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ECONOMIC GROWTH SLOWS DOWN

India’s economy is expected to have slowed sharply to a near three-year low in the final three months of 2016, as demand wilted following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise decision to ban high-value currency notes, a Reuters poll of economists showed. Modi’s announcement on Nov. 8 ordering the removal of 500-rupee and 1,000-rupee notes took out around 86 percent of the currency in circulation, putting activity on the skids in a predominantly cash-reliant economy.

The poll of 30 economists taken over the past week showed India’s gross domestic product growth slowed to 6.4 percent annually in the October-December quarter. Several economists were uncertain about the full impact of the currency ban. In July-September, India’s economic growth had accelerated to 7.3 percent from a year ago, making it the fastest-growing major economy in the world. That title will be lost to China if the Reuters consensus is met, putting the country’s growth at its lowest since March 2014, with China’s economy having grown 6.8 percent during the same period.

FOUNDER OF $4 SMARTPHONE ARRESTED ON FRAUD ALLEGATION

MUMBAI The founder of an Indian tech firm that shot to prominence by offering a $4 smartphone has been arrested on allegations of fraud, after a handset dealer accused the company of not refunding him for an unfulfilled order, the police said. Mohit Goel, the founder of Ringing Bells, was arrested Thursday afternoon in Uttar Pradesh and will be produced in court later on Friday, said Rahul Srivastav, a police spokesman from the northern Indian state.

Goel and his company made headlines last year with the “Freedom” smartphone, which was priced at 251 rupees ($3.77), attracting strong demand but also widespread scepticism and scrutiny from regulators even in price-conscious India, where cheap smartphones are big sellers.

The founder was arrested after a dealer said he had paid 3 million Indian rupees for an order of handsets but had received only a fraction of the order. He further said some of the phones received were defective, according to the police.

The dealer said he received only 1.4 million rupees in new phones and cash. When he pursued Ringing Bells for a refund for the unfulfilled order, the dealer said Mohit Goel and another executive at the mobile phone maker threatened to kill him and his family.

INFLATION KEY PILLAR ECONOMIC STABILITY

New Delhi, Feb 24 () The Reserve Bank’s ‘neutral’ stance keeping core inflation in focus seems prudent and sends a signal that it remains a key pillar of stability for the Indian economy, says a report.

In the recent monetary policy meeting conducted on February 8, RBI Governor Urjit Patel said that one of the main reasons for not cutting the policy interest rates is core inflation being sticky.

Sahil Kapoor, Chief Market Strategist, Edelweiss Broking, said high inflationary expectations, rise in healthcare and education costs are main drivers for core inflation being sticky and structural changes would be required to bring down core inflation.

“Most of stickiness in core is structural in nature apart from inflationary expectations. A neutral stance will enable the central bank to anchor inflationary expectations better,” Kapoor said in a research note.

He further noted that the RBI’s neutral stance sends a signal that inflation remains a key pillar of stability for Indian economy and accordingly it may choose to stay on hold.

“RBI may choose to stand pat and see through the effect of the loose monetary policy which it practiced over the last 2 years,” Kapoor noted.

The Reserve Bank in its policy review meet on February 8 kept key interest rate unchanged at 6.25 per cent and said that it is awaiting more clarity on inflation trend and impact of demonetisation on growth.

CREATION OF BAD BANK TO SPEED UP RESOLUTION OF STRESSED ASSETS

MUMBAI: The creation of a ‘bad bank’ will speed up resolution of stressed assets in the banking system, but it will also require significant capital infusion in the state-run banks to meet any shortfall, says a report.

The recent economic survey mentioned about formation of a bad bank that will purchase stressed assets and take them to resolution. “The creation of a ‘bad bank’ could accelerate the resolution of stressed assets in country’s banking sector, but it may face significant logistical difficulties and would simultaneously require a credible bank recapitalisation programme to address the capital shortfalls at state-owned banks,” international agency Fitch Ratings said in a report.

It said the country’s banks have significant asset quality problems that are putting pressure on profitability and capital, as well as constraining their ability to lend. It expects the stressed-asset ratio to rise over the coming year from the 12.3 per cent as at end-September 2016, with the ratio significantly higher among state-owned banks. The rating agency said the banking sector will require around $90 billion in new total capital by financial year 2018-19 to meet Basel III standard and ongoing business needs.

WIND POWER TARIFFS DROP ALL TIME LOW

NEW DELHI: Wind power tariff dropped to a record low of Rs 3.46 per unit today in an auction of 1,000 MW capacity conducted by Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI). This is another major development for clean enegy after solar power touched all-time low of Rs 2.97 per unit earlier this month for Reva solar Park.

“Mytrah Energy, Green Infra Wind Energy, Inox Wind Infrastructure Services, Ostro Kutch Wind and Adani Green Energy have emerged as lowest bidders. All these five firms have quoted Rs 3.46 per unit rate for the 1,000 MW capacities on block,” a source said

The source added that the aggressive bidding, which started yesterday, went on till around 0200 hrs today despite an advisory issued by industry body to avoid bold bids.

The Indian Wind Turbine Manufacturers Association had reportedly issued an advisory to some players before the auction started in view of uncertainties due to GST implementation. “After solar cost reduction below Rs 3/unit, wind power cost down to Rs 3.46/ unit through transparent auction.

A green future awaits India,” Power, Coal, New and Renewable Energy Minister Piyush Goyal said in a tweet. The power from these 1,000 MW capacity will be supplied to states which do not have adequate wind resources.

 

BHARTY TO BUY OUT MONEY LOSING OPERATIONS OF TELENOR

NEW DELHI: The wave of consolidation sweeping the fiercely competitive Indian telecom market has seen Bharti Airtel signing an agreement to acquire the money-losing operations of Norway’s Telenor. The telecom business has witnessed hectic deal-making in recent times, particularly after the aggressive entry of Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio in September last year.

Vodafone and Idea Cellular are already in merger talks, and the Airtel-Telenor deal only hastens the process of smaller carriers looking for an exit. The two companies did not disclose the size of the deal, which will see Airtel acquire Telenor India’s operations in seven circles – Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh (East), UP (West) and Assam (it’s yet to begin operations in the last one).

While Airtel has the highest customer base in the country at nearly 27 crore subscribers, Telenor has around 4.4 crore users. The deal with Telenor will help Airtel strengthen its spectrum footprint in the circles as it adds 43.4 MHz spectrum in the 1800 MHz band, though also being obliged to make future payments towards the ownership of the airwaves.

FIRST AUCTION OF WIND POWER PROJECTS

NEW DELHI: The umbrella body of wind turbine manufacturers have advised major players and prospective bidders to avoid bidding “aggressively” in the country’s first auction of wind power projects, a move being seen as anti-competition and potentially encouraging cartelisation.

The advisory from the Indian Wind Turbine Manufacturers Association, sent hours before bidding for wind projects aggregating 1,000MW capacity began, cautioned bidders of “uncertainties”, especially the impact of GST.

The e-auction began with nine out of 12 bidders qualifying for bidding. The lowest bid in the qualifying round came in at Rs 4 per unit. During Thursday’s bidding, this level was breached at Rs 3.79 per unit till the time of filing this report. The second-lowest tariff stood at Rs 3.81 per unit.

“As we all know, there seems to be a big risk on the GST front, and various estimates can put this anywhere between 5% to 12%… In case GST is pegged at 12%, then the project cost can increase anywhere between Rs 15-25 lakh per MW ,” IWTMA secretarygeneral D V Giri said in an email sent to major players, including Suzlon, Gamesa, GE, Reliance ADAG, Tata Power and Renew Power.

But executives of Solar Energy Corporation of India, the entity under the power ministry implementing the solar project, said any impact of GST is allowed to be passed on to consumers under the provisions of “change in law” in the tariff policy.

They also said there was complete fairness and transparency in the auction. On his part, Giri told TOI the advisory was not against competition but merely highlighting industry’s concerns. But the content of the advisory reads otherwise. According to the advisory , the market for feed-in tariff (akin to a cashback scheme) available in various states may get destabilised.

PC MARKET DECLINES 15 PERCENT

New Delhi : PC shipments in India declined by 15.2 per cent year-on-year to 8.58 million units in 2016 on account of sluggish consumer demand and subdued large projects, research firm IDC .

“The overall market declined initially owing to reduced consumer demand and high inventory in the first half of 2016. However, PC sales recovered starting June owing to strong consumer sentiment backed by seasonality and increase festive demand,” IDC said.

The consumer PC market recorded 4.22 million units in 2016, with an year-on-year decline of 12.9 per cent over 2015. With high inflation and ongoing fiscal consolidation, consumer sentiment remained frail until first half of 2016, IDC India Associate Research Manager Client Devices Manish Yadav said.

“However, with subsiding inflation and benefit from the Pay Commission award, continued low commodity prices and measures announced in the Union Budget to transform the rural sector created just the right buzz for PC purchase in CY 2016,” he added. The commercial PC market recorded 4.35 million units in 2016, with a y-o-y drop of 17.4 per cent over 2015.

INDIA & ADB SIGN $500 M LOAN AGREEMENT

New Delhi: India and the ADB today signed a USD 500 million loan pact to expand inter-regional power connectivity in the country, and strengthen transmission system to accommodate renewable energy-generation capacity.

“Expansion of inter-regional connectivity enables bulk power transfer to the southern region which has, at times, been affected by power shortages. This loan will also help strengthen the transmission system to accommodate renewable energy-generation capacity,” Deputy Country Director of ADB’s India Resident Mission Leonardus Boenawan Sondjaja said after signing the agreement.

The project, which is expected to be completed by December 2020, will help build 800 kilovolt (kV) and 320 kV High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) converter stations and 765 kV power transmission systems in India, the multilateral lending agency said in a statement.

It will also help Power Grid Corporation of India (Powergrid) add 6,000 MVA transmission capacity between Raigarh in Chhattisgarh and Pugalur in Tamil Nadu; 2,000 MVA transmission capacity between Pugalur in Tamil Nadu and North Trichur in Kerala and 3,000 MVA transmission capacity to accommodate renewable energy flows via Bikaner in Rajasthan, the statement added.

According to the statement, USD 500 million loan from ADB’s ordinary capital resources will make up around 19 per cent of the USD 2.581 billion total project cost, with Powergrid providing counterpart financing of USD 2.081 billion. The loan has a 20-year term, including a five-year grace period with an annual interest rate determined in accordance with ADB’s LIBOR-based lending facility, it said.

MOBIKWIK PLANS TO EXPAND ITS USER BASE

MUMBAI (Reuters) – Indian digital payments firm MobiKwik will invest 3 billion rupees ($44.89 million) this year to expand its user base and rack up $10 billion worth of transactions on its platform, it said in a statement on Thursday.

MobiKwik and Alibaba-backed bigger rival Paytm have been among the biggest beneficiaries of India’s drive to ban high-value currency notes late last year as more and more people used digital wallets to buy everything from groceries to fuel.

MobiKwik said the investment will help it triple its user base to 150 million and drive up annual gross merchandise value, or the total value of transactions on its platform, by year end from the current $2 billion.

The company is in talks to raise more funds at a level that would give the start-up a $1 billion valuation, its chief executive told Reuters earlier this month.

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