The benchmark stock indices opened the day on a negative note as investors were worried about growth as coronavirus cases continue to surge.
Join us as we follow the top business news through the day.
Oxygen gets armed escort in India as supplies run low in COVID crisis
A lowdown on the crisis.
Reuters reports: “Sirens wailing, a police convoy escorting a tanker carrying oxygen reached a hospital in India’s capital just in time, to the huge relief of doctors and relatives of COVID-19 patients counting on the supply to stave off death.
India on Friday posted the world’s largest daily COVID-19 caseload for a second day, with 332,730 new cases and 2,263 deaths, as the pandemic spiralled out of control.
A dire shortage of oxygen – essential for the survival of critical COVID patients – has meant states are closely guarding their supplies and even posting armed police at production plants to ensure security.
Several hospitals, including Shanti Mukand in the west of the New Delhi with 110 COVID patients, said they had almost exhausted their oxygen supplies on Thursday. The prospects for patients and their distraught families was disastrous.
“The hospital came to us and told us to make our own arrangements,” said Bhirendra Kumar, whose COVID-positive father was admitted 10 days ago.
“We’re not an oxygen company – how can we make our own arrangements?”
Earlier in the day, the hospital’s chief executive, Sunil Saggar, choked back tears as he described the decision to discharge some patients because the lack of oxygen meant there was nothing his hospital could do to help.
At the hospital’s oxygen supplier, Inox in Uttar Pradesh state about an hour from the capital, a line of a dozen trucks from cities across north India waited to fill up.
Half a dozen drivers told Reuters they had been waiting for as long as three days to get their trucks filled, as surging demand from hospitals in the capital and elsewhere outstripped supply.
Vakeel, who goes by one name, has been working as a driver for Inox since 1994. He said the level of demand was unprecedented.
“Every hospital wants three or four times what they did before,” he said.
The Inox plant has seen frequent visits from government officials and police, some wielding assault rifles, ensuring that there is no disruption of any kind to supplies.
An Uttar Pradesh police officer said they had been given orders to escort trucks to waiting hospitals.
Welcome though the extra security is, a supervisor at the facility said it was impossible to meet demand.
“Even if we build another five plants here we won’t be able to,” said the supervisor, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the situation.
Eventually, a truck left the plant, reaching the New Delhi hospital late on Thursday evening.
A relieved crowd of doctors and relatives who had gathered outside to wait for the truck’s arrival headed back in.
“Some things in life are difficult,” hospital chief Saggar said as the needle on the hospital’s storage tank ticked back up from close to zero. “You have to learn to manage.”
But the reprieve is only temporary.
“Every day is like this now,” Saggar said.
In less than 24 hours, the hospital will have to do it all over again, as the needle sinks back towards empty with new supplies, hopefully, on the way.”
SBI pares FY22 growth to 10.4%, expects 2nd wave to peak in third week of May
State Bank of India has revised downwards its growth projection for 2021-22 to 10.4% real GDP growth and 14.3% nominal GDP growth, from 11% and 15%, respectively, citing the second wave of COVID-19 and the spate of ongoing partial, local, and weekend lockdowns in almost all States.
The country’s largest bank expects the second wave to peak in the third week of May, and pointed out that in the first wave, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra had peaked before the national peak during the first wave.
“Now new cases in Maharashtra seem to be stabilising but share of cases in total of various other States such as Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat has increased and these are showing increase in daily new cases. So if other States also implement strict actions to control their spread, the national peak may come within two weeks after the Maharashtra peak,” the bank’s research team has estimated.
Tata Elxsi shares zoom nearly 10% after Q4 earnings
Today’s big mover.
PTI reports: “Shares of Tata Elxsi gained nearly 10 per cent in morning trade on Friday after the company’s net profit increased 40.3 per cent in the March 2021 quarter.
The stock jumped 9.64 per cent to Rs 3,340 — its 52-week high — on the BSE.
At the NSE, it zoomed 9.57 per cent to its 52-week high of Rs 3,340.
Tata Elxsi on Thursday said its net profit has increased 40.3 per cent to Rs 115.16 crore in the March 2021 quarter.
The company had registered a net profit of Rs 82.08 crore in the year-ago period, Tata Elxsi said in a regulatory filing.
Its revenue from operations rose 18.1 per cent to Rs 518.39 crore for the said quarter, from Rs 438.88 crore in the corresponding period last fiscal, it added.
In FY21, the company’s net profit increased 43.7 per cent to Rs 368.1 crore, while revenue grew 13.4 per cent to Rs 1,826.2 crore over the previous fiscal.
“It was a satisfying quarter with continued growth across offerings, industries and geographies,” Tata Elxsi CEO and Managing Director Manoj Raghavan said in a statement.
The company continued to execute strongly on its growth aspirations with over 9 per cent quarter-on-quarter revenue growth in constant currency, he added.”
Apple plans to expand ads business
Apple Inc is planning to expand its advertising business by adding a second advertising slot in its App Store search page’s “suggested” section, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.
The new advertising slot, which will be rolled out by the end of the month, will allow advertisers to promote their apps across the whole network, rather than in response to specific searches, according to the report.
The report comes as Apple plans to send prompts to iPhone users to allow apps to use their data for personalised advertising, a move that has drawn backlash from tech rival Facebook Inc, which argues the changes will hurt the social media company’s ad business.
RBI approves appointment of Atanu Chakraborty as part-time chairman of HDFC Bank
Regulatory approval given.
PTI reports: “Private sector lender HDFC Bank on Friday said the Reserve Bank has approved appointment of former Economic Affairs Secretary Atanu Chakraborty as the part-time chairman of the bank.
“The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) vide its communication dated April 22, 2021, has approved the appointment of Atanu Chakraborty as the part time chairman of the bank… for a period of three years with effect from May 5, 2021 or the date of his taking charge, whichever is later,” HDFC Bank said in a regulatory filing. HDFC Bank said a meeting of the board of directors of the bank will be convened in due course inter‐alia to consider the appointment of Atanu Chakraborty as the part-time chairman and additional independent director of the bank.
Chakraborty, a 1985 batch IAS officer of Gujarat cadre, retired as Secretary of Department of Economic Affairs in April 2020. Prior to that, he was Secretary of Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM). Both departments come under the finance ministry.
Once he is appointed as chairperson, HDFC Bank will be the second private sector lender to have a former bureaucrat at the post. ICICI Bank is chaired by former Petroleum Secretary and Additional Secretary in the finance ministry G C Chaturvedi.”
Turkey probes cryptocurrency exchange for possible $2 bln fraud
Turkish prosecutors launched an investigation into a cryptocurrency exchange Thursday over allegations it may have defrauded some 390,000 investors of an estimated $2 billion.
The office of Istanbul’s chief prosecutor said it was probing the Thodex cryptocurrency exchange following complaints from users who could not access their assets.
Thodex owner Faruk Fatih Ozer deactivated his social media accounts and is believed to have fled Turkey for Tirana, Albania, Turkish broadcaster Haberturk reported.
Ozer could face possible charges of fraud and forming a criminal organization, Haberturk said, adding that a police cybercrimes unit searched Thodex’s Istanbul offices on Thursday. Meanwhile, the country’s financial crimes investigation agency blocked all Thodex’s funds, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
Indian shares fall as fears of virus-led economic downturn linger
Another poor start to the day for stocks.
Reuters reports: “Indian shares opened lower on Friday, hurt by losses in tech and financial stocks, as the country continued to struggle with rising cases of the novel coronavirus that kept alive fears of continued economic pain.
The NSE Nifty 50 index fell 0.3% to 14,366.95 by 0349 GMT, while the S&P BSE Sensex slid 0.37% to 47,899.1.
The country on Friday reported another record rise in daily coronavirus infections of 332,730, while the daily death toll also jumped by a record 2,263.
Meanwhile, credit rating agency Fitch forecast a negative outlook for India, citing deterioration in the country’s “public finance metrics,” and said surging infections may delay a recovery in its GDP.
IT stocks fell 0.3%, with Infosys Ltd losing 0.7%.
Finance stocks also declined. Lender ICICI Bank slid 0.9% to lead the losses on the benchmark index.”
ICRA cuts its FY22 GDP estimate by 0.5%, sees economy expanding by 10.5%
Domestic rating agency ICRA on Tuesday cut its 2021-22 growth estimate by 0.5% on the upper end, as a newer spate of lockdowns and restrictions get imposed in pockets to arrest the rising COVID-19 cases.
The agency now expects the economy to grow 10-10.5% in 2021-22, against the 10-11% estimated earlier.
Starting with Maharashtra, a slew of other pockets in the country like Delhi have been taking to localised lockdowns to arrest the climbing COVID-19 cases, which derails economic activity.
“For Q1 FY2022 (April-June 2021), we had earlier expected a GDP expansion of 27.5%, boosted by the low base.
“With the unprecedented surge in cases and evolving restrictions, the pace of GDP growth in the ongoing quarter may be tempered to 20-25%,” the agency said.