Milk drinks or noodles? Both are bigger in Asia, notably China, than other parts of the world. Better earnings from the former drove Want Want higher on Wednesday while Tingyi and Uni-President China, the noodle kings embroiled in a price war, both slipped. Step back however and all three have more in common than their snack specialities suggest. They all enjoy high valuations and face slowing organic growth.
牛奶饮料还是面条？相比世界其他地区，两者在亚洲（尤其中国）都是更大的生意。来自前者的更高盈利周三推高旺旺集团(Want Want)股价，而两家开打价格战的面条大王——康师傅(Tingyi)和统一企业中国(Uni-President China)股价都有下滑。然而退一步说，三者之间的共同点多于它们在零食产品范围上的差异。它们都享有高估值，且都面临有机增长的放缓。
Growth in sweets and chocolate sales has dropped below 10 per cent for the first time in a decade, according to Standard Chartered. Growth in instant noodle consumption per capita is heading the same way, having been nearer 20 per cent three years ago. Juice drink sales are rising at less than half the rate three years ago. There are various explanations including China’s slowing economic growth and a rise in health consciousness among its 1.3bn consumers (bottled water sales are still rising 16 per cent a year).
Yet all three companies are trading on between 26 and 28 times expected earnings – a premium to European and American rivals such as Nestlé and Kraft Foods on 19 and 17 times respectively. None of those sector growth rates are a disaster for the Asian snack groups. But they will face pressure to justify ratings more usually equated with Hermes or Michael Kors than companies battling over beef noodles, chocolate milk and rice crackers.
尽管如此，这三家公司的股价都达到预期盈利的26倍至28倍——相比欧洲和美国的竞争对手，这三家公司的股价存在溢价，例如，雀巢(Nestlé)和卡夫食品(Kraft Foods)的市盈率分别是19倍和17倍。这些行业增长数据对亚洲的零食生产集团来说并非灾难。但他们将会面临压力，要求他们证明自己的市盈率为何更接近奢侈品牌爱马仕(Hermes)和迈克尔高司(Michael Kors)，而不是生产牛肉面、巧克力牛奶和米果的同行业竞争者。
One possible response would be to use those highly rated shares to buy in brands or move into new markets. That would fit with a consolidating, maturing industry. Want Want and Tingyi also hold net cash of $802m and $99m respectively. Uni-President has net debt, but it is fairly modest as a proportion of earnings and investors who love the stock as much as they appear to should allow it some leeway. Done well, smallish deals would be a good use of such luxury valuations.