May 19, 2020 / 11:00 AM / 6 days ago

Coronavirus leads to 43% first quarter drop in Asian company profits

BENGALURU (Reuters) - Profits at Asian companies have plunged by an average of 43% in the first quarter, the steepest decline in at least 9 years, with the oil and consumer sector hardest hit as the coronavirus pandemic kept people at home.

FILE PHOTO: A CRH (China Railway High-speed) bullet train runs past Beijing's central business area, China December 13, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Lee

There have been few winners in the March quarter, although companies are expected to fare better over the following three months, a Reuters analysis of Refinitiv data on 2,087 companies found. Profit is expected to decline 27% in the quarter to the end of June.

The data showed that about 73% of Asian firms have reported their March quarter earnings so far.

(GRAPHIC: Asian companies profit growth - here)

“We are optimistic that China will lead the Asian region out of its depressed state. It will likely show a modest recovery in sales and profits in Q2, and a strong bounce ... from Q3 onwards,” Khiem Do, a fund manager at Baring Asset Management, said.

“The rest of the Asian region will follow suit, most probably from Q3 onwards.”

(GRAPHIC: Sector wise profit growth - here)

In the March quarter, oil companies cumulatively posted losses for the first time in at least a decade as oil prices slumped because cars remained parked and planes were grounded.

China’s top two oil companies, PetroChina (601857.SS) and Sinopec (600028.SS), posted record losses.

Airlines reported their biggest losses in at least 10 years, and profit at companies that depend on discretionary spending, such as automakers, slumped 94%. Companies that supply machinery reported an 83% fall in profit as factories were shut.

Among the outliers was Chinese tech giant Tencent (0700.HK) as people spent money on its games and social media sites.

“There are very early signs that the cuts in earnings forecasts have started to show signs of coming to some end,” Herald van der Linde, head of Asia equity strategy at HSBC, said.

Analysts, according to Refinitiv data, cut their profit forecast for the next 12 months by 2% in the past 30 days. In the 30 days before that, they lowered their estimate by 9% for the period.

(GRAPHIC: Country wise profit growth - here)

Reporting By Patturaja Murugaboopathy and Gaurav Dogra in Bengaluru; Editing by Sayantani Ghosh and Barbara Lewis

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