BQuick On May 15: Top 10 Stories In Under 10 Minutes
A sign reading “Covid 19, Avoid Travel Where Possible” is displayed above a road during a partial lockdown imposed due to the coronavirus in New Delhi, India (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)

BQuick On May 15: Top 10 Stories In Under 10 Minutes

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

1. Finance Minister Announces 11 Measures In Third Tranche

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the third tranche of measures under the Prime Minister’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat package—a post-pandemic plan aimed at bringing the economy back to its feet.

Eleven measures were announced today for the agriculture and associated sectors. They include:

  • A new Rs 1 lakh crore agriculture infrastructure fund to develop farm gate facilities like cold storage.
  • A new scheme worth Rs 10,000 crore aimed at the formalisation of micro food enterprises.
  • Another fund of Rs 15,000 crore for developing animal husbandry infrastructure.Essential Commodities Act to be amended to deregulate cereals, edible oils, oilseeds, pulses, onions and potatoes.
  • Agriculture marketing reforms will be implemented through a new law that will remove barriers to inter-state trade.
  • Farmers will be given price and quality assurance through facilitative agriculture produce.

Get complete details on all the announcements made by the finance minister today.

2. Covid-19: India’s Active Cases Cross 50,000

Total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in India crossed 81,000 with over 2,600 dead, with just two days left for the third round of the lockdown to end.

  • India added nearly 4,000 new Covid-19 cases over 24 hours, according to the Union Health Ministry’s 8:00 a.m. update on May 15.
  • The total number of cases in India stands at 81,970.
  • This includes 27,920 people who’ve recovered and 2,649 deaths. Active cases now stand at 51,401
  • Authorities have now reported more than 3,500 fresh cases for five straight days.
  • There have been 100 deaths and 1,685 recoveries over the last 24 hours, the health ministry said.
  • The Union Health Ministry today said that it is not fully satisfied with the efficacy of two antiviral drugs—Remdesivir and Favipiravir—for treatment.
  • General stores and vegetable vendors began operating once again in Ahmedabad, Gujarat after the city was shut down totally for a week.
  • The Airports Authority of India asked travellers to mandatorily download the Aarogya Setu app, do a web-check in and carry a print out of their boarding pass before heading to the airport to catch a flight.
  • The Delhi transport minister today said that they are ready to restart metro rail services, however, the decision currently lies with the central government. New protocol and guidelines will have to be issued for the passengers.

Track news updates around the coronavirus pandemic in India here.

Globally, cases crossed 44 lakh leaving over 3.02 lakh people dead.

  • Italy will allow citizens to move freely between its regions in June after two months of lockdown.
  • A rising number of cases in South Korea and China is fueling concern over a second wave.
  • Since Portugal started easing confinement measures on May 4, the number of hospitalized patients has dropped by more than 17 percent.
  • Denmark had its first day without Covid-19 related deaths in since mid-March.

Follow the global spread of the virus here.

3. Sensex Drops 1.7% This Week; U.S. Stocks Fluctuate

Indian equity markets had a lacklustre trading session as investors remained in a wait-and-watch mode ahead of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's third media address in as many days.

  • The S&P BSE Sensex as well as the NSE Nifty 50 index ended little changed at 31,101 and 9,138 respectively.
  • The Sensex gained over 320 points from the day's low, while the Nifty gained close to 100 points from 9,050, its lowest point of the day.
  • For the week, the Nifty ended 1.32 percent lower with auto stocks being the top performers after Vedanta Ltd. The Sensex ended 1.7 percent lower for the week.

Follow the day’s trading action here.

India’s first sovereign bond auction since the sharp increase in the government’s borrowing sailed through, helped by record cash in the nation’s banking system.

  • The yield cut-offs at the bond sale were in line with expectations with a surprise Rs 4,000 crore ($529 million) extra accepted in the planned Rs 30,000 crore auction.
  • The 6.18 percent 2024 bond was sold at a yield of 5.2012 percent.
  • The 7.57 percent 2033 cut-off yield also matched forecast at 6.4615 percent, while the 2050 yield was set at 6.8281 percent, slightly below the 6.85 percent median estimate.

Jump in the government’s bond-sale programme has led to expectations that the RBI will need to step in to support the market.

U.S. stocks fluctuated as a surge in oil lifted energy companies, offsetting trade concern and weak economic data.

  • Energy shares in the S&P 500 extended their rally as crude traded near the highest in six weeks amid increasing signs demand is recovering.
  • Earlier Friday, the equity gauge slumped as the U.S. moved to curtail Huawei Technologies Co.’s chip supply and as gauges of American retail sales and factory production plummeted.
  • The S&P 500 headed to its worst week since March 20 -- or just before the start of a rally of more than 30 percent.

Get your daily fix of global markets here.

4. Cipla’s Q4 Profit Plunges 33%

Cipla Ltd.’s quarterly profit on account of a high base and relatively lower sales amid the lockdown to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • Net profit fell 33 percent over last year to Rs 246 crore in the January-March quarter, according to its stock exchange filing. Analyst estimates tracked by Bloomberg had pegged profit at Rs 368 crore.
  • Revenue fell 1 percent to Rs 4,376 crore. That compares with the Rs 4,336-crore consensus estimate by analysts tracked by Bloomberg.
  • Operating profit fell 34 percent to Rs 634 crore.
  • Operating margins narrowed 730 basis points to 14.5 percent. Analysts had pegged the figure at 17.6 percent.

Cipla had reported a sharp jump in its top line in the comparable quarter last year, aided by sales of a generic hyperparathyroid drug Sensipar.

5. IndiGo Promoter Eyes Stake In Virgin Australia

The travel industry faces a strained present and an uncertain future, but you’d never know it from the swarm of suitors sizing up potential offers for Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd.

  • Deloitte, the airline’s administrator, said Friday that it expects as many as eight indicative offers, and that around three will be shortlisted for binding offers.
  • Indian billionaire Rahul Bhatia’s InterGlobe Enterprises Ltd. confirmed to Bloomberg News in a statement that it would participate in the Virgin Australia sale, though it is bound by a confidentiality agreement not to comment further.
  • Brookfield Asset Management Inc. is considering submitting indicative proposals, Bloomberg News has reported.

The reason buyers are drawn to the business is that Australia is “something of an oasis in aviation”.

6. Franklin Seeks Investor Nod To Liquidate Six Funds

Franklin Templeton Asset Management (India) Pvt. is seeking investor approval to liquidate six debt schemes it shut last month in the country’s biggest-ever fund freeze.

  • The trustees of the stressed funds will reach out to investors in the next few days to begin the voting process on selling off the underlying assets in the funds, Sanjay Sapre, president at Franklin Templeton India, said in a letter to investors.
  • The company needs majority approval to kickstart proceedings.
  • Franklin is under pressure to speed up recovery from the shuttered funds after India’s markets regulator asked the asset manager to focus on returning the money as soon as possible.

Some investors believe the winding-up can be reversed. This is not true, Sapre said.

7. India’s Trade Plunges In April

India’s trade plunged in April as a nationwide lockdown disrupted supply chains and brought domestic demand to a halt in Asia’s third-largest economy.

  • Exports contracted 60 percent from a year ago, while imports declined 58.7 percent, according to the data released by the Commerce Ministry on Friday.
  • That resulted in a trade deficit of $6.76 billion in April, narrower than the $9.8 billion recorded in March, and compared with a median estimate of $6.1 billion in a Bloomberg survey of 14 economists.

Imports were already on a steady decline since last year as India’s economy slowed.

Related Coverage

8. How SIDBI Proposes Disbursing Collateral Free Loans To MSMEs

The Small Industries Development Bank of India has proposed a special purpose vehicle, through which emergency collateral-free government-guaranteed loans to small businesses can be rolled out.

  • As per a draft proposal circulated by SIDBI, a copy of which has been reviewed by BloombergQuint, an SPV or Trust would be set up to implement the scheme.
  • SIDBI has pegged the initial seed capital for the fund at Rs 15,500 crore to be contributed by the government.
  • The trust would provide an additional 15 percent of working capital for those that have up to Rs 1 crore in loans pending.
  • For those with Rs 1-25 crore in outstanding credit facilities, an additional 10 percent will be provided, according to the proposal.

Here are the proposed operational details including interest caps and tenure.

9. India’s Wait For Monsoon Will Be Longer This Year

The monsoon, which waters more than half of India’s farmland, may be delayed this year, potentially affecting planting of crops such as rice, corn, soybeans and cotton.

  • The showers, crucial for growth in Asia’s third-largest economy, may reach the country’s southern coast in Kerala on June 5, the India Meteorological Department said on Friday.
  • That compares with the normal onset date of June 1 and private forecaster Skymet Weather Services Pvt.’s predication of May 28.
  • The meteorological department’s forecast has a margin of error of four days.

Any deficit in showers during the early part of the season could delay sowing and hit yields.

10. Zomato To Lay Off Staff, Cut Salaries

Zomato will axe up to 13 percent jobs and cut salaries by up to half for the rest of its employees as the food ordering service said it’s preparing for the worst as the Covid-19 lockdown has stalled operations.

  • The people affected by the layoffs, however, will get half of their salaries along with health insurance for the next six months or till they find their next job, whichever is earlier, Deepinder Goyal, founder of the food delivery application, said in a letter that was shared on Zomato’s blog.
  • That’s because Zomato expects the number of restaurants in India to shrink by 25-40 percent over 6-12 months as the lockdown has severely impacted businesses.

Goyal said the uncertainty around the business forced them to redefine their strategy.

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