Zombies are for all seasons
Also in today’s edition: SpiceJet gets a booster; Clapping for crumbs; Xi wants legal eagles; It’s not really flowing for AI
Good morning! Cat lovers, you might want to skip ahead. The Guardian reports of a rather damning indictment of our feline friends. A team of researchers from Auburn University found cats responsible for the declining numbers of several ‘at-risk’ species across the world. Furthermore, cats eat 9% of known birds, 6% of known mammals, and 4% of known reptile species—making them one of the deadliest invasive species on the planet. And you thought the worst thing about cats was the musical.
🎧 Why billionaires are making a beeline for Abu Dhabi. Also in today’s edition: cats are wreaking havoc on the environment. Listen to The Signal Daily on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Soumya Gupta and Adarsh Singh also contributed to today’s edition.
The Market Signal*
Stocks & Economy: There it was, the signal markets have been waiting for. After the US Federal Reserve’s two-day rate-setting meeting, chair Jerome Powell said, “We’re aware of the risk that we would hang on too long.” He meant keeping interest rates high for too long. “We’re very focused on not making that mistake,” he said.
Powell said prices were falling faster than expected. The Fed has indicated it might start cutting rates as early as March and by nearly 0.75 percentage points in 2024.
Shares zoomed on cue and the dollar weakened. It set off a rally in Asian equities as well, with most indices up in early trade. Japan, however, was subdued. The GIFT Nifty was indicating a weak opening for Indian shares too.
An analysis by The Economic Times shows that seven stocks, none of them tech, charged up the BSE Sensex rally from 40,000 to 70,000.
Netflix Pops the Hood Open
If you’ve ever wondered how reliable those self-reported Top 10 lists are, Netflix has receipts. The streaming platform released a ranking of nearly all its titles by number of hours viewers spent watching them. This report tracks watch time for the first half of 2023; Netflix has promised to publish the report every 6 months. Co-CEO Ted Sarandos explained why in this podcast.
The winners: Save one, all of Netflix’s most watched titles this year are originals. There’s also a healthy mix of K-dramas and Spanish telenovelas licensed by Netflix for select geographies.
On repeat: But when considering data of all seasons combined, reruns rule the charts. Zombie hit The Walking Dead and kids’ favourite on-repeat CoComelon are among Netflix’s top performers.
Still racing: Netflix hasn’t won yet. Who has the most valuable streaming catalogue? That would be the combined libraries of Disney+ and Hulu.
Investors Spice Up Cash-Strapped Airline
Entrepreneur Ajay Singh-led SpiceJet has brought together 64 investors in a funding deal that will help the airline boost operations and claw back lost market share. SpiceJet returning to health will increase competition in the Indian skies and break the effective duopoly of the Tatas and IndiGo, which will ultimately benefit flyers.
The deal: Investors will infuse ₹2,254 crore (~$270 million) into the company through convertible warrants and equity shares. The investors include Elara India Opportunities Fund, Prabhudas Lilladher and Mankind Pharma founder Arjun Juneja.
The airline can now buy new planes which can be sold and leased back, beefing up revenues. It recently added 44 flights after leasing five Boeing 737s, including three 737 Maxes, to bolster its fleet. It will, however, be pricey, as global leasing watchdog Aviation Working Group just downgraded India.
Meanwhile, the Air India crew has a new livery created by designer Manish Malhotra.
Bar So Low It’s Underground
Someone had to say it. Never mind the hoopla about this year’s UN climate conference/COP28 being the first where countries have finally agreed to transition from fossil fuels. As a Samoan representative of the Alliance of Small Island States (some of the most climate vulnerable countries in the world) put it, the agreement is an “incremental advancement over business as usual”.
That said, it’s significant in context of a previous draft that infamously dropped references to dirty energy. Delegates had alleged that Opec and Opec+ countries, led by Saudi Arabia, exerted pressure on COP28 president and Abu Dhabi oil honcho Sultan al-Jaber to shift focus away from fossil fuels.
Oil-producing countries and companies have long pushed for climate negotiations to focus on emissions instead of fossil fuels. This year was no exception: the likes of ExxonMobil touted carbon capture and storage as climate solutions despite their limits and mounting evidence that they are little more than a land grab.
The mention of a transition away from fossil fuels to reach the 2050 global net zero emissions goal is something. What’s missing—and has always been an issue—are specifics on how developing and poorer countries will finance this shift, especially if global renewable energy capacity is to be tripled by 2030. This critical matter will be tackled only at the next round of climate talks in Azerbaijan next year.
Brace For The Beijing Flex
Chinese President Xi Jinping loves to keep the West and foreign investors guessing.
Xi skipped the second day of an annual economic conference—a disappointment for investors anyway as it was devoid of expected signals on fiscal stimulus—and instead travelled to Vietnam. The visit upgraded ties between the two countries for a “shared future” when Vietnam is not only emerging as a supply chain alternative to its neighbour but also has an unresolved dispute with it over certain islands in the South China Sea.
The President advised Hanoi to not let outsiders (clearly looking at the US) “mess up” the Asia-Pacific.
Legal muscle: Xi told a high-level Communist Party of China (CPC) study session in late November that Beijing should rapidly beef up its legal armoury related to foreign affairs. Other countries can perhaps expect a more aggressive Beijing at international fora and global standard setting meetings.
The Slow AI Funding Winter
This might seem quite the bizarre headline with two AI startups—Mistral and Elemental—announcing their respective $416 million and $57 million fundraises in the last 24 hours. But, as The Information notes, the duo might well be an exception as the ChatGPT-led AI investment frenzy might be slowly ebbing.
AI upstarts such as Liquid AI are finding it harder to raise big money—either because of wary investors (thanks to blowouts such as Stability AI) or their inability to compete with the Big Tech-led AI hierarchy, including high-profile investees such as OpenAI and Anthropic. And much like other tech hype cycles, investors are likelier to back companies with a distribution advantage—a key moat.
The worst impacted could be firms building large AI models, “thin wrapper” products (built on top of successful products such as ChatGPT), and consumer apps (that cater to specific use cases).
No thanks: The government, Vodafone-Idea’s largest shareholder, has no plans to take over the beleaguered telco, a minister said.
Whoops: Tesla is recalling more than two million cars across models to fix the system that ensures drivers pay attention while using Autopilot.
Fresh dough: Athleisure company Agilitas Sports raised ₹100 crore ($11.9 million) in fresh funding from Nexus Venture Partners. This follows the ₹430 crore ($51.5 million) the company raised from Convergent Finance LLP in May. Agritech company WeGrow also bagged $46 million in a round led by Singapore’s GIC.
No lives: The Electronics Entertainment Expo or E3, the once hallowed global gaming convention, has permanently shut down after over two decades.
🦄🦄🦄: The IPL is now a ‘decacorn’ with a valuation of over $10 billion, as a surge in viewers and advertisers boost its earnings this year.
Ride it: Carmaker Mahindra & Mahindra will invest $105 million in its two-wheeler unit Classic Legends over the next 2-3 years.
THE DAILY DIGIT
The number of research papers retracted in 2023, a majority of which (8000+) were from journals owned by London-based Hindawi. (Nature)
Get rich quick: Remember the above scene from The Office? Turns out Indians are no better than Michael Scott at identifying pyramid schemes. As per an analysis by the consulting firm Strategy India, more than 400 pyramid schemes were launched this year. This number appears to be the highest in five years. So, what caused this rise? An ambiguous law and lax government oversight. If only everyone had a Jim in their lives to drive some sense…
Party pooper: If you think your company is gonna top last year’s office Christmas bash, you might need a reality check. Inflation coupled with interest rate hikes and mass layoffs have dampened the mood this year. To add to that, global wars have left some employers and employees feeling squeamish about celebrating. The remaining few who are celebrating have either heavily trimmed their invite list or are moving celebrations to January, when the prices are significantly less. Clearly, the good times don't last.
Doritos on the rocks: They say necessity is the mother of innovation but some innovations really make you question that. For example, what necessity could possibly give birth to a Doritos infused spirit? And yet, we have one. PepsiCo-owned Doritos latest launch, made in partnership with Empirical, promises to offer the authentic taste of its nacho cheese flavour in the spirit. The spirit is only available for sale online and will cost $65 for a 750ml bottle. If you’re thinking of getting one… just answer this one question: why?