Wednesday, July 08, 2009


In the Indian Financial Budget announcement for the fiscal year 2009-10, the first budget since the Indian National Congress led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government won its second consecutive term to power in May this year, the infrastructure sector emerged winner as it was accorded top priority by the Indian Finance Minister.

This reinforces the government’s commitment to augment the antiquated infrastructure of the country, vital to achieve a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 9% per annum from the current 6.7%. The lack of adequate infrastructure is responsible for pushing back India’s GDP growth by about 2% annually, according to estimates.

The minster responded to an urgent demand for new infrastructure, announcing that 9% of the country’s GDP will be spent on infrastructure by 2014, from the current 5%. Estimates suggest that a third of this investment will come from private companies, paving the way for unprecedented investment opportunity under Public Private Partnership (PPP) model.

“However, the Finance Minister missed this opportunity to address sectoral reforms and liberalization in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) norms, falling short of the investors’ expectations who sent the Sensex, the benchmark index of the Bombay Stock Exchange down 870 points to 14,043.40 (5.83%) on Monday, the level that it was at in the month of May. The minister further disappointed by not being explicit on the aspect of disinvestment of the Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs).” says Bundeep Singh Rangar, Chairman, IndusView Advisors Ltd, the India-focused cross-border advisory firm.

“India's challenge is not only to augment its antiquated infrastructure, but also to build new infrastructure to keep up with its $1 trillion economy and the aspirations of its 1.2 billion population that grows by 16 million people each year”

“The government’s spotlight on Infrastructure Development heralds the importance it attaches to the sector as a means to counter the prevailing economic woes.” added Rangar

Recognising that good infrastructure are a vital pre-requisite to build a strong nation, infrastructure development had been accorded key priority for the 11th Five-Year-Plan for the years 2007-2012 and the 12th plan period 2012-2017 with projected investment requirement of $500 billion and $1.5 trillion respectively by the Prime Minister's Committee on Infrastructure.

“These initiatives pale when compared to China that spends about 11% of its GDP for infrastructure development, indicative of the scope and extent of scaling up needed in infrastructure development in India to match global standards.” added Rangar

“The Interim Budget for the financial year 2009-10 announced in February by the Finance Minister of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), focused on infrastructure development, easing of Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) norms and economic stimulus packages announced last year, had set the ground for how the alliance was approaching the General Elections that took place in May.” said Rangar

The minister was way short of taking the initiative further as various sectors including, pharmaceutical, retail, telecommunication, aviation, insurance, among others keenly awaited reforms to facilitate higher foreign investments. These sectors collectively have the potential to attract more $200 billion worth of investments over a period of five to ten years.

Indian Telecom: Scope of Growth & Investment

“India’s mobile telecommunication services sector has defied the economic recession. The incumbent mobile telecommunication service providers collectively add more than 10 million new subscribers a month, which is more than the population of Finland, home country of largest mobile handset manufacturer Nokia Corp., taking the country’s total tally of wireless subscribers to 400 million.” explains Rangar

To ensure quality service to match the growing subscriber base and achieve the target of 45% tele-density, the telecom sector is estimated to need about $73 billion during the next five years.

The world's fastest-growing mobile telecom services market estimated to reach a subscriber base of more than one billion by 2014, exposes the growth potential in investments that the sector can attract from aspiring global mobile telecom service providers.

Pharmaceutical Sector: Prescription for M&As

The Indian Pharmaceutical sector is positioning itself to be among the top five centres of global innovation as the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP), Government of India outlined its roadmap for the sector up to the year 2020 (Vision 2020). It foresees investments of about $2 billion annually, under the public-private partnership model.

“This spells out the scope of growth for global pharmaceutical companies and can fuel the next wave of mergers and acquisitions (M&As) in a market where consumer spending on healthcare increased to 7% in 2007 from 4% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 1995 and is expected to rise to 13% of GDP by 2015.” says Rangar

India also offers the benefits of low cost research and development (R&D), a domain in which it is estimated to capture about 10%-20% share of the world’s R&D business by 2020 from less than 1% currently.

Expansion by global pharmaceutical companies in to emerging markets like India becomes imperative as about $103 billion worth of patented drugs will go off patent in the next few years.

Retail Sector

“The retail sector in India is witnessing a huge revamp as traditional markets make way for new formats such as departmental stores, hypermarkets, supermarkets and specialty stores. Easing regulations in the sector would help bring the benefits of organised retail to customers.” said Rangar

The overall retail market is expected to grow to more than $1 trillion from $262 billion by 2016, with organised retail at $165 billion, according to the Investment commission of India.

Aviation Sector

India’s aviation sector presents investment opportunities of $110 billion envisaged up to 2020 $80 billion in new aircraft and $30 billion in development of airport infrastructure. The investments will be needed to cater for approximately 300 million passengers that are expected to be airborne by 2020, according to estimates.

“With such sectoral growth indicators, the need of the hour was to take existing initiatives to the next level of implementation and completion, with enough scope of ramping up and innovation. To that extent, the finance minister would have helped by being more generous and explicit in his policy initiatives.” said Rangar

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