Which are the Best Defence Stocks in India?


The Indian defence and aerospace sector is about to undergo a transformation that would allow it to firmly establish a position among other global industries. Our government is now favouring domestic defence equipment development over imports. Indian companies have been encouraged and assisted in designing, developing, and producing a wide range of military systems and platforms. This is thanks to the policy framework that our government has put in place over the past ten years. In this article, we provide insight into the defence sector of India and the best defence stocks to watch out for. 

An Overview of India’s Defence Sector

  • India is on its way to becoming self-sufficient in the large-scale production of military aircraft, vehicles, missile systems, arms and ammunition, etc.
  • The Defence Ministry's budgetary allotment was increased by 13% to ₹5.94 lakh crore in Budget 2023–24.  This shows a very large potential for growth in the defence sector.
  • Our government is all set to spend nearly ₹6 lakh crore on defence equipment in Financial Year 2024. And 99% of this equipment will be sourced from Indian industries. Much to the US and Russia’s dismay, India’s defence imports are shrinking due to the emergence of the Indian defence industry. 
  • India is also close to procuring weapons for the Indian Armed Forces worth ₹70,500 crore ($8.7bn), which will all be Made in India. India’s defence imports declined by 11% between 2013-17 and 2018-22, and this decline was linked to a complex procurement process.
  • India bagged an export order worth $155 million for 155-mm artillery guns and another deal for supplying Teevra 40-mm guns to the Indonesian Navy. Armenia signed a $250 million contract for India’s Pinaka missiles.
  • The govt continues to promote joint ventures between Indian and international businesses to carry out co-development, share innovations, and manufacture goods for both domestic use and export.

India is very close to becoming a defence manufacturing hub as it supplies equipment and ammunition to the world. 

Top Defence Stocks in India to Watch Out For:

Sl. NoDefence Companies5-Year Stock Return
1Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.385%
2Bharat Electronics Ltd270%
3Bharat Dynamics Ltd242%
4Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd.982%.  
5.Cochin Shipyard Ltd.56% 
(Returns as of July 20, 2023)

1. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.

Established in 1940, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is engaged in the design, development, manufacture, repair, and servicing of aircraft, helicopters, aero engines, and aerospace structures in India.  It falls under the administrative control of the Ministry of Defence. HAL has designed and manufactured some of the most advanced Light Combat Aircraft (such as “Tejas”) and helicopters for the Indian Armed Forces. The company gets exclusive contracts from the space, defence, and civil industries around the world.

HAL has delivered good profit growth of 23.9% CAGR over the last 5 years and maintained a healthy dividend payout of 26.8%. This defence stock has given a healthy return of 385%  in 5 years.

2. Bharat Electronics Ltd.

Bharat Electronics Ltd. (BEL) meets the specialised electronic equipment requirements of the Indian Armed Forces. The company designs, manufactures, supplies, and exports electronic equipment and systems for the defence and civilian markets.  BEL’s defence products include communication systems, land-based radars, naval systems, electronic warfare systems, tank & armoured fighting vehicle electronic systems, and much more. The company has partnered with DRDO laboratories to design and produce customised defence systems.  

BEL has been maintaining a healthy dividend payout of 40.5% The company is also nearly debt free. The stock has given a return of 270% in 5 years. However, it has seen a very slow growth in its sales, ranging only about 11% in the past five years. 

The Defence Ministry has also inked two contracts worth over Rs 3,700 crore with the public sector undertaking (PSU) for radars and receivers that will enhance the operational capabilities of the Indian Air Force. 

3. Bharat Dynamics Ltd.

Bharat Dynamics (BDL) is a Government of India Enterprise. It is engaged in the manufacturing of guided missiles and allied defence equipment. The company’s product portfolio includes surface-to-air missiles, anti-tank guided missiles, underwater weapons, launchers, countermeasures, and mechanised infantry weapons. 

The business is expected to deliver a strong quarter and is almost debt-free. The corporation has continued to pay out a solid 41.7% in dividends. However, it has delivered a poor sales growth of -11.5% over the past five years and a low return on equity of 13.1% over the last 3 years. The stock return has been 242% over the past 5 years.

The state-owned aerospace and defence company said it entered into 10 deals with several foreign and Indian companies during Aero India, 2023.

4. Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd. 

Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd is primarily engaged in building & repairing ships, submarines, and various types of vessels and related engineering products for various domestic and international clients. It began operations in 1934 as a private corporation and was taken over by the Indian government in 1960.

The company is expected to give a good quarter and has delivered good profit growth of 19.5% CAGR over the last 5 years. This defence stock has given a 5-year return of 982%.  Shipbuilding accounted for around 89% of the company's sales as of 2020, followed by the sale of base and depot supplies (8%) and ship maintenance (3%).

5. Cochin Shipyard Ltd.

Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL) manufactures and repairs boats for the Indian Navy, Coast Guard, and private entities. In 2013, this shipyard launched INS Vikrant, the nation's first indigenous aircraft carrier.

The company has been maintaining a healthy dividend payout of 27.6%.  It has delivered a poor sales growth of -0.21% over the past five years. CSL's stock has gained 56% over the past 5 years. 

CSL has signed a contract for building six Next Generation Missile Vessels (NGMV) for the Indian Navy for Rs 9,805 crore with the delivery of ships set to begin in 2027.

More Defence Stocks in India:

Other prominent defence stocks in India include:

  1. Ashok Leyland - It is one of the top suppliers of trucks or armoured vehicles for the Indian army.
  2. Larsen & Toubro - Over the years, L&T has designed, developed, and manufactured arms, military equipment, and even submarines.
  3. Astra Microwave Products - The company supplies microwave-based high-value radio frequency super components.
  4. Bharat Forge -  As per reports, the company may start supplying artillery guns to the Indian army.
  5. Apollo Microsystems - The company provides custom-built electronics and electro-mechanical solutions to the defence sector.
  6. Reliance Naval & Engineering - The company has entered into a warship repair agreement with the Ministry of Defence.

In conclusion, the Indian defence sector offers potential investors a favourable environment. By examining the top defence stocks, we have explored companies with strong financial performance, market reputation, and growth potential. The sector is on the rise, fueled by more expenditure on defence and favourable government policies, and this presents appealing investment prospects. With careful consideration, investing in the best defence stocks in India can be a strategic move with significant potential for long-term gains.

Disclaimer: The defence stocks mentioned in the article are solely for educational purposes. Please do your own research before investing.

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