PETALING JAYA: Malaysian Rating Corp Bhd (MARC) has assigned a preliminary rating of ‘AA-’ to 7-Eleven Malaysia Holdings Bhd’s proposed RM600 million medium-term notes (MTN) programme with a stable outlook.
“The assigned rating mainly reflects 7-Eleven’s strong and established market position in the convenience store segment, gained from a long operating track record with a wide store network that has supported stable earnings generation.
Moderating the rating are the prevailing competition within the convenience store segment, particularly in the urban areas, and high operating cost inherent in the convenience store business model that has weighed on operating margins,” MARC said.
7-Eleven is a non-operating investment holding company with two major subsidiaries: 7-Eleven Malaysia Sdn Bhd (7-Eleven Malaysia) which operates the convenience store chain under the 7-Eleven brand; and Caring Pharmacy Group Bhd which operates the retail pharmacy chain under the Caring brand. Acquired in June 2020, Caring Pharmacy is expected to contribute about 31.3% annually to group operating profit over the next three years.
7-Eleven Malaysia has about 2,400 stores nationwide, accounting for about 64.9% of the total of number of convenience stores held by major operators. It is expected to continue its rapid pace of expansion with a target of opening 100-150 stores annually for which it has earmarked a capex of RM70.0 million. The expansion has provided an extensive geographical reach throughout the country, further entrenching its position.
Operating under a long-term exclusive licence from the US-based 7-Eleven Inc, 7-Eleven Malaysia’s licensing risk is mitigated by its lengthy operating track record.
Same-store sales growth, however, has weakened, partly due to the increased competition in the convenience store segment. This is being addressed by increasing product and service differentiation in its stores, and by refurbishing up to 450 others annually and shuttering underperforming stores. These efforts have resulted in improved operating margins to above 4.0% since 2019.
Caring Pharmacy had 144 stores as at end-2020, growing organically by utilising internal funds for store expansions, as reflected by a low leverage level of about 0.04 times at end-2020. Capex has ranged between RM4.1 million and RM8.3 million between 2017 and 2020 and is expected to be maintained within this range in the medium term.
7-Eleven Malaysia funded the acquisition of the 75.0% stake in Caring Pharmacy for RM259.4 million with bank borrowings, resulting in leverage of 3.31 times, from 1.46 times. Group borrowings stood at RM533.1 million. The high leverage position is due to a reduced equity base, which was at RM161.2 million at end-2020, by a reorganisation deficit of RM1.3 billion that arose from a listing exercise in 2014.
Without the reorganisation deficit, group leverage would be a moderate 0.35 times. Operating profit before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation interest coverage (excluding lease liabilities) remained strong at above 5.30 times.