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KUALA LUMPUR: While the deadline for the automotive sales and services tax (SST) exemption will expire on June 30, 2022, the government's decision to allow the waiver to include vehicles delivered up to March 31, 2023, would help original equipment manufacturers (OEM) sustain their margins until the year-end, says Hong Leong Investment Bank (HLIB) Research.

The Ministry of Finance recently said it would not extend the waiver of SSTs for vehicles booked past June 30, 2022, but would allow deliveries for orders made during this period to extend to March 31, 2023.

"The balanced decision was arrived after considering the current high 264k units of order backlog industry wide driven by the surge in demand and inability of OEMs to fulfil the high orders within a short time, as they are affected by the ongoing supply chain disruptions," said HLIB in its report.

"We are overall positive with the extension of deliveries time until 31 March 2023, giving a fair amount of time for automotive OEMs to fulfil their current high order backlogs (depending on models and specifications).

"OEMs would be able to fully benefit from the current high order backlogs without sacrificing their margins post June 2022, resulting to sustained margins until year end," it added.

It said OEMs with high order backlogs include Perodua (UMW and MBMR), Proton (DRB-Hicom), Toyota (UMW), Honda (DRB) and Mazda (Bermaz Auto).

Following the government's announcement, the total order backlog of 264,000 is expected to increase as consumers rush to place their orders before the June 30 deadline.

Post the June deadline, HLIB said OEMs are not expected to be aggressive with sales and marketing as they await more clarity on consumer sentiment by the year-end.

"We expect OEMs to remain cautious in their budgets in 2023, while leveraging onto attractive new model launches to sustain their sales volume," it said.

HLIB remained "neutral" on the sector with an unchanged total industry volume forecast of 600,000 units in 2022 while staying cautious on a potential slowdown in 2023.

It favours MBMR (Buy, TP:RM5) and DRB-Hicom (Buy, TP:RM2) on expectation of local OEMs to outperform with potential growth from new export markets.

It added that it likes Bermaz Auto (Buy, TP:RM1.95) for its strong balance sheet with high order backlogs of 8,000 units for Mazda in Malaysia.