Infosys/Sunak: Strong dollar boosts outsourcing, hampers new PM
Rishi Sunak could be considered a long shot – if it weren’t for the fact that his latest bid to become UK prime minister ended just seven weeks ago. This time Tory MPs pushed him to power over the heads of party members who disapproved of his elite powers last time. Among them is the £630m stake in Infosys owned by his wife Akshat Murthy.
Sunak supporters counter the unflattering claim that the family’s wealth will pit him against Britons on modest incomes. What they cannot deny is that his political status and the value of Murthy’s investments are dollar toys.
Over the past year, the dollar has risen by 10% against the rupee. This helps Infosys. The group, co-founded by Murthy’s father, provides technical staff to companies around the world. Almost two-thirds of its revenue comes from North America.
Sunak spent the pandemic as UK chancellor deflecting the threat of widespread business collapse with generous credit schemes. Indian outsourcers such as Infosys, at the same time, were in high demand from foreign companies forced to accelerate their transitions to the Internet.
Infosys shares are a quarter below their January peak. Forecasts for global IT spending are slowing. Last September, CIOs expected technology investment to grow by more than 5 percent in 2022. According to Citi, their growth forecast for next year falls below 2 percent.
But stocks are still three times higher than at the beginning of 2020. The pandemic has reinforced the optimistic thesis that Indian outsourcers are acting as the ground troops of the technological revolution. They used to be seen as boring contract labor providers.
Infosys trades at 24 times forward earnings, a third higher than the pre-pandemic average, according to S&P data.
Infosys has far more cash than debt. Sunak’s government will have far more debt than cash. A strong dollar, which has risen by a fifth against sterling this year, is driving up borrowing costs and pressure to cut costs.
Automation may improve productivity, but it will mostly help the better, regardless of Sunac’s commitment to “leveling up.” Software will be sourced primarily from the US, hardware from East Asia, and contract staff from India and Eastern Europe.
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