Sunday, December 27, 2009


Privatization of container rail operations has enticed 16 players, including incumbent Concor, to the space since 2005. These players are eyeing 3% (97m tonnes) of the overall freight market by trying to shift volumes from road to rail. Operators can ‘create the market’ by offering integrated, value-added logistics solutions with last mile connectivity. However, to attain these capabilities and garner higher volumes, operators need to invest heavily in hard infrastructure. As the business entails a longer gestation period, scale and efficiency (utilization and turnaround times) are extremely critical to generate returns of 15%+ on capital employed. In view of their competitive strength, and thereby ability to attract volumes and drive strong earnings growth, we believe Concor, Arshiya and Gateway Distriparks (GDL) are well positioned to generate superior returns. Reiterate Overweight on the sector.

Integrated service offering to attract volumes to rail: While the number of operators appears high at 16, we believe there are enough volumes. With 500 rakes expected to be operational by FY12/13, players are eyeing only 3% (97m tonnes) of the overall freight market. However, volumes are required to be shifted from road to rail, for which operators have to offer timely, reliable and value-added services with last mile connectivity and customized solutions.

Returns linked to turnaround times and utilization levels: Container rail is a highly capital-intensive and long gestation business with hefty investments required in rakes (capacity) and rail sidings (cargo consolidation and value added services, etc) to attract volumes. Hence, asset turnaround time and utilization levels assume greater relevance for an operator to derive economies of scale and be profitable. Once an operator achieves critical mass, we believe it can earn RoCE of 15%+, which can be further augmented by offering integrated services.

Attractive valuations; Overweight: We believe operators need deep pockets to survive the long gestation period. In this context, Concor, Arshiya and GDL possess the competitive edge in terms of funding and strong infrastructure to secure higher volumes. Arshiya and GDL are fast attaining scale, and their rail operations are likely to turn profitable in FY11, supported by an expected upturn in the trade cycle. With 12-30% earnings CAGR over FY09-12E and attractive stock valuations, we are Overweight on the sector and Outperformer on the three stocks.

To read the full report: CONTAINER RAIL