Cleaning Up Political Funding or not?

Government is floating interest-free bonds that can be encashed by political parties, in an effort to make transparent the hose of political funding. The move, although, is laudable, but this government has been called out in the past for accepting money from unknown sources. What remains to be seen is, will it walk the talk in the general elections coming up next year.



What is it? The number of days for which electoral bonds, the terms for which were announced by the government on Tuesday, will be open for purchase in January, April, July and October. It will be a 30-day window in the year of general elections.

Why is it important? These bonds, which are interest-free banking instruments such as promissory notes, can be encashed by political parties at select branches of the State Bank of India. The government’s stated objective of introducing these bonds is to make political funding transparent, but they have been critiqued for doing the exact opposite by enabling anonymous donations. According to a report by Association for Democratic Reforms, 30.7% of total income of all Indian political parties for 2015-16 came from unknown sources.

Tell me more: Only those political parties that received at least 1% of votes polled in the last general election or assembly election will be eligible to receive donations through electoral bonds. The bonds would be valid for 15 days, though they will not carry the donor’s name. However, donors would have to comply with the bank’s KYC (know your customer) norms.



What is it? The Nikkei India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index, a measure of manufacturing activity, in December, an increase from 52.6 in November.

Why is it important? A value above 50 in the index indicates expansion, a value below 50 contraction. The December 2017 index reading shows the country’s factory activity expanded at the fastest pace in five years, driven by an increase in output and new orders, which saw their sharpest increases since December 2012 and October 2016, respectively. The December reading is also slightly higher than the average of 54 recorded since the start of the survey in March 2005. Job creation rose at the fastest pace since August 2012.

Tell me more: Firms increased prices at the quickest pace in 10 months in line with rising input costs, which suggests that inflation could be higher than the central bank’s medium-term target of 4%.



What is it? The number of milk samples that will be taken at random across India with immediate effect, according to directions issued by Secretary, Department of Animal Husbandry, to chief secretaries and food commissioners of all states and union territories.

Why is it important? This drive is to detect adulteration in milk, particularly that of edible oil, sucrose and detergents. States have been asked to install equipment at the village level to detect milk adulteration, for which the Centre has allocated Rs 100 crore. Last year, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India said that samples of unbranded milk taken as part of a national survey revealed that a fifth of them were adulterated.

Tell me more: In May 2017, the government had said that a new scanner had been developed that can detect adulteration in milk in 40 seconds. The scanner was said to cost Rs 10,000 and have a per test cost of 5-10 paise.


$268 billion

What is it? Apple’s cash reserves (cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities), as of September 2017.

Why is it important? An analyst report released by Citi this week said there was, now, a 40% chance of Apple buying Netflix, the American entertainment company. The news trigger for the report was the Donald Trump administration announcing sharp cuts in corporate tax rates and untaxed profits of American companies that are stored abroad and repatriated. Most of Apple’s cash reserves are parked overseas, and the report reckons the lower tax rates could entice the company to bring some of it back into the US and use it for impactful acquisitions.

Tell me more: While Apple has cracked online music, it has struggled to crack TV and films, and Netflix can help it do that. Netflix’s subscribers have grown from 23 million in 2011 to 109 million in 2017, and it had a market capitalisation of $87 billion.


130 million pounds

What is it? The amount that English club Liverpool are reportedly seeking from Spanish club Barcelona to sell their prized midfielder Philippe Coutinho.

Why is it important? With the January transfer window opening in European club football, the movement around Coutinho is once again a big story. Liverpool rejected three bids from Barcelona over the summer of 2017, the third worth up to 119 million pounds, saying the Brazilian wasn’t for sale. But since then, Liverpool’s stand has softened. Last weekend, Nike, Barcelona’s kit sponsor, posted online a club shirt with Coutinho’s name on the back, before pulling it down, adding fuel to the transfer fire.

Tell me more: A transfer value of 130 million pounds would be the second-highest ever. The highest-ever is Coutinho’s fellow Brazilian Neymar’s move for 222 million Euros from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 2017.


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Ola given a thumbs up

Rs 670 crore

What is it? The amount Indian cab-hailing app Ola has raised in its latest round of funding, the fifth-largest investment in the firm. US hedge fund Falcon Edge led the latest round, along with new investor Ratan Tata’s RNT Capital Advisors.

Why is it important? The company is locked in fierce competition with US-based Uber Technologies over the Indian market, and the latest investment will give it more firepower. In 2015-16, Ola posted a net loss of Rs 2,313 crore, which was thrice the loss it posted in 2014-15.

Tell me more: Ola’s latest valuation could not be ascertained, but media reports placed it at $3.5 billion, which would be a drop from $4.8 billion in August 2015.


Rs 697,409 crore

What is it? The value of non-performing assets in the Indian banking system, which an ordinance passed yesterday by the Union cabinet is looking to address.

Why is it important? The ordinance, awaiting the President’s approval, aims to give the central bank more teeth. It can, for example, give specific directions to banks regarding NPAs. Till December, 2016, bad loans amounted to Rs 697,409 crore, according to an estimate, with state-owned banks accounting for 88% of this.

Tell me more: The ordinance, amending the Banking Regulation Act, will let the RBI also set up committees to oversee cases of bankers being investigated for restructured loans.



What is it? The number of new digital news subscriptions added by New York Times in the first quarter of 2017.

Why is it important? Like several print publications in the US, NYT too has been pushing its digital subscriptions to stay relevant and drive up sales among an audience increasingly getting their news from electronic modes. The latest subscriber additions enabled a 5% year-on-year growth in revenues to $398.8 million, which was higher than analyst expectations.

Tell me more: NYT’s digital-only subscriptions to its news and crossword products brought in $75.82 million of revenues in the quarter, a year-on-year growth of about 40%.


50.76 million

What is it? The number of iPhones sold by Apple in the second quarter (ended April 1, 2017) of FY17.

Why is it important? Despite the launch of a signature red iPhone 7 to sustain buyer interest, Apple’s star product, the iPhone, saw an unexpected dip in volume sales: down 0.8% over the 51.2 million units sold in Q2 of FY16 and 35% over the preceding festive quarter.

Tell me more: Apple’s shares lost 1.9% on Wednesday. Its net income (profit) in the quarter rose 4.9% to $11.03 billion.



What is it? The number of appearances made by Italian side Juventus in the finals of the UEFA Champions League, Europe’s premier club competition in football since 1992-93.

Why is it important? Juventus is looking good for a sixth appearance after turning in a clinical performance to beat French side Monaco 2-0, that too away, on Wednesday night.

Tell me more: With 5 final appearances, Juventus is joint second with Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid. But it has also lost more finals than any other club—4 in all—and will be looking to break a hoodoo this year.

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What is it? The wickets taken by R Ashwin in India’s second test cricket match against Australia, in the on-going four part series.

Why is it important? The haul helped India to its win, after a drubbing in the first match. It added to R Ashwin’s total of 269 test wickets, India’s fifth-highest.

Tell me more: This was also Ashwin’s 25th five-wicket haul in 47 test matches, the fastest among all bowlers, beating New Zealander Richard Hadlee’s 25 fifers in 62 matches. The third and the fourth matches in the series will take place in Ranchi and Dharamsala.



What is it? The number of individuals who dropped off the billionaire list in 2016.

Why is it important? The note ban in November 2016, among others, took a toll on billionaires as it stripped some of them of substantial cash wealth – enough to reduce their total wealth below $1 billion (~Rs 6,600 crore). Flipkart’s co-founders Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal are among those who lost their spots.

Tell me more: India’s loss meant Germany’s gain in the Hurun India Rich List as it climbed to the third spot with an addition of 27 new billionaires.


Rs 275 crore

What is it? The money the Chinese Internet giant, Alibaba, paid to buy Reliance Capital’s (financial arm of the Reliance Group) nearly 1% stake in One97 Communication, Paytm’s parent.

Why is it important? Alibaba, already a major investor in Paytm’s various ventures, had recently purchased additional stake in its e-commerce arm. Tuesday’s move being seen as a not just consolidating its place in Paytm’s owners business but also as advancing its India ambitions. The sale values One97 Communication at over $4.1 billion.

Tell me more: Reliance Capital had bought the stake in 2009, for just Rs 10 crore, gaining more than 27 times the price it paid from yesterday’s sale.


715 million

What is it? The number of Apple iPhones in use, according to an analyst estimate.

Why is it important? Apple sold its billionth iPhone last year, nine years after its launch in 2007. The number of devices in simultaneous use is an indicator of Apple’s strength in the services part of its smartphone business – apps, music streaming, content sales etc. Apple’s app store revenue in 2016 was $28.5 billion, with the developers claiming $20 billion of the amount.

Tell me more: BMO Capital Markets analyst Tim Long also estimated that 300 million second hand iPhones will be in use by end of 2018.



What is it? The number of people injured in Ujjain train blast on Tuesday.

Why is it important? The blast is said to be the first Islamic State terror attack in the country. Islamic State first came into prominence in 2014, and a number of terror attacks in US, Europe and Asia are linked to the terror group. Police said it shot down one of the suspects who had links to Islamic State and was connected to the blast.

Tell me more: The blast took place on Bhopal-Ujjain train near Jabdi station in Shajapur district of Madhya Pradesh.

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What is it? The percentage of stake in Hindustan Petroleum (HPCL) that will be transferred to the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) by the central government.

Why is it important? This will create an integrated oil company bringing together India’s largest oil producer, ONGC with HPCL, third largest refiner and retailer. This was one of the announcements made by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the budget speech.

Tell me more: The transfer will have to be followed by an open offer for another 26% shares from the open market.


200 million

What is it? The number of wallet users (transacting users) with Paytm, a mobile wallet and payments operator.

Why is it important? The largest mobile wallet service by reach has reaped the benefits of the cash ban. Its subscriber base increased by 50 million post November 8th last year, when demonetisation was announced. By the end of November, Paytm, like its competitors, had increased their advertising spends, by 300%, to tap an audience looking for ways around the cash crunch.

Tell me more: Paytm’s immediate competitor, Freecharge, has had a rougher ride, with its parent Snapdeal struggling to raise funding for it. Its CEO quit last week.


120 million

What is it? The number of shares of Apple Inc. that Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway bought in 2017.

Why is it important? This makes Apple one of the largest holdings of the investment wizard’s company. Berkshire, fuelled by Buffet’s acumen, is often considered a bellwether of the US stock market. It took its total shares of the iPhone-maker to 133 million. At about $17 billion in value, the stock is now among the top six of Berkshire’s holdings worth $10 billion and above.

Tell me more: In a media interview, Buffet reasoned with “Apple strikes me as having quite a sticky product.”


Rs 2 trillion

What is it? Amount of central government procurement each year(excluding defence) proposed under the ‘Buy Indian’ policy.

Why is it important? The policy, if implemented, will boost local manufacturing through price preference, and relaxation in turnover and experience conditions. It might increase cost of buying goods for central government, but has potential to create local jobs given the size of purchase.

Tell me more: The proposed policy will not violate international trade rules. WTO permits governments to have sourcing preference if it’s for own consumption.



What is it? The number of airports managed by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) that are profitable. AAI manages 125 airports in India.

Why is it important? Shows that traffic is not adequate to support the cost incurred, and AAI was not able to monetize non-aero revenues like the ones managed by the private sector in Delhi and Mumbai.

Tell me more: There was no traffic in 30 of the loss making airports managed by AAI.

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