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Last Updated : May 10, 2019 09:54 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Podcast | Editor's pick: Trade war trauma; Bezos' moon diorama; Gautam Gambhir's unending drama

… and other stories from the country and the world, in one podcast.

Moneycontrol Contributor @moneycontrolcom

Rakesh Sharma

US-China trade war has escalated. Sensex and Nifty have crashed. Japan and Russia may finally end their World War II hostilities. Jeff Bezos unveiled a moon lander, and revealed his dream of a trillion humans living in bucolic space colonies. These and other big stories of the day on the only podcast you need to listen to, with me Rakesh Sharma, right here on Moneycontrol.

Infrastructure major Larsen & Toubro Friday reported a 7.9 per cent rise in its consolidated profit-after-tax (PAT) at Rs 3,418.24 crore for the quarter ended March 2019. Its PAT stood at Rs 3,167.47 crore during the corresponding period a year ago, according to a BSE filing. Consolidated income in the said quarter increased to Rs 45,555.29 crore from Rs 41,091.04 crore in January-March 2018. The board of directors has recommended a dividend of 18 per equity share, which is subject to the approval of shareholders.

The country’s largest lender State Bank of India (SBI) reported standalone net profit at Rs 838.4 crore for the March quarter of the financial year 2018-19 (FY19). The state-owned lender had posted a loss of Rs 7,711.17 crore in the year-ago period. Net interest income (NII) during the quarter came in at Rs 22,954 crore, up 15 per cent on year-on-year (YoY) basis. Basic EPS (earnings per share) stood at Rs 0.94 against Rs 4.43 in the December quarter. Analysts had expected SBI to post a net profit of around Rs 3,900 crore, up 0.3 per cent on a sequential basis. Gross NPAs declined to 7.53 per cent against 8.71 per cent in the previous quarter and 10.91 per cent in the corresponding quarter of the previous fiscal. Net NPAs during the period came in at 3.01 per cent against 3.95 per cent in the previous quarter and 5.73 per cent in the year-ago quarter.

In more public sector bank earnings news, Allahabad Bank, which came out of the RBI’s PCA framework in February, and into which the government infused capital of about 6,896 crore rupees, has posted a net loss of Rs 3,834 crore in Q4 of FY19, against a net loss of about Rs 3,510 crore in the same period of FY18. The net loss of the bank in Q2 of FY 19 was about Rs 733 crore

The gross non-performing asset (NPA) of the bank as a percentage of total lending stood at 17.55 per cent in the last quarter, against 15.96 per cent in the corresponding quarter of FY18. The net NPA of the bank stood at 5.22 per cent in the last quarter, against 8.04 per cent of the corresponding period of FY18. The provisions for NPA in the last quarter stood at Rs 5,279 crore, against Rs 5,126 crore in the same period of the FY18.

Today was the last day to receive bids for troubled airline Jet Airways. The livelihood of 22,000 employees and their families depends on whether or not there is a successful bid. So far, SBI has said there have been two unsolicited bids it received today on Friday. The deadline only just expired at 6 PM.

The airline, unable to compete against low cost airlines and suffering due to some mismanagement issues, has had to close all operations since the 17th of April. With no working capital, the airline has also failed to repay debts of over $1.2 billion.

After closing the doors for expression of interest (EoI) on April 12, SBI Caps, which is overseeing the bidding process, had shortlisted four suitors -- Etihad Airways, TPG Capital, Indigo Partners and National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF).

Employees themselves have submitted a plan for the revival of the airline. And latest reports have confirmed that Etihad has submitted its bid for the airline. What the decision of SBI Caps is going to be will be one to watch out for.

In a Moneycontrol exclusive, Ashwin Mohan has reported that online financial product marketplace BankBazaar has initiated talks with investors for raising capital. The Chennai-headquartered firm, which counts Amazon and venture capital fund Sequoia Capital among its major stakeholders, last raised funds in October 2017.

"BankBazaar has recently mandated investment bank UBS to raise between $80 million to $100 million,” said one of the individuals Moneycontrol spoke to.

“Key performance ratios have more than doubled since the last fund raising round in 2017 and in this round, the valuation of the company should comfortably be upwards of $500 million," the person said.

In October 2017, UK-based credit rating agency and information management company Experian picked up a 10 percent stake in BankBazaar for $30 million, valuing the marketplace around $300mn.

BankBazaar was founded by Adhil Shetty, Arjun Shetty and Rati Shetty in 2008. The marketplace helps consumers compare offers on credit and debit cards, loans, savings and investment products and insurance across various banks and non-banking financial companies. Its rivals in this segment include PolicyBazaar (which became a unicorn last year and is a dominant player in the space), CoverFox, MyInsuranceClub amongst others. Earlier this year, BankBazaar tied up with Ujjivan Small Finance Bank for providing personal loans.

Discount alert: National carrier Air India today announced a new offer to sell last moment tickets at a huge discount. Air India's last moment inventory, available three hours ahead of departure time, will be sold at a discount, normally exceeding 40% of the selling price, according to a report on ANI.

The discount will be applicable from tomorrow across economy class seats on all domestic routes. The decision was taken at a commercial review meeting of Air India at its headquarters today. These tickets are aimed towards helping those travelling for emergencies, when ticket prices could be unaffordable.

German industrial conglomerate Thyssenkrupp said Friday it expected the European Commission to "block" its plan to merge its European steel business with Indian steel giant Tata.

"Thyssenkrupp and Tata Steel expect that the planned joint venture of their European steel activities will not go ahead due to the Commission's continuing concerns," the German company said in a statement.

Per a report on Bloomberg, US President Donald Trump, the morning after levying fresh tariffs on China, says talks between the two countries "continue in a very congenial manner -- there is absolutely no need to rush."

Trump, in a string of Twitter posts said the process has begun to place additional tariffs at 25% on the remaining $325 billion dollars worth of Chinese goods imported by the US, and claimed money received from tariffs would be used to purchase agricultural products from US farmers to ship to other countries for food aid. Trump also said waivers on some products would be granted "or go to new source," though he didn’t elaborate.

"In the meantime we will continue to negotiate with China in the hopes that they do not again try to redo deal!"

China has said it will be forced to retaliate, though hasn’t yet specified how or when it will do so.

Discussions between President Xi Jinping’s top trade envoy and his US counterparts in Washington made little progress on Thursday, with the mood around them downbeat, according to people familiar with the talks. The negotiations were due to resume later Friday morning Washington time.

Meanwhile, Trump’s tariff increase to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods took effect today. The biggest Chinese import sector affected by the rate hike is a $20 billion-plus category of internet modems, routers and other data transmission devices, followed by about $12 billion worth of printed circuit boards used in a vast array of US-made products. One analyst claimed the tariffs will “drive down exports, and suppress job gains for the industry by as much as 400,000 over 10 years. It will also invite China to hit back at American businesses, farmers, communities, and families."

As per a report on CNBC, Jeff Bezos, chairman of Amazon and founder of Blue Origin, unveiled his space company's lunar lander ‘Blue Moon’ for the first time on Thursday.

"This vehicle is going to the moon," Bezos said during a presentation to media and space industry executives.

Hedging his bets on the closest celestial body to earth, he said, "We were given a gift — this nearby body called the moon.” He added that the moon is a good place to begin manufacturing in space due to its lower gravity than the Earth. Getting resources from the moon "takes 24 times less energy to get it off the surface compared to the Earth," Bezos said, and "that is a huge lever."

The Blue Moon lander can bring 3.6 metric tons to the lunar surface, according to Bezos.

Bezos also unveiled the company's BE-7 rocket engine at the event. The engine will be test fired for the first time this summer, Bezos said. It's largely made of "printed" parts, he added.

In recent times, VP Mike Pence has directed NASA to return U.S. astronauts to the surface of the moon within the next five years. Bezos seems to agree with him: “It's time to go back to the moon and this time stay,” Bezos said.

Bezos’s ultimate destination is not the moon, but just space itself, specifically as envisioned by Princeton physicist Gerard K. O’Neill. Bezos described on Thursday a dreamy, ambitious vision of the future: a trillion people in space, living not on moons or planets, but bucolic space colonies.

In recent times, Elon Musk has become a more visible presence in the space exploration and rocket launching arenas. But Bezos founded his rocket company in 2000, which means that it has been around longer than the other rocket-peddling billionaire. Musk started SpaceX in 2002.

On Thursday, Bezos seemed to take indirect aim at Musk’s vision of establishing a colony on Mars. He said giant space colonies — rotating to provide artificial gravity — would be a much more practical solution to settling humans across the solar system. Mars, the moon and other destinations would not provide all that much space to live, and they are distant and largely inhospitable.

Elon Musk, on his part, has replied in the only way he knows how. In character as a parody of himself, he tweeted a picture of the lander ‘Blue Moon’, except, the label on the lander read Blue Balls, and his text accompanying the picture said, “Stop teasing, Jeff.”

This, of course, not the first time Musk has trolled the Amazon CEO. As CNBC noted in a report, Last month, Amazon announced plans to launch more than 3,000 satellites to provide internet to "unserved and underserved communities." Musk subsequently called Bezos a copycat in a tweet. SpaceX announced its own plans to launch internet satellites in 2018.

In IPO news, the only one that matters is upon us. Uber priced its IPO at $45 per share Thursday, toward the low end of its stated range. At the IPO price of $45 per share, the company will be valued on a non-diluted basis at about $75.46 billion, which will put the stock's market cap right around the size of Caterpillar's and make it one of the most valuable companies ever to go public. On a fully diluted basis, Uber has an implied market valuation of $82.4 billion, CNBC reported. This is likely to be the largest IPO since 2014, and one of the biggest is US history.

Early reports suggested Uber was seeking a valuation of up to $120 billion. Its expected range was between $44 and $50 per share, according to a filing last month.

The company is offering 180 million shares of common stock, which means it could raise around $8.1 billion on Friday, with an option for underwriters to buy an additional 27 million shares.

A ride-hailing pioneer and Silicon Valley darling, Uber made on-demand transportation a new norm throughout the world, while accumulating massive losses and controversy along the way. It even contributed a world to the lexicon – any hailing service is now an ‘Uber for X’ or ‘Uber for Y.’

In 2018, Uber's revenue reached $11.3 billion for the year, up 43% from 2017, while reporting adjusted losses of $1.8 billion, an improvement over losses of $2.6 billion in 2017, according to its IPO filing. The company has never turned a profit.

Japan and Russia will hold talks on territorial dispute today on Friday. Japan Today reported that Japan and Russia's foreign ministers will hold a new round of talks in Moscow on Friday aiming to resolve a territorial dispute between the two countries, Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday.

Japan has been mounting a push to resolve a dispute over four islands - known as the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kuriles in Russia - which has prevented Moscow and Tokyo from formally ending their World War Two hostilities.

According to a report on PTI, BJP's East Delhi candidate Gautam Gambhir sent a notice to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and Atishi on Thursday demanding their apology after being accused of being involved in distribution of "obscene and derogatory" pamphlets against his AAP rival.

In the notice, the trio was asked to withdraw their allegations against the cricketer-turned-politician and tender an unconditional apology. Earlier in the day, Gambhir had said he would withdraw from the Lok Sabha contest if the charge was proved against him.

"I declare that if its proven that I did it, I will withdraw my candidature right now. If not, will u quit politics?," he said in a tweet addressed to Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supremo Kejriwal and Atishi, the party candidate from East Delhi.

Atishi broke down reading a pamphlet containing "obscene and derogatory" remarks against her on Thursday. She alleged that the pamphlets were distributed in the constituency by her Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rival.

Gambhir slammed Kejriwal in a series of tweets, saying he was "ashamed" to have him as the chief minister of Delhi.

The political atmosphere in the national capital vitiated hours before the poll campaigning concluded on Friday evening, with the BJP and the AAP indulging in a bitter blame game.

"I abhor your act of outraging a woman's modesty @ArvindKejriwal and that too your own colleague. And all this for winning elections? U r filth Mr CM and someone needs ur very own Jhadu (broom) to clean ur dirty mind," Gambhir tweeted.

In a statement, the political greenhorn had earlier said there were five women in his family and that he would not resort to such "petty" politics.

"I will not let the AAP leaders go scotfree. I will file defamation suit against them," he had said.

Atishi has alleged that the pamphlets containing derogatory remarks about her as well as her family were distributed by the BJP at housing complexes in East Delhi.

"I had welcomed Gambhir myself when he joined politics but I never imagined that he would stoop to this level in the Lok Sabha polls," she said.

AAP leaders slammed Gambhir on social media and other platforms, with Kejriwal saying he never imagined that the BJP nominee would "stoop so low" while urging Atishi to stay strong.

Gambhir claimed that the "petty politics" exhibited by the AAP was the reason why people with good intentions stayed away from mainstream politics.
First Published on May 10, 2019 09:54 pm
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