Pakistan's KSE-100 Index Outperforms Asian and BRIC Stock Indices in 2012
KSE-100 index approach 17,000 level, a gain of 49.84% (37% in US dollar terms). In spite of this run-up in KSE-100, Andrew Brudenell, manager of the HSBC Frontier Markets fund (HSFAX) in London, remains bullish on Pakistani equities, according to Barron's. Pakistan is one of the cheapest markets he follows, at about seven times earnings. He notes that earnings growth has kept pace with the market. The firms, he adds, are typically cash-rich, boast strong return on equity levels in the 20% range, and pay good dividends.
Here's an excerpt of a recent Businessweek story titled "Pakistan, Land of Entrepreneurs " which captures the ground reality of Pakistan's business landscape that is masked by the continuing reports of doom and gloom making up the standard mass media narrative about Pakistan:
" (Arif) Habib, who started as a stockbroker more than four decades ago, has expanded his Arif Habib Group into a 13-company business that has invested $2 billion in financial services, cement, fertilizer, and steel factories since 2004. His group and a clutch of others have become conglomerates of a kind that went out of fashion in the West but seem suited to the often chaotic conditions in Pakistan. Engro, a maker of fertilizer, has moved into packaged foods and coal mining. Billionaire Mian Muhammad Mansha, one of Pakistan’s richest men, is importing 2,500 milk cows from Australia to start a dairy business after running MCB Bank, Nishat Mills, and D.G. Khan Cement.
These companies have prospered in a country that, since joining the U.S. in the war on terror after Sept. 11, has lost more than 40,000 people to retaliatory bombings by the Taliban. Political violence in Karachi has killed 2,000 Pakistanis this year, and an energy crisis—power outages last as long as 18 hours a day—has led to social unrest. Foreign direct investment declined 24 percent to $244 million in the four months ended Oct. 31, according to the central bank.
At the same time, some 70 million Pakistanis—40 percent of the population—have become middle-class, says Sakib Sherani, chief executive of Macro Economic Insights, a research firm in Islamabad. A boom in agriculture and residential property, as well as jobs in hot sectors such as telecom and media, have helped Pakistanis prosper. “Just go to the malls and see the number of customers who are actually buying in upscale stores and that shows you how robust the demand is,” says Azfer Naseem, head of research for Elixir Securities in Karachi. “Despite the energy crisis, we have growth of 3 percent.”
Sherani of Macro Economic Insights estimates the middle class doubled in size between 2002 and 2012. “Those who understand the difference between the perception of Pakistan and the reality have made a killing,” Habib says. “Foreigners don’t come here, so the field is wide open.” The KSE100, the benchmark index of the Karachi Exchange, has risen elevenfold since mid-2001. Shares in the index are up 43 percent this year alone. Over the past decade, stocks have been buoyed by corporate earnings, which were bolstered in turn by rising consumer spending."
While Pakistan's public finances remain shaky, it appears that the country's economy is in fact healthier than what the official figures show. It also seems that the national debt is much less of a problem given the debt-to-GDP ratio of just 30% when the informal economy is fully comprehended. Even a small but serious effort to collect more taxes can make a big dent in budget deficits. My hope is that increasing share of the informal economy will become documented with the rising use of technology. Bringing a small slice of it in the tax net will make a significant positive difference for public finances in the coming years.
Pakistan's GDP Grossly Underestimated, Shares Highly Undervalued
Investment Analysts Bullish on Pakistan
Precise Estimates of Pakistan's Informal Economy
Comparing Pakistan and Bangladesh in 2012
Pak Consumer Boom Fuels Underground Economy
Rural Consumption Boom in Pakistan
Pakistan's Tax Evasion Fosters Aid Dependence
Poll Finds Pakistanis Happier Than Neighbors
Pakistan's Rural Economy Booming
Pakistan Car Sales Up 61%
Resilient Pakistan Defies Doomsayers
Land For Landless Women in Pakistan
Pakistan's Circular Debt and Load-shedding