In the country of Dev, Ganguly, Tendulkar, and Kohli, cricket is probably the second religion of average Indians. And, thanks to cricket, football and footballers are not the lucky ones to grab eyeballs in India. Yet, the football world cup has its followers and fans across the length and breadth of this cricket-loving nation.

Analysts Sanjeev Prasad, Sunita Baldawa, and Anindya Bhowmik of Kotak Institutional Equities Research have come up with a crisp note in which the trio believes that “the inglorious exit of defending champions in the first round of the last six football world cups (four out of six world cups) has some remarkable parallels in the Indian stock market and perhaps life”.

In the stock market, like in football, the leaders of a bull cycle usually struggle over the next few years given their distended valuations. “However, ‘champion’ stocks like champion football teams usually make a comeback,” the trio point out. “Owners of ‘expensive’ stocks may want to keep football history in mind.”

Football first. Prasad, Baldawa, and Bhowmik highlight that the last six football world cup championships (1998-2018) have seen the defending champions being eliminated in the first round of the next world cup. For hardcore cricket fans, here’s a quick recap of football history: France (winners in 1998) exited in the group stage (first round) of the 2002 championship; Italy (winners in 2006) was eliminated in the group stage of the 2010 championship; Spain (winners in 2010) suffered the same fate in 2014, and Germany (winners in 2014) had a similar disappointing exit in 2018.

“Nonetheless, these countries are and will remain football powerhouses and will make a strong comeback in the future,” they note. “France could even win in 2018 given the prodigious talent of young Kylian Mbappe (a possible unicorn in football),” they add. “Germany, Italy and Spain are not in contention.”

The three at Kotak believe that as in football, leaders of a bull market usually struggle in the post-bull market stage. The trio has pulled up data around the performance of the top performers in percentage terms in the last two years of a bull market (1998-99, 2006-07) and their subsequent one-year, three-year and five-year performance.

The trio has shown the contribution of the market leaders to the market rally in the last two years of the same bull markets and their subsequent one-year, three-year and five-year performance. Additionally, Prasad, Baldawa, and Bhowmik have also included the leaders of the current bull market; it may or may not be over, they disclaim along with the standard disclaimer that past performance is not an indicator of future performance. “The stocks may continue to do well given the companies’ superior quality,” they note. “Champions usually come back, but can struggle for some time.”

The trio cites the example of Infosys, the biggest contributor to the 1998-99 bull market, which performed poorly until 2004 and periodically after that. “However, it has made some sort of a return of late,” they say. Similarly, they talk of Reliance Industries—the biggest contributor to the 2005-07 bull market—which struggled over 2008-16 but has been a strong performer over the past 18 months. “It has been a large contributor to the ongoing rally (June 2016-June 2018) in the Indian market,” the trio highlights. The three are cognisant of the fact that Infosys has returned a more modest 10% CAGR since its 1999 peak, and Reliance Industries a paltry 3% CAGR since its 2007 peak. “Timing of investment does matter, although good stocks will deliver consistent returns over most periods,” they say.

And finally, the champions’ fiasco has some valuable lessons for investors and life as well. The Kotak trio notes that strong football nations are ‘repeat’ world cup champions, despite their periodic struggles. “Good stocks are similar—they may have their periods of weak performance but generally deliver solid performance over long periods of time,” they say. “We can argue the same for good investors and people in all walks of life (failure can follow success and success failure).”

The trio concludes by quoting Lionel Messi, who famously said: “It took me 17 years and 114 days to become an overnight success.” "Dedication, perseverance and self-belief can drive individuals to achieve their own goals,” say Prasad, Baldawa, and Bhowmik. That’s true. Sports lovers exactly know how difficult it has been for Dev, Ganguly, Tendulkar, and Kohli. Err, this is FIFA time. Sorry!!

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