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Consumer Spending Survey Runs Into Controversy, Nirmala Sitharaman Seeks to Allay Telecom Concerns, Saudi Aramco Prepares for IPO

Professor of Financial Economics and Part-time Value Investor, Transfin.
Nov 17, 2019 2:43 AM 7 min read

Consumer spending declines for first time in more than four decades. Citing "data quality issues", Govt says it won't release consumer spending survey. Situation critical, India venture risks liquidation, says Vodafone CEO. Govt will ensure no company shuts operations, Nirmala Sitharaman says. Over 57,000 BSNL employees have opted for VRS. Aramco publishes prospectus for investors eyeing company's IPO. Google's "Project Nightingale" comes under regulatory scanner for accessing and gathering records of over 50 million patients. Facebook announces new payments service Facebook Pay.




Consumer spending declines for first time in more than four decades.

Disconcerting: Consumer spending in India declined for the first time in more than four decades in 2017-18, cited a BS report quoting a government survey (which has not been released yet).


As per the "Key Indicators: Household Consumer Expenditure in India" survey conducted by the National Statistical Office (NSO), the average monthly spending by an individual fell to INR1,446 in 2017-18 from INR1,501 in 2011-12, down 3.7%. 


Appalling: The survey found that rural Indians bought less of all food products barring milk and milk-related items. Consumers from all parts of the country - including urban areas - spent drastically less on essential food items such as oil, salt, sugar and spices, the article highlighted. ET Indicators


Citing "data quality issues", Govt says it won't release survey that reportedly showed consumer spending decline for the first time in four decades.

Here We Go Again: It has emerged that the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI) has decided “not to release the Consumer Expenditure Survey results of 2017-2018” in view of “data quality issues”. HT


Rewind: This is the second major NSO report to run into such a controversy this year. Previously, two members of the National Statistical Commission resigned over delays in the release of the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) for 2017-18. This survey showed that the unemployment rate had reached 6.1% - a four-year high.


Consumer Spending Survey Runs Into Controversy, Nirmala Sitharaman Seeks to Allay Telecom Concerns, Saudi Aramco Prepares for IPO



Situation critical, India venture risks liquidation, says Vodafone CEO.

Dire Straits: Vodafone's India venture is at a crossroad. Its CEO has said that unless the government eases off on some of the demands on mobile spectrum fees, the company risks liquidation. He said unless there's a reduction in spectrum fees and more leeway regarding repayment of debts, the situation would turn critical.


The company - which is based out of the UK - also faces the predicament of AGR licensing fees to the tune of $4bn, which the Supreme Court recently directed telcos to pay to the government. Vodafone Idea - of which Vodafone owns 45% - already has $14bn in debt and a market presence threatened by Reliance Jio, whose arrival in the Indian telecom scene set of a period of crippling price wars. BBG


Govt will ensure no company shuts operations, Nirmala Sitharaman says.

Keep the Faith: Seeking to allay mounting concerns regarding the health of the telecom sector, Nirmala Sitharaman said the government was intent on ensuring that no company shuts operations due to financial unsustainability.


"We want no company to shut their operations. We want everyone to flourish," the Finance Minister said at a press meet. NDTV


Over 57,000 BSNL employees have opted for VRS.

As per a PTI report, as many as 57,000 employees of govt-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) have already availed themselves of the voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) that was rolled out on 5 November.


In all, nearly one lakh BSNL employees are eligible for the VRS out of its total staff strength of about 1.5 lakh. BSNL's internal target for VRS is pegged at 77,000 employees. 


The scheme will be open till 3 December. BSNL is looking at savings of about INR7,000cr in wage bill, if 70,000-80,000 personnel opt for the scheme.


The government last month had approved a INR69,000cr revival package for BSNL and MTNL that includes merging the two loss-making firms, monetising their assets and offering VRS to employees so that the combined entity turns profitable in two years. Livemint



SC clears way for ArcelorMittal's takeover of Essar Steel.

Go Ahead: The Supreme Court of India has cleared way for ArcelorMittal's takeover of debt-ridden Essar Steel.


The apex court has asked ArcelorMittal to pay creditors for Essar Steel India, in the process scrapping a bankruptcy appellate tribunal’s order that had given secured and unsecured lenders equal right over the sale proceeds.


Previously: ArcelorMittal, and its partner Nippon Steel had offered to pay INR42,000cr in cash to creditors and pump another INR8,000cr in Essar Steel last year. While that offer was approved by a bankruptcy tribunal in March under the insolvency process, the payment was kept on hold by the SC after a dispute arose between lenders on the distribution of funds. Livemint


Uber Co-Founder Travis Kalanick is building an India team for his new CloudKitchen venture.

On Cloud Dine: As per reports, Uber Co-Founder Travis Kalanick is building an India team for his new venture, City Storage Systems, which runs delivery-only kitchens called CloudKitchens and is currently operating in stealth mode.


Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: Kalanick's new venture has started engagements with restaurant chains and real estate developers in Mumbai, as well as begun early discussions with marketplaces including Swiggy, UberEats, and Zomato. ET Tech


Aramco publishes prospectus for investors eyeing company's IPO.

Looking to List: Saudi Aramco took another step towards its first initial public offering (IPO) on Saturday when it released a lengthy prospectus that lays the ground for investors looking to buy into the oil giant.


In the 650-page document, Aramco revealed that 0.5% of shares will be sold to individual retail investors while not disclosing how much would be available for institutional investors.


How much of the company will be up for grabs is still unknown. But even a 2% sale would make it the world's largest IPO. As the world's most profitable company prepares to list on Saudi Arabia's Tadawul stock exchange - the listing could begin as soon as 11 December - the Saudi Crown Prince chases a staggering $2tr valuation (although analysts estimate the company's value closer to $1.5tr). AP



Google's "Project Nightingale" comes under regulatory scanner for accessing and gathering records of over 50 million patients. 

Google's "Project Nightingale", which reportedly accessed and gathered records of over 50 million patients of St. Louis-based Ascension is now facing scrutiny and a federal inquiry from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office. As per a WSJ report, neither the doctors nor patients were aware of the data collection. This has raised serious privacy questions given the sensitive nature of medical information.


The program saw Google employees accessing data that included lab results, doctor diagnoses, records, and complete health history of patients, including names and birth dates. As many as 150 Google employees likely had access to the sensitive data, which was not anonymised to remove the personal identifiers. The Indian Express


“Project Nightingale” was initially conceived as a project aimed at crunching data to produce better health care, among other goals.


Meanwhile, a Google spokeswoman in a statement said: “We are happy to cooperate with any questions about the project. We believe Google’s work with Ascension adheres to industry-wide regulations (including HIPAA) regarding patient data, and comes with strict guidance on data privacy, security, and usage.” WSJ


Google mulls foray into banking with new checking account offerings.

Google Check: Google is knocking on the doors of financial services again. The tech giant will reportedly begin offering  checking accounts to consumers next year as part of its push into financial services. The product – which is code-named “Cache” – will be run by Citigroup and Standford Federal Credit Union. Business Insider



Facebook announces new payments service Facebook Pay.

Facebook Pay: Facebook has announced a deeper foray into fintech and one more step towards integrating the platforms it owns. The social media giant will roll out a payments service called Facebook Pay that will allow users to securely send payments to others. It accepts most major credit cards and debit cards - in addition to PayPal. And by enabling users to send money through Facebook's other apps - Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram - it seeks to integrate its many services. CNBC


WhatsApp's competitors Telegram and Signal aren't immune to cyberattacks either. 

Nobody's Safe Anywhere: After WhatsApp reported a hack by Israeli surveillance firm NSO group, its competitors Telegram and Signal saw increased traction in the app stores. But cybersecurity researchers say even these platforms are vulnerable to threats. These apps also provide additional features for privacy - like WhatsApp - but even these may not be immune from cyber-attacks. ET Tech



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