GDPR Notice

GDPR Notice:
Please note that Google, Blogger, Adsense and other Google services may be using cookies and doing whatever they do. Please take notice that by using this blog you give your consent to those activities.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Time Travel effect of Debt

Generally in Time Travel movies the actors go back in time to change some minor thing to alter the future dramatically. Debt does this in reverse.

Debt pulls value from future and alters the present in such a manner that more value is created in the future than estimated.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

One problem with Indian capital risk return matrix

One problem with Indian corporate and their regulation can be summed up in the chart below.

Ideally a simplistic capital risk return matrix looks like this (click picture for larger version). In the best of places it comes close to this. Note that this is a simplistic depiction.
Ideal Capital Risk-return matrix

In India, it looks like this:
Indian Capital Risk return matrix
This is law enforcement issue as well as information issue. There is lack of regulation on conflict of interest between promoters and investors (small and big), there are many issues related to corporate governance. There is paucity of information to ratings agencies and these days the rating rigour is under a cloud with intense competition.

The chart also tells us why India does not have a deep bond market. Since my days in CRISIL, we have been harping on the improving the depth of bond markets. But so long as the risk-return profile continues there are no incentives for it.

The dispute resolution mechanism is abysmal. It is particularly unwieldy, long winding, costly and infructuous in the end. This has hurt investment in the country. Once this is fixed India will have unprecedented growth in equity and bond investments.

Monday, February 18, 2019

How Low interest rate can be bad for small business - 2

In a 2012 post with same title, How Low interest rate can be bad for small business, I had explained mechanics of how small businesses are denied capital BECAUSE of lower interest rates. This was summarized from my book Subverting Capitalism and Democracy. Over the years few readers have asked for further explanation. So here goes.

Demand for projects
Let us look at the following schematic.
Capital Quantum and return
The diagram shows the amount of capital demanded and its possible rate of return. The distribution is made from capital requirements of various businesses of various sizes. The financed part is the blue rectangle. The width of this rectangle and its location is determined by various factors.

Now our experience tells us following details - (1) smaller businesses have higher risk profile whereas larger businesses have lower risk profiles; (2) smaller businesses have smaller quantum requirement whereas larger businesses have diverse capital needs; (3) as a corollary projects with large quantum of capital requirement and low return are dominated by large corporations.

Therefore, let me quote what I said earlier:
How low interest rate leads to mal-investment
A bank takes risk by investing in a venture. Interest rate is also a reward bankers get, for taking the risk. Ideally, even in lower interest rate scenario, those projects with best risk-return trade-off should get financed.

However, in reality, lower yielding large borrowings backed by reputed corporates get access to financing more easily than new ventures. This means, irrational mega-projects or mal-investments of large corporates get financed at the cost of genuine investments of new ventures.

Typically, such irrational mega-projects consume a lot of credit requiring load syndication. This has twin benefits for bankers. First, there is a higher degree of comfort in being with the herd. Secondly, bankers do not have to go through credit appraisal of many small entities of questionable risk profile. This makes them assign a lower risk to these projects than appropriate. Intelligent investors will find that this contradicts with the "diversification as risk management" strategy. But being with herd has a stronger lure and is treated as risk mitigation (though wrongly).

Further, at lower interest rates, debt starts being used as an instrument to amplify equity returns

Thus the second blow to new ventures comes from crowding out. It implies that even in a low interest rate environment, small businesses and entrepreneurs may not have access to lower cost capital. Therefore this impacts the long-term strength of the economy.

The Mechanics
When interest rates are low this rectangle starts more towards the left. This is space where there are weak business models, those that are viable only in low return scenario. This space has irrational mega-projects of large businesses like debt financed share-buybacks etc. With the superior credit rating of large businesses these projects crowd out the smaller businesses.

As the interest rates rise the rectangle is pushed rightwards. In high interest rate scenario, the irrational mega-projects seem less promising. Hence, contrary to popular belief, it may be easier for smaller businesses to compete in high interest rate scenarios. 

Are few projects with consortium lending more risky?
The answer to this question is easy if you understand it from banks perspective and not from bank manager's perspective. From bank's perspective more the number of projects it finances the more the diversification possibility and thus lesser the risks.

But this has higher risks for bank manager who has to stick out her neck for each of these projects. From bank manager's perspective fewer the projects and more the number of borrowers approving the project as credit-worthy lesser the risk for bank managers. But this means more the risk for the bank (concentration risks).

In sum
The cumulative effect of all these is that at low interest rate the credit is denied to small borrowers at the expense of irrational mega-projects of large businesses. When the interest rates rise, as they always do, these projects turn bad and become a drag on the economy.

Friday, February 08, 2019

About Australian banks and Australian property

John Hempton highlights something interesting today about resignation of top Australian Bankers.

Back in 2016 John Hempton and Jonathan Tepper of Variant Perception conducted research by personally meeting with the real estate brokers and seeking apartments to buy. In a sort of reply of scenes from the Big Short, they found banks wanting on the paperwork, mortgages being sold to those with questionable ability to repay. You can read some media reports about this here, here or here.

Today John Hempton wrote about recent firing in light of the final report of the Royal commission into banking and detailed allegation therein. John Hempton says:
Anyway come the Royal Commission Dr Henry talked to the Commission in a frank and open way about the problems. It was Dr Henry being Dr Henry: honest, competent, and realistic.

It came off badly. I remember the grilling he got from the Royal Commission and understood what was happening. It was clear that what was required from the Royal Commission was kowtow, rather than honest frank discussion. Dr Henry looked bad even though he was probably the single most reliable and honest witness the banks put up.

The Royal Commissioner made specific findings against Dr Henry and Andrew Thornburn. This surprised me because on my research National Australia Bank was the best of a bad lot, both in absolute level of moral decay and in direction.

The report quotes Dr. Henry and Thorburn in many places. The transcripts do not show Dr. Henry in good light. The transcript indicates that possibly Dr. Henry took this too lightly. He did not do any homework. A deposition once you are sworn in is a serious business. I do not sympathize with Dr. Henry.

The transcript of some others reveal that they kept repeating from jargon books and PR manuals. To that extent whatever their deep rooted ills did not come out. 

Implication for property market
There are two fundamental issues with the housing and mortgage markets. 

First the search for yields and the quantum of capital available makes real estate the best asset class to absorb the QE effects. It is doing precisely that. So some of the price appreciation is attributable to this. The macro policies have created this asset builders boom - create an asset and sell it to REIT type holders at ludicrous cap rates without any regard to final consumer.

Second, the problems in mortgages are of banks creation. As banks search for return in a tight market they have crossed the limits. The crisis in Australian banks is part of continuum that includes Wells Fargo opening accounts for customers to US sub-prime crisis. It may not be as acute but it is part of the same class.

Learnings for Commissions in India
The commission for banking has its website and documentation spot on. I urge Indian commissions to maintain such kind of records open for public scrutiny.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Questionable Promoters' action

Deepak Shenoy from CapitalMind has an excellent blog and website. His post today titled Jubilant Backtracks From Paying Promoters For Brand They Don’t Really Use deals with some questionable actions by the Bhartias. Below are edited quotes from that article.

Jubilant Foodworks and Jubilant Life Sciences in a board meeting, they proposed a 0.25% royalty on consolidated sales for using the “Jubilant” name , to each of the companies.
To give you a perspective Jubilant Foodworks is franchisee operator for Dominos and Dunkin Donuts both well known US brands. Jubilant Life Sciences is a pharma company in generics and contract manufacturing.

The article further details various business groups doing this activity in some form or other. The two prominent ones that are missed in that discussion are the Aditya Birla Group and Kingfisher. Here are some from the article:
  • Royalty from listed companies - 
    • Colgate from Colgate India (4.8% of turnover) 
    • Unilever from HUL (3.15%), 
    • Dominoes from Jubilant Foodworks (~3%), 
    • JSW Steel to Wife of Promoter (INR 1.25 billion)
    • Tata from Tata companies using Tata name (0.25%) 
    • Tata from Tata companies not using Tata names (0.15%)
    • Muthoot group
    • Shriram group
    • Wadias (intending) from Britannia Industries
  • Loans to promoters later written off
    • Network 18
    • DHFL (Alleged)
  • Merging promoter companies with listed ones at unclear valuations
    • Satyam
    • JPAssociates
    • LEEL
    • Eon electric (attempted)
    • Vedanta
  • Financing Promoter lifestyle
    • Raymond - maintaining Raymond House

I do not like these kinds of "promoter earnings". You are either a promoter or an employee - don't be both. These should come within the purview of related party transactions irrespective of their materiality.