Net profits for a sample of 763 companies (excluding banks and financial institutions) were up 57.35% y-o-y compared to the 19.59% rise seen in the third quarter of FY14. However, the bottomline was boosted by exceptional items that led to a sharp rise in net profit at Tata Steel and Adani Power, excluding which net profit growth moderates to 18.37% still the best in the last four quarters.
Tata Steel's net profit in the March quarter stood at R1,036 crore compared to a loss of Rs 6,529 crore in Q4FY13 on account of exceptional charges related to impairment recognition on some of its steel assets in Europe and Thailand. Similarly, Adani Power, which recognised R1,842 crore of revenues in view of the CERC order granting compensatory tariff, also reported a profit of R2,850 crore compared to a loss of R426.57 crore in the corresponding quarter of the previous fiscal.
It took Reliance Retail seven years of losses and over $1 bn in investments to find a formula that works for India.
The bottomlines seem to have received support from lower tax expenses reported by corporate India, which fell 10.60% on account of several companies writing back additional taxes they paid earlier. Also, interest costs as a percentage of operating profit at 18.42% stood at the lowest in last six quarters while raw material costs as a percentage of net sales were the lowest in last three quarters at 46.75%.
However, earnings still continue to be driven by export-oriented companies with four IT majors TCS, Infosys, Wipro and HCL Technologies together reporting 47.7% growth in net profit. Excluding them, along with Tata Steel and Adani Power from the sample, net profit growth declines to 11.01%.
Tech Mahindra, just like its software counterparts, delivered a strong performance with revenues rising 34.3% y-o-y and Ebitda increasing 39% on the back of 70-bps y-o-y improvement in operating margin.
Sales growth, which recovered to 15.31% from 12-13% in the preceding quarter, remained subdued due to the overall slowdown.
With retail inflation steadily remaining over 8%, urban consumers continued to remain tight-fisted. While Asian Paints outperformed expectations with domestic volume growth of around 15% led by higher growth in tier-2 and tier- 3 cities, Nestle India registered subdued revenue growth, with domestic sales growing at 3.4%, the lowest in a decade. Similarly, though Bajaj Auto benefited from rupee depreciation, total volume declined 4.6% y-o-y with domestic bike sales falling 11% y-o-y, with revenue growth of 4%.
The fall in input costs remains the only saving grace for the majority of firms. Emami benefited from lower raw material prices that resulted in gross margins improving by 790 bps y-o-y even as its domestic volumes declined 10% due to seasonality and de-stocking of distributor inventory. ABB did well on containing costs with operating margin improving 150 bps y-o-y to 6.94%, the highest in the last 16 quarters, but revenues fell 7.2% on account of delayed offtake by customers.
Though some large infrastructure-related players showed strong earnings, smaller infra firms continued to struggle due to falling revenues and rising interest costs. Tata Steel reported robust 14.7% y-o-y growth in consolidated operating profit to R5,011 crore led by its domestic operations, which recorded the highest-
ever quarterly Ebitda, up 24.4% y-o-y.
On the other hand, Gammon India's revenues fell 30% y-o-y while interest costs rose 21.66%, widening its net loss to R173.6 crore from R125 crore in the March quarter. NCC too reported an 11% fall in operating profit while interest costs rose 21.1% y-o-y. Though Adani Power reported a near six-fold jump in Ebitda, finance costs rose 22% y-o-y to R1,165 crore while total gross debt stood at R39,768 crore, up 5.73% y-o-y.
Tech Mahindra's management has given guidance for a positive demand outlook with no dramatic changes in client budgets, but the ABB management highlighted that while some uptick was seen in the metals industry, overall industry scenario remains sluggish.
The poor industrial growth numbers IIP growth for fy14 was -0.1%, first-ever contraction since 1981 suggest earnings growth will pick up meaningfully only gradually.