Indian firms set to report rising profits

Indian firms set to report rising profits

Mumbai: Indian firms are expected to announce a sharp rise in profits when the quarterly reporting season kicks off this week, aided by improving business and a low base from the depths of the financial crisis.

The 30 companies that make up Mumbai’s benchmark Sensex index are forecast to announce a year-on-year increase in net profit of between 15 and 20 % for the quarter ending December, analysts told AFP.

“We have definitely turned the corner. Earnings will be robust, aided by the low base effect of the December 2008 quarter," said Hitesh Agrawal, head of research at Mumbai’s Angel Broking.

India’s economy grew by a faster-than-expected 7.9% in the three months to September, picking up pace from the previous quarter when it expanded by 6.1%.

“Demand across sectors is picking up and business confidence is high. The economy has been boosted by foreign capital inflows and government stimulus packages," said Jigar Shah, senior vice president of Kim Eng Securities India.

Infosys Technologies, the Bangalore-based pioneer of India’s flagship software sector, announces its profits Tuesday, the first index heavyweight to report earnings.

TCS, the largest software exporter, announces its earnings on 15 January and rival Bangalore-based Wipro on 20 January.

India’s largest oil exploration firm Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) takes its turn on 21 January and the country’s largest passenger car maker Maruti Suzuki India will be centre stage on 23 January.

The improved business sentiment in India is reflected in the Mumbai stock exchange which vaulted by 80% over 2009 -- its biggest annual gain in 18 years -- after it had declined 52% in full-year 2008.

Such has been the force of the revival that India’s government and central bank now face a tricky balancing act in fighting inflation and keeping economic recovery on track.

Analysts say that any monetary policy action in coming months is likely to be mild to avoid snuffing out the recovery.

“The RBI could make a ‘calibrated exit´ from the current overtly accommodative monetary policy," Edelweiss Securities analyst Siddharth Sanyal said in a latest report to clients.

A hike in rates or the cash reserve ratio -- the amount which commercial banks have to keep aside as deposit -- would take place during the first quarter of calendar year 2010, the Edelweiss report said.

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee in December said he expected India to grow between 7.5-8% for the year to March 2010.

Shah and Agrawal said the recovery would mean Indian companies had to cope with rising input costs from metals, commodities, fuel prices and financing -- if the expected tightening of monetary policy materialises.

“Companies have to get proactive as input costs will start to rise," Agrawal told AFP, forecasting Sensex companies to show a 20-percent profit growth in the three months to December.

India was better insulated from the direct impact of the global turmoil that hit growth in 2008 and early 2009 due to its strong local demand base.

Sectors such as automobiles, steel, cement and infrastructure could report the strongest results thanks to robust domestic demand, analysts say.

The auto sector has been one of the most robust, showing record sales and export growth last year. Its growth has been fuelled by several new car launches and cheap finance.

Japanese-controlled Maruti Suzuki India, South Korea’s Hyundai Motor and India’s Tata Motors have all announced higher sales of cars and sports utility vehicles last year, pointing to renewed buoyancy in the Indian economy.

Car sales in December leapt 40% from 2008 levels, according to industry data.