TAKING A TUMBLE

. The corresponding figure in the last survey was 33 per cent. Similarly, more respondents (33 per cent) are concerned about the avail­ability of finance in the current quar­ter as compared with the last survey (22 percent).

Ajay Seth, Chief Financial Officer of automaker Maruti Suzuki, says that NPAs (bad loans) in the banking system have gone up so sharply that lenders have become cautious. “Banks are likely to lend to compa­nies with good credit ratings.”

According to the survey, exports growth is another area where most respondents are pessimistic. Some 51 per cent are expecting a drop in ex­ports in the July to September quarter compared with 46 per cent in the previous survey. In April, exports contracted by 14 per cent over the previous year. It was the fifth con­secutive monthly drop in exports. “It is a reflection of weak international and domestic demand conditions,” says D.K. Joshi, Chief Economist at ratings agency CRISIL.

A May 2015 report by CRISIL had pointed out that low demand, not policy, is the biggest problem for cor­porate India at the moment. “The investment cycle [is] unlikely to re­start soon and growth recovery will be a slow process,” the report said.

BCI by Sector

All sectors witnessed a fall in sentiment

BCI by Size

Confidence dipped across categories

Big

businesses

Medium j businesses j

Small j businesses

Micro \ businesses

Business Confidence Index on a scale of 100


Business Confidence Index
“There is a growing realisation that the government has no magic bullet”

D.K. JOSHI

Chief Economist, CRISIL

Substantially                                       n

worse

Moderately worse

Same/no change

Moderately better

Substantially better

56
Joshi says that since private sec­tor investment is not picking up, the government is trying to “frontload” its expenditure budget and that could help boost demand. Some 9.1 per cent of the total annual expenditure was done in April alone. “There’s a realisation that there’s no magic bul­let with the government. The recov­ery cannot happen with fiscal policy or interest rate cuts,” says Joshi.

More respondents (30 per cent) expect selling prices to get affected in the current quarter as compared with the previous survey. Also, a higher number of respondents (32 per cent) expect their profits to shrink in the same period.

In the current survey, only 26 per cent respondents have shown their willingness to make fresh in­vestments in 2015. More than one- third respondents (35 per cent) had expressed their interest in making investments in2015/16in the previ­ous quarter. Experts point out that this is possibly linked to under utilisa­tion of installed capacity and lower consumption. “Corporates are still in a wait-and-watch mode. The overall demand is better than last year but the cycle has to turn,” says Seth.

Corporate leaders are hopeful that the situation will improve in some areas. For example, 93 per cent of the respondents feel that the cost of external finance will improve or

Demand

Conditions

More than two-thirds felt that the situation had deteriorated

57

Hiring Conditions

Almost half said that conditions worsened

32
16
>~ CD >- <D
GLOOMY OUTLOOK
Companies don’t expect things to
improve in the July-September quarterOverall Economic SituationOnly about a quarter expect the outlook to improve
12
Same/no

change

Substantially

worse

Moderately

worse

Moderately Substantia better better
figures indicate percentage of respondents

The empire, built over the past two-and-a-half decades, is now beginning to crumble. First, lack of support from state-run lenders forced Maran to sell the struggling Spicejet to Ajay Singh, who is credited with the BJP’s Achhe Din pitch in the 2014 elections. In fact, Singh had earlier sold Spicejet to Maran in 2010. This pulled down the group’s turnover from 1:10,000 crore to 14,000 crore.

Now, Sun TV, the 12,331-croreTV business, is also being threatened.

In the first week of June, there were reports that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had recom­mended to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting that TV licences of the Sun Group be revoked due to “economic security interests”. The threat, if carried out, will hit Maran where it hurts the most, for Sun TV is one of India’s most profitable media enti­ties and the group’s cash cow. In all five southern states, except Kerala, Sun TV Network channels – Sun TV, Udaya TV, Gemini TV – are market leaders in the general entertainment category. The MHA has also denied security clearance to FM channels owned by the group. The Centre had also with­drawn the Multi System Operator licence to Kal Cables, owned by the Maran family, though the company has got relief on this from the Madras High Court. The assaults, including the earlier Enforcement Directorate notices for attaching more than ^750 crore assets owned by him and his brother, have the potential to cripple Sun’s empire.

At a personal level, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is already probing Kalanithi Maran and his brother, former Union minister Dayanidhi Maran, in a number of cases, including illegal use of a BSNL exchange installed at their residence. Dayanidhi has also been charged in the 2G spectrum allocation case.

The Undeclared War

The Group Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Sun Group, S.L. Narayanan, says he was shocked when he heard about the latest MHA move and rushed to Delhi to meet officials and understand their concerns. “Nobody in this government wants to meet us. This has never been the case. In the past they might not have agreed with you but

Net Profit

1,200 250

Jkk. 12

PUBLICATIONS

Figures in tcrore; data for 20V4/I5; sources: Ministry of Corporate Affairs, companies

they would meet you,” says Narayanan.

The issues Sun TV is facing are unique. This is because its fortunes are intertwined with the political associations of the promoter family. Therefore, it is important to look at these linkages and Kalanithi’s early days to understand the challenges it is facing.

Early Days

Hansraj Saxena, a college mate of Kalanithi at Chennai’s Loyola College who later worked in a senior position at the Sun Group, remembers him as an above average student. Saxena had campaigned for Kalanithi when he ran for and won the presidentship of the students’ union. It helped that he came from a pre-eminent political family. For Kalanithi’s grandmother, Shanmuga Sundari, had brought up not only her son, Murasoli Maran, but also her brother, M. Karunanidhi. While Karunanidhi was known as Kalaignar (artist), Kalanithi’s father was a man of let­ters, running the party newspaper, Murasoli.

By the time Kalanithi graduated with a commerce

 

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