Cement production is an important barometer of national economic activity, according to a research report compiled by a Credit Suisse analyst. Last year, CS analyst Farhan Rizvi said in his report that "higher PSDP (Public Sector Development Program) spending has led to a resurgence in domestic cement demand in FY12 (+8%) and with increased PSDP allocation for FY13 (+19%) and General Elections due in 2013, domestic demand is likely to remain robust over the next six-nine months".
|Ocean Tower Karachi|
In addition to public sector infrastructure projects, there is a lot of privately funded real estate development activity visible in all major cities of the country.
Among the high-profile new construction projects completed this month is Ocean Tower in Karachi. At 393 feet high with 30 floors, it is now the tallest building in Pakistan. Ocean Tower has a shopping mall, food courts, corporate offices, a business club, car-parking area and 4 cinemas.
|The Centaurus Islamabad|
Big real estate developers like Bahria Town and Habib Construction are developing both commercial and housing projects in Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore. Other cities like Faisalabad, Hyderabad, Larkana, Multan, Mirpur, Peshawar and Quetta are also seeing new housing communities, golf courses, hotels, office complexes, restaurants, shopping malls, etc.
Per capita cement consumption in Pakistan was only 70 Kg in 2003. It has more than doubled in the last decade. With back-to-back increases in domestic cement demand, per capita consumption has now risen to 154 Kg which is still below average for Asia. But the rising demand is a good sign of economic recovery since 2009 when the GDP growth hit a low of 1.7%.
|Centaurus Mall Opening Day|
Credit Suisse is bullish on Pakistan's cement sector in particular and Pakistani shares in general.
CS analyst Farhan Rizvi has initiated coverage with "an OVERWEIGHT stance, as we believe compelling valuations, improving domestic demand outlook, better pricing power and easing cost pressures make the sector an attractive investment proposition. Despite better growth prospects (3-year CAGR of 17% over FY12-15E) and improving margins, the sector trades at an attractive FY13E EV/EBITDA of 3.8x, 49% discount to the historical average multiple of 7.4x. Moreover, FY13E EV/tonne of US$74 is approximately 29% discount to historical average EV/tonne of US$104 and 50% discount to the region".
Another CS analyst Farrukh Khan, based in Credit Suisse’ Asia Pacific headquarters in Singapore,says in his research report that “liquidity in 2012 has been concentrated in stocks offering positive earnings surprises (e.g., United Bank, Lucky Cement, DG Khan Cement and Bank Alfalah), enabling them to be strong outperformers. With further improvements in liquidity, we expect a broad-based price discovery to take hold in attractively valued oil and fertilizer stocks as well.”
A string of strong earnings announcements by Karachi Stock Exchange listed companies and the Central Bank's 1.5% rate cut have already helped Karachi's KSE-100 index surge nearly 50% (37% in US $ terms) in 2012 to top all Asian market indices. It was followed by Bangkok's SET index which advanced 36%. It also easily beat India's Sensex index which was the top performer among BRICs with 25.19% annual gain.
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