India’s central bank cuts rates to near decade lows to revive growth

India, Asia’s third-largest economy, expanded by just 5 percent in the June quarter, its slowest pace since 2013. (AP)
Updated 04 October 2019

India’s central bank cuts rates to near decade lows to revive growth

  • Central bank to maintain its ‘accommodative’ policy stance ‘as long as it is necessary’ to revive growth
  • Asia’s third-largest economy expanded by just 5 percent in the June quarter, its slowest pace since 2013

MUMBAI: The Reserve Bank of India on Friday cut the key policy rate to its lowest levels in nearly a decade, stepping up its efforts to kickstart an economy growing at its slowest pace in six years.
The central bank, which also sharply trimmed its 2019-20 growth forecast, said that it will maintain its “accommodative” policy stance “as long as it is necessary” to revive growth, and ensure inflation remains within target.
The six-member Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) cut the repo rate by 25 basis points to 5.15 percent, for a fifth straight meeting this year and in line with expectations in a Reuters poll. The reverse repo rate was reduced to 4.9 percent.
And markets expect further easing after Friday’s reduction, with the RBI seen delivering another 15-basis point cut at its December policy, before an extended pause, according to a Reuters poll conducted before the policy review.
With the protracted Sino-US trade war raising the risk of a global recession, central banks around the world — including the US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank — have ramped up monetary support in recent months.
India’s cumulative rate cuts totaling 135 bps make it the most aggressive central bank in Asia. The RBI’s repo rate is now at its lowest levels since March 2010, when it stood at 5 percent, following the global financial crisis.
“In our opinion, RBI as a central bank has done more than enough to stabilize economic settings. From here onward, monetary easing may not achieve much incrementally,” said Rupa Rege-Nitsure, chief economist of L&T Finance Holdings.
She said it is now the government’s task to remove structural constraints in the economy, with the RBI supporting this effort by fostering financial stability.
All six MPC members voted in favor of a rate cut and for retaining the accommodative stance, the statement said.
Markets wobbled after the RBI decision.
The broader NSE Index, which was up 0.60 percent before the policy decision, turned negative after the rate cut and was last trading down 0.62 percent. The 10-year benchmark bond yield rose to 6.63 percent from 6.59 percent before the announcement, while the rupee weakened slightly to 70.97 per dollar.
“While the recent measures announced by the government are likely to help strengthen private consumption and spur private investment activity, the continuing slowdown warrants intensified efforts to restore the growth momentum,” the MPC, said in its statement.
To revive the faltering economy, the government in September announced a steep cut in the corporate tax rate — to 22 percent from 30 percent — triggering the biggest intraday gain in Indian stocks in more than a decade.
Asia’s third-largest economy expanded by just 5 percent in the June quarter, its slowest pace since 2013, on the back of low consumer demand and a slowdown in government spending amid global trade frictions.
Surveys this week also showed the nation’s manufacturing and services sectors under increasing strain, underlining the difficulties facing businesses.
The weak GDP numbers prompted several economists to lower their growth projections. The RBI also cut its real GDP growth forecast for 2019-20 to 6.1 percent from a prior projection of 6.9 percent.
The RBI in its Monetary Policy Report (MPR) said it expects real GDP growth to recover in the back half of 2019-20 due to a favorable base effect and past monetary policy actions.
Inflation in August accelerated to a 10-month high but remained well below the central bank’s medium-term target of 4 percent for a 13th straight month. The RBI said it expects inflation to stay under this target through to the early months of fiscal 2020-21.
The central bank said that policy “transmission has remained staggered and incomplete.” It noted that the weighted average lending rate on fresh loans has fallen by just 29 bps, versus the 110 bps cut, ahead of today’s announcement.
Economists expect policy transmission to improve after the RBI mandated banks to link fresh loans to an external benchmark like the repo rate, or the rate on short-term treasury bills since the start of October.
“The RBI is likely to continue with its campaign for more rapid transmission of the benefits to credit users,” said K. Joseph Thomas, research head at Emkay Wealth Management.


Cirque du Soleil walks a tightrope through pandemic

Updated 06 June 2020

Cirque du Soleil walks a tightrope through pandemic

  • Suitors wage backstage battle to rescue debt-stricken Canadian circus icon
  • Among the potential bidders is former fire eater Guy Laliberte, who fouded the acrobatic troupe in 1984

MONTREAL: Its shows canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an already heavily indebted Cirque du Soleil’s fight for survival has invited an intense backstage battle to try to save the Canadian cultural icon.

High on a list of potential suitors is former fire eater Guy Laliberte, who founded the acrobatic troupe in 1984 but later sold it.

“Its revival will have to be done at the right price. And not at all costs,” said the 60-year-old, determined not to see his creation sold to private interests.

The billionaire clown said after “careful consideration,” he decided “with a great team” to pursue a bid, but offered no details.

Under his leadership, the Cirque had set up big tops in more than 300 cities around the world, delighting audiences with contemporary circus acts set to music but without the usual trappings of lions, elephants and bears.

Then the pandemic hit, forcing the company in March to cancel 44 shows worldwide, from Las Vegas to Tel Aviv, Moscow to Melbourne, and lay off 4,679 acrobats and technicians, or 95 percent of its workforce.

Hurtling toward bankruptcy, the global entertainment giant and pride of Canada commissioned a bank in early May to examine its options, including a possible sale.

Meanwhile, shareholders ponied up $50 million in bridge financing for its “short-term liquidity needs.”

Laliberte, the first clown to rocket to the International Space Station in 2009, ceded control of the Cirque for $1 billion in 2015.

It has since fallen into the hands of American investment firm TPG Capital (55 percent stake) and China’s Fosun (25 percent), which also owns Club Med and Thomas Cook travel. The Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec (CDPQ) retains the last 20 percent.

The institutional investor, which manages public pension plans and insurance programs in Quebec, bought Laliberte’s last remaining 10 percent stake in the business in February, just before the pandemic.

Since 2015, the Cirque has embarked on costly acquisitions and renovations of permanent performance halls, while its creative spirit waned, according to critics in the Quebec press.

Meanwhile, it piled on more than $1 billion in debt.

Fearing that the Cirque would be “sold to foreign interests,” the Quebec government recently offered it a conditional loan of $200 million to help relaunch its shows as restrictions on large gatherings start to be eased worldwide.

But the agreement in principle is conditional on the Cirque headquarters remaining in Montreal and the province being allowed to buy US and Chinese stakes in the company at an unspecified time in the future, “at market value” and with “probably a local partner,” said Quebec Minister of the Economy Pierre Fitzgibbon.

“The state does not want to operate the circus, but the circus is too important to Quebec (to leave it to foreigners),” he said.

In addition to Laliberte, other prospective buyers include Quebecor, the telecoms and media giant of tycoon Pierre Karl Peladeau, whose opening lowball bid was outright rejected.

“It is essentially the value and reputation of the brand” that has piqued interest in the company, says Michel Magnan, corporate governance chair at Concordia University in Montreal.

But “as long as there are restrictions on gatherings of people, the future is not very rosy” for the Cirque, he said.

Several challenges await, according to Magnan.

“There were a lot of people working in all of these shows. Where are they now? What are they doing? How are they doing? In what shape are they, what state of mind?” he said.

“The more time passes, the more this expertise risks evaporating.”

Small consolation: The Cirque resumed its performances on Wednesday in Hangzhou, China, five months after a coronavirus outbreak in the city.