Buy into the Bollywood boom

Shilpa ShettyThe vibrant colours, the irresistibly catchy music, the glamour and the hundreds of syncopated dancers -- it can only be Bollywood. India is the world's largest producer of movies, and each year 1,200 feature films are made in the country.

I must admit, I'm not a great fan myself, but the other half has to see the latest releases. For Bollywood fans the films can have an addictive quality.

A great market to be in

As India becomes wealthier and its middle class grows, so the Indian film industry booms. With a market of 1.2 billion people in India, plus millions more expatriate Indians scattered around the world, this is a great market to be in.

And if you want to buy into this boom, there is no need to delve into foreign stock markets with complex tax rules, as one of the key players in the Indian film industry, Eros International, is listed on AIM.

What does Eros do? Well, it is a classic example of vertical integration. Not only does it commission and produce movies, it also markets and distributes them.

Growing by leaps and bounds

In 2011, three of the top five films in India were made by Eros. The company releases more than 70 films a year, and has a library of over 2,000 titles.

And Eros is finding many ways to exploit this library. Recently the firm completed an innovative TV syndication deal linking box office sales with content pricing. Plus it is exploiting the internet, with a billion views a year on YouTube and the launch of an Eros app on iTunes.

What's more, film releases are garnering more and more box office receipts. One of Eros' latest releases, science fiction movie Ra.One, made £40 million gross worldwide.

The success of new releases and the exploitation of its film library is driving rapid growth in this company. For the six months ended September 2011, revenue increased by 35% to £60 million, and operating profit rose 37%.

A growth company at a value price

Eros is pouring investment into a very strong and growing pipeline of upcoming films for 2012 and 2013, including an increasing number of 3D movies. This means that we can expect revenues to grow by leaps and bounds over the next few years.

Interestingly, this rapid growth is not reflected in the business' valuation -- yet. Earnings per share is expected to rise from 24p in 2011 to 32p in 2012 and 36p in 2013, but -- at its current price of 229p -- the company is on a forward P/E ratio of just 7. Eros does not pay a dividend.

What are the negatives? Well, the firm has a substantial amount of debt (£75 million as of September 2011), but Eros is planning to steadily reduce this.

The chief executive's vision

In a recent interview, Eros' chief executive, Kishore Lulla, gave an interesting insight into his vision of the future.

"Bollywood today is where Hollywood was in the 1940s," said Lulla. "But what Hollywood did in 50 years, India will do in ten. .... The day is not far when a Bollywood film will gross $100 million within two weeks and that's the day when the world will also take note of Bollywood. I am convinced that the growth has started and Bollywood will become a global phenomenon in the next ten years."

Ambitious words -- but who would bet against it?

In summary, Eros International is an easily-accessible play on India's booming entertainment industry. This is a growth company at a value price. It's worth buying into, before everyone realises just what a bargain this is.

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