Pedestrians cast shadows as they walk through the City of London, U.K. (Photographer: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg)  

BQuick On July 25: Top 10 Stories In 10 Minutes

This is a roundup of the day’s top stories in brief.

1. Falling Prices Fail To Revive Home Sales

Home sales are yet to revive in India’s top eight cities from the setbacks of the note ban and the new housing law. And falling prices didn’t help.

New launches rose 46 percent on a yearly basis in January-June, according to the latest report by property consultant Knight Frank India. That didn’t drive sales, which remain lacklustre despite lower prices and favourable government policies, it said. Home sales rose only 3 percent during the period.

New projects were fuelled by lower-priced homes, with 51 percent of the supply costing below Rs 50 lakh, according to Knight Frank India. Mumbai led with the highest 128 percent year-on-year growth in fresh launches, followed by the Delhi-National Capital Region and Pune at more than 75 percent. Mumbai and Bengaluru account for 56 percent of the supply in the first half.

Cranes rise above the construction site of Lodha The Park, a luxury residential project developed by Lodha Developers Ltd., in Mumbai. Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg 
Cranes rise above the construction site of Lodha The Park, a luxury residential project developed by Lodha Developers Ltd., in Mumbai. Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg 

Here’s more on how the Indian real estate industry performed in the first six months of 2018.

2. Sensex Closes At Record High; U.S. Stocks Drift

India's S&P BSE Sensex Index rose to a record closing high for a third day in a row.

The Sensex rose 0.1 percent or 33 points to 36,858 while the NSE Nifty 50 index was little changed 11,132.

For most part of the day, the benchmarks traded in a narrow range as gains in HDFC twins, ITC and State Bank of India were offset by losses in Axis Bank, NTPC, TCS and M&M.

Follow the day’s trading action here.

U.S. equity futures turned lower with European stocks as investors digested the latest raft of earnings, and before key trade talks between America and the European Union. The dollar declined against most of its major peers.

Get your fix of global markets update here.

3. Indian Bankers Breathe A Sigh Of Relief

India’s public sector bankers, struggling to deal with bad loans and investigative scrutiny of their commercial decisions, finally got a break this week. A long-awaited amendment to the Prevention of Corruption Act was cleared by the parliament on Tuesday, easing the pressure on civil servants and bankers.

The amendments require that the investigative agency seek prior permission from a competent authority before arresting a former bureaucrat or a public sector banker. Earlier, this provision applied only to government officials above the joint secretary level.

It makes it clear that an arrest can only be done in the event of quid pro quo or some malafide actions. Genuine decisions of banks will be now protected. This is what bankers had asked for.
Rajnish Kumar, Chairman, State Bank of India

Here’s more on the amendments cleared by the Parliament.

4. Nationwide Monsoon Deficiency Falls But Key States Remain Dry

India’s southwest monsoon recovered in the past week with the cumulative deficiency narrowing to 3 percent of the long-period average, compared to a 9 percent deficiency earlier in the month. While the nationwide averages improved, certain key states continue to see a shortfall in seasonal rainfall.

India Meteorological Department data, as of July 25, shows that rainfall in states including Bihar, Maharashtra, Telegana and Andhra Pradesh remains deficient. The northeastern states have also seen lower-than-normal rain.

“Rainfall over the next few days will improve the situation over Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and the Northeast which have been seeing a shortfall,” IMD’s Director DS Pai told BloombergQuint.

Some states which were seeing a deficiency till mid-July have seen a normalisation of conditions in the last couple of weeks, noted Axis Capital in a report published on Wednesday. But the rainfall pattern in rice-growing states remains a concern.

States which were carrying deficits like Gujarat and parts of Madhya Pradesh have now seen rainfall normalise. However, the rice and sugar belt of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar remain pain points with each state carrying nearly 50 percent seasonal deficit. Fortunately, IMD forecasts improvement in these regions over the next two weeks.
Axis Capital Report
BQuick On July 25: Top 10 Stories In 10 Minutes

For more on the monsoon and impact on GDP and inflation read this.

5. L&T Profit Meets Estimates As Orderbook Grows

Larsen & Toubro Ltd.’s profit rose for the tenth straight quarter.

Net profit stood at Rs 1,215 crore in the April-June period, an increase of 36 percent from the year-ago period, it said in an exchange filing. That compares with the Rs 1,243-crore consensus estimate of analysts tracked by Bloomberg.

  • Revenue rose 19 percent to Rs 28,284 crore
  • Ebitda jumped 40 percent to Rs 2,913.5 crore
  • Margin expanded to 10.3 percent from 8.6 percent.
  • L&T maintained its revenue growth guidance at 12-15 percent for the full year.
  • It also maintained the 10-12 percent order book growth forecast.

“Unlike every year when the revenue uptick is back-ended, we are looking at front-ended revenue growth for this year since we would be going into an election season towards the end of the year,” Group Chief Financial Officer R Shankar Raman said.

Read more about L&T’s orderbook and outlook.

6. Other Earnings Updates: Hero MotoCorp, JSW Steel, Bharti Infratel, Ambuja Cements

Hero MotoCorp Ltd.'s quarterly profit missed estimates as higher commodity prices hurt the operating margin of India’s largest two-wheeler maker.

“The industry has been adversely impacted by the volatility in commodity prices driven by global trends,” it said in a statement accompanying results. That impacted its margin and bottom line.

  • Profit remained flat at Rs 909 crore
  • Revenue rose 10.4 percent to Rs 8,810 crore
  • Ebitda rose 6.3 percent to Rs 1,377.3 crore
  • Margin fell to 15.6 percent from 16.2 percent in the corresponding quarter last year.

Read more.

  • JSW Steel Ltd.’s profit rose nearly fourfold in the quarter ended June on higher realisations and healthy volume growth. Read more.
  • Bharti Infratel Ltd.’s profit rose more than expected even as the number of tenants on each tower fell slightly. Read more.
  • Ambuja Cements Ltd.’s profit surpassed estimates aided by a dividend from ACC Ltd. Read more.

7. Five Of India’s Dirty Dozen Are Now Resolved

London-based firm Liberty House UK has received the National Company Law Tribunal’s approval to acquire Amtek Auto Ltd. under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, two people in the know confirmed. This makes Amtek the fifth of the 12 large stressed accounts, referred for bankruptcy proceedings in June 2017, to get resolved.

The deal adds “a major new asset portfolio to our international network,” a Liberty House spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Financial creditors of Amtek Auto are owed nearly Rs 12,312 crore, according to details of the admitted claims on the Amtek Auto website.

Read more about how the odd one among the 12 bad apples reached resolution.

8. It’s Fake News Versus Payments Service For WhatsApp

The Information Technology Ministry wants WhatsApp to prioritise curbing fake news on its platform over its plans to launch a payments service, according to a senior government official.

The official said WhatsApp's payment service matter had figured in the meeting on Monday between IT Secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney and top WhatsApp executives, including Chief Operating Officer Matthew Idema.

The ministry is of the view that WhatApp needs to resolve on priority the overhanging issue of misinformation and take more steps to control the rampant abuse of its platform for circulation of fake messages. WhatsApp has been told that the fake news issue is far more important than other plans in the current circumstances, said the official, who was privy to the recent discussions.

WhatsApp didn't respond to an emailed query.

Here’s more on how Indian government wants WhatsApp to go about tackling fake news.

9. Xiaomi’s Growth Model Is Showing Cracks In India

After crowing about how strong it is in India, and how loyal its MiFans are, Xiaomi Corp. can’t hold on to top spot in the smartphone maker’s second-largest market.

Old nemesis Samsung Electronics Co. pipped it in the June quarter after ceding the lead to the Chinese company two quarters prior, according to data released Tuesday night by Counterpoint Research.

What should worry Xiaomi, and its investors, is that fellow Chinese brands OnePlus and Honor both posted stronger growth during the period.

BQuick On July 25: Top 10 Stories In 10 Minutes

Read more of Tim Culpan’s analysis on why the India slowdown should be a concern for Xiaomi investors.

10. The Next Cancer Drug Might Start in Outer Space

Shou-Ching Jaminet, a molecular biologist and former researcher at Harvard Medical School, spent almost a year preparing an experiment for her small biotech startup, Angiex, to study the effects of weightlessness on a potential cancer drug. By June she was nervous with anticipation, readying her project for launch on an International Space Station resupply mission powered by a SpaceX Falcon 9. But before it blasted off, she wanted to lay eyes on a dolphin. In rocketry, she’d been told, it’s good luck to see one (and bad luck to see a pig) prior to liftoff. So the night before launch, she and her family headed to a waterfront restaurant near Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. It was an auspicious dinner: She spotted not one dolphin but four.

At precisely 5:42 the following morning, plumes of fire lit up the sky, and the rocket took flight without a hitch. Angiex Inc. was in space. The company, which Jaminet co-founded with her husband and a former Harvard colleague, would soon be among the more than 2,400 research projects started on the ISS since it went into service in 1998.

Jaminet’s drug is intended to cut off the blood supply to tumors, thereby killing them. In space, she wants to observe how endothelial cells, which provide this blood, behave in microgravity. When a person has cancer, these cells can proliferate, promoting tumor growth. But it’s not possible to run tests on them in a nonproliferating state on Earth.

BQuick On July 25: Top 10 Stories In 10 Minutes

Want to know more about the advantages of pharmaceutical research in outer space? Read this.