Fairval

Notes on Indian equities, sectors and economy

12 year lock-in? Is IRDA really this weird?

Posted by fairval on November 6, 2017

IRDA seems to live in its own world. It seems it is considering putting a 12 year lockin for PE investments in insurance space.

Irda may ask PE companies for 12-year lock-in

Some of the statements in this article (it quotes an unnamed IRDA official) are truly bizarre.
Check this —

  • Private equity is one of the most unstable form of capital looking for appreciation and exit, so a lock-in period is required. I thought it was one of the most stable.
  • This is to ensure that their capital is invested for a longer tenure to support the long-term growth of insurance companies and safeguard policyholders’ interest as these funds are known to look for quick appreciation and exit. And how does one exit: There has to be a buyer, right? If the buyer is willing to pay a certain price, is IRDA saying the next buyer is a fool? IRDA needs to protect the next buyer from getting duped by the PE fund? 

One can understand say a 5 year lockin. 12 year pre-determined lockin – IRDA is living in another world.

The stated reason is of course to protect the ‘policyholder’. Wish they would show more concern about reducing commissions and insidious sales practices.

 

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Size of Indian Dentistry

Posted by fairval on November 5, 2017

India Business Reports released a report on Indian dental market. This pegs the size of Indian dental clinic revenues at around Rs 20,000 crore, or USD 3.1B. This is higher than other estimates floating around, which IBR believes have under-estimated the size of the market.

 

It has been consistently reported that there is a massive oversupply of dentists in India. While this is certainly true at this time, IBR believes these concerns are overdone; this is a temporary phase. India can add almost 25,000 dentists per year till 2050 without reaching levels of penetration of dentistry in already seen in developed countries.

 

Dental health in India has a long way to go. However, no effort is being made either by the government or by dental associations to promote awareness. A concerted program of dental awareness would help promote healthy growth of dentistry.

More info on http://www.indiabusinessreports.com

Posted in Pharma and Lifesciences | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Spurious RTI data – 40% vacancy in Mum-Ahd trains

Posted by fairval on November 1, 2017

Today one amazing bit of data has come out, it seems out of an RTI query. Says a news item –

Modi government obviously did not do its homework on the Rs 1 lakh crore project.

According to an RTI query filed by Mumbai activist Anil Galgali on seat occupancy, in the past one quarter alone, the Western Railway is facing staggering losses worth Rs 30 crore in the Mumbai-Ahmedabad sector – this translates to a loss of around Rs 10 crore per month. The WR revealed that in the past three months, 40 percent seats have been vacant on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route while 44 per cent seats were left unoccupied in the Ahmedabad-Mumbai route.

This was widely reported in all papers, and was today being debated on NDTV. As can be expected, the slant was – So how can a bullet train come on this route?

Amazed at the stupidity of it all – this data is SO OBVIOUSLY incorrect. It appears no one in the media or their expert commentators travel in Indian trains anymore. 40% vacancy? What are they smoking?

I travel on this route often, and I know from personal experience, it is very hard to get tickets if not booked in advance. If this data was correct, I should be able to book a ticket say 4 hours in advance.

So I checked just now. According to the RTI data, there are 32 trains (IRCTC lists 30); of which, quite a few are only for this route (as in, Ahmedabad is the last stop). Some of these –

  • Shatabdi Express
  • Ahmedabad Passenger (twice a day)
  • Suryanagari Express
  • Karnavati Express
  • ADI Double decker
  • Ahmedabad Duronto

Total seats as per RTI data are around 8000 per day

I checked availability for tomorrow. Only ONE out of 30 trains has any tickets. Many are not even accepting booking for Waiting List ticket. The only train which has tickets – 179 – is ADI Double Decker. This again I have noticed from personal experience. This does have tickets often till the last moment. Why so? I guess 2 reasons – it has lot of tickets to offer, being a double decker – one bogie has ~140 tickets, this single train must have 2000 tickets to offer; also the seats are extremely uncomfortable, so maybe people don’t like this train.

But then, 179 out of 8000; that’s 2%. And this is not season. In Diwali season, there was no tickets for atleast a 20 day period. For tomorrow (2nd November), even the twice a day Ahmedabad Passenger has no tickets. And it takes 15 hours 45 minutes, a lifetime!! In contrast, fast trains like Shatabdi or Duronto take 6 hours 20 minutes.

So where the hell does the 40% vacancy come from? And in which Indian train sector is that even possible? Let alone Mumbai Ahmedabad.

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RBI’ Revenge

Posted by fairval on October 28, 2017

India’s real interest rates are at rates rarely, if even, seen in its history. Why does RBI not lower rates? Revenge for getting screwed on Demo?

When demonetisation (DeMo) was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi (NaMo) in a dramatic press conference on 8th November 2016; several commentators said it was a bad move. The subsequent shoddy implementation and its inability to reveal any immediate black money – notes came back into the banking system – heightened the criticisms. Today, almost one year down the line, it is almost universally acknowledged that DeMowas a failure.

While the NDA government has faced flak for it, the central bank Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has faced even more criticism. When DeMo was announced, RBI had just passed under a new leader. The resignation was the previous governor – posterboy Raghuran Rajan (RR) – was mourned by many. Experts said NaMo had let RR go because he wanted a pliable chief. RR had crossed the line by making political observations; he was giving indications of being anti-NaMo.

When DeMo was announced, the experts immediate said ‘RR wouldn’t have done it’. The new RBI governor immediately became painted as a sinner; someone who sort of lowered the independence of the RBI. The ‘experts’ were also clear – from now on, RBI would dance to the tunes of the government.

Well, a year since DeMo, nothing of that sort has happened. RBI refuses to dance. Despite a slowing economy, and hugely comfortable inflation situation, RBI refuses to lower interest rates. The result – India’s real interest rates are at levels perhaps never seen before in Indian history.

Remember India has always been a high inflation country, and for most parts, we have operated in zone of negative real rates. But now, our real rates are above 4.5%. While one has not seen history of real rates since last few decades it is likely these levels could be all time high. When economy has clearly slowed, should they be so high? This level is also much higher than other countries (see chart below)

RBI.png

The Economic Survey (vol 2) released in Aug’17 by Ministry of Finance has a detailed section explaining the situation on real interest rates and suggesting how much should interest rates go down. Says the Survey – Cyclical conditions, then, suggest that the policy rate should actually be below—not 50-100 basis points or so above—the neutral rate. The conclusion is inescapable that the scope for monetary easing is considerable, more than that suggested by comparison with neutral interest rates.

So why is RBI not listening? Is it the RBI trying to leave no doubt in anyone’s mind about its independence? Or worse, is it trying put the government down for destroying its reputation with Demo? RBI’s revenge?

Posted in Indian Economy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Ratan Tata is right – very few disruptive startups get funded

Posted by fairval on October 12, 2017

One of the few industry captains to have taken seriously to start-up investing, Ratan Tata recently rued that there are very few disruptive startups in India. “I don’t think we have as many really disruptive startups in India as we do overseas,” said Tata.

We couldn’t agree more with Mr Tata, atleast in the lifesciences space, where we focus more compared to other areas. The funding scenario is lifesciences start-up space is truly appalling, to put it bluntly.

We had written 2 years ago, on the poor scenario in funding of R&D startups in pharma. Nothing has changed in R&D funding in pharma. USA and Isreal each see 50-70 pre-revenue R&D startups get Series A funding in pharma. In India, we are lucky to see 1-2 deals in a year.

In healthcare, the scenario is equally poor. Considerable funding has gone into so called ‘health-tech’. Most of them have zero innovation. Take e-pharmacies for example. They are all following the same cookie-cutter ecommerce formula which the Flipkarts and Amazons have created. But there are significant differences in the market in which Flipkart operates, and pharma retail. Several Flipkart categories have 30-50% gross margins (pre-discount). In Pharma, retail markets are around 20%, and governed by DPCO regulation. So if you offer a 20% discount, you are operating at zero gross margin (and actually negative, if you are delivering from the neighbourhood retailer).

But e-pharmacies are still better than some other segments which have got considerable funding. You atleast need to order medicines frequently, so there is some chance of habit formation, which is what perhaps the discounters are trying to achieve. Whether they can survive till they figure out how to make money is another matter.

Some other segments are even worse. Home healthcare for ex. This is a low margin staffing type business, with huge service quality issues. One really has to wonder how this is scalable.

How about ‘booking doctor appointments’? In real life, there is no business like this. You pay a doctor, you don’t pay someone to get an appointment with the doctor, over and above doctor fees. Therefore the doctor should be paying in return for getting appointments. Have doctors been doing that in the past, as an established business practice? Not really. So this is a business which requires behaviour change, and creation of a market which does not exist, yet. But more than one startups have bene funded here, and with big money; this is akin to funding a market size of zero. The leader may survive, but may need to augment its revenue model.

Coming back the innovation issue, we have consistently found innovative startups in healthcare find it very difficult to get funding. The poor entrepreneur will get the same response “show more traction”.

Tata further said, “The government should and could play a major role in (developing India’s startup ecosystem)”. That is perhaps the only hope for spurring innovation in healthcare / pharma space. In fact, government is doing quite a bit here. The BIRAC (Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council) program, run by Department of Biotechnology (DBT), now in its sixth year, is quite active, granting out maybe 50-100 grants per year. A recent release said – BIRAC has provided financial and mentoring support to more than 500 companies, and nearly 500 young entrepreneurs and startups.

The problem happens after that. There appear to be many promising startups which are struggling with the issue – what after BIRAC?

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Indian handicraft exports are booming

Posted by fairval on May 17, 2017

Our research arm India Business Reports (IBR for short) recently did a note on handicrafts and handloom exports out of India. Good to see that this segment is booming.

Handicrafts exports touched USD 3.66B in 2016-17, a growth of 11% over FY16 in USD terms. In Re terms exports grew 13.8% to Rs245B in FY17, as compared to Rs216B in FY16. These figures does not include export of carpets, which is another sizeable market by itself.

Handicrafts2

(Source: EPCH)

Over and above the handicraft exports, India exported around USD1.8B of carpets an floor coverings. A major portion of this is handmade.

Growth rates for both – handicrafts and carpets – are healthy. Over FY10-17, handicraft exports have grown at ~15% in USD terms. Over FY97-17, a 20 year period, handicraft exports have grown at 10.2% CAGR in Re terms. Growth rate of carpets is slower, but impressive nonetheless. Exports of carpets have grown at 5% in USD terms over the last 5 years, and 13% in INR terms.

In the last 1-2 years, growth rates have slowed down for all sectors, in both domestic markets and exports. In light of that, this growth in exports in handicrafts is commendable, and makes it a ‘growth sector’.

For the full report, you can write to reports@indiabusinessreports.com; also available on Slideshare at  https://www.slideshare.net/IndiaBusinessReports/handicrafts-market?qid=c91002da-202a-47a6-bce5-9592f319fa73&v=&b=&from_search=1

 

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UP’s buffalo beef production surged under SP/UPA

Posted by fairval on March 27, 2017

The new UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath is cracking down on illegally run buffalo slaughterhouses, and this has understandably created a lot of media noise. But that is what it has been, a lot of noise, very little analysis.

Data shows that buffalo beef production has surged sharply in India over last 7-8 years, and UP has been the main growth driver.

Buffalo2

In states other than UP, buffalo beef production grew at 9% CAGR over FY09-16. In UP it grew 22%, lifting all India average as well. UP now produces more than all the other states put together.

It would be good to know why exactly UP is such a stand out performer.Was this due to some good policies of SP/UPA?

Also, this must be data from just legal slaughterhouses, since this is government data. UP has 38 government-approved abattoirs according to media data, out of a national total of 72. In addition to the legal 38, it appears there are an illegal 140 in UP alone. They must be smaller than the legal ones, however, no one seems to have any clue of how much they produce.

Interestingly, it is buffalo beef which has surged in UP the most, not all meat classes. UPMeat

In UP, Poultry (the second largest meat category after buffalo beef) has grown at 7% CAGR in FY09-16. Goat and pig have interestingly shrunk, pig by as much as -8% CAGR.

Buffalo beef is mostly exported it seems. It would be good if the media went into the economics of the business is more detail; there are some interesting trends there which need analysis

 

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India tops JBIC FDI survey for 2016

Posted by fairval on January 14, 2017

For the third year in a row, India has emerged as the most promising country for overseas business, in the annual survey ‘Outlook for Japanese Foreign Direct Investment’ by Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC). 

India replaced Indonesia as the top investment destination in 2014; and has held the position ever since. The table belows shows the result of of the 2016 survey. The survey is published in December. The 2016 survey was the 28th survey.

This is very significant. China held the no 1 position for more than a decades before Indonesia emerged on top for 2 years, and was then displaced by India.

This should result in increased activity by Japanese companies in India. Out of the 230 companies citing India as a promising, 60% (142 companies) do not have a local production base. They survey asks another key question – do you have a real business plan to go to India? In 2016, 40% of the 230 companies which named India also said they are actively working on India entry. In 2015, this figure was 36% (of 168). So there is a clear increase in in active interest in entering India.

jbic-survey

More on India Business Reports (www.indiabusinessreports.com)

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VC/PE deal space continues to see slowdown

Posted by fairval on December 14, 2016

Amount of investment in Indian VC/PE (and angel) space continues to see slowdown. This is from data for Jan-Nov’16 (Source: http://www.indiabusinessreports.com)

vcdealsnov16

YTD amount is just over USD8B, down 38% over last year, while deal count is down as well.

The decline is sharpest in internet based businesses, where investment is this year is just about a third of last year.

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Are Ruias India’s most selfless & misunderstood entrepreneurs?

Posted by fairval on October 22, 2016

A seminal deal happened this week: one of the largest ever acquisitions of an Indian company, and as the full page ads mentioned – India’s largest ever FDI. The Ruias sold Essar Oil to a consortium led by Russian oil major Rosneft, at an enterprise value of USD 10.9B (there was separate money involved for associated group companies like Vadinar Port).

With this deal, the group expects debt burden to reduce by 50%. Overall debt at group level could be as high as USD20B. This suggests most of the sale value would go towards debt servicing.

The impact of the deal was instantly felt on the banking system. ICICI Bank, India’s largest private sector bank, which had a large exposure to the Essar group, jumped 7% on the day this deal was announced, and has risen since. At the time of writing, the stock is up 13% from the pre-deal close. In market cap terms, this is a USD 2.8B gain.

All this is good for the banking system, the rupee and the Indian economy. It becomes even better when you consider that the promoters Ruias have pretty much made no money whatsoever in setting up and running Essar Oil.

You read it right. For a company spanning around 2 decades, it appears the Ruias may have made zilch for all their family effort, plus the risk they had taken in terms of corporate, and maybe personal guarantees against bank loans.

Since we don’t have full information, this is what we are assuming – almost entire proceeds will go towards reducing debt. This means the only money Ruias may have made would be from dividend income, and salaries for family personnel.

On this count, the situation appears to be like this: in terms of data since FY02, Essar Oil hadn’t paid any dividend (as per equity database Ace Analyzer). The database does not show data before this. As per FY15 annual report, the only family member directly involved with Essar Oil was Prashant Ruia, who was chairman of the company. His remuneration for FY15 was Rs 43 lakh (Rs 4.3million). This is negligible for a company with a revenue of almost USD15B.

In other words, since the last 15 years or so, Ruias may have earned nothing directly out of Essar Oil. Assuming other than the principal amount of their investment in Essar Oil, they use the rest of the deal money to pay bankers, that’s 15 years of no return for an incredible effort of setting up India’s 2nd largest refinery, and one which pretty complex configuration. It wasn’t just a refinery; Essar Oil has 2500 retail outlets, India’s largest oil retail network in the private sector.

Contrast this with what the other big private sector player in India in oil refining – Mukesh Ambani – makes from his company Reliance Industries. Mr Ambani earned dividend of Rs 1400+ crore in FY16. In the last 5 years, he has earned dividend income of almost USD1B. He also draws a salary, which he has capped at Rs 15 crore per year for the last 8 years. This is besides his wealth from shares of RIL, which is about USD24B.

That is more like it. Unless you are making huge amounts of money, why would you create such a large business?

Unless some of the data above is wrong, this leads to a natural question – just why did the Ruais do it? Take such a huge financial risk, and then make no money.

Group chairman Shashi Ruia said in the press release “It is a historic day for Essar. The transaction demonstrates our unique ability to build world-class assets”. Note the stress on creating history, and doing something world class. Prashant Ruia’s quote also emphasized the group’s ability to create benchmarks. He said “The deals we have done have led to an FDI infusion of more than $30 billion into India”

I guess all this is not easy for a simple mind like mine to understand. Can the urge to create national or global benchmarks be so strong, that one can labour for decades for no financial reward? I don’t have it, many of us middle class Indians, who can’t look beyond their next salary cheque may not have it either.

And on top of it, the paradox is: we, who want to work for money, are poor or middle class; and those who are working for no visible money are not. Maybe this is one of those god’s mysterious ways of dispensing justice and allocating wealth.

In sum, I think it is time the media and analysts revised their opinion about Essar group, and recognize their selfless deeds for what they are worth.

 

PS: I guess this transaction and the 2 decade history of Essar Oil deserves a case study by Harvard Business School – what say?

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