Listed companies' first quarter reports paint firming economic picture

Updated 2017-04-22 12:00:53 Xinhua

The preliminary first-quarter reports from Chinese listed companies reinforced the message, conveyed in the recent string of upbeat economic data, that the world's second-largest economy is on steadier footing.

As of Wednesday, 1,432 Chinese listed companies had disclosed their preliminary first-quarter reports, and 66 percent of them registered a net profit growth or turned losses into gains, according to data compiled by Wind, a leading information service provider.

Breakdown figures showed that 443 companies will witness a year-on-year profit surge of more than 50 percent in the first quarter, with 289 companies to report year-on-year profit growth of less than 50 percent and 155 companies to reverse business losses.

Industry-specific data revealed that most companies in both traditional sectors such as coal and steel as well as some newly emerging industries posted stellar growth on the back of business improvement or product price increases.

Among the 11 listed coal-related companies that have released preliminary first-quarter reports, all have registered net profit growth of more than 100 percent except for Inner Mongolia Pingzhuang Energy Resources.

Yanzhou Coal Mining Company is forecast to see net profit growth of more than 580 percent in the first three months this year due to rising coal prices and expanded output.

The profit growth of coal-related listed companies will likely continue into the following quarters as coal prices stay elevated, according to a report from Industrial Securities, a domestic brokerage house.

China's manufacturing sector in March stayed above the boom-bust mark for the eighth month in a row, with traditional sectors like oil refining, coking and metal smelting witnessing robust growth, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said.

"China's manufacturing sector and the broader economy are likely to continue steady growth on the back of favorable macroeconomic conditions and rebounding foreign markets demand," investment bank China International Capital Corporation said in a research note.

In a similar vein, all 15 Chinese listed iron and steel companies that released preliminary first-quarter reports predicted net profit growth, with Sansteel Minguang registering a net profit of around 400 million yuan (.1 million), a year-on-year surge of more than 800 percent.

Despite new moves to curb housing market speculation in major Chinese cities, the iron and steel prices are buttressed by robust fixed-asset investment growth in China's transport infrastructure, analysts said.

China is set to spend around 2.6 trillion yuan on transport infrastructure projects this year, according to the Ministry of Transport.

China's major industrial companies registered robust profit growth in the first two months of the year, and NBS statistician He Ping attributed this to increased industrial production, raw material price increases and an uptick in profitability.

"Profit margins of some major types of steel products have hit the record high since 2011," Industrial Securities said in a research note.

China is seeking a transition to an innovation and service-driven economy from one heavily reliant on investment and exports of low-value-added goods, and advance first-quarter reports showed that some new growth engines are picking up momentum.

Listed companies on the tech-heavy small and medium-sized enterprises board will witness an average year-on-year net profit growth of 66.6 percent in the first quarter, Shenwan Hongyuan Securities data showed, with new energy vehicle-related shares among the best performers.

Not every figure was good news. Of 232 listed companies that have released their formal first-quarter reports, 122 of them reported higher debt levels, according to Wind data.

"It is a crucial moment for some listed companies, especially those smaller companies pressured by rising debt against the backdrop of the US interest rate increase and rising capital costs at home," said Li Huiyong, economist at Shenwan Hongyuan Securities.

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