MCX – Undervalued?

Back to blogging after a long long pause.

Anyway, given the hullabaloo around NSEL, FT and MCX, there have been certain conclusions that NSEL is a gone case and so is FT. The only remaining entity of Jignesh Shah’s empire is MCX. And an opportunity to buy an exchange with a significant moat in the commodity trading business for about 2000 cr seems enticing for many.

For those who are new to MCX and want to understand more about MCX, Rudra has got a very comprehensive explanation about its business model, its competitive advantages and risks here. He has covered all angles (the blog is obviously before all the ruckus on NSEL in August).

The price action of MCX below – 1 year back, it was quoting at about Rs.1500/-. Around start of this financial year, it quoted at about Rs.850/- (The budget in Feb’13 proposed and imposed a commodities transaction tax (CTT) on all non-agricultural commodities which led to a drastic fall in volume). Then about August, the NSEL saga struck and the price dropped to a low of Rs. 238/-. It recovered a bit, and HDFC Mutual Fund bought a large quantity at about Rs. 293/-. Yesterday, it quoted at around 410/- and today, it was up by 10% to 455/- (a market cap of Rs.2300 cr).

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We are all fascinated by bottom-fishing, but we are always unsure of getting stuck at the bottom. And so it was with MCX. Nobody bought at Rs. 238/- (when cash per share, seemingly on B/S and again confirmed by Sep 2013 B/S was about Rs. 180/- a share). Now, when the price has doubled (seemingly after FMC has ring-fenced and necklace-spiked MCX from the vultures), people have developed an immense interest in MCX’s seemingly unbreakable moat, its multitude of competitive advantages and why it’s a great buy at these levels, given normal profitability.

Given the state of affairs, I decided to see the volume of contracts at MCX (obviously, more the no. of contracts, the more MCX revenues and profits boost up, just like a toll-bridge). The major products traded at MCX are only four – Gold, Silver, Copper and Crude. Rest of the commodities are too small to be even counted (inspite of MCX’s major push towards agricultural commodities – FCRA hasn’t yet come up with regulations for options on commodities, which are crucial for agricultural commodities – and given the NSEL fiasco, they won’t be in a hurry). So, here I plot the contract volume of all 4 products –

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As you can see, volumes have plummeted in the initial part of the year due to CTT, and most probably plummeted further after the NSEL fiasco. Of course, not much commodity volatility globally across these 4 commodities is also one of the reasons for this poor performance. On an average, y-o-y since August, Gold’s contracts have gone down by 60%, Silver by 63%, Copper by 63% and Crude by 74%.

For the year ended FY13, MCX ended up with 299 cr of net profit. Analysts who assumed this profit to be the base case, and who assumed that volumes at an exchange will ALWAYS grow are in for a rude shock with MCX. The profit for Q1 FY14 was Rs. 60 cr, Q2 FY14 was 27 cr and given the severe contract volume drop in Q3, I would expect MCX profit to end up somewhere around 18 – 20 cr (if not less). Net-net, if a similar trend continues through to next year, I would expect MCX to end up with profits around Rs. 125 – Rs 130 cr.

In my view, this needs to be the base profit expectation (maybe even lower, given that Gold is about to break $1200 internationally and there might be further lack of interest due to absence of options) to evaluate MCX rather than the elusive Rs.300 cr as the base case. Applying a 20x P/E (it’s at 10 P/E TTM, but exchanges with such moat I think should trade fairly at 20 P/E), we arrive at a market cap of Rs. 2600 cr, a measly 13% above current price levels.

Contra-viewpoint: Of course, all of these fundamental valuations go out of the window if a reputed player like HDFC/Kotak take over 26% of the company (from Jignesh Shah). In that case, the market price can fly anywhere, maybe even double. But I am still not buying.

Long term view: Even considering a HDFC/Kotak buying out the stake, the price may double from here in quick time (< 1-2 years). But am I confident that the volume of commodities traded at MCX would increase 20% year-on-year for the next 10 years? I am really not sure. Hence, I am not taking a bet for now, inspite of a decently high probablity that there are a couple of good triggers for an increased market price in the short term. As and when I learn more about MCX’s business or about FCRA’s view on introducing commodity-related options at MCX, I may change my view. But for now, I am letting this pass, purely based on fundamental valuations than bet my money on any buy-out speculation (which may come true after all).

Disc: Not invested. Still studying the MCX stock (business)

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  1. #1 by piyush on December 20, 2013 - 8:13 PM

    actually I realized on reading your post that start of options trading on MCX would be the real game changer. Futures volumes have gone down due to CTT, but just like on NSE, CTT would have limited impact on options. Look at NSE – option volumes are so many times larger. It might turn out to be similar case here as well, though I’m not sure about contribution of turnover in options to profitability. Even if that happens after 2 years, options will be allowed at some point of time on MCX. That should be a game changer.

  2. #2 by Karun Sandha on December 21, 2013 - 11:59 PM

    Thanks Commander for sharing your views.

  3. #3 by Kiran on December 31, 2013 - 3:33 AM

    @Piyush – Yep, agreed. But wouldn’t that be speculation than investing with a margin of safety. I positively believe that there would be good reforms post elections (whichever, other than 3rd front, comes to power). Banning of CTT and introduction of options may well be one of them. But that’s purely speculative at this point, especially considering the mess around NSEL-FT-MCX.

    @Karun – Thanks!

    • #4 by Abhishek Mandawewala on August 24, 2014 - 6:27 PM

      Hi Kiran, my first post on your blog. I only just discovered on Ayush Mittals blog. Very interesting articles.

      While I agree with your thesis in general but I think this statement is irrelevant

      “Even considering a HDFC/Kotak buying out the stake, the price may double from here in quick time (< 1-2 years). But am I confident that the volume of commodities traded at MCX would increase 20% year-on-year for the next 10 years?"

      What you have not taken into account is that MCX is a high operating leverage business. Which means for every incremental rupee of turnover generated, their profits rise disproportionately. Which means they dont need to grow at more than 5-7% on the top line to grow at 20-25% odd percent on the bottomline!

      Ofcourse now that the folks from Kotak have a significant stake, they are going to try and lobby for removal of ban on options trading but if that happens it will just be a bonus. This business to me is good even without it!

      Disc: Invested

  4. #5 by Abhishek Mandawewala on August 24, 2014 - 7:23 PM

    *1.5 times profit for every 1 rupee turnover earned

  1. Lorimer,MCX,Buffett and China | Meditations

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