Shares of India’s major private sector lender Axis Bank rose to 52-week highs after the bank appointed HDFC Life’s Amitabh Chaudhry as its CEO and MD after Shikha Sharma retires from the post. Notably, Axis Bank shares hit a 52-week high of Rs 677.95 on NSE this afternoon. Analysts and experts point out that cultural transformation was much needed in the bank, and filling in the position of Axis bank CEO internally could not have fulfilled that. Therefore, Amitabh Chaudhry’s appointment, ie, a credible external candidate strengthens case for a re-rating, says global firm Macquarie. Macquarie has an outperform rating on the shares with a target price of Rs 615.
Notably, Amitabh Chaudhry has been appointed as Axis Bank’s Managing Director & CEO from January 1, 2019 for a period of three years. An IIM Ahmedabad alumnus, Amitabh Chaudhry has been the Managing Director and the CEO of HDFC Standard Life since January 18, 2010. Earlier in July 2017, Shikha Sharma was appointed as Axis Bank’s CEO and MD for a fourth term. However, after the Reserve Bank of India’s intervention over her appointment, she requested a shorter stint of seven months. Shikha Sharma will retire on December 31, 2018.
According to Saurabh Mukherjea, Founder and CIO, Marcellus Investment Managers, Amitabh Chaudhry’s appointment indicates that personal uncertainty has been resolved in Axis Bank. However, the bank may still see strategy uncertainty given Amitabh Chaudhry’s strong expertise in insurance space, Mukherjea told CNBC TV18 in an interaction.
Axis Bank shares have returned more than 36% in the last one year and risen nearly 20% since the beginning of this year. Brokerage firm Motilal Oswal has a buy rating on the shares with a target price of 750. The target price implies an upside of more than 11% from the current market prices. Amitabh Chaudhry has also worked at IT giant Infosys BPO Limited for three-and-a-half years between 2006 and 2009 as Chief Operating Officer. He rose to the position after he joined the company as the Head of Transition in 2003.