Mumbai: India’s financial stocks and funds are fast emerging as the preferred choice of asset managers and investors who believe rising income in the world’s second fastest growing major economy will boost demand for financial products.
Diversified equity funds have nearly tripled allocation to finance stocks in the past year to about Rs247 billion, making it their second favourite sector after engineering, data fund tracking firm ICRA showed.
ICICI Bank Ltd and State Bank of India were among the top-three preferred stocks by value in the Rs5.5 billion Indian mutual fund industry at end-January. Banking funds have risen 56.1% on an average in one-year period ending 13 February, comprehensively outperforming the 20.3% gain in India’s benchmark index and have seen assets under management surge more than five times.
“The sector as a whole is beginning to look interesting given the linkage it has with the overall growth plans of the country,” T. P. Raman, managing director of Sundaram BNP Paribas Asset Management, said.
Financial Services consulting firm Celent expects that 8% plus economic growth in India will turn 42 million households into consumers of wealth management products in the next five years, as compared to around 13 million households now.
In a report released in December, Celent said India’s wealth management space would see assets quadruple to about $1 trillion by 2012, channelling huge amount of money into financial sector and spurting demand for products giving access to the segment. Two exchange traded funds launched in the last five months track the banking index, while three more are awaiting the regulator’s nod to launch finance sector funds.
Raman, whose proposed fund is awaiting approval, said earnings of India’s financial firms were likely to remain robust as interest rates were stabilising and they remained untouched by the crisis in global financial firms.
“They have got their acts together very well and they don’t have this kind of subprime woes and other things that international banks have,” he said.
India’s five-year bull run, that helped the BSE Bankex rise 47.7% annually in the last five years beating the benchmark index’s 39% gain, paused last month, making valuations softer and attracting more investments. Diversified equity funds used a 6.2% slide in the banking index in January to raise exposure to the financial sector to 16.13% of their equity assets as compared to 13.59% a month earlier, data from ICRA showed.
R. Rajagopal, chief investment officer of DBS Cholamandalam Asset Management, said most of the state-run banks were available at price to adjusted book value of 1-2 and private bank at 2-4, making them more attractive than the BSE index’s 5.8.
“We will remain overweight,” he said, adding there were signs of improvement in credit growth and moderating interest rates would further assist it, boosting outlook for banking stocks.