Thursday, 2 September 2010

Stray Thoughts on Financial Ratios

Whenever we talk of financial ratios, some students of finance who read only text books come up with weird rules and standards. On Monday I was conducting a viva-voce exam for some students. Most of the summer projects were ratio analysis of the company that they had worked in as interns. First of all ratio analysis is not a two month activity, at best it can be a three hour activity or an overnight assignment on finance, nevertheless these students spent an entire 60 days in companies and then came out with a report on financial ratios. That was the first thing that pout me off. the other thing that put me off was that one of the students confidently came up and said that the current ratio of the company he had worked in was at 1.8 and that it was not ideal. when asked about the ideal ratio he said it should have been 2. I asked him where he has read this, he mentioned the book of one of the finest gurus of finance in India (Dr. I M Pandey). I asked him to bring the book and read the paragraph where Dr. Pandey has categorically written that one should not follow this convention blindly. in fact he has not used the words "rule" or "standard" that goes to show how the students reads and understands according to his convenience.
I asked all these students about their perception of a great blue chip company. They cried ITC and Hindustan Unilever in unison. then i asked them to find out the current ratios of these two companies. being FMCG companies they invariably work on negative net current assets and therefore a negative working capital. That in fact is the reason for their high efficiency. the students went about finding out the current ratios of these companies and came out with the obvious: less than 1. Then the students were convinced that there is no hard and fast rule about the current ratio.
Current ratio (Current assets / Current Liabilities) is calculated to find out the liquidity position of a company or firm when the company or firm is an unknown one. If one is analysing a known brand and a company which is in business for a long time then this becomes redundant. If the company is able to dictate terms to its suppliers and its customers then it will always be in a position to use all the suppliers monies for financing its current assets making use of its own funds redundant. That shows why big companies with bigger brand names are in a position to sell for cash and buy at long credits, skewing their current ratios below unity and therefore operating with negative working capital.
A petty businessman with a lot of commonsense would find this article talking about the obvious. he always know that running a business with others money the right way of running a business.
Now for the opinion on the markets: I reiterate that the markets are poised for a fall. they may pick up some steam and even reach the earlier high of Jan 2008. The distance between today's indices and January 2008 highs is only 10-12%. This distance will be traversed in no time at all and all those investors who realise that the markets have gone up will be the ones who will buy between 5800 and 6250 of the nifty. I pray that more people read this part of the piece and refrain from any buying at these levels. and please do not feel left behind if the nifty actually goes above the 5800, because even if the nifty really touches the previous high it will fall to minimum of 3500 in the coming year 2011. So please reign in your horses. If you still plan to be in the markets then just trade, be nimble, get out at the faintest profit margin. The markets can start falling anytime from now to December and the fall will be substantial.