There are several business models which are seem to be inherently more risky and then there are some businesses which may not be risky to begin with, but changes in industry dynamics can make them risky for some time.
The indian pharma industry seems (atleast to me) to be one such industry. This industry is one of the few industries which is in the process to globalizing. A few years back companies like ranbaxy, Dr reddy’s lab etc got into the mode of releasing generics of blockbuster drugs which were going off patents. I remember distinctly that some of these companies were selling at fairly high PE. The analyst’s could see only a bright future and market was pricing accordingly. To be fair, there were murmurs of litigation risks etc, but somehow that was not visible in the price (with PE of 40 and more).
Later some of these companies had high profile clashes with pharma giants and lost some of the law suits. As a result the stock crashed when the expected payoffs did not materialise. I would look at this strategy of the pharma companies akin to bets in a casino, but where the odds in your favor. What I mean is that the expected payoff is positive in the companies favor, but often some of these bets could fail. So if the market values these companies as if all the bets are going to succeed, then there is a distinct over-valuation. But at the same time, every time a bet fails, if the market prices the company based on the latest failure, then there could be underpricing happening.
The problem (for me only) with the above business model is that I am not able to project the cash flow for such companies as I am not competent to evaluate the odds of success for such bets (investor who can could and should profit from it).
The business risk in the other globalizing star ‘IT services’ seems to be lower as these companies have used mainly labor arbitrage in the initial phases which is a lower risk strategy. However the market recognises that and has bid the stock prices up and so we have a lot of stock related investment risk.
I was have started analysing the textile industry recently. This industry seems to be globalising with the quotas gone. My initial thoughts on the business risk are
- execution risk for some companies. Not all managements have the capability to manage ‘hyper’ (50%+) growth. Look at arvind mills track record in mid to late 90’s. They invested heavily in denim using debt. The denim cycle turned south and this company was left saddled with huge debt
- Commodity nature of the product could result in pricing pressure on an ongoing basis
- Limited leverage with customers – Being a supplier to one of the major retailers will constantly expose these companies to pricing pressure and stiff competiton