Investors of Paramount Corp Bhd should be a contented lot as the property group has consistently paid out decent dividends over the years despite the slowdown in the domestic property market.
For the year ended Dec 31, 2018 (FY2018), it paid shareholders a gross dividend per share of 8.5 sen, compared with 16 sen in FY2017 — the highest in recent years — and 8.5 sen in FY2016.
Paramount Corp’s adjusted share price has climbed 54.6%, from RM1.306 to RM2.02, between March 31, 2016, and March 31, 2019 — the period of review for The Edge Malaysia Centurion Club Corporate Awards.
While the total adjusted return was only 15.6% between March 31, 2016 and March 31, 2019, it outperformed its peers on Bursa Malaysia. This was achieved against the backdrop of a weaker property market and uncertainties on the macroeconomic front at home and abroad.
In June, Paramount Corp, which is also in the education business, announced that it was selling its K-12 education business for an indicative RM540.5 million in cash to Two Horses Capital Sdn Bhd. (K-12 is a term used in the US and Canada, among other countries, to refer to education for children from kindergarten to the 12th grade.)
The move will see it become a pure-play property group. It will, however, retain a minority stake in the three K-12 entities it is divesting, namely Paramount Education Sdn Bhd, Paramount Education (Klang) Sdn Bhd and Sri KDU Sdn Bhd.
What is bound to make shareholders happy is that Paramount Corp plans to distribute RM177 million of the sale proceeds as a special cash dividend within six months of the completion of the disposal. The rest of the proceeds will mainly be used to acquire land and repay borrowings.
The group has certainly come a long way from the days it was a rice-milling company.
Formerly known as Malaysia Rice Industries Bhd, it assumed its present name in 1980 to better reflect its business activities after it acquired real estate company Perumahan Berjaya Sdn Bhd in 1978.
It turned 50 this year. Among its key property developments are Sejati Residences in Cyberjaya; Atwater in Section 13, Petaling Jaya; Greenwoods Salak Perdana in Sepang; and two Utropolis locations in Glenmarie, Shah Alam.
In 2016, it ventured into the co-working space business with the setting up of Co-labs Coworking, which is now in four locations, including the Starling Mall in Damansara Uptown.
In its latest 2QFY2019 quarterly financial report, Paramount Corp reported a 32.7% year-on-year decline in net profit to RM28.47 million. The fall was because the year-ago period’s profit was boosted by a RM43.2 million gain from the disposal of a piece of industrial land in Petaling Jaya.
Hence, the group’s net profit for the first half of FY2019 fell 29.7% to RM34.63 million, despite revenue growing 8.7% to RM478.88 million.
Paramount Corp expects the property segment to remain soft, but is hopeful that lower bank lending rates following the 25-basis-point cut in the overnight policy rate in May, coupled with the government’s extension of the Home Ownership Campaign to Dec 31, will improve consumer sentiment and increase property purchases.
In late August, group CEO Jeffrey Chew said the group is maintaining its new property sales target at RM1 billion this year, despite first-half sales of only RM310 million.
He also shared that as at end-June, the group had unbilled sales of about RM978 million — a record high — and is looking to hit RM1 billion this year. It has lined up some RM900 million worth of property launches for the second half of this year.
On Aug 22, chairman and executive director Datuk Teo Chiang Quan’s son, Benjamin Teo, joined the group’s board of directors as an executive director. Benjamin, 30, is the CEO of the group’s subsidiary that undertook the Alwater integrated development.
See the other winners in The Edge Malaysia Centurion Club Corporate Awards 2019 here.