Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Equity Research

Recently, I came across a report on the Education sector in India, by a leading brokerage house. This was by far the best report in terms of data collection effort and presentation style that I have seen in recent months. Just under the skin of this report, it is clearly a very successful effort to create interest in the Education Sector in India and especially in the largest education company in India, by market cap. The conclusions derived in this report have this goal in mind.

Sample this. It says Educomp’s business is mapped to the most attractive segments in Education. (Educomp, for those who do not know already is opening its own ‘for profit schools’. Schools as we know have to be necessarily not for profit bodies. However they have devised a clever structure to pull all profits out of schools.

The report puts the K-12 market segment size at $20 Billion. It is easy to get blinded by this, unless you look deeper in the report. According to the report, the private schools market is as follows
1. Unaided Premium = 15000 schools , monthly fee average Rs1250 = 6.7 Billion dollars pa
2. Unaided standard = 29400 schools, monthly fee Rs 750 = 7.9 Billion dollars pa
3. Aided = 30660 schools, monthly fee average Rs 450 pa = 4.9 billion dollars pa
Total of $ 20 billion. Therefore the K-12 schools initiative by Educomp is mapped to the most attractive segment. Really ??

Now consider the following: Assume that I sell liquor. Total sales in the country of liquor are Rs 100 Cr So, I can say my market is 100 Cr. Really ? What if, I all I manufactured was a foreign brand liquor at Rs 3000 per bottle. Would my target market still be Rs 100. It is more like 1% of the above

Now Educomp charges, Rs 3000 – Rs 4000 as tuition fee for these schools. Clearly it is a subset of 1 as above. And, 200% away from average. Even with best case distribution, it is not likely to be more than 10% of these ‘Premuim’ schools (In normal distribution, if std error equals half mean and fee 2.5x mean this would be less than 1%). So even if there are 10% schools with fee > 3000, it implies that they are playing in the market of $2 Billion.

At one percent, it would be $200 million market

Anyways, $2 billion vs. $20 billion is nearly not as attractive, is it?

  • Consider the following
  • Building a school is capital intensive. More so for Premium Schools.
  • For ‘For Profit schools’, land is not exactly going to come cheap in the form of subsidized land from the government.
  • On top of this, there is also a regulatory risk. Nowhere, in the world is School education allowed to be run by ‘for profit’ enterprises.
  • Educomp’s schools are in India. Given Indian sensitivity to education and the jumpy unpredictable regulation track record in India, what if, one fine day an overzealous regulator wakes up and dictates that this is all illegal. They would not be able to close down the school and liquidate their investment.
  • The one billion dollars includes the Scindia and Doon schools of the world which have decades of heritage and brand name going for them.

The report either ignores or brushes these issues aside. I don’t blame the writers. The brokerage (as all brokerages) does not get paid for research. The research department is only designed to get investors to buy in, even if it means buying it at 20 times LTM revenue, and then to sell. Churn is what keeps them going. Soon enough, the very same brokers would be pointing these out and asking you to sell, if you haven’t already. You may have made your profit or suffered 50% loss. But the brokerage house would have made their money both ways for executing your trades.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Delhiites should change behaviour before Commonwealth Games

So says the home minister. Of course we need to be more caring, follow the rules, cross roads only at the zebra crossing, not jump red lights, use the over bridge to cross the road, no jay walking.

Wait a minute, what over bridges should we use, where there are none, what bus shelter should commuters wait patiently when there are none, what non-working red lights should we not jump.

How is it that when the same delhiites travel abroad they respect all the rules. Is it the air that makes them obey the rules. No!. Its not even fear of the law that makes them, we do so because the infrastructure exists.

Infrastructure affects people's behavior. Take for example honking. delhiites honk. In fact some might even say we love to honk and despise us for the same. But it is the cramped infrastructure that made us develop this habit. I've lived in both phoenix and in new york. Can you guess where people are like us delhiites.

In phoenix, you hardly hear anyone honk. in fact it is considered rude to honk. Whereas in NY, honking is a way of life because of constant traffic

So dear home minister, please improve the infrastructer and we (collectively) shall improve our behavior
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