Satyam Crisis – What is there to learn?

One of the significant quote from Benjaman Graham’s Intelligent Investor is that “Every stock has a company behind it!!”. The biggest proponent of value investing, Graham intends to change the way investors look at stocks. The primary aspect of Graham philosophy is to invest only in companies that you know.

This implies that “Assessing Management” is one of the primary aspect of study before investing in the company. An investor need to  evaluate the credibility of the management. While it is important to establish the credibility of management based on what they have delivered in past, but most of the time an investor gets influenced by the image created by the media of its CEOs or promoters. So while “Reliance” is good and the image of Ambani Brothers may be excellent, it is important to look at, what the management delivered for each of the Reliance companies.

This fact is highlighted by the recent Satyam fiasco. Satyam planned to buy two real estate firms Maytas Infra and Mytas properties with 1.6 billion $. The chairman of Satyam, B. Ramalinga Raju justfied the buy saying

Stating that it is part of its plan to de-risk the core IT business in times of recession, Mr B. Ramalinga Raju, Chairman of Satyam, said the combined entity would help face the challenging environment and uncertainty in the market.

This raised suspicion among investors not only in terms of buyout giving significant benefits to the promoter family but also in terms of valuation of Maytas, causing Satyam to drop the acquisition plans.

Byrraju Ramaling Raju has been a well-known and renowned name in the field of Information Technology, receiving lot of awards. Just seaching for B. Ramalinga Raju gives you enough information about the person and the media report will cause you to believe that the person have impeccable credibility. In fact Satyam received “ Golden Peacock Global Award for Excellence in Corporate Governance” 

The honor is especially relevant given that corporate governance best practices are considered key benchmarks by stakeholders who evaluate corporations. In fact, their importance is magnified in difficult economic environments.

If we just look at the stock price of Mytas Infra and Satyam on 16th Dec,

16th December 226.55 (Satyam) 481.00 (Mytas Infra)
19th December 162.00 (Satyam) 246.00 (Mytas Infra)

The dates are important since 16th Dec evening, the news was officially announced of a Satyam buyout of Mytas. This can be significant if we see that stock prices of most of the infrastructure and software companies are going down. This essentially gives a feeling of insider trading!!

The biggest learning for a value investor is that

Do not just bank on the big names in the industry, but to assess the management, go into the details of how much the management has delivered in the past years.

Some interesting reads on this:

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