Sectoral Outlook 2020 : The Good The Bad & The Ugly
It makes tremendous sense to increase appetite for equity when the stock prices fall. However, it is easy to get confused or even totally lost while deciding which sectors to focus on in such a crisis-driven situation. For sure all sectors are negatively impacted; however, some are impacted more than the rest. The DSIJ Research Team shares the outlook for various important sectors that will prove to be game-changers for the economy.
Unprecedented is the word that most easily comes to the mind of any layman or expert when asked to describe the current crisis. But while some are simply wringing their hands, smart investors are already doing their homework and sensing an opportunity to park their excess monies in the equity markets. While identifying opportunities in the market, a hunt is on to predict which sectors may do well and which may underperform. Sectoral allocation and exposure is the key to portfolio performance. Investors overweight on banking in 2020 may have underperformed the key benchmark indices while investors overweight on pharmaceutical and FMCG may have outperformed the markets.
Says Ratul Chaudhary, a seasoned investor: “Betting on the right sector is most important and hence investors should spend quality time on analysing which sectors may do well. I remember having being stuck in telecom stocks for over 6-7 years with no gains. I had invested nearly 10 per cent of my portfolio in telecom. If the sector preference goes wrong the portfolio performance is impacted negatively and one may never be able to calculate the opportunity cost of investing in the right sector.”
In the current crisis situation, the fundamentals of several industries are shaken and the prevailing uncertainty is making it difficult to analyse the trend in earnings and business sustainability. Under such circumstances it becomes essential that investors give more importance in understanding sectoral outlook for the most important industries that will provide the required triggers to drive Indian economy ahead.
The automotive industry is currently struggling like never before on account of the virus pandemic. This is both in India and across the world. Further, the production of BS VI-compliant vehicles has already taken a hit not to forget that some of the companies have posted zero sales in the ongoing crisis-hit period. As far as Q4FY20 is concerned, domestic demand has been affected badly at the retail level along with the piling up of BS IV-compliant inventory. In terms of volumes, the industry has witnessed a decline of 21.6 per cent on YoY basis. Volumes of passenger vehicles witnessed 21.3 per cent YoY decline in Q4FY20 while the volumes of commercial vehicles declined massively by 47.7 per cent YoY.
The LCV segment has also posted a sharp decline in its volumes by 42.2 per cent YoY. As for the volumes of two and threewheelers, they have witnessed a decline of 24.5 per cent and 20 per cent respectively on YoY basis. Looking at the recent monthly sales data of April 2020, major OEMs such as Hero MotoCorp, Bajaj Auto, TVS Motor, Maruti Suzuki and Mahindra & Mahindra reported zero domestic sales. Companies engaged in agriculture machineries and tractors have registered some volumes after an exemption on sale of agricultural machinery was announced by the Union Government on April 20.
During the course of the pandemic, industry players have resumed some of their operations by following proper government guidelines which is a good sign of some sort of revival. In the short run, the industry is likely to witness pressure and volumes are likely to be affected. However, in the long run, revival is expected in rural-focused OEMs and two-wheelers. The sharp fall in crude oil price coupled with lower interest rates would provide some cushion for demand by FY22E. But, this would be the case only if the ongoing pandemic is contained and economic activities get normalised.
Aviation and Tourism
Since the beginning of the corona virus pandemic, companies belonging to either aviation or tourism industry have seen a major downfall with lockdowns forcing them to suspend their business activities. In its initial stage in India flights to and from the virus-infected countries were suspended and but then later with increasing number of infected cases reported from across the world, a complete lockdown was implemented with several restrictions on the use of air space by commercial flights. Only cargo and rescue flights were allowed to operate. The aviation and tourism industry was further affected by the ban on granting tourist visas and restricting the entry of foreign visitors as imposed by several countries.
This created a greater than expected impact on the tourism and hotel industry. Without proper hygiene practice and customer health history, hotels have been unable to host guests. The current season is especially important for the travel and tourism industry since most families prefer to go for vacation during summer holidays. With no business activity taking place during its peak season, many experts believe that the industry is looking at a revenue crisis. Several companies have already cut salaries of employees and discontinued the services of contract workers. As per the current situation, it is quite likely that even more employees may lose their jobs.
As per industry observers, this is unavoidable since the revenues may take a lot of time to return to normal. Meanwhile, some of the airlines were reported to be charging exorbitant ticket prices for air travel since they now have to take extra precautions and implement hygiene measures inside the airplanes. Certain leading companies such as InterGlobe Aviation, owner of IndiGo Airlines, have already stated that the current situation will surely impact the company’s profitability and quarterly earnings. Meanwhile, occupancy levels in hotels across 11 major cities have seen a decline of up to 29 per cent in revenue per available room during January-March this year.
The fear of bad loans is impacting the Indian banks' performance on bourses. Starting late in 2018, the defaults from large NBFCs forced the banks to create huge provisions. The provisions though can be considered good as they might prevent larger future income loss. But it comes on account of drop net income and the sudden rise depicts that the banks will see higher defaults in the near future. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) announced three moratoriums for retail EMIs in March this year. The lockdown, which has literally halted the economic activity of the country totally, has impacted business activities of all the sectors.
There is certain expectation that banks will see recovery issue from both loan categories, namely, retail and corporate. In such a scenario, banks have had to make larger provisions in the recent quarters. The country's largest private bank, HDFC Bank, reported 100 per cent YoY rise in provisioning for the recently concluded fourth quarter. Owing to its strong capital position and operating expertise it was able to post 17 per cent gain for the quarter on YoY basis. ICICI Bank reported 26 per cent rise in standalone profit even as it made 9 per cent higher provision during the quarter than for the same period last year.
ICICI Bank had reported drop in standalone provisions for nearly three consecutive quarters. IndusInd Bank posted 16 per cent YoY drop in standalone bottom line (76.79 per cent QoQ). Its rise in standalone provision was 56 per cent during the previous quarter and 72 per cent of the same during the December quarter suggests that the NPAs may be higher. Not just that, for the same quarter during the last fiscal year, the bank reported 365.11 per cent increase in provisions which may indicate that its advances may have exposure to some risky corporates.
Hence, a decision regarding exposure to this scrip should be made carefully. The PSU banks can be expected to be taking the same steps to protect their earnings' interest. However, after the recent measures made by the government on MSME welfare and maintaining liquidity in the system, we expect that PSU banks will revive soon from the effects of the pandemic. For the coming few quarters, banks may have to shift their focus on loan recovery, credit to financial institutions and business. This may yield higher interest income but lead to rise in credit risk. Hence, we expect further provisions by banks.
Cement production during Q4FY20 has declined by 4.9 per cent on YoY basis led by shutdown of plants from mid-March 2020 due to the corona virus outbreak. Also, the volumes are likely to be lower in May 2020. Looking at the price trend in May 2020, cement prices across India jumped by 10.6 per cent on MoM basis. Region-wise, the price in the southern sector has registered the highest spike by 18.8 per cent on MoM basis and the eastern region has registered price hike of 15.4 per cent on MoM basis. On the cost front, pet coke prices during Q4FY20 were low by 25 per cent YoY.
Further supporting aspects include the falling crude oil prices. The sharp fall in crude oil price would help in bringing down the variable costs like power and freight. Therefore, this major decline in variable costs is likely to offset the higher fixed cost. Such cost savings coupled with higher cement prices are likely to provide support to the overall cement industry. Looking forward, once demand will start picking up in H2FY21, the sector would see positive signs of recovery.
Also, under the current Union Budget, the emphasis on highways and roads development is well-placed which would boost the demand for cement. In addition, the development of warehouses and cold storage facilities in rural India would give a push to demand. Various initiatives undertaken by the government, including reduction in corporate tax as well as lowering of interest rates, are expected to stimulate the economy and drive infrastructure and affordable housing demand.
The chemical sector’s supply chain has historically been strongly dependent on China. Up to 10-40 per cent of the raw materials required by the industry are supplied by China. With the outbreak of the corona virus in China since December-January, strict lockdown restrictions were imposed, leading to temporary suspension of all business operations till early April. Thus, the supply chain was disrupted for a while, leading to shortage of raw materials. However, as most of the companies had sufficient inventory of major raw materials, production was not affected to a large extent.
Although India has gone into a lockdown mode since March 25, 2020 to curb further spread of the disease, the business operations of major chemical companies have not been majorly affected. Their manufacturing units are operating at least on a partial basis as pharmaceuticals, FMCG and agriculture (essential segments) are heavily dependent on it. The overall demand for chemical industry comes through various other industries like agro-chemicals, paints, construction material, automobile parts, textiles, packaging, and so on.
Demand from the packaging industry for chemicals has been on the rise on account of more packaging materials required to prevent the contamination of food, medicine, and personal care and medical products. Crude oil is one the major raw materials for most of the chemicals. However, despite the record low crude oil prices, the pandemic has prevented chemical companies from accruing any benefit. According to ICRA, as pesticides fall under the essential commodities category, the functioning of the industry related to this segment has not been affected.
Meanwhile, the application of agro-chemicals begins by end-May and will continue till September, thereby not creating much impact. But, as production in industries like paints, construction material, automobile parts, textiles, etc. across India has not been started in full swing and due to the continuation of the lockdown, overall consumption has come to a halt and this has resulted in gradual loss of demand. Further, on account of the lockdown, many companies have yet not posted their March quarter results.
The March quarter might go steady for the agro-chemicals sector led by good Rabi season in India. As for companies relying on other industries and exports, they will see a slight dip in earnings and volumes. On an overall basis, the chemical industry will continue to face pressure for the next 2-3 quarters till normal business activities resume in India. However, the post-pandemic situation might be a blessing in disguise for the chemical industry. Several countries would now cease to rely only on China for the supply of raw materials. The next best options would be India or South Korea.
Thus, domestic players in India would have ample opportunity to become major suppliers to other countries. India could thus be on the right track to become a self-sufficient nation with comparatively less dependency on other countries for import and export. As per the Indian Chemical Council (ICC), the chemical industry needs to improve its feedstock allocation policy along with government investments in chemical clusters across the country, easier access to capital due to its capitalintensive nature and simpler pollution compliance laws. It seems that the Indian chemical sector needs to be future-ready for situations like these and there is a need to strengthen India’s domestic chemical production base, which is the backbone of India’s industrial and agricultural development.
India’s IT industry contributes around 7 per cent to the country’s GDP. A major part of India’s IT revenues come from clients globally. Traditionally, the US has been the biggest importer of Indian IT exports and BFSI is perhaps the primary client segment of many major Indian IT companies. There would be some reduction in the signing of new deals due to cost-cutting by the customers on IT expenses. Leading companies, including Infosys and Wipro, have recently discontinued the practice of giving yearly guidance while TCS hinted at pain during the first two quarters of the year.
The depreciating rupee is expected to provide some cushion to the business of the IT industry as it majorly depends on exports. More than 75 per cent of the industry’s revenues are sourced from exports to large markets like North America and Europe. India’s software services exports in FY19 stood at USD 77.7 billion, which is equivalent to about USD 6.5 billion monthly, according to RBI data. Some IT major might even see stable revenue with growth in deals in making the clients’ operations leaner, faster and resilient as many organisations around the world try and ramp up their IT infrastructure for more efficiency with lesser human contact.
The IT industry is expected to benefit from the rising inclination of firms towards deploying digital technology. The Indian information technology industry has positive prospects in the long term; however, performance in the next one year is expected to be dampened by the widespread effects of the virus pandemic, said a report by Care Ratings. Technology spending across industries’ last fiscal remained intact and due to strong deal wins and broad-based growth across verticals and geographies, the industry grew 7.7 per cent to USD 191 billion in FY20, as per NASSCOM estimates.
Group President (Finance and Accounts) and CFO, UFlex Limited,
“Packaging has Remained Unscathed”
What is your outlook on the packaging industry?
The current pandemic is unprecedented but packaging is amongst those businesses which has remained unscathed. The reason is that the industry supplies packaging and packagingrelated materials for essential consumption goods such as food and medicines. The packaging industry was categorised as essential services and allowed to continue operations. Despite challenges of transport, logistics, raw materials and most importantly manpower, our plants were operating, albeit at lower utilisation levels. However, the situation is improving each day as the supply chain is being restored gradually. The virus outbreak is not going to be a short story and there is a possibility of prolonged recessionary impact, leading to job losses. We will experience people avoiding spending on luxuries and restaurants and instead prefer home consumption.
However, the packaging industry is expected to grow as there will be more focus on packaged goods due to the heightened emphasis on safety and hygiene. Packaging of essential commodities will see a surge but lifestyle and high-premium products will take some time to come back to the previous levels. Food, healthcare and pharmaceutical packaging will witness a boost in demand. The current situation will result in a behavioural change amongst consumers, resulting in a shift in what they buy and the way they buy; packaging will play a significant role in this. It will be also interesting to see how packaging companies will have to work on developing antimicrobial packaging solutions in the long run to dispel consumers’ fears, thus adding more reliance on packaged goods going forward.
How has the current crisis impacted your business and what are the key challenges your company faces to operate at 100 per cent of the capacity?
As an essential element to FMCG and pharmaceutical sector,government authorities to continue our operations with permitted staff and reached nearly 60% of our capacity utilisation levels. In the short run, due to hoarding and panic buying of food stocks, there was a sharp rise in consumption of certain daily essentials but the challenge at our end was on account of supply chain and labour shortage. The overall business impact of this pandemic will have to be ascertained on the basis of how quickly we return to normalcy and have all the necessary resources in place to run our plants without any hiccups.
Following necessary advisory and compliances, we have been slowly trying to get back to our pre-corona production levels with renewed safety norms. As our primary focus is to take care of health and safety of our employees, we have introduced mandatory thermal screening of the staff at our plants. A disinfection chamber has also been installed at all our facilities to ensure proper sanitisation. We have also increased the frequency of sanitisation measures and are also encouraging our employees to maintain social distancing. In a bid to discourage gatherings, we are encouraging our employees to make use of virtual meetings. We are confident of achieving overall higher business volumes May onwards though the product mix will undergo a shift. Meanwhile, our overseas’ packaging film plants have been running at almost full capacity.
Are you facing any cash flow issues?
As a typical ‘black swan’ event, the pandemic has gripped the world in a deadly vice since its outbreak. Its impact has brought global economies, communities and ecosystems to a state of disruption and bewilderment. Though UFlex has been making all efforts to serve its FMCG and pharmaceutical customers across various geographies, yet there has been some impact due to delay in customers’ payments and increased stock levels due to supply chain constraints, thereby resulting in higher deployment of working capital resources. However, since the RBI has allowed three months’ moratorium on debt servicing, the cash flow impact is not being felt.
Pharmaceutical and Healthcare
The Indian pharmaceutical industry is the world’s third-largest drug producer by volume and the country’s market manufactures 60 per cent of vaccines globally. Drugs produced in India are exported to more than 200 countries in the world. Generic drugs account for 20 per cent of global exports in terms of volume, making India the largest provider of generic medicines globally. And even though the pandemic panic has taken a heavy toll on most sectors in the Indian markets, the pharmaceutical industry has been able to withstand the carnage. BSE Healthcare has been the best performing index during this time of crisis, even outperforming the Sensex.
In the month of April 2020, the BSE Healthcare index expanded by 28.09 per cent as compared to the BSE Sensex which gained by 19.28 per cent. This is due to the relatively better earnings’ visibility of pharmaceutical companies due to the inelastic nature of prescription drugs. On the business front, despite the nationwide lockdown, domestic growth is expected to remain more or less stable. Barring for one or two months due to congestion in all major ports globally, export growth is expected to remain strong due to currency benefit and the expected demand continuum across the world despite the pandemic.
In the long term, the risk from protectionism on India’s low-cost exports model is countered by its sheer price competitiveness since markets like the US simply need cheap drugs. Being at the top layer of essential services, the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors also remain exempted everywhere and hence barring few supply-related disturbances, there hasn’t been as significant of an impact on the industry as compared to other industries in India. Now that Chinese supply lines for key starting materials (KSMs) and APIs are crawling back to normal, the supply side issues are slowly waning too. The virus outbreak has presented Indian pharmaceutical companies an opportunity to become a preferred alternate hub for manufacturing APIs and intermediates.
Meanwhile, the central government has recognised that the Indian pharmaceutical sector’s dependence on Chinese APIs a threat to national security and has therefore taken a host of measures to promote the manufacturing of APIs and KSMs within the country. This includes approval of Rs 3,000 crores project to set up three bulk drug parks in coordination with three states, as well as a 20 per cent financial incentive for the next six years for manufacturers to make 53 critical bulk drugs, which are in turn used to make medicines. With these incentives, the central government aims to reduce the dependence of the domestic pharmaceutical companies on a single supplier like China and change the global footprint of Indian pharmaceutical companies. This bodes well for the long-term outlook of the industry.
The increasing demand for housing and commercial spaces in the upcoming metro cities in India has always been a big contributor towards significant growth of the realty sector. However, the virus pandemic has pushed the global economy into doldrums and the resulting lockdown has stalled construction projects. The strict advisories of complete lockdown comparatively impacted the beginning of new constructions as well as housing sales, particularly during the festive season when it is considered auspicious to buy property. This drop in demand and stalling of new projects along with increase in unsold inventory in 2020 is expected to strain the resources of real estate developers.
Moreover, with limited income, salary cuts, unemployment fears, etc., many buyers will consider negotiating the purchase price which will affect the affordable housing segment as well. Alongside, a new trend that has emerged out of the lockdown is that of ‘work from home’ with organisations now realising that this is an effective way to save on rental costs. This will further reduce the demand for office spaces. Also, the necessity of social distancing will lead to a decrease in footfalls across shopping malls and huge stores, thus cutting down the demand for new mall constructions.
Compared to previous years, 2020 is expected to see a drop in housing sales by 25-35 per cent. To combat it, companies have been focusing on improving their digital sales capabilities to be able to continue operations during the lockdown period. For instance, listed player Godrej Properties reported that it has sold around 500 homes which is equivalent to 17 per cent of their quarterly sales in the second half of March alone, thus bringing the total number of houses sold in Q4FY20 to 3,000 homes which is worth Rs 2,380 crore in the last quarter of FY 2020.
Further, the revenue sharing model is expected to gain importance as most retailers will now prefer mall-based establishment. The lockdown period has also driven home the fact that e-commerce is very essential and also the way forward.
Currently, e-commerce warehouses are situated off-city limits, bringing a pause in their operations. Moving forward, multilevel warehouses within city limits will be the key for escaping any such operational obstacles. Such warehouses will effectively improve delivery time and also reduce delivery costs.
Providing an overview of the scenario, Anuj Puri, Chairman, Anarock Property Consultants, says, “The pandemic has affected all sectors, including Indian real estate. More than anything, it has altered the way we live, think, work and socialise. The various pain points are well-documented; however, the virus outbreak has also ushered in some positive changes in the real estate market. Indian real estate is in a rapid innovation mode – the Indian housing sector has now embarked on a different growth trajectory which relies heavily on technology. In fact, it is now eminently clear that the future belongs to real estate businesses with sustainable models and a strong foothold on technology.”
“Online home sales are beginning to gain traction, giving an edge to developers and real estate brokerages that were early technology adopters. Home ownership now ranks high on an increasing number of Indian millennials’ priority list. Our latest survey highlights that among Indians who prefer real estate as an investment, 55% are between 25-35 years and 68% of these youngsters are end-users. Physical assets deliver the highest sense of security, especially during exigencies such as the current one or when stock markets plummet to new lows and financial markets witness turmoil. In commercial real estate, co-working will see the fastest revival. The pandemic pressures will eventually ease out many businesses that will look to restart in flexible workspaces,” he adds.
“Co-working spaces are not only the most cost-effective but also offer flexibility in terms of time period of rental agreements. These can be rented on a monthly, day-to-day or even hourly basis. In such a market environment, caution will be the name of the game and the economy of scale in shared resources becomes important. While India Inc. obviously hopes for things to go back to normal again, there are no precedents to the corona virus situation. The instinct to restart the engine obviously exists, but there is as yet no certainty about the process of doing so. Meanwhile, conventional office space will also pick up with a lower workforce practicing social distancing,” Puri states.
The Indian retail industry has emerged as one of the most dynamic and fast-paced industries due to the entry of several new players. It accounts for over 10 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and around 8 per cent of the employment. India is the world’s fifth-largest global destination in the retail space. However, this sector is likely to be among the worst-hit by the pandemic. The impact on profitability will be higher on this sector given the high fixed cost base in business models. The Indian retail sector, comprising around 7 crore traders, has witnessed a loss of Rs 5.50 lakh crores since March 25 when the lockdown was imposed to contain the corona virus infection and at least 20 per cent of Indian retailers are likely to wind up their businesses in the next few months, traders’ body CAIT recently stated.
Consumer durables and IT product stores will also be hit hard, especially from the loss of sale of seasonal categories linked to summer such as air-conditioners and coolers. Secondly, there would be a supply chain bottlenecks that manufacturers would face because of disruption from Chinese vendors. And last but not least is the shopper behaviour of postponing high-ticket purchases in a period of uncertainty and gloom. For apparel and other lifestyle stores, the biggest challenge is going to be excess stocks. The existing stocks from the previous season plus the summer lines would put tremendous pressure on these businesses.
End-of-season sales and discounts are likely to have a negligible impact due to the current sentiment. If online sales of nonessentials are permitted in April 2020, retail giants such as Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail and TCNS may be able to liquidate their inventory and salvage realisations and footfall loss partly. The disruption is likely to be wide and deep. Consumer demand, which was already decreasing due to the slowdown, has declined further. Shutting down of malls and shops has resulted in considerable job loss amid the lockdown. The effect of this is likely to remain in the sector beyond the lockdown as well.
To quote Yogesh Magar, Director, Magarpatta Clubs & Resorts (P) Ltd. and Magarpatta Retails which owns Seasons Mall in Pune, “The situation is tough and does not look like it will normalise within three months. In the mall we have offered up to 70 per cent discounts to the tenants who are operational, such as groceries, etc. while the rents are completely neutralised for the shops that are shut. As of now, there is no cash flow situation as we are a debt-free company. However, we may have a cash flow problem if things do not get closer to normal in a couple of months from now. For our hotel business and corporate caterings, the biggest challenge we are facing is that of labour. Migrant labour has already left Pune and those who are still here are living in anxiety, thus leading to a drastic fall in productivity. Even if the government opens up the lockdown completely, I have my doubts whether the migrant labourers will come back to Pune.”
The telecom industry in India is the second-largest in the world with a subscriber base of over 1.2 billion. Growth over the last few years has primarily been driven by affordable tariffs, wider availability, roll-out of mobile number portability (MNP), expanding 3G and 4G coverage and evolving consumption patterns of subscribers. Even though the sector has been grappling with huge debts and massive regulatory headwinds for the past few years, it has received investments to the tune of Rs 1.42 lakh crores in the last six months, most recently from Mark Zuckerberg-backed Facebook, which took 9.9 per cent stake in Reliance’s Jio platforms for Rs 43,574 crores.
All the four mobile operators have received some form of funding, which indicates that investors continue to bet on the once poster boy of economic reforms. Although the current data pricing is still low, tariffs will only go up from here on. The telecom regulator is discussing the possibility of introducing a floor price. The financial stress on the telecom companies will ensure there are no tariff wars. Higher tariffs mean better revenue for the operators. The impact of the ongoing pandemic will be mixed for the telecom sector.
Telecom operators like Airtel are likely to witness some challenges in subscriber (sub) addition and ARPU growth, given the lockdown and extension of validity. However, higher data usage in the interim will offset ARPU challenges. Indeed, the telecom sector’s troubles with respect to debt, liabilities, high levies and taxes are still not over, but the first five months of 2020 have given a glimmer of hope to the industry that investors are betting big on the consumer technology story and are far from washing their hands off the sector.
The message seems clear – despite liabilities, investors are still in it for better or for worse, and this bodes well for the outlook of this sector in the foreseeable future.
Clearly all sectors have been impacted to some extent or the other by the virus-triggered crisis. Investors will really have to be careful in choosing a sector to go overweight on. It is the choice that will define the returns in time to come. Sectoral analysis is important for company analysis as it provides a framework for understanding a firm. Understanding a company’s business environment can provide insights about the company’s potential growth, competition as well as risks.
Sectoral conditions provide important information about whether a firm will be able to meet its obligations during the crisis period. While growth industries and sectors are more desirable, in the current crisis situation where the so-called growth sectors are expected to deliver flat to negative growth, the defensive sectors do look relatively attractive. Investors can construct a tactical portfolio keeping the current situation in mind, where the defensives are adequately represented in the portfolio.