New Delhi: Ambanis’ fight, Lehman collapse, Mumbai terror strikes, Satyam-like corporate governance fiasco, sky-rocketing inflation, massive layoffs, ballooning interest rates, acute credit crunch and pitfalls of coalition government -- having seen all these unfold during 2008, investors do not want any repeat this year.
Even if some of these cannot be wished away, market experts believe that investors would certainly feel relieved not to see again these and many other dreadful events that made 2008 certainly a bad year.
While a reunion between warring Ambani brothers Mukesh and Anil tops the wish list of lakhs of investors, who had to suffer heavily in 2008 because of the fight on issues ranging from MTN controversy to gas dispute, there are many other events they want to forget as a bad dream. The events include high inflation, surging crude oil prices, corporate governance issues emerging from Satyam’s aborted bid to acquire two firms promoted by its chairman’s family, Mumbai terror strikes and subsequent political tension with Pakistan, Singur controversy, ballooning interest rates that made credit a scarce commodity and huge cost-cutting exercises adopted by the companies.
Besides, there are the global happenings such as worldwide credit crisis, fall of Lehman Brothers and many other global giants, crash in the market, need of bailout packages from the governments, over-dependence on ‘hot money’ or excess-leveraging for loans, and also a Madoff-like scam, which made 2008 an unforgettable year.
“If God is going to ask for a single wish, I think everybody across the world, irrespective of the caste, creed and culture, would wish that 2008 is not to be repeated in their lifespan,” Taurus Mutual Fund Managing Director R.K. Gupta said.
“It was a year of mayhem for the world economy and capital market in particular,” he added.
Gupta listed out the need of a bailout package for any sector, inconsistency in the government and central bank policies, Satyam/Pyramid Saimira like issues, production cuts/plant closures/layoffs, media interference in investment decisions and over-dependence on leveraging as some of the things that investors do not want again in 2009.
KPMG Advisory Services director Jaideep Ghosh named some issues as the high inflation, oil price surge, lack of corporate governance by promoters and boards of directors, such as in the case of Satyam-Maytas fiasco and political tension with neighbouring countries that lead to economic impact also.
According to Ghosh, other issues that investors would not want to be repeated this year would include credit crisis, Lehman-like fall, Singur controversy, market crash and Mumbai attacks.
Brokerage firm SMC Global vice president Rajesh Jain said that his wish list would include stable oil prices, interest rates under control, no layoffs and a stable government.
“With the elections coming in next few months, I do not want a coalition government,” Ashika Stock Brokers’ research head Paras Bothra said.
Other things that investors do not want in 2009 would be inflation hitting double-digit again, credit crunch, collapse of banks, developed economies falling into recession and a broker scam in the country, Bothra added.
Kejriwal Research and Investment Services’ Arun Kejriwal said he does not want commodity prices to rise again in 2009, “because when the bubble bursts, it hurts the most. I want a more or less range-bound price regime as neither a rise is sustainable nor a fall.”
However, one of the most-wished issues, even if it appears utopian, is for Mukesh and Anil Ambani to bury their differences and come together in the new year to create an unmatched business empire.
The year 2008 saw the rivalry between the two reaching new levels with Mukesh-led Reliance Industries allegedly putting a spanner in Anil-led Reliance Communications’ plan to merge with South African telecom major MTN, Anil Ambani filing a Rs10,000 crore defamation suit against Mukesh and court battle over gas dispute between them making no headway.
With their cut-throat rivalry being seen as the biggest roadblock in the growth of the two groups, some market observers believe that probability is almost nil for a truce, others actually see a possibility, but almost all believe that it would be the ultimate gain for the investors if they ever call it quits.
“My wish list for investors’ benefit is topped by a truce between the Ambani brothers. Investors have seen it all and the warring brothers have seen wealth destruction. It is time for them to call a truce,” SMC Global’s Jain said.
Ashika Stock Brokers’ Bothra also agreeing said, “In one word, it would be positive for investors. However, considering the present situation, it does not seem likely.”
Some others see quite a possibility of the two brothers breaking the bread together. “One should not rule out any possibility, especially after the Bajaj brothers having reached a kind of settlement,” Kejriwal noted.
“There is a possibility. Nothing can be ruled out keeping in mind the investors’ expectations,” he said.
However, not all see the possibility of Mukesh and Anil smoking the peace pipe. “The situation is hypothetical and theoretical in nature and can only happen in a fiction movie,” Nexgen Capital’s Equity Head Jagannadham Thunguntla said.
“However, if this happens, both the brothers can concentrate their productive energy together operating with each other. The groups have evolved considerably since the days of demerger (in 2005) and it is much bigger than the size of Reliance during Dhirubhai Ambani (regime). So, if at all this happens, it would be a good thing for the shareholders,” he added.