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Q4 earnings: India Inc off to a slow start, sales growth subdued, excluding Reliance Industries

The effects of demonetisation appear to have lingered on in the three months to March though some businesses did rebound towards the end of the quarter. (Source: Reuters)

Earnings season hasn’t really thrown up any big surprises so far and neither are there any clear indications, there’s turnaround coming soon. The effects of demonetisation appear to have lingered on in the three months to March though some businesses did rebound towards the end of the quarter. If the topline growth for a sample of 115 companies (excluding banks and financials) is showing a robust 17.5 year-on-year growth it is thanks to RIL’s 42% y-o-y growth; excluding RIL, the growth collapses to 7% y-o-y. Not surprisingly, the operating profit margin (OPM) for the sample has fallen 70 basis points, indicating pressure from rising cost of raw materials like fuel and steel. Lower interest costs and taxes have helped boost profits which have grown at half the pace of sales.

Maruti Suzuki’s numbers were a shade below expectations while Reliance Industries’ profits came in slightly above estimates on the back of strong refining margins, lower taxes and lower interest costs. Hindustan Zinc reported its best ever quarterly earnings. However, Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys posted very ordinary results, and TVS Motors and Rallis fared poorly. At JSW Energy, lower power generation and subdued merchant realisations resulted in a near 92% drop in consolidated net profits.

Commentary has been subdued with guidance from both Wipro and Infosys very tempered. The management at TVS Motors said the markets are improving slightly, though they don’t believe there has been a significant improvement. It is keeping its fingers crossed that the monsoon this year is better than the last year. Maruti Suzuki, however, sounded confident about demand for its models and expects a 10-12% growth in volumes for FY18.

Cement major Ultratech’s results indicate the core of industry isn’t out of the woods. With volumes staying flat, the topline growth was muted while rising cost pressures, led by rising fuel and freight costs, saw the ebitda drop 7% y-o-y. The company attributed weak volume trends to subdued demand from the housing market, especially in the northern markets. With RERA being implemented, builders may hold back projects for a while and that could keep demand muted.

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At Rallis, standalone agri-chemicals revenues were flat y-o-y, with the weak north-east rabi monsoon, particularly in the South, hurting demand. Consequently, although the gross margins expanded 260 basis points y-o-y, both operating margins and profits were flat y-o-y.

Another company which will be looking for a good monsoon is Mahindra and Mahindra Financial Services. The lender’s numbers, which reflect the rural environment, were weaker than expected; while the gross non-performing loans fell to 9% of advances from 11%, despite demonetisation collections were better while slippages fell.
Maruti’s results showed strong brands can command market share.

While loan growth during the quarter has been very slow, with home loan rates having dropped by 80 bps over the past six months to levels of 8.5%, demand for housing could pick up in the next couple of quarters.