Mumbai Returns to Normal After Worst Power Failure in Decades
Brokers watch their screens during trading hours inside a dealing room. (Photographer: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Bloomberg News)

Mumbai Returns to Normal After Worst Power Failure in Decades

Power supply was restored in most parts of India’s financial capital after its worst blackout in decades disrupted transport networks and briefly hit trading volume in bond markets.

Mumbai, home to India’s biggest stock exchanges, financial regulators and the central bank, witnessed a power failure at around 10 a.m. local time. Power tripping -- or an overload in the circuit that forces the system to shut down automatically -- was the reason for the grid’s collapse, according to local power utility Tata Power Ltd.

BSE Ltd. and National Stock Exchange of India Ltd. continued to function normally. But trading volumes in the fixed-income market dropped as many traders, sheltering from the coronavirus pandemic at home, failed to complete trades. Some rail services were halted, while airport operations and hospitals remained unaffected.

The city of 20 million people accounts for about 6% of the $2.9 trillion economy. While Mumbai has largely been immune to the daily power outages that plague large swathes of the nation, a long and widespread blackout in the capital of India’s most industrialized state would make it harder for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to revive an economy that shrank 24% in the quarter ended June.

“In my 18 years in Mumbai, I haven’t come across such a widespread disruption right in the middle of the busiest time for equity markets,” said Chokkalingam G, chief investment officer at Equinomics Research & Advisory Ltd. in Mumbai, whose home still didn’t have power at 4 p.m. “Especially during a pandemic a recurrence of such an event isn’t good.”

Power supply was restored to essential services such as trains and hospitals by about 2 p.m., according to local authorities. The city has seen rising coronavirus infections.

The country had experienced a major power outage in 2012, impacting 360 million people due to a grid failure while a glitch at a power station of Tata Power in 2014 led to disruption in parts of Mumbai. Modi is seeking to spend about $350 billion in energy infrastructure by March 2025, most of it in building conventional and non-conventional power plants along with transmission and distribution networks to fulfill his pledge for providing round-the-clock clean energy for all by 2025.

Mumbai hasn’t seen a power outage as wide as Monday’s in decades. Banks and other vital institutions in India’s financial hub therefore presume uninterrupted supply or minimum disruptions and don’t have long power backup.

“In the last six months, most of our meetings and discussions are online and today they were delayed,” said Sameer Kaul, chief executive officer at TrustPlutus Wealth Management Pvt. “Power outages in Mumbai, if any, are usually sorted out fairly quickly.”

Bond traders said trading volumes narrowed immediately after the outage but recovered later. Sovereign bonds extended gains, with the yield on 10-year bond falling four basis points to 5.90% while the S&P BSE Sensex advanced 0.2%.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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