Sasken Communications – UPDATE… (BSE: 532663; NSE: SASKEN)

Wow!!! We like this! While the prices of real estate in Bangalore have stabilized, why has Sasken communication gone up in Value?
For starters, the stock is up > 60% since we last wrote about it last month. Yes we agree that the stock was close to 80% down from its 52wk high, but what the heck!
Wasn’t it a golden opportunity to average out to a decent price and maybe exit at the next up move if you felt skittish? We hear people screaming out “Falling Knife” and won’t fall for that one. Well that’s where those who test the business model WIN.

IT is the next in thing…
Well, we are not saying this. Its’ the GURUS who are saying it. We always maintained this ever since we starting writing on it late in 2007. (Refer: Ab kya hoga?)

We believe that the long term IT story is pretty strong. Margin may come under pressures, business model will change, and the sector will look more like cyclical over a decade from now and probably there will be a shakeout with some bruised and battered companies.
The trend could also change, slower growth, more controlled performance, steady dividends and yes acquisitions. Finally there will be winners.

Let get fundamental…

  1. There are a few things that we look at in a company when we invest into it (at least this is the philosophy that we believe in).
  2. Is the company in a domain in which it has a first mover advantage?
  3. As a result has the company able to maintain a top slot in the sector?
  4. Are there catalyst that we dethrone the company in the near future?
  5. Is the business model in for a fundamental change in the future/is threatened by forces (external or internal)?
  6. Is the company favorite / dumped by the street for a longer lengths of period in time (in simple terms – valuations)

The results are good or bad?

Sasken reported Q4FY 2008 numbers yesterday and while we see them in the comfortable, the street seems to be reiterating its SELL mantra. We believe that the street has got it right as far as next 2-3 quarters are concerned.

Citi (analyst Surendra Goyal, a good friend of ours) has a SELL report in the market reiterating very valid concerns in the short term. But we disagree with him certain macro fears he puts forth.

Metrics would continue to drag, performance might be subdued and risk could look overwhelming. We believe the opportunity might come over a longer period (12-18 months) is

  1. Telecom space (where the company operates) improves as a result of continued penetration in the domestic and Asian markets. We would see revenue growth steady and continuous
  2. Margins hitting bottom and then reverting back to saner levels of higher double digits (possibly mid-teens).
  3. Employee costs stabilizing over the next 18 months as a result of overall lackluster employment opportunities

Sasken for now has done two important things to keep nervous investors some comfort.

a) Given a 40% dividend on a INR 10 FV share. This translate into a dividend yield of little under 3%, so this is a positive, a minor one you would say. But we conclude a positive nevertheless.
b) Sasken board has approved for a buyback upto INR 40 crores, an authorization for buying shares upto INR 260 / share. CMP at around INR 144. We believe that even though this also will not really lift EPS materially. The signal from management at the moment is the company is undervalued. We believed this for the last 3-4 months.

Time to speculate, then?

Well we believe that there will be lots of activity in this counter from now on. The triggers are the buyback, dividend stripping and bullish traders getting in the make a quick buck while the undertone is positive.

The safety net is therefore stronger than before. However, we think that investors should look at this counter only for a fundamental story rather than a speculative opportunity.

Easier said than done.

We think we could see this counter moving up nicely to around INR 220-240 effortlessly. So a good 40-50% from here in the next 3-6 months. Over a longer term however, we continue to maintain that the upmove could be a lot more painful than it appears. Investors who entered this counter at various levels starting at INR 300-400 price band have caught a falling knife and made a few deep cuts to themselves.

But were they intelligent enough to buy some more when it reached INR 86 (all time low) a few weeks ago?

We don’t know that for sure.

Until next time….

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