HDFC Bank’s shareholding, IndiGo’s plans, shrinking vehicle sales and more.

India’s merchandise exports shrank by more than one-third from a year ago, hit by a fall in global demand and shipments due to the coronavirus pandemic. Passenger vehicle sales in India declined by 51 per cent in March. The good news for the economy came when the government allowed industries in rural India to reopen next week. Apple Inc. unveiled the new iPhone SE, its first low-cost smartphone in four years. Here is more on what made news this week.

Business Standard
19th April

  • The government will allow industries located in the countryside to reopen next week, as well as resuming farm activities to reduce the pain for millions of Indians hit by a shutdown to contain the coronavirus. Production units in rural areas, industrial estates, and export zones can reopen if workers stay on their premises or nearby, said the government.
  • India’sexports contracted by 34.5 per cent in March, the steepest monthly fall in at least 25 years, as overseas demand remained lacklustre. This, coupled with trade demand remaining soft for months earlier, led to annual exports falling to $314 billion in 2019-20, 5 per cent lower than the $331 billion worth of shipments in the previous year.
  • The International Monetary Fund cut its projection of India’s economic growth to 1.9 per cent for the current financial year, the lowest since the 1991 balance of payments (BoP) crisis. It had earlier forecast a growth rate of 5.8 per cent. The global economy may contract 3 per cent against a growth of 3.3 per cent expected earlier, according to the agency.
  • India’s largest airline IndiGo plans to resume flying in a curtailed manner from May 4 and will temperature screen all passengers before boarding. Chief operating officer (COO) Wolfgang Prock-Scahuer, in an internal memo, asked staff to maintain a metre of distance from each other and prevent assembling of two people at the same time.
  • Zomato and Grofers have held preliminary talks over a potential merger, sources told Business Standard. Grofers’ private labels business and its experience in online grocery delivery is a draw for Zomato. Grofers CEO Albinder Dhindsa had said last year that the firm’s private label business was expected to reach 1,200 brands by 2020.
  • Apple Inc. unveiled the new iPhone SE, its first low-cost smartphone in four years, seeking to boost sales while consumers wait for the launch of new high-end models with 5G later this year. The technology giant’s new iPhone costs $399, several hundred dollars cheaper than the flagship iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro lines.
  • Passenger vehicle sales in India declined by 51 per cent 3in March as the national lockdown brought production and dispatches to a standstill. Passenger vehicle sales in March 2020 dropped to 143,014 units, from 291,861 units in March 2019, said data released by Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (Siam).
  • The People’s Bank of China (PBoC) has increased its shareholding Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC) amid a sharp correction in shares of India’s largest mortgage lender. The Chinese central bank held 17.5 million shares (or 1.01 per cent) at the end of the March 2020 quarter, according to a regulatory disclosure by HDFC.

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A few links for further reading

Hard path to growth

The signals for the economy are not positive: overall demand is yet to pick up; the share of total exports in India’s GDP is declining, and industrial output pattern remains worrying.

Small savings scheme

Investors breathed a sigh of relief when the government announced that interest rates on these instruments would not be revised for the fourth quarter of the calendar year.

Invest and emigrate

The great Indian dream of settling abroad is achievable if one has a few crores to invest. Rich nations offer a variety of investment options in a quid pro quo arrangement: immigrants get a better quality of life and revenue from them helps these countries’ finances. Wealthy Indians, troubled by polluted cities and the red tape holding up entrepreneurship, may want a quick ticket out of the country. Sanjay Kumar Singh lists a range of options: from a Canadian province’s investor programme to America’s US EB-5 plan.

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