With the economy in slow mode and purchasing power falling across sectors, India Inc is barely growing. Makers of both consumption and capital goods are finding it hard to push through sales while infrastructure companies struggle for want of key inputs. While profits shrink, debt is piling up fast enough to make bankers edgy. Jaiprakash Associates’ standalone net debt is R22,000 crore while its consolidated net debt is R57,000 crore; Adani Power, which posted the highest ever quarterly loss of R534 crore in the March quarter, has a consolidated net debt of R36,200 crore; Reliance Communications, which has now reported a flat Ebitda for 13 straight quarters, has a net debt of around R38,000 crore; and GVK Infra, which reported a loss of R170 crore and could bleed for two more years, has borrowings of R17,000 crore. Reliance Power, which earned a profit of R1,012 crore in FY13, has a total debt of close to R30,000 crore. Essar Oil, which posted an Ebitda of R3,042 crore and a net loss of R1,069 crore in FY13, has net borrowings of just under R20,000 crore.
Business across sectors is dull and commentary across boardrooms is cautious. With recovery nowhere in sight in global markets like Europe, firms like Tata Steel have been compelled to take large impairment charges. How sluggish the core sector is can be seen from the the profits of Ashok Leyland, which collapsed by over 90% year-on-year in the fourth quarter as domestic truck volumes fell 23% y-o-y, driving down net sales by 14%. Analysts say the market is expected to recover only towards the second half of FY14.
Analysts at Edelweiss note that Reliance Infrastructure’s order book has shrunk to a third in the past two years, pointing out that the firm’s net profit of Rs 600 crore in the fourth quarter was boosted by tax writebacks of Rs 300 crore. At Jaiprakash Associates, Ebitda fell 14% y-o-y with margins coming off across most segments — the construction segment saw margins contract 500 basis points y-o-y.
In the consumption space, discretionary spends are tapering off. Asian Paints, for instance, had a dull quarter, missing estimates by a wide margin; consolidated net profit fell 3% y-o-y as sales