Credit Profile to remain Stable despite pressure on growth and profitability; INR appreciation, tightening of H-1B visa norms to impact profitability
The aggregate growth of Indian IT Services companies (13 sample companies) was at 3.9% during Q4FY2018 (9.7% in US$ terms) compared to CAGR of 17.1% experienced over the FY2013-2017 period and a 4.2% growth in last fiscal, FY2018. The lower growth was due to the INR appreciating by approximately 4.0% versus US$ during the quarter. As per an ICRA note, Indian IT Services companies are expected to register compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) in mid-to-high single digits for the period FY2018-2021e.
Says Gaurav Jain, Vice President, ICRA Ltd, “The growth of Indian IT Services companies is impacted by lower demand led by uncertain macro-economic environment, lower deal sizes in digital technologies, cloud adoption and high competitive intensity from local as well as international players. Future growth will be supported by higher spend on digital technologies with larger deals spanning enterprise wise digital transformation, improving discretionary spends, continued cost benefit offered through outsourcing model and market share gains. While companies have increased spending on digital technologies and awarding new contracts, the overall IT budgets have moderated leading to lower incremental spends. The share of Indian players in Global IT Sourcing market stood at 67% in CY2017 (60% in CY2012), however incremental gains are expected to be at a slower pace. Indian IT Services companies are in the midst of re-orienting their business models focusing more on higher end services such as IT consulting & emerging technologies (digital) and have made considerable progress so far, though they still lag behind international peers. We expect large Indian IT companies to grab a higher share of the digital services space over the next three years.”
In terms of verticals, BFS (Banking & Financial Services) growth has been muted over the last few quarters. Demand for the sector has been adversely impacted by current macroeconomic conditions impacting the banking industry including sustained low interest rates, continued focus on cost optimization and managing their discretionary spends. The BFS segment growth is supported by digitization efforts, cost optimization, regulatory, compliance and security driven initiatives. The Insurance sector has seen good growth led by modernizing of legacy systems and is supporting the overall growth for BFSI which contributes 30% of ICRA’s sample set revenues.
The Manufacturing verticals (17% of ICRA sample set revenues) outperformed other key verticals with 5.8% growth in FY2018 led by automation including internet of things, analytics, optimizing supply chain and enhancing distribution channel effectiveness. With firming up of oil prices resulting in higher discretionary spends, ICRA expects the Energy vertical to perform better compared to previous few years.
As for margins, industry’s operating margins have moderated from 24-25% to 22-24% over the last few quarters. Says Mr. Jain, “the trend reflects the challenging operating environment characterized by pricing pressure on commoditized IT services, wage inflation, higher onsite costs necessitated by visa curbs as well as lower discretionary spend by corporate.”
Over the next decade, ICRA also expects consolidation in the industry especially among small and mid-size players as margin pressure will intensify leading to lower returns for shareholders. Overall, the credit profile is expected to remain stable over the medium term led by IT Services companies ability to sustain free cash flows despite pressure on growth and margins. Geo-Political issues restricting movement of skilled labour or increase in minimum salary requirement too will have negative impact on the sector outlook.