KARACHI: The sales pitch employed by Elixir Securities CEO Junaid Iqbal to global fund managers at the Pakistan Capital Markets Day in New York last month was simple: even if the incumbent government returns to power after the upcoming elections, the Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE)-100 Index is still likely to post returns of over 21% in 2013.
In case a more pro-business government – supposedly led by the PML-N – comes into power, the stock market will rerate from the current multiple of 6.9 to 7.9, if the projections of the Elixir Securities research team are to be believed. That would push the index to 23,200 points by the end of 2013, which translates into an annual return of 38%.
In the best-case scenario, wherein the new political leadership tries to fix the taxation system in its first months in power, Elixir Securities estimates the KSE-100 Index will likely touch 26,000 points by December 2013, which means a staggering 54.8% annual return.
“The market is operating at an average multiple. In the absence of any leverage, there are no associated risks. It is being driven purely by earnings growth right now,” Iqbal told The Express Tribune in an interview.
Initially planned as a one-day event (hence named the Pakistan Capital Markets Day), Elixir Securities’ two-day road show in the global financial centre was attended by 35 fund managers, partners and principals from 25 major international asset management companies and hedge funds. Elixir Securities also took along representatives from Engro Corporation, Engro Foods, Lucky Cement and United Bank Limited. Iqbal was accompanied by the heads of his research and sales departments.
“All of them wondered how Pakistan’s capital markets could perform so well amidst bombings and violence,” he said, while noting that the KSE remained the third best-performing stock exchange of the world in 2012 by posting 37% returns in dollar terms, despite political instability and frequent terrorist attacks.
“I told them, honestly, that we cannot defend Pakistan on its human rights record: but the fact remains that the annualised growth in profits of the corporate sector for the last four years has been 17%,” he said.
“They understand that a political metamorphosis is taking place in Pakistan. At the same time, they are supremely impressed by the quality of management in our corporate sector,” he added.
Without naming the funds or giving their exact number, Iqbal said many of the companies he interacted with in New York have already consented to visit Pakistan in the near future. He said that it is not possible to state the exact amount of foreign institutional portfolio investment that is likely to come in as a result of his road show, but added that he was confident that investment will soon be coming into Pakistan’s capital markets.
He cited two reasons: firstly, all of the participants, which included some of the largest global funds, had sent their senior team members – something that shows how seriously they viewed Pakistan’s financial sector. Secondly, he noted, they were all ‘knowledgeable investors’ who had already developed deep understanding of issues ranging from the suspension of gas to Engro’s $1.1 billion fertiliser plant, to turf wars in Karachi involving the People’s Aman Committee.
“Pakistan is already on their radar. Our market will skyrocket once the law and order situation improves,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 9th, 2013.
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