SpiceJet springs a surprise
Also in today’s edition: Bridging the Thai gap; The great Adani roadshow; Vision Pro in the spotlight; Lights, camera, auction
Good morning! The Indian and Pakistani political elite don’t really see eye to eye on a lot of matters. But apparently, they’ve found common ground in AI-enabled campaigning. The Guardian reports that Imran Khan, Pakistan’s jailed former Prime Minister, is using an AI voice clone to deliver messages to his followers. In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi used AI to speak to a Tamil audience in Tamil. But unlike Modi’s enthusiastic followers, the reaction of Khan’s followers has been pretty meh. Make of that what you will. 🙃
Soumya Gupta, Roshni Nair, and Venkat Ananth also contributed to today’s edition.
The Market Signal
Stocks & Economy: San Francisco Fed president Mary Daly has said that if inflation continues to decline steadily, even three rate cuts in 2024 may not be enough, according to The Wall Street Journal. That is likely to add fuel to US stocks that have been on a record seven-week rally.
Asian shares were subdued in morning trade. The Bank of Japan is expected to show its hand on interest rates today. Traders expect it to signal coming out of negative rates but not do it right away.
Oil prices were holding steady after the Red Sea trade route became dangerous for merchant ships to pass. The US has set up a crack force to protect vessels from Yemen-based Houthis but risk remains high.
The GIFT Nifty indicated a negative opening for Indian equities.
Thailand is on a mission to make the one of the world’s busiest shipping routes not so busy anymore. A proposed Landbridge project linking two seaports on either side of the Thai peninsula will cost $29 billion and break even only in 24 years, but lower shipping costs by 15% and cut travel time by about four days. That’s because logistics operators will no longer need to cross the Malacca Strait to travel between the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy has pitched the Landbridge project to potential investors from the US, West Asia, and China. It’s estimated that it will help create around 280,000 jobs.
Same same but different: Bhutan is planning an autonomous economic corridor that will bridge its southern district of Gelephu to southeast Asia via northeast India and Myanmar. Only businesses that “align with the country's interests and values” will be invited.
The Adanis Go On Tour
Next month, it will have been a year since investment research firm Hindenburg accused the Adani Group of manipulating its group companies’ stocks. After cancelling a follow-on public issue in February, Adani is hitting the road, pitch decks in tow.
The group’s executives are hosting investor roadshows across the country and held one in Pune recently, Mint reports. Founder Gautam Adani’s younger son Jeet is wooing investors with a 13-minute pitch: Adani Group creates wealth at the scale of Hindustan Unilever but the growth rate of a startup.
Cash hungry: Adani has raised an estimated $8-10 billion this year from selling stakes in group companies and spent $6-7 billion of that money to consolidate his shareholding, The Hindu BusinessLine estimates. Adani Ports is raising up to $600 million by privately placing debt while Adani Green is raising another $410 million in debt to refinance an older dollar-denominated loan.
SpiceJet Tries Vertical Takeoff
To call SpiceJet’s attempt to acquire bankrupt airline GoFirst audacious would be an understatement. In fact, one of the unnamed sources quoted by The Economic Times, which broke the story, wondered how an entity on crutches would lift an almost-dead airline.
The target: The Wadias-owned GoFirst has until February 4, 2024, to make a last ditch effort to come up with a plan to repay ₹11,000 crore (~$1.3 billion) in dues, including loans. Half of its 56-plane fleet cannot fly because of faulty Pratt & Whitney engines (a global issue plaguing several airlines). A global aviation watchdog has even downgraded India because of GoFirst’s troubles.
Gutsy knight: SpiceJet, led by entrepreneur Ajay Singh, recently struck a deal with 64 investors who have committed to pump in ₹2,250 crore (~$270 million) into the cash-strapped airline. It is buffeted by court cases and massive liabilities while trying to operate in a sluggish aviation market. To its credit, it is slowly adding planes and flights to its operations.
Any which way one looks at it, a deal, if it happens, will be a leap of faith for all the stakeholders, including lenders, lessors, and investors of both airlines. But if Singh can convince them, it could mean 28 ready-to-fly planes = more flights = bigger market share = higher revenue = faster repayment.
One More Thing…
Apple is finally ready to introduce Vision Pro to the public. Unveiled this year for a price tag of $3,499, the Vision Pro marks Apple’s entry into
metaverse spatial computing.
As per Bloomberg, the company is reportedly looking at a launch date in the first quarter of 2024. The company has been gradually rolling out demos of the Vision Pro for the press. Select employees at its retail stores in the US are also being trained in how to sell the device.
Backseat: Interestingly enough, the iPhone will not be the company’s priority next year. Instead, the focus will be on revamping wearables and the computer lineup. This feels like a bold choice given how critical the iPhone is to company revenue.
🎧 India’s small towns are falling for iPhones. Also in today’s edition: young Indians are splurging on stargazing vacations. Listen to The Signal Daily on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.
BUSINESS OF SPORT
It’s Hammer Time!
But that could change with the IPL players’ mini-auction, held for the first time in Dubai. Another first? A woman auctioneer Mallika Sagar, who replaces Hugh Edmeades.
Aussies Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc—both with a ₹2 crore ($240,000) base price—may headline the 30 international cricketers who will fill up the franchises’ squads. Some current and former India internationals are also up for grabs in the remaining 47 slots, all of which could be sold for a maximum of ₹262.5 crore (~$31.55 million).
Tongues wagging: The IPL trading window will reopen a day after the auction. Now that should keep rumour mills happy until a month before the tournament’s start. We’re *not* talking about Rohit Sharma here, just FYI.
Done deal: Japan's Nippon Steel, the world’s fourth-largest steelmaker, has beaten the likes of ArcelorMittal to buy out US Steel for nearly $15 billion in cash.
A deal undone: Facing antitrust concerns from the UK and EU regulators, Adobe has abandoned its $20 billion acquisition of cloud-based design firm Figma.
New beats: US audio equipment maker Bose has bought a minority stake in Indian headphones and wearables firm Noise.
Up and down: B2B grocery firm Udaan laid off 100-120 employees just days after raising $340 million in a Series E funding round.
Under the scanner: The EU has launched an investigation into X for possible violations (illegal content, ‘deceptive design’, and disinformation) of its Digital Services Act rules.
Killer temblor: An earthquake of magnitude 6.2 on the Richter scale killed more than 100 people in the Gansu and Qinghai provinces in China’s northwest region.
THE DAILY DIGIT
The projected number of women voters in the 2024 Indian general elections, according to SBI. That’s nearly half of the estimated 680 million Indians who may turn out to vote next year. (Bloomberg)
Flawed legacy: Becoming the poster child of environment conservation isn’t as great as it’s made out to be. Just ask Thomas Crowther. Crowther shot to fame in 2019 when he published a paper claiming earth had room for an additional 1.2 trillion trees, which can absorb two-thirds of all the carbon ever produced. The big polluters used this as a get-out-of-jail-free card, which kickstarted the greenwashing business. Since then, Crowther has realised his mistake. He’s now actively working against his own claims, publishing papers that counter his overblown thesis, admonishing companies that lobbied for carbon credits and got away with just planting trees. Honestly, not sure how to feel about this one.
Dancing with a stranger: To know the extent to which Iranians hate their government, just look at them dancing. Yup, that’s right. Citizens of the country are dancing on the streets, at restaurants, gyms, and even in classrooms and stadiums. Why? Because the police decided to arrest 12 people who were seen dancing publicly in a now-viral video. You see, Iranian laws prohibit dancing in public. The arrest of the 12 people has sparked national outrage since the law hasn’t been consistently enforced. Citizens see this as personal infringement and are thus openly flouting the law everywhere. Under pressure, the authorities have released the 12 people. Civil disobedience at its best. 🙂
Sweet old automation: Who knew making tofu was this hard? The food of choice for gym bros and vegans, tofu-making is labour intensive, requires cool, stable temperatures, and of course, tons of soybeans. But increased demand and rising soybean costs are making tofu-everything a not-so appealing business for many. Which is why tofu makers have more than halved in Japan over the past 20 years. However, Yamami Co seems to be bucking this trend. The company is raking in profits by relying on the oldest trick in the business: automation. Clearly, not all machines are bad news.