Caution: Sharp turn ahead!

When we started writing in late 2007, we had said that 2008 could be full of uncertainty (refer: Ab kya hoga?). At that moment we did not know and did not have an iota of conviction where we could end up after 2008. At this juncture, however, we believe that 2H 2008 could be far more correction oriented(bumpy ride) than most people think it will. The reason for this ‘pessimism’ could be in what we are seeing lately on the macro front and its effect on the corporate performance has still to show up, according to us.

What’s up with the Sensex?

There are umpteen articles published recently comparing our markets with those of the rest of the emerging markets. The BRIC economies which had a spectacular run in the last four years have all corrected recently, but the arguments put forth are that the Sensex is amongst the cheapest of the lot, in terms of valuations. For the record the Sensex trades at around 16-17x FY09 earnings compared with other emerging economies which trade more than this multiple.
For one, Sensex companies have had a spectacular run in the last four years making them from ultra cheap in 2003 to overvalued by early 2008. For instance, the erstwhile (consolidated) Reliance Industries Ltd. was trading around 16-17x 1yr forward earnings in 2004, while now it trades at around 22-23x 1yr forward earnings. Sure it has corrected from 28x it was trading in early 2008. But we believe that to make an entry into Reliance Industries, we still have time on our side, right through 2008. This is true for most of the Sensex companies.

Secondly, sector wise we think that it would be prudent to move away from high beta sectors (read; rate sensitives, high growth, high multipliers), to defensive yield oriented and low beta sectors.

Thirdly, we believe that the near term could throw up certain sectors which could end up gaining from the current slowdown. Counterintuitive you might say. We meant in terms of relative performance.

Slippery when wet!!

Its like running while wearing rubber gripped shoes on a concrete surface. When the surface is dry the rubber provides grip and powers us forward. But what if we hit a patch with water on the surface. Just can’t imagine that, can you? The same, we argue, is that case with rate sensitives, high capex sectors, and ultra growth movers. A little lower octane (capital) provided than before can slow these sectors more than a few percentage points.
As a result of the successive liquidity squeeze, which in all probability does not seem to be over, the octane for certain sectors suddenly has been cut.

Real estate, banking, capital goods, construction, autos and manufacturing in heavy industries are the ones which could have visible lack luster performance in FY09. This situation could get complex as a result of commodity inflation, resulting in another set of industries such as Metals, cement, transportation & logistics and processing companies getting margin squeeze.

We believe that it is indeed a time to get defensive, albeit move into a watch mode from here. This situation could persist for maybe a year before the next leg of performance by the heavyweights of capital consumption.

The formula (if we can call that) to get over this trying phase is to look back at those sectors which display a secular demand which is devoid of economic cycles. FMCG, F&B companies, Pharma, IT and related services and of course medical care.

These stocks will display continued growth, could be available cheaper than those stocks in the cyclical sectors and could assure you decent returns which may not be provided by cyclical or growth stocks in this period of pain.

One could therefore look at stock such as ITC, Indian Hotels, Apollo Hospitals, PVR, and TCS.

Therefore, if the hare is resting bet on the tortoise.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: