India In-Focus — 59m shares reserved in LIC IPO; Zepto raises funds at $900m valuation

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MUMBAI: The initial public offering of Life Insurance Corporation, India’s biggest insurer, has got off to a strong start, with 59.3 million shares that were set aside for anchor investors being subscribed at 949 rupees apiece, according to an exchange filing on Tuesday.

The Indian government has said it expects to raise up to $2.74 billion, just a third of its original target, from selling a 3.5 percent stake in LIC in the country’s biggest initial public offering.

Anchor investors are high-profile institutional investors that are allotted shares before the subscription opens for retail and other investors, and have to commit to holding their shares for a certain period after listing.

LIC’s offering is set to open for other investors on May 4 and will close on May 9. The indicative price range has been set at 902 to 949 rupees per share, with 56 billion rupees ($732 million) of shares set aside for anchor investors.

Norwegian wealth fund Norges Bank Investment Management and the Government of Singapore are among the subscribers to the anchor book, the filing showed.

Grocery startup Zepto raises new funds at $900 million valuation

Indian grocery startup Zepto said on Tuesday it has raised $200 million in fresh funding that values the company at around $900 million, signalling growing investor interest in a sector where companies are luring customers with quick 10-minute deliveries.

Zepto was started last year by two 19-year-old Stanford dropouts. Its latest funding round was led by an existing investor Y Combinator, a prominent Silicon Valley fund.

It also saw participation from a new investor, US-based health care giant Kaiser Permanente, and all of Zepto’s key existing investors including Nexus Venture Partners, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

Zepto competes with SoftBank-backed Blinkit in India, both of which promise 10-minute deliveries for groceries. Other rivals including Dunzo, backed by Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance, and SoftBank-backed Swiggy are all betting on fast deliveries in the so-called quick commerce sector.

Aadit Palicha, Zepto’s co-founder and CEO, told Reuters the company was offering services in 11 cities and plans to use the new funds to expand to as many as 24 new cities within the next quarter.

“The scale that took food delivery companies years to achieve has taken us months with groceries. That’s the benchmark most people use and the market size for groceries is far bigger,” Palicha said in an intereview.

Heatwave pushes April power demand to record high

India’s electricity demand touched a record high in April as its northern states reeled under the hottest pre-summer months in decades, with a surge in the use of air conditioning triggering the worst power crisis in more than six years.

Power demand grew 13.2 percent to 135.4 billion kilowatt-hours, as the electricity requirement in the north grew between 16 percent and 75 percent, a Reuters analysis of government data showed.

Electricity use is expected to grow as India’s weather office has forecast above normal maximum temperatures over most parts of the west-central, northwest, north and northeast.

India and neighboring Pakistan have been suffering from extreme heat this year and more than a billion people are at risk from the heat, scientists have warned, linking the early onset of an intense summer to climate change.

The unprecedented electricity use resulted in widespread power cuts in April, as utilities scrambled to manage demand as coal supplies dwindled. Power supply fell short of demand by 2.41 billion units, or 1.8 percent, the worst since October 2015.

Demand for power in Delhi rose 42 percent in April, with northern states such as Punjab and Rajasthan seeing electricity demand grow 36 percent and 28 percent respectively, government data showed.

Soaring temperatures lead to a 74.7 percent rise in electricity use by Sikkim, a small hilly state in the northeast famous for its scenic mountains.

Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, two other mountainous states thronged by tourists seeking a retreat from the heat of the plains, saw power demand surge by more than a sixth because of the higher temperatures.

Other northern states such as Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, and Jharkhand in the east saw demand for electricity rise more than 25 percent, the data showed.

(With input from Reuters) 

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