Paytm, a payments company, is aiming to raise $2.5 billion amid India’s stock boom.

Image
Credit…Punit Paranjpe/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

With stocks on a tear in India, the parent company of Paytm, a leading digital payments app, went public on Monday with hopes of becoming the country’s largest initial public offering.

The company, One97 Communications, aims to raise about $2.5 billion in a three-day offer that ends on Wednesday. It has already drawn huge institutional investors like Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund, the Texas teachers’ pension fund and the University of Cambridge, which have invested more than $1 billion.

Founded in 2010, Paytm started as a payments transfer business. It now allows users to send money to friends, buy small items like coffee or clothing, and finance big-ticket items like cars.

All but ubiquitous in India’s biggest cities, Paytm now commands more than 40 percent of India’s digital payments market. The company has yet to turn a profit, but it is benefiting from a surge of interest from foreign and Indian investors looking for a stake in India’s surging internet economy. The I.P.O. could value the company at $20 billion.

“Paytm is evolving into a marketplace in itself,” said Amit Khurana, an analyst with Dolat Capital in Mumbai.

“There is a lot of appetite to allocate money to this kind of model because it’s seen as the business of the future.”

Investors, in general, have been increasingly bullish on the Indian economy’s recovery from the devastating impacts of the pandemic and a series of lockdowns that slashed industrial activity and consumer spending sharply.

India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India, has steadily cut interest rates, encouraging banks to lend more and consumers — particularly young, savvy online shoppers — to spend more.

“We are now in a sweet spot, where the bank recovery is coinciding with the demographic transition, which in turn is coinciding with the digital revolution,” said Madhavan Narayanan, an economist in India. “All these three are making the sun and the moon and the stars align for young India.”

With coronavirus infections in India low and foot traffic returning to brick-and-mortar stores, newly sanitation-sensitized shoppers may prefer to scan QR codes rather than handle cash.

The pandemic has helped a trend in India toward a cashless economy that began with the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s sudden demonetization in 2016. The policy, meant to tamp down on money laundering, involved banning the most widely circulated currency notes, wiping out families’ savings and shuttering businesses overnight. But five years later, it appears to have also created some winners, digital payments companies like Paytm among them.

Competition is heating up. Google offers Google Pay. India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, began a joint venture with Facebook last year to offer digital payments over WhatsApp, India’s most popular messaging service.

Paytm’s share offering is the latest in a series of oversubscribed I.P.O.s in recent months, among a bevy of so-called unicorns backed by e-commerce giants like China’s Alibaba and its financial affiliate, Ant.

Institutional and foreign investors also flocked to the initial public offering of India’s food delivery app, Zomato, in July, which was oversubscribed by 38 times the available shares.

In an August report, the Reserve Bank of India predicted that 2021 “could well turn out to be India’s year of the initial public offering.”

Paytm’s push to become India’s biggest initial public offering has overshadowed another sizable offering. The parent company of online beauty products retailer Nykaa was publicly listed on Monday, seeking a $7.4 billion valuation.

Sameer Yasir contributed reporting.

Credit…Joshua Lott for The New York Times

The United States reopened its borders for fully vaccinated travelers from dozens of countries on Monday, ending more than 18 months of restrictions on international travel that left families separated from loved ones and cost the global travel industry hundreds of billions of dollars in tourism revenue.

Under the new rules, fully vaccinated travelers will be allowed to enter the U.S. if they can show proof of vaccination and a negative coronavirus test taken within three calendar days of travel. Unvaccinated Americans and children under the age of 18 are exempt from the requirement, but must take a test within one day of travel.

The shift has come in time for the holiday season, when the beleaguered tourism industry is eagerly awaiting an influx in international visitors, especially in popular big-city destinations like New York, Los Angeles and Miami. The extended ban on travel from 33 countries — including European Union members, China, India and Iran — devastated the sector and resulted in losses of nearly $300 billion in visitor spending and more than one million American jobs, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

“Monday begins in earnest the return of international travel, when long-separated families and friends can safely reunite, travelers can explore this amazing country, and the U.S. is able to reconnect with the global community,” said Roger Dow, the Association’s president and chief executive officer. “It is a monumental day for travelers, for the communities and businesses that rely on international visitation, and for the U.S. economy overall.”

Airlines saw a big spike in online searches and ticket bookings for international travel — particularly from Europe and Latin America — after the administration announced its plans to ease the travel restrictions in September.

American Airlines said bookings over the three days after the announcement were up 66 percent for flights between Britain and the United States, 40 percent for those from Europe and 74 percent for Brazil, compared to a similar period a week earlier. United Airlines said that it sold more tickets for trans-Atlantic flights in the days after the announcement than during a similar period in 2019, a first since the pandemic began.

Delta Air Lines said that many of its international flights on Monday were fully booked. The carrier’s first flight into the United States under the looser restrictions, DL106, is expected to arrive from São Paulo, Brazil, at 9:35 a.m. on Monday, in Atlanta. By the end of Monday, Delta expects to fly 139 mostly full planes from 38 countries into the U.S.

Hotels across the country, particularly those in cities, also felt the impact of the reopening announcement, with increased bookings and interest over the holiday season. Hyatt, the hotel group, said that approximately 50 percent of its bookings by international travelers to the U.S. for the week of Nov. 8 came after the date was announced in mid-October, with travelers flocking to top cities.

The chef Daniel Boulud, who owns several restaurants in New York City, said that customers from overseas had already started to call for reservations or to go on a waiting list.

He added that while his restaurants were already “quite busy,” buoyed by domestic tourism and a trickle of international visitors, “the faucet was not open for tourism yet.” International tourists, he said, will bring necessary foot traffic, in particular to his restaurants near the Theater District.

Many of the airplanes departing for the United States over the coming weeks will be full of travelers reuniting with family and friends after more than a year apart. Felicity Fowler, a retired homeopath from London, missed the birth of her grandson. He was born in New York in April; she hasn’t seen her daughter, his mother, since February 2020 .

“It’s been emotional torture to be so far away from my girl at a time when she has needed me the most,” she said in an interview. “We need to make up for lost time.”

While demand is up, the changes have not had a major immediate effect on the number of scheduled international flights. In the first week under the relaxed rules, airlines will operate an average 1,383 daily flights into the United States, up just 19 daily flights from the week before, according to figures from Cirium, an aviation data provider. The data does not, however, indicate how many seats have been sold per flight and the number of daily flights is expected to rise again, by 40, in the second week after reopening.

With the continued risks of coronavirus variants and uncertainty of the course of the pandemic, the U.S. Travel Association does not expect international inbound travel to recover to 2019 levels until at least 2024.

Credit…Annice Lyn/Getty Images

Shares of several drug makers in Asia fell sharply on Monday in response to Pfizer’s announcement that its antiviral drug was highly effective in treating Covid-19.

CanSino Biologics, the Chinese maker of a Covid-19 vaccine, dropped by 17 percent during trading in Hong Kong. Shanghai Fosun, which has marketing rights in greater China for the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, saw its Hong Kong shares drop by 7 percent before rebounding somewhat to end 2 percent lower.

WuXi Biologics of China, which is developing Covid vaccines and antibodies, fell by 9 percent in Hong Kong. And shares of Japanese pharmaceutical firm Shionogi & Co., which is also developing a Covid treatment drug, dropped 6 percent in Tokyo.

Pfizer said Friday that when its new pill was given within three days of the start of Covid symptoms, hospitalizations and deaths were reduced by 89 percent. The company said it planned to submit the drug for Food and Drug Administration approval as soon as possible. A panel of experts had recommended not enrolling any more candidates in the trial because it had already shown such effectiveness, the company said.

Credit…Tristan Spinski for The New York Times

Last winter was warmer than average, which led to relatively low residential energy bills. Even if the coming winter is not severe, heating costs could rise to levels not seen a decade.

Several factors — lower global fuel inventories, incentives for producers to let prices rise and a mismatch between supply and demand as economies emerge from the pandemic — may combine to push bills higher, The New York Times’s Talmon Joseph Smith reports.

After plunging during the pandemic as the global economy slowed, energy prices have been climbing. Natural gas, used to heat almost half of U.S. households, has roughly doubled in price since this time last year. The price of crude oil — which strongly affects the 10 percent of households that rely on heating oil and propane during the winter — has soared by similarly eye-popping levels.

And those costs are being quickly passed through to consumers, who have become accustomed to cheaper energy prices in recent years and find themselves with growing concerns about inflation this year.

The Biden administration last week set Jan. 4 as the deadline for companies with 100 or more employees to mandate Covid vaccinations or enact weekly testing of workers. The mandate, in the works for some time, quickly faced legal challenges, and on Saturday, a federal appeals panel temporarily blocked the measure.

The court, in a two-page order, directed the Biden administration to respond by 5 p.m. Monday to a request for a permanent injunction.

The administration is “prepared to defend” the rules, Dr. Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general, said on Sunday. “The president and the administration wouldn’t have put these requirements in place if they didn’t think that they were appropriate and necessary,” Dr. Murthy said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Dr. Murthy pointed to the nation’s history as precedent: George Washington required troops to be inoculated against smallpox in 1777. The mandate would allow for medical or religious exemptions, and companies that fail to comply may be fined.

One coalition of businesses, religious groups, advocacy organizations and several states filed a petition on Friday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Louisiana, arguing that the administration overstepped its authority.

On Saturday, a panel of the court temporarily blocked the new mandate, writing “the petitions give cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the mandate.”

The stay does not have immediate impact, as the first major deadline in the rule is Dec. 5, when companies with at least 100 employees must require unvaccinated employees to wear masks indoors.

Credit…Sarah Rice for The New York Times

In Indianapolis, eviction courts are packed as judges make their way through a monthslong backlog of cases. In Detroit, advocates are rushing to knock on the doors of tenants facing possible eviction. In Gainesville, Fla., landlords are filing evictions at a rapid pace as displaced tenants resort to relatives’ couches for places to sleep or seek cheaper rents outside the city.

It is not the sudden surge of evictions that tenants and advocates feared after the Supreme Court ruled in August that President Biden’s extension of the eviction moratorium was unconstitutional.

Instead, what’s emerging is a more gradual eviction crisis that is increasingly hitting communities across the country, especially those where the distribution of federal rental assistance has been slow, and where tenants have few protections.

While the number of eviction filings remained at nearly half of prepandemic averages during the first two weeks of October, according to the Eviction Lab at Princeton University, in the 31 cities and six states it tracks, the filings are also increasing.

In the first two weeks of September, just after the moratorium ended, eviction filings increased by 10 percent from the first two weeks of August. In the first two weeks of October, evictions increased by nearly 14 percent from the first two weeks of the previous month.

“In places that don’t have protections, these numbers are increasing pretty quickly,” said Peter Hepburn, a researcher at the Eviction Lab. “And we don’t know where the ceiling is.”

Gene Sperling, the economist overseeing the Biden administration’s pandemic relief programs, credited the $46.5 billion in federal rental assistance set aside by Congress last winter with mitigating the problem. More than two million payments have been made — nearly a million in August and September alone.

Some jurisdictions have used part of the money to introduce programs that provide alternatives to eviction or legal assistance for tenants. Just over 37 percent of all renters in the country live in places that still have local eviction bans or are postponing eviction judgments pending rental assistance, according to the Urban Institute.

But elsewhere, limited renter protections and limits in the distribution of rental assistance are spurring the increase in evictions.

“No one should be sleeping well at night when there are still way too many painful, avoidable evictions,” said Mr. Sperling.

The true extent of the crisis facing tenants is understated by the available numbers on eviction, housing advocates and experts say. “The eviction avalanche is absolutely here across the country,” said Katie Goldstein, a housing justice campaign director with the Center for Popular Democracy.



Source link