The Indian markets have started today's session on a weak note. The benchmark indices opened below the breakeven mark and have struggled to enter into positive territory despite upward movements since then. Other key Asian markets are trading in the red with China (down 1.7%) leading the pack of losers. The US markets closed lower by 0.2% yesterday.
Currently in India, heavyweights from the NSE-Nifty are trading a mixed bag with pharma and banking stocks attracting investors' interest. However, select auto and energy stocks are in the red. The BSE-Sensex is trading lower by around 21 points, while the NSE-Nifty is down by about 11 points. Selling interest is also being witnessed among mid and small cap stocks as the BSE-Midcap and BSE-Smallcap indices are trading lower by 0.3% and 0.4% respectively. The rupee is trading at 46.14 to the US dollar.
Energy stocks have opened the day on a mixed note. Gainers here include Petronet LNG and HPCL. However, Reliance Industries (RIL) is in the red. As per a leading business daily, RIL has sweetened its offer to buy bankrupt petrochemicals maker LyondellBasell (LB). It has raised the bid made in November last year by US$ 1 bn to US$ 14.5 bn. It may be noted that LB's own restructuring plan has valued itself at US$ 15.5 bn. Hence RIL still needs to persuade LB's creditors, who plan to take control of the company in exchange for forgiving debt of around US$18 bn. As of now, RIL plans to pick up a minority stake in LB with super-voting power which will give it management control. It may be noted that RIL has recently raised at least US$ 2 bn towards its acquisition war chest. In our view, RIL's petrochemicals operations will gain from LB's high end plastics technology. However, paying too steep a price is likely to undo all such benefits.
Food stocks have opened the day on a negative note. Losers here include Nestle and GSK Consumer. The battle for India's instant noodles market is heating up. Recently, GSK Consumer and HUL have launched their brands in a market long dominated by Nestle's Maggi. As per a leading business daily, ITC has joined the fray. It plans to launch noodles under the 'Sunfeast' brand name. The Sunfeast brand is currently used for selling biscuits and pasta. The company has reportedly set up a manufacturing facility in Maharashtra. It may be noted that Maggi commands nearly 70% share of the Rs 10 bn Indian instant noodle market. While the new entrants are strong FMCG players themselves, in our view it will take a great deal to unseat Nestle in the market given its steady efforts to build its brand over the decades.