Thursday, January 29, 2015

Decoded: Apple's Record Quarterly Profit of $18 Billion

Apple Inc. on Wednesday created history when it posted a quarterly profit of $18 billion, the biggest ever reported by a public company, worldwide. The staggering feat was made possible by record sales of iPhones, which is single best-selling gadget of all time. Apple's revenue rose to $74.6 billion from $57.6 billion a year earlier.

Here's an attempt to decipher Apple's remarkable achievement:

1) Apple's quarterly net profit of $18 billion is more than the combined net profit of all 50 companies that make up the Niftybenchmark in India. India's biggest firms - Tata Consultancy Services and Reliance Industries - made less than $1 billion in profit each in the December quarter.

2) Apple shares are trading at $115, close to all-time high of $119.75. Apple is the most valuable company in the world with a market cap of $630 billion, which is nearly one-third of the size of India's economy.

3) Apple's cash pile is now $178 billion, which is more than the market cap of 483 of the S&P 500 companies. This cash is enough to buy Intel ($173 billion) or IBM ($152 billion) or TCS ($83 billion). In fact, Apple can pay every American $556 (over Rs. 30,000) out of its cash pile.

4) Apple's $18 billion of profit in one quarter is larger than the market cap of the bottom 240 companies on the S&P 500, tweeted Vala Afshar, CMO of Extreme Networks. The Standard & Poor's 500 is an American stock market index based on the market capitalisations of 500 large companies.

5) Apple's record quarterly profit was driven by iPhone sales. The company sold 74.5 million or 30,000 iPhones every hour in the December quarter. Sales of iPhones accounted for 60 per cent of Apple's revenues, according to estimates.

6) Apple's profit from iPhone sales is estimated to be bigger than what Microsoft and Google earn from their operations. Microsoft reported a quarterly profit of $5.86 billion in the December quarter.

7) Apple's net profit is nearly four-times what its South Korean rival Samsung made during the December quarter even though both companies sold the same number of smartphones. Samsung reported a net income of $4.8 billion in the December quarter.

8) Apple's operating cash flow in the December quarter is more than what Amazon has earned since it was founded in 1994, tweeted Rolfe Winkler of WSJ.

9) Apple's $18 billion in quarterly profit eclipsed Gazprom's record of $16.2 billion profit posted in the first quarter of 2011, according to Forbes. Russia-based Gazprom is the largest extractor of natural gas in the world.

10) Apple is such a wealth creator that most analysts suggest holding the stock for long-term. "Apple made little over 1.5 lakhs a minute last quarter, that's about Rs. 6 lakhs before you retweeted/shared this message," tweeted Srinivas Jain, executive director at SBI Mutual Funds. Apple trades at a price/earnings ratio of 15.5 times, which is considered a bargain for a blue chip tech company. Many investors who did not buy Apple shares in the past rue the missed opportunity. "10 years ago, I had the chance to invest 10k in Apple but didn't. It would now be worth over $500,000. If anyone needs me I won't be on my yacht," tweeted Australian radio host Ant Simpson.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Study Finds Global Wealth Is Flowing to the Richest

The richest 1 percent are likely to control more than half of the globe's total wealth by next year, the charity Oxfam reported in a study released Monday. The warning about deepening global inequality comes just as the world's business elite prepare to meet this week at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The 80 wealthiest people in the world altogether own $1.9 trillion, the report found, nearly the same amount shared by the 3.5 billion people who occupy the bottom half of the world's income scale. (Last year, it took 85 billionaires to equal that figure.) And the richest 1 percent of the population, who number in the millions, control nearly half of the world's total wealth, a share that is also increasing.

The type of inequality that currently characterizes the world's economies is unlike anything seen in recent years, the report explained. "Between 2002 and 2010 the total wealth of the poorest half of the world in current U.S. dollars had been increasing more or less at the same rate as that of billionaires," it said. "However since 2010, it has been decreasing over that time."

Winnie Byanyima, the charity's executive director, noted in a statement that more than 1 billion people lived on less than $1.25 a day.

"Do we really want to live in a world where the 1 percent own more than the rest of us combined?" Byanyima said. "The scale of global inequality is quite simply staggering."

Investors with interests in finance, insurance and health saw the biggest windfalls, Oxfam said. Using data from Forbes magazine's list of billionaires, it said those listed as having interests in the pharmaceutical and health care industries saw their net worth jump by 47 percent. The charity credited those individuals' rapidly growing fortunes in part to multimillion-dollar lobbying campaigns to protect and enhance their interests.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The $975 Million Divorce Cheque Has Been Deposited

Sue Ann Arnall, the ex-wife of Oklahoma oil magnate Harold Hamm, has deposited a handwritten $975 million divorce cheque, Hamm's lawyer said on Thursday, in a move that may end an epic divorce battle over a fortune worth billions.

Arnall, 58, deposited the cheque after earlier this week declining the payment and pledging to pursue her appeal of a divorce ruling she viewed as unfair.

In the November ruling by an Oklahoma County Court judge, Hamm, the chief executive of Continental Resources was allowed to keep his 68 percent stake in the firm, now worth about $9 billion, while Arnall was awarded about $1 billion in cash and assets from the marital estate.

The cheque represents the entire remaining balance of what Hamm owes Arnall based on the November ruling, including interest. The oilman's divorce lawyer, Craig Box, said he believes Arnall's deposit of the cheque will end her efforts to appeal the case and that Hamm also wants the case resolved.

"We have received confirmation that the cheque was deposited in an Oklahoma City bank," Box said. "We feel this is the end of the case from her perspective. It means she's done and should dismiss her appeal."

A person familiar with Arnall's case confirmed the deposit, which represents one of the largest divorce awards in US history. Arnall could not be reached directly for comment. It was not clear whether she intends to pursue an appeal after the cheque clears.

"If she's cashing the cheque, I would think the reasonable conclusion is that they both will accept the trial court's decision, dismiss their appeals and put an end to the case," said Oklahoma family law expert Carolyn Thompson.

Earlier, Hamm had filed his own appeal, seeking to have Oklahoma's Supreme Court reduce what he owes Arnall, after a plunge in oil prices shaved billions from the value of his Continental shares in recent months. During a trial last year, the shares had been worth as much as $19 billion.

The Hamm case, initially filed in 2012, has pitted Oklahoma's most successful oil wildcatter against his former wife of 26 years, an attorney and longtime executive at Continental. The firm, a leading oil driller in North Dakota, was dragged into the case but has said it did not affect business.

In an appeal document, Arnall contended a trial judge wrongly allowed Hamm to keep more than 90 percent of the wealth the couple accrued during their marriage.

Although Hamm owned Continental before the marriage in 1988, the value of his shares surged 400-fold during the union. Arnall has been seeking a multi-billion dollar portion of those gains.

To limit what he would owe, Hamm's defense sought to show that his company's growth during the marriage resulted mostly from "passive" factors beyond his control, such as rising oil prices. Under Oklahoma law, only the growth in wealth stemming from the active efforts and skills of either spouse during the marriage is split in a divorce. Arnall contended that Hamm's deft management of the firm led to its growth.

Hamm has already paid Arnall more than $20 million during the case, and the parties have spent millions in legal fees.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Indian Cabinet Clears Over 20 GW Ultra Mega Solar Projects

Taking inspiration from Gujarat’s Charanka Solar Park, during the 2014–15 financial budget, India’s Finance Minister had amongst other things announced a fund of Rs5 billion ($80 million) in order to promote Ultra Mega Solar Power Projects (UMSPP) across states with good solar potential. Accordingly, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) had prepared a draft scheme for these UMSPP.

Prime Minister Modi and his cabinet has now officially cleared the way for setting up of 25 UMSPP across India. Each of these projects will have a capacity of 500 MW or more, with the total adding up to a mammoth 20,000 MW. The UMSPP are to scheduled to be set up by 2019 and will receive a Central Government financial support of Rs40.50 billion ($649 million).

The UMSPP or a “Solar Park” refers to a concentrated zone of development of solar power generation projects. Each of them are planned to run into several hundreds of MWs, generally with a cumulative capacity of 500 MW and above.

Documents from MNRE claim that large-size projects have a potential to bring down the cost of solar power. However this has been an open discussion with some saying that the modular nature of PV would stagnate the “economy of scale benefit” beyond a range of tens of MW.

But cost is only one part of the picture. The concept it touted to solve several other problems. Think of UMSPP as a shopping mall where the mall owners provide for the necessary infrastructure (at an additional cost) and the shops only need to sell without worrying about parking, security, housekeeping etc. Similarly, UMSPP proposes to iron out the common problems for a project developer.

UMSPP will provide specialized services to attract investment from private developers. This would include levelled land, roads, water, security, and communication, among other things — each of which would have entailed additional costs for the developers had they been on their own.

Providing these services in a central “one-stop-shop” format will make it easier to implement projects in a significantly shorter period of time, as compared to obtaining these services individually. It should also make it easier to secure financing. Holistic planning of the common infrastructure will also reduce damages to the landscape of the area.

These benefits will of course come at a price, but they will greatly help in reducing the risk and gestation period of the projects, as developers will not have to waste resources for getting statutory and other clearances. The project developers will however have to scout for the PPA all by themselves.

New Delhi has asked the states to identify and acquire inexpensive land which would be suitable for such large-scale installations. The guidelines suggest that the states prefer wastelands available with them. This will be followed by creation of infrastructure such as transmission system, water, road connectivity, and other facilities on the identified tracts.

As per information available from MNRE, large chunks of land have been identified across 12 locations in Andhra Pradesh (2500 MW), Telangana (1000 MW), Madhya Pradesh (1500 MW), Karnataka (750 MW), Rajasthan (4000–5000 MW), Odisha (3000 MW) and Punjab (3000 MW). Others in the race include the states of Meghalaya, J&K (Leh and Kargil) and Mizoram. Some private developers have also shown interests to individually take up very large projects. While the Himalayan states may face issues in identifying large contiguous land pieces, the official press release says that they “will also be considered.”

If the plans get implemented as designed, the solar park will help pour investments in these states, which will not only allow them to meet their solar renewable purchase obligationmandates but also provide local employment opportunities.

The State Governments will play an additional role in the development and operation of the solar parks. MNRE has asked each state to nominate an agency which will look after the development and operation of the UMSPP. This process is believed to have been completed in several states.

The project developers would be given a free hand to supply power to whomsoever they want and at whatever price they can negotiate. This could be a real game changer as it will both attract competition from project developers and also naturally favor states with better market potential. As part of the deal, the state governments will have to agree to buy at least 20% of the power produced in the solar parks through their Discom.

MNRE has provided a directive to the states that the grant from the central government be used for developing the evacuation arrangements in the UMSPP. States also have freedom to use loans from multilateral/bilateral agencies. In case more funds are needed, funding would possibly be made available from the National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF), Green Corridor Programme, or any other sources.

The scheme is in line with India raising its solar ambitions to 100 GW by 2022. At the moment, the total installed solar capacity in India roughly stands at 3000 MW.

India Committed to World’s Largest Solar Park

Solar power will play a major role in the efforts to add renewable energy. India has embarked on the creation of Ultra Mega Solar Power Plants (UMSPPs).

The World Bank has agreed to bankroll support of one such UMSPP, a 750-megawatt power plant in the central province of Madhya Pradesh. This project, say experts, has the potential to become the world’s largest solar power plant. When fully functional, it has the potential of generating 200 MW more than the world’s largest plant in California. It requires a total investment of about US $1.3 billion (Rs 8,000 crore).

India`s largest power-generating company, NTPC Limited, had recently signed an agreement with the Madhya Pradesh Government to set up the power plant. Domestic and international companies are being asked to bid for the supply of solar photovoltaic modules for this project.

The Indian Government is likely to set up a total of 25 UMPPs each with a minimum generation capacity of 500 MW. They will be commissioned all over India over the next 5 years. At present though, India adds about 1 GW of solar photovoltaic capacity every year through freestanding and building-integrated crystalline silicon photovoltaic panels.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet has cleared the way for setting up 25 UMSPPs. The UMSPPs, scheduled to be set up by 2019, will receive central government financial support of about $649 million.

The UMSPPs, also known as “Solar Parks” will be zones of development for solar power generation projects. They will provide specialized services to attract investment including land, roads, water, security, and communication.

MetalMiner had earlier reported that the new Indian government was very serious about renewable energy. It aims to invest $1 billion into renewable energy in the coming few years, and it has raised its 2022 solar power capacity target from 22 GW to 100 GWs.

India is already working on a global plan to form an association of countries with high solar power potential. The aim is to lower the cost of solar energy production. What India has proposed is to bring together at least 56 countries with over than 300 days of good solar radiation.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Indian Start-Ups May Create 2.5 Lakh Jobs in 5 Years

As many as 2.5 lakh jobs are expected to be created by tech start-ups in the next five years, according to IT industry lobby Nasscom or The National Association of Software and Services Companies.

With more than 3,000 tech/ digital start-ups, India is the fourth largest base for new companies, the trade body said.

"If the landscape continues to evolve at this pace, then by the end of 2020, more than 11,500 start-ups are expected to get established in India generating employment opportunities for 2,50,000 people," Nasscom said in a report titled 'Tech Start-up in India: A Bright Future'.

More than 800 start-ups came up in India in 2014 alone, the study said. Bengaluru and the Delhi- NCR (National Capital Region) are the top two start-up destinations and the two geographies together account for more than 50 per cent of new companies.

"The major growth drivers like large domestic market, access to capital/ mentors, whitespace opportunities and increased M&A (merger and acquisition) activity are accelerating the start-ups growth," Nasscom said.

Young entrepreneurs dominate the start-up landscape with more than 73 per cent founders under the age of 36 years, according to the study.

"Start-ups today have access to multiple sources of funding from VC (venture capitalists)/ PE (private equity), angel investors, banks and financial institutions as well as incubators," Nasscom said.

Between 2010 and 2014, $3 billion or Rs 18,900 crore is estimated to have been invested in start-ups, it said.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Indian Banks Should Aim To Be in World's Top 10: PM Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday called for the need to establish Indian banks that rank among the Top 10 in the world. Speaking at "Gyan Sangam", a one-of-its-kind bankers retreat, in Pune, PM Modi said the banking sector of a country mirrors its economic rise. Japan and China had banks in the top ten banks of the world during their economic rise, he added.

Experts have called for consolidation of public sector banks in India to create bigger banks. But this has not made any headway despite various reports advocating merger of various small public sector banks. There are 27 public sector banks, including five associates of State Bank of India. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his first Budget speech on July had indicated the government intention of consolidation in public sector banks.

At present, the country's largest lender, State Bank of India, is ranked in the 60s in terms of asset size in the world. It is the only Indian bank among the world's largest 100 lenders.

The government will never interfere in the internal working of the banks, PM Modi said, adding that banks need to be run professionally, without any interference.

Besides the Prime Minister, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan also attended the retreat.

PM Modi also called for an end to lazy banking, and asked lenders to take on a proactive role in helping the common man. Top bankers of the country had gathered in Pune to draw up a blueprint for reforms of the banking sector and made presentations to the Prime Minister. It was perhaps the first time that banks had given tasks to the Prime Minister through a presentation, he said.

Banks have sought the government's support in areas like empowering them in recruitment and compensation decisions, simplifying credit issuance, strengthening of legal system to speed to debt recovery, and elimination of loan waiver schemes.

The bankers also suggested reducing government's holding in state-run banks to below 51 per cent.

The Prime Minister also appreciated the efforts of the banks in successfully implementing Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana. The Prime Minister said 7 crore families had benefited from direct cash transfers of LPG subsidy in just three days since January 1.

Mr Modi stressed on the huge opportunity banks have in the government's programme to provide housing for all by 2022. As many as 11 crore houses were required, he said.

RBI chief Raghuram Rajan called upon the need to recruit young talent in the public sector banking space and said the government needs to relook its campus recruitment policy which at present is banned because of a Supreme Court ruling.

He also said that for the economy to get back on track, banks need to clean up their bad loans within a year.

The state-run banks recorded the highest level of stressed loans at 12.9 per cent of their total advances in September last year, while the same ratio for private sector banks was at 4.4 per cent, according to RBI data.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Exciting Days Ahead, India Will Match Chinese Growth: Arun Jaitley

Promising exciting days ahead, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday said India would match Chinese growth rate once the unbanked population comes under structured financial system.

The minister also said that the real challenge today is to bring a further spurt in investment, concentrate on infrastructure and improve manufacturing in a big way.

"I think time has come to enter into the next phase where we give spurt to these goals which are essential for reviving Indian economy," he said.

"The days ahead are going to be extremely exciting...when even these sections (unbanked population) have RuPay cards, and lots of Indian spending goes into banking sector, probably days are not very far when we could probably match the Chinese growth," he said at an ICICI Bank function.

The minister said with more and more people using RuPay debit cards, a large part of the economic activity, which is out of the banking net, would get reflected in the GDP.

China has been the world's fastest growing economy in the recent times, recording double digit growth rate for almost two decades.

On the other hand, India touched a peak of 9.6 per cent in 2006-07 and has since tapered to below five per cent in last two years.

"We have reached a situation which does not excite anyone. I think this challenging and troubled times we are passing through are capable of becoming important turning point in Indian history," Mr Jaitley said.

Recounting the initiatives taken by the NDA government in past seven months, he said the Prime Minister Jan Dhan Yojana to bring unbanked population under the banking net has already achieved the target.

Over 10 crore bank accounts have already been under the scheme a month ahead of the schedule.

Besides, the government has begun the direct benefit transfer of subsidies to the accounts of beneficiaries, he added.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has prepared an unambiguous road map and would stick to it to achieve higher growth.

"We will pursue this roadmap consistently. We will endeavour that none of (the) steps we take ever give a contrarian signal," he said, adding that industry will have to play its role in nation building.

He further said that both public and private sector banks in India will be the catalysts for development.

Observing that in the past 60 years the country has many triumphs as well as missed opportunities, he said, "This one is the opportunity we cannot afford to miss and this is an opportunity which will make India take a historic turn."