But focusing on the collapse ignores the progress that has been made in the sector during the past decade. In 2000, the Indian outsourcing business stood at a mere $5.7 billion. Today, the Indian software and outsourcing business has grown by about nine-fold, standing at more than $50 billion a year. And while the rest of the global economy came to a screeching halt in 2008, like the energizer bunny, the Indian outsourcing sector kept going and going.
This week’s Global Bull Market Alert pick, New Jersey-based Indian outsourcing play Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. (CTSH), is a bet that this sector will continue to yield big profits for investors. Here’s why I think CTSH, already a strong performer since it bottomed a year ago, is set to continue performing well as the global economy recovers.
Reflect for a moment on Cognizant’s business model. CTSH provides data and software services to businesses, including financial services, health care, manufacturing and logistics, retail, telecommunications and the media. As global growth picks up, companies need to allocate more work to more people. At the same time, they are reluctant to hire new employees. Cognizant offers the perfect solution.
The numbers confirm this. “Great Recession” notwithstanding, the outsourcing sector in 2009 grew by more than 15% and is expected to grow at 20% to 25% over the next three years. While other companies struggle during the global economic slowdown, Cognizant’s revenues in Q4 of 2009 rose to $902.7 million, up 20% from the year-ago quarter. The company earned $144 million, or 47 cents per share, on the quarter, up 28% from $112.3 million, or 38 cents per share, a year earlier. As a result, Cognizant raised guidance for 2010 revenue growth to 20% — comfortably above Wall Street’s earlier estimates.
Another of Cognizant’s secrets? It earns high margins thanks to low-cost software development centers and employees located in India — with a dash of Argentina, China and Hungary thrown in for good measure. Indian salaries are still only 25% of the starting-level base pay for a U.S. programmer.
All this makes Cognizant a true growth stock and one of the few in the global investment universe whose stock price has now surpassed that of its previous peak in February 2007.
So, buy Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. (CTSH) at market today, and place your initial stop at $47.00. If you want to play the options, I recommend the July $52.50 calls, with a ticker of UPU100717C00055000.
You were stopped out of your position in the iShares MSCI Chile Investable Mkt Idx (ECH) on intraday trading on Friday at a slight loss. I’m still a big believer in Chile’s prospects moving ahead, so I may return to this pick as the market settles.
UltraShort Euro ProShares (EUO) jumped 3% this week, within striking distance of a record high as risk aversion returned to the markets. With your leveraged bet against the euro bouncing off of its 50-day moving average, and the long-term uptrend still intact, I am moving this position back to a BUY.
Mechel (MTL), your highly volatile bet on Russia, fell back slightly last week. Anticipating a strong growth in demand for steel, global steelmakers have taken steps to boost their production around the world this week. Mechel itself announced on Monday that it has just opened a representative office in China. MTL remains a BUY.
National Bank of Greece (NBG) fell back last week as the saga of Greece continues. In the latest news, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso urged Germany to back his plan for EU financial aid to Greece. In an interview published today, Barroso argued that it would not amount to a bailout. This pick will move sharply with the news of the day. In my view, when push comes to shove, the EU won’t allow Greece to go bankrupt. NBG remains a BUY.
China North East Petroleum Holdings Ltd (NEP) was flat this week. The company announced Wednesday that its oil production increased 6% to 236,774 barrels from the year-ago period. The company also said it drilled 30 new production wells for a total of 289 wells at the end of the year. That compared to 247 wells at the end of 2008, and was 20% more than the company originally forecast. Any sell-off is on very low volume, with investors holding on for the company’s earnings announcement on March 29. Update on March 26: If you bought NEP at our recommended price of $9.81, please stick to our stop-price discipline. And, if NEP hits its $7.50 stop price, sell immediately to minimize any loss. For new subscribers, we still believe the company is positioned well for growth and we expect an uptick in its price following the Q409 earnings report to be published Monday, March 29. The stock is a BUY.
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