ITC gains as Q3 outcome lives up to estimates

The stock had bounced back from a lower level ahead of results. From Rs 162.65 on 9 January 2007, the scrip recovered to Rs 172.40 by 29 January 2007. The stock had earlier drifted lower in a weak market. From Rs 177.65 on 28 December 2006, ITC declined to Rs 162.65 on 9 January 2007.

The key trigger for the ITC scrip, in the near term, is developments pertaining to value added tax (VAT) on cigarettes. The Centre has agreed to allow states to levy VAT on tobacco and tobacco products. The Centre and states reached an agreement in early January 2007, to phase out central sales tax (CST) over the next four years.

A 12.5% VAT on cigarettes will lead to a steep hike in cigarette prices, which may impact volumes. The concern for the cigarette industry is higher taxes may result in a shift in tobacco consumption, to low-end products such as bidis and chewing tobacco.

ITC today reported a 33.6% growth in net profit in the December 2006 quarter to Rs 717.40 crore, from Rs 536.83 crore during the year ago period. The net profit was at the top end of analysts’ expectations. Net sales rose 23.8% to Rs 3165.57 crore (Rs 2556.04 crore), which was also in line with estimates.

ITC has initiated retail and wholesale vending of vegetables and fruits. The company has prepared a plan to expand its ‘Choupal Fresh’ stores across the country. The company will open 140 stores across 54 towns in the next three – four years. Currently, ITC runs a store each in Chandigarh, Pune and Hyderabad.