Intellectual Thoughts by Sanjay Panda: Are India Inc`s global M&A's worth it?

Are India Inc`s global M&A's worth it?

Most of the big-ticket acquisitions made by Indian companies were through the leveraged buy-outs (LBO’s) route funded partly by private equity funds, financial institutions and, of course, through internal resources. It has to be borne in mind that for takeovers by India Inc worth several billion dollars, the outflow of dollars has been minimal. At the same time, the charge of the private equity funds and others on the profitability and assets of the merged or acquired company will be substantial, which has to be paid through the future profits or cash flow of the company.

The pertinent question is whether our corporations have overstretched themselves. First, we feel that India Inc is now in an unprecedented trajectory of growth, where it focuses on both domestic and global markets somewhat in a similar manner. The concept of a dominant leader in the domestic market will soon undergo a change thanks to a gradual reduction of the tariff wall. Sooner or later, imports are going to be cheaper than what they are now. That would mean that corporations, to stay in the race, should be competitive both domestically and internationally. The effort of India Inc to go global is not only symbolic of its strength and reach but also a calibrated policy to shore up its competitiveness by achieving economies of scale and scope.

Secondly, in many areas, especially in the knowledge-driven industry, we have to consolidate ourselves. Our IT majors are reckoned everywhere. Yet, their size and scope are small compared to Microsoft, Dell or IBM. The result is that many-a-time, we have to be content with the status of a vendor or sub-contractor to large American and European corporations. That stage should change and in certain areas, we can emerge as global players and prove our worth in executing high-end projects. M&As are the preferred route to achieve that position.

Thirdly, a paradigm shift is taking place in the image of India, which has been considered mainly as a supplier of goods and services, including software services. We have to emerge as a strong manufacturing hub, capable of producing high quality and price competitive manufactured goods. Slowly, we are making progress towards that. We are reckoned as a major player in steel, foundry, auto components and so on, thanks to some of the LBOs carried out in recent months.

That list has to expand and can be accomplished through the M&A route rather than by setting up greenfield projects in an alien land.

The flip side of the spectrum is what happens when there is a global recession? We cannot become a global player and also insulate ourselves from its fallouts. It is a cyclical reality. Fortunately, now India have enough foreign exchange reserves to bail us out in case of a global slowdown.


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