MARCH 31, 2002
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Stanley Fischer Unplugged
He has the rare distinction of having advised through the half-a-dozen economic crises of the 90s. But now economist Stanley Fischer is calling it quits at the International Monetary Fund, and joining Citicorp as Vice Chairman. In India recently, Fischer spoke on IMF, India, and the global recession.
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10 Stocks For 2002
Fears over poor corporate results and the Ayodhya issue have left investors indecisive. Still, it isn't that tough to pick 10 stocks that will do well in 2002.

Things may be better in the fortnight beginning March 18, or they could be worse-largely a function of what happens in Ayodhya on March 15. As these words are being written, though, it is evident that the Sensex has run out of steam. Its rally, after a horrible 2001, is plateauing at 3,500-3,700 levels, market movers are busy booking profits, and analysts haven't yet made up their minds whether the latest upswing is a bear market rally, or a sign of better things to come.

Our take is that it is the latter-as long as investors enter the market with a one-to-three year perspective. Budget 2002 doesn't have much on offer, but what little it does-the emphasis on infrastructure and agriculture, and lower interest rates-should result in some growth in the economy.

Says Krishnamurthy Vijayan, CEO, JM Mutual Fund: ''We think that the economy is fundamentally strong and the foreign institutional investor (FII) inflows will improve. We expect the market to improve.'' If things will indeed get better, then investors are better off sticking to bluechips (a recovery will put these scrips into orbit), and ensuring their portfolio has enough diversity to take the roughs that will inevitably come.

The 12 scrips listed here-two are actually substitutes, so the effective number is 10-satisfy this criteria. The final decision, as it should be in this age of disclaimers, is your own.

Reliance Industries
Stock Price on March 8, 2002: Rs 306.85
Fine, you've probably heard the spin about how the merger of Reliance Industries and Reliance Petroleum will create a Fortune 500 company. But did you also know that it will bring much-needed growth to RIL, which will now benefit even more from any upturn in the petrochemical business. The merged entity also has a stake in the group's ambitious telecom business. ''The merged entity offers a unique exposure to the petrochemical cycle at its trough as well the high growth telecom sector in this country,'' says Pankaj Choksy, Petro Analyst, Enam Financial. Our recommendation: buy at current levels and on dips.

Stock Price on March 8, 2002: Rs 711.7
If Yashwant Sinha's Budget 2002 had good news for one industry it was tobacco: excise duties on cigarettes weren't increased. Although highly price-inelastic, the fact that prices won't go up this year may help the industry register some much-needed growth in volumes. And ITC, which has actually managed to improve both its topline and bottomline in a period when volumes actually shrunk, should benefit. What makes the stock even more attractive is the company's ambitious plans for its non-cigarette businesses. At, around 15 times earnings, the scrip is a great bargain for a FMCG company.

Stock price on March 8, 2002: Rs 4,225.75
The worst may be over for Indian software services firms. The global economy is showing signs of recovery, and 2002 has brought with it a renewed interest in infotech outsourcing. The first-tier Indian software services companies actually managed to grow their business last year, but most saw their billing rates come under some pressure.

Put simply, the fundamental strengths of Indian software services firms haven't been damaged by the slowdown. And Infosys, which is trying to cope with this by moving into the IT consulting space and competing with the likes of Accenture, remains the best bet. ''The valuations, though attractive, are not cheap. We recommend a 'buy' at declines,'' says Anil Advani, Infotech Analyst, UTI Securities.

Zee Telefilms
Stock price on March 8, 2002: Rs 154.8
Surprised? You should be; the performance of Star Plus at the TRP hustings, and the perceived poor record of its promoters at corporate governance caused the Zee scrip to slide, slide, and slide. Today, though, Zee is a must for any long-term portfolio: the promoters have transferred all questionable transactions into their own books; and it is evident that the Hindi 'variety entertainment' space will be dominated by one of three channels, Star Plus, Zee, and Sony Entertainment Television. Zee, to its advantage, controls its distribution through a subsidiary, and has just inked an advantageous distribution deal with AOL-Time Warner subsidiary Turner. Buy it for your children.

Stock price of HPCL on March 8, 2002: Rs 314.1
Stock price of BPCL on March 8, 2002: Rs 319.25
If you've been tracking what's been happening in the markets recently, you probably need no explanation on why you should buy these scrips. If not, here goes: the government's disinvestment drive seems on track; and Budget 2002 has reiterated the government's decision to go ahead with the disinvestment of the two oil companies, and to deregulate the pricing of oil products. Even if bids for the two companies do not display the irrational exuberance those for IBP did, they are estimated to be at a significant premium to current prices. Reliance and Shell are both keen on bagging the companies; and Texaco and ongc have evinced some interest too. ''HPCL and BPCL will benefit from the dismantling of the APM. The privatisation of the two companies is a big positive,'' says Motilal Oswal, Chairman and Managing Director, Motilal Oswal Securities.

Indo Gulf Corporation
Stock Price on March 8, 2002: Rs 45.7
True, Budget 2002's reduction in the import duty on copper (from 35 per cent to 25 per cent) bodes ill for copper companies like Indo Gulf and Sterlite. Still, Indo Gulf enters our portfolio as a commodity pick on the strength of two factors: a strong up-trend in international copper prices; and a price-earnings multiple of just 3. This is probably the right time to get a foot in.

Tata Engineering
Stock Price on March 8, 2002: Rs 133.35
The performance of the Indica v2 has seen the Tata Engineering scrip perform well over the past few months; an economic recovery could propel it to new heights (the sales of commercial vehicles is closely linked to the growth of the economy). Falling diesel prices could also help Tata Engineering's prospects.

GlaxoSmithKline Pharma or Ranbaxy
Stock Price of GlaxoSmithKline Pharma on March 8, 2002: Rs 349.1
Stock Price of Ranxbaxy on March 8, 2002: Rs 852.25
No portfolio is complete without a pharma stock. Glaxo holds the promise of assured growth; Ranbaxy and DRL (Doctor Reddy's), that of exponential, but marginally risky, future growth. Investors who covet value over all else need only look as far as the scrips of pharma multinationals: impending product patents and the relaxation of the drug pricing regime (fewer drugs now come under this) should see them do well. Glaxo SmithKlineBeecham, which has restructured its portfolio recently, is a good bet.

Ranbaxy and DRL are for aggressive investors. Their current valuations may be a tad stretched, but their research initiatives could help these companies rake in the moolah in the future. Ranbaxy, courtesy, its strong generics (drugs going off patent) play in the US and Brazilian markets may have an edge over DRL. Says C. Shreehari, Analyst (Pharmaceuticals), Khandwala Securities: ''In the last couple of years, the generics market has really opened up and Ranbaxy has benefited from it.'' Caveat: Indian pharma stocks are volatile, and investors would do well to spread out their buying to three to four lots, at every dip.

Stock Price on March 8, 2002: Rs 246.55
We just couldn't leave this one out. The recent reduction in excise duties on several fast-moving consumer goods (shampoos, skin creams, and the like) should help HLL boost volumes; the company has already decided to pass on the benefit to consumers. Still better, Budget 2002's emphasis on agriculture should help HLL, believe analysts like Parag Parikh's Rajeev Sampat, thanks to the company's ''rural thrust''. With its strategy of focusing on power brands starting to kick in towards the end of the last year, HLL does look like a sound long-term buy. However, the scrip has gone up in the last fortnight and large investors will certainly book profits on it (read: sell). Ergo, buy on dips.

Stock Price on March 8, 2002: Rs 231.1
Banking adds just that bit of diversity to any stock portfolio, and SBI, a stock that some consider a proxy of the Indian economy, may just be the right banking scrip to pick. Despite the slowdown, the bank has consistently performed well, and its diversifications into areas like insurance will hasten its transformation into a universal bank (SBI already is the number one institution in providing home finance in the country). Says Rajat Rajgarhia, Banking Analyst, Motilal Oswal: ''The increasing retail focus along with strong margins has contributed to the financial performance. The constant upgradation of the it platform also augurs well for the bank.'' Our take: it is a safe buy at the existing price.