“As we embraced normalcy that most of the COVID-19 restrictions being uplifted, we were nevertheless faced with other economic uncertainties”.
This MD&A is a consolidated summary of business and financial information of Beshom Holdings Berhad (“BESHOM” or “Company”) and its group of subsidiaries (“BESHOM Group” or “Group”) for the financial year ended 30 April 2023 (“FY2023”). This MD&A is to communicate how our strategy, operational and financial performance have created value for stakeholders over the short, medium and long term. The MD&A contains general background information about the activities of the BESHOM Group as at the date of production of this Annual Report. The information given is in summary form and does not purport to be complete. It is not intended to be and should not be relied upon as advice to shareholders or potential investors and does not take into account the investment objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular investor. These should be considered, with or without professional advice, when deciding if an investment is appropriate. The MD&A may contain forward-looking statements or opinions including statements regarding our intent, belief or current expectations with respect to BESHOM Group’s business operations, market conditions, and results of operations and financial conditions. Those statements are usually predictive in character; or may be affected by assumptions made or unknown risks and uncertainties; or may differ materially from results ultimately achieved. Given such uncertainties, readers are cautioned and advised not to place undue reliance on forward-looking statements.
Alongside continued uncertainties caused by the Coronavirus disease (“COVID-19”), which has had a persistent impact on the operations and profitability of businesses, the general economy has also been affected by geopolitical unrest and, more recently, rising interest rates and inflationary pressures. Although BESHOM remained profitable in FY2023, we delivered a full-year operating result which was below our expectations.
There have been no significant changes in the nature of the principal activities of the Group during the financial year. Following the successful completion of our internal reorganisation on 29 November 2021, BESHOM has become the investment holding entity assuming the listing status while the major business operating entities are segmented into Multi-Level Marketing (“MLM”), Wholesale, Retail and Others as follows:
The “Hai-O” branding has been our Group’s icon and a household name. The Group continues to use the “Hai-O” branding as our brand ambassador in our business activities.
FY2023 witnessed significant economic and geopolitical changes which I know have affected many of you, particularly your cost of living. While we embrace normalcy with most COVID-19 restrictions having been lifted, we are nevertheless challenged by new economic and other uncertainties. As we co-exist with COVID-19, we are now facing with the reality that new and more frequent challenges and disruptions will be a norm for businesses. After an extended period of low inflation and historically low interest rates, the global economy has since entered into a starkly different era of high inflation accompanied by monetary tightening leading to hikes in interest rates globally.
For the third year in a row, FY2023 proved to be another year of great uncertainty for the Group, primarily due to external factors such as uncertainties in the global political and economic environment. Generally, the Group’s financial performance was disrupted by low consumer confidence in the face of high interest rates which affected the ability and willingness to spend, supply chain bottlenecks and the weakening of Ringgit Malaysia. In FY2023, we recorded revenue of RM174.2 million (FY2022: RM209.6 million), representing a decrease of approximately 16.9% compared to the financial year ended 30 April 2022 (“FY2022”). The MLM segment performed below par for FY2023, as the high cost of living led to a decline in discretionary spending by MLM members. Total revenue of the Group also declined in FY2023 as higher revenue posted by both the Wholesale and Retail segments could not offset the slack in the MLM segment. Consequently, Group profit before taxation (“PBT”) decreased by 39.7% to RM24.3 million in FY2023 (FY2022: RM40.3 million). Despite implementing various cost control measures, operating leverage inevitably reversed with falling revenue. In addition, we were unable to fully pass on cost increases as we are committed to bringing real value for our customers especially during prevailing difficult times, opting to partly absorb the impact of short-term pain for long-term business sustainability.
BALANCE SHEET STRENGTH
Maintaining a long-term focus and remaining prudent can be particularly challenging for the Board of Directors (“Board”) and management in the face of demand for short term results, which is common for listed companies. This is where it is important that management is supported by a strong Board that appreciates the importance of a long term focus.
As at the close of FY2023, the Group was in a net cash position of RM95.6 million (FY2022: RM117.3 million), backed by total assets of RM353.2 million against total liabilities of RM31.4 million. Approximately 27% of the Group’s total assets comprised highly liquid financial assets, cash and cash equivalents. Total equity attributable to owners of the Company as at the end of FY2023 amounted to RM309.7 million (FY2022: RM317.1 million), representing a decrease of RM7.4 million, while net assets per share attributable to ordinary equity holders of the parent (“NA”) stood at RM1.03 as at the end of FY2023 as compared to RM1.06 a year ago. The decline in the total equity attributable to owners of Company and NA per share was due to the Group continuing to maintain a high dividend payout despite the less satisfactory financial results for FY2023.
CASH AND CAPITAL MANAGEMENT
The Group manages its capital structure with the objective of enhancing long-term shareholders’ value. The Board is responsible for setting our capital management objective, which is to maintain a strong capital position. The sustainability of the Group as a going-concern remains the top priority, while providing shareholders with steady returns on investment is another key consideration for core capital management. We maintain a disciplined approach to regularly review the capital structure of the Group, reinforcing our commitment to ensure that our shareholders are rewarded over time.
A key component of total shareholder return is the dividends paid to shareholders. As mentioned above, the Company remains committed to the dividend policy of distributing at least 50% of the Company’s net profit in any financial year as dividends to shareholders. As many shareholders prefer to receive dividends in the form of cash, the Company has in the past exceeded the minimum payout ratio of 50%, as was the case in the financial year under review. For FY2023, the Board declared / proposed a total dividend payout of 5 sen per share (FY2022: 8 sen per share). This comprised an interim single tier dividend of 3 sen per share amounting to RM9.0 million paid on 16 March 2023, and the proposed final single tier dividend of 2 sen per share, which is subject to shareholders’ approval at the forthcoming annual general meeting. Total full-year dividends of 5 sen per share for FY2023 represented a payout ratio of 89% in the face of the challenging financial performance. The Company is committed to providing sustainable returns to shareholders as we balance long-term strategic growth opportunities and proactive capital management.
For FY2023, the MLM segment delivered revenue of RM70.7 million (FY2022: RM115.4 million) and PBT of RM7.4 million (FY2022: RM21.1 million). The business environment for the MLM segment continued to be challenged by intense competition, low consumer confidence and the weakening of our local currency. As a result, the MLM segment recorded a decline in revenue and PBT of 38.7% and 65.0%, respectively. While the financial performance of the MLM segment for FY2023 was below our expectations, the segment remained the major contributor in terms of revenue. However, its position as the largest profit contributor of the Group has been taken over by the Wholesale segment in FY2023 as the latter’s focus on health food and supplements has proven to be more resilient in a difficult year.
Multifaceted challenges and unpredictable external factors have contributed to weak consumer sentiments and led to reduced participation of distributors in MLM promotional activities. The weakening of purchasing power and the availability of other casual employment options, such as food delivery and online businesses, are additional factors hampering the recruitment and retention of distributors. Our distributor base has contracted considerably and the response to incentive trip campaigns and other promotional activities has been lukewarm. With social network connections increasingly playing a significant role in sales and brand loyalty, the MLM segment has directed various initiatives towards the social media to capitalize on the strength of our distributors. Our distributor base comprises more than 75% female distributors, of which more than 50% are within the age group between 31 to 45. This gender and age group composition is a powerful combination to drive sales, as they have greater spending power and are social media savvy.
During the financial year, the MLM segment rolled out several activities to motivate, attract and retain distributors.
Quality engagement remained as top priority in the MLM segment to promote sales and revenue. We celebrated SHOM’s 30th Anniversary with a twist, including introducing the song “Kita SHOM” to strengthen togetherness, lucky draw programs and launching of special projects. More than 2,500 distributors participated in this fun-filled celebration. Not forgetting recognition from high achievers, we rolled out seven initiatives under our hall of fame theme, including Diamond Achievers, CDM Extra Bonus Achievers, Projek Kasih Ihsan Mendiang Tan Kai Hee Achievers, Crown Diamond Manager (“CDM”) Baharu 2022, Million Dollar Achiever Board 2022, Istanbul Trip Achievers and Bandung Trip Achievers. The MLM segment managed to secure sales of nearly RM50 million from the 2 initiatives alone through Projek Kasih Ihsan Mendiang Tan Kai Hee Achievers and Istanbul Trip Achievers.
Building upon motivational initiatives, we actively develop opportunities and create environments to facilitate entrepreneurial mindsets and groom reward-orientated entrepreneurs. The MLM market in East Malaysia is still largely untapped with low penetration rate. Accordingly, a number of events was organised in FY2023 to strengthen our foothold in East Malaysia, such as the Sabah Raya event at the Penampang branch which kicked off the East Malaysian promotional activities in May 2022, followed by the Airyvents & Thera Home Party in Tawau, and the Infinence Beaute Lab and Pentoli Event in Sabah. During these events, we also seized the opportunity to bundle new recruitment campaigns with exclusive premiums and gifts to attract new distributors. Our young entrepreneurship program was designed to promote the uniqueness of MLM as a business that is easy to start and grow. We introduced a recruitment package with instant rewards and special reward path for new members who could achieve a certain rank within a specific period. To make this program attractive to new joiners, we also offered welcome, starter and beauty starter kits upon joining.
To manage the attrition rate of distributors, we constantly review our processes and business platforms to ensure they are effective for our distributors’ success. We have enhanced marketing tools and content management, including increasing the number of short videos on YouTube and Reels. Our digital platforms are upgraded and refreshed frequently with new features and contents to increase the digital adoption rate among distributors. We focus on providing accessible product information and attractive, easy to navigate content for an enhanced shopping experience. We have also collaborated with specific brands to increase brand and product visibility. Notably, there was a strategic collaboration with LG Puricare for the “Best Home Rental Plan” in FY2023. Alongside brand collaboration, we also emphasised promotional activities with thematic applications to better serve targeted focus groups. For example, we have brought in seasonal or limited-edition products during targeted festive seasons or special occasions such as Parents’ Day.
Apart from the digital platform, we also strive to ensure that our physical branches remain appealing for distributors. We completed the renovation for our Batu Pahat branch in August 2022 to improve its appearance and product showcase area. To encourage participation in the activities held in physical branches and stockists, we also provided free gifts for distributors who joined such activities. This had not only promoted fun learning and product knowledge sharing but also allowed us to gather product feedback from distributors effectively.
Complementing a series of initiatives that focus on the “People” and “Place”, making the right “Product” is equally crucial for the success of the MLM segment.
Products distributed through the MLM segment in FY2023 focussed primarily on small ticket items that comprised Food & Beverage (“F&B”) products (46%), Beauty, Skincare & Personal Care products (16%), Health Supplements & Nutrition Food (15%) and Wellness products (9%). The MLM segment will continue to fine tune the right calibration between suitability, quality and affordability in our product development initiatives, taking into account of the current high inflation and cost of living.
The MLM segment’s focus for product development in FY2023 is on price, demand, functionality, and lifestyle. However, due to the prevailing high cost of living, finding the right balance between quality products and cost-effectiveness has proven to be more challenging than ever. Nonetheless, the MLM segment has successfully developed and launched more than 15 new stock keeping units (“SKUs”) in FY2023.
New products launched in FY2023 included Sarang Botanical Mix Beverage Goji with Honey and Bird's Nest, Infinence Photon Fusion Tone & Lift Beauty Device, Infinence Oxygenating Charcoal Cleansing Mask, Pentoli Cookware series (6 SKUs), D'Chef Pulut Lemak, Sarang Apple Blossom Bird’s Nest, freeze-dried jackfruit, freeze-dried kurma, dark chocolate and popcorn.
Apart from introducing new products, the MLM segment has also taken the initiative to enhance, upgrade and rebrand our existing range of products to prolong their product life cycles and refresh buying interests. The Thera series of products, one of our best-selling product series under the Beauty, Skincare & Personal Care category, was the focus in FY2023. In addition, we also introduced
the newly formulated Marine Essence toothpaste, body wash and shampoo, which are the extension of another popular series of our products under the Marine Essence.
While the recent past has been incredibly difficult for the MLM segment, the future appears brighter as consumers adjust to the new norm of heighted inflation and normalised interest rates. Nonetheless, we will remain vigilant in managing the business to ensure business sustainability.
The Wholesale segment derives its revenue from wholesaling and trading in Chinese medicated wine and liquor, healthcare & nutrition products, general & value herbs, tea & others. In FY2023, the Wholesale segment was the Group’s largest profit contributor.
Wholesale revenue reached RM59.7 million (FY2022: RM53.1 million) while PBT amounted to RM10.7 million in FY2023 (FY2022: RM12.4 million).
Improved Wholesale revenue was largely driven by higher sales of Chinese medicated tonic, reflecting overwhelming response to the “last-buy” sales promotion for selected Chinese medicated tonic range of products and cooking wines before the price adjustments.
Chinese medicated wine & liquor continued to anchor the Wholesale segment, contributing 70% of total sales, followed by healthcare & nutrition products at 18%. The remaining sales were split evenly between general and value herbs, and sundry goods and others.
With most COVID-19 restrictions having been lifted, the Wholesale segment has enjoyed revived orders from restaurants and duty-free outlets. Capitalising on the post-pandemic sales momentum, a revised salesman incentive scheme was proactively implemented to motivate and incentivise our salesforce to further spur buying interest from various customers, including restaurant owners and Chinese medical halls. Following various initiatives, the segment’s GP margin has improved from 30.3% in FY2022 to 32.6% in FY2023. Nonetheless, the segment closed the financial year with a lower PBT at RM10.7 million, due to lower inter-segment sales from the MLM segment and higher promotion and marketing costs incurred.
Acknowledging the necessity to change the way we operate to meet evolving market needs, the Wholesale segment is constantly seeking the right mix of products at the right pricing as it adapts to weakening consumer spending power and external uncertainties. Leveraging on the strengths of the Group's in-house pharmaceutical expertise and manufacturing capabilities, it has kick-started the development of a series of products under the “original equipment manufacturing (“OEM”)” concept. These products are marketed under our Group’s internally established house brand and distributed via pharmacies and Chinese medical halls.
In FY2023, we worked with various prominent market players, such as Caring Pharmacy, to strengthen the line of products distributed through their network of pharmacies. Additionally, Watsons Pharmacy is currently distributing seven products under the Minshan brand. We also expanded our reach to include other Pharmacy chains to develop TCM supplements for distribution.
Ongoing efforts include enhancement and expansion of the range of health food in our house brand series as we seek to improve margins while providing affordable products to consumers. We will also continue to expand the fast-moving consumer goods (“FMCG”) segment under our house brands. Amidst the twin challenges of reduced spending power and rising costs of raw materials aggravated by the weakening of Ringgit Malaysia and scarcity of supplies, the availability of more affordable and healthcare related FMCG products is key for business sustainability. New FMCG products which expanded our offerings in FY2023 included Vinut Bird’s Nest Drink, Mount Dewitt Manuka Honey, YUMM Bird's Nest Red Date & Wolfberry Collagen Drink, Hai-O Meng Heong Yuen Bak Kut Teh and Pepper Soup Packs. Save for Vinut, the rest, i.e. Mount Dewitt, YUMM and Meng Heong are house-brand products.
To take advantage of rising patronage in physical stores and restaurants with the full opening of the economy, the Wholesale segment has implemented incentive schemes to boost revenue. To make the scheme more palatable, two types of Incentive Trips were offered with options to choose from trips to either Asia or Southeast Asia. A total of 69 customers qualified in FY2023, which was 15% higher than our internal target.
To counter lower sales from hypermarkets and supermarkets after the Chinese New Year (“CNY”) festivities, we have expanded our distribution network to include convenience stores such as 7-Eleven for some health beverages and food under our house brands. We will continue to engage with popular online platforms and pharmacy outlets with wide networks to strengthen our market reach.
As we start to coexist with COVID-19, many are still adjusting to the new norm. To boost sales momentum, the Wholesale segment has stepped up its marketing and promotional activities. These included CNY hampers and CNY gifting roadshows, in addition to participating in regular shopping mall promotional activities. We were also proud sponsors of culinary events, including the Global Culinary Challenge Malaysia held in conjunction with the 23rd anniversary of Persatuan Pengusaha Restoran dan Pemasak Negeri Sembilan. We participated in the Malaysia Selangor and Federal Territory Ku Su Shin Chong Hung Restaurant Association’s 100th anniversary celebration and co-sponsored the China Malaysia Cuisine Master Chef Culinary Competition. These events have attracted wide media coverage and helped with brand recognition and market expansion. Meanwhile, clearance sales for slow-moving products were part of the promotional initiatives undertaken during the financial year to reduce stock holdings and strengthen cash flow.
General and high value herbs, healthcare & nutrition products contributed 70% of total Retail sales for FY2023. Chinese medicated wines and liquors brought in another 20% with the remaining from sundry goods and others, as above.
Malaysia entered the endemic phase on 1 April 2022 with progressive relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions. The Retail segment has benefited from the resumption and reopening of the retail sector. FY2023 witnessed a renewed interest in physical retail stores after nearly two years of movement restrictions. As a result, the Retail segment closed FY2023 with higher revenue of RM39.0 million (FY2022: RM37.0 million), mainly driven by improved sales of house brands and OEM products for which we have better control over cost and margins. However, as was the case for the Wholesale segment, higher operating costs led to a drop in in PBT for the Retail segment from RM3.4 million in the previous financial year to RM2.8 million in FY2023.
Higher operating costs mostly arose from higher rental expenses and labour costs (including incentive payout to outlet personnels). Full operating hours are accompanied by rising numbers of customers also came with higher utility and staff costs, both of which were affected by higher inflationary pressures. We view these higher operating costs as interim adjustments in the return to normalcy. We believe it is essential to allocate more resources to welcome customers back to our physical stores for their convenience.
MARKETING AND PROMOTIONS
The Retail segment has organised a series of promotional and marketing activities with event-exclusive deals and offers to capitalise on revived customers’ interests in our physical retail stores. These marketing and promotional activities included the “Year End Sales 2022”, “2 Are Better Than 1” bundle sales campaign, a series of 38 promotions specifically targeting female customers and other activities held in collaboration with business alliances and partners, such as Alliance Bank, Public Bank, United Overseas Bank, Celcom and Halal Food Master, just to name a few. During the FY2023, we also rolled out monthly brand/product spotlight campaigns to boost sales for our signature products.
The Retail segment implemented an aggressive two-pronged members recruitment programme, incentivising outlet staff to recruit new members, while simultaneously launching an attractive membership package via our e-Store https://mall.hai-o.com.my/. This two-pronged approach has attracted more than 25,000 new members to the Friendship Program and brought in approximately RM5 million in associated sales. This initiative was indeed timely, considering the slowdown in ecommerce sales after the resumption of physical retail activities. E-commerce transactions via various platforms, including external market players Lazada and Shopee, contributed 2.79% of the Retail segment’s sales.
To increase brand awareness and to expand our distribution network, we also participated in promotional activities on AstroGo Live Broadcast to promote the health benefits of our medicated tonic, Zhen-G Health Tonic.
STRATEGIC MARKETING INITIATIVES
In the coming year, the Retail segment will collaborate with the Wholesale segment to proactively develop and calibrate products, positioning and pricing to increase our penetration of the young consumer market. Such collaboration will be synergistic to tap on the group’s strength, improve our reach, and sharpen our sensitivity and response to ever evolving market trends and consumer behaviours. A key focus going forward for both the Retail and Wholesale segments will be products which are convenient to the consumers catering to the urban lifestyle.
In FY2023, the Retail segment completed the repackaging for two tea and herbs products under our house brand. In view of encouraging feedback, other new packaging and rebranding of house brand products will be implemented in the coming years to refresh the product image.
Although e-commerce sales have slowed since the reopening of physical stores, we recognise that online shopping is here to stay as a consumer lifestyle and will continue to build and expand e-commerce platforms which are also more cost-efficient.
Last but not least, we will continue to tap the network of more strategic partners to explore various business alliances for effective and cost-efficient promotional activities.
OTHER OPERATING ACTIVITIES
Revenue from other operating activities of the Group is primarily derived from the rental of investment properties held by the Group and the production of health supplements under the Group’s two manufacturing facilities located in Klang.
Post the COVID-19 pandemic, we have successfully rented out two vacant properties, thus contributing higher rental income for FY2023. However, the improvement in rental income was offset by the decline in inter-segment orders for health supplements due to fewer orders from the MLM segment. Other operating activities ended the financial year with a revenue of RM4.8 million (FY2022: RM4.1 million) and a maintainable PBT of RM3.4 million (FY2022: RM3.4 million).
The global economy continues to expand, driven by resilient domestic demand supported by strong labour market conditions. Global growth, however, remains weighed down by persistent core inflation and higher interest rates. While China’s reopening remains supportive of the global economy, its pace of recovery has slowed in recent months. Globally, headline inflation continued to moderate, but core inflation remains above historical averages. For most central banks, the monetary policy stance is likely to remain tight. The growth outlook remains subject to downside risks, mainly from a slower momentum in major economies, higher-than anticipated inflation outturns, an escalation of geopolitical tensions, and a sharp tightening in financial market conditions.
Following a strong outturn in the first quarter of the year, the Malaysian economy expanded at a more moderate pace in recent months as exports were weighed down by slower external demand, as expected. Growth for the remainder of the year will continue to be driven by resilient domestic demand. Household spending continues to be underpinned by favourable labour market conditions, particularly in the domestic-oriented sectors. Tourist arrivals have been steadily improving, and are expected to continue rising, thereby lifting tourism-related activities. Investment activity would be supported by continued progress of multi-year infrastructure projects. Domestic financial conditions also remain conducive to financial intermediation amid sustained credit growth. While the growth outlook is subject to some downside risks stemming from weaker-than-expected global growth, upside risks mainly emanate from domestic factors such as stronger-than-expected tourism activity and faster implementation of projects.
Headline inflation has continued to ease amid lower cost factors. While core inflation has also moderated, it remains elevated relative to the long-term average amid lingering demand and cost factors. For the second half of 2023, both headline and core inflation are projected to trend lower, broadly within expectations. Risks to the inflation outlook remain highly subject to the degree of persistence in core inflation, changes to domestic policy on subsidies and price controls, as well as global commodity prices and financial market development. (Source: Bank Negara Malaysia Monetary Policy Statement dated 6 July 2023).
Elevated inflation, higher interest rates and the weakening of Ringgit Malaysia are expected to impact consumer spending and cause households to become even more value conscious. The effects of these changes are still filtering through the economy and have contributed to a more uncertain outlook for 2023/2024.
The strong value credentials and low-cost operating models across the Group’s businesses will be vital to meet the challenges of this new environment of heightened inflation, reduced spending power and greater emphasis on value as householders stretch their shrinking disposable income amidst the rising cost of living. Whether interest rates will be raised further remains to be seen, but consumer demand is set to moderate with households struggling to deal with the various challenges.
In response to the prevailing economic uncertainties, we will continue to focus on the Group’s existing businesses with the following strategies:
Beyond the solid financial position of the Group, it’s the teamwork, agility and resilience that we have built which anchors our confidence in the future. The Group’s strong balance sheet and cash-generative businesses give us the flexibility to respond to potential risks and capitalise on opportunities across various economic scenarios. In the past, our Group has withstood varying market conditions by remaining focused on our objective to deliver sustainable returns to shareholders over the long term and exercise prudence in investments. I am confident that the Group’s core strength will continue to serve us effectively in the current financial year and beyond.
Finally, I would like to extend my appreciation to our management, employees, and distributors for their contributions, as well as the Board for their invaluable support and guidance during yet another challenging year. I would like to thank all of you who have continued to live our values of integrity and determination. We have worked together to deliver another profitable year for our shareholders and investors. I would also like to express my gratitude to you, our shareholders, as well as our customers, and all other stakeholders, including government agencies and suppliers, for your continued support and contribution to the Group’s sustainable growth.
Tan Keng Kang
Group Managing Director