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Decline of Rupee - A boon for pharma?
Dec 14, 2011

For the last couple of weeks, the steep decline in the value of rupee against the dollar and some other European currencies has continuously made headlines. The European sovereign turmoil coupled with political inaction and rising fiscal deficit in India have been some of the reasons why the Rupee has fallen so steeply. So severe has this fall been that Rupee is now trading at a multi-year low and has been the worst performing Asian currency. Rupee has fallen from levels of Rs 46-47/US$ to Rs 53 currently. And given the economic scenario currently, a further fall in the Indian currency cannot be entirely ruled out.

While creating export opportunities, the quick decline in Rupee has also created challenges for some businesses. For the pharmaceutical sector, falling rupee brings good news for exporters in the medium term. However, it also brings many challenges. Here are some of them:

Existing hedging contracts to limit revenue boost: The size of the Indian pharmaceutical industry is estimated to be around US$ 20 bn, with exports accounting for nearly 45% to 50%. The decline in the Rupee should thereby help the pharma exporters earn higher realizations. However, most large companies have locked (hedged) their export sales in advance when the rupee traded at Rs 46-47 against the US dollar. Hence, the decline in Rupee will not bring any cheer for these companies in the short run. If the rupee remains at this level for a couple of months, the benefits will then start accruing for large pharma companies.

Raw material imports to be costlier: A depreciating Rupee surely helps pharma exporters get better realisations in the long run. However, if the imports are considered, benefits from exports will partially get offset by costlier imports. Indian pharmaceutical industry fulfills 70% of its raw material requirements through imports from other countries. Imports from China are highest at US$ 4 bn per year with the rest from other countries. Most bills are settled in dollar terms and the recent decline in the Rupee will mean imports will get costlier in the near term.

Higher interest on foreign loans: Quite a few companies in the Indian pharma industry have exposure to foreign currency convertible bonds (FCCB). As this is a foreign currency loan, the repayment liability arising out of this can be much higher due to decline in the Rupee against the dollar. It will also impose a higher interest outgo every quarter (provided it is not zero coupon) requiring companies to make provision for mark-to-market losses. This then puts a severe strain on profits.

Renegotiation of existing contracts: As the US and European pharmaceutical markets may see a slowdown due to their economic problems, there could be price pressure on their suppliers including India. On the backdrop of a weaker Rupee, overseas buyers may renegotiate some of their existing contracts and thereby impact the higher expected realization of Indian companies.

Thus, a declining Rupee and that too at a steep certainly has an impact on India Inc, and the pharma sector is also not immune from the same. At the end of the day, those companies which have followed appropriate hedging strategies and have lesser amount of foreign debt on their books will have an edge over their peers especially when there is increased volatility in the forex market.

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