Sony takes the wheel
Also in today’s edition: Bitcoin gaining on gold, Antiviral drug price war begins, Music legends settle for a fortune, Problems galore for China
Good Morning! KFC is going vegan. No, it isn’t one of those Veganuary pledges. It has decided to make a meatless version of chicken nuggets and offer it to customers. It is currently on trial, if it sells out and there is demand, there is a chance this could be a feature. Who goes to a KFC to eat vegetarian? It is possibly all about the 11 mystery herbs and spices. If you’ve deliberately chosen only a vegetarian meal at a KFC, write to us.
Btw, our podcast has been going strong for three months now. Tune in on your daily jog, drive to the office, or even as you WFH-ers have breakfast in bed. We promise it’ll be music to your ears.
The Market Signal
Stocks: Banks, metals, auto and property stocks led the charge helping benchmark indices continue their new year bull run. The sharp rise in Covid-19 infections and the return of travel curbs dampened aviation industry shares. Indications that the RBI will delay raising rates due to Covid-19 resurgence also buoyed markets.
Pricing Wars For Molnupiravir Go Viral
As many as 13 Indian pharmaceutical companies are racing to manufacture Molnupiravir after the Indian government approved its emergency use. Generic versions of the oral antiviral drug—originally developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics—will cost ₹1,500-₹2,500 for a five-day course.
Merck vs. Pfizer: India joins countries such as the US, UK, Denmark, Japan, and Philippines in greenlighting the experimental pill. France, however, became the first country to cancel its Molnupiravir order due to “disappointing trial data” and is opting for Pfizer’s experimental Covid-19 drug, Paxlovid. A week ago, Bangladesh became the first country to develop a generic version of Paxlovid.
Words of caution: Doctors underline that there’s still no data to show that Molnupiravir can combat the Omicron variant. The Indian Council of Medical Research won't add Molnupiravir pill to its recommended list, citing major safety concerns. That said, trials have shown some efficacy in comorbid adults.
Goldman Says Bitcoin Could Hit $100,000
If Bitcoins were to wean away half the investment in gold in the next five years, its price would cross $100,000, Goldman Sachs has forecast. The bank estimates Bitcoin’s current market cap at ~$700 billion and the value of investible gold at $2.6 trillion.
What it means: Some already consider a Bitcoin wallet as a pouch of gold, the world’s favourite “store of value”. Bitcoin promises to be an equally unimpeachable asset that can also be safely and instantly transferred to anyone anywhere in the world. And crypto certainly would be more useful in the metaverse than gold.
What next: Bitcoins are finite. So its value will keep rising. Gold production also could be past its peak. Fewer mines are being discovered and it is becoming more expensive to extract. Production has been declining since 2018 although 2021 may have seen a marginal uptick.
Tech’s Shifting Gears With Auto
Japanese conglomerate Sony showed off an SUV prototype it calls the Sony Vision-S SUV at CES 2022 which will be built for the market by its new division, Sony Mobility Inc. It had debuted a sedan prototype at the CES in 2020.
Not for bragging rights alone: Sony was earlier thought to be either secretive or confused about its mobility plans, having used previous prototypes to develop “everything from sensors to computer vision to in-car audio and gaming”. Essentially, an R&D lab for its booming consumer electronics businesses. But the Vision-S, as it would appear, wasn't a mere concept car.
As a pioneer that invented the Walkman and Playstation, commercialised the lithium ion battery, and makes cutting-edge gadgets for cars, Sony’s technological prowess is proven beyond doubt. It is not outlandish to then think that the company would want to build a slick box around its electronics and put it on wheels.
Tesla has proven that the future of automobile making belongs to software writers and electronics wizards. So much so that Qualcomm calls its suite of auto platforms Digital Chassis. When a car needs a performance improvement, much like a smartphone maker, Tesla sends a software upgrade over the Internet. It could even extend its cars’ range with an over-the-air upgrade. In contrast, a Volkswagen EV model had to be sent to the dealer for bug fixes.
The line-up of new carmakers is the who’s who of technology—Apple, Xiaomi, Google, Sony. It doesn’t mean legacy carmakers are idle. Volkswagen will spend $100 billion on EVs and software development in the next five years. Toyota has earmarked $70 billion for EVs. Another eyeball-grabbing preview at CES 2022 was Chrysler’s Airflow concept SUV.
China’s Troubles See No End
The crisis in China’s economy appears to be deepening with banks preferring to keep money in risk-free instruments rather than lending to companies. The government wants banks to lend more, especially to government sectors, but banks are reluctant.
More troubles: Meanwhile, China’s stressed assets manager Huarong’s shares plummeted to a record low of 55% when trading resumed after nine months. State-owned white knights of the company lost $4 billion in value.
More missed payments: Two more Chinese developers, Zhongliang Holdings and DaFa Properties have now delayed their dividend payments by months. The Chinese property sector will have to clear $197 billion in January 2021.
If that wasn’t enough: Chinese tech companies are losing hope again after Tencent offloads shares worth more than $3 billion amid growing concerns of China’s antitrust crackdown.
They Sold Their Songs
David Bowie’s estate has sold the publishing rights to his catalogue of songs to Warner Chappell Music for a neat $250 million.
Bruce Springsteen (we wrote about it here), Bob Dylan, and Paul Simon too have given up their music rights for millions.
Why not? It is a win-win situation for both parties. The pandemic has increased demand for home entertainment, including streamed music while dulling the chances for musicians to hold concerts. By monetising their repertoire, the artists or their estates can be financially secure. Music publishers can make money from royalties, merchandise, and film licensing among other options.
And oh, they might save some taxes too. Under a new Biden tax plan, selling these assets later would mean paying higher capital gains tax of 37%. Sweet deal, eh?
Relief: The Delhi HC has halted Amazon's arbitration proceedings in the Singapore tribunal against Future Group. It was only on Tuesday that Future Coupons asked the HC to overturn the proceedings, given that CCI had deferred the Amazon Future deal.
Another one in the bag: Good Glamm Group has acquired influencer marketing platform Winkl and video analytics startup, Vidooly. With this, the group has taken over nine brands so far.
More than shaving: Men’s grooming brand, Bombay Shaving Company has raised ₹160 crore in a funding round led by hedge fund Malabar Investments to expand its product portfolio.
Family dispute: Hero Electric owner Vijay Munjal has taken his cousin Pawan Munjal, the chairman of Hero MotoCorp, to court over the brand name.
New ventures: Zupee has partnered with Reliance Jio, after the skill-based casual gaming platform raised $72 million in a funding round.
Barred: World no. 1 Novak Djokovic was denied entry in Australia after he failed to qualify for the medical exemption for vaccination.
Big feat: Japan's Toyota has dethroned General Motors as America's top automaker for the first time in 90 years.
Taiwan 🤝 Lithuania: China is angry at Lithuania. And so, the custom officials turned back 20,400 bottles of rum that came in from the Baltic nation. Taiwan decided to step in. The state-owned Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corp bought the rum as an act of goodwill. Taiwan is now counting on its citizens to pick up the bottles. There’s also a Facebook post on ways to make use of that bottle of liquor.
Crypto for campaign: South Korea's ruling Democratic Party of Korea wants to keep up with the times. Lee Jae-myung, the presidential candidate, will issue NFTs to raise funds in the upcoming elections. In an attempt to win the hearts and wallets of young voters, the party will list digital images featuring Lee's photos and policies.
On standstill: Interstate 95 in Virginia was a snow-covered dystopian hellscape for drivers on Tuesday, who were stuck in the traffic for more than 24 hours without food or water. The 48-mile stretch of road was covered with 12-inches of snow after a winter storm. Many were returning to work from holidays.
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