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Dark horses may conquer the bourses

Sabarinath M identifies the 12 “dark horses” that will make a big difference to Indian business in 2008.

business Updated: Jan 01, 2008 01:34 IST
Sabarinath M

As the New Year is rung in, India's investment banking community will be partying hard, buoyed by a record year of deals — and bonuses.

But Akhil Gupta, the India head of the 1,000-pound gorilla of buyout funds — Blackstone — is in no mood to celebrate.

Gupta was upset by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board’s decision not to approve Blackstone’s investment in an Hyderabad-based media major.

“I cannot let the deal go like that. I will fight for it. Blackstone has enormous faith in India’s growth story,” says Gupta.

Gupta’s words will tell you why Blackstone is regarded as the most bullish private equity investor in India. Five deals in 2007 and Blackstone is looking forward to invest more in India. The US-based fund is betting on the new breed of Indian entrepreneurs, who combine dauntless persistence and sharp vision.

Headlines will undoubtedly be dominated by the big players of India Inc. But there is a new breed of players — entrepreneurs, investors and deal-makers — who are likely to have a significant impact on India Inc in 2008.

The Hindustan Times has identified 12 names — “dark horses” that will make a big difference to Indian business in 2008. Our list has a mix of companies and people whose stories are yet to grab big headlines.

We have people like Akhil Gupta, Anand Jain, Rasesh Shah and companies like India Bulls, Moser Baer and ITC, featuring in the list. Over the coming days, HT Business will take an in-depth look at these names that are likely to influence the course of corporate India 2008.

Profitability, track record, growth in market capitalisation and innovative and aggressive business strategies were used as yardsticks for choosing the names. Rasesh Shah, for example, has made it into the list for the soaring market capitalisation of his company, Edelweiss Capital and aggressive plans for the next year. Edelweiss Capital, which got listed just 20 days ago, now has a market cap of Rs 12,160 ($3 billion.) Shah, who left ICICI Bank 11 years ago to start his own venture, was the first one to spot opportunities in the arbitrage business. “He has a young and deal-hungry team. And he has managed to team up with MNCs like Lehman Brothers,” says Hetal Gandhi, MD and co-founder of private equity firm — Tano Capital. Shah is now transforming Edelweiss into a financial services conglomerate.

And then there is the story of how three IITians are taking financial services’ company India Bulls—which had reported a 130 per cent increase in net profit in the last financial year — into a new growth phase. India Bulls, which successfully raised money from capital markets and deployed it in diversified businesses, is expected to unlock value from investments in real estate and retail businesses next year.“The promoters of India Bulls has an aggressive mindset. That is why the company is growing fast,” said a Mumbai-based financial analyst.

If Mallya’s Kinngfisher Airlines may turn out to be the king of skies in “08, Spicejet will be the real dark horse. Cost-competitiveness is improving its profitability.” Spicejet will start making profits in 2008-09. It has the lowest cost of average seat per kilometer at Rs 2.30,”said Kapil Kaul, CEO, Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation.

Anand Jain, a close friend of Mukesh Ambani, will be the man to watch out for in 2008. Jain, who made a late entry into the real estate business, has raised around Rs 5000 crore through the Urban Infrastructure Opportunity Fund (UIOF). Jain’s mega plans for special economic zones will also bear fruit in the next year. Stock markets are agog with rumours that Anand Jain-promoted Jai Corp, which has been giving the highest PE multiples, will get merged with Reliance Industries.

ITC, perhaps, is the only one in our list whose history is well-documented. The tobacco major, however, is fast re-inventing its wheel. And this quiet transformation still remains untold.