Vaccine winners: Stocks that benefit from India's rapid inoculation drive

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MUMBAI: India’s vaccination drive has been smashing records off late after the country inoculated more than 20 million individuals on Sunday. The status of the vaccination drive is a far cry from April to June when the country was struggling to procure supplies of COVID-19 jabs amid a raging second wave of the pandemic.

With nearly 44 per cent citizens receiving one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 15 per cent getting both doses, there is increasing confidence that the country will be able to contain the third wave of the pandemic as and when it arrives.

The rise in vaccination rate, therefore, has also lent confidence to investors on the reopening trades in the economy as contact-intensive sectors such as travel and tourism and retail come back to life steadily. This has also been helped by the fact that states are gradually easing restrictions on mobility.

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In that backdrop, here are a few stocks that analysts believe could benefit from the pandemic’s easing grip on the economic life:

InterGlobe Aviation

The country’s largest airline company is touted to be in pole position to benefit from the return of travelers. Air passenger traffic spiked 34 per cent on-month in August leading to the government increasing domestic flight capacity to 85 per cent of pre-pandemic level from 72.5 per cent earlier.

Brokerage firm Kotak Institutional Equities recently noted that InterGlobe has been able to gain market share due to balance sheet issues at rivals without requiring much equity infusion. Indigo Airlines has seen market share gains increase to 59 per cent in July from 48 per cent levels prior to COVID-19.

“It has done better than its peers in terms of load factors in the first half of August 2021 and would further benefit with the flexibility in pricing fares for journeys booked 30 days or more in advance,” Kotak Equities said.

Indian Hotels

It is pertinent to note that on Monday when losses were distributed across sectors, Indian Hotels ended as the top gainer on the Nifty500 index with 8 per cent gains. The stock has risen 16 per cent in the past month as the travel and tourism sector looks to pick up from where it left off before the advent of the second wave.

In the quarter ended June, Indian Hotels’ earnings showed impressive resilience despite the second wave. Brokerage firm Motilal Oswal Financial Services was impressed by the resilience and raised its forecast for the company’s revenue and operating profit by 2 per cent and 4 per cent, respectively.

Phoenix Mills

The mall owner has been another story of resistance during the pandemic. With rising vaccinations raising hopes of higher footfalls at malls, analysts believe that long-term story for grade A mall owners like Phoenix Mills remains intact.

Additionally, the mall operator has managed to amass a war chest of close to Rs. 3,000 crore, which could help it to explore inorganic growth opportunity going ahead given distressed valuations for malls across the country. Brokerage firm ICICI Securities is positive that the company could make 14 per cent annualized rental income growth in next three years, further cementing its status as one of the biggest mall operators in the country.

Devyani International

Recently listed Devyani International, operator of Yum Brands quick-service restaurants in India, has had a muted start to life as a listed company. However, with the economy opening and Indians ready to venture out for their food, analysts are optimistic that the company will be able to capitalize.

“With increased vaccination and gradual opening up of the economy, brands are hopeful of an increase in footfalls at malls and recovery in dine-ins,” said brokerage firm KRChoksey Shares and Securities, which initiated coverage on the stock last week with a buy rating.

Analysts believe that increasing penetration of online deliveries for QSRs has been a boon during pandemic times and will continue to drive growth as footfalls improve gradually.

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