India economic update
Milind S. KothariManaging Partner
M & A tracker
Rajesh ThakkarPartner & Leader/ Transaction Tax
Kashyap TrivediPartner/ Technology Services
The third week of March 2020 began the series of lockdowns in India; two staggering months of the most severe and stringent COVID 19 control measures taken by any country in the world. It has had major ramifications and flattened the Indian Economy to a large extent. Evidently, coming out of the lockdown is going to be an equally daunting task and quite likely, India is bracing for one of the worst recessions in its history.
On 12 May 2020, the Prime Minister of India, Mr Narendra Modi addressed the nation and announced a spending of USD 265bn or 10% of India’s GDP as stimulus to reignite growth. A significant part of Mr Modi’s speech was devoted to his vision of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’, or self-reliant India. He assured a quantum jump in the economy, premised on big reforms. Over the next few days, the details of the stimulus package were given out by the Finance Minister, Ms Nirmala Sitharaman. The stimulus is focused on supply-side support, largely for survival of the vulnerable sections. Following the theme of self-reliance, the measures announced are aimed at teaching Indians how to fish rather than providing them with it. Empowering the people, rather than making them dependent on state dole outs.
After all the aspects of the stimulus had been detailed, the prevailing opinion was that the actual size of the fresh stimulus was less than 1.5% of the GDP. A point in its favour, though, is that it is prudent to keep the fiscal deficit in check, with most of the actions being off-balance sheet such as credit guarantees, regulatory reliefs and steps to prevent loss of production. To view it in context, it must be realised that the annual Indian fiscal budget is just about a sixth of the GDP, which is way smaller than those of developed economies, giving little elbow room to the government to make a large contribution to revive the economy. A significant part of the package was aimed at small businesses that provide livelihood and jobs to millions. One of the efforts to support small and medium enterprises was providing guarantees for borrowings. However, as the mountain of NPAs from the previous lending has not cleared away, it is suspect, that attempts to spur borrowings through fresh lending that too at a rapid pace, would only exacerbate this space in the long run.
On a more positive note, the current crisis has thrown up a potential opportunity for the manufacturing sector in India, to change its destiny. The much touted ‘Make-in-India’ program that was initiated by the Prime Minister, in September 2014, has seen limited success. Now, with the possibility of MNCs pursuing the ‘China+1’ strategy to resolve a supply chain bottleneck in the long term, there is scope for the manufacturing sector to revitalise itself and experience growth.
To benefit from the changing landscape the government needs to make a series of moves that reflect the intent to realise potential. The efforts required are aplenty - fixing a failing legal architecture clogged with a backlog of millions of pending cases, resolving agenda items to climb higher on the ranking of Ease of Doing Business etc. The regime of permissions and approvals needs to change. Gratefully, there are examples in India in states such as Telangana, which have achieved remarkable success and efficiency in issuing such permissions in a short time. Further, the pandemic precipitated changes in labour law in states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan which could have a far-reaching impact on the sentiment that India means serious business.
One of the major setbacks to confidence building in the manufacturing sector, is the impression that commitments made by governments are not being honoured by subsequent governments. Considerable investments are required to repair a crumbling infrastructure and bring in a level of acceptable standards to attract foreign investment. Large scale investments are also required for setting up of industrial parks and corridors. The focus should be on improving competitiveness of exports, scouting for new markets and offering better deals than competing countries in the region, such as Vietnam and Cambodia. Of prime importance would be the creation of a nodal group that would be responsible to bring this to fruition. The group must be entrusted to make quick decisions and have the mandate to commit large investments that will create an ecosystem for such investments to flourish. Easily, India has the best minds and talent to make this happen and what is required is an urgent unshackling of constraints to seize this opportunity from the present COVID crisis.
While the economic challenges in India and the rest of the globe loom large; a bigger concern is the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding in many parts of the world. There will be some misses and some gains with a lot of learning and hopefully wisdom to take this as an opportunity to treat the planet with the respect it deserves. Importantly, the human spirit is resilient, and we will come out of this albeit a little worn but shining all the same.
M&A in India
Between March 2020 and May 2020, around 65 M&A deals were announced of which 31 M&A deals were completed. The aggregate value of deals announced is USD 7315.14mn; dominated by cross border deals (33) followed by domestic deals (32)
In terms of sectors (considering only closed deals), Consumer Staples saw maximum deal value, with deals worth USD 429.25mn followed by Health Care with deals worth USD 167mn and Financials with deals worth USD 149.86mn
Significant Deals completed between March 2020 to May 2020
Target Company: GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Limited
Acquiring Company: Hindustan Unilever Limited
Deal Value (in mn USD): 415
Sector: Consumer Staples
- Hindustan Unilever Limited acquired Horlicks' intellectual property rights for Indian territory from GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Limited for a consideration of USD 415mn
- Post transaction, the Horlicks brand would operate under the ownership of Hindustan Unilever Limited in India
- Horlicks, with a volume share of close to 50 percent in Health Drinks, was introduced in India in the 1930s and has been an everyday nutrition staple in households across generations
- The said transaction will enable Hindustan Unilever Limited to utilise cash on its balance sheet and create value for shareholders
Target Company: Praha Vaccines a.s.
Acquiring Company: Novavax, Inc
Deal Value (in mn USD): 167
Sector: Health Care
- Novavax, Inc. acquired Praha Vaccines a.s. from Poonawalla Investments and Industries Private Limited for USD 167mn in an all-cash deal
- Post transaction, Praha Vaccines a.s. operates as a wholly owned subsidiary of Novavax, Inc
- The acquisition provides the vital assets required to produce more than 1bn doses of vaccines per year
- The acquisition of Praha Vaccines is supported by Novavax’ funding arrangement with the coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), enabling Novavax to expand its manufacturing capacity
Target Company: DMI Finance Private Limited
Acquiring Company: Nexon
Deal Value (in mn USD): 123
- Delhi-based DMI Group, which operates in consumer lending and affordable housing segments, has raised USD 123mn of equity capital from South Korean gaming company Nexon, which is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange
- The proceeds of equity capital will be used to fund balance sheet growth primarily in the digital consumer and MSME finance businesses
- The equity funding values the company at over USD 1bn.
Significant deals announced between March 2020 to May 2020 but not completed
Target Company: Jio Platforms Limited.
Acquiring Company: Facebook Inc.
Deal Value (in mn USD): 5,730
Sector: Telecommunication Services
- Facebook Inc., through its wholly owned subsidiary Jaadhu Holdings, LLC has entered into an agreement to acquire a 9.99% stake in Jio Platforms Ltd. for a consideration of USD 5.73bn
- As per the terms of the transaction, Facebook will be issued fresh equity shares and will get a board position on Jio Platforms
- The said deal will help Jio Platforms to pare debt
- The investment values Jio Platforms amongst the top 5 listed companies in India by market capitalisation
- As a part of the transaction, Jio Platforms, Reliance Retail Ltd. and WhatsApp have also entered into a commercial partnership agreement to further accelerate Reliance Retail’s New Commerce business on the JioMart platform using WhatsApp and to support small businesses on WhatsApp
- The transaction is subject to regulatory and other customary approvals and the approval of the Competition Commission of India
Target Company: Uttam Galva Steels Limited
Acquiring Company: Nithia Capital Resources Advisors LLP, Carval Investors LP
Deal Value (in mn USD): 208
- CarVal Investors LP and Nithia Capital Resources Advisors LLP are acquiring Uttam Galva Steels Limited for USD 208mn under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code
- Uttam Galva Steels Limited is engaged in the manufacturing and exporting of cold rolled steel and galvanised steel under the brand name Uttam Eb-Tech, Suraksha, Spectrum
- On 30 April 2020, the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) approved the resolution plan submitted by a consortium of CarVal Investors and Nithia Capital Resources Advisors to acquire Uttam Galva Steels Limited
Bridging the Digital Gap
Digitisation has been transforming the way businesses interact with and deliver offerings to their customers. Prior to the onslaught of COVID-19, businesses globally were exploring technologies to improve efficiencies, uncap innovation and enhance customer experience. The adoption of tech in the pre-COVID era was a proactive decision that Boards made to enhance their service delivery, leverage early bird adoption and minimise the risk of becoming obsolete in the times to come
The power and potential of digital and virtual technologies became obvious, as the spread of the pandemic compelled organisations to operate remotely. While it was an acknowledged fact that the foreseeable future would be driven by tech enabled services, COVID-19 was the unexpected catalyst that vaulted the adoption by both business and consumers. This rapid migration to digital technologies is expected to continue and become more intense, as businesses begin to resume operations.
Reforming in preparation for the changes to come post-COVID-19 should be a critical part of response and recovery. How businesses choose to plan recovery and strengthen their digital backbone will determine their survival and growth in the future.
Some strategic initiatives to help businesses initiate their digital transformation, as the world journeys to leverage tech and bridge the digital gap. To start with,
- Move to technology platforms offering solutions
- Digitisation in HR
- Digital events
- Data driven decisions/AI-ML/Big Data
- IOT solutions
- Technology governance
One of COVID-19’s most immediate effects is to accelerate efforts for businesses, governments and individuals to transition to technology platforms offering digital solutions. These platforms comprise of ecosystems of technologies, services and products that bring consumers and producers together, encourage third-party collaboration, digitise business functions, automate compliances, enable expert advisory thus extending the reach. All of us - whether business owners or employees - need to study available technology platforms to understand how they affect our work, lives and future.
Managing employees when working from home or through a secured remote access desktop, requires an efficient digital HR system that can measure attendance, performance, log in and log out times etc. World leaders believe that keeping staff engaged and informed is a key priority and the idea of such systems should be to deliver result-oriented interactions that will engage and empower employees.
While physical experience will be hard to replicate, Virtual/Digital events have become a key part of the business landscape. These events are highly interactive, encourage more participation and can gather attendees from across geographies at a minimal cost. Hosting an event virtually is more than just sharing a link to a virtual meeting or a webinar, managing attendee registrations, payments and live stream at one place are some of the key requirements; one needs to make sure that the platform they are choosing allows them to get almost the same experience of a physical event.
We believe 2020 will be the year when companies become laser-focused on AI value, leap out of experimentation mode and ground themselves to accelerate adoption. This is the right time to establish and transform data to give insights and not just base level analysis. AI has reached the inflection point where it is less of a trend and more of a core ingredient across every aspect of computing.
IoT is not just a technology initiative anymore. With increasing maturity in its adoption, CIOs and IoT leaders must aim to align IoT strategies with business objectives. The responsibility of such initiatives should not remain limited to IT; business stakeholders must also take part in identifying the metrics that help assess the IoT project’s success.
Technology governance assists businesses in driving value from their investment in technology. It can also be a formal way to align IT and business strategy. IT governance is an integral part of overall enterprise governance and in these changing times organisations need to implement governance infrastructures. Every organisation is subject to regulations governing the protection of confidential information, financial accountability, data retention and disaster management & recovery. They need a way to ensure that their IT function supports business strategies and objectives. While small entities might practice only essential IT governance methods, the goal of larger and more regulated organisations should be a full-fledged IT governance program.
As we move closer to a world that would be very different from what it was 3 months ago, we look forward to discovering new realms of the working reality. Given the potential demonstrated by digital technologies, we can expect digital transformation to be a larger imperative for organisations in the future.
The Digital Gap - New Rules, New Tools, Same Game
What goes on behind the mask of a screen?
I logged into a webinar, I found the speakers were honest, down to earth and sharing real examples of how to navigate in COVID times. I stayed tuned in. Asked questions and even tried to connect with a few of the panellists post the session. An hour later, I logged into another one, the panellists were preaching and using lots of theory and frameworks that did not appeal to me.
I found an online exercise module on YouTube, there was a lovely lady enticing me into the workout. Less than 5 minutes into the session, I realised I could not keep up with her. I have now settled for a 30-minute, low impact, beginner’s workout that makes me feel good about myself.
I am always glued to a screen. Digital is the new buzz word. Every sector is abuzz with innovation, trying to figure out how to deliver value digitally. We must be careful not to miss the wood for the trees in the race to win the battle for digital eyeballs. The two simple examples I gave, about a webinar that delivered value and a workout that worked for me, was far less about the digital medium and far more to do with the message, the tone of delivery and the value I got for my time and attention.
Basic human behaviour has not changed, it is driven by core emotions that have an influence on how we live and interact with others. Happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, anger, surprise is what’s going on behind every screen. Depending on the message that is being delivered. This is what we need to focus on.
Digital wizardry, smart interfaces, quality of the audio experience are all second to the core content. If ever there was a time to pause a listen it’s now. Bringing the outside in at a time like this is a critical role of communicators. And that will be the key to getting people to listen to what you have to say.
Over the last 8 weeks, recognising the need for learning off each other within the communications fraternity, I have been hosting closed-door catchups, talking to senior communication leaders across different industry sectors to learn from them and their experiences. Here are the top 10 takeaways:
- Culture at the EPI-centre of all communication - Communication must be rooted in organisational culture and focused on Engaging, Protecting and Inspiring stakeholders.
- I trust people I know -The importance and power of hyper-local and involving families is at the heart of getting a message heard, understood and accepted.
- Shine a light on forces of good - Actions speak louder than words. The intent of storytelling never mattered more, while we celebrate the heroes who are the frontlines, we need to make sure we are doing enough to take care of them as well.
- Build in business as usual communication - Bring in threads of business messages as people are starting to tire of and tune out from too much COVID content.
- Raw and real is the new tentpole content - Authentic, real and honesty is far more appreciated than slick and super well produced, with no real message.
- Collaboration at an all-time high - Frenemies and strange bedfellows is the way to go. Be open to and seek out ways to collaborate.
- Tell the CSR story tastefully - Do what needs to be done. Don’t expect applause.
- Focus on feelings - What do your stakeholders want to know or hear from you, not what you want to tell them. Think from their point of view and then craft your communication.
- Be kind to yourself and others - WFH is not about being perfect. Dogs, cats, kids and significant others will enter the picture. It’s ok.
- Speak when you have something to say - Don’t feel pressured to communicate just because everyone else is. Adding to the clutter won’t help. Staying connected, checking in, active listening is equally important.
Experience coupled with a beginner’s eyes of innocence is what’s working. Stay tuned into your stakeholders and seek to serve them. Digital just happens to be the way we are currently engaging with each other. Don’t let the dazzle of digital take your eye off the real goal - Connecting with your audience in a meaningful way. New rules, new tools, Game on.