UPDATE 2-Vopak profit misses expectations after Malaysia accounting hit

(Recasts with CFO comments, details)

Feb 17 (Reuters) - Dutch oil and chemical storage company Vopak’s fourth-quarter core profit missed market expectations, due to a one-off accounting issue at its associate industrial terminal PT2SB in Malaysia.

Excluding this 20 million euro ($24.11 million) hit the company’s core profit would have met market expectations, analysts said.

Chief Financial Officer Gerard Paulides said the PT2SB asset had been unstable financially in the last six quarters or so and noted the significant impact of COVID among other factors.

“The asset’s results should however stabilise in 2021,” he told Reuters in an interview.

Vopak’s shares were down around 5% by 1153 GMT.

Analysts at ING said: “While 4Q20 underlying results were better than we had expected, the picture was distorted by a €20m cost accounting issue at its PT2SB terminal in Pengerang (Malaysia).”

Vopak, which makes under 40% of its sales from oil terminals, has benefited from strong oil storage rates since buyers locked in contracts last spring, as they struggled to store surplus crude under COVID-19 lockdowns.

“The occupancy of Vopak has moved favourably over 2020, almost entirely on the account of oil,” CFO Paulides said, with most contracts for oil typically signed on an up to two to three year basis.

The Rotterdam-based company, which plans to invest 300 to 350 million euros in new capacity this year, said most growth investments will be allocated towards industrial, gas and new energies, while it would continue to invest less in oil.

Paulides said that taking into account contributions from the group’s new assets in 2020 and 2021, Vopak has a good shot at replacing the profits from oil assets it divested in late 2019.

On renewables, he said Vopak’s first large final investment decisions in hydrogen are only expected in the coming five years.

“For now renewables is just capital allocation, it is too early to talk about revenues.”

In 2020, Vopak invested more than 500 million euros in growth projects, in line with its own target set after it acquired terminals from Dow last September.

Vopak reported a fourth-quarter EBITDA of 189 million euros ($228.44 million), missing analysts’ forecast of 207 million euros.

$1 = 0.8294 euros Reporting by Charles Regnier Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Jane Merriman