PNB announces 5 sen ASB income distribution

PNB declared a lower dividend of 4.25 sen per unit last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic 

By S BIRRUNTHA/ Pic MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

PERMODALAN Nasional Bhd (PNB) has declared a higher total distribution than last year, at five sen per unit, for Amanah Saham Bumiputera (ASB) unitholders, underpinned by its diversification effort to invest in overseas assets. 

The dividend comprises an income distribution of 4.25 sen per unit and a bonus of 0.75 sen per unit for the financial year ending Dec 31, 2021. 

Last year, PNB declared a lower dividend of 4.25 sen per unit, comprising a 3.5 sen distribution and a 0.75 sen bonus for ASB unitholders due to the uncertainties brought by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The country’s largest fund manager also announced the total payout for the income distribution will be RM8.9 billion, which is expected to benefit a total of 10.4 million unitholders. 

This brings the fund’s total cumulative income distribution and bonus to RM168.5 billion since it was first introduced in 1990. 

PNB group chairman Tun Arifin Zakaria said ASB had managed to maintain a competitive income distribution, surpassing its benchmark of 12-month fixed deposit rate which recorded a return rate of 1.85%. 

He added that ASB recorded a positive performance against a backdrop of volatile financial markets as well as a global economic recovery hindered by the emergence of new Covid-19 variants and the upsurge of new cases throughout the year. 

“We are pleased to see that our continuous efforts in diversifying and strengthening the portfolio have yielded positive results. 

“The stronger performance of our global equity investments has managed to cushion the impact of the challenging domestic market. 

“This exemplifies the importance of a well-diversified portfolio in managing portfolio risks and delivering sustainable returns,” he said during the virtual press conference on ASB dividend announcement yesterday. 

According to PNB, ASB’s allocation in international investments increased from 5.9% in 2020 to 8.2% this year. 

International public equities contributed 30.7% share to gross income in 2021 compared to 24.2% last year. 

The total rate of five sen per unit translates into a spread of 315 basis points over the 12-month fixed deposit rate, which currently stands at 1.85%. 

ASB’s number of accounts also increased by almost 200,000 to 10.4 million accounts, while units in circulation rose by 7.4 billion or 4.3% to 181.2 billion units. 

PNB president and group CEO Ahmad Zulqarnain Onn said despite the challenging environment, the fund is encouraged to see the growing number of Malaysians investing with them, as well as the increase in their size of investments. 

He also noted that PNB has demonstrated its resilience in navigating the uncertainties of 2021, posting a commendable financial performance. 

“For the first 11 months of the year, PNB’s total assets under management increased by 4.9% to RM338.4 billion, reflecting the continued trust by its unitholders. 

“Strengthening on its Focus 4 strategy, this year PNB made significant progress in three focus areas namely creating value in the performance of its domestic portfolio, continuing its diversification efforts into global markets through multiple asset classes and accelerating its digital offerings,” he said. 

Ahmad Zulqarnain further said that PNB is moving away from the domestic market as it comprises over 68% of its overall portfolio. 

He added that moving forward, sustainability, coupled with strong environmental, social and governance (ESG) will be the main theme for the fund in its future investment decision making. 

“For us, it is about constructing the right asset allocation to generate the sustainable returns that are required. 

“We look for growth as an investor and we also look for companies with strong ESG credentials. 

“As an investment house, we will continue to deploy capital into Malaysian companies via IPO subscription, sukuk, investment into real estates and into private Malaysian companies,” he said. 

On that note, Ahmad Zulqarnain also shared that PNB is in the process of finalising its sustainability framework and it has conducted an extensive review to understand issues that are important to its stakeholders and unitholders. 

He said the fund is looking forward to launching the sustainability framework in the first quarter next year (1Q22) and will be releasing more details over the next few months. 

On a separate matter, Ahmad Zulqarnain clarified that the development of Merdeka 118, which is the second tallest tower in the world, is not funded by ASB unitholders. 

He added that the mega project is 100% owned by the fund via its wholly-owned subsidiary PNB Merdeka Ventures Sdn Bhd. 

“The equity injection for the Merdeka 118 tower project was obtained from PNB’s own proprietary fund and it is supported by issuance of sukuk funds in 2016. 

“In 2016, we launched the Sukuk Sri Hijau Merdeka Asean pro- gramme and Sukuk Murabahah Merdeka,” he said. 

Last month, Zulqarnain had noted that the construction of Merdeka 118 tower had reached 85% completion and is expected to be fully complete by 2022.