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How Apple lost bite as India rang in profits for Chinese smartphone makers

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New Delhi, Nov 7: Software engineer Samee Alam was ready to take the big leap and buy an iPhone in this week’s Diwali festival sales, but at the last minute he opted for cheaper Chinese competitor OnePlus instead.

Alam, 27, spends hours on his phone watching shows, surfing and shopping, making him the perfect target for Apple Inc as it strives to raise sales among India’s 1.3 billion consumers.

But in a country where the average per capita income is around $2,000 a year, even the cheapest of this year’s new iPhones, the XR at 76,900 rupees ($1,058), costs twice as much as many of the alternatives.

 

Hong Kong-based Counterpoint Research says that iPhone sales are falling as a result. From three million phones in 2017, sales may sink to two million this year, according to their estimate, the first decline in four years.

More than half of those sales will come from cheaper older models, and the lack of progress in India was among problems cited by Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook when he gave a disappointing holiday outlook last week.

Even in the premium segment, smartphones that cost more than $400, Apple lagged Samsung and China’s OnePlus in the third quarter.

“I have never used an iPhone and I was keen on getting my hands on one but it didn’t make sense,” says Alam, who works for one of the raft of firms to have invested in the southern city of Bengaluru, often called India’s Silicon Valley.

“I look for storage, camera and processor in phones and cheaper alternatives like OnePlus are more value for the money.

The new iPhones cost almost 100,000 rupees – I can get three good phones for that price or even a decent gaming laptop.” Solid Mac sales and the high unit price of iPhones meant Apple’s total revenue of $2 billion in India last year was still double that of OnePlus, which only sells mobile phones. But Counterpoint’s data says that gap will also shrink.

OnePlus’ India head Vikas Agarwal told Reuters this week that 10-15 percent of new customers in recent months have been defectors from Apple, suggesting even some loyalists are opting out of upgrading their handsets.

Apple’s problems go beyond price.

The company, facing down a handful of regulatory headaches, lost some of its top executives in India at the start of this year.

An Apple spokesman said the departures had nothing to do with the company’s performance, but people familiar with the matter told Reuters that the departures were likely linked to the company changing its distribution system. Apple has cut the number of distributors in the country to two from five.

The sources, who declined to be identified because they have business relationships with Apple, also said company veteran Michel Columb is still working on solidifying business relations since taking control of the Indian operation in December.

Apple declined to comment further.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has sought to drive electronics producers into manufacturing locally by steadily moving tariffs up the supply chain from simple phone cases to sophisticated chipsets and boards.

Along with local firms like Lava, global smartphone giants including Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, Oppo and Xiaomi Corp have responded aggressively, investing millions of dollars in plants around Bengaluru and Delhi tech hub Noida.

Apple is the only major player which does not manufacture phones in the country and it only assembles two low-cost older models through Wistron Corp in Bengaluru.

Industry experts say as a result the company still imports about 70-80 percent of its phones. That results in high import duties, which in turn make the phones expensive.

In the United States, the basic iPhone XR model costs $749 or roughly 54,400 rupees, only two thirds of its retail price in India. Beyond that, while U.S. phones are subsidized under deals with wireless carriers, Apple’s phones in India are not.

“Apple doesn’t have enough confidence … in the Indian manufacturing system right now, to set up plants and move some of the manufacturing out of China,” said analyst Navkendar Singh of tech consulting firm IDC.

“In the process they are losing around 15-20 percent of their tax incentive … which they could have passed on to the consumer.”

Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is peak selling time for electronics in India, but the Apple-licensed store in one of Bengaluru’s big shopping malls was deserted this past Saturday.

“Features of the emerging phones are very similar to an iPhone,” says salesman Aejaz Ahmed, adding volumes have fallen in the past few months. “It is very difficult to make out the difference from a distance because they even look so alike.” Sales staff at several stores in Bengaluru and nearby Chennai pointed to the launch this year of the latest OnePlus phone as a major problem for the U.S. phonemaker. At 37,999 rupees, the Chinese company’s 6T is half the price of the XR.

The result, says Neil Shah, from Counterpoint, is that Apple’s user base in India is set to decline about 10 percent to nine million users this year. That compares to an estimated 436 million Android users.

“If your user base is declining, you are losing grip on the market,” he says. “The new customer base is not coming.” (Reuters)


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MPC to meet six times during 2019-20: RBI

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Mumbai: The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), which decides on key interest rates, will meet six times during the next financial year, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said.

The first meeting of the six-member MPC to decide on the first bi-monthly monetary policy statement for 2019-20 will be held from April 2 to 4.

The policy will be announced on April 4. Headed by RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das, the committee also includes two representatives from the central bank and three external members.

 

The external members are Indian Statistical Institute professor Chetan Ghate, Delhi School of Economics Director Pami Dua and Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad professor Ravindra H Dholakia.

According to the schedule provided by the RBI, the second meeting of the MPC in the next fiscal will be held on June 3, 4 and 6; third meeting (August 5-7); fourth meeting (October 1, 3 and 4); fifth meeting (December 3-5) and sixth meeting (February 4-6, 2020).

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SBI raises Rs 1,251 crore by issuing Basel III-compliant bonds

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New Delhi: The country’s largest lender State Bank of India (SBI) said it has raised Rs 1,251.30 crore by issuing Basel III-compliant bonds.

“The Committee of Directors for Capital Raising at its meeting held today on 22 March 2019 deliberated and accorded approval to allot 12,513 non-convertible, taxable, perpetual, subordinated, unsecured Basel lll-compliant additional tier-I bonds, for inclusion in additional tier-I capital of the bank…aggregating to Rs 1,251.30 crore,” SBI said in a regulatory filing.

The bonds with a face value of Rs 10 lakh each bears a coupon rate of 9.45 per cent per anum payable annually with call option after 5 years or any anniversary date thereafter, it said. The bonds were subscribed on Friday, it added.

 

State Bank of India (SBI) also said the central board of the bank at its meeting held has accorded its approval for extension of validity period for raising equity capital of up to Rs 20,000 crore from market by way of follow-on public offer, qualified institutional placement, preferential allotment, rights issue or any other mode or a combination of these till March 31, 2020.

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Sebi fines 4 entities Rs 27 lakh for fraudulent trading in BSE stock options

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New Delhi: Markets regulator Sebi imposed a total penalty of Rs 27 lakh on four entities for indulging in fraudulent trade in illiquid stock options segment of BSE.

Umapati Oil Mill and Ginning Factory, Yudhbir Chhibbar, Kasturbhai Mayabhai Pvt Ltd and Vimladevi Shyamsunder Khetan are the four entities, according to Sebi’s separate orders.

fter observing a large-scale reversal of trades in the BSE’s illiquid stock options segment, Sebi conducted a probe from April 2014 to September 2015.

 

Following the probe, the regulator found that the trades executed by the entities were not genuine as they were reversed within few seconds with same counter parties with significant difference in price, resulting in profit to the entities.

Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) said it was a deliberate attempt to deal in such a fashion and not a mere coincidence.

The trades executed by the entities were not genuine and created an appearance of artificial trading volumes, thereby violating PFUTP (Prohibition of Fraudulent and Unfair Trade Practices) regulations, Sebi noted.

Accordingly, a fine of Rs 8.7 lakh and Rs 8.4 lakh were imposed on Yudhbir Chhibbar and Vimladevi, respectively while a penalty of Rs 5 lakh each was levied on Umapati Oil Mill and Kasturbhai Mayabhai Pvt Ltd, totalling Rs 27.1 lakh.

In a separate order, Sebi imposed a total fine of Rs 6 lakh on four promoters of Artech Power Products for delayed disclosures to exchanges regarding their change in the shareholding in the company.

Ranjith Vijayan, I V Vijayan, Repsy Vijayan and Resmi Vijayan are the four promoters, according to Sebi’s order.

The promoters have deprived the vital information to the public by non-disclosure /delayed disclosure as mandated by the Takeover Regulations, Sebi noted.

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