BoB slashes repo-linked lending rate by 15bps

MUMBAI: State-run Bank of Baroda (BoB) on Saturday announced a 15 basis points reduction in its repo-linked lending rate to 6.85 per cent from 7 per cent earlier, effective November 1.
The lender’s retail loans- home loan, mortgage loan, car loan, education loan and personal loan are linked to its Baroda Repo Linked Lending Rate (BRLLR).
Earlier, ahead of the festive season, the bank had announced concessions in interest rates on home loan and car loan.
With the current revision in BRLLR, home loan rates will start at 6.85 per cent and car loan rates at 7.10 per cent, mortgage loan rates at 8.05 per cent and education loan rates at 6.85 per cent, the bank said in a release.
Meanwhile, another public sector lender, Union Bank of India (UBI) said it has slashed its interest rate by 10 basis points for home loans above Rs 30 lakh.
The bank in a release said women borrowers will get further concession of 5 basis points in rate of interest over and above this reduction for such loans. The new rates are effective from November 1.
With this revision, men borrowers with a credit score of above 700 will be offered home loans at 7 per cent.
The lender further said it will not be charging any processing fee on home loans till December 31, 2020.
In addition to this, UBI also waived legal and valuation charges up to Rs 10,000 in case of take-over of home loans by it.
The bank also said there are no processing charges for car and educational loans.

Ant Group’s IPO sees record $3tn in retail demand

HONG KONG: Retail investors placed bids for a record $3 trillion of shares in Ant Group Co Ltd’s initial public offering (IPO), set to be the world’s biggest, as mom-and-pop savers bet on demand for its financial services in China.
Ant’s dual listing is set to raise about $34.4 billion, split fairly evenly between Shanghai’s STAR Market and Hong Kong, topping Saudi Aramco’s $29.4 billion listing last December.
Investors, both retail and institutional, are rushing to buy into Ant, which operates China’s biggest payments platform and other financial services, despite risks of greater scrutiny at home and abroad.
The Shanghai leg of the IPO drew about 19 trillion yuan ($2.8 trillion) of bids from retail investors, or 872 times the number of shares earmarked for them, a company filing to the stock exchange showed on Thursday.
The Hong Kong tranche got HK$1.3 trillion ($168 billion) in bids, or 389 times the shares on offer, said people with knowledge of the matter on Friday, declining to be identified as the information is not public yet.
The bookbuilding for the Hong Kong leg of the IPO of Ant, backed by e-commerce behemoth Alibaba, ran from Monday to Friday, while books for the Shanghai leg were open for one day on Thursday.
The $3 trillion of retail investor bids, equivalent to the gross domestic product of the United Kingdom, comes against the backdrop of shaky global markets ahead of next week’s US presidential election and a dour global economic outlook.
Investors in the IPO, however, have brushed aside company-specific and broader market concerns on hopes that Ant will continue to benefit from the rapid digitization of financial services in China.
Harrison Chan, a 25-year-old financial professional in Hong Kong, spent 40% of his monthly income on applying for Ant shares, and is now wondering whether he will get any, given the large number of bids made.
“I am confident in the company’s future prospect because it is involved in many different businesses … and they are all online services, which is the direction the world would be heading to, so I think its potential is huge,” Chan said.
‘Promising future’
Starting as a payments processor in 2004, Ant has built an empire in China by offering its users short-term loans that are credited within minutes, and selling insurance and investment products.
The unprecedented retail frenzy for Ant shares is backed by massive amount of margin lending by financial institutions, with brokerages in Hong Kong lending billions.
Hangzhou-based Ant decided to exercise a so-called greenshoe option to increase the share offer by 15% and is now selling a total of 1.92 billion shares on the Nasdaq-style STAR Market, according to Ant’s filing with the Shanghai exchange.
The company on Monday set the price of the Shanghai leg at 68.8 yuan ($10.27) per share. Before the greenshoe, it was offering 4% of the initial 1.67 billion shares to mainly retail investors across the country.
Retail investors’ enthusiasm towards Ant’s flotation has triggered a clawback mechanism, where their heavy over-subscription could result in them receiving a greater share, Ant said in the Shanghai filing.
“It’s a definite thing that one day a Chinese company will have the largest IPO ever but it just came quick,” said Beijing resident Ms Qin, 23, a consultant with one of the leading banks in China, declining to give her first name.
“This has very much to do with China’s growing economic size and its huge population contributes a lot to Ant’s businesses,” said Ms Qin, who has applied for Ant shares in Shanghai. “I am confidently investing in Ant due to its promising future.”

Amazon tells India regulator its partner Future Retail is misleading public

NEW DELHI: Inc has complained to India’s market regulator that its local partner Future Retail Ltd misled shareholders by incorrectly saying it was complying with its contractual obligations to the US e-commerce giant, a letter seen by Reuters shows.
Amazon is locked in a bitter legal dispute with Future Group, which in August sold its retail assets to Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Ltd for $3.4 billion. The deal, Amazon alleges, breaches 2019 agreements by Future.
The tussle has strained Amazon’s ties not just with Future Retail – one of India’s top retailers – but also with Ambani, Asia’s richest man, and his Reliance group, which is fast expanding its e-commerce business and threatening companies like Amazon.
Amazon last Sunday won an injunction to halt Future’s deal with Reliance from a Singapore arbitrator both sides had agreed to use in case of disputes. Reliance then said in a release it had complied with all agreements and “cannot be held back” by the arbitration proceedings.
In the letter to the Securities & Exchange Board of India (Sebi) chairman Ajay Tyagi on Wednesday, Amazon said Future’s press release and stock exchange disclosures violated Indian regulations, urging the regulator to investigate the matter and not approve the deal.
“Such a disclosure is against public interest, misleads public shareholders … as well as perpetuates a fraud for the benefit of the Biyanis alone,” Amazon letter said, referring to Future’s promoter family led by Kishore Biyani.
A spokesman for Future Group and the Biyani family declined to comment. A Future group source denied Amazon’s allegations, saying there was no question of any fraud or misleading the public or shareholders, without elaborating.
Amazon declined to comment on its letter, the contents of which have not previously been reported. Reliance and SEBI did not respond to requests for comment.
“Irreparable harm”
Amazon says the 2019 deal, in which it invested nearly $200 million in a Future unit, had clauses saying the group could not sell its retail assets to anyone on a “restricted persons” list, which included Reliance.
Reliance, which in August bought Future’s retail, wholesale and some other businesses, has said it plans to “enforce its rights and complete the (Future) transaction … without any delay.”
The faceoff comes as Jeff Bezos-led Amazon has already been battling tighter foreign investment rules and antitrust cases in India, which is one of its key growth markets where it has committed investments of $6.5 billion.
Some lawyers have argued the Singapore arbitrator’s order in favour of Amazon is not automatically enforceable and would need ratification by an Indian court. But Amazon believes the order is binding, it told Sebi. The letter asks the regulator to “suspend review” of the deal.
Sebi’s action in the matter “would promote ease of doing business in India by holding listed companies accountable for their dealings,” Amazon’s letter says.
Amazon says the Future-Reliance deal means the US giant will lose the prospect of becoming the single largest shareholder of the Indian retailer, which has an “irreplaceable and widespread network” of more than 1,500 retail stores.
Future has argued it entered into the deal with Reliance because its retail business was severely hit during the COVID-19 pandemic and it was critical to protect all its stakeholders.
The arbitrator, V K Rajah, a former attorney general of Singapore, sided with Amazon in his October 25 order, saying: “The law expects businesspersons to honour their contractual commitments.”
The US company told SEBI that if the Future-Reliance deal “is implemented by completely disregarding the interim (arbitration) award, it will cause irreparable harm and injury to Amazon.”

Nafed floats bids for supply of 15k tonnes of red onions

NEW DELHI: Cooperative Nafed on Saturday invited bids from importers for supply of 15,000 tonnes of red onions by November 20 in order to boost the domestic availability and check price rise.
The cooperative has asked bidders to supply 40 to 60 mm size of red onions from any country of origin at Rs 50 per kg by November 20. They can bid for a minimum quantity of 2,000 tonnes to be supplied in multiple lots of 500 tonnes, it said.
The bidding will close on November 4 and received bids will be opened on the same day. The shipments are to be delivered at Jawaharlal Nehru Port and Kandla ports, it added.
“We have floated tenders for supply of 15,000 tonnes of imported red onions. This will help increase the domestic supply situation,” Nafed Additional Managing Director S K Singh told PTI.
The bids will be evaluated based on volumes, quality and early date of shipment. Bidders have to supply fresh, well dried and cured onions, he added.
Since the buffer stock of onion, which Nafed manages on behalf of the government, is gradually getting depleted, the cooperative has been asked to augment domestic supplies with imported onions to continue with ongoing market intervention.
Last year, Nafed had not only imported on its own some quantities but also distributed onions imported by state-run MMTC.
This year, it wants to get the supplies from importers so that shipments could arrive fast and improve the domestic supply situation. Even the size of onion Nafed has specified for supply is what Indians normally consume.
Last year, big size onions were imported but there were hardly any takers for that.
So far, Nafed has offloaded around 37,000 tonnes of onion from the buffer stock of nearly 1 lakh tonnes in select mandis and retail markets so that to check retail prices which have skyrocketed to over Rs 80 per kg in some parts of the country due to damage to the kharif crop in the wake of heavy rains in the key growing states.
On October 30, commerce and consumer affairs minister Piyush Goyal had said that private traders have already imported 7,000 tonnes of onion and another 25,000 tonnes are expected to arrive before Diwali.
The government hopes that the several measures taken recently including ban on export of onion and stock limits on traders will help ease pressure on prices during the festival period.

‘Thank God we have that’: Wattpad author says writing gig became coronavirus emergency fund

When Caroline Richardson’s husband was temporarily laid off in the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, money became a concern.

The family of four was down to one income and the bills kept coming. There was the mortgage, car payments and two kids who wouldn’t stop growing and needing new clothes just because the economy was going through a rough patch, she recalls.

Read more: When did you last work? 1.3M jobless Canadians have passed critical 6-month mark

Luckily, though, Richardson’s long-time hobby came to the rescue. Government employee by day, Richardson is a writer of — in her own words — “mature, steamy romantic stories with a happy ending” in her free time.

It’s a labour of love she’s kept up for years, says Richardson, who has four book-length stories under her belt. But it wasn’t until one of her most recent works took off on Wattpad, an online storytelling platform, that her pastime became a lucrative side-gig.

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Richardson’s novel Two Cream, No Sugar — later re-titled Out of His League — became a Wattpad sensation, eventually hitting 1.1 million reads. The platform quickly included it in Paid Stories, its paid content program, where readers can buy novels in full or as chapters.

Soon, Richardson received her first cheque at the beginning of 2020.

Read more: The gig economy is making cash flow management a nearly impossible task

Richardson had planned to use the money for a trip overseas to visit an old friend in England, but when the pandemic hit, the money became a much-needed financial cushion.

“Thank God we have that,” she says.

Richardson has since received another quarterly check from Wattpad for an amount she calls “very helpful.”

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Born as a free platform for readers and writers of fiction, Wattpad has grown into a juggernaut, with a monthly readership of over 90 million and five million active writers.

It launched its paid content program in 2018 and is also now publishing its own books and co-producing its stories for both TV and film.

The company says it has seen a 151-per cent increase in the volume of new submissions from writers between January and April, as the world huddled inside amid COVID-19 restrictions.

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Are freelance platforms a good way to make money in a pinch?

Amid record job losses linked to the pandemic, millions have turned to online gigs to make ends meet.

A recent study by Upwork, a freelance job platform, found the share of U.S. professionals who freelance full-time has reached 36 per cent of the U.S. workforce, eight percentage points above its level in 2019.

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Onlyfans, a subscription-based social media platform famous for its racy content, reported 3.5 million sign-ups in March, with 60,000 of them new creators, according to the Daily Beast.

READ MORE: How to save an extra $100 a month – without even thinking about it

Substack, which lets writers monetize newsletters, has seen its number of readers and active writers double, according to WIRED.

In Canada, the COVID-19 outbreak has also driven up interest in online freelance platforms.

The volume of links to Wattpad shared on Twitter in Canada between March and October was up more than 40 per cent between compared to the previous four months, according to audience intelligence company Pulsar.

Substack, online freelance workplace Fiverr and Teachable, which lets users create and sell online courses, have each seen growth of 20 per cent or more, a Pulsar analysis shows.

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Platforms that connect freelancers to businesses and individual clients can be a quick way to monetize work-from-home skills, says Jackie Lam, a freelance personal finance writer and expert on gig work.

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It doesn’t take much to create an account or profile page and start advertising your services or bid on projects, she says. If you’ve never side-hustled before, platforms are an easy way to survey what other similarly qualified freelancers are offering, how much they’re charging and how they’re promoting themselves, she says.

They can also help you quickly get an idea of what kind of work you like to do and how long different projects take, she notes.

But be prepared for competition, Lam warns.

Platforms, she says, “can be a very saturated market.” Unless you can carve out your own niche, there will probably be lots of people offering the same services or vying for the same projects.

“It could easily be a race to the bottom,” Lam says.

Read more: Hot Jobs: The $100K entry-level job you can get here in Canada

While platforms can be a freelancer’s training wheels, seeking out clients on your own may eventually turn out to be more lucrative, according to Lam.

But Pulsar’s Davide Berretta calls the likes of Substack and Teachable the “next generation” of platforms.

They’re “for creators who want to have that direct audience relationship, that is not just about content, but it’s also about commerce and it’s also about selling access to that premium content.”

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On Wattpad, writers retain the rights to their work, says general manager Jeanne Lam. They can approach literary agents and publishers on their own — success on the platform can serve as proof of concept — or they can publish through Wattpad Books.

The company uses machine learning technology — combined with flesh-and-bone editors — to sift through millions of stories and identify those with publishing or paid-content potential.

So far, there are more than 400 writers in Wattpad’s paid stories program Lam says. And nearly 1,000 stories from the platform have been turned into books or adapted for TV and film.

Richardson, for her part, says she wasn’t thinking about the money when she joined Wattpad. She cherished the ability to reach out to readers all over the world and the chance to hone her craft, she says.

The cheques have been a nice surprise that happened to materialize exactly at the right time.

And if her book one day becomes a movie, she says, “why not? Wouldn’t that be fun?”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

US jury tells Apple to pay $503 million in patent case

SAN FRANCISCO: A jury in Texas on Friday decided that Apple should pay $503 million for infringing virtual private network technology patented by software security firm VirnetX.
The legal battle between Apple and Nevada-based VirnetX involved data transmission security in devices such as iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, according to court documents.
“We thank the jury for their time and appreciate their consideration but are disappointed with the verdict and plan to appeal,” Apple said in reply to an AFP inquiry.
“This case has been going on for over a decade, with patents that are unrelated to the core operations of our products and have been found to be invalid by the patent office.”
VirnetX contended in the suit that Apple VPN On Demand functions used its patented technology.
VirnetX is based in Nevada, but patent suits are typically filed in states where jurors have been found more inclined to rule against Silicon Valley giants.
Apple had challenged the validity of the VirnetX patent.
VirnetX, which hasn’t been able to gain traction with its own software, relies on patent royalties for its revenue, according to a Dallas Morning News report on the jury verdict.
“Cases like this only serve to stifle innovation and harm consumers,” Apple said.
VirnetX did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Mumbai airport domestic passenger traffic triples

MUMBAI: The passenger traffic at the Mumbai airport is on a steady rise. From the 2.2 lakh domestic passengers the airport handled in June, the number has gone up to 6.5 lakh domestic passengers in September. The number of domestic flights handled went up from over 2,600 to about 6,600 during these three months, according to data released by the Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL) on Friday.
On the international front, the passenger traffic went up from 38,000 passengers in June to 77,000 in September as the number of flights went up from 1640 in June to 1860 in September. One in every two international passenger flight that departed or arrived in Mumbai between June and September was bound for the Middle East.
While Middle Eastern flights have always been popular with Indians, what’s different here is that these flights were packed largely with passengers bound for the Middle East and not transit passengers who fly onwards to US, Europe, Africa as was the case in the pre-COVID times.
“The travel restrictions in place in the June-September quarter meant that Indian passport holders could largely do only point-to-point travel, that is, board only direct flights to their destinations. For those aching to go on international holidays then, Dubai emerged as a popular tourist destination,” said an airline official, requesting anonymity.
In comparison, only about one in four flights was operated to/from Europe in the said three month time period. It was followed by North America, Africa and Asia Pacific which had shares of 11%, 6% and 2% respectively, according to data released by Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL). The pandemic also brought about a number of direct flights to/from Mumbai to lesser-known destinations such as Lusaka (Zambia), Mombasa (Kenya), Tbilisi (Georgia), Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), Entebbe (Uganda), Chongqing (China) and Mattel (Sri Lanka) in the June-September time period.
Among top carriers was IndiGo, which flew the most passengers to the Middle East with 26,070 passengers on over 330 flights. Air India was the top carrier for flights to Europe and the North American market with over 15,550 passengers flown on about 98 flights to/from the North American market and over 21,110 passengers on about 170 fights to/from Europe.
“In the June-September period, the Mumbai airport handled over 7,150 international flights with over 21 international airlines flying approximately 2,49,320 international passengers to 26 destinations,” said MIAL. In the same period, the airport registered over 16,886 domestic flights with over 15,55,700 passengers flying to 53 destinations across the country on 10 domestic airlines.

Inspire Brands to buy Dunkin’ Brands co for $8.8bn

NEW YORK: Inspire Brands Inc will buy Dunkin’ Brands Group Inc for $8.76 billion, the two companies said late on Friday, bringing chains like Arby’s and Dunkin’ Donuts under the same umbrella in one of the largest restaurant deals.
Inspire Brands, which owns Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings and Sonic Drive-In, said its all-cash deal to take the owner of Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins chains private would value it at $106.50 a share. That represents a nearly 20% premium over Dunkin’s last closing share price on October 23, before the New York Times first reported the deal talks.
Including debt, the deal is valued at about $11.3 billion, the companies said.
Sales at Dunkin’ and Baskin-Robbins have improved from their lockdown lows in recent weeks, boosted by strong demand for its curbside pickup, drive-thru and delivery options.
Dunkin’ and Baskin-Robbins on Thursday posted a surprise rise in US comparable sales in the third quarter.
Dunkin’ and Baskin-Robbins will operate as distinct brands within Inspire, the companies said.
“We are excited to bring meaningful value to shareholders who … believe that Inspire Brands … will continue to drive growth for our franchisees while remaining true to all that is unique and special about the Dunkin’ and Baskin-Robbins brands,” Dunkin’ Brands chief executive 0fficer Dave Hoffmann said.
Dunkin’ Brands operates 12,900 Dunkin’ restaurants and more than 8,000 Baskin-Robbins stores around the world. Inspire Brands, which was formed in 2018 by private equity firm Roark Capital as a holding company, has a portfolio of more than 11,000 restaurants.
“They will strengthen Inspire through their scaled international platform and robust consumer packaged goods licensing infrastructure, as well as add more than 15 million loyalty members,” Paul Brown, chief executive officer of Inspire Brands, said.
The Wall Street Journal first reported the confirmation of deal.
Barclays was the financial adviser to Inspire, while BofA Securities advised Dunkin’ Brands.

In a first, a desi airline to get a female boss

NEW DELHI: Breaking the glass ceiling of Indian aviation, a woman has become the CEO of an Indian carrier for the first time, with the government appointing Harpreet A De Singh to the top position for Air India’s (AI) regional subsidiary Alliance Air. Singh is currently AI’s executive director (flight safety). Captain Nivedita Bhasin, one of AI’s most senior commanders currently flying Boeing 787 Dreamliner, will be the new ED (flight safety) in place of Singh.
AI CMD Rajiv Bansal issued an order on Friday, saying Singh “will hold the charge of Alliance Air CEO post till further orders.” Captain Nivedita Bhasin has also been asked to head several other departments, given her experience. Alliance Air is not being sold off with the Air India-AI Express-AISATS combine and will remain a PSU for now. AI’s old Boeing 747s will be transferred to Alliance Air, which currently has a fleet of turboprops, if the Maharaja gets a buyer and is privatised.
Harpreet Singh was the first woman pilot to be selected by Air India in 1988. However, she could not fly due to health reasons and has been very active in the area of flight safety. Singh has headed the Indian Women Pilot Association, where Bhasin and other senior women commanders like Captain Kshamta Bajpai are seen as role models by budding pilots.
Air India has the highest ration of woman pilots among Indian carriers. Indian airlines saw more women applying for pilot jobs in mainly two phases: Mid-1980s and then from 2005 when private low cost airlines started taking wings. Erstwhile Indian Airlines was the first to hire women pilots in the early 1980s. Captain Saudamani Deshmukh was the first woman commander (of a Fokker Friendship) in India. While global average of woman pilots has been 2-3%, India has been at over 10%.

India shines in Apple’s global Sept quarter earnings

NEW DELHI: The Indian market is booming for Apple and Tim Cook, the company’s CEO, who made a special mention about the business here at the electronics giant’s global earnings call. Weeks after Apple started sales through its online store, and as its key manufacturing vendors — Foxconn, Wistron and the new-entrant Pegatron — pump in fresh investments, Cook was all praise for the brand’s performance in India as he gave out September quarter financial numbers.
“Geographically, we set September quarter records in the Americas, Europe and rest of Asia-Pacific. We also set a September quarter record in India, thanks in part to a very strong reception to this quarter’s launch of our online store in the country,” Cook said, as the company posted a record September quarter revenue of $64.7 billion. The praise for India came even as Cook said that numbers in China were not that strong due to coronavirus-induced delays in launch of iPhone 12.

With a mix of new models such as the newly-launched iPhone 12 and others like iPhone SE, iPhone 11 and iPhone XR, Apple has been gradually expanding its product portfolio in India. It is also offering attractive finance and buyback schemes in line with the price-sensitive nature of the market.
Even without the new iPhone and during the peak of corona slowdown, the company’s sales in the September quarter were up 37% in India, even as the broader smartphone market was up 9%, according to research firm Counterpoint. Prachir Singh, senior research analyst with the company, said despite premium pricing, Apple remains a highly aspirational brand in the market, which is likely to attract people who are upgrading as average selling price (ASP) goes up.
According to research firm Canalys, the tech giant’s renewed focus on India paid off with a double-digit growth to nearly 8,00,000 units in the region during July-September 2020 quarter.
The government’s production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for mobile phones is expected to benefit Apple with all its three manufacturing partners — Foxconn, Wistron and Pegatron — making the cut for benefits. As it intensifies local manufacturing, pricing for Apple’s devices is likely to get even more competitive, said analysts.