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Nikkei Asian Preview

Lunar New Year numbers, India's budget, and Samsung and Apple earnings

Your weekly lineup of Asia's biggest business and political events

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, left, received a warm welcome from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind at India's 71st Republic Day celebrations, where the controversial Latin American strongman was Chief Guest. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)   © AP

Welcome to Nikkei Asian Preview, a list of the most important business, economic and political events happening in Asia each week.

Here's what we're watching:

MONDAY

Bolsonaro wraps India trip

Brazil's controversial President Jair Bolsonaro ends his four-day trip to India, a fellow BRICs member. Over the weekend, Bolsonaro attended India's 71st Republic Day Parade as Prime Minister Narendra Modi's guest of honor, an unusually warm welcome for the Latin American leader who has been shunned for racist and sexist rhetoric. 

Outside the presidential palace, demonstrators called for Bolsonaro to "go back." Among them were sugar farmers protesting a World Trade Organization investigation on India's sugar subsidies initiated by Brazil, and human rights activists demanding justice for their Brazilian peer Marielle Franco, who was assassinated in 2018. 

The two premiers, both from the strongman school of leadership, also held high-level talks in New Delhi to enhance bilateral cooperation on energy and trade.

Bolsonaro was greeted by protesters outside New Delhi's presidential palace, including sugar farmers protesting Brazil's stance against India's sugar subsidies. (REUTERS/Francis Macarenhas)   © Reuters

TUESDAY

Maruti Suzuki results

Is the worst of India’s car slump over? The country's top-selling carmaker Maruti Suzuki India, majority owned by Japan's Suzuki Motor, will give some clues today when it releases third-quarter earnings. India 's automobile industry is struggling to recover from its worst-ever downturn in 2019, which forced companies to cut production and slash tens of thousands of jobs.

WEDNESDAY

Apple results

After its stock price more than doubled within a year -- rising more than 30% in the past three months alone -- Apple is expected to report first-quarter results for the fiscal year 2020 on Tuesday at 2 p.m. PST (Wednesday at 7 a.m. JST). 

Analysts and investors are closely watching if the U.S. smartphone maker can live up to bullish expectations of iPhone 11s sales. The growth may be driven by smartphone sales in the China market and the services and wearable sectors, as Apple tries to diversify revenue stream to become less iPhone-dependent. 

THURSDAY

Coronavirus hurts Chinese travel

Just how much the Wuhan virus scare has affected the world’s biggest annual travel season should become clear on Thursday, when Chinese officials will publish estimates of how many domestic and international trips citizens took over the Lunar New Year holiday -- and how much they spent.

In early January, authorities had projected citizens would take 440 million train trips and about 79 million plane trips -- but that was before transport links with the hard-hit city of Wuhan were cut last week.

On the same day, top executives of Las Vegas Sands, which holds the largest market share among casino operators in Macao, the world’s busiest gambling hub, are due to give a quarterly update. Analysts will be listening for word on how much the virus is dampening action at the tables in Macao, which has already confirmed cases of viral infection among travelers arriving from Wuhan.

The Sands Macao and Grand Lapa casino hotels in Macau. (Photo by Shinya Sawai)

Samsung and Naver 4Q earnings

South Korea's tech giant Samsung Electronics and internet company Naver will announce fourth-quarter earnings on Thursday.

Samsung suffered from a downturn in semiconductor business in 2019, but analysts say it may rebound this year as memory chip prices have hit bottom. Whether Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong will be arrested again on charges of bribery is another issue weighing on the company.

Background: Can Samsung stay on course? 

Analysts will be listening for updates on Naver's plan to set up a joint venture between its Japanese subsidiary Line and SoftBank Group's Yahoo Japan. The venture would create a digital payments challenger to Google, Alibaba and Tencent. But Naver is already in the crosshairs of Seoul's antitrust regulator

FRIDAY

China reports monthly PMI

China appears set to report upbeat numbers in its official monthly manufacturing purchasing managers’ index. Year-end GDP figures released earlier this month and the signing of U.S.-China “phase one” trade deal have led economists to nudge their expectations for economic growth higher on signs of a nascent recovery in industrial activity. But the Lunar New Year break and spreading worries about the Wuhan virus may weigh on respondents' sentiment.

SK Hynix and LG Display 4Q earnings

More fourth quarter earnings will come from South Korean chipmaker SK Hynix and panel maker LG Display on Friday.

Like Samsung, SK Hynix bore the brunt of memory chip woes in 2019, but expects a turnaround this year. Meanwhile, LG Display is embarking on a transformation of its business structure to focus on high-tech OLED, after Chinese players caught up on cheap LCD technology. 

Brexit kicks in

The United Kingdom on Friday will finalize its divorce from the European Union. When Prime Minister Boris Johnson gets past the pomp and ceremony of the occasion, he will have some big calls to make. Johnson will be free to negotiate a trade deal with the European bloc, as well as with the U.S., China, Japan and a host of potential partners.

Why it matters to business: Perhaps Johnson's first call will be whether to allow Huawei to participate in building Britain's 5G network. While Johnson himself asked earlier this month "What's the alternative?," he's under pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump to ditch the Chinese tech giant over national security concerns. Washington has threatened to end intelligence sharing if London proceeds with Huawei. 

Why it matters to Asia: Japanese and other companies across Asia are watching carefully to see what kind of deal the U.K. can strike with the EU, as it directly impacts investment in Britain.

WEEKEND

India budget announcement and economic survey

India's budget for the financial year starting in April will be announced on Saturday. An economic slowdown has put pressure on the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take immediate steps to stimulate demand.

A day prior, the Finance Ministry will table in Parliament its annual Economic Survey, providing a detailed account of the state of the Indian economy.

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