Budget 2019 has not made life any easier for consumer companies, which means demand worries in the near-term will continue to be a major overhang for Indian consumer companies.
“Expenditure on rural schemes and disposable incomes for low-end consumption are largely unchanged (from the interim budget) in the absence of a fresh stimulus," pointed out Varun Lohchab of Jefferies India Pvt. Ltd in a report on 5 July.
The imposition of a nominal tax on cigarette is slightly negative for ITC Ltd. What needs monitoring for ITC now is whether the goods and services tax (GST) rates change in the coming months. Separately, the government raised customs duty on gold, from 10% to 12.5%, which will make the yellow metal pricier. As a result, consumers may shy away from shopping for gold, which Titan Co. Ltd’s investors won’t appreciate.
More crucially, investors must stay tuned to management commentaries on demand conditions in the upcoming June-quarter results season. As such, expectations are not high, which is understandable after consumer firms threw up a tepid March-quarter performance owing to a demand slowdown.
“We expect the aggregate volume growth of FMCG companies to further moderate in Q1 FY20 to 5.3%, compared to 6.1% in Q4 FY19 and 8.2% in Q3 FY19," wrote analysts from Credit Suisse Securities (India) Pvt. Ltd in a report on 3 July.
“Some companies have indicated the emergence of some green-shoots in June even as the weak start to the quarter would likely mean restrained growth for the quarter as a whole," said analysts from Kotak Institutional Equities in a consumer staples June quarter preview report on 4 July.
Management commentary, therefore, can offer meaningful clues on rural demand conditions and the impact of liquidity tightness.
So far commentaries are lukewarm. Quarterly updates of Godrej Consumer Products Ltd (GCPL) and Marico Ltd released were not heartening. GCPL said its domestic volume growth was in mid-single digits in the June quarter, which is more or less in line with Street estimates. In its update, Marico said the June quarter was characterised by moderation in the overall demand environment.
In a nutshell, there are hardly any triggers for FMCG stocks going ahead. It’s worth noting here that the Nifty FMCG index has declined 1.8% so far this calendar year. In comparison, the NSE 50 index has increased 8.7%.