The Weekly Wrap | “The economy, stupid.”


In this edition, we talk about the jump in India’s fuel consumption and why that is good for the economy. We also talk about the explosive growth in Paytm’s credit vertical, the government’s disinvestment math and what’s the latest in the Jet Airways saga and more. 


Welcome to Kuvera’s weekly digest on the most critical developments related to business, finance, and the markets.  


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A little over three decades back when Bill Clinton was running for the top job in the US, his political strategist James Carville coined this now-famous phrase.


The US, you see, was staring at a recession even as the year-long election campaign was on. Clinton, the Democrat nominee, won a historic mandate, and unseated the then Republican President George Bush Sr.


A year from now, India too will go into a general election, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be vying for a third straight term in office. And just as we get into election season, the global economy is apparently staring at a recession. If a recession does come, India, likely won’t be spared. But for now, there seem to be no visible signs of an imminent downturn.


Late last week, the government released the first advance estimates that showed India’s GDP is likely to grow 7% during the financial year 2022-23. The latest indicator of the health of the Indian economy is the country’s surging fuel demand, thanks to rising passenger vehicle sales as well as an uptick in industrial demand.


Latest government data shows that consumption of fuel, a proxy for oil demand, was about 4% higher than the previous month, and rose 3.1% year-on-year to 19.60 million tonnes in December. In fact, the country’s manufacturing industry ended 2022 on a solid footing as business conditions improved at the fastest rate in over two years while growth in new orders and output accelerated, according to a business survey.


The latest figures from the country’s petroleum ministry show that sales of diesel, which account for about four- fifths of India’s refined fuel demand, rose 6.5% in December from a year earlier to 7.78 million tonnes, while sales of petrol rose 5.9% to 2.98 million tonnes.


But why are Indians consuming more fuel? Simply because we are buying more passenger vehicles and our industries are guzzling more oil than ever before.


Passenger vehicle (PV) sales for the month rose around 8.2% to 280,016 units and reached an all-time high of over 3.43 million units in 2022, the Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations (FADA) said. The rise in PV sales was led by strong demand for sport-utility vehicles that have grown more popular than hatchbacks and sedans.


Sales of cooking gas, or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), increased 3.9% in December to 2.58 million tonnes, while naphtha sales edged up 0.5% to 1.11 million tonnes. Sales of bitumen, used for making roads, fell 15.1%, while fuel oil use jumped 9.3% last month.


Okay, so what does all of this mean in a nutshell? It means that, as of now, India seems significantly far away from a recession. But, as an investor, you should remain cautious and keep saving a lion’s share of your incomes and investing that money wisely.


Paytm beats the blues?



It is not just the Indian economy, whose prospects seem to be looking up. Digital payments company Paytm too has something to cheer about, as it witnesses explosive growth in its credit vertical.


Paytm registered a 330% jump year-on-year (YoY) in loan disbursals in December 2022. According to a regulatory filing, the Vijay Shekhar Sharma-promoted company disbursed 3.7 million loans worth Rs 3,665 crore in December. The number of loans disbursed was up 117% YoY. In the quarter ended December 2022, the loan value rose 357% to Rs 9,958 crore from Rs 2,181 crore a year earlier.


And the good news just did not end at this. The company’s monthly transacting users (MTU) was up 32% from 64 million in December 2021 to 85 million in December 2022. The Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) that was processed through the platform saw a 38% growth YoY in December.


For a stock that has crashed 75% from its listing price just over 14 months ago, any positive news is good news. So, should you rush in to bet on the stock? We can’t recommend either way, except saying, always research well, and take calculated risks.


Disinvestment downer


The economy may be powering robustly ahead, but the government doesn’t seem to be doing as well on the disinvestment front, as it might have hoped.


Except for an offer for sale for the government’s residual stake in Hindustan Zinc Ltd, not many big transactions are expected by March 2023. This means that the target of Rs 65,000 crore for FY23 would likely be missed by a significant margin. The Centre has received Rs 31,106 crore via disinvestment so far, 48% of the annual target. The target for disinvestment receipts for the coming fiscal year may not be too ambitious, as it will be the last time the current government will present a full budget before next year’s general elections.


News reports say the target may be in the range of Rs 50,000-60,000 crore. Moreover, the government is unlikely to set a target to complete any new disinvestment transaction, including sale of any public sector bank (PSB), next fiscal year as it will focus on concluding a few deals where the process has already begun.


Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had in the FY22 Budget mentioned that two PSBs and one general insurance company will be privatised. However, little progress has been made nearly two years after that announcement despite Niti Aayog having recommended privatisation of Indian Overseas Bank and Central Bank of India.


Last week, the government received multiple expressions of interest from domestic and foreign investors for the 60.72% stake in IDBI Bank, which will go to the successful bidder along with management control.


Samsung under cloud



Meanwhile, the Indian arm of South Korean electronics major Samsung has come under the government’s scanner.


Reports said this week that the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has issued a show cause notice to Samsung India Electronics (SIEL). The DRI has reportedly asked the company why it should not recover the Rs 1,728.47 crore along with interest for alleged customs duty evasion.


The issue pertains to alleged misdeclaration and misclassification of remote radio head (RRH), a networking device, by Samsung India to avail undue exemption of basic customs duty. SIEL had hired consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers for classification of the network equipment. The DRI, in the notice, has also asked why a penalty should not be imposed against the senior management of the company.


The company for its part has acknowledged the notice and said that it is “exploring legal opinion” on the matter.


Jet, set, go?


Jet Airways was once India’s biggest carrier and the airline industry’s biggest success story from the post- liberalisation era of the 1990s. Things went south a few years and the airline was forced to shut shop as it whittled under a mountain of unsustainable debt.


Ever since then Jet has been looking to take to the skies again under a new consortium of owners. On Friday, it got a fresh lease of life after the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) gave the Jalan-Kalrock consortium six more months to make payment and take effective control of the airline. The NCLT had set November 16, 2022 as an effective date for the company to pay dues to various creditors.


In October 2020, the airline’s Committee of Creditors (CoC) had approved a revival plan submitted by the consortium of Dubai-based Murari Lal Jalan and the UK’s Kalrock Capital. In June 2021, the consortium’s bid was approved under the insolvency resolution process.


The fresh reprieve comes even as key employees brought on board by the consortium have been leaving owing to a delay in the start of operations.


So, when can you expect to fly Jet again? We don’t know that yet, but keep watching this space. As soon as we know, you’ll know.


Market Wrap


India’s stock markets gained a little ground in the second week of the new year, after falling in the first, as both the benchmark indices ended in the green. The 30-share Sensex rose about 0.6% while the 50-stock Nifty climbed nearly 0.5% during the week.


Stocks that ended the week in the green included two auto majors—Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra. Other top gainers included Hindalco, JSW Steel, and the tech pack – TCS, Infosys and HCL Tech. Tata Steel, Ultratech Cement, IndusInd Bank and Wipro were among the other gainers.


Nifty counters that lost the most ground this week included Bharti Airtel, Titan, Adani Enterprises and Bajaj Finserv. Others that slipped included Divi’s Labs, Reliance Industries, Asian Paints, Eicher and ITC.


Other headlines


  • Cognizant announces leadership change, names Ravi Kumar S as CEO
  • Wipro exceeds estimates as Q3 profit rises 3% year on year to Rs 3,053 crore
  • NCLT gives nod to PVR-Inox merger scheme
  • India retail inflation eases to one-year low in December
  • US inflation eased to 6.5% in last 12 months
  • IMF chief expects to keep 2023 global growth forecast steady at 2.7%
  • Apple’s Tim Cook takes 40% pay cut after pushback
  • Ratan Tata sets up new endowment trust possibly for estate planning
  • DGCA issues notice to SpiceJet as passengers wait on aerobridge for hours
  • Ola lays off up to 200 employees in latest round
  • Govt to unveil policy for ethanol pumps soon, says roads minister Nitin Gadkari


Until next week, happy investing!


Interested in how we think about the markets? Read more: Zen And The Art Of Investing    


Watch here: ELSS: Saving tax through mutual funds


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