It’s been more than two months since the government announced a further easing of COVID-19 measures.
The good news is that rail and bus ridership has improved to 78% of pre-pandemic levels in the last week of April, up more than 10 percentage points since the first week of January.
However, ComforDelGro Corporation Limited (SGX: C52), or CDG, is still seeing its share price languishing at S$1.40, close to its 52-week low of S$1.33.
With the economy now humming back to life and more people returning to their offices, CDG should enjoy better ridership numbers as the months go by.
Can investors see the land transport giant’s share price return to its pre-pandemic high above S$2?
More countries are opening up
CDG operates in a total of seven countries – Singapore, Australia, the UK, New Zealand, China, Ireland, and Malaysia.
Not only has Singapore opened up, but other countries are also following suit.
Australia has just removed the requirement for international travellers to declare their COVID-19 status, paving the way for more tourists to enter the country without exemption.
Meanwhile, both the UK and Ireland are seeing a spike in Omicron-related cases but health researchers have said that restrictions are unlikely to be re-introduced as health services can cope.
Even China, which had one of the strictest COVID-19 quarantine restrictions in the world, has cut its required quarantine period for international travellers by half to one week.
The government demands that local authorities swiftly detect and contain new infections, but is reluctant to expand its curbs to avoid choking off the economy further.
Malaysia is similarly seeing a rise in cases due to the new Omicron sub-variant but experts believe the country is unlikely to see a sharp spike.
Hence, CDG should report better ridership and financial numbers across the board as these countries enter the endemic phase of the pandemic.
CDG is facing headwinds from other areas, too.
Surging fuel prices have led to Singapore reporting its highest core inflation in 13 years, at 3.6% in May.
The spike in electricity, fuel and gas prices is also due to the ongoing Russian-Ukraine conflict.
In April, CDG temporarily increased fares for all its taxis to mitigate the impact of higher fuel prices.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong cautioned that COVID-19 cases in Singapore may spike in the coming weeks, and that safe management measures may be tightened “if need be”.
There is a risk that a tightening of measures may send ridership plummeting back to January levels or worse.
Investors have reason to rejoice, though, as CDG unveiled new initiatives to grow its business.
Last month, the group announced a partnership with Alipay, a unit of Alibaba Group (HKSE: 9988), to enable tourists from Malaysia and South Korea to use their mobile wallet apps to pay for their cab fares in Singapore.
No doubt this initiative will increase convenience for these travellers and encourage them to visit Singapore and utilise CDG’s taxis.
The group also established a S$30 million autonomous vehicle centre of excellence to build up its competencies in this area to gear itself up for this new technology.
CDG has also undertaken several acquisitions to extend its presence and boost its fleet.
In January, the group acquired a 90% stake in Ming Chuan Transportation, one of the largest wheelchair transport service providers in Singapore, for S$8.5 million.
The purchase will add 76 vehicles to CDG’s current fleet as well as 86 staff and drivers, boosting the group’s Medical Care division’s fleet to 92 vehicles.
Two months later, CDG acquired the assets of Rothery’s Coaches in Queensland, Australia, for around S$6.74 million.
This acquisition will add a further 16 buses to the transport group’s existing bus operations there.
Get Smart: A matter of time
Although CDG faces several headwinds, the outlook seems bright for the land transport conglomerate on many other fronts.
The group also started buying back shares last month, its first purchases since January this year, spending a total of S$372,000.
It seems like a matter of time before the group reports better financial numbers as its business initiatives and acquisitions to kick in to contribute to both its top and bottom lines.
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Disclaimer: Royston Yang does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned.