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Thursday 7 January 2016

Stay Solvent, Stay Invested

It is again that time of the year when there is a slight nip in the air, we pull out the sweaters and jackets from the wardrobes and become nostalgic about the year gone by and excited about a fresh new year coming up. I am exactly in the same mood myself so here is a little bit of what went on in 2015 and some worthless crystal ball gazing for 2016.

The year started with the benchmark BSE Sensex at about 27,500 and ended the year at close to 26,000 losing about 5.5%. During the year, the index went up beyond 30,000 and fell to a low of 24,800, fluctuating 2500 points on either side of the starting mark of the year. Macro economical events held sway on a lot of the market gyrations. Starting from the US Fed rate cut, Greek referendum to remain in the Eurozone, Chinese decline and continued pressure on oil prices and other commodities made their presence felt on the Indian markets. Another very important event which took place was the decision by the government to allow investment of its corpus into the Indian equity markets. This year saw EPFO deciding to invest 5% of its incremental corpus being invested. This is a long-term game changer for India as we would become less dependent on FII flows.

Indian corporate earnings failed to accelerate during the year and the initial euphoria of having a majority government seems to have died down now as people have begun realizing that bringing the Indian economy back on the growth path is not a short term fix. It will take time and the final outcome is also uncertain as the world is going through a deflationary / recessionary phase. India has had a huge benefit from the multi-year collapse of crude oil. That has given some breathing space to the government to get their house in order. At the cost of hazarding a guess, I would think that we will continue to have benign oil prices for atleast a couple of years more, so we have to make these years count.

Mr. Raghuram Rajan has been a bright spot in our economic landscape. I sure hope the government is prudent enough to extend his tenure. Mr Rajan has over this year take steps to bring in more competition into the banking space by giving out licenses for new full service banks and payment banks. He has also resisted the call to reduce rates for most of the year and only did it when the specter of inflation receded. The overall NPA situation in the banking sector continues to be precarious. Mid-sized PSU banks are the most at risk as the new banks will hit their customer base. (For some more information, read "Payment Banks - Airtel Bank in the making?")

Another aspect which is beginning to get scary is the fresh breed of investors / traders who have not seen multiple cycles or major drawdowns on the portfolios talk flippantly about sustainable growth of net profits of 25% or PEs of 30. When this type of cacophony increases, it is time to be careful. Safir Anand has written a great post which I suggest all to read (link here). For a prudent investor, what is critical is to make sure you don't lose your capital permanently. Some of the midcap and smallcaps I see people chasing these days are apt to do just that. Everyone wants a "multibagger" these days. No one is happy with a 20% compounder!!!

In 2016, I think there are a lot of macro headwinds. Chinese slowdown, Eurozone issues are likely to crop up anytime, US interest rates going up, Indian state elections, Crude price volatility all will play out at one point or the other. Like every year my outlook is to protect capital and look for reasonable returns. In fact, I am trying to moderate my expectations so that high expectations don't force me into risky trades.

A step-up in public investment as the government fights to avert an economic slowdown might start paying some dividends in the latter half of the year. Plays on infra or infra-ancillaries can be a good long term bet. Consumption stocks could also get a boost from the pay commission award.

Lastly, stay solvent, stay invested, and have a great year.

Sunday 18 October 2015

Payment Banks - Airtel Bank in the making?

I have always been bullish on the Indian financial sector. My logic is simple. Any industry where there is a very large disconnect between demand and supply is bound to do well. India is a cash / credit starved nation and any business which provides credit to people and businesses will do well over a very very long time. 

The history of Indian banking is very interesting. Refer to Banking in India on wikipedia for a good overview. By now, most people are used to the ubiquitous ATM machines and do not consider private banks as fly-by-night operators who will take their money and run away. We are at the cusp of the third major wave in Indian banking (nationalisation in the 70s and privatisation in the 90s being the first two). With the 11 new licenses given out by RBI for new payment banks, the playing field has been (once again) forever changed. Ten years down the line, banking will not be the same as today. Brace yourself for a huge disruption in the coming years.

So what are payment banks? For simplicity's sake, it is a "technology driven bank", mainly mobile based which will cover most of the services provided by a regular bank except giving loans. They can take deposits of upto Rs 1 Lakh and pay interest on it, provide debit cards, transfer money from one account to another. 

The 11 players who have got the licenses include some very very prominent names - Airtel, Vodafone, Aditya Birla Nuvo, Reliance, Mahindra, India Post, Dilip Sanghvi (promoter of Sun Pharma), Paytm, Cholamandalam and NSDL. All of them are big players in their own fields. Three of them stand out distinctly - India Post, Airtel and Vodafone. Their reach and penetration is really unmatched. Just as an example, Vodafone m-pesa accounts for more than 50% of the GDP of Kenya on its platform. 

Already, we are seeing a beginning of "Uber"isation of services. Players like Vodafone & Airtel who are already there with you. It is so much more convenient if you can just use the mobile to pay for your kirana purchases or on public transport or at petrol pumps. 

Where does that leave the existing banks? The existing large players will push strongly on their apps (HDFC, ICICI, SBI etc). The brunt of the disruption in my opinion will be borne by the mid sized PSU banks and the smaller private banks. We already saw a DCB Bank being routed on the bourses because they accepted the increased competition from these new players. There will be more to come. The age of easy-CASA money may be behind us. The mid sized banks would now have to tie-up with some of these payment banks or invest heavily in their own app infrastructure. 

Let us keep an eye out for the trio - Airtel, Vodafone and India Post for the next leg of banking disruption.

Sunday 11 October 2015

Indian Plywood Industry - Value Migration On The Way

The Indian Plywood industries is at the cusp of a new era. Over the last few years, the organised players (Century Ply, Green Ply, Kitply etc) have been growing at double the rate of the overall industry. This signifies that there is value migration happening from the unorganised unbranded products to the organised branded ones. The overall organised sector is growing 20-25% CAGR. Organised sector is 30% of the overall plywood sector.

The overall plywood industry size is Rs. 180 billion (source: Greenply AR 2015). The MDF industry size is Rs. 13 billion growing at 15-20% over the last 5 years. MDF is engineered wood made from wood (fibres), glued together using heat, resin and pressure. It is also a superior substitute for cheap unorganised plywood. It faces competition from imports. Demand in this sector is driven by ready-made modular furniture, modular kitchen, ready-to-move into offices/retail outlets, a need to substitute low quality plywood, affordability, increasing awareness of customers of better alternatives and shortage of time.

The Indian govt has imposed a ban on new licenses for manufacturing due to the environmental impact. This will help the existing majors.

Growth Levers
GST & its impact
    • Remove inter-state tax anomalies
    • Remove differential with unorganized sector hence a value migration from unorganized to organized players
Other growth levers
    • Home renovation cycle is declining
    • India's per capita income rising along with disposable income
    • Rising urbanisation and aspiration levels amongst people
    • Govt focus on "Housing for All" -- Rs 22,407 crores allocated by FinMin for 2015 to create 6 cr (2 cr urban + 4 cr rural) complete houses by 2022

    • Government Announcement regarding construction of 100  smart cities    
    • Focus by HFCs on Tier-2, Tier-3 locations

Over the short term (< 1 year), the industry may have moderate growth owing to the subdued demand in real estate sector. However, the growth levers are likely to kick in over the medium term (2-3 years). The industry looks to have bright prospects over the long term (10 years). It would be interesting to keep a watch on Century, Green and any new player in this space.

Monday 21 September 2015

Filter Out The Noise

I have stopped blogging over the last few months to be on the right side of SEBI's guidelines. Now, that there is some amount of clarity, atleast in my mind, I have decided to continue chronicling my thoughts once more. The only change is I will restrict myself from discussing specific stocks or valuations related to stocks. 

The last few months saw a tremendous amount of volatility. We have seen both 29000 and 25000 on the Sensex since April 2015. We have seen the Green drama, the unending US Fed rate hike soap opera keeps playing in the background every few months. We are also witnessing a human tragedy of great proportions in the Syrian refugee crisis. The run-up to the US elections has started and is likely to pick up momentum in the months to come.

Closer home, the Bihar polls are heating up. Lalu-Nitish-Modi are battling it out - or so the media would want us to believe. Hardik Patel wants reservations for the Patels in Gujarat. Monsoon session in Parliament did not achieve much, again as expected. Raghuram Rajan did not decrease rates.

So, where am I going with all this? I just want to highlight that all of this is noise. I sometimes go back and read old newspapers. I am yet to see an issue where there is no news printed. There is always something going on. As an investor it is critical to filter out the noise from the signal.

The signals which are important to me as an investor are the following:

  1. Passing the GST bill - this has long term implications as it is a fundamental shift on the taxation front. This bill has been making for over a decade and we may be in the last lap of the marathon. 
  2. Land Bill - After the Singur agitation, land acquisition all over India has become a non-starter. India needs a stable land acquisition policy so that industries can realistically acquire land for projects. The government does not seem to be making much headway on this.
  3. Improvement in Corporate Results - Quarterly results in general have been quite dismal. Management of nearly all the companies' for which I have attended conference calls stated quite candidly that on the ground there is very little traction in the core sectors.
I am skeptical of a major impact of rate reduction that everyone is so keen on. I cannot think that a company will decide to invest in capacity expansion because interest rates are 0.5% down. We need some major projects in the infrastructure space either by the government or incentivized by the government through tax cuts to kick start the real economy.

In the meantime, filter out the noise and remember that in India, news channels are for entertainment ;-)

Tuesday 19 May 2015

Stock Update: Sintex

Sintex has come out with a decent set of results for FY2015. 

FY2015 Results (Consolidated)
Sales : 7006.6 cr (up 20%)
PAT : 528.8 cr (up 45%)
EPS (Diluted) : 13.5
Building materials grew 16% yoy (from 2734 cr to 3176 cr)
Custom moulding grew 21% yoy (from 2566 cr to 3107 cr)
Textile grew 33% yoy (from 546 cr to 724 cr)

The company also announced that it had won a large government order for rural RO water shelter enclosure and healthcare centre from couple of states.

The company will add about 1 lakh spindles by Sep 2015 and 2.2 lakhs by Mar'16 bringing the total spindle capacity to 3.2 lakh spindles. Overall the company plans to increase total spindle capacity to around 10 lakhs but that depends on capacity utilization of the initial setup. Company expects operating margins from the textile division to improve by 0.5%  with economies of scale coming in with new capacities getting on-stream.

In building product segment, new products in segments of environment & clean fuels, cold chains and warehouses are driving growth along with education and healthcare sectors. The company has received fresh orders in Prefab segment from new territories and for new product ranges. The company is the only company in India to get government approval for prefabricated biogas plants.

Custom moulding did very well both in India and Europe and is likely to continue with good performance with a pickup in industrial activity.

Of the total US $ 120 M FCCB conversion, only US $ 17 M is yet remaining to be converted, which will happen in Q1 FY'16.

High debt and low promoter holding (and promoter pledging of shares) remains a risk and creates an overhang on the stock.

Overall, it is an interesting stock to keep a watch on.

Friday 3 April 2015

Book Review: The Education of a Value Investor by Guy Spier

I just finished reading Guy Spier's The Education of a Value Investor. Guy is a well-known value investor who runs the Aquamarine Funds and is based out of Zurich. He has been educated at some of the most renowned educational institutions like Oxford and Harvard Business School. In his book he goes over his career as an investor and money manager and shares his wisdom. 

This is not a how-to book. It has very little in terms of the author's investment process. He does not even talk much about his stock picks and the rationale behind investing in them. As the subtitle in the name of the book suggests, this book truly ties to capture the author's quest for wisdom, enlightenment and through them, wealth. This book is more about getting wiser through self-reflection than about investing.

The book starts with his joining a Wall Street investment banking company D H Blair. His disillusionment with his education starts then. He starts to question the efficacy of an education which cannot help him make the right choices in life. He starts to hate his job and sometime during this period discovers Warren Buffett through a book (Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist by Roger Lowenstein). This opens up a new world for him. A world of ethical living and value investing. He then goes ahead and makes dramatic lifestyle changes to "bring in Buffett into his life". 

During this period, he met Mohnish Pabrai, an event which again transformed and changed the course of his life. They developed a deep bond of friendship which amongst other things led them to jointly bid for a charity lunch with Buffett.

The book chronicles multiple things that he did to lead a life that was congruent to his beliefs. He moved away from the competitive madness of New York and settled in Zurich, stopped subscribing to his Bloomberg terminal. He started writing thank you notes to people everyday and other such things.

The book is fascinatingly intimate and authentic. Spier talks about his thought processes, his doubts, his shortcomings very openly. This is what drew me to the book. I could identify myself personally with a lot of it. I had, and continue to have similar questions, doubts and dilemmas, both in my life and in investing.

My biggest takeaway from the book is that it seeded the thought of transforming my life, one step at a time, by making small changes which can compound over a long time, by surrounding myself with the people I like, admire and respect, caring for people and doing small things everyday to help others and most importantly, setting up myself in an ecosystem which suits my inner self and helps me to lead a life congruent to my core beliefs. Just for this, this book is a must read.

Saturday 3 January 2015

Stock Update - Sintex Industries

Sintex has been part of my portfolio before and suffered a lot due to untimely acquisitions and foreign borrowings. They are still paying the price for that through  equity dilutions because of conversion of bonds to equity. The reason I started taking a re-look at the company is that it is uniquely placed to gain from the Narendra Modi government's thrust on Swacch Bharat and Clean Ganga projects. Additionally, the new mandate for CSR activities and the resultant push from corporates in making toilets and classrooms in rural areas will create a demand for the companies products.

Swacch Bharat, Clean Ganga & CSR thrust:
Sintex is a market leader in pre-fabricated toilets (90%-95% marketshare) where they manufacture and install toilets with water tank, soak-pit or bio-gas chamber. The total cost outlay by GoI for Swacch Bharat has been put around Rs 62,000 cr of which Rs 14,600 will be provided by the Central Government. Clean Ganga  proposes to spend Rs 51,000 cr to completely stop  discharge  of  untreated  sewer  and  waste  water  from small and medium industries and urban habitations into the Ganges. Under the mission, all villages along the river is to be made free from open defecation. This represents a huge opportunity for toilet blocks, waste management and package treatment  plants. Sintex is a market leader in this space.

Custom Moulding & Textiles to add to growth:
With a revival in the industrial activity, the custom moulding division has started picking up and is expected to improve its performance in the future. This quarter the growth was 24%. 

Textile is starting to get benefits of the capacity expansion that the compnay had undertaken. 100,000 spindles will start every quarter next year 2015-16. Incremental 200-250 cr of revenue will come in at 50-60% capacity utilization. At full capacity, the new capacity is likely to add 1700-2400 cr to the topline.

  • The company has outstanding FCCBs which will result in equity dilution to the tune of 25-33% which will be a dampener for EPS growth.
  • The company has been investing a lot on capex and is currently running a negative cashflow, though it has positive cash flow.
  • Govt projects typically mean delayed payments and high working capital requirements.

My expectations of growth

FY15 - expecting EPS range of 11-12. At a PE of 12, price can be 132 - 144.

FY16 - Expecting growth of 30%. EPS 15-16. PE of 15-20. Price can be 225 - 320.

Disclosure: I am not an investment analyst. Stocks discussed in the blog should not be construed as buy / sell recommendations. This blog is a chronicle of my actions and thoughts in the markets. Please consult an accredited financial advisor before investing yourself.