STOCKS NEWS SINGAPORE-StarHub up; Maybank upgrades stock after results

Sun Nov 4, 2012 9:23pm EST

Maybank Kim Eng raised its rating on StarHub Ltd to 'buy' from 'sell,' impressed by the company's 27 percent rise in quarterly profit and said fourth-quarter results could also beat expectations as the negative impact of iPhones on margins could be fading.

The broker said that with third-quarter margins at 33.9 percent versus full-year outlook of 30 percent, Singapore's second-biggest telecom firm has "a good chance of doing better than expected." Maybank raised its target price to S$3.99 from S$3.06.

StarHub's shares were up 0.6 percent at S$3.67 in a weak market and have risen 26 percent so far this year, outpacing a 14 percent rise in the index. The stock has eased after hitting a record high of S$3.88 in early August.

HSBC also raised its rating on StarHub to 'neutral' from 'underweight,' partly helped by the company's better operating margins.

Maybank said StarHub's gearing fell to a record low of 0.46 times in the third quarter following its recent raising of S$220 million in medium-term notes, and this raises confidence in sustained dividend.

Ahead of the results, 13 brokers had a 'hold' rating on StarHub, with nine rating it a 'sell' or 'strong sell,' one had a 'buy' rating and one had a 'strong buy' recommendation.

StarHub earns all its revenue from Singapore. Quarterly net profit at smaller rival M1 Ltd fell 19.5 percent. Singapore Telecommunications Ltd reports results this month.