Reliance’s $1 billion bet
Also in today’s edition: Now, NFTs for kids; Mastodon’s in the spotlight; Netflix strikes anime deal
Good morning! The Russia-Ukraine war has dipped its toes in Berlin’s pools. The Guardian reports that the German capital’s 16 gas-heated outdoor swimming pools or lidos—which maintain water temperatures between 22-24°C—will now be 2°C cooler as operators cut their reliance on Russian gas. Will this political statement last through frigid German winters? We’ll know a few months from now.
The Market Signal*
Stocks: Benchmark indices ended in the red amid weak global cues including Russia's invasion of Ukraine, an aggravated energy crisis, rising Covid-19 cases in China and prospects of US rate hikes. Reliance Industries shares surged to an all-time high as its market valuation crossed ₹19 lakh crore. Investors lost about ₹2.5 lakh crore in the market in the session.
Early Asia: The SGX Nifty was trading +0.05% higher at 7.30 am India time. The Nikkei 225 was up 0.45%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was in the green.
Reliance Plots Its Long Game in Mumbai
Reliance's add to cart frenzy finally falls into place. Industrialist Mukesh Ambani's next cash cow is a luxury mall—which will cost no less than $1 billion to set up—set to open in Mumbai next year.
How? The Jio World Plaza—the size of 10 football fields—aims to be a paradise for retail therapy. French luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton, which signed an exclusive franchising agreement with Reliance Brands in 2012, will take up 7,376 sq ft. Gucci, Tiffany, Balenciaga, Hermes, and Cartier will also compete for the shopper's attention. Of course, the pandemic somewhat played the grinch, delaying its plans.
BLUF: Reliance Brands has been picking up stakes in homegrown premier couturiers and luxury houses since 2017. Supervised by Isha Ambani, this expensive bet will be a wait-and-watch game. What's $1 billion for Mukesh Ambani anyway?
Also, Uday Shankar and James Murdoch-backed investment company Lupa Systems has become a major shareholder in Viacom18 after leading a ₹13,500 crore fundraise for the Reliance-backed media company.
No Kid Gloves For Children’s Entertainment
Mattel, the world’s second-largest toy company in terms of revenue and the maker of Barbie, Fisher-Price, and Hot Wheels, is in talks with private-equity firms Apollo Global and L Catterton for a potential buyout. Rival Hasbro is facing pressure from a hedge fund to 'refresh' its board, but refused to spin off the gaming unit that oversees global rage Dungeons & Dragons.
NFTs coming for kids: NFTs are now being marketed to children. Zigazoo, a social platform for children, is launching an NFT marketplace for kids. Analysts believe it can be sensible to teach children early about the dos and don'ts of Web3 and blockchain.
Big step: In an attempt to reduce minors’ exposure to F&B advertising and rising childhood obesity worldwide, HUL will stop marketing their products to under-16 kids.
India’s Cheap Gas Ambitions Are Now A Pipe Dream
The Russia-Ukraine war unleashed a domino effect on everything from climate goals to consumer staples, and liquefied natural gas (LNG) is no exception. But while the focus has been on the EU’s dependence on Russia-sourced gas, India is also in a precarious situation.
Background: The Russia-EU energy standoff will cause a surge in Asian LNG spot rates for two reasons. One, the Russian gas deficit could run into 100 million tonnes by 2025. And two, Europe—in a bid to wean itself off of Russia—is procuring what’s left in global spare gas supplies. While demand from China, Japan, and South Korea is muted, India is another story.
The Modi government expanded natural gas coverage to a significant chunk of the population, which catalysed a bidding war for city gas networks. India’s largest gas distributor, Adani Total Gas, alone won 29 new locations. The Centre also promoted urban piped natural gas networks in order to push rural gas cylinder enrolments under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana. There’s increasing demand for compressed natural gas vehicles too.
But as Bloomberg notes, coalescing demand was underpinned by cheap domestic gas prices, which are capped by the government. Consumption went up as a result, forcing operators to import gas at far higher rates, in turn leading to a record spike in prices.
Then factor in dwindling domestic production, the stalled TAPI gas and Iran-Pakistan-India pipelines, and gas being prioritised for the fertiliser industry—since fertilisers are critical for food production—and consumers are in a situation that’s gone from frying pan to fire.
🎧 The Russia-Ukraine war has played a role in India's cheap natural gas dream. How? Tune in to find out.
Is Twitter’s Loss Mastodon’s Gain?
In 2019, Mastodon witnessed a spurt in Indian users after several prominent activists ‘boycotted’ Twitter to protest the account suspension of Supreme Court lawyer Sanjay Hegde.
But they returned quietly, and the Mastodon buzz petered out…until Elon Musk acquired Twitter. The Twitter alternative now claims to have over 41,000 new sign-ups.
Rightful gain: Whether Mastodon can sustain such growth remains to be seen, especially since Twitter’s conservatives saw their follower counts skyrocket. Conversely, high-profile users such as Barack Obama and Katy Perry lost thousands of followers.
Payday: Jack Dorsey will receive $978 million in cash if Musk’s $44 billion Twitter acquisition goes through. CEO Parag Agrawal—who, along with existing management, is rumoured to be on the way out—would get $38.7 million. Chief legal officer Vijaya Gadde, whose moderation policies attracted criticism from both the right-wing and Musk himself, will get $12.4 million.
Netflix Wants You To Watch Anime And Chill
Netflix is wasting no time in making up for its losses. This time, it is doubling down on anime. And for good reason: more than 50% of its subscribers logged in to stream anime.
Great expectations: As part of its latest strategy, it will co-produce three feature films with a Japanese anime studio, including Drifting Home, which is due for a September release. The timing is sus: its animation department is getting the proverbial stepchild treatment. Netflix Animation was once touted to have the best talent pool in animation with extravagant budgets and free reins.
Back pedal: Only last week, Netflix hit the brakes on animation and cancelled several shows, including the long-awaited adaptation of Bone. It even laid off the head of its animation department and several others from the team as a reaction to its disappointing first quarter. Pssst: it doesn't have a great history with compensating its anime animation teams.
In related news, Warner Bros Discovery cut profit expectations for a "messy 2022", magnified by the shutdown of its CNN+ streaming service and Netflix's disappointing quarter. CEO David Zaslav also hinted at scrapping the behemoth’s other “chunky investments”.
🎧 For their next trick, Netflix has signed a three-picture deal with a Japanese anime studio in a bid to gain subscribers.
Boom: Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, reported stronger daily user growth. Even as its quarterly revenue rose by 7%, it remained the slowest revenue growth in a decade.
No impact: Spotify has dodged the streaming (Netflix) and the Joe Rogan controversy bullets to show a 15% year-on-year growth among paying subscribers. It, however, missed its 183 million target for this quarter owing to the Russia-Ukraine war.
Washout: Tesla saw nearly $126 billion sheared off its market capitalisation on Tuesday. Its shares fell 12% over shareholder concerns that Elon Musk might sell Tesla shares to fund his $44 billion takeover of Twitter.
In the race? Lifestyle and cosmetics major Nykaa and roll-up content to commerce company Good Glamm Group are vying to acquire Times Internet-owned MensXP.
Extra wings: Air India has proposed to acquire AirAsia India, a joint venture between its parent company Tata Sons and AirAsia Investment Ltd.
Capitalise: Taking a page from Amazon's playbook. Flipkart will open up its internal logistics infrastructure to e-commerce players.
In demand: Bitcoin is now the official currency in Central African Republic, the second country in the world after El Salvador.
Get your popcorn: Hollywood is looking to woo theatre goers with its lineup of movies to make up for the dent made by Omicron. Jurassic World: Dominion, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Top Gun: Maverick, among others, are slated for release. But the catch? Users are grappling with inflation.
Coffee and a side of nag: This cafe in Tokyo wants its patrons to stick to their deadlines. And so, this anti-procrastination cafe lets patrons write down their to-do goals for the day. Options include a check-in every hour, to staff queueing behind artists to finish the task at hand.
Anything for likes: Here’s why social media validation isn’t worth it. A Wisconsin couple died in their home while practising a TikTok trend called fractal wood burning. In another incident, A 28-year-old influencer pilot’s licence was revoked by the FAA after the YouTuber deliberately crashed his plane for views.
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