained high at RM52.89 a million British thermal unit (which is the volume measurement for natural gas),” said the research firm in a utilities sector outlook for the second half of 2022 (2H22).

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Despite the pass-through under the ICPT framework, HLIB Research said TNB will still have to pay the higher fuel costs upfront in the current period before being able to pass through in a subsequent review period.

“We believe the recently approved RM7bil ICPT for the 2H22 has not taken into account the surge of coal prices since March 2022.

“Hence, TNB’s receivables may continue to climb in the 2H22 if coal prices remain stubbornly high at current levels,” added the research firm.

TNB’s cash flow is expected to be affected due to the timing mismatch of having to pay for the high commodity fuel prices, but receiving approval and payments for ICPT adjustments at much later dates.

Nevertheless, it noted that the utility group has a large balance sheet to further leverage for short-term working capital purposes and is also committed to its dividend policy of 30% to 60% payout ratio.

“At the current juncture, we are still assuming a 40 sen dividend payout (based on 45% dividend payout ratio), translating into a 5.1% dividend yield,” said the research firm.

Apart from TNB, the research firm said Petronas Gas Bhd (PetGas)’s utility segment margin will also be affected by the high gas price trend, while electricity prices are fixed by the government.

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