Archive for the ‘Company analysis’ Category.


You may have heard about the fiscal cliff drama in the US. We have some companies which have already gone through their own version of the cliff

Look at some of the price action below

deccan1 zylog
As you can see in  these two cases, the price has dropped by 75% or more in the last 6-12 months. I normally ignore fluctuations in stock price, as most of it is noise. However a drop of 75% or higher is a signal that something fundamental is happening.

Why analyze failure

The question is why bother to analyze such cases? I subscribe to the philosophy that if one wants to be a good investor, then one should study and learn from exceptional success and failure. One should not only analyze companies which have done well in the past (such as Hawkins or titan), but also look at the companies which have destroyed a large amount of shareholder wealth.

The best reason for analyzing failure is illustrated by the phrase – invert, always invert, by Carl Jacobi who said that one of best ways to solve some problems is by inverting them.

As Charlie munger has said, if you want to succeed, learn to avoid failure. If one can identify why the above companies dropped off a cliff, one can use that learning to avoid such cases in the future.

Is it all fraud?

It is easy to ascribe the drop to some kind of fraud (as it happened in the case of satyam) and avoid any further analysis. I think that is intellectual laziness and will not help us learn anything.

I would like to put the above examples in two buckets

  1. Attractive core business, with management diversifying into poor businesses with heavy leverage
  2. Mediocre core business with poor cash flow resulting in high debt

Poor diversification and failure of corporate governance

You can read the story of Deccan chronicle here. In a nutshell, the company had a very profitable core business – newspapers and diversified into loss making ventures such as Deccan charges, retail ventures etc.

Over time these cash guzzling businesses consumed the entire cash flow of the core business and more , resulting in high levels of debt on the company. The management on its part, hid the problems and the extent of the debt from the shareholders. When the same was disclosed, the stock price collapsed.

It was not easy to see this problem coming (atleast to me) as the annual report as late as 2011 did not display any kind of serious problem. We had a failure of corporate governance and lack of appropriate disclosures (fraud or not, I am not sure).

Weak core business

The case of zylog systems is different. If you read the past annual reports, you will be able to see that the company has not been generating adequate free cash flows and has funded the high levels of growth via debt. The ‘cliff’ seems to have happened due to the following events

  1. poor operating performance resulting in cash flow problems (in addition to commoditization of the core business)
  2. Cash flow problems resulting in higher debt which was taken to fund the growth
  3. higher debt resulting in promoter pledges to get the funds
  4. Point a. causing the stock to drop, resulting in margin calls and forced sale of the pledged stock.
  5. The forced sale, causing further steep drop in the stock price

Difference between the cases

Although the end result is the same (as of today), the underlying cause is different. In addition, it is easier to identify companies with a weak core business (and high debt and promoter pledge).

In comparison, companies like Deccan chronicle had a healthy amount of cash on the balance sheet until it suddenly became known that there were a lot of hidden issues (and debt). Such companies are more difficult to identify and one is likely to only get some faint signals that there is something out of place.


So what can one learn from the above cases ? Let me share mine

  1. Follow the cash flow, ahead of the profits. If the company is showing a high level of growth, which is increasingly funded by debt, one should get cautious. It is a time bomb, which can blow up if things don’t play out as planned.
  2. Poor Capital allocation – if the management is investing in all kinds of ventures with a history of poor profitability, then one should avoid such companies . These kinds of decisions eventually catch-up with the company.

Disclosure : Have invested a tiny amount  zylog from a tracking perspective.  Please make your own decisions and read the disclaimer


I have often ‘preached’ on this blog – when facts change, one should consider them rationally and change one’s mind if required. Well, as always, it is easier to preach than practice.

Let me tell you a recent story.

I spoke very briefly about a company in this post. The company was Ricoh (I) ltd. You can download my detailed analysis of the company here.

So after doing this detailed analysis in late 2010, I built a decent position at an average price of around 35-37 Rs/ share.  The company continued to perform poorly (as I expected) as it had done an acquisition and was also investing heavily into sales and marketing.

The topline grew by 40%, but the net profit dropped from around 15 Crs to a loss of 5 Crs in 2012. The price continued to stagnate in the range of 37-40 rs during this period.

I have been consolidating my portfolio and weeding out the weaker ideas for the last 2 years. As a result, I exited Ricoh in the feb-march time frame. I think it was a rational thing to do based on the information I had as of March 2012

The change

The company declared the Q4 2011 results in April 2012 and reported the following

Q4 sales growth, YOY – 60%

Net profit growth, YOY – 73% (12 Crs profit in Q4 versus 11 crs loss in Q3)

The price action can be seen below

As you can see, the market did not react immediately to the turnaround in the performance and there was a 1-2 month window for an intelligent investor to digest this information and purchase the stock.

So that proves my level of intelligence 🙂

The explanation

It is easy to call the decision, stupid and move on. The true reason for my failure to capitalize on the change in performance (which I was expecting) is due to a behavioral bias.

The bias is called the commitment and consistency bias. In simple words, once one makes a decision, the tendency is to ‘commit’ to the decision and be consistent with it. This results in ignoring positive information as in the above case or holding on to a losing position (inspite of consistent negative news) and hoping that the price will rise in the future.

Not a one off case

The above incident was not a one off in my case. I have made the same mistake twice earlier – in the case of VST industries and Mayur uniquoters. I sold the stocks and then saw the fundamental performance improve, after the sale. Instead to getting back into the stocks (as I already knew about the companies), I just ignored them and lost out on pretty decent gains.

I have become alert to this bias now and am paying more attention to sudden turning points in the performance of the stocks I hold or have held in the past.

It is better to look foolish (in my own eyes), than miss out on a good idea

Added note – The above example does not mean Ricoh India is a good buy and should be purchased at the current price. It is quite possible that the performance may regress and so would the stock price. The example is only for illustrative purposes.

Stocks discussed in this post are for educational purpose only and not recommendations to buy or sell. Please read disclaimer towards the end of blog.


The 22% drop in the rupee against the dollar is worrying to say the least. There are several ramifications for the Indian economy, if the slide continues.  Anything which impacts the economy, is bound to impact the stock market as a whole.

One can find a dizzying array of macro-economic analysis on the impact of the rupee depreciation and as many forecasts of the future levels of the exchange rate.

I personally consider macro-economic analysis too complex due to the huge number of variables involved in it and hence any analysis from my end is as good as yours. Instead I have been trying to evaluate how the rupee depreciation will impact my portfolio on an individual stocks basis.

I think there are three factors through which the fundamental performance  can get impacted

Factor 1: Level of Raw material / capital good import

What is the level of raw material / capital goods imported by the company?. If the company imports a substantial amount of raw material/ capital goods then it is likely to get impacted severely, if it cannot pass on the costs to the end user without impacting the volumes

Factor 2: Level of export

What is the level of export sales in the revenue of the company. A high level of export will benefit the company, if the company can maintain or improve its margins as a result of the rupee depreciation.

Factor 3: Level of foreign debt

What percentage of debt is ECB (external commercial borrowings) or FCCB? There are two key points to note here – What is the maturity schedule (payment timing) and the level of debt in comparison to equity / market cap?

The above three factors cannot be looked in isolation and have to be combined to come up with a final impact on your company.

For example – A company may have a high level of export and imports, with the exports exceeding the imports (due to value addition on the raw material). In such a case, the company will have a net benefit.

A company using domestic inputs and exporting most of its output will gain the most from the depreciation (IT and pharma). Conversely a company using imported inputs and selling most of it domestically will be hurt badly (Oil companies).  Finally a company with high level of imported inputs, selling domestically and also carrying a high level of foreign currency debt is toast (to put it politely)

If level of export >= import + debt payment (ok)

If export < import + debt payment (trouble)

Let me give you two examples of the analysis I am currently doing on my portfolio stocks

Balmer lawrie

The company has zero debt and actually has excess cash of around 200 Crs. So we do not have forex related debt risk with the company

The company imported around 4% of its inputs and earned roughly the same amount in exports.  So at first glance, the company has close to zero risk from higher raw material costs due to currency depreciation. However the grease and lubes division uses various base oils which are petroleum based and will be impacted by the price of crude oil. As the division does not have much of a pricing power, the net margins of this division are likely to be impacted.

The other divisions such as logisitics and tours & travel are unlikely to be impacted directly due to the currency depreciation.  However the overall business will definitely be impacted by the overall slowdown in the economy.

Lakshmi machine works

The company has close to 700 Crs+ excess cash on the books and hence the risk of forex debt does not exist.

The company exported around 250 Crs of machinery and components in 2011 and imported roughly the same amount in terms of raw materials and spare parts. As a result , the company is unlikely to get directly impacted by the rupee depreciation. On the contrary, the company could benefit to a certain extent as the competitive pressure from imported machinery will reduce.

Finally I think that the textile industry level issues will have a bigger impact on the company performance than the currency depreciation.

Not a quantitative analysis

The above analysis is not a precise numerical analysis and I would be suspect of any such analysis, as there are too many variables which impact the performance of a company. The best one can do in the current circumstances is to figure out if your portfolio company falls in the high risk or low risk bucket (due to the currency depreciation).

If the risks are too high (even if not quantifiable), then one should consider reducing the position size even if it results in a loss

Stocks discussed in this post are for educational purpose only and not recommendations to buy or sell. Please read disclaimer before making any decision