Reliance acquires majority stake in skyTran

Chairman of Reliance Industries Limited Mukesh Ambani arrives for 42nd Annual General Meeting (Post-IPO) of Reliance Industries Limited in Mumbai, India, Monday, August 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

Reliance Strategic Business Ventures Limited (RSBVL) on Sunday announced that it has acquired an additional equity stake in its investee company skyTran Inc. (skyTran) for US $26.76 million, thereby increasing its shareholding to 54.46 percent. RSBVL is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Reliance Industries Limited.

skyTran is a technology company incorporated under the laws of Delaware, the US. It has developed a breakthrough passive magnetic levitation and propulsion technology for implementing personal transportation systems aimed at solving the problem of traffic congestion globally.

Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries, said, “Our acquiring majority equity stake in skyTran reflects our commitment to investing in building futuristic technologies that would transform the world. We are excited by skyTran’s potential to achieve an order of magnitude impact on highspeed intra and inter-city connectivity and its ability to provide a high speed, highly efficient and economical ‘Transportation-As-AService’ platform for India and the Rest of the World. We firmly believe that non-polluting high speed personal rapid transportation system will help facilitate environmental sustainability through efficient use of alternative energy and make an impactful reduction in air and noise pollution.”

Disclaimer: Network18, the parent company of CNBCTV18.com, is controlled by Independent Media Trust, of which Reliance Industries is the sole beneficiary.

COVID-19 vaccination drive for people above 60 to begin today

The COVID-19 vaccination drive for people above 60 years and those aged 45 and above with comorbidities will begin from March 1 in the second phase of inoculation. The registration for the same will be done on the Co-WIN2.0 portal from 9 am on Monday. People will be able to register and book an appointment for vaccination, anytime and anywhere, using the Co-WIN 2.0 portal or through other IT applications such as Arogya Setu.

Apart from 20,000 government hospitals, 10,000 private hospitals, more than 600 hospitals empanelled under CGHS and other private hospitals empanelled under State Government’s Health Insurance Schemes have been roped in for the vaccination drive.

The private empanelled COVID-19 Vaccination Centres (CVCs) were also trained on various aspects of the process of vaccination and management of adverse events following immunization (AEFI) through video conference with the support of the National Health Authority (NHA). “There will be only one live appointment for a beneficiary at any point of time for each dose. Appointments for any date for a COVID Vaccination Center will be closed at 3 pm on that day for which the slots were opened,” the ministry said.

The ministry said there will be a facility of on-site registration so that eligible beneficiaries can walk into identified vaccination centres, get themselves registered and inoculated. The eligible persons will be able to register at the Co-WIN2.0 portal through their mobile number, through a step-by-step process.

With one mobile number, a person can register as many as four beneficiaries. However, all those registered on one mobile number will have nothing in common except the mobile number, the ministry said. The photo ID card number for each such beneficiary must be different. Either of the following photo identity documents can be used by citizens for availing of online registration – Aadhaar Card/Letter, Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC), passport, driving license, PAN Card, NPR Smart Card or Pension Document with a photograph.

The vaccination will be free of cost at the government health facilities will be entirely free of cost, while private facilities cannot charge the beneficiary above Rs 250 per person per dose (Rs 150 for vaccines and Rs 100 as operational charges). Private hospitals will have to remit the cost of vaccine doses allotted to them in a designated account of the National Health Authority (NHA). The payment gateway for the same is being enabled by the NHA on their website, the ministry said.

The government has supplied two COVID-19 vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin, free of cost to the states and UTs to vaccinate healthcare workers (HCWs) and frontline workers (FLWs) and they will also be able to cover the next priority group i.e. 60 years plus age group and the age group of 45 to 59 years suffering from pre-specified co-morbidities. The states have been requested to operationalise the linkages between the CVCs (both government and private empanelled facilities) with the nearest cold chain points for ensuring smooth vaccine delivery to (CVCs).

With inputs from PTI

Liberalising access to geospatial data will boost economy

The recent announcement made by the government on liberalising access to geospatial data is likely to bolster the economy and bring about development in several sectors.

Location information is an integral part of the modern digital ecosystem and critical for unlocking economic, social and environmental opportunities for sustainable growth and development of the country. Besides location-based services such as e-commerce, delivery and logistics and urban transport, this data is also essential for more traditional sectors of the economy such as agriculture, construction, mines and minerals.

Geospatial data relates to data about the natural or man-made, physical or imaginary features whether above the ground or below, boundaries, points of interest, natural phenomena, mobility data, weather patterns and statistical information.

Over the years, India has shown progress in the area of capturing geospatial data through ground-based survey techniques, photogrammetry using manned/unmanned aerial vehicles, satellite-based remote sensing, mobile phone sensors and other techniques.

The liberalisation of the mapping policy will remove the restrictions on the use of geospatial data and is expected to spur the participation of private sector in this area. The availability of data and modern mapping technologies to Indian companies is also crucial for achieving the goals of Atmanirbhar Bharat and the vision for a five trillion-dollar economy.

India presently relies heavily on foreign resources for mapping technologies and services. Liberalisation of the mapping industry and democratization of existing datasets will boost domestic innovation and enable Indian companies to compete in the global mapping ecosystem by leveraging modern geospatial technologies.

The blue economy in India is another sunrise issue for development experts where geospatial data can play a potentially important role. Fisheries, deep-sea mining and offshore oil and gas make up a large section of India’s blue economy.

The guidelines will liberalize the acquisition and production of geospatial data which in turn will play a pivotal role in achieving the GDP goals. Availability of comprehensive, highly accurate, granular and constantly updated representation of geospatial data will benefit the different sectors of the economy.

The existing policy was dotted with several rules and regulations and impeded growth. With the new policy, a lot of geospatial data that used to be in the restricted zone will be freely available now and some of the policies/guidelines that used to regulate such information have been rendered obsolete and redundant.

-Vanita Srivastava is an independent health and science journalist and is currently working as Senior Project Scientist at IIT Delhi. The views expressed are personal.

Read her columns here

After Virat, Sachin; witnessing centuries by diesel, petrol, says Uddhav Thackeray

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray took a dig at the Centre over the rise in petrol and diesel prices. The fuel prices have soared to unprecedented levels in the country of late.

“Petrol and diesel prices have gone up. We have seen centuries by Virat Kohli, Sachin Tendulkar but now we are seeing petrol-diesel century,” said Thackeray.

In the national capital, petrol was priced at Rs 91.17 per litre. In Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, the fuel was sold for Rs 97.57, Rs 93.11 and Rs 91.35 a litre respectively.

Oil marketing companies pressed the pause button after raising the pump price of petrol and diesel by 24 paise and 15 paise per litre on Saturday.

In line with petrol, diesel prices also were unchanged on Sunday at Rs 81.47, Rs 88.60, Rs 86.45 and Rs 84.35 per litre, respectively in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata.

Petrol and diesel prices have been rising continuously since February 9.

The increase in the previous weeks has taken petrol to cross historic high levels of Rs 100 a litre in several cities across the country.

Premium petrol crossed Rs 100 per litre mark in several cities of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra a few days back.

Since fuel prices are benchmarked to a 15-day rolling average of global refined products’ prices and dollar exchange rate, pump prices can be expected to remain northbound over the next few days even if crude price stabilises.

Oil companies executives said petrol and diesel prices may increase further in the coming days as retail prices may have to be balanced in line with global developments to prevent OMCs from making losses on the sale of auto fuels.

With inputs from IANS

Maharashtra minister linked to woman’s death resigns

Maharashtra minister Sanjay Rathod, facing flak from the opposition BJP after being linked to a woman’s death, on Sunday resigned from the state cabinet.

Rathod made the announcement after submitting his resignation to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who is also the president of his Shiv Sena party. “There has been a lot of dirty politics over the issue of the woman’s death,” Rathod told reporters, adding he has quit the ministry so that the truth can come out.

Rathod, who holds the forest portfolio, was facing allegations of complicity in the death of Puja Chavan (23), a resident of Beed district, who was found dead in Pune on February 8, apparently after falling off from the building in which she lived.

Talking to reporters after meeting the chief minister at his official residence Varsha, Rathod said he had resigned to facilitate a free and fair probe.

“Attempts were made to tarnish my image and destroy the reputation I had built after 30 years of social work. I was saying that let the probe happen before taking any decision. But the opposition threatened to disrupt the budget session,” Rathod said.

Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Devendra Fadnavis said the resignation of the minister wasn’t enough and demanded that an FIR should be filed against him.

The BJP has accused Rathod of having links with the woman after his purported photographs, audio and video clips with her went viral on social media.

Bottomline: It’s time to get real about investments

Rupee rallies 21 paise to 73.55 per US dollar

It isn’t Armageddon for equity investors, but spiking bond yields are nary a good sign. The chatter on the street is all about US bond yields and how they will impact equity and other risk-asset valuations. Also, how rising yields may actually be good, as it could indicate economic recovery. Well there’s some basis to these arguments, but many of these connections are a little stretched. So, it helps to have a clearer perspective. Here are some findings that you could make a note of.

 

YIELDS, STOCK RETURNS & GROWTH

We decided to look at how US 10 year bond yields, S&P-500 and US GDP growth correlate with each other. What we found is that yields and equities have a strong negative correlation (-0.8). So, a rise in yields could hurt equity valuations. The relationship between yields and real GDP is also negative—low / declining interest rates cause GDP to expand. However, the caveat here is that GDP growth rates and yields have a weak link. What this suggests is that, a change in yield may not induce a correspondingly strong change in GDP growth.

 

 THE EQUITY, GROWTH CONNECT

Now let’s look at what the relationship is between equities and economic growth. While there is a strong positive correlation between the economic trajectory of an economy and the value of stocks—as GDP grows, stock values will grow—there is, again, a very weak link between annual GDP growth rates and stock returns. Here 2020, is a good example of a calendar year that saw the S&P-500 deliver 15.8 returns even as the US economy shrunk by over 2 percent.

 

Some of this, could also be because equities tend to run more on expectations than delivery. But if that’s the case, a high growth in 2021 won’t necessarily promise high equity returns. That’s something to chew on.

 

What’s also interesting to note, is that while there is a strong correlation between corporate earnings and stock valuations, the correlation of BSE-Sensex earnings with GDP growth is only moderate (<0.5). This indicates that earnings growth need not keep close pace with economic growth. What this could also suggest is that you need to pick your stocks well, if you want to ride the recovery, as the broader indices may not adequately capture the trend. 

REALTY RETURNS VS EQUITIES 

As with all data, your start and endpoints can make a big difference to the outcomes. Here, the returns in real estate and equities are an important case in point. While those in the realty business argue property investment returns have outperformed equity, equity buffs project a contrary view. The truth lies somewhere in between.

We looked at data from 2010 for realty and equities, with two starting points: 2010 and 2013. Interestingly, while realty delivered a return of just 54 percent from 2013 to September 2020, the Nifty almost doubled. But if you shift the start point to 2010, realty values have in 2020 were 2.5x vs 1.8x for the Nifty.

 

REALTY RETURNS
City % Change (Since 2013)
Bengaluru 52.6
Chennai 32.1
Delhi -10.7
Gurugram -5.5
Kolkata 45.6
Mumbai 47.9
Pune 60.6

 

What’s also important to note in realty, is that just like in stocks the returns won’t be uniform. In fact Residex Index data reveals that 13-year returns in the NCR region have actually been negative. Pune, on the other hand, delivered 60 percent gain—though nothing to crow about for a 7-year period at under 7 percent.

 THE CASE FOR REALTY

After a hiatus, the real estate sector seems to be showing signs of life. With RERA in place, a lot of stress already factored in, low-interest rates and more sensible pricing by several developers, activity in the residential sector seems to have revived. And while there is stress in the economy in certain lower-income brackets, good tidings with the digitalization wave for IT/ITES augur well for hiring in the white-collar segment.

Managements of several realty companies have told CNBC-TV18 that things are looking up on the sales front and there could be a possibility of price improvement as well.

A report by Anarock shows that a big overhang for the sector, unsold inventory, is down 19 percent from its peak of 7.9 lakh units in 2016, and cities like Mumbai and Bangalore saw a 6 percent decline in inventories in 2020 vs 2019. The consultant, while outlining its outlook for 2021 says: “The Indian residential real estate is also entering a new decade. 2021 will undoubtedly be a year of recovery. While a new peak may not be attained immediately, it is anticipated that new residential launches may gain some momentum”.

The Anarock outlook is quite guarded, but brokerage Jefferies makes a stronger case in its report India Property: 2021 Outlook – A New Cycle Begins, in which it bets on a new upcycle. The report argues: “A new residential cycle start should become evident over 2021 as both end-users and investors get back into action. We expect residential sales to cross 2019 levels, inventory to fall to 8-year low by end’21 and prices to rise by 10 percent + over next two years”.

Given the historical evidence, it may not be amiss to expect that realty prices could see a sudden, sharp surge in the coming one to three years, before it settles down on a higher plane. So, timing your investment could be tough, but if you have a slightly longer-term investment horizon, or if you are looking to buy a home, this could be a good time to buy into realty. And if you are looking to ride the economic recovery, buying a real asset like realty should help you capture the trend.

But, like mentioned earlier, what particular realty asset you invest in—the development, the locality, the city et al—will go into determining the returns you generate. So, do your homework well.

 

Israeli-owned ship docked in Dubai after mysterious blast

An Israeli-owned cargo ship that suffered a mysterious explosion in the Gulf of Oman came to Dubai’s port for repairs Sunday, days after the blast that revived security concerns in Mideast waterways amid heightened tensions with Iran.

Associated Press journalists saw the hulking Israeli-owned MV Helios Ray sitting at dry dock facilities at Dubai’s Port Rashid. Although the crew was unharmed in the blast, the vessel sustained two holes on its port side and two on its starboard side just above the waterline, according to American defence officials.

It remains unclear what caused the blast, but the incident comes amid sharply rising tension between the U.S. and Iran over its unravelling 2015 nuclear deal. Iran has sought to pressure President Joe Biden’s administration to grant the sanctions relief it received under the accord with world powers that former President Donald Trump abandoned.

From the shore, AP journalists could not immediately see damage to the vessel. The dock blocked the view of the vessel’s starboard side down to the waterline and the port side could only be seen from a distance. The ship was anchored near Dubai’s storied floating hotel, Queen Elizabeth 2. An Emirati coast guard vessel was seen sailing behind the ship, with Dubai police and Emirati armed forces vehicles parked nearby.

Emirati officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the vessel docking in the country.

Friday’s blast on the ship, a Bahamian-flagged roll-on, roll-off vehicle cargo vessel, recalled a string of attacks on foreign oil tankers in 2019 that the U.S. Navy blamed on Iran. Tehran denied any role in the suspected assaults, which happened near the Strait of Hormuz, a key oil chokepoint.

Israeli ambassador to the U.S. and U.N., Gilad Erdan, told Israel’s Army Radio on Sunday that “it was no secret that the Iranians are trying to harm Israeli targets,” alleging the explosion on the ship bore the hallmarks of previous Iranian attacks.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for firing a ballistic missile and nine bomb-laden drones at “sensitive sites” in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh the night before. The group’s military spokesman Yahia Sarei added that another six explosive drones targeted “military positions” in the southwestern cities of Abha and Khamis Mushait. The Saudi interception of the missile set off an apparent explosion over Riyadh that startled residents and scattered shell debris, without causing casualties.

The Helios Ray had discharged cars at various ports in the Persian Gulf before making its way out of the Middle East toward Singapore. The blast hit as the ship was sailing from the Saudi port Dammam out of the Gulf of Oman, forcing it to turn to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, for inspection.

Iranian authorities have not publicly commented on the ship. The country’s hard-line Kayhan daily, whose editor-in-chief was appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, alleged the Helios Ray was “possibly” on an “espionage” mission in the region, without offering any evidence to support the claim. The Sunday report speculated the ship may have been “trapped in an ambush by a branch of the resistance axis,” referring to Iranian proxies in the region.

Iran also has blamed Israel for a recent series of attacks, including a mysterious explosion last summer that destroyed an advanced centrifuge assembly plant at its Natanz nuclear facility and the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a top Iranian scientist who founded the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear program two decades ago.

Iran’s repeated vows to avenge Fakhrizadeh’s killing have raised alarms in Israel, particularly as the Gulf sees an increase in Israeli traffic following the country’s normalization deals with the UAE and Bahrain.

 

FPIs invest Rs 25,787 crore in Indian equities in February

As the Indian equities continued to scale new highs post the Union Budget for FY22, the net foreign portfolio investments (FPI) into the Indian equities in February was Rs 25,787 crore.

The total net FPIs in 2020 now stand at Rs 45,260 crore, as per NSDL data.

Foreign investments have continued to flow in post the Union Budget which announced further liberalisation measures including privatisation of banks and also did not come up with a new tax levy.

So far, in the financial year 2021-22, net FPIs into equities stood at Rs 2.63 lakh crore, the highest ever FPI inflow into the country.

Further, the net foreign institutional investment (FII) during the month was Rs 42,044.46 crore.

The rising foreign investments have also led to the strengthening of the Indian rupee.

However, the recent bond yield surge both in the US and the domestic market have caused a frenzy in among the investors leading to bear run in the stock markets.

Market watch: After volatile week expect aftershocks to continue

Markets were under extreme volatility in the week gone by and we had two trading sessions where there were 1,000 point moves on the BSE SENSEX and one session where it was double that at 2,000 points. This clearly shows the vulnerability of markets and the urgent need for them to stabilise.

With two sharp down days, one sharp up day and two days where they traded with a positive bias, markets had all the action that one could expect in five trading days. The final result saw BSE SENSEX lose 1,789.97 points or 3.52 per cent to close at 49,099.99 points while NIFTY lost 452.60 points or 3.02 per cent to close at 14,529.15 points. The broader indices saw BSE100, BSE200 and BSE500 lose 2.77 per cent, 2.39 per cent and 2.05 per cent respectively. BSE MIDCAP lost a mere 0.28 per cent while BSE SMALLCAP was up 1.47 per cent.

In sectoral indices, BSEMETAL gained 7.13 per cent led by Hindalco up 10.40 per cent, Vedanta 8.32 per cent and Tata Steel up 5.56 per cent. The top sectoral loser was BSETECK down 4.03 per cent followed by BSEIT down 4.01 per cent. In individual stocks Kotak Bank was down 8.00 per cent followed by HDFC 7.17 per cent and ITC 5.56 per cent. Tech Mahindra lost 7.61 per cent followed by TCS down 5.73 per cent and Wipro down 4.58 per cent.

The Indian Rupee lost sharply on Friday when indices were down almost 4 per cent and ended the week with losses of 81 paise or 1.11 per cent at Rs 73.46. Dow Jones after hitting a new lifetime high at 32,010 points on Wednesday suffered big losses of 560 points and 470 points on Thursday and Friday, to close the week with losses of 561.95 points or 1.78 per cent at 30,932.37 points.

While the four-digit movement on the BSESENSEX of negative 1,155 points on Monday and 1,940 points on Friday interspersed with gains of 1,030 points on Wednesday may have rattled people as big, it amounts to just about 2 per cent and 4 per cent. Nothing very big in that sense but three such days in five is worrisome. It only indicates nervousness and the need for markets to stabilise. The week also had other events which have a bearing on the market going forward in the immediate medium term.

NSE saw a trading glitch on Wednesday and this was the fourth such occasion in three and a half years. This would have serious repercussions on NSE even as they ready to launch their IPO in the coming year. The fact that communication from the exchange on the glitch was not forthcoming, large discount brokers squared off intraday trades on the BSE and clients suffered huge losses. While the blame game has started and no one is willing to comment or take the blame, NSE is certainly at fault for not conveying that there would be resumption of trade even if trading has to go beyond the stipulated time. One such trading platform singled out for criticism on social media, was India’s largest broker ‘Zerodha’.

The week ahead sees the change in margin norms from the erstwhile 25 per cent to 50 per cent. This effectively means that intraday traders would have to provide double margins and this could affect trading volumes in the short term as traders get used to the new laws. Further, with midcap and Smallcap stocks being largely unaffected in the sharp reversals witnessed last week, they could be under pressure from Monday onwards.

February futures expired with big gains for bulls at 15,097.35 points. The series gained 1,279.80 points or 9.26 per cent. Bulk of these gains came in the first-week post announcement of the Union Budget. Readers would recall that the high registered on the BSE SENSEX was 52,516 points while it was 15,431 points on NIFTY. We have corrected a little over 50 per cent of the gains of February.

The primary market saw the issue from Heranba Industries Limited get oversubscribed and receive an excellent response. The issue was oversubscribed 83.29 times overall. QIB portion was subscribed 67.45 times, HNI portion 271.15 times and Retail portion subscribed 11.84 times. There were 14.55 lakh applications in all.

The issue from Nureca Limited listed with shares gaining 66.66 per cent on day one. The company had tapped the capital markets with its issue of 25 lakh shares at Rs 400 each. Shares closed day one at Rs 666.65. Shares of Nureca gained further and closed the week at Rs 699.95, a gain of 75 per cent. Shares are in the trade-to-trade category and would continue to remain so for another eight trading sessions.

Shares of RailTel Corporation Limited also listed on the bourses on Friday the 26th of February. The company had tapped the markets through an offer for sale of 871.53 lakh shares in a price band of Rs 93-94. Shares debuted at Rs 104.60 on BSE and Rs 109 on NSE. They closed at Rs 121.40 on BSE and Rs 121.35 on NSE, a gain of Rs 27.40 or 29.15 per cent.

The week ahead sees the issue from MTAR Technologies Limited tapping the capital markets. The company is having a fresh issue of 21.48 lakh shares and an offer for sale of 82.24 lakh shares in a price band of Rs 574-575. The issue opens on Wednesday the 3rd of March and would close on Friday the 5th of March. The issue would garner about Rs 596 crs.

The company is a one stop solution for highly critical and precision engineering products and caters to the Nuclear, Space and Defence and Clean Energy segments. It has been in existence for over 50 years and deals with ISRO, Nuclear Power Corporation, DRDO and Bloom Energy amongst others. It had revenues of Rs 214 crore for the year ended March 2020 and a net profit of Rs 45.5 crore. In the nine months ended December 2020, revenues increased to Rs 176 crore and net profit to Rs 39.6 crore. Because of the nature of the business, the company receives free supply of raw materials from many of its customers and hence the sales quantum looks muted. The EPS of the company was Rs 11.11 for the year ended March 2020 and the PE band is between 51.67 to 51.77 times. There are no comparable players which could be termed as competitors for MTAR and this makes them fairly unique in nature. Getting allotment in this issue of just about 1.03 cr shares is going to be a challenge.

On the Covid-19 front the world saw 11,43,65,951 patients, 25,36,711 deaths and 8,99,21,258 patients recovering. In India we saw 1,10,96,440 patients, 1,57,087 deaths and 1,07,73,275 patients recovering. During the week, the world saw 52,59,130 new patients, 1,31,239 deaths and 87,82,704 patients recovering. In India, we saw 1,91,500 new patients, 1,414 deaths and 1,61,544 patients recovering. Very clearly the number new patients in India have spiked and one needs to exercise extreme caution in maintaining social distance.

Markets will continue to remain volatile and trade with a negative bias at least in the earlier part of the week if not more. An analogy which comes to mind is the aftershocks one experiences after a powerful earthquake has hit an area. Similarly, what we saw during the week could be taken as an example and we would have to brace with the aftershocks and the resultant volatility. The strategy would be to use rallies to reduce positions and exposure and use sharp dips to make small purchases. Markets would take some time to consolidate before any clear trend may emerge.

Buffett upbeat on the US and Berkshire, buys back stock even as pandemic hits results

Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett‘s enthusiasm for the future of America and his company Berkshire Hathaway Inc has not been dimmed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Buffett used his annual letter to investors to assure he and his successors would be careful stewards of their money at Berkshire, where “the passage of time” and “an inner calm” would help serve them well.

Despite the disappearance last year of more than 31,000 jobs from Berkshire’s workforce, Buffett retained his trademark optimism, buying back a record $24.7 billion of its stock in 2020 in a sign he considers it undervalued.

He also hailed the economy’s capacity to endure “severe interruptions” and enjoy “breathtaking” progress.

“Our unwavering conclusion: Never bet against America,” he said. ((https://www.berkshirehathaway.com/letters/2020ltr.pdf))

Tom Russo, a partner at Gardner, Russo & Gardner in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and longtime Berkshire investor, said: “He’s a deep believer in his company and the country.”

The letter breaks an uncharacteristic silence for the 90-year-old Buffett, who has been almost completely invisible to the public since Berkshire’s annual meeting last May.

But while touching on familiar themes, including Wall Street bankers’ avarice for dealmaking fees that benefit them more than companies they represent, Buffett did not dwell on the pandemic, a prime factor behind Berkshire’s job losses.

He also did not address recent social upheavals or the divisive political environment that some companies now address more directly.

“The letter highlighted the innovation and values that have become the backbone of America, and that’s perfectly acceptable,” said Cathy Seifert, an analyst at CFRA Research with a “hold” rating on Berkshire.

“Given the reverence that investors have for him, the letter was striking for what it omitted,” she added. “A new generation of investors demands a degree of social awareness, and that companies like Berkshire set out their beliefs, standards and goals.”

Buffett also signaled a long-term commitment to Apple Inc, where Berkshire ended 2020 with $120.4 billion of stock despite recently selling several billion dollars more.

He called Apple and the BNSF railroad Berkshire’s most valuable assets – “it’s pretty much a toss-up” – other than its insurance operations, and ahead of Berkshire Hathaway Energy. “The family jewels,” he called those four investments.

PROFIT RISES EVEN AS JOBS ARE LOST

Berkshire on Saturday also reported net income of $35.84 billion in the fourth quarter, and $42.52 billion for the year, both reflecting large gains from its stocks.

Operating income, which Buffett considers a more accurate measure of performance, fell 9% for the year to $21.92 billion.

The stock buybacks have continued in 2021, with Berkshire repurchasing more than $4 billion of its own stock. It ended 2020 with $138.3 billion of cash.

However, Buffett bemoaned fixed income as an investment, saying that “bonds are not the place to be these days.” The income from a 10-year U.S. Treasury bond fell 94% from a 15.8% yield in September 1981 to 0.93% at the end of 2020. Benchmark Treasury yields have jumped since but are still low by historic measures.

“Fixed-income investors worldwide – whether pension funds, insurance companies or retirees – face a bleak future,” the letter said.

Berkshire, based in Omaha, Nebraska, has more than 90 operating units including the BNSF railroad, Geico car insurer, Dairy Queen ice cream and See’s candies.

Its workforce declined 8% from a year earlier to about 360,000 employees. Bigger drops were reported at BNSF, which shed 5,600 jobs, and See’s, where employment fell 16%.

The pandemic hit no Berkshire business harder than Precision Castparts Corp, which shed 13,473, or 40%, of its jobs.

Berkshire bought the aircraft and industrial parts maker in 2016 for $32.1 billion, Buffett‘s largest acquisition, and took a $9.8 billion writedown as the pandemic decimated travel and punished Precision’s aerospace customers.

“I paid too much for the company,” Buffett wrote. “I was simply too optimistic about PCC’s normalized profit potential.

“PCC is far from my first error of that sort,” he said. “But it’s a big one.”

Berkshire said some businesses are beginning to recover form the pandemic.

“Certainly 2021 is going to be a much stronger year, dependent upon the speed of vaccinations and the opening of the U.S. economy,” said Jim Shanahan, an analyst at Edward Jones & Co with a “buy” rating on Berkshire.

Buffett also said Berkshire’s annual meeting will be held in Los Angeles rather than Omaha, allowing 97-year-old Vice Chairman Charlie Munger, a Californian, to rejoin him and answering about 3-1/2 hours of shareholder questions.

Vice Chairmen Greg Abel, 58, and Ajit Jain, 69, who are widely considered frontrunners to succeed Buffett as chief executive, will also be available to answer questions.

Buffett said he hopes Berkshire will in 2022 resume its annual shareholder weekend in Omaha, which normally draws around 40,000 people – an “honest-to-God annual meeting, Berkshire-style,” he wrote.