India

Maruti Suzuki led a two-track recovery in India’s car industry last year, dragging up overall sales while local competitors such as Tata Motors floundered. But new figures out on Tuesday have disappointed analysts in the festive period.

The 32 year-old brand, with a reputation for churning out reliable and affordable cars, posted net profits of Rs8.02bn ($131m) in the quarter ended December, up 18 per cent year-on-year. That’s well below an average forecast for profits of Rs9.06bn in a poll by Thomson Reuters. Read more

Just what are we to read into this? Mainstream and social media in India are abuzz with the revelation that, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi met US President Barack Obama on Sunday, the pinstripes of his suit were not pinstripes at all but his full name, Narendra Damodardas Modi, spelt out in block capitals over and over again. Read more

By Kavaljit Singh of Madhyam

It’s official: India and the US will resume negotiations on a high-standard bilateral investment treaty (BIT). In a joint statement on Sunday by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama, the leaders affirmed their “shared commitment to facilitating increased bilateral investment flows and fostering an open and predictable climate for investment.”

Since 2008, the two countries have been engaged in sporadic discussions to arrive at such a treaty. In the coming days, negotiations will begin on its wording, based on each country’s revised model treaty textsRead more

Emerging Asia is set to be the world’s fastest-growing region again in 2015, skirting the contagion from Russia’s crisis and riding the fall-out from weak commodity prices, according to Fitch, the credit rating agency. Nevertheless, structural frailties stalk seven out of 10 countries in the region, with surging debt levels a particular concern, the agency said.

The region, excluding China, is expected to expand by 5.9 per cent in 2015 and 6.1 per cent in 2016 – compared to an average for global emerging markets of 4.1 per cent and 4.5 per cent respectively, Fitch said in a report. These forecasts compare with the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) estimates that developing economies would this year grow at 4.3 per cent, accelerating to 4.7 per cent in 2016. Read more

By Kavaljit Singh of Madhyam

President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit to India is likely to kick-start stalled negotiations on a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) between the US and India that has been under sporadic discussion since 2008, aimed at facilitating greater cross-border investment flows.

Negotiations will resume based on model treaty texts prepared by each side. In April 2012, the US released a new version of its model BIT. New Delhi launched a review of its investment treaties in mid-2012 in the wake of public outcry over arbitration notices served by 17 foreign companies (including Vodafone and Sistema) challenging various policy measures and demanding billions of dollars in compensation for the alleged violation of India’s BITs. Read more

By Frederic Neumann, HSBC

Things in China look a bit soggy. True, growth a touch above 7 per cent is nothing to sneer at. But it’s down sharply from days past. And as the Mainland matures, those double-digit growth rates seem even less likely to return. Where, then, to look for the next story of hyper-charged growth?

Plenty of promising places around: Sri Lanka will probably grow faster than China this year, and so could the Philippines, Vietnam and Bangladesh at some point. But, from a global perspective, these will hardly make a dent; certainly, commodity markets will not get terribly excited about accelerating demand from these markets. Read more

Last year in India was remarkable not only for the resurgence in economic dynamism that followed the election of Narendra Modi, the prime minister. New data shows it was also a banner year for mergers and acquisitions.

In the calendar year to December 30, India saw deals worth $48.4bn, according to Dealogic, marking the highest value since 2010. Inbound deals were valued at $16.5bn, their highest level since 2011. Read more

By Saurabh Mukherjea of Ambit Capital

As I finish my two-week year-end trip to meet our western clients (around 40 of them), it is obvious that enthusiasm regarding investing in India is at record highs. Over the past fortnight, I have met at least 10 western-hemisphere-based funds that have either just started investing in India or have applied to the Indian securities regulator for Foreign Portfolio Investor (FPI) status (which allows them to access the Indian stockmarket directly). Even more interestingly, half a dozen of the clients I met have moved to larger, better-appointed offices in money centres like London, New York, Zurich and San Francisco. Read more

It’s a few minutes into Marion Akinyi Onginjo’s social studies lesson at Bridge International Academy Gicagi in Nairobi and the class 4 teacher is being drowned out by loud cheers next door.

Bridge International Academy Gicagi, Nairobi. Photo: Tosin Sulaiman

Class 4 finally gets its chance to make some noise when one student, Margaret, correctly answers a question about subsistence crops. After Onginjo tells the class, “let’s give Margaret the cowboy cheer,” they stand up, spin imaginary lassoes in the girl’s direction and yell, “One, two, three, four, five, yee-hah.” Read more

This month, the FT interviewed a senior executive at Uber in India about the US taxi-hailing company’s plans for rapid expansion in the country. But later that week, a 25 year-old woman said she had been raped by her Uber driver in New Delhi. The government banned the service from operating in the capital and asked state governments to ban all unregistered web-based taxi services.

Swept away by its bold ambitions, it seems Uber has fallen foul of local circumstances in its rush to recruit new drivers. The company declined to discuss this and related issues followed the alleged rape. But are Indian taxi services any more cautious in selecting their drivers? And assuming Uber gets past the rape case, can it go on to succeed in India? Read more

By Shumita Sharma Deveshwar of Trusted Sources

The Indian government’s sale of a 5 per cent stake in the Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) was meant to serve as a gauge of investor sentiment towards public sector stocks before the bigger sell-offs of shares in Coal India and the ONGC oil & gas group. But it has left some doubts about the potential success of the record disinvestment programme and the consequent reduction of the fiscal deficit. Read more

How do you like your smartphones and tablets? Light or large? Black or white? For most consumers in emerging markets the question is: cheap or cheaper?

This is the market manufacturers should be focusing on, according to a new report by Gartner, a technology research company, which estimates that no less than 78 per cent of global smartphone sales will come from developing economies by 2018. Read more

A problem in a single electricity transmission line running between India and Bangladesh caused a nationwide blackout in Bangladesh on November 1. The outage lasted nearly 10 hours, making it the country’s worst incidence of power failure since a cyclone knocked out the national grid in 2007.

Insufficient energy production remains a major roadblock to Bangladeshi growth. Apart from such poorly maintained infrastructure, power generation is stifled by ancient land acquisition laws that impede mining and a severe shortage in the production of natural gas; coal and gas account for 70 per cent of energy generated in the country. Read more

By Amit Bhandari, Gateway House

Petroleum prices touched a new four -year low of $72.5 per barrel after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) decided last week against reducing production . The 35 per cent price drop is a huge relief for India, where petroleum products comprise a third of the import bill. Cheaper oil means narrower current account and fiscal deficits, and reduced prices at the pump for consumers shopping for food-grains, vegetables, cement and steel.

Can this happy situation last? Will 2015 be the year in which high oil prices do not disadvantage India? Judging by history, it may be.

Before oil prices began to rise in 2003, a 20-year run of price stability fuelled global growth. But cheap oil killed off investments in exploration and production. OPEC gained market share, from 30 per cent of global production in 1983 to over 40 per cent by the end of 1990s. Read more

Economists and investors have turned optimistic about the Indian economy since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took over in New Delhi this May.

Sweeping to victory with a strong majority, the new Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) administration is expected to roll out a series of policy reforms that will kick start growth in Asia’s third largest economy. But has this triggered a boom in the Indian consumer sector too? Read more

In spite of Mikhail Gorbachev’s warning this month that the world is on the brink of a new Cold War, it is Asia that we should be worrying about, says former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. The region is home to seven flashpoints which, if they erupt, could end the greatest economic growth story of the 21st century.

“We face this remarkable set of circumstances where global growth will be driven from Asia,” Rudd told beyondbrics in a recent interview in Dubai.“But Asia from a political perspective is a potentially unstable region. So the world [should have] a deep interest in not just the future growth trajectory, but also the political and security circumstances which underpin that equation.” Read more

When Indian activist Kailash Satyarthi (pictured) won the Nobel Peace Prize last month it was a moment of great pride for civil society in India, not least because of a recent face-off between the new government and NGOs, especially the environmental group Greenpeace.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi swept to power this year on a pledge to cut red tape and speed up decision making, winning favour with industrialists across the country. But many campaigners are more sceptical of the new pro-business administration. Read more

By Kavaljit Singh of Madhyam

After months of stalemate, India and the US have agreed to resolve their differences over food stock holdings, opening the way for future implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement at the World Trade Organization – the biggest trade deal in the WTO’s entire history.

The two countries have reportedly agreed that a “peace clause” – which protects member countries that breach farm subsidy caps under the Agreement on Agriculture from being challenged at the WTO – will continue indefinitely until a permanent solution is found. The US agreed to Indian demands to rewrite the peace clause to give adequate protection to such member countries. Read more