Systematic investment plans come in different variants. Are they useful? Jason Monteiro...
With the introduction of the new Rupee symbol and the desire to be accepted internationally, it is time the Indian government start publicising this with the help of stamps
It was in 1840 that Great Britain issued the first postage stamp which featured the picture of Queen Victoria. Some 12 years later India followed suit in 1852, even though the Royalty continued to use the “road runners” for carrying urgent messages from one place to another.
Today, India has the largest operating postal system in the world.
And it is the government that runs this service. Postal departments in all countries run this service and issue stamps with different themes, from honouring their national heroes to popularising the local flowers, fauna, heritage sites and so on.
Occasionally, these stamps have been issued, due to oversight, with defects. For example, the US issued a stamp of a flying plane, upside down, in 1918. Just one sheet of 100 stamps had this defect. It was stopped when the blunder was discovered. One lucky holder of this stamp sold it for $ 825,000 while another, in 2005, sold a block of four “Inverted Jenny” (as they are called) for $2.74 million.
In 1993, a two penny Blue Mauritius was sold for $1,148,850; another two penny Orange Mauritius was sold for $1,072,260 while a collector bought the Swedish Three Skiing Yellow in 1996 for $ 2.3 million.
These are a few examples of rare stamps, some of which may still be lying in our own attic and backyards, left uncared for from our grandparents’ worldly possessions.
To commemorate the independence, India issued the Indian flag stamp on 15th August (priced at three and half annas) and nowadays we can only see this in exhibitions and they are not easily available.
India, fortunately, does not have stamps with errors—at least, they have not surfaced so far. However, due to great public interest, India also began to issue stamps showing its historical and heritage sites, flora and fauna, honouring international leaders etc and actively promotes issuance of First Day Covers (FDCs), which, not only carry the stamps with special first day ‘cancellations’, but are issued on one time basis which results in the FDCs becoming a prized possession the very next day and can be bought only at a premium!
All the commemorative stamps are of a limited edition in nature, and collectors buy them in the hope of long-term gains as well. Encouraging school going children to get into this hobby will also divert part of their “pocket money” into indirect savings in this manner!
Lastly, Indian postal authorities have rationalized the airmail charges (for 20 grams) at Rs5 for domestic and Rs25 for international letters. With the introduction of the new Rupee symbol and the desire to be accepted internationally, being the world’s third largest economy, it is time the Government of India start publicising this with the help of stamps. As a first step, why not have the Rupee symbol in Rs25 stamps that will carry this message throughout the world? Even the stamps, presently, do not have this symbol. So, why not have a Rupee symbol series in India? We must ensure that Rs25 stamps are designed specifically for use in overseas mail, as a start!
Now we take a look at coins. Indian history goes back to the 6th century BC and India was one of the earliest to introduce the coinage. A ‘cowrie’ or sea-shell was the means of exchange, before coins came into existence!
Since the country was governed by various forms of royalty, everyone had his/her own coins in use, which were mostly in precious metals, like gold and silver, besides mixed metals. Even today, when buried treasures are dug from the earth, these contain coins from various periods depicting a variety of subjects, besides honouring the ruler, local deity, etc.
Because of rarity, the ‘old’ coins are expensive. A one anna 1818 coin issued by East India Co showing Ram Darbar was priced at Rs10 lakh from a collector in Kolkata, recently; another similar older coin, details not given, has been indicated at Rs50 lakh!!
Such rare coins have been found in temple treasures, like the recently discovered Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram. Likewise, such coins may also be found in family heirlooms in the form of jewellery and in antique shops.
Also, when coins are minted, even today, overprinting, double-side same print, etc has taken place and these become invaluable.
The equivalent of FDCs in coins are in the form of “proof sets” and ‘UNC’ (uncirculated coins) sold by the issuing mints. Fortunately, like the Western countries, India also sells these and these are collectibles and become valuable over the years. These form yet another avenue for safe investment and can be great money spinners.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US. He can be contacted at [email protected].)
While admitting that the regulatory framework in oil and gas sector in India is far from robust, Nomura feels that the worst is already priced in and it’s outlook on the sector is more positive than others
Regulatory and policy headwinds continue to be a key overhang for the Indian oil and gas sector, however, the market has discounted the stock prices to unrealistically pessimistic levels and there may be significant value now, says Nomura Equity Research.
“Despite the slowdown in investment elsewhere in the energy chain, there have been several new announcements for LNG terminals. We think the continued progress on several pipelines is also a positive. Perhaps most importantly, we believe the government is eager to implement the recommendations of the Ashok Chawla Committee, which should go a long way to restoring order in the sector, in our view,” Nomura said in a research note.
According to the Japanese financial services group, the Indian gas sector has always been tempered by the fact that the regulatory framework is far from robust. "Still, we were surprised by the sudden deterioration in the regulatory environment this year. On issues where decisions or actions are necessary like for example ending the KG-D6 impasse, gas pricing and CGD (city gas distribution) licensing, there is near paralysis, while issues that we believe are minor and should have been resolved amicably like marketing margins, authorization and tariff setting, have turned into full-blown controversies.”
“This has forced us to revisit our assumptions and bring down our earnings forecasts and target prices by 25%-35% in some cases. However, we think the market has discounted the stock prices to unrealistically pessimistic levels and we see significant value now,” the report said.
Over the past two years, and especially over past few months, concerns on regulatory and policy aspects in the Indian oil and gas sector have only been aggravated. Rather than resolve issues through dialogue, arbitration and litigation seem to have become the order of day. The confrontation is not only from private companies with the government or regulators, but also from government-owned companies with government or regulators. In fact, at times even different ministries or units of government have taken differing views, and look to be confronting each other.
Similarly, over the past few years, with several corruption scandals surfacing and several investigations ongoing, government decision-making has suffered and has been widely highlighted in the media. In a bid to avoid controversies, both government bureaucrats and regulators have tried to “play safe”, by not taking decisions.
“Recently there is an increased feeling, in our view, among various stake holders that the government will have its way and the sanctity of written contracts may be compromised. There have been a few controversial decisions recently, which, in our view, have affected invested investor confidence,” Nomura said.
Due to ongoing policy and regulatory confusion, the damage is significant and a lot of it may be permanent, feels the Japanese research house. “Overall gas production in the country has declined sharply. More importantly, with gas reserves being scaled down, several blocks being relinquished and few international players deciding to exit Indian E&P, the longer-term outlook is also diminished,” it added.
Nomura, however, said all is not gloom in this sector, recently there are some positive developments like the increased reliance and acceptance of LNG, several new project announcements for LNG terminals and continued progress on various pipelines. “We think the recommendations of the Ashok Chawla Committee are path-breaking. And importantly, the government seems eager to implement these recommendations,” it said.
The Japanese research firm said corrections in oil and gas stocks in India have been far deeper and some of them are in deep value and available at undemanding valuations, on its estimates. Here are Nomura’s recommendations...
• We upgrade Reliance Industries (RIL) to Buy (from Neutral) with a target price (TP) of Rs860. We believe the worst-case scenario in E&P is priced, and the era of underperformance is behind it. We expect earnings growth to resume, aided by the weak Indian rupee and petchem expansion.
• We downgrade GAIL to Neutral (from Buy) with a TP of Rs375. We see near-term pain as gas volumes decline in FY13F/14F and realized tariff declines in FY15F.
• Indraprastha Gas (IGL) (Buy, TP Rs400) and Petronet LNG (PLNG) (Buy, TP Rs200) remain our top picks.
• IGL escaped well from the harsh tariff order, in our view. Even as uncertainty persists, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) is virtually ‘tamed’ for now, and it is unlikely to get so aggressive again, in our view. The underlying story is intact, and IGL keeps surprising the market with its ability to hike prices. With a 35% YTD decline, the stock trades at 9x FY14F P/E, and is already discounting the worst-case scenario, in our view.
• For PLNG, given sharp growth over the past two years, earnings will likely be muted in FY13F and FY14F. But we highlight that as domestic volume declines, PLNG remains best placed to import more LNG. After a 16% YTD decline relative to Sensex, valuations are undemanding, in our view, at 11x FY14F P/E.
• Maintain Buy on Gujarat State Petronet (GUJS) (TP Rs85) for long-term growth, but concerns will remain in the near term on volume declines and tariff reviews.
• Maintain Neutral on Gujarat Gas Co (GGAS) (TP Rs300), as ownership change process gets stretched.