Discover more from The Signal
Ultrafast delivery aged like milk
Also in today’s edition: India has too much O2; Notes from the Beijing Congress; Spotify’s podcast headaches; Will Microsoft lose Activision Blizzard King?
Good morning! Is BTS’ ongoing concert in Busan the last live performance as a group? For the foreseeable future, says Bloomberg. The gig is BTS’ first since it announced a hiatus for its seven members to focus on their solo careers. Oldest member Jin is due for conscription, or mandatory military service, for South Korea. The group is so hallowed that the country had passed a ‘BTS Law’ raising the conscription age for K-pop idols from 28 to 30. But some lawmakers are now pushing for a permanent exemption.
🎧 Few want to visit Meta’s Horizon Worlds, but everyone’s flocked to what could be BTS’ last concert in a long time. The Signal Daily is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, and Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to your podcasts.
The Market Signal*
Stocks: It’s not only the Party Congress in China that the world is keenly watching. The world’s second-largest economy will release its third-quarter GDP growth data on Monday.
Meanwhile, the UK, which has a new finance minister after Kwasi Kwarteng was sacked 38 days into the job, is expected to announce a revival plan for the economy. New chancellor of the exchequer Jeremy Hunt has hinted that tax hikes are in the offing.
Several big-ticket earnings announcements, including those of Bank of America, Netflix, Hasbro, Tesla, Goldman Sachs, and Blackstone are also lined up this week. Among Indian majors, ACC, Tata Coffee, Reliance Industries, Hindustan Unilever, and ICICI Bank will unveil their quarterly performances this week.
Early Asia: The Nikkei 225, Hang Seng and the Nifty on Singapore Stock Exchange were awash in red at 7:30am India time.
Ultrafast Delivery Is On Its Last Legs
Instant or 10-minute deliveries were the talk of the town this time last year. Cut to October 2022, the chill has truly set in. Several companies are struggling, have gone out of business, scaled down, or shut operations in key markets.
Whammies: A funding winter, coupled with a questionable business model, means companies that failed to raise the money they need to keep burning have found few takers. It doesn’t help that impulse buying is ceding to regimented shopping in an inflationary environment.
Consolidation is also in the air. Take Zomato and Blinkit, and Germany’s Gorillas now looking to sell to Turkish unicorn Getir.
Reality check: Instacart, the US’ largest online-grocery delivery company, has shelved IPO plans and slashed its valuation for the third time in a year to about $13 billion.
No One’s Guzzling This Gas
The Covid-induced ramp-up in oxygen capacity has morphed into a problem of plenty. Business Standard reports that India now has a daily oxygen supply of 20,000 tonnes per day (tpd), versus the current demand of approximately 1,300 tpd.
Breakneck buildup: The deadly Delta variant of Covid catalysed a monumental buildup in national oxygen capacity, with hospitals investing in more liquid medical oxygen (LMO) and pressure swing adsorption (PSA) plants. But the drop in active Covid cases and facilities means that medical facilities are now grappling with PSA plants that are either idle, ill-maintained, or breaking down.
What now?: Hospitals are either running plants just to keep them functional, or blending LMO and PSA in desired concentrations to administer to patients. Oxygen manufacturers have gone back to prioritising industrial demands.
More Belligerence In Store
If the number of mentions is any indication, national security is going to be China’s topmost priority in the next five years. Chinese president and Communist Party of China (CPC) general secretary Xi Jinping mentioned “safety” or “security” 73 times in his speech to the 2,300 delegates at the start of the CPC’s 20th Party Congress in the Great Hall of the People.
Done with reforms?: At the 19th Party Congress in 2017, Xi had mentioned “reforms” 70 times, and it remained high on the national agenda until now. It included a crackdown on edtech, consumer tech, entertainment, and private wealth.
Xi’s China has shown the determination to endure short-term pain—economic, public health, and political—in the quest for CPC’s version of an equitable and stable society. In his almost-certain third term, Xi could set the country on a path of increasing conflict with the West.
Xi has repeatedly reaffirmed his resolve to unify Taiwan with China. His opening remarks suggest it will step up the pace of militarisation.
Much depends on the economy and state wealth. Xi has unambiguously indicated that the CPC and state enterprises will receive the highest priority. The economy has been badly bruised by Xi’s zero-Covid policy, western trade hostility, and a global slowdown. China has, however, indicated a willingness to live with slower growth but not waver from long-term goals. The Party Congress will elect the new leadership, which will navigate the country through this period.
Does Platform Exclusivity Work?
Rather, is it working for Spotify? The answer seems to be no.
Context: Earlier this month, Spotify cancelled 11 originals by Gimlet and Parcast. This created a flutter not only because of the popularity of some cancelled shows, but also Gimlet’s own reckoning with a terrible work environment and union-busting. The acclaimed studio also suffered listenership decline and chaos ever since it was acquired by Spotify—and became part of its walled garden—in 2019.
Spotify’s exclusivity strategy hasn’t worked because, unlike video streaming consumers, listeners are less likely to switch apps to listen to podcasts. Even Joe Rogan wasn’t immune, having lost some impact since he migrated to Spotify.
And yet, Spotify continues adopting a video-streaming approach to its podcast slate by recasting and cancelling podcasts seasonally.
Call Of Duty: Godzilla Vs. King Kong
This isn’t the latest series in the blockbuster gaming franchise, but a reference to the Microsoft-Sony powwow over the former’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard King (ABK). The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) had launched an investigation into the nearly-$70 billion deal. It’s now headed to phase two (pdf) despite Microsoft’s rebuttal (pdf) that the CMA is toeing Sony’s line.
Why this matters: The CMA is one of several regulators in Microsoft’s way and can potentially scupper the biggest ever gaming deal. In focus is ABK’s first-person shooter Call Of Duty, a major revenue driver for Sony and other rivals. Microsoft downplayed its influence, but the antitrust body noted that Game Pass—and all gaming subscription services for that matter—are platforms unto themselves, and that any exclusivity to Microsoft, console or no console, would be anticompetitive.
The kicker, however, is that Sony itself hasn’t shied from exclusivity, as Protocol reports.
Government spin: Indian finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman defended the rupee’s 8% slide this year, saying it’s because of the “dollar strengthening incessantly”.
Historic contest: One of Mallikarjun Kharge or Shashi Tharoor will today be elected as the Indian National Congress’ first non-Gandhi party president after nearly 25 years.
About-face: Rupert Murdoch wants to merge two parts of his media empire, Fox and News Corp, nearly a decade after they split up.
Data privacy: Jay Solomon, a former reporter with The Wall Street Journal, has accused US law firm Dechert of working with Indian hackers to remove him from his job and soil his reputation.
Emptyverse: Almost a year after Facebook rebranded to Meta, the company’s flagship metaverse offering, Horizon Worlds, is grappling with glitchy technology and uninterested users.
Wildlife diplomacy: India is considering a proposal from Sri Lanka to translocate at least six Indian bisons in a bid to reintroduce them to the island nation after three centuries.
Legal trouble: Metaverse real-estate company Everyrealm is facing two lawsuits from former directors who allege they faced discrimination and harassment.
THE DAILY DIGIT
That’s ₹2.5 lakh crore, which is how much the Confederation of All India Traders estimates will be pumped into the economy thanks to this year’s festive-season sales (Livemint).
Truss fund: There are bookies for everything in the UK, even for betting on whether UK PM Elizabeth Truss’ term will outlast… unrefrigerated lettuce. British tabloid Daily Star has launched a live feed of wet lettuce next to a photo of Truss, whose recent decisions stoked doubts over whether she has the confidence of her own party. In case you’re wondering, the odds are in the lettuce’s favour.
Nicki the bully: Is Nicki Minaj a #40YearOldBully? That’s what rising star Latto—and everyone but the Barbz (aka Nicki stans)—seem to think. It started when Minaj criticised the Grammys for categorising her song ‘Super Freaky Girl’ as pop, while newcomer Latto’s ‘Big Energy’ was categorised as rap. A Twitter fight ensued. Music fans are now calling out an insecure Nicki for using the Barbz to bully her critics. Not a good look, Nicki.
Pet project: Sandy and Muick are doing alright. Those are Queen Elizabeth’s much-beloved corgis, who’ve been with Sarah Ferguson ever since the monarch passed away. While Ferguson—the Duchess of York and ex-wife of Prince Andrew—is caring for the duo, it’s unknown who’s caring for the former queen’s other dogs, cocker spaniel Lissy and Candy, the corgi-dachshund hybrid.
Enjoy The Signal? Consider forwarding it to a friend, colleague, classmate or whoever you think might be interested. They can sign up here.
Do you want the world to know your story? Tell it in The Signal.
Write to us here for feedback on The Signal.