Strength in times of 'May'hem... - Views on News from Equitymaster

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Strength in times of 'May'hem...

Jun 4, 2004

Drama, drama and more drama. This is how one would sum up the action on the stock markets during the last one-month. With the general elections springing up a surprise in the form of a new government, investors, especially Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs) ran for cover and in the process led the stock markets to its highest intra day fall ever. However, with good old-fashioned bargain hunting coming to the fore and the government emphasizing that reforms were irreversible, markets recouped some of its losses. Markets have remained rather volatile since then and in the past one month alone, benchmarks like BSE-Sensex and NSE-Nifty have lost in the region of 14%-15%. However, there remained certain stocks that bucked the trend and witnessed some buying interest. Let us have a look at the list of gainers on the Nifty over the last one month.

Company 3-May-04 3-Jun-04 %change
BSE-SENSEX 5,585 4,818 -13.7%
Nifty 1,767 1,495 -15.4%
Sun Pharma 371 386 4.0%
HCL Tech 279 289 3.6%
Hero Honda 463 470 1.5%
Infosys 5,185 5,241 1.1%

With the stock markets nose-diving mainly on account of concerns over reforms, it is only obvious that the stocks, which have managed to keep their heads out of troubled waters, are the ones that have little to do with reforms. Three out of four gainers belong to the tech and pharma sectors, fields, which are relatively more insulated from government policies. Buying interest could also be attributed to the fact that increasingly some stock market experts have started labeling stocks from these two sectors as rather 'defensive' ones, which according to us is not really the case.

This is because these businesses require significant investment in R&D, manufacturing facilities (development centers in case of the software sector) and human resources. And the 'visibility factor' in fact is low in these two sectors for various reasons like geo-political disturbances, trade agreements and competition. Also, Indian companies in pharma and software sectors are still at a very nascent stage (we are 1.0% of the global pharma industry and 0.5% of global software sector). So companies like Infosys and Ranbaxy may be 'big' by Indian standards but not by global standards.

Hence, we believe that there were purely company specific or fundamental reasons that ensured that these stocks don't get caught in the melee and instead witness strength even during these troubled times. Sun Pharma, the biggest gainer of them all edged higher by 4% over the last one month presumably on the back of its two facilities receiving USFDA approval, thus giving its US centric plans and consequently its growth prospects a big boost. With this approval, the company is now looking forward to marketing its dosage formulations manufactured in India to US. With US$ 16 bn worth of generic market now accessible to it, investors seemed to have lapped up the stock on the company's improved growth prospects.

HCL Tech and Infosys, with gains of 4% and 1% respectively are the two tech companies on the list. Infosys, for long hailed as the company with one of the best management, has not really induced that much of a surprise by remaining almost unscathed. This is because the company had given good growth guidance for FY05 and considering its past track record; the projected growth would be the minimum that the company would achieve in FY05. Moreover, the company is trying hard to break into the high margin business of consulting and given the quality and vision of its management, it might well achieve its objective.

Hero Honda, the country's largest manufacturer of two-wheelers, also found a place on the list courtesy its near 2% gains. After having a rather mediocre performance in FY03 and a sedate start to FY04, where it lost significant market share, the company bounced back during second half of FY04 and helped greatly by its two re-launches in the form of 'Splendor Plus' and 'Passion Plus' it re-gained market share and posted impressive FY04 numbers. Just when everyone was expecting slow down in demand, the company registered an impressive 30% rise in sales in the month of May and rekindled investor hopes of another good year. Moreover, the renewal of its license with Honda, which extended the period of technical co-operation between the two until 2014, also added to the positive sentiment. With a new greenfield project coming up in few months and two new launches in the pipeline, the company seems well placed to capitalize on the motorcycles growth story.

Thus having looked at the list of gainers on Nifty over the last one month, what does the future have in store for the markets. After the sharp correction witnessed over the last one month, valuations have started looking attractive from a long-term perspective. Thus we believe that rather than waiting for the markets to fall further, one must start building a diversified portfolio of companies that have competent management and a track record of consistently high growth. After all this century is widely touted to be the Indian century.

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