Hush-hush tales from the world of stock markets, banking, corporate world and corridors of power
Last Updated: Sep 14, 2020 10:17 AM IST
NEW SHAH OF MUTUAL FUNDS
Let’s roll with mutual funds. The mutual fund industry like most of us has had a terrible year so far, but this top honcho seems unscathed by the avalanche of bad news. If anything, he is set to play perhaps a bigger — make that the biggest — role of his career. We heard our bossman is headed to HDFC Mutual Fund as its big cheese. You know him — he is well networked, media savvy and a shah of Twitter. The buzz on this movement has been so strong for weeks now that some offhand denials have been issued. Be that as it may, we’ve learnt that he has been offered upwards of Rs 100 crore in Esops to take the job. That is an amount his current employer will find hard to match.
One more on MFs. A widely respected veteran of the mutual fund industry was sounded out if he would be interested to join RBI’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC). Remember the committee has three RBI members and three external members. The term of the external members ended at the last meeting and a search committee is scouting for replacements. The MF veteran apparently declined, because of conflict of interest, which would vanish if he resigned from his current position. That he obviously won’t. The potential conflict of interest is the very reason that all the outgoing external members of the MPC are academics. For what it is worth, the veteran advised the search committee member who approached him to have market experts as MPC advisors, as is done in most countries.
Globally, the private equity industry is believed to be sitting on a jaw-dropping $1.5 trillion of dry powder. Back home, a major chunk of that kitty is being slung at the pharma sector, with players such as Caryle and Advent busy striking deals during the lockdown. Now we hear that the private equity arm of a blue-blooded Wall Street juggernaut is eager to make a mark as well. The fund, which backs a pharmacy chain, is on the prowl for pharma assets. Just what the doctor ordered for domestic companies that are keen to cash in on the soaring valuations triggered by the pandemic.
DIAL M FOR MARKET
The likes of Amber Enterprises and Dixon Technologies rode the ‘Make in India’ wave and have reaped stellar returns for their shareholders since early 2020. A desi handset player is keen to ride the same wave and dial D-Street as “the multiples seem good”. The firm has no listed peers and a listing would make it the first IPO in the niche segment. Not to forget, the anti-China sentiment makes the timing even sweeter.
This property in Mumbai, as it happens with most properties in that city, attracted a fierce contest among investors for ownership. A bunch of foreign investors were salivating at the prospects of landing the deal. But a corporate honcho snatched it away from right under their noses. The foreign investors who were left high and dry even complained to the powers that be but to no avail. If it is any consolation to them, the new owner isn’t too happy with his new purchase. Why? Well, we heard the Vaastu test on the property did not have live up to his expectations.
SKELETONS IN THE LOCKER
A well-known private bank, whose former CEO is being investigated for financial sins, is trying hard to resurrect its tarnished image. The new management has roped in a leading public relations company to stop bad press at any cost. The PR firm has been asked to "request" journalists to ensure only "positive" questions in exchange for "exclusive interviews". Will that help? As the probe deepens, we hear that more skeletons will tumble out of the proverbial cupboard. This includes a hefty $50,000 (way above industry standards) upfront fee paid to a foreign banker who was close to the previous management for raising capital. What’s the big deal, you might wonder. The capital never came. We can only wish the PR firm good luck.
A top lender is enjoying an epic quarter with the uptick in credit closely resembling the sales chart of Amazon on Prime Day. But a little birdie who did some digging for us told us that the hoopla is thanks to the processing of a flurry of existing applications. Ah! So what about fresh business? That is a different story altogether. Customers are in no hurry to make investments because of the stranglehold of COVID-19. This reluctance is particularly visible in the property segment, which is bad news for segments like home loans. Don’t be surprised if loan growth takes some crushing blows in the coming quarters.
Last week we told you about the Game Of Thrones kinda scenes that played out a lending behemoth. The throne has been grabbed by the second in command. That is bad news for all the underlings of the ousted king. Some casualties are inevitable. One of the first heads to roll could be an ace dealmaker. What about the king who has been ousted? Insiders say he is scouting around for a good safehouse. Given his goodwill with some of the top corporates, it may not be that difficult after all.
The hullabaloo around Dream 11 bagging the title sponsorship rights for the IPL is yet to die down. If you thought that some of the excitement will rub off on other such startups, this development will well, stump you. We heard that this startup in the fantasy sports segment, backed by no less than India’s “sultan of swing”, has retired hurt (sorry, we couldn’t resist) and packed up for good. Now venture capitalists are not exactly warming up to the new kids on the block. Can’t blame them because if a legend like the Harayana Hurricane couldn’t save this match, who else can?
This year’s annual convention of SIAM, the automobile lobby group, had companies in a tizzy. They were looking forward to hobnobbing with policymakers and push for the long-awaited GST cut on vehicles. With finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman publicly backing the move, their hopes were sky high. To say things did not pan out as expected would be an understatement. Session after session passed, but no cues about the relief came from bureaucrats or ministers. Lots of nervous glances were exchanged as the day wore on. An exasperated promoter of a top two- wheeler company couldn’t take it anymore. Just as another session was about to end with not a hint of a concession, he butted in and asked: “(What about) GST cut on two-wheelers?” Sadly, the question fell on deaf ears.
The death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput has polarised people from all walks of life. As it happens, social media has emerged as the battleground between people who smell a rat in the actor’s death and those who are against the hounding of his girlfriend, the actress Rhea Chakraborty. Some companies have been scrambling to ensure their employees don’t get caught in the crossfire . HR officials have been busy making frantic calls to employees requesting them to take down ‘Call For Justice’ posts. In one case, a financial services firm had found that three employees were using multiple fake accounts to spread allegations of criminal activity against actors. That’s not all—they were also calling for “public retribution”. Last we heard, these employees were barred from social media.
A lot used to happen over coffee, but during the lockdown, the real action is brewing in the humble tea pot. Two funded tea startups have shuttered over the last few months thanks to prolonged lockdown and their heavy offline presence. While some of the existing players are surviving largely due to funding raised before lockdown and have curtailed operations and products, some are struggling to find takers among VCs. Clearly, chai pe charcha is not trending.
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