Greece – Part II: Xi Jinping Meets Marco Polo

This is the second article in a three-part series on Greece. Our objective is to solve the mystery of the missing keys to Greece’s next economic boom. In the prelude to this article, we alluded to the fact that we are beginning to see an increasing number of signs that point to an economic uptick in Greece. In this article, we will focus on two key areas that we think will offer the biggest delta on Greece’s next economic boom: Trade and Tourism.

As a country opens itself to connect with new partners, its ports of entry need to be tweaked to better reflect this new relationship. Significant investments will be needed in both ports and airports over the next several years primarily driven by the need to expand to cater for any meaningful increase in the volumes of trade and/or travel.

In the privatization spree of the past years, Greece has privatized its biggest port and most of its airports. Alas! The keys to Greece’s next economic boom are not held by the Greeks; they are firmly in the hands of the Chinese and the Germans.

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The Mystery Of The Missing Keys To Greece’s Next Economic Boom – Part I

  • After years of painful public reforms, huge pension cuts, and mass privatizations, Greece’s economy finally looks to be ticking up.
  • Our view is that tourism and trade will offer the two biggest deltas on the country’s next economic boom.
  • The sad and unfortunate thing is that the keys to Greece’s next economic boom are no longer with the Greeks.

This article will be the first in a three-part series on Greece. We very strongly believe that Greece has begun its next economic cycle and that the two best plays on the country will be trade and tourism, but we are also of the view that the keys to its next economic boom are located outside of Greece.

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Short ICICI Bank – I see; do you?

In India, public sector banks’ advances-policies are dictated by the ministry of finance. Every year, the ministry decides where funding is needed and the banks are given targets for specific sectors and the target-chasing begins. I know this first hand because both my parents were branch managers at two different, such public sector banks and ‘Banking’ was a common dinner-time topic. Private sector banks, on the other hand enjoy a much greater autonomy on their advances-portfolios and as a result are much more efficient in designing them. This is fully discounted in the markets: average P/B of public sector banks is 0.5x versus 2.4x for private sector banks.

ICICI Bank Limited (NYSE: IBN) is the largest private sector bank in India and in our view, ICICI’s common stock is a sell for the following reasons:

  1. ICICI is priced like a private sector bank but its NPAs are comparable to public sector banks.
  2. Heavy exposure to ‘Infrastructure and Energy’ Rising Non Performing Assets (NPAs).
  3. Infrastructure Sector is in limbo due to policy-bottleneck.
  4. Revised Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Guidelines — NPA calculation.
  5. Sky High EPS Growth Expectations. Over the next 5-years, EPS is expected to grow 22% p.a.

As at the end of FY-2016, ICICI had made provisions for less than half of its total gross NPAs. We think they will be forced to make provisions for the remaining NPAs over the next few years, which will drive their EPS and valuations much lower.

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