Daily Hong Kong: Chinese Telcos: 5G Launches in 2019. Buy the 5G Beneficiary (China Tower). and more

By January 10, 2019 Hong Kong

In this briefing:

  1. Chinese Telcos: 5G Launches in 2019. Buy the 5G Beneficiary (China Tower).
  2. Are Chip Oligopolies Real?
  3. Global Banks: Some New Year Pointers
  4. Extraordinary Fiscal and Monetary Policies Have Disrupted the Global Economy
  5. China Tower: More Details on Non Telco Growth Suggest Further Upside to Share Price

1. Chinese Telcos: 5G Launches in 2019. Buy the 5G Beneficiary (China Tower).

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We highlighted in a recent note Chris Hoare‘s positive outlook for China Tower (788 HK). Our view takes into account the 5G build-out commencing this year, improved capex efficiency from using “social resources”, the rapid growth in non-tower businesses that lie outside the Master Services Agreement (MSA), and the valuation benefit from what looks like surprisingly investor friendly management. 

This note focuses on four key issues facing the Chinese telcos in 2019:

  • 5G capex (March) (this is by far the most important),
  • Regulatory newsflow (February/ March),
  • Operating trend improvements (August), and
  • Emerging business opportunities driving future growth (August).

We remain positive on the telcos which trade at low multiples. China Unicom (762 HK) continues to trade at a discount, yet is most exposed to the positive story emerging at China Tower. We switch our top pick among the telcos from China Mobile (941 HK) back to China Unicom as a result. Alastair Jones thinks China Telecom’s (728 HK) premium multiple is at risk if management execution on the cost base doesn’t improve. It is our least preferred telco at this stage. Overall, we expect China Tower to outperform all telcos and it is our top pick.  The upgrade to China Tower flows through the telcos (valuation and costs) and our new target prices are as follows: China Unicom to HK$14.4, China Telecom to HK$5.4 and China Mobile to HK$96. 

2. Are Chip Oligopolies Real?

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In the semiconductor industry, particularly in the DRAM sector, there has been significant consolidation leading some to hypothesize that there’s now an oligopoly that will cause prices to normalize and thus end the business’ notorious revenue cycles.  Here we will take a critical look at this argument to explain its fallacy.

3. Global Banks: Some New Year Pointers

Here is a look at how regions fare regarding key indicators.

  • PH Score = value-quality (10 variables)
  • FV=Franchise Valuation
  • RSI
  • TRR= Dividend-adjusted PEG factor
  • ROE
  • EY=Earnings Yield

We have created a model that incorporates these components into a system that covers>1500 banks.

4. Extraordinary Fiscal and Monetary Policies Have Disrupted the Global Economy

In their public presentations, central banks seem to be contemplating the use of neutral interest rates (r*) in addition to unemployment/inflation theories. R* has the advantage of appearing to be subject to mathematical precision, yet it’s unobservable, and so unfalsifiable. Thus, it permits central banks to present any policy conclusion they want without fear of verifiable contradiction. R* is the policy rate that would equate the future supply of and demand for loans. It rises and falls as an economy strengthens and weakens. Long-term observation during the non-inflationary gold standard, period indicated that r* in an average economy was 2% plus, which would become 4% plus with today’s 2% inflation target. The Fed may soon end this tightening cycle with the fed funds rate at or near 2¾%, which would be r* if the rate of lending and borrowing in America remained stable thereafter. Rising (falling) lending would indicate a higher (lower) r*. 

5. China Tower: More Details on Non Telco Growth Suggest Further Upside to Share Price

China tower since ipo rallying as growth prospects become clearer last price volume m  chartbuilder

After initially being very skeptical of the China Tower (788 HK) IPO given it is essentially a price take to its three largest shareholders, we changed our view in early December to a more positive outlook. What changed our view has been series of calls and meetings with the company that suggested a more shareholder friendly approach than expected and a real opportunity to reduce capex substantially through the use of “social resources” (e.g. electricity grid, local government sites). These can be used to deliver co-locations without building towers and poles and imply much lower capital intensity at a time when revenue growth will be accelerating as 5G is rolled out.  Management has also given more detail on non-Tower business prospects which can generate higher returns (not under the Master Services Agreement). While small now (2% of revenue) they are growing rapidly. With lower capex than initially guided and a more shareholder friendly management (i.e. higher dividends are possible) we reduce the SOE discount and raise our forecasts (again). We remain at BUY with a new target price of HK$2.20

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