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Updated: 2 hours 59 min ago

43 seats of Bengal to vote in sixth phase today

6 hours 49 sec ago
The Matua factor centred around the promise of citizenship, closure of jute mills, rising unemployment and agrarian distress are some of the crucial factors likely to impact the sixth phase of polling in Bengal on Thursday that will see voters in 43 assembly constituencies in Uttar Dinajpur, Nadia, North 24 Parganas and Purba Bardhaman cast their vote.Due to the rising Covid cases, the Election Commission had cut short the election campaign period to 72 hours prior to voting. This did not deter the campaigns by both parties as many BJP leaders, including Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP president JP Nadda participated in rallies accompanied by state and central BJP leaders. TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee and MP Abhishek Banerjee also held around 35 public meetings this week.The TMC has been blaming the BJP for bringing in people from other states leading to a rise in Covid cases in the state. The party has been urging the EC to club the remaining three phases into one. The BJP however is supporting the eight-phase polls citing constitutional obligation.Nine seats in Uttar Dinajpur and Nadia will go to polls on April 22 along with 17 constituencies in North 24 Parganas and eight in Purba Bardhaman. Seats in Uttar Dinajpur like Chopra, Islampur, Goalpokhar and Chakulia that share a border with Bangladesh on one side and Bihar on another are strategically important for the BJP and TMC.At least seven of the seats in North 24 Parganas, have decade-old jute mills in places like Naihati, Bhatpara, Jagaddal and Barrackpore and come under the influence of BJP MP Arjun Singh, who was formerly with the TMC. Singh has raised the hindutva pitch in these areas that also have significant Muslim voters and have seen political violence in the past three years.The Matuas are very crucial in Bongaon Uttar, Bongaon Dakshin, Swarupnagar, Bagda and Krishnanagar Dakshin. With an estimated three million members, the community can swing the votes in 30-40 assembly seats across the state.While the BJP has promised to draft rules for the Citizenship Amendment Act soon, the TMC has questioned the delay in implementation of the promise, and regularised Matua colonies.Shantanu Thakur, the BJP MP has vouched his community’s support to the BJP citing the TMC’s opposition to the CAA as the main reason for the shift in votes of his community, a predominant dalit group known to vote en masse. Of the 43 assembly seats, nine are reserved.Eight seats in Purba Bardhaman, the largest paddy producing district of the state will vote on Thursday. Here, farmers spoke out against exploitative rice mill owners, mahajans (local money lenders) and local TMC leaders for forcing them to sell their produce at prices much lower than the MSP.In the industrial belt of Paschim Bardhaman, the defection of influential TMC leaders such as Jitendra Tiwari and Krishnendu Mukherjee to the BJP are likely to benefit the latter.The fight for Raiganj will also be interesting as Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh and JP Nadda campaigned here on the final day of the campaign. In 2019, the BJP had managed to secure the Raiganj Lok Sabha seat, although the district comprises close to 50% from the minority community.In 2016, TMC managed to win five seats, while two each went to the Congress and the Left Front. But in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, TMC could secure a lead in five assembly segments, while the BJP led in the remaining four.Political observers say this time, with the Congress and the CPM as allies, it may be a tough contest for the BJP which is why the party had intensified its campaign.High-profile candidates in this phase include BJP’s national vice president Mukul Roy, senior TMC leaders Jyotipriya Mallick and Chandrima Bhattacharya, sitting MLAs of Samyukt Morcha, Ali Imran Ramz of All India Forward Bloc and Tanmoy Bhattacharya of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).Roy, one of the architects of the BJP's rise in the state will face competition from actor and TMC candidate Koushani Mukherjee. The former TMC leader is returning to the electoral fray after two decades, after he lost in Jagatdal.
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Maharashtra govt announces strict curbs

6 hours 49 sec ago
The Maharashtra government on Wednesday issued a notification late at night making more restrictions for the state. The new restrictions allow only 15% of total staff in government offices, this includes, both central and state government as well as municipal. The state has however said that it would permit higher staff in state and central government offices provided the head of the department submits a request to the CEO of the Maharashtra State Disaster Management Authority. The orders will apply from 8Pm on 22nd April and will be enforced till 7am on 1st May.The state government has said that PSU’s Private Banks,NBFC’s, Insurance, Mediclaim compoanies other central and state government offices will have to work at 15% capacity or have not more than 5 employees whichever is more at their offices.The state government has also said that private passenger (cab aggregators) excluding buses can only ply for emergency or essential services or for ‘valid reasons’ and can carry only two people plus the driver. Inter city and Inter district travel has been restricted for private transport under the new rules and is only allowed in case of medical emergencies, essential services, or to attend funerals or severe sickness in the family. Any one flouting this order will be fined Rs 10,000.Private buses are expected to ply with only 50% passengers. Inter city and Inter district travel by private bus operators can only be done after informing the local disaster management authority and passengers alighting would have to be sent for 14 days home quarantine. The Bus service provider has to a rapid antigen test at the alighting point and the cost of it would have to be borne by the operator. The state government has said that bus operators who do not follow these rules would be fined Rs 10,000 the first time and for repeat offenders could have their licence cancelled.Local Trains and bus services have been restricted for the common people as only government, state and local municipal officials can travel in Metro, Mono and Railway services. State has also allowed those involved in medical services and those needing medical treatment and disabled to travel in trains. The notification has said that state government owned buses or Municipal run buses will have to carry only 50% of their capacity.Those using Intercity and Inter district Long distance trains and buses will be quarantined for 14 days where they alight and would also be thermally screened and these passengers could be taken to government run covid centres if there are any symptoms. Cost of the tests is to be beared by the passenger.Marriage ceremonies will have to be conducted within two hours and with not more than 25 people. Those flouting these rules would be fined Rs 50,000.
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Oxygen tank leaks at Nashik; 24 patients die

6 hours 49 sec ago
Twenty-four Covid-19 patients died at the Zakir Hussain Hospital run by the Nashik Municipal Corporation on Wednesday morning after the main liquid oxygen storage tank malfunctioned and leaked oxygen. The leak led to a drop in oxygen pressure for patients on high flow ventilators.Among over 160 patients, 24 were on ventilators when the tragedy happened. Before the toll went up to 24, health minister Rajesh Tope said 11 of the dead were men and 11 women. The incident happened when oxygen tankers were about to refill the storage tank.District collector Suraj Mandhare told journalists that an outlet of the storage tank malfunctioned and began leaking. Though the hospital officials called the fire brigade and technicians, it took almost an hour to restore the supply, by which time 22 patients died. Two died later in the day.The Maharashtra government has ordered a high-level inquiry and said that the guilty would not be spared. Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray described the incident as ‘shocking and painful’ and announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the kin of the deceased. The CM said there should not be any politics over the incident. The Nashik Municipal Corporation is administered by the BJP.Tope who visited the hospital late in the evening said that the state will prepare a SOP for management of oxygen cylinders and tankers so that such accidents do not occur. Maharashtra has had several incidents of hospitals turning into mortuaries. In January, 10 newborns died in the ICU after a fire broke out in a hospital in Bhandara. Last month, 10 Covid-19 patients died after a fire broke out in a hospital inside a mall in Bhandup.Relative said that some patients were recovering fast with eh aid of oxygen, adds PTI. There were heart-wrenching scenes as patients' condition became critical and doctors and nurses could not help in the absence of oxygen supply, one witness said. The brother of 42-year-old Pramod Walukar could not stop crying: “My brother was about to be discharged in the next two days as his condition was improving. Today when I brought him tiffin, he said he would eat later. Immediately after our conversation the hospital ran out of oxygen and within two hours my brother was dead,” he said. The relative of another victim said the hospital management was callous and must be held responsible.A woman said her mother managed a bed after two days and after it became available, she lost her life in the accident. After angry and weeping relatives demanded answers, hospital authorities had to ask the police to restrict entry into the ward. One relative claimed that there was no oxygen supply for almost two hours and if the hospital stocked oxygen cylinders, lives could have been saved.
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India assessing need for coal units till 2030: Power Secretary

6 hours 49 sec ago
India is assessing the requirement for new coal-based power plants to comfort its large renewable energy capacity addition programme by 2030, power secretary Alok Kumar told ET on Tuesday.The move comes amid international pressure to shift to green resources and the decision of top Indian companies to abandon plans of new coal-fired plants. Kumar told ET that the developed world has to support countries like India through technology and finance for bringing down the cost of electricity storage.“We are assessing the need and quantum required by 2030. It may be required to support base load while day supply will be by solar, because grid scale storage is still very expensive. However, the share of electricity generated by coal in total generation is projected to decline continuously,” he said.The power ministry has ordered the constitution of an expert committee headed by former Central Electricity Regulatory Commission chairperson Gireesh Pradhan to prepare the draft national energy policy 2021. The last such guiding policy, a roadmap to planning in the power sector, was drafted in 2005. A senior official said the shift from a power deficit economy to a power surplus economy, focus on renewable integration and electric vehicles, and deepening of the power markets had necessitated drafting a fresh national energy policy.Coal-fired power generation capacity has nearly stagnated as power producers have stopped planning new projects while a few have also shelved some projects in the pipeline due to stress in the sector, lack of power purchase tenders from states and also the country’s focus on renewable energy generation.
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India’s edible oil industry taking measures to avoid any shortage of workers

6 hours 49 sec ago
India’s edible oil industry is taking measures to avoid any shortage of workers as mustard harvesting and soybean crushing are in full swing. Increasing Covid-19 cases and imposition of tighter restrictions including lockdown in some states have created anxiety among migrant workers and the industry is seeking to allay their fears.Company executives said they are arranging food and housing for the workers in factory premises and vaccination camps for those who are aged 45 years and above so that they can work in the fields and factories. They said the companies are also organising transport for the migrant workers who want to go back to their hometowns to meet their families so that they do not face last year’s harrowing experience.“We have two factories – one at Bahadurgarh in Haryana and the other at Damtal in Himachal Pradesh. We have arranged for the stay and food for the migrant workers in our factories,” Umesh Verma, marketing head, Puri Oil Mills, told ET. “This time we are well-prepared and taking necessary actions. We do not feel there will be any prolonged lockdown this year like last year.”Mustard harvesting is currently on in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Bihar and West Bengal. “It is estimated that the country will produce around 85-90 lakh tonnes of mustard seeds this year,” said BV Mehta, executive director of the Solvent Extractors Association of India.Vijay Data, managing director at Rajasthan-based Vijay Solvex, said: “As of now, we have not faced any problem regarding availability of workers. We are talking to our workers regularly and we have organised vaccination camps for our workers who are 45 years and above. Once the government comes out with modalities for vaccination of 18 years and above, we will organise camps for the young people too.”DN Pathak, executive director of the Soybean Processors Association of India, said, “As of now, we are seeing no problems regarding availability of workers. Soybean crushing is going on in full swing. We are asking people to maintain the Covid protocol and encouraging them to get vaccinated.”India’s edible oil industry provides about one million jobs directly.Mustard harvesting has gained importance in the country in the backdrop of rising soybean oil prices.“Production has gone up for mustard seed this winter. Had it not been for mustard, our oil import bill would have shot up and definitely impacted our supply chain,” said Mehta. “The icing on the cake for our mustard farmers is that they are earning fantastic returns from their crop. This hike in oilseed prices has the potential of not only increasing our production in coming years but also helping in improving rural prosperity.”
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Ravi Shankar Prasad questions Arnab Goswami's arrest

6 hours 49 sec ago
NEW DELHI: Law Minister and senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad on Wednesday described the arrest of Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami as "seriously reprehensible, unwarranted and worrisome."He also questioned the silence of the Congress leadership when its government in Maharashtra was "blatantly suppressing freedom of press."Police on Wednesday arrested Goswami in Mumbai for allegedly abetting suicide of a 53-year-old interior designer, a police official said."The arrest of senior journalist Arnab Goswami is seriously reprehensible, unwarranted and worrisome. We had fought for freedoms of Press as well while opposing the draconian Emergency of 1975," Prasad said in a series of tweets.The arrest of senior journalist #ArnabGoswami is seriously reprehensible, unwarranted and worrisome. We had fought… https://t.co/d5fY66b1w5— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) 1604465175000He said while Congress leaders Sonia and Rahul Gandhi have attacked the Modi government "through motivated charges of attack on institutions" yet they are completely silent when their own government in Maharashtra is "blatantly suppressing freedom of Press."He claimed it to be a "textbook case of hypocrisy."Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have openly attacked @narendramodi Govt through motivated charges of attack on instit… https://t.co/TZHS3W6pFJ— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) 1604464512000"One can differ, one can debate and one can ask questions too. However arresting a journalist of the stature of Arnab Goswami by abuse of police power, because he was asking questions, is something which we all need to condemn," the Union minister said.One can differ, one can debate and one can ask questions too. However arresting a journalist of the stature of… https://t.co/uc4hEu3uA4— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) 1604463867000The ruling alliance in Maharashtra comprises the Shiv Sena, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party.
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Most BJP-ruled states announce free jabs for all

April 21, 2021 - 11:20pm
Two days after the Centre announced vaccination for all above the age of 18 years from May 1, state governments are busy finalising the modalities to place their orders. While most BJP-ruled states have announced free vaccinations, the worst-affected states like Maharashtra and Delhi are yet to take a call on pricing as well as orders for the vaccine drive.“We have not got any official communication from the Centre on this. We might get this communication by tomorrow and then formulate a plan,” DN Patil, Maharashtra Immunisation officer told ET. Maharashtra has sought the Centre’s nod to import vaccines like Sputnik, Moderna and Pfizer to vaccinate nearly 10 crore of its 12 crore population.Uttar Pradesh health minister Jai Pratap Singh told ET that more clarity needs to emerge on the pricing front. As of now, consensus has only been reached about vaccinating people free of cost. The state has 10 crore people that fall in the category of 18 years and above.In Bihar, the NDA had made an election promise to provide free vaccination to all. “We will work as per our commitment. The rates of SII have come only today,” Mangal Pandey, Bihar health minister told ET. “I have instructed the principal health secretary to work out a plan for order and by tomorrow we will move forward.”In Madhya Pradesh, a decision on free vaccination was taken during the cabinet meeting on Wednesday. A state government official told ET that they are still working on their requirements and will be able to place the order in the coming few days.Assam, another BJP-ruled state, has already announced to offer vaccines to all categories for free. State health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma posted on Twitter on Tuesday about the state placing an order for one crore doses. “We may go for pre-registration or may even allow walk in, in a staggered manner for vaccination,” Assam’s immunisation spokesperson Munindra Nath Ngatey told ET.“We will offer free vaccinations for all in the state,” Subodh Uniyal, Uttarakhand minister and government spokesperson told ET. The staterequires about 45 lakh doses of vaccines. Sources in the state health department said the government may purchase 35 lakh doses while the remaining 10 lakh would be provided by private players.The Gujarat government is still working on the modalities and an announcement by CM Vijay Rupani is expected in the next couple of days.Chhattisgarh is the first Congress-ruled state to announce vaccination for free. “It was committed in our budget and the CM has announced it,” TS Singhdeo, Chhattisgarh health minister told ET. “We will need 2.4 crores of doses and a major part of it will be ordered from SII.”A decision on vaccination pricing and other modalities is yet to be taken by states like Punjab and Rajasthan.A meeting on pricing and distribution mechanism will be taken on Thursday by Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh.Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot on Wednesday demanded free vaccination by the Centre for all above 18 years. “The medical staff administering vaccines will be the same in the state. It will not be fair that youth will be charged for vaccines while the other category above 45 years would get it for free. It would increase the anger in the youth towards the Centre,” Gehlot wrote on social media.“We will order 50 lakh doses initially,” Arun Kumar Singh, additional chief secretary, health, Jharkhand told ET. “A decision on pricing and other things is yet to be taken.”In Tamil Nadu, the health officials are firming up the vaccination strategy. “We are in the crystallization stage and in about a week or so we will have a new government. So all we can say is that the government will take care of everything,” a state government official told ET.The Jammu and Kashmir administration has decided to increase the number of inoculation centres from the existing 1,408 to around 3,000 to cater to the possible rush.“As of now, only one out of the two companies has declared its price. Let the other company come out with the price and then we will decide whether the vaccine would be given free or what percentage would be charged,” Financial Commissioner Health & Medical Education in J&K Atal Dulloo told ET.Odisha is working out modalities looking at the financial implication and the state will have to pay Rs 400 per dose for the vaccines.
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IAF Chief flags off new batch of Rafale for India

April 21, 2021 - 11:20pm
Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria on Wednesday flagged off a new batch of Rafale fighter jets from a French airbase to India. The IAF chief, who is currently on an official visit to France, also visited a Rafale aircraft training facility on the third day of his trip, and thanked the French aerospace industry for ensuring timely delivery of the jets. "Air Chief Mshl RKS Bhadauria on an official tour to France lauds pilots and sees off the next batch of Rafales on a non stop flight to India with mid air refueling by French Air force & UAE," the Indian embassy in France said on Twitter. In his brief remarks, the IAF Chief said some of the Rafale aircraft have been delivered a "little bit" ahead of time and it has contributed to the overall combat potential of the Indian Air Force (IAF). "This ferry, which is fifth from here, marks the end of the third batch of our pilots and all our maintenance crew. The Rafale training centre has provided world class training and it is because of the level and quality of training that we were able to operationalise the aircraft quickly," he said. He also thanked the French government, the French Air Force for providing the required support for the training programme, despite COVID situation, as well as for ferrying of the aircraft to India. The arrival of the new batch of the aircraft will pave the way for the IAF to raise a second squadron of the Rafale jets. The new squadron will be based in Hasimara air base in West Bengal. The first Rafale squadron is based in Ambala air force station. A squadron comprises around 18 aircraft. India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 58,000 crore. Dassault Aviation has delivered 14 jets to the Indian Air Force so far. The first batch of five Rafale jets arrived in India on July 29 last. On Tuesday, Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria held talks with Gen Philippe Lavigne, Chief of Staff of French Air and Space Force (FASF), on ways to further expand cooperation between the two sides. Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria is on a five-day visit to France from Monday.
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Free recharge messages are fake, warn telcos

April 21, 2021 - 11:20pm
Telecom companies have issued a public advisory against fake messages promising free recharge plans for online education floating on social media, which could possibly steal users’ personal data from their mobile device.“It has been brought to our notice that fake messages are being circulated by people on social media platforms with fraudulent intentions. The message falsely claims that the Government has promised 100 million users free recharge plans for online education. It encourages people to click on a link to avail the free offer,” the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) said on Wednesday. “We want to caution the public about this scam. If you get such a message, DO NOT click on the Link as it could lead to data and information theft from the mobile device, and can have other serious consequences. By simply deleting and not forwarding such message, we can together fight this menace and save others from getting cheated,” it said.COAI represents all three operators Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.
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Provide oxygen forthwith to hospitals: HC

April 21, 2021 - 11:20pm
Issuing unusually strong strictures on the Modi government and private industries, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday ordered the Centre to "forthwith" provide oxygen by whatever means to hospitals here facing shortage of the gas in treating serious COVID-19 patients, observing it “seems human life is not important for the state”."You are not exploring all avenues to augment oxygen supply. Beg, borrow or steal," the court told the Centre, and asked why is it not waking up to the gravity of the emergency situation. It also warned that certainly all hell will break loose with the stoppage of medical oxygen to the hospitals.The court was conducting an urgent hearing on a public holiday on a plea filed by Balaji Medical and Research Centre, which owns and runs various hospitals in the name of Max, stating that if supply of oxygen is not replenished on an immediate basis, the lives of the patients who are critical and on oxygen support will be endangered.“Do you want to see thousands of people dying in the country?" a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli asked, as it came down heavily on the Centre for not diverting sufficient oxygen supply from industries to hospitals.During the extraordinary hearing, the court said the responsibility to ensure oxygen supply lay squarely on the Central government's shoulders and if necessary, entire supply of oxygen to industries including steel and petroleum can be diverted for medical usage."Why is the Centre not waking up to the gravity of the situation? We are shocked and dismayed hospitals running out of oxygen but steel plants are running," the court said, and added “how the government can be so oblivious of the reality”.“There is no sense of humanity left or what? This is really really ridiculous and shocking. You are concerned about industries when people are dying. It an emergency you should realize. It seems human life is not important for the state.”The court directed the Central government to protect the fundamental right to life of citizens who are seriously ill and require medical oxygen and to supply the same by whatever means it is required.“Our concern is not just for Delhi, we want to know what the Central government is doing with regard to oxygen supply across India,” it said and added, “what is the Central government doing. If this is the situation in Delhi, we are sure it is the same in other states.”“Do you want to see thousands of people dying in the country? Is running steel plants so important and urgent?,” the bench said, and added that today, the country is facing an emergency situation where hospitals are short of oxygen which is also going to end in few hours.The court said the steel and petrochemical industries are oxygen guzzlers and diverting oxygen from there can meet requirements of hospitals."If Tatas can divert oxygen they are generating for their steel plants to medical use, why can't others? This is the height of greed. Is there no sense of humanity left or not."The court said transportation of oxygen from the place of production to the place of supply is also a challenge and time consuming activity as it is done only through highways in the normal course.“The Central government shall consider ways and means for transportation of oxygen either by creating a dedicated corridor so that the supply lines are not obstructed or even airlift it from the place of production to the place of usage,” it said.The court said heavens are not going to fall if the industries, including steel and petroleum, run on lower capacity till oxygen is imported.It said certainly all hell will break loose with the stoppage of medical oxygen for hospitals.“We are constrained to direct the Centre to forthwith implement this order and take over supply of oxygen from steel plants and if necessary also from the petroleum plants, to supply it to hospitals.”The court said such industries will have to stop their productions till the situation in hospitals improves and directed them to increase their oxygen production generated by them and give it to Centre for supply in other states for medical use.The petition said there are six Max hospitals in the national capital and NCR and are treating 1,400 COVID-19 patients.The bench was informed by the counsel for M/s Inox, which supplies oxygen to hospitals in Delhi, that certain quantity is on its way from a UP plant to Max Hospital, Patparganj here and will reach in two hours.On the apprehension that there could be some obstructions and law and order problem, the court directed the Centre that a safe passage be provided to oxygen supply from the place of production to the place of supply.
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M&M to set up a new tractor plant, scouting for land in Punjab, elsewhere

April 21, 2021 - 11:20pm
Mahindra & Mahindra, the country’s largest tractor maker, is scouting for land in Punjab, and some other states to set up a new manufacturing facility to meet future demand as its existing plants are operating over 100% capacity.“We are actively looking at an additional factory and for this we may need a land parcel of about 50 acres,” Hemant Sikka, president of farm equipment division at M&M, told ET.He said the maker of Swaraj brand of tractors is fully maxed out on capacity. The debottlenecking measures the company has taken across its manufacturing units will improve its output incrementally and help meet the demand this fiscal year. “But beyond that, we need to add a new plant,” Sikka said. “We are already in touch with several state governments and the decision is likely to be taken shortly.” According to people in the know, the new tractor plant is expected to have a minimum capacity of 50,000 units a year. The exact quantum of investment is yet to be defined as the company is deliberating over what operations to outsource or manage internally.Expert estimated that setting up a greenfield plant that can build 50,000 tractors a year would cost Rs 250-300 crore.M&M said Punjab is its preferred location for a new tractor plant. However, it said it’s in talks with a few others as well without naming any state.Indian tractor market grew 26% year on year to about 899,000 units during 2020-21 in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic and resultant lockdowns, helped by above-normal monsoon rains and the fact that rural areas were largely unaffected by the pandemic.With the meteorological department and private weather forecaster Skymet predicting normal and healthy monsoon this year, the tractor industry expects the growth momentum to continue.“An above normal monsoon is positive for growth of the agri sector and augurs well for the tractor industry,” Sikka said. “Further data on quantum and spatial distribution of rainfall will help strengthen this outlook.” M&M, though, has been struggling to keep up with its peers such as TAFE and International Tractors.The company’s volume growth trailed the overall industry by 9 percentage points last fiscal and as a result, its market share dropped by 3 percentage points to 38% in FY21 from 41% in the previous year, mainly due to supply constraints.M&M suffered higher production and supply disruptions than most its peers because of its wide production base in Maharashtra, the worst pandemic-affected state in the country.The company currently has three tractor plants across Mumbai, Zaheerabad, and Nagpur with a combined capacity of 3.6 lakh units a year, according to analyst's estimate. “In spite of working at our highest ever capacity levels, we are not able to grow at the market rate,” Sikka said. “A lot of it was because of supply chain constraints.” Poor availability of components for advanced four wheel-drive and power-steering tractors also impacted the company’s market share, particularly in the southern market.Despite a loss of market share, M&M is likely to post its highest yet profit margins for FY21. “The company even had a negative working capital cycle, which was for the first time ever in our history,” Sikka said.And the company is now keen to seize back its lost market share. “We are trying to claw back the market share this year,” Sikka said.
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Kamath committee approves Future Retail, Enterprises restructuring

April 21, 2021 - 11:20pm
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) mandated KV Kamath committee has approved banks' proposal to restructure loans to Future Retail and Future Enterprises the two main arms of the Kishore Biyani-led group, two people familiar with the process said.Banks will now implement the restucturing plan before the end of the week."The plan has been approved and we will have to complete the legal and other formalities by April 24 the last date for the restructuring according to RBI norms. April 24 will then be date for implementing the plan," said one of the two people cited above.This is the second large restructuring approved by the five member Kamath committee. Late last month it had approved a Rs 10,900 crore restructuring plan for the Shapoorji Pallonji Group.Kamath committee has been formed by RBI to scrutinise proposals of Rs 1500 crore and above under the one time restructuring plan to provide relief to companies impacted by the Covid 19 pamdemic.Lenders to Future Retail, the main brand of the Kishore Biyani-led group had approved a restructuring plan under a framework for Covid 19 related stress, the company had said in a late night exchange notification. Future Retail is the largest debtor in the group with about Rs 10,000 crore of outstanding dues. Together with two other listed companies namely Future Enterprises which holds its supply chain; and Future Lifestyle Fashions which houses apparel brands like Central and Brand Factory, the total debt of the group stands at about Rs 21,000 crore.Future Group has promised to pay banks an aggregate of Rs 6,900 crore in two tranches by the end of the fiscal mainly by selling its small format stores. The restructuring will help the group buy time and keep an alternative ready even as it awaits a judicial clearance to complete the sale of its business to Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Retail, ET had said.Late last August, Reliance Retail Ventures agreed to buy the retail assets of Future Group on a slump sale basis for about Rs 25,000 crore. However, that deal has still not been completed because US based retail giant Amazon, which owns a 49% stake in Future Coupons Pvt Ltd, a Future Group holding company, objected to the deal and approached the arbitration court in Singapore, which said it should be suspended pending a final decision. Reliance had extended the deadline to complete the Future deal till the end of September earlier this month. Future Retail's restructuring plan includes debt raised through the non-convertible debentures (NCDs) issued by the company besides bank loans. However, the 5.6% US dollar bonds issued by the company and NCDs issued to certain trusts are not part of the resolution plan. A total of 28 lenders led by Bank of India and also including foreign banks are part of the loan restructuring plan, Future Retail said. The plan for Future Retail includes repayment of short term loans, term loans, NCDs, overdue working capital loans which will converted into term loans) to be extended upto a maximum of 2 years.Lenders have also agreed on an interest moratorium between March 1, 2020 to September 30, 2021.As part of the plan lenders have agreed to waive off all penal interest and charges, default premiums, processing fees unpaid since March, 2020 to the date of the implementation of the plan.Future Enterprises restructuring also involves some non convertible debentures (NCDs) with a pre agreed coupon rate payable by 2025. About 60 to 70% of the debt from Future Enterprises is to be repaid via NCDs which have a two year straight deferement depending on when the NCDs are maturing. For example if some NCDs are maturing in 2023 they will be given time to repay by 2025. Consultancy firm EY is working on the details of the plan.
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Enjoy bizarre Dogecoin party till it all goes very wrong

April 21, 2021 - 11:20pm
By Jared DillianI’ve been either investing or writing about investing for 22 years, and I’ve seen a lot of weird stuff, but nothing as weird as Dogecoin, the lighthearted dog-themed cryptocurrency that was created as a joke. It’s now valued at more than $50 billion, exceeding Ford Motor Co. and many other companies with extensive histories. It’s not the first worthless financial instrument that I’ve seen soar to great heights—it happened to dot-com stocks at the start of my career—but the first one intentionally designed to be worthless. Elon Musk thinks this is funny. I don’t find the humor in it.These are strange times. Stock market operators who have been around for a few cycles know the sentiment implications of something like Dogecoin: time to grab the canned goods and head for the bunker. As a professional investor, common sense dictates that you should be hedging or de-risking, but there seems to be no end to fiscal and monetary stimulus. As former Citigroup Inc. Chief Executive Officer Chuck Prince infamously said in 2007 right before the subprime mortgage bubble burst and caused a financial crisis, the music is still playing, so you have to keep dancing.The comments from Prince are more profound than many people realize. Pretend it is 2007, and Prince has perfect foresight of what is going to happen to the housing market -- it is going to crash and blow up the economy. Can he realistically stop Citigroup from the lucrative business of lending against residential real estate? Can he make that case to the bank’s board of directors when every competitor is making haystacks of cash in mortgages? Can he make that case to employees, whose compensation depends on the money raked in from mortgages? Even a bank CEO is powerless to stop a powerful trend in motion.No one person has the ability to influence the market in a significant way. Prince couldn’t stop the housing bubble if he tried, just like former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan’s “irrational exuberance” speech in December 1996 didn’t prevent equities from continuing to rally to new heights. The reason why is because of reflexivity, or the idea that sentiment feeds into price, which feeds into sentiment, which feeds back into price in a feedback loop. There’s an uptrend in asset prices, we’re powerless to stop it and it feels terrible because we know this has little to do with economic fundamentals.The Fed has exabytes of data and hundreds of PhDs on staff, but it has zero ability to predict recessions. Institutional investors do a little better, but not much. After I escaped Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in 2008, I began consuming a lot of research. I read on one popular investment blog that the electronic measures of consumer price index — MIT’s Billion Prices Project and the Google Price Index — started to show deflation taking hold just hours after Lehman’s bankruptcy, which suggested that the financial crisis wasn’t priced in and was a complete surprise.This has enormous implications for markets, in that we can’t predict outcomes; all we can do is evaluate the risk, reward and expected return. There were a handful of people who identified the presence of a mortgage bubble, but few had a big enough imagination to predict the consequences. It was worse than anyone expected, except for a handful of newsletter-writing permabears. The people who were most caught off-guard were the experts.So where are our blind spots today? How could it all go wrong? When I look at Dogecoin, SPACs, Tesla Inc., GameStop Corp. and other signs of a bubble, the one thing that ties them all together is interest rates. If rates rise, these trades will implode as leverage is unwound throughout the system. One could make the argument that higher rates contributed to the bursting of the dot-com bubble. This time, rates probably wouldn’t have to go as high to cause damage. We got a small taste of that a few weeks ago when a spike in long-term bond yields caused a nasty bout of underperformance in the shares of technology companies.Still, something seems off. Speculation is everywhere, and when that happens consequences usually follow. We don’t know if we’re going to have a garden-variety correction, like the hundreds throughout history, or if it marks the start of something more serious, like the handful of damaging bear markets we have experienced in the last 100 years. A lot of people made fun of Chuck Prince for his comments about having to keep dancing while the music is still playing, but it was unintentionally sagacious in a way that would make Yogi Berra proud. The music is playing, and you must keep dancing all while hoping that you are nimble enough to get out before it is too late.
Categories: Business News

ICICI Securities Q4 results: Net profit jumps 111% to Rs 329 cr; revenue rises 53%

April 21, 2021 - 11:20pm
MUMBAI: ICICI Securities reported consolidated revenue of Rs 739 crore for the March 2021 quarter, a jump of 53% corresponding to the previous year quarter aided by strong all round performance in equities & allied business, distribution business, private wealth management business, as well as investment banking business. Consolidated profits jumped 111% to Rs 329 crore on account of growth in revenue and improvement in margins. Cost to income ratio stood at 40% in the March 2021 quarter, against 57% in the March 2020 quarter.ICICI Securities said that it has added 3.5 lakh clients in the March quarter, the highest ever addition in a quarter. Equities and allied business, which comprises equity, lending towards employee stock option plans and margin trading facility rose 46% on year-on-year basis to Rs 482 crore. Distribution revenue stood at Rs 141 crore in March 2021 quarter, up 22% against March 2020 quarter.I-Sec’s Private Wealth Management (PWM) business reported Rs 158 crore of revenue in Q4FY21 up 82% on-year. The board has declared a final dividend of Rs 13.5 per share, amounting to Rs 21.5 per share for FY21.According to Vijay Chandok, managing director and chief executive officer, the strong results are a testimony of successful implementation of the strategic vision they had articulated earlier and favorable market conditions.“We are focused on executing our strategy to digitally and seamlessly deliver highly personalized and relevant products and solutions for our customers. Towards this, are investing in building capabilities to cater to the rapidly growing segments like the millennials and Gen Z, which the company has started attracting in large proportions.”
Categories: Business News

'Efforts being ramped up for vaccine production'

April 21, 2021 - 8:20pm
Efforts are being ramped up for massive production of vaccines and make them available in the shortest possible time, a top government official said on Wednesday, stressing that India currently has a promising pipeline of four-five COVID-19 vaccine candidates, while three have already been approved for emergency use.Department of Biotechnology Secretary Renu Swarup said a financial support of Rs 400 crore is being provided to vaccine candidates from Zydus Cadilla, Biological E, Gennova and Bharat Biotech (single-dose intranasal vaccine).Her statement came days after the government widened the vaccination drive to cover everybody above the 18 years of age."There are three vaccines in India, which have been approved for Emergency Use Authorisation -- Covishield by Serum Institute of India (SII), Covaxin by Bharat Biotech International Ltd. (BBIL) and the Russian Vaccine, Sputnik-V. Besides these, there is promising pipeline of 4-5 candidates in advanced clinical stages of development," Swarup told PTI.DNA Vaccine candidate by Zydus Cadila, protein subunit vaccine candidate by BioE, mRNA vaccine candidate by Gennova, and single dose intranasal vaccine candidate by Bharat Biotech are in advanced stages of clinical trials, she said."The Department of Biotechnology has provided technical, advisory and financial support for these vaccine candidates during their early development. Now, under Mission COVID Suraksha, financial support of nearly Rs 400 crore for late stage clinical development of these vaccine candidates is being provided."The manufacturers already have existing capacities and can contribute to about 15-20 million doses per month, which can be made available for immunisation, once approved," Swarup said.Six Indian firms including Dr Reddy's will collectively produce 70 crore doses per annum of Russian vaccine Sputnik V, she added.
Categories: Business News

Focus on long term ties: China tells India

April 21, 2021 - 8:20pm
China said on Wednesday that it was committed to maintain peace and stability along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as it urged India to put the boundary issue at an "appropriate position" and meet it "halfway" for the long term development of the bilateral ties.Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said this at his media briefing as he parried questions on India's assertion that consensus reached by the leaders on maintaining peace along the border cannot be swept under the carpet.Indian Ambassador to China Vikram Misri in his recent address to the India-China dialogue forum said that the significance of the consensus reached between leaders of the two countries to maintain peace along the LAC cannot be "swept under the carpet" and called for the complete disengagement of troops in Eastern Ladakh to rebuild bilateral ties strained by the "serious incidents".In a candid address to the ICWA (Indian Council of World Affairs)-CPIFA (Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs) virtual dialogue on April 15, Misri also questioned the Chinese officials ignoring the "significant consensus" reached by the leaders of the two sides about the importance of maintaining peace along the LAC.Asked for his reaction, Wang said that both sides held in-depth and candid talks on resolving the disengagement from the remaining areas of Eastern Ladakh after the withdrawal from Pangong Tso lake area.Top Commanders of the two militaries held the 11th round of talks on April 9 to disengage the troops from Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang areas in Eastern Ladakh."On the issue of China-India boundary situation, China's position is consistent and clear. We are committed to maintaining peace and stability in the border areas and we are firmly determined to safeguard our territorial sovereignty and security," Wang said."Recently, the two sides have maintained communications through diplomatic and military channels. On the basis of disengagement in the Galwan Valley and the Pangong Tso regions, the two sides exchanged in depth and in a candid manner, opinions on resolving the remaining issue in the Western section of the boundary," he said."We hope India will meet China halfway and will focus on the bigger picture of long term development of bilateral relations, put the boundary at an appropriate position and work to bring relations back to the track of steady and sound development," he said.To a follow-up question on Misri's remarks, Wang reiterated that "we hope that India will meet China halfway and focus on the long-term development of bilateral relations, cherish the existing hard-won momentum for the de-escalation and take concrete measures to safeguard peace and tranquility along the border and work to bring bilateral relations back to the track of sound and steady development".Asked why China is not disengaging its troops from the remaining areas after the withdrawal from Pangong Tso, Wang said, "I would like to stress that recently, China and India through diplomatic and military channels maintained close communications"."On the basis of realising disengagement in the Galwan Valley and Pangong Tso, the two sides held candid and in-depth exchange of views on resolving remaining issues in the Western section of the boundary,” he said."We hope that the Indian side will abide by the agreements between the two militaries and consensus of the two sides and take concrete measures to safeguard peace and tranquility along the border," he said.In his address, Misri said the "sustainable solution" to the "present difficulties" in the Sino-India relations is "it must be one, as External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar has suggested, that is based on mutual sensitivity and respect and paves the way for maximizing our mutual interests"."The first is to note the importance of the two sides having maintained a sustained diplomatic and military dialogue in attempting to resolve issues. These discussions thus far have helped in achieving substantial disengagement of our forces,” he said."The second is to point out that senior leaders on both sides have committed and agreed that we must achieve complete disengagement in all friction areas. That would be an important first step towards considering de-escalation; it would also help in restoring peace and tranquility and, together, these would provide conditions for gradual and step-by-step progress in the bilateral relationship,” he said."This is also what would begin to restore trust and confidence in the relationship and help us rebuild the foundation of the relationship that was damaged through last year's actions in Eastern Ladakh," Misri had said.
Categories: Business News

Farm exports up 16.88% in Apr-Feb FY21

April 21, 2021 - 8:20pm
India exported agricultural commodities worth Rs 2.74 lakh crore till February of the 2020-21 fiscal, up by 16.88 per cent from Rs 2.31 lakh crore in the year-ago period, notwithstanding the pandemic, the agriculture ministry said on Wednesday. Similarly, imports of agriculture and allied commodities increased by 3 per cent to Rs 1,41,034 crore during April-February period of 2020-21 from 1,37,014 crore in the year-ago period. Despite COVID-19, balance of trade in agriculture has favourably increased to Rs 1,32,579.69 crore from Rs 93,907.76 crore in the said period."India has consistently maintained trade surplus in the agricultural products over the years. ...Even during the difficult time of the pandemic, India took care not to disturb the world food supply chain and continued to export," the agriculture ministry said in a statement. During April-February of the 2020-21 fiscal, the country exported agri-commodities worth Rs 2.74 lakh crore as against Rs 2.31 lakh crore in the same period of the previous year. Among agri-commodities exported, wheat shipments rose in terms of value to Rs 3,283 crore in April-February from Rs 425 crore in the year-ago period. On specific demand from countries, NAFED has exported 50,000 tonnes wheat to Afghanistan and 40,000 tonnes to Lebanon under government-to-government arrangement. In case of non-basmati rice export, the ministry said the shipments increased to Rs 30,277 crore in April-February of 2020-21 from Rs 13,030 crore in the year-ago period. This increase in rice exports was on account of multiple factors, mainly India capturing new markets like Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, Brazil, Chile, and Puerto Rico. Exports were also made to Togo, Senegal, Malaysia, Madagascar, Iraq, Bangladesh, Mozambique, Vietnam, Tanzania and Madagascar, it said. Soyameal exports rose to Rs 7,224 crore till February of the 2020-21 fiscal from Rs 3,087 crore earlier. Spices, raw cotton, fresh and processed vegetables are some other commodities that witnessed positive growth in the said period. India's agricultural and allied exports during the entire 2019-20 fiscal was Rs 2.52 lakh crore, while imports were at Rs 1.47 lakh crore.
Categories: Business News

Brace for hike in petrol, diesel prices post polls

April 21, 2021 - 8:20pm
Petrol and diesel prices may increase soon at the end of the ongoing Assembly elections with oil companies looking to raise the retail price of the two auto fuels between Rs 2 and Rs 3 per litre in phases and make up for the losses they incurred by keeping the prices at artificially low levels in the run up to the local elections.Government sources said that oil companies are making losses to the tune of Rs 3 and Rs 2 per litre on sale of petrol and diesel, respectively, due to rise in global crude prices that also impacted the international product prices. This would need to be compensated through gradual increase in petrol and diesel retail prices over few days before the fuel is brought at par with the global market rates. Petrol and diesel prices have not been raised since February 27, but actually the prices of auto fuels have fallen on four occasions in March and April, bringing petrol prices down by 77 paisa per litre and diesel by 74 paisa per litre in the national capital. The fall has come even though the average Indian basket crude price stood at around $61.22 in February, at a lower than average of $64.73 in March and averaging close to $66 a barrel in April so far. Though the retail price of petrol and diesel price is determined on the basis of 15-day rolling average of product price globally, downward revision of retail prices have resulted in OMCs running in losses on sale of the two products and would not wait anymore post the elections to revise the pump prices upwards. There is, however, a caveat. The revision would depend on indications coming from the government. A source at a public sector oil company said that a stronger rupee would make crude cheaper for companies and hence actual adjustment in retail prices of petrol and diesel may not be heavier. But it would all depend how rupee settles against the dollar in April."Oil PSUs have avoided hiking oil prices in tandem with global crude rates for more than a month now and the pattern may well continue till the end of the month, when the state elections get over. So, it would not come as a surprise if domestic oil prices witness a sharp spike after the election season comes to a close, unless the Centre issues fresh advisory to stagger the required hike to prevent a public outrage amid the raging pandemic," said an energy sector expert of a global audit and consulting firm, who did not wish to be named.The OMCs have been soft on increasing petrol and diesel prices since the beginning of March 2021 when election dates for the states were announced. In fact, they went in for price cut for the first time this year on two consecutive days - March 24 and 25 - after keeping oil prices steady for the past 24 days. It again reduced the price on March 30. Thereafter, fuel prices have remained unchanged for the past 15 days before falling again on April 15.Earlier, petrol and diesel prices were increased 26 times in 2021 with the two auto fuels increasing by Rs 7.46 and Rs 7.60 per litre, respectively, so far this year.The price increase has taken the retail price of premium petrol to over Rs 100 a litre in Mumbai and several other cities across the country. Even normal petrol is close to or had crossed that level in February. Assembly elections have been held in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry, while the final phase of polling in West Bengal will be held on April 29. All results will be declared on May 2.
Categories: Business News

COVID severity in 2nd wave same as 1st wave

April 21, 2021 - 8:20pm
The health ministry on Wednesday released a slew of comparative data, showing that the severity, virulence and demography of the victims in the ongoing second wave of COVID-19 are about the same as the first wave.Addressing a press conference, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said 146 districts reported COVID-19 positivity rate of more than 15 per cent, while 274 districts reported case positivity between 5 and 15 per cent.The release of the statistics follows growing panic in the country over concerns that the second wave is somehow more powerful and could cause greater havoc.According to the figures shared by Bhushan, 4.03 per cent COVID-19 cases were reported in the first wave in those below 10 years, while 2.97 per cent cases were registered in the second wave."In the age group 10-20 years, 8.07 per cent COVID-19 cases were reported in the first wave, while 8.50 per cent cases were registered in the second wave. In the age group 20-30 years, 20.41 per cent cases were reported in the first wave, while 19.35 per cent cases ere registered in the second wave," he said.On being asked "how did we miss such a huge impending second wave and why it has caught us unawares", Bhushan said, "Today is not the time to go into why did we miss or did we miss, did we prepare. Today is the time to jointly face the pandemic and once we emerge from it successfully, then probably with the advantage of hindsight sitting with you and other experts we would be able to deliberate on this.""Today all the energies of the Union and the state government are focused in a collaborative manner to tackle this, save precious lives and to ensure our health system is strengthened," he added.Bhushan further shared data which showed that in those aged 30 and above, 67.5 per cent COVID-19 cases were reported in the first wave, while 69.18 per cent cases registered in second wave.In the age group 30-40 years, 21.05 per cent COVID-19 cases were reported in the first wave, while 21.15 per cent cases were registered in the second wave.While 17.16 per cent cases were reported in the first wave in the 40-50 years age group, 17.50 per cent cases were registered in the second wave.In the age group 50-60 years, 14.80 per cent cases were reported in the first wave and 15.07 per cent cases in the second wave.In the 60-70 years age group, 9.01 per cent cases were reported in the first wave and 9.99 per cent cases in the second.At least 4.17 per cent cases were reported in the 70-80 years age group in the first wave, while 4.19 per cent cases were registered in the second wave.In the age group of above 80 years, 1.31 per cent cases were reported in the first wave, while 1.28 per cent cases were registered in the second wave.Age-wise comparison of deaths in 2020 and 2021 showed that 0.27 per cent COVID-19 deaths were reported in the first wave in those below 10 years, while 0.34 per cent fatalities were registered in the second wave.In the age group 10-20 years, 0.53 per cent deaths were reported in the first wave and 0.31 per cent in the second wave.In the 20-30 years age group, 2.08 per cent deaths were reported in the first wave, while 1.72 per cent fatalities were registered in the second wave.At least 5.27 per cent deaths were reported in the 30-40 years age group in the first wave, while 5.39 per cent fatalities were registered in the second wave.In the age group 40-50 years, 11.98 per cent deaths were reported in the first wave, while 10.82 per cent fatalities were registered in the second wave.In the age group 50-60 years, 23.29 per cent deaths were reported in the first wave, while 21.23 per cent fatalities were registered in the second wave.While 28.76 per cent deaths were reported in the 60-70 years age group in the first wave, 28.21 per cent fatalities were registered in the second wave.In the 70-80 years age group, 19.99 per cent deaths were reported in the first wave and 22.17 per cent fatalities registered in the second wave.Then in the over 80 years bracket, 7.82 per cent deaths were reported in the first wave and 9.81 per cent fatalities registered in the second wave.
Categories: Business News

France to impose 10-day quarantine for Indians

April 21, 2021 - 8:20pm
France will impose a 10-day quarantine for travellers arriving from India in the coming days to prevent the spread of a worrying Covid-19 variant that is hammering Indian hospitals, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said Wednesday.The move comes a few days after Paris announced a ban on all flights from Brazil to stave off the P1 coronavirus variant, and required quarantines for passengers on flights from Argentina, Chile and South Africa.
Categories: Business News

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