Friday, October 23, 2009

Murthy to be venture capitalist and I wonder why now

Economic Times reports that NRN Murthy has sold 180 crore of Infosys shares to start a VC firm in India which will invest in startups focussed on basic healthcare, education and nutrition.

The cynic in me says that this is a cooked up headline to justify the selling of Infosys shares which I believe is poised to plummet to depths not seen before.

There are two fallacies to this story propagated by NRN. Firstly the goal of VC is to generate returns in the excess of those which could be possible by the stock or bond markets, at the expense of taking a higher risk then normal. Any Silicon Valley VC will tell you that 99% of all startups fail but the 1% which succeed generate 1000% returns to compensate for all the failures. In the period 1999-2009 a VC study showed that more funds went bust then which made a profit for their investors.

Now given the risk profile for a VC, is NRN trying to become a silicon valley type VC or is he trying to become a "philanthropic venture capitalist". These three words are put together sound more ironic then "Sweet Tata Namak". The goals of each of these professions is different and do not intersect even on elliptical curve on a infinite plane.

Is NRN trying to downplay the share sales since he doesn't want investors to think that an insider is bailing out without attracting attention. As an investment decision NRN has made the right decision by slowly selling all his shares and hopefully diversifying his assets into index funds. As per the article he has now jus 0.4% shares of Infosys remaining so that speaks about the confidence he has in the company he has founded.

There was an article in Reuters the other day which spoke about how Accenture, HP and IBM consulting services have expanded in India to cut their overheads and now each employ more then three quarters of the workforce of Infosys or Wipro or TCS. Infosys trades at 20 times forward earnings versus 14 for IBM and similar disparities exist for Wipro and TCS. What more opportune time to sell the stock then when the Indian market has hit its cyclical bear market high!!

Good job NRN but sorry that you cannot pull the wool over our eyes. Full article here

BANGALORE: One of India's most successful entrepreneurs is turning into a venture capitalist (VC). Infosys Technologies' co-founder and chief mentor N R Narayana Murthy, on Thursday, sold shares worth Rs 180 crore to start a venture capital firm that would fund start-ups mainly in India. The idea is to encourage young entrepreneurs with brilliant ideas. The VC will invest in start-ups operating in the areas of basic healthcare, education and nutrition.

In a reversal of roles, in deciding to become a VC, Murthy is following in the footsteps of his daughter Akshata who was until recently a VC based out of Bay Area in Silicon Valley operating in the clean tech space. Until her marriage to Rishi Sunak in August, she was a senior associate at Siderian Ventures.

Murthy on Wednesday and Thursday sold a combined eight lakh shares of Infy to raise money to fund VC firm. The number of shares owned by him in the company now stands reduced to 23.8 lakh valued at Rs 526 crore at Thursday's closing price of Rs 2,211. The Murthy family's combined holding is around 5% with his wife Sudha owning the largest chunk. Murthy's individual holding in Infy which has been less than 1% for a while now stands reduced to 0.4%.