Friday, May 4, 2012

freedom of indian economy

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After two tough years, emerging markets are back

For a spectacular corporate leap forward, it would be hard to match the performance of Kimberly-Clark de Mexico. The paper products maker, 46% owned by Dallas-based Kimberly-Clark Corp., jumped from No. 1 in 15 to No. 48 this year on BUSINESS WEEKs annual scoreboard of the top 00 emerging-market companies, ranked by market value. Despite Mexicos recession, its share price zoomed 78%, to $18, reflecting the companys success in gaining market share as well as expected benefits from its planned merger with Scott Paper Co.s Mexican unit.

On the Pacifics other rim, the Philippines is Asias rising economic star. Riding the islands strong economic growth, earnings of utility Manila Electric Co. rose to $168 million in 15, up % over 14, and should rise an additional 18% this year, predicts Nigel Webber, portfolio manager for Crosby Asset Management in Hong Kong. ``Its a good proxy for the Philippines economy, says Cristina Lam, a director of portfolio management at Crosby.

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NEW DYNAMISM. The good times at both companies show how important free-market reforms are to business performance in emerging markets. In the Philippines, the shift to a freer market is generating new dynamism in an economy that was long Asias laggard. And Mexico, by sticking to its reform course through the peso crisis, appears to be growing again.

After two years of hard slogging, many emerging economies are back on track and the numbers measure the progress. For companies in the BUSINESS WEEK ranking compiled by Morgan Stanley Capital International Inc., total market value at the end of May rose to $858 billion. Thats up 16.% from $78 billion 1 months earlier. This year, for the first time, MSCI has provided a broad range of new information for each company including sales, profits, price/earnings ratios, and asset values. Market value is calculated by multiplying the share price times the total number of shares outstanding, including those held by governments.

Again this year, Korean heavyweights dominate the rankings by several basic measures, reflecting the countrys industrial prowess. While utility Korea Electric Power maintained its grip as No.1 in market value, Samsung Electronics led the rankings both in sales, totaling $0.5 billion, and profits, with $. billion. The runner-up in sales was Brazils state-run oil company Petrobras, but the rest of the top five revenue producers were Korean Hyundai Motor, Korea Electric, and Pohang Iron & Steel.

In return on equity, Rothmans of Pall Mall (Malaysia), No. 108, easily swept the field with an astonishing 164%. The highly profitable company paid out a special cash dividend to stockholders from the huge reserves that it had accumulated. Asias semiconductor boom placed three chipmakers in the top five--Taiwan Semiconductor, Samsung Electronics, and Taiwans United Microelectronics--with returns ranging between 4% and 5%.

``SEXY STORIES. Apart from individual companies performances, share prices and market values have been pushed up broadly in recent months in many emerging stock markets, driven by rising confidence among local and foreign investors after two cautious years. Another measure of emerging-market health, the International Finance Corp.s (IFC) stock price index, climbed 10% this year through mid-June. Big gains included 7% for companies in India, % for Taiwan, and 16% for Brazil. Some of the biggest leaps were in the newest market economies 74% in Hungary, for example, and 5% in Poland.

The current upturn may be just the beginning of an emerging-markets rebound that could run well into 17, many analysts say. ``My theory is that the U.S. market is overpriced and very speculative, says Barton M. Biggs, head of global strategy at Morgan Stanley Asset Management Inc. Mutual-fund investors, he says, ``are going to switch at the margin from the U.S., where theyre not making any money, into international in general, but particularly into the area where the really high-growth and sexy stories are, which is the emerging market.

Such a shift by U.S. investors would add impetus to a surge of money from rich developed countries into emerging markets that is already under way. Michael J. Howell, head of global investment at ING Barings, estimates that the influx will total $50 billion this year, second only to the previous $6 billion peak in 1 (chart).

The underlying force driving the emerging-market rallies is not volatile international money flows, but competitive gains from market reforms and corporate restructuring. As a result, says Joyce E. Cornell, lead portfolio manager for Scudder, Stevens & Clark Inc.s Emerging Markets Growth Fund, stocks in many markets are now low-priced compared with their earnings. ``Youve had the deepening of political and economic reforms, and much higher earnings, at the same price, she says.

In Asia, stock prices rose an average 14% in the first 5 1/ months. But theres a wide divergence among countries Korean stocks, for example, were down nearly %. Crosby Assets Webber is decreasing his allocations to Hong Kong, Singapore, and Thailand in favor of ``more emerging Indonesia and the Philippines, which are playing catch-up to the more advanced Tigers. Two of the highest fliers on the scoreboard are Indonesian cigarette makers Gudang Garam, No., up 11%, and H.M. Sampoerna, No.40, up 7%. They are cashing in on rising consumer demand in a country with 10 million people. Stephen Partono, Goldman, Sachs & Co.s Singapore-based analyst for Indonesia, expects phone company P.T. Telekom, No. 7, to get an earnings boost from an expected 5% increase in domestic lines this year. He warns, though, that the uncertainty about the eventual succession to President Haji Mohamed Suharto poses ``significant political risk.

Koreas companies have sagged since April because of investor worries that the weakening Japanese yen will hurt Koreas crucial exports and balloon its trade deficit. Among likely losers are shipbuilders such as Samsung Heavy Industries. And the Bank of Korea, by pushing the won down to help exports, could stoke inflation. But a boom in government construction is benefiting companies such as Hyundai Engineering & Construction Co., which ranks No. 114.

In Mexico, among the best-positioned businesses are conglomerates with subsidiaries that export and other units that supply the reviving domestic market. One such is Grupo Carso, No.0, which owns major mines and a big cigarette business.

Brazils state-controlled phone companies, including high-flying Telebras, No., and Telesp, No.11, are getting a lift from last falls rate hikes, which are paving the way toward eventual privatization. The increases and the prospect of huge growth in Brazils underserved telecommunications market have sharply boosted revenues and share prices.

NEW FRONTIERS. Some of the most dynamic emerging-market companies are in countries that have just joined the market-economy club. In Poland, for example, earnings gains range as high as 100%. Some of the hottest growth sectors are food, pharmaceuticals, construction, and banking.

On June 0, the IFC announced that it is adding Russia, Morocco, and Egypt to the 7 markets it tracks with daily indexes, and 14 ``frontier markets--from Lithuania to Botswana to Jamaica--that it will follow with monthly indexes, for a total of 44. ``All of a sudden, theres a lot of activity in areas where there hadnt been much, says Robert Shakotko, the IFCs database manager. Asian and Latin American companies may soon find themselves jostling for position on the scoreboard with upstart companies in these fledgling markets.

By John Pearson in New York, with bureau reports

A free market is exactly what it says it is. It is a market in which you buy and sell anything you fancy or require without anybody questioning you. You buy and sell capital (through the stock market), you buy and sell dollars (through the exchange market), you buy and sell rupees (through the money market), you buy and sell goods (through imports and exports and, of course, if you are a prime minister, you buy and sell MPs. This is what Narasimha Rao, the great free-market reformer, did, and when he did it, it is unlikely that he ever thought that one day he would be hauled before the court and given a stiff sentence. If you can have free-market economic reforms why not free-market political reforms? In fact, that is precisely what he was trying to do, but he was caught, because politics is different from economics and the sane laws do not apply there. On the day Rao was held guilty, the free markets everywhere, which he and his sidekick, Manmohan Singh, had done so much to create, collapsed. The stock market collapsed in Mumbai and the sensex went down below the 4000 mark for the first time in twelve months. The rupee collapsed by nearly 0 paise and so did government bonds. And all this, while one prime minister was getting ready to be sentenced, while another prime minister was getting ready for his operation! On the very same day, an international rating agency, Standard & Poors, downgraded Indias rating from positive to stable, which sounds harmless enough until you realise that even a poor economy can be stable without being positive. And what provoked the rating agency to do so? It said that the reforms were not going fast enough, the fiscal situation was getting worse, and foreign reserves were plummeting. The agency is not interested in anything except the foreign outlook. That is because its main job is to act as a watchdog for foreign investors. The government is helpless and doesnt even know what is happening. Two weeks before the markets collapsed the finance minister said that the hike in oil prices was not a matter for concern and would not affect the economy. He can say that again. Everything affects the Indian market, because the Indian market is not Indian anymore. Any Tom, Dick and Harry in New York or London can bring down the Sensex by just withdrawing from the market, as the foreign financial institutions did last week. A big bank in Frankfurt can bring down the rupee by selling rupees. And so on. FIIs dont love India, or for that matter any country! Foreign funds have been withdrawing from India because they can make more money outside.They have no love for India or for that matter any other country. They just love their bank accounts and if they can bring the stock market down and create chaos in the market, they could not care less. This is precisely what a free market economy is, and if we do not know it, it is time we did. These people simply do not want a strong Indian economy or a strong Indian nation.These are the very same people who destroyed Soviet Russia and are bent on Destroying China. They destabilised Russia in the name of free market reforms, and they are doing the same here. They now control two basic things one, capital, and two, money. The stock market is entirely dependent on their movements. If they want, they can bring down the Sensex to 1000, which is what it was before our great reformers, Rao and Singh, started their reforms.It is foreign financial institutions which now control the market, not Tatas or Ambanis, certainly not you and me. Tatas and Ambanis are always careful to be on the right side of these foreign institutions because their fate depends on them. Now, take the rupee. The rupee depends on the current account deficit, which is the difference between what we export (including services) and what we import. The difference is made up through foreign capital funds. If there are no funds coming in, the deficit goes up and the rupee comes down. Every year, the rupee has been coming down by 10 per cent, and is now worth no more than just two cents. You cant buy anything for two cents in the United States, not even a peanut. And this worthless rupee is our currency. Our currency has been destroyed by free-market reforms, though there are people in the finance ministry who argue that devaluation is a good thing for the economy because it stimulates exports. All these men are from the World Bank or IMF and receive pensions from these agencies. Now take our foreign trade. World foreign trade has been brought under WTO, a western controlled organisation in which poor nations have little say. WTO is forcing us to close down small industries by forcing the government to remove all subsidies. The surprising thing is that our own babus are helping the WTO in this.It was Abid Hussain, a former babu in the commerce ministry who recommended the breaking up of small industries. And we all think that is the only way to develop industries in India - by killing our own existing industries! Why is there a fall in growth rates? Let me now come to the downgrading of growth rates by government and other agencies. GDP growth this year is going to be less than 6 per cent, against the original estimate of 7 per cent. Industrial growth rate will be less than 6 per cent, against as high as 1 per cent four years ago. It is the steep drop in industrial growth, together with an equally steep drop in agriculture, that is responsible for the recession in the economy. But why is there a drop in industrial growth? Because of globalisation, which means because of WTO, a foreign agency. Small and medium industries in India are being killed one by one, mainly because of cheap imports. Pencil batteries are being sold in India for rupees while locally made batteries are priced at 7 rupees. And where do these cheap batteries come from? They come from China, which is still not a member of WTO. Once China becomes a member of WTO, our small industries will really be in trouble. Does the FM know what is happening? It is not surprising that the finance minister does not know why the economy is on the verge of collapse. He doesnt know because he is not in control. He is not in control of the stock market which means capital flows, he is not in control of the rupee because the value of the rupee is decided by foreign investors, he is not in control of foreign trade, because it is WTO, not he, who controls it. All he can do is keep repeating that the economy is in good health and neither the hike in oil prices nor the collapse of the stock market will affect it. What else can he do? If this is what happened after ten years of reforms I shudder at what might happen after 0 years. I am told that we are about to become a superpower in information technology and shall make so much money that we do not have to worry about anything else, not such small things like wheat or rice or milk. The software companies will take care of it. Incidentally, on the very day the stock market collapsed and the rupee went belly-up, two software companies declared record sales and profits. But the market took no notice, and dismissed them as of no importance. Can anyone say that the markets do not know what they are doing?

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