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Trade, natural resources and food are key areas of focus

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Beijing :China released its Arctic Policy. The document draws a picture of how China views the economic possibilities the region offers, even as it sought to sandpaper the edges with repeated assurances that it will respect existing internationals conventions and laws on the area.
The Arctic Policy, released in the form of a white paper, seemed to lay out the grounds for China to make claims to economic resources and to shipping routes in the region. The document prefaced such policy prerogatives with this line: “Over the past three decades, temperature has been rising continuously in the Arctic, resulting in diminishing sea ice in summer. Scientists predict that by the middle of this century or even earlier, there may be no ice in the Arctic Ocean for part of the year.”
The import – if the Arctic ice becomes scarce, the region would just be a large body of water – played out in multiple ways in the remainder of the document.
“As a result of global warming, the Arctic shipping routes are likely to become important transport routes for international trade… China hopes to work with all parties to build a ‘Polar Silk Road’ through developing the Arctic shipping routes,” the policy document said, directly linking itself to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative.
The language of this policy pronouncement also left it ambiguous on whether a ‘Polar Silk Road’ would include routes passing over or close to the North Pole.
This is understandably couched in the fact that the shipping route from Eastern China to Western Europe through the Arctic route could be about 6500 km shorter than the route through the Indian Ocean and Suez Canal. Not to mention, it would sidestep China’s insecurities about having its shipping choked at the straits and passageways that lie between it and its largest markets of Europe and the US eastern seaboard – Malacca, Bab-el-Mandeb, Suez Canal, Gibraltar and the English Channel.
China’s economic growth over the decades, driven by manufacturing, has gone hand-in-glove with a seemingly insatiable appetite for natural resources. A number of moves made by the Chinese government – from investments in Africa to securing alternate transport routes such as the Gwadar Port – all revolve around ensuring that the flow of materials and energy into Chinese manufacturing hubs does not abate.
This appetite was again on display on the document. “China advocates protection and rational use of the region and encourages its enterprises to engage in international cooperation on the exploration for and utilization of Arctic resources by making the best use of their advantages in capital, technology and domestic market,” it said.
It noted that the Arctic region is rich in natural resources, and outlined China’s paradigm for non-living and living resources.
It also made it a point to repeatedly state that it would not infringe on the rights of the Arctic States – countries like US, Russia, Canada, and the Nordic countries. It called for cooperation, rather than acting individually, with these players in the exploration and exploitation of oil, gas, mineral and other non-living resources.
‘Living resources’ is apparently China’s way of saying food, at least in this document. Chinese government documents have long talked of the need to secure sources of food, as land use patterns change and as a greater portion of its population moves away from agricultural production.
“As fish stocks have shown a tendency to move northwards due to climate change and other factors, the Arctic has the potential to become a new fishing ground in the future… China supports efforts to formulate a legally binding international agreement on the management of fisheries in the high seas portion of the Arctic Ocean,” the Chinese policy said.
It also said China would support the creation of an international organisation to manage fisheries in the Arctic region.
China also committed to continue and expand its research activities in the Arctic region. It repeatedly referred to the ecological sensitivity of the area, and promised that it would be part of efforts to help conserve Arctic biodiversity and the eco-system.
The policy document also addressed the possibility of Arctic tourism, and said it would work with local stakeholders to build up relevant expertise in the Chinese tourism sector.


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RBI to remain watchful on growth, financial stability: Das

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Mumbai: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will remain vigilant and strive to revive growth in Asia’s third-largest economy, as well as pushing to maintain macroeconomic, financial and price stability, its governor said in a speech.

India lost momentum in the final quarter of 2018, reducing its annual rate of economic growth to 6.6 percent, the slowest pace in five quarters and much less than expected.

But RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das said the country’s real gross domestic product (GDP) growth was expected to reach 7.2 per cent in the fiscal year to March 2020, which he described as the strongest among the world’s large economies.

 

India’s annual retail inflation rate rose in March to 2.86 per cent, from 2.57 per cent in the previous month, but remained below the central bank’s target for an eighth straight month, increasing the chances for a key interest rate cut in June.

“Inflation has remained below target, averaging 3.6 per cent for the period under the inflation targeting framework so far,” Das said in the speech, uploaded on the RBI website early on Saturday. He said he was referring to the period from October 2016 to February 2019.

The RBI has lowered its retail inflation forecast to 3.8 percent by January-March 2020, but warned it could be higher if food and fuel prices climb abruptly, or if fiscal deficits overshot targets.

India’s current account deficit is expected to be around 2.5 per cent of GDP in 2018-19 and the gross fiscal deficit has kept to budgetary targets, he added.

Das underscored the risks facing emerging market economies such as a India as global growth and trade weaken.

“There is considerable uncertainty as to whether this weakness is temporary or the beginning of a recession in advanced economies,” Das said, adding that central banks around the world were not tightening monetary policy, with some even promoting easier lending conditions.

The RBI cut its policy interest rate by 25 basis points earlier this month, in a widely expected move to boost the economy at a time Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking a second term in a national election.

Emerging market economies also remain exposed to financial market volatility, Das said, and financial conditions could heighten existing stress on the balance sheets of lending institutions in some countries.

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At 0.1%, India’s industrial growth falls to 20-month low in February

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New Delhi: A contraction in manufacturing output, especially in the sensitive capital and consumer goods segment, pulled down industrial growth to a 20-month low of just 0.1 per cent in February.

The bottom crawling growth rate follows a 1.43 per cent growth in the previous month of January. The index of industrial production (IIP) has witnessed low growth since November, 2018, and is expected to remain muted owing to weak exports, rural distress, credit constraints and uncertainty over the election outcome, according to economists.

In the April-February period of the current financial year, industrial output grew at 4 per cent, as against 4.3 per cent in the same period of the previous financial year.

 

The manufacturing segment, which constitutes the bulk of the index of industrial production (IIP) at 77.6 per cent, contracted by 0.3 per cent in February against an equally small rise of 0.93 per cent in January. Before, this, the December 2018 manufacturing number of 2.95 per cent. The numbers show continued volatility in the IIP, despite change in the index last year.

Most of all, the capital goods segment, which connotes investments, saw output growth turning to negative with an 8.8 per cent contraction, as compared to a 3.42 per cent contraction in the previous month.

Driven by machinery and heavy transport, capital goods production had been on a solid upward swing till October.

“The capital goods sector, which had shown an average growth of 8.9 per cent during April-October period in FY19 and raised hopes of an incipient investment recovery in the economy is once again appearing to be losing steam. With the exception of December 2018, capital goods are recording negative growth in each month since November,” Devendra Kumar Pant, Chief Economist at India Ratings and Research, said.

In January, the growth rate for consumer durables also fell to 1.2 per cent, from the 2.3 per cent growth in January. “A 1.2 per cent consumer goods production is also reflective of inventories that have built up in Q3, when capacity utilisation also improved. But, with demand tapering off, production has slowed down,” Madan Sabnavis, chief economist at CARE Ratings, said.

On the other hand, consumer non-durables commanded a growth rate of 4.3 per cent in February, up from 3.3 per cent in January. All other user-based segments either showed a negative growth or low-single digit growth.

Overall IIP growth for the entire year would be about 4.5 per cent, which is half per cent lower than what we had projected earlier, Sabnavis added.Of 23 sub-sectors within manufacturing, 13 recorded a year-on-year contraction, compared to 11 in January. Slowdown in major sectors such as metals and refined petroleum brought down overall growth. On the other hand, apart from furniture and food manufacturing, which saw healthy growth in the financial year, computer hardware production managed to see a healthy growth.

This is after the government pushed manufacturing in the sector on a sustained basis over the past nine months, through a series of benefits and the phased manufacturing programme aimed to reduce imports of electronics goods.

The two other sectors in the IIP — electricity and mining — also saw muted growth in February, data released on Friday showed.

Electricity generation rose 1.2 per cent in the latest month, slightly more than the 0.93 per cent rise in January. On the other hand, mining output grew by 2 per cent in February, against a 3.92 per cent rise in January.

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TCS net profit up 17.7% to Rs 8,126 crore in Q4, crosses $20-bn revenue

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Mumbai: Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) on Friday reported robust numbers both for the fourth quarter of 2018-19 and the full financial year, with the country’s largest IT services company crossing the $20-billion revenue mark for the first time. Growth in net profit as well as revenue exceeded Street expectations, though margin contracted a bit in the fourth quarter.

For the quarter ended March 31, TCS reported Rs 8,126 crore in net profit, a jump of 17.7 per cent over the corresponding quarter last year. Revenue, at Rs 38,010 crore, saw an increase of 18.5 per cent on a year-on-year (y-o-y) basis. When compared with the trailing quarter, net profit was almost flat, while revenue grew 1.8 per cent.

A survey by Bloomberg based on consensus analysts’ estimates had pegged TCS’ revenue and net profit at Rs 37,829.1 crore and Rs 7,970.7 crore, respectively. “This is a year when TCS has fired from all cylinders, and we are exiting the year on a much stronger note than how we entered it,” CEO and MD Rajesh Gopinathan said during a post-earnings interaction with media. “This is the strongest revenue growth that we have had in the last 15 quarters. Our order book is bigger than (what it was in) the previous three quarters. The deal pipeline is also robust,” Gopinathan added.

 

For FY19, TCS reported Rs 31,472 crore in net profit, an increase of 21.9 per cent over the previous fiscal year, while revenue at Rs 1.46 trillion was 19 per cent higher than FY18’s.

For the first time, TCS crossed $20 billion in its dollar revenue, posting $20.91 billion in top line in FY19, a growth of 9.6 per cent over the previous year, while it widened the revenue gap with the closest Indian competitor, Infosys, by $9.1 billion. In constant currency terms, it maintained double-digit revenue growth and grew 11.4 per cent.

Operating profit margins for Q4 as well as the full year, however, were marginally lower than the expectations and came below the guided range of 26-29 per cent. In the quarter under review, margins at 25.1 per cent saw a 50 basis point decline over the previous quarter, while margins for the full year stood at 25.6 per cent, up 79 bps.

The firm added six clients, each contributing revenues in excess of $100 million during FY19, while the employee headcount addition stood robust. The year ended with 4,24,285 employees, almost 30,000 higher than last year. Attrition at 11.3 per cent was one of the lowest in industry.

TCS continued to witness strong growth in its digital business, which accounted for 31 per cent of the overall revenue. Banking, financial services & insurance, which lagged other verticals, rebounded to double-digit growth with an increase of 11.6 per cent in the March quarter, although for the full year, it was 7.7 per cent.

chart In terms of geographies, North America business grew 9.9 per cent y-o-y (constant currency terms) in Q4, while for the full year, growth was 8.3 per cent. The UK, where TCS has the highest exposure compared with other Indian peers, saw maximum growth with revenues from the country rising 21.3 per cent y-o-y for the quarter and 22 per cent for the full year.

“Deals have come from many different markets and verticals. These give us the confidence that we’ll continue the momentum. Last year, we had very large segments that were dragging with growth of less than 2-3 per cent. We now have a benefit of a few large deals, so almost all segments are growing on a par with the company average,” Gopinathan said.

“TCS has delivered a decent set of numbers for Q4FY19, which beat estimates on the revenue and net profit fronts. Reported EBIT margins missed our estimates, though adjusted for Rs 220 crore contribution to electoral trust in Q4, margin was higher than estimates,” said Sanjeev Hota, AVP Research at Sharekhan.

The company reported deal TCV (total contract value) of $6.2 billion compared to $5.9 billion in the last quarter.

TCS said that like the previous year, it would start rolling out salary hikes in the range of 2-6 per cent based on geographies the employees are located, and some other metrics. In Q4 of last year, the company had doled out 120 per cent variable payouts, which will be 100 per cent this year.

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