Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Intellectual Capital analysis of change in Indian IT Leadership

The top four Indian IT companies – TCS, Infosys, Wipro and HCL Technologies - have declared their results for the quarter ending March 2012. While TCS and HCL have surpassed analyst expectations, Wipro and especially Infosys have disappointed. The markets have been severely harsh on Infosys in particular, dropping it by about 13% in a single day on the 13th April when it declared its quarterly results. For a company which has been the face of Indian IT around the world for decades, this was quite the drubbing. It is the fifth straight quarter when Infosys has missed its own forecasts, a very unusual territory for this IT giant. Not without reason therefore, Infosys has lost its claim as the industry bellwether and leader of the Indian IT industry, a position that is now claimed unequivocally by TCS. In fact many analysts have downgraded Infosys further. JP Morgan has placed Infosys fourth in the pecking order behind TCS, Wipro and HCL Technologies. CLSA downgraded the scrip to ‘Underperform’ from ‘Outperform’ and Deutsche Bank revised it to ‘Hold’ from its earlier ‘Buy’ rating. Technology analysts have gone further. For instance, Mint published a full page article on Infosys recently in its newspaper asking whether Infosys’s dream run has ended. For a company that employs more than 150,000 people globally, this is a serious question that begs a deeper analysis. Let’s do that using Intellectual Capital as the basis.

Let’s look at TCS first. The Intellectual Capital analysis of TCS for the past four years can be seen online here. The Knowledge Basis portion of the analysis is reproduced in the chart below.

This chart depicts the Knowledge Basis of TCS for the past four years, measured every quarter. Knowledge Basis (KB) is just the ratio of the Intellectual Capital(IC) of the company to its Intrinsic worth (IW). In other words KB = IC/(IC+NW), where IW = (IC + NW) and NW represents the Net worth of the company. As can be seen from the chart, the Knowledge Basis of TCS for the past four years has been more or less steady around the 83% mark. This is another way of saying that 83% of all assets inside TCS are knowledge assets and this number has been more or less very steady over the course of the past four years.

Now let’s turn to Infosys – its Intellectual Capital analysis can be seen online here and its Knowledge basis chart is reproduced below.

We find in this chart that the Knowledge Basis of Infosys was also around the 83% level from Jun 2008 until Dec 2009. That is when it started sliding southwards, dropping to around 74% in Dec 2011 before recovering slightly to 76% in Mar 2012. Even counting the 2% rise in the latest quarter, Infosys is still down 7% from its own benchmark of 83%. Described in other words, this means that only 76% of all assets inside Infosys are Knowledge assets compared to 83% for TCS. Considering that Knowledge assets are significantly more productive than physical or financial assets, is it a surprise to anybody that Infosys has not been delivering stellar results lately? The decline started two years ago in 2010 and has continued steadily since then, although the latest quarter results have shown an uptrend.

This brings us back to the question – has Infosys’s dream run ended? For now, it certainly has. Considering the myriad organizational displacements inside the company recently, this was perhaps inevitable. But Infosys is far from being down and out. A Knowledge Basis of 76% is very healthy even if it is low compared to TCS. It implies that an overwhelming majority of all assets inside Infosys are still knowledge assets, explaining why the company generates more than Rs 1000 cr every quarter by way of Economic value. The good news now is that the market has given away its premium for Infosys stock and the stock is now trading around its fair value ever since its latest quarter results came out. In contrast, the market has taken a strong liking for TCS and has assigned it a premium of more than 30% of its fair value. Will TCS be able to live up to its favored status? Time will tell for sure. But one thing is clear in my mind, while TCS is certainly the better run business, if you had to choose between these two great companies for your investment portfolio, Infosys is the better stock to buy at the moment!

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