Challenging global environment notwithstanding, Malaysia’s capital market held up well in 2019.
The domestic capital market continued to play an important role in financing the Malaysian economy during 2019, says the Securities Commission Malaysia (SC).
The total size of the capital market expanded to RM3.2 trillion in 2019 from RM3.1 trillion the year before, with debt securities outstanding and equity market capitalisation of RM1.5 trillion and RM1.7 trillion respectively (2018: RM1.4 trillion and RM1.7 trillion respectively), according to the SC Annual Report 2019.
Notwithstanding the challenging global backdrop and ongoing domestic policy reforms, the Malaysian capital market witnessed a higher level of fundraising activities during the year, with total funds raised in the bond and equity market amounting to RM139.4 bil in 2019 compared to RM114.6 bil in 2018.
Alternative fundraising avenues have also continued to gain traction, especially in equity crowdfunding (ECF) and peer-to-peer (P2P) financing, with total funds raised more than doubled to RM443.8 mil (2018: RM195.9 mi).
A total of RM132.8 bil was raised in the corporate bond and sukuk market compared to RM105.4 bil in 2018, with issuances mainly in utilities and financial services. Sukuk made up 77.1% of total bond issuances in 2019.
Meanwhile, RM6.6 bil was raised via the equity market (2018: RM9.2 bil), of which RM2 bil was through new equity listings with a total of 30 IPOs and RM4.6 bil raised via secondary fundraising. In 2019, four companies were listed on the Main Market, 11 companies on the ACE Market, and the remaining on the LEAP Market.
Notably, the size of issuances via the LEAP Market grew by 60.6% y-o-y to RM92.2 mil in 2019 (2018: RM57.4 mil). In the fund management industry, total assets under management (AUM) rose to RM823.2 bil (2018: RM743.6 bil) amidst an increase in market value, driven by robust performance of small and mid-cap equities and higher net injection from dividend reinvestment.
Total net sales for the unit trust segment amounted to RM30.5 bil in 2019, a decrease of 19.5% y-o-y (2018: RM37.9 bil). In terms of portfolio flows, total non-resident inflows amounted to RM8.7 bil in 2019 (2018: portfolio outflows of -RM33.6 bil), mirroring regional trends.
The bond market recorded total inflows of RM19.9 bil (2018: outflows of -RM21.9 bil) while the equity market recorded total outflows of -RM11.1 bil (2018: outflows of -RM11.7 bil). In the bond market, non-residents accounted for 13.7% of total outstanding ringgit bonds as at end December (end-2018: 13.1%) – most of which were Malaysian Government Securities (MGS) at 80.1% of total foreign holdings (end-2018: 79.1%).
Orderly market adjustments of fund flows
In the equity market, foreign holdings remained stable at 22.4% of total market capitalisation in 2019, in line with its five-year average. The high level of domestic liquidity in the capital market continued to allow for orderly market adjustments of fund flows between non-residents and local investors.
The Malaysian bond market grew 7.1% from RM1.4 trillion in 2018 to RM1.5 trillion as at end 2019. This was supported by higher levels of debt fundraising, sustained demand by domestic institutional investors, and favourable domestic macroeconomic conditions.
Despite the challenging environment, Malaysia was also among the emerging East Asian economies that saw local currency bond markets expand in 2019. In 2019, as a percentage of GDP, Malaysia remained the third largest local currency bond market in Asia after Japan and South Korea.
However, ongoing trade tensions, the shift in global monetary policy expectations, and general concern over slower global growth continued to drive volatility in the bond market throughout the year. MGS yields experienced downward pressure across tenures, tracking global trends, on the back of major central banks’ shift in monetary policy stance and overall higher global risk aversion.
It also reflected the lower domestic growth and inflation expectations alongside the Overnight Policy Rate (OPR) cut by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) in May 2019. As such, yields reduced across the board while the overall curve was relatively flatter for the year.
Double-digit growth for mid- and small-caps
For the Malaysian equity market, overall market capitalisation ended the year marginally higher by 0.7% to RM1.71 trillion in 2019 from RM1.70 trillion in 2018. This was despite the challenging external environment with heightened headwinds mainly from the ongoing US-China trade tensions and weaker global growth.
Overall, while the FBMKLCI moderated in 2019, some segments in the broader domestic equity market gained significant traction, partly reflecting a shift in investors’ preference. This occurred as sentiments swayed in favour of constituents with better valuation and corporate earnings prospects, particularly in the small and mid-cap segment.
The FBMKLCI declined by 6% y-o-y to close the year at 1,588.76 points (2018: -5.9% y-o-y to 1,690.58 points), influenced by a year of event-driven volatility in sentiments as well as subdued corporate earnings, which continued to be a pressure point on the benchmark index.
Additionally, the FBMKLCI was also weighed down by major counters subjected to key policy adjustments in 2019, aimed at longer-term improvement.
Nevertheless, the non-FBMKLCI components in the Malaysian equity market performed favourably in 2019. It registered higher growth despite the challenging external headwinds, as improved earnings outlook garnered investor interest into this segment.
The FBM MidS, FBM Small Cap and FBM ACE indices increased at robust double-digit rates of 32% y-o-y, 25.4% y-o-y, and 21.1% y-o-y respectively in 2019.
The significant growth in small and mid-cap indices was mainly driven by the energy, construction, and technology sectors, which benefitted from stronger fundamentals and better valuation prospects of their key companies during the year.
Excluding the FBMKLCI components, the energy sector specifically recorded the largest increase, rising by 50.7% y-o-y (2018: -17.3% y-o-y4), while the construction sector increased by 47.9% y-o-y (2018: -46.0% y-o-y), owing partly to the revival of public projects by the government.
The technology sector, in turn, rose by 37.5% y-o-y (2018: -9.32% y-o-y), benefitting from the 5G network rollout, higher global smartphone shipments, and potential trade diversion stemming from the ongoing US-China trade war.
Robust fund management industry
Meanwhile, in the fund management industry, the unit trust segment remained the largest source of funds towards the AUM, with net asset value (NAV) amounting to RM482.1 bil in 2019 (2018: RM426.2 bil).
Overall, 75.3% of the fund management industry’s AUM was invested locally, of which 44.2% was in domestic equities, followed by 26.1% in money market placements, and 24.6% in fixed income.
Compared to 2018, investment in local equities and fixed income rose in value by RM12.9 bil and RM19 bil respectively, while the domestic money market placements decreased by RM6.1 bil.