The surge in export demand for cotton yarn over the past few months has come as a major respite for the domestic spinners, who had reported a multi-year low profitability during FY2018 amid multiple headwinds. Even though the pace of growth is likely to moderate during the year with the base effect setting in, India is set to record strong growth in cotton yarn exports during FY2019, according to an ICRA report.
Commenting on the emerging trends, Jayanta Roy, Senior Vice-President and Group Head, Corporate Sector Ratings, ICRA, says, "Even though trends in domestic consumption of cotton yarn remain unencouraging, strong revival in export demand augurs well for profitability of domestic spinners as it has enabled them to pass on the increase in raw material costs, unlike last year. This together with access to low-cost cotton from the previous harvest season has helped the domestic spinners maintain the improvement trajectory in profitability in H1 FY2019."
The revival in export demand has enabled ICRA's sample of large spinning companies report a comfortable volumetric growth of 5% Y-o-Y in Q1 FY2019, which together with a 7% Y-o-Y increase in average yarn realisations to Rs 211/kg has translated into a growth of around 12% in sales turnover during the quarter. The growth rate appears comfortable, when viewed in comparison to a growth of 5-6% reported by the sample during FY2017 and FY2018 amid multiple demand-side pressures. The aggregate operating margins also improved to 12.2% in Q1 FY2019 vis-a-vis 11.6% in Q4 FY2018, after having remained subdued at 9-11% during the preceding four quarters. As a result, the aggregate interest cover improved to 3.8 times in Q1 FY2019 from 3.1x in Q1 FY2018, despite an increase in interest outgo due to an increase in the inventory-led working capital requirements.
While the strong Y-o-Y growth of 56% in cotton yarn exports during four months of FY2019 driven by a more than two-fold increase in exports to China, is partly attributable to the low base effect, as exports were down by 56% Y-o-Y in four months FY2018, it has also been driven by competitive Indian cotton and yarn prices. Indian cotton prices increased at a relatively slower pace vis-a-vis the international prices during the seven-month period ended May 2018, reporting a 6% increase in US dollar terms vis-a-vis a 20% increase in the international cotton prices during the same period. As a result, the spread between domestic and international cotton prices, which typically averages at 5%, increased to 12% in the quarter-ended March 2018 before peaking at 16% in the quarter-ended June 2018. This, together with rupee depreciation, made Indian cotton as well as cotton yarn considerably competitive in the global markets during the months of March, April and May 2018, shoring up demand for Indian cotton and cotton yarn.
With increased demand, Indian cotton prices increased by around 9% in the month of June 2018 and stayed firm thereafter, before correcting marginally in September 2018 with the onset of the harvest season. As a result, the spread between the domestic and international cotton prices narrowed significantly and is estimated at around 8% for the quarter-ended September 2018.
"Notwithstanding the healthy demand prospects in the export markets in the near term, considering the still higher-than-usual spread levels, the spike in growth rate of exports witnessed is likely to moderate during H2 FY2019 with the arbitrage opportunity as well as the base effect fading out," Roy added.