A recovery in demand and robust order book augur well for Voltas.
Synonymous with air-conditioning, Voltas once again proved its mettle in the electro-mechanical project business when it bagged two larger orders worth Rs 300 crore pertaining to the Chennai and Kolkata airports. This comes immediately on the back of a good set of results declared on May 29. These events have led to the stock rising 35 per cent as against the BSE Sensex’s four per cent gain since then. For those who think they might have missed the bus, don’t lose hope as there is scope to make healthy returns in the long-run.
Larger than perception Many people view Voltas as an air conditioning (AC) company. Yes, it is a dominant player in the commercial and residential AC segment, but there’s a lot more to it. Post it’s restructuring in 2003, Voltas increased its focus on the engineering segment to emerge as a niche player in the electro-mechanical projects (MEP) and services business. This segment includes complete turnkey solutions for work related to central air-conditioning (airports, malls, offices, etc), refrigeration and solutions for water treatment and management.
The move helped Voltas de-risk its revenues as well as reduce its dependence on the low margin business, where stiff competition and seasonality were among concerns. It has also helped the company reach higher scale and tap upcoming opportunities in the projects business, where profit margins are relatively better.
The recently won orders worth Rs 300 crore for electro-mechanical work at the Kolkata and Chennai international airports is in addition to similar orders won in the past. For instance, while Voltas completed the project for the new Hyderabad international airport last year, it has completed similar projects for the world's largest passenger terminus of Hong Kong International Airport as well as the Mumbai airport. Going by the various estimates, the opportunities in this segment is huge as the government is also planning to invest in over 30 new non-metro airports besides, modernising existing airports of the country.
There are equally large long-term opportunities in segments like metro railways (stations), shopping malls, hospitals, hotels, education institutes, corporate buildings, high rise towers, multiplexes and cold storage. The company has already has a successful track record of having executed several projects in these segments. However, over the last one year, analysts were worried about the slowdown in these segments and the impact of high raw material prices on the company’s profit margins. But, the MEP segment, which accounted for 62 per cent of total sales, reported a revenue growth of 53.7 per cent year-on-year for 2008-09. This can be attributed to the company’s strong order book position. For now, the worries haven’t vanished totally and some concerns still exists, which pertain to the slowdown in the international operations (contributes 60 per cent to the project business); largely the gulf countries.
For instance, during 2008-09, there was a 40 per cent contraction in flow of new orders from international markets, which analysts attributed to slow down in capital expenditure, particularly by crude oil producing countries due to lower oil prices.
In comfort zone But, given the company’s current order book of Rs 4,700 crore, the same is good enough for the company to maintain a revenue growth at about 20 per cent this year. And, for the next year and beyond, if the recent improvement in the economic environment is sustained (including the rise in crude oil prices, which have crossed to $70 per barrel), then expect Voltas’ order book to swell further. Notably, the management, too, has guided for robust order inflows from countries like Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia. In the domestic front, recovery in the industrial capex and near-term impetus provided by the government stimulus packages could further add to the kitty.
Equipment business Additionally, the economic recovery will also augur well for the company’s engineering products business (13.4 per cent of total revenues), which primarily includes manufacture and distribution of equipments for materials handling, mining and construction and textiles industries. Here too, the company is among the leading domestic players. However, this segment reported a two per cent decline in revenue in 2008-09 as against nearly 30 per cent growth in the past few years. This business also reported significant erosion in operating profit margins, from 20.5 per cent in 2007-08 to 11.6 per cent in 2008-09. While a meaningful recovery could take another 2-3 quarters, analysts believe that the company’s move to cut down its inventory levels coupled with the recovery in industrial activity and winning of an Rs 210 crore order for mining equipment from Hindustan Zinc, are all good signs. Nevertheless, the segment holds good long-term prospects.
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Evolving opportunities Meanwhile, the company’s second largest revenue contributor (22.5 per cent of sales) is the unitary cooling systems division, which includes residential and commercial ACs, commercial refrigeration and water coolers. This business is expected to report stable 10-12 per cent revenue growth on a sustainable basis. During 2008-09, revenues grew by 11.3 per cent, while operating profit margins were up at 7.4 per cent, albeit marginally. Although this is a highly competitive segment, the company is among the leading players (second in AC segment). In light of the rising income levels of individuals, increasing affordability, higher availability of electricity and demand from the commercial office and retail segments, the long-term prospects of this business too are good.
Outlook The company operates in three growing segments, where the penetration levels are still low in India compared to some of the international markets. Its leadership in these segments and increasing focus on expansion into foreign markets should help it sustain healthy growth. Attributes like consistent revenue track record, regular dividend payments and negligible capex needs put the stock in better light. At Rs 133, the stock trades at 16 times and 13 times its estimated 2009-10 and 2010-11 earnings.