Margin pressures, valuations could cap returns on Wipro

Wipro has been the best-performing stock among the big five listed Indian software companies enriching investors with a return of 151 per cent over the last year. Though it has underperformed peers on the revenue growth front over the last few years, the turnaround in the second half of FY21 led by record deal wins, leadership change, Capco acquisition strong commentary on outlook led to sustained gains for the stock.

The company’s growth in the June quarter is also expected to be better than peers post the revision of guidance from 2-4 per cent on a sequential basis to 8-10 per cent including the Capco acquisition. Wipro had announced the acquisition of UK-based financial services consulting firm Capco (annual revenues of $700 million) in March completed the acquisition at the end of April. The deal at $1.45 billion is its largest acquisition will boost the consulting segment of the financial services vertical.

Given the deal wins of $7.1 billion in the second half of FY21 book-to-bill ratio of 1.6 times, there is revenue visibility for FY22 with the street estimating full year growth at about 11-13 per cent. What could give momentum going ahead is the company’s five point strategy of accelerating growth, strengthening partnerships, building industry specific solutions, scaling talent more importantly simplifying its operating model.

While there are many positives, analysts highlight key risks from operations, payout ratio margins valuations which could limit the upsides from hereon. Says Suyog Kulkarni of Reliance Securities, “Progress on various acquisitions integration of Capco, consistency of organic growth execution risk (as compared to the longer track record of its larger peers) are among the major moving parts which the Street will closely track.”

Further, analysts point out that unlike TCS Infosys which have a payout ratio 85-90 per cent, Wipro’s payout historically has been on the lower side partly due to the acquisitions. With revenue growth improving, the street expects the company to adopt a more rewarding payout policy going ahead which could be a trigger for the stock.

Pressure on profitability is another issue which could impact the stock. While the company ended FY21 with margins of 20 per cent, analysts at Motilal Oswal Financial Services expect a 200 basis points moderation in margins over FY21-23 on account of the Capco acquisition, increased employee costs higher investments in sales.

With travel costs expected to come back after staying muted for the last four quarters, there could be pressure on margins. Though the double-digit growth should offset some of the cost inflation, any sharp increase in attrition will add to the wage bill worsen the impact on profitability.

High valuation is the single biggest reason that could cap returns in the near term for the stock. Given the outsized gains over the last year, the rerating has been the sharpest for Wipro. The stock is now trading at 27 times its one-year forward earnings estimates as compared to its ten year average of 15 times. Given the consensus target price of Rs 472 a share the current price of Rs 547, the stock in the absence of new triggers could underperform in the near term.

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