Friday 21 Jun 2024
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This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly on May 3, 2021 - May 9, 2021

FURNITURE manufacturer Jaycorp Bhd is one of the companies that are thriving in the Covid-19 economy. Tightening international border controls and a ban on interstate travel in response to the pandemic have led to a reversal in the company’s fortunes as people spend more time in their homes and money on home furniture products.

Backed by strong orders, the company is confident of beating its previous earnings record of RM24.69 million achieved in its financial year ended July 31, 2017 (FY2017). In fact, Jaycorp’s net profit of RM22.45 million for 1HFY2021 has exceeded that for the past three financial years (FY2020-FY2018) of RM17.4 million, RM19.82 million and RM10.29 million respectively.

Its executive director Muaz Jema Anton Khan expects the company to report its “best-ever year” as earnings have improved substantially amid the Covid-19 stay-at-home orders.

“The local market has been good because of the pandemic. [That’s because] a large chunk of disposable income now goes to home furnishings instead of being used for travelling, as people are stuck at home. This is very different from pre-pandemic,” Muaz tells The Edge.

Still, the Covid-19 outbreak had initially impacted Jaycorp’s earnings when the first Movement Control Order (MCO) was imposed in March last year, forcing the company to temporarily shut down operations. As a result, Jaycorp saw its net profit fall 12.2% to RM17.4 million in FY2020 from RM19.82 million in FY2019, while revenue was down 3.9% to RM309.35 million from RM321.95 million in the same period.

The weaker performance in FY2020 was also because of its kiln-drying segment posting a pre-tax loss of RM3.39 million versus the pre-tax profit of RM339,000 in FY2019 as a result of a write-down of inventories in the Malaysian subsidiary and a provision for employee benefits and tax penalty expenses in the Indonesian subsidiary.

Muaz explains that it was quite difficult for Jaycorp’s customers to physically look at its products or new models given the lockdown, adding that its major markets are Japan and South Korea.

“Customers generally want to come to the factory and see our products, particularly the new models. But we’ve adapted by having a digital showroom now. The pandemic has actually shown us that we need to modernise our operations.

“As such, we’ve become much more proficient in delivering our value proposition online even though some of our factories are quite remote,” he says.

The company also works closely with its customers in terms of product development. “We’re always trying to go up the value chain … trying to do higher-margin products and also looking at what is selling, as well as the market trends. At the same time, we will also try new designs and see how that works,” he adds.

Last month, Jaycorp had to halt operations at two of its factories in Johor for 10 days for sanitisation purposes as some of its employees tested positive for Covid-19. Muaz, however, says the temporary shutdown will not have any material impact on the company’s financial performance. “There will only be a delay (in orders), but I think we will be able to catch up quite quickly.”

While orders and queries from customers are robust, Muaz says it is difficult to gauge whether the trend will last until after the pandemic. “For instance, my consumption of delivery food has increased a lot, but once we come out of the pandemic, am I going to stop ordering food? No, I actually think I would probably order slightly more than I did before the lockdown because we already have that sort of behaviour ingrained in us.

“So, I don’t think there will be a massive drop (in sales), but it is hard to say.”

Expanding manufacturing capacity on the cards

While Muaz notes that Jaycorp is open to taking new orders, the manufacturing capacity of its furniture division is already running at over 90%. Thus, it is “quite difficult” now to take on new customers that have substantial volume orders, he says.

“We are always looking at expanding our capacity, but I think, given the current situation, the priority is shifting towards automation.

“Traditionally, the manufacturing business has been quite labour-intensive, so we are looking at new technologies that could essentially reduce the manpower,” says Muaz.

Jaycorp has set aside RM5 million to RM6 million in capital expenditure (capex) mainly for the purchase of new machines, which will be funded via 70% internal funds and 30% borrowings.

As at Jan 31, 2021, Jaycorp had a cash balance of RM52.57 million and borrowings of RM27.42 million, leading to a net cash position of RM25.15 million.

Muaz says the company will be cautious about spending as the uncertainty will linger for some time. “We are open to any merger and acquisition for our furniture division, but it will depend on the valuation and what capability the (acquisition target) can bring to the group.”

Setting a dividend policy

Despite not having a dividend policy, Jaycorp has been consistently paying dividends to reward shareholders since its listing in 2007.

Muaz notes that setting a dividend policy is “something we could look at”. “But looking at our dividend track record, we have at least 40% to 50% dividend payout,” he says, adding that the company is looking to continue paying dividends at “around this level”.

In its 1HFY2021, Jaycorp had declared a first interim dividend of five sen per share, payable on April 30. The group had paid dividends totalling 10 sen per share in both FY2020 and FY2019.

Shares of Jaycorp have risen 168% from a low of 63.4 sen on March 23, 2020, to close at RM1.70 last Wednesday. The counter recently hit an all-time high of RM1.88 on April 13. Its market capitalisation stands at RM233.32 million.

As at Oct 30, 2020, Muaz’s grandfather Tan Sri Abdul Majid Khan, who is the executive chairman of Jaycorp, and father Datuk Jema Anton Khan were the company’s single largest shareholder with a 22.99% stake via their private investment vehicle Jawala Corp Sdn Bhd. Central Glamour Sdn Bhd owned another 22.46%.

Jaycorp’s principal activities are wooden furniture manufacturing, pressure treatment and kiln drying of wood, biomass, corrugated carton packaging, general trading, property letting, general construction and civil engineering works.

Apart from the thriving furniture division, the manufacturing of carton boxes — with the major part of them used by its furniture division — is also performing well. Its construction division, on the other hand, is only making small profits.

Muaz notes that it has been operationally very challenging for this division since the pandemic. “It has been very competitive as there are many other big players who will do the job at any cost.”

Jaycorp has a land bank of about 400 acres in Sabah, with 100 acres intended for tourism developments and 300 acres for residential and commercial developments. “I don’t think this division will take off in the next six months,” Muaz says.

 

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