Sheng Siong vs Dairy Farm vs NTUC Fairprice – Which Singapore Supermarket Stock To Invest In?

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Singapore households spend about $424 per month on groceries, on average.

Given that we have a population of about 5.6 million people, imagine the amount of moolah that the supermarkets are raking in every month! 🤑

Now, wouldn't it be great if some of that goes back into your pocket on a consistent basis?

3 Major Supermarket Companies in Singapore

There are 4 common supermarkets in Singapore: NTUC Fairprice, Cold Storage, Giant, Sheng Siong

Of these supermarkets, Dairy Farm (SGX:D01) which owns Cold Storage, Giant and more) as well as Sheng Siong (SGX:OV8) are listed on the Singapore Exchange (SGX).

NTUC Fairprice is a co-operative, they are not listed publicly but they publish annual reports which the public can get access to.

Dairy Farm is the biggest company among them. On top of supermarket, Dairy Farm has various businesses, in various countries under their umbrella.  Some examples are convenience stores (e.g. 7-Eleven) and beauty shops (e.g. Guardian).

In comparison, NTUC Fairprice and Sheng Siong mainly operate supermarkets in Singapore.

So...are any of these potentially profitable dividend stocks?

To find out, we use the Gross Profitability Dividend (GPAD) strategy to evaluate and uncover the best dividend paying supermarket stock in Singapore.

Do note that the figures we use in this analysis are reported at different time periods. We referred to the unaudited FY17 figures for Sheng Siong and FY16 figures for Dairy Farm and NTUC Fairprice.

Keeping these differences in mind, let's move on to deeper analyses of their businesses.

Which Supermarket Company is the Most Profitable?

Dairy Farm (SGX:D01)

Sheng Siong (SGX:OV8)

NTUC Fairprice

dairy-farm
sheng-siong
ntuc-fairprice

Gross Profits

US$3,385.50 M

S$217.41 M

S$771 M

Total Assets

US$5,128.90 M

S$403.55 M

S$2,932 M

Gross Profitability

66%

54%

26%

Good news!

If we ranked all three enterprises among the rest of the SGX-listed stocks, they would all belong to the top 20% by Gross Profitability (GPA).

And relatively, Dairy Farm has the highest GPA of all.

Having the highest GPA means that they are actually using lesser assets to generate more profitability.

Which Supermarket Company Pays the Most Dividends?

Dairy Farm (SGX:D01)

Sheng Siong (SGX:OV8)

NTUC Fairprice

dairy-farm
sheng-siong
ntuc-fairprice

Latest Dividend Per Share

21 cents

3.3 cents

5.9 cents

Historical Dividend Yield

2.5%

3.5%

6%*

Dairy Farm paid out a dividend per share of 21 cents in FY16.

The historical dividend yield for Dairy Farm would be 2.5% with a share price of US$8.58.

Sheng Siong's management has declared a total dividend of 3.3 cents per share for FY17. This was lower than the previous FY16 dividend per share of 3.75 cents. I will explain in later part of this article.

Based on the share price of $0.94, Sheng Siong's dividend yield worked out to be 3.5%.

NTUC Fairprice distributed a dividend per share of 5.9 cents in FY16.

As NTUC Fairprice is not a listed company and hence there's no prevailing share price we can use. Based on the paid-up capital, the shareholders would get a 6% yield on this distribution.

Unfortunately, both Dairy Farm and Sheng Siong do not rank in the top 20% of SGX-listed stocks by their dividend yields.

This suggests they are not cheap enough based on the dividends they give out.

Which Supermarket Company Has the Highest Pay Out?

Dairy Farm (SGX:D01)

Sheng Siong (SGX:OV8)

NTUC Fairprice

dairy-farm
sheng-siong
ntuc-fairprice

Diluted Earnings per share

34.68 cents

4.64 cents

95 cents

Dividend per share

21 cents

3.3 cents

5.9 cents

Payout Ratio

0.6

0.7

0.1

Dairy Farm's diluted earnings per share was 34.68 cents and with a dividend per share of 21 cents, the payout ratio would be (21/34.68=) 61% or 0.6.

Sheng Siong's earnings per share for FY17 was 4.64 cents. This means that Sheng Siong paid out (3.3/4.64=) 71% of the earnings as dividends, or a payout ratio of 0.7.

NTUC Fairprice's earnings per share for FY16 was 95 cents. This yielded a very low payout ratio of (5.9/95=) 6%, or 0.1.

Any number below 1 means it is sustainable.

Which Supermarket Company Has the Most Average Free Cash Flow?

Dairy Farm (SGX:D01)

Sheng Siong (SGX:OV8)

NTUC Fairprice

dairy-farm
sheng-siong
ntuc-fairprice

Average Free Cash Flow per share

29 cents

1.4 cents

$3.76

Dividend per share

21 cents

3.3 cents

5.9 cents

Sustainable?

Yes

No

Yes. Very.

Diary Farm generated an average Free Cash Flow per share of 29 cents in the past five years.

This is higher than the dividend per share of 21 cents. Hence, we can believe that the dividend distribution is sustainable and may even go up in the future since there's cash building up in the company over time.

Sheng Siong's average Free Cash Flow per share for the past five years was about 1.4 cents. This is much lower than the dividend per share of 3.3 cents.

This means that Sheng Siong has been dipping into their cash to pay out the dividends since the operations did not generate enough cash to cover the capital expenditure needs and dividend payouts.

True enough, the cash has reduced from as high as $131m in FY14 to as low as $64m in FY16.

In FY17, Sheng Siong generated a Free Cash Flow per share of 4 cents which was higher than the 3.3 cents dividend per share. This helped Sheng Siong to conserve some cash, increasing the cash at hand by $10m to $74m.

While looking at the capital expenditure for NTUC Fairprice to determine the Free Cash Flow, I found something even more interesting...

$1 Billion Worth of Investments!

NTUC Fairprice made an investments of $200m in FY16:

Note 7 of their annual report highlighted these investments are unit trusts, listed equities and debt securities. Added to an amount of a whopping $1 billion!

This $1 billion is not essential to NTUC Fairprice operations and could be liquidated for cash and in turn distributed to shareholders. This would translate to $3.76 per share of cash.

It may not sound significant when presented as a "per share" value. Remember that a dividend per share of $0.059 yielded 6%?

$3.76 would mean a return of 382% for the shareholder!

And even after the distribution, NTUC Fairprice can continue to function without any impairment to its operations.

My conclusion is that NTUC Fairprice can afford to distribute higher dividends. The payout ratio is too low and moreover the retained earnings were used for investments which are not related to their core operations.

Will these Supermarket Company become obsolete soon?

With the ease of online shopping and the increasing trend of consumers moving online, would e-commerce end the dominance of supermarkets in Singapore?

I don't think so. Even with the powerful Amazon Prime in our shores.

Full disclosure, I do use services from Amazon Prime and Red Mart. But I still go to the supermarkets.

Singapore is a unique country and being small has advantages. Most of us live near a supermarket that is within walking distance.

I would be able to get my daily supplies and groceries in 15 minutes, faster than a Amazon Prime delivery that takes as fast as 2 hours.

Moreover, many of these supermarkets are positioned strategically. It is too convenient to drop by the supermarket during your daily commute to buy something.

E-commerce for groceries makes sense for bigger countries where people live hours away from the next supermarkets. It would be a pain to drive out to buy groceries.

Hence, my take is that supermarkets are here to stay in Singapore and would remain profitable.

Conclusion

The supermarkets are great businesses, as suggested by their high Gross Profitability.

Dairy Farm has the highest Gross Profitability but its dividend yield was the lowest. Sheng Siong's dividend yield isn't high either and the investors seem to be willing to pay a premium for these profitable businesses.

NTUC Fairprice is a big competitor to these listed companies and hence I have included it in this comparison study. It was interesting to note that NTUC Fairprice paid out less than 10% of their earnings as dividends and most of the retained earnings were used to invest in unit trusts, stocks and debt securities. They are worth a whopping $1 billion as of FY16.

I believe that supermarkets are here to stay in Singapore despite the onslaught of e-commerce players. This is because it is more convenient to go to a supermarket than to wait for delivery in our super-efficient country.

Although they are not cheap enough based on the GPAD strategy, you might want to watch these supermarket stocks and buy them when their prices become lower.

*Disclaimer: The Information in this article is not financial advice. It is general in nature and not specific to you. You are responsible for your own investment research and investment decisions.

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Co-Founder. Believer of the Factor-based Investing approach. Running a Multi-Factor Portfolio that taps on the Value, Size, Profitability and Momentum Factors. Quant at heart. Believe the financial industry can treat their customers better. Wants to change the world.
  • One should look at ntuc’s debt as well, before concluding that the entire $1b belongs to shareholders.

    Notwithstanding this, having investments to generate passive income is a good thing. If they don’t need the cash for more supermarkets.

    • these investments are made from their retained earnings and not borrowings. I’m not referring to the NAV of Fairprice but question the need to invest $1b dollars. They are not fund managers.

  • As NTUC FairPrice is not a public listed company, how does one become the shareholder to reap the benefits from its dividend payout? I occasionally received the dividend slip from NTUC FairPrice but have no idea what are the requirements or criteria to be eligible. Thank you.

  • Very good analyses! So…

    1. Which Singapore Supermarket Stock To Invest In? (this was your title, i spent 5 min and still don’t get an answer, feels clickbait).

    2. What is your fair value, & what is a good price to get in?
    “Although they are not cheap enough based on the GPAD strategy, you might want to watch these supermarket stocks and buy them when their prices become lower.” which stock is not better to be bought when prices become lower?

    • I would use GPAD strategy to decide but I cannot predict what is a good price to enter because it uses relative ranking.

      It depends on their gross profitability and dividend yield rankings compared to the other stocks. If they are in the top 20% then they would warrant a buy. Right now they are not. Their dividend, profitability and price will change and it is too dynamic to say what’s the price that will put them in top 20%.

      My observation is that the supermarkets generally have high gross profitability which make them good business.

      It would be good to be able to own some NTUC Fairprice shares as the yields are indeed good.

      For the two listed supermarkets, Sheng Siong is a better buy in my opinion based on the numbers now.

  • NTUC Fairprice is a cooperative, even if it is completely liquidated, member can only get back $1 per share. According to Cooperative Law, any surplus after paying member, will go back to Centre Cooperative Fund.

    • Under the cash flow statement, investing cash flow section, “Purchase of property, plant and equipment” is the CAPEX. Or you can use websites like SGX Stockfacts to see their financials. They calculate the CAPEX too.

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