If there is one indicator that stock market analysts watch closely, it is advance taxes.
That is because this number indicates what kind of financial results a company is likely to post. And these numbers have it that State Bank of India (SBI) has pipped Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) to emerge as the highest corporate taxpayer in the country.
For 2006-07, State Bank of India paid Rs 2,670 crore as advance tax - a 71% growth over the previous year. LIC, on the other hand, paid Rs 2,000 crore in corporate taxes, up 11% over last year. "SBI has witnessed good growth in credit offtake and retail banking. This will add to its profitability," said Sandeep Shah, head of equities, Tower Capital.
As for Reliance Industries, India's largest private sector company, it paid Rs 1,220 crore in advance taxes - 43% more than what it did last year. The numbers also indicate that cement, banking, engineering and pharma companies have increased advance tax payments significantly. Indications, analysts say, that companies in these businesses will post decent results.
In banking, ICICI had a tax outgo of Rs 1,025 crore - a 35% increase. But in percentage terms, at 45%, Union Bank of India witnessed the highest outflow in the sector at Rs 385 crore. As for HDFC Bank, it paid 37% more at Rs 575 crore.
For cement companies, the last year has been a party. Cement prices per 50 kg bag went up by Rs 45 and profits are expected to be high. The advance tax numbers pretty much corroborates the feeling. Gujarat Ambuja Cement, for instance, paid 450% higher taxes at Rs 440 crore. UltraTech has seen its outflow rocket up 700% to Rs 400 crore.
Oil companies, on the other hand, have had a fairly rough time. With their profitability under pressure through the year and hamstrung by government policy, it seemed unlikely they would be able to pull off anything spectacular.