Today's top business news: Vodafone Idea pays Rs 1,000 crore, passenger vehicle sales fall in January, gold hits 7-year peak and more

Vodafone Idea on February 15 said it is assessing the amount that can be paid towards AGR dues, even as it flagged concerns over the continuation of its business. File

Vodafone Idea on February 15 said it is assessing the amount that can be paid towards AGR dues, even as it flagged concerns over the continuation of its business. File   | Photo Credit: AP

News updates from the world of economy, markets, and finance

3:30 PM

Nifty, Sensex close with losses

The stock indices that opened marginally low in the morning gained as much as 0.2% at their intra-day high.

The Nifty and the Sensex were down as much 0.4% during the final hour of trading on heavy selling before closing the day down 0.35%.

3:25 PM

India set to import record LNG volumes as spot prices slump on virus impact

India is set to import record volumes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) this month, data shows, taking advantage of the super-chilled fuel's price hitting all-time lows due to the coronavirus outbreak dampening demand in China.

The South Asian nation is estimated to import about 2.36 million tonnes in February, shiptracking data from Refinitiv Eikon showed. That would exceed India's LNG imports in October of about 2.3 million tonnes, the previous highest monthly total.

The country's annual LNG imports is expected to rise by 10%-15% this year, said Poorna Rajendran of consultancy firm FGE.

“The low spot prices are creating some downstream demand especially from the city-gas sector,” a source familiar with LNG imports into India told Reuters. Reuters

3:20 PM

Co-living, co-working, student housing can generate 7-11 pc rental yield: Report

Co-living, co-working and student housing, which are emerging segments in the Indian real estate sector, have the potential to generate rental yield of 7-11 per cent, according to a report by CII and Anarock.

The report, titled ‘Emerging Asset Classes: The Future Looks Promising’, was released at the 2nd CII Real Estate Confluence here on Thursday. It delves into these highly promising new Indian real estate asset classes and explores their growth drivers as well as the underlying opportunities for investors and other real estate stakeholders.

“Co-living, student housing and co-working have rental yields of anywhere between 7 per cent and 11 per cent -- a significant step-up from the 3 per cent national average rental yield of traditional housing formats,” Anarock Chairman Anuj Puri said. PTI

3:15 PM

MG Motor India’s SUV Hector bookings cross 50,000 units

MG Motor India on Thursday said bookings for its SUV Hector have crossed 50,000 units in just eight months since its launch, and plans to launch six-seater version of the model later this year.

The model has already sold nearly 20,000 units since its entry into India last year.

MG Motor India Chief Commercial Officer Gaurav Gupta said, “The Hector continues its strong momentum in the Indian market crossing the 50,000-mark in terms of bookings received in just eight months since its launch.”

He further said the company continues to accelerate the momentum by opening new brand outlets closer to prospective customers in tier-I and tier-II cities. PTI

3:10 PM

Coronavirus may drag global GDP by 1 percentage point if containment delayed beyond June: Report

The cascading effect of coronavirus epidemic might cause a drag of about a percentage point on global GDP growth, if the containment is delayed beyond June, a report said in Thursday.

According to the report by Dun & Bradstreet, the outbreak of coronavirus is already having a considerable impact on the Chinese economy, and its implications will increase for global businesses with operations or suppliers in the region.

On January 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a global health emergency.

Typically, there is a slowdown in the Chinese business activity during late-January on account of the Lunar New Year holidays. This is generally factored into the inventory planning by global businesses, hence, the impact on them has so far been muted, the report said. PTI

3:00 PM

Vodafone Idea's condition extremely precarious: Citi

Vodafone Idea’s situation remains extremely precarious given its net debt/EBITDA of 20 times, analyst firm Citi has said in a report.

The company has admitted that its ability to continue as a going concern remains at risk in the absence of relief on its over $6billion AGR liability. While some green shoots were visible in 3Q (+2 per cent qoq revenue growth, 4G sub adds accelerated, tariff hike benefits to be visible from 4Q), this could come to naught without any relief.

The company has, for now, announced that it intends to make a part—payment towards its dues shortly (quantum still being assessed), the report said.

The risks Vodaofne Idea currently faces are that the company being made to bear the entire AGR liability, depressed India mobile revenues resulting from competitive intensity worsening and increase in subscriber churn and lower than expected pace of 4G subscriber additions. IANS

2:50 PM

Coronavirus: Firms need to rethink existing supply chain route

The coronavirus outbreak and its massive impact on the economy has ringed the bell to immediately rethink existing supply chain scenario as established strategies only work when they are not disrupted, a new report emphasised on Thursday.

The cost of poor planning for supply chain disruption is measured in hundreds of millions of dollars and it is time for conventional supply chain thinking to be revisited, said global management consulting firm Kearney in its report titled “Coronavirus and the impact on global supply chains”. IANS

2:40 PM

Euro zone yields slip on economic, coronavirus worries

Euro zone bond yields edged lower early Thursday as concern about a euro zone economic slowdown and damage to Asian growth from China's coronavirus kept core yields near two-week lows.

Worries about the euro zone's economy after a string of weak data have kept safe-haven government debt like Germany's well-supported. New data arrive on Friday, when purchasing managers indexes and euro zone inflation numbers are released.

The effects of the coronavirus on the euro zone economy are still unknown, but yields have already priced in much of the outlook for the region, particularly in Germany, said Jan von Gerich, an analyst at Nordea.

“It seems like the lower yields already account for the weakening outlook,” he said. “The problem for yields to go even lower is that the ECB (European Central Bank) doesn't seem keen on any more easing. The bulk of the slowdown is priced in.” Reuters

2:30 PM

Tata Realty appoints Ritesh Sachdev as senior VP, head for commercial leasing

Tata Realty and Infrastructure Ltd (TRIL), a subsidiary of Tata Sons, on Thursday announced the appointment of Ritesh Sachdev as senior vice-president and head (commercial leasing and asset management).

Prior to this, Sachdev was associated with Colliers International as the head of occupier services (India) and Managing Director (South India). He has over 20 years of experience in the real estate sector.

“The commercial real estate sector in India is on the path of unprecedented growth. We, at TRIL, have already aligned our business strategy towards these developments in the commercial real estate sector. PTI

2:20 PM

China's outstanding total social financing up 10.7% y/y at end-Jan

China's outstanding total social financing (TSF) was at 256.36 trillion yuan ($36.6 trillion) at the end of January, up 10.7% from a year earlier, the central bank said on Thursday.

TSF includes off-balance-sheet forms of financing that exist outside the conventional bank lending system, such as initial public offerings, loans from trust companies and bond sales.

In January, TSF was at 5.07 trillion yuan, up from 2.103 trillion yuan in December. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected January TSF of 4.3 trillion yuan. Reuters

2:10 PM

Udemy secures $50 million investment from Benesse Holdings

Edu-tech platform Udemy on Thursday said Benesse Holdings has agreed to invest USD 50 million (about Rs 358 crore) in the company.

The deal values Udemy at USD 2 billion, according to a company statement.

The company plans to further invest in markets around the world and will expand its San Francisco headquarters as well as grow its offices in Denver, Colorado; Dublin, Ireland; Gurgaon, India; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Ankara, Turkey, it added.

Udemy’s investors include Insight Partners, Prosus (Naspers Ventures), Norwest Venture Partners, and Stripes.

Benesse is an important (long-time) strategic partner for Udemy, and this investment is a testament to the strength of our relationship and the opportunity ahead of us, Udemy CEO Gregg Coccari said. PTI

2:00 PM

Vodafone Idea pays Rs 1,000 crore to telecom dept towards dues

Vodafone Idea on Thursday paid Rs 1,000 crore more to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) towards its statutory dues, a senior official said.

The company had paid Rs 2,500 crore to the government towards adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues on Monday. In all, it owes Rs 53,000 crore to the telecom department.

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1:45 PM

Gold eases, but holds near 7-year peak as virus impact weighs

Gold prices dipped on Thursday after China unveiled measures to soften the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, but the metal held close to a nearly seven-year peak scaled in the previous session as concerns over the epidemic prevailed.

Spot gold was down 0.2% at $1,608.96 per ounce, as of 0550 GMT. U.S. gold futures were flat at $1,611.90.

“It seems to be a bit more corrective mostly because ... it's not just in gold that we are seeing a bit of a walk-back in risk-off dynamics, but across a variety of assets,” said DailyFx currency strategist Ilya Spivak. Reuters

1:30 PM

China steel, iron ore futures rise after rate cut, drop in virus cases

China's steel futures climbed on Thursday on expectations that Beijing's measures to prop up a virus-hit economy will help revive demand for the manufacturing and construction material.

The optimism added fuel to a rally in iron ore prices that was initially driven by worries about tightening supplies of the steelmaking raw material from Australia and Brazil.

The latest measure is a cut in the benchmark lending rate on Thursday to lower financing costs for businesses hurting from shutdowns and lockdowns intended to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

The Shanghai Futures Exchange's most-traded construction steel rebar contract, with May expiry, ended 2.1% higher at 3,460 yuan ($493.38) a tonne.

Hot-rolled steel coil, used in cars and home appliances, jumped 1.5% to 3,455 yuan a tonne. Reuters

1:15 PM

UBS names ING chief Hamers to head Swiss banking giant

UBS has named ING Group CEO Ralph Hamers to succeed Sergio Ermotti as head of the Swiss banking giant.

The Dutchman will join UBS as a member of the bank’s executive board on September 1 “in order to ensure a smooth leadership transition” before taking over the reins as chief executive officer on November 1.

“Ralph is the right CEO to lead our business into its next chapter,” UBS chairman Axel Weber said in a statement late Wednesday.

Hamers, 53, joined ING Group in 1991 and has been chief executive since 2013. PTI

1:00 PM

Global LNG demand expected to double by 2040 to 700 million tonnes: Shell

Global demand for liquefied natural gas (LNG) is expected to double to 700 million tonnes by 2040 as gas will continue to play an important role in a lower-carbon energy system, Royal Dutch Shell's annual market outlook said on Thursday.

Global LNG demand grew by 12.5% to 359 million tonnes last year. Asia is expected to remain the dominant region in the decades to come, with South and South-East Asia generating more than half of the increased demand, the report said. Reuters

12:45 PM

Shanghai banks issue 1.31 billion yuan in cheap loans amid virus outbreak

Banks in Shanghai have issued 1.31 billion yuan ($186.74 million) in cheap loans to 48 key firms to help tackle a coronavirus outbreak that has dampened economic activity, a local government official said on Wednesday.

The bank loans had an average interest rate of 2.35%, and were made mostly to manufacturers, medical suppliers and equipment makers, Li Jun, deputy director of the Shanghai Financial Service Office, told a news briefing.

China's benchmark loan prime rate (LPR) is 4.05%. Reuters

12:30 PM

Thomas Cook (India) shares hit upper circuit on share buyback buzz

Shares of Thomas Cook (India) were locked in the upper circuit on Thursday ahead of a meeting to consider and approve proposal for buyback of equity shares of the company.

The stock opened on a positive note at Rs 44 and gained momentum to hit its upper circuit at Rs 49.30, up 19.95 per cent over previous close.

On the NSE, the stock zoomed 20 per cent (its upper price band) to Rs 49.50. PTI

12:15 PM

Yuan falls to over 2-month low as China cuts lending benchmark

The yuan weakened to a more than two-month low against the dollar on Thursday after China lowered its lending benchmark rate to prop up an economy hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

The benchmark loan prime rate (LPR) was cut, as widely expected on Thursday, but many investors expect authorities to roll out more powerful monetary easing measures in the near-term to support business and factory activity.

While the expected easing drove equity markets higher, it is also likely to leave the yuan under pressure, traders said. The onshore yuan opened at 7.0100 per dollar and weakened to a low of 7.0289 at one point in morning trade, the softest level since Dec. 12. As of midday, it was changing hands at 7.0235, 258 pips weaker than the previous late session close. Reuters

12:00 PM

Paytm Mall ventures into exports, eyes ₹500 crore GMV in 2 years

E-commerce platform Paytm Mall on Wednesday said it ventured into exports with the aim of becoming India’s largest trading house for “Made in India” products, while targeting ₹500 crore gross merchandise value (GMV) in the first two years of its operations.

“We have entered into exports with an objective to offer a range of Indian products across the global markets with super efficiency,” Sanjeev Misra, Senior Vice President, Paytm Mall, said in a statement.

“Our efforts are to become the single largest gateway for global consumers to buy made in India products. We have a well-established network of suppliers and are deploying our team across the geography,” Misra added.

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11:50 PM

SBI's credit card business IPO to open on March 2

The $1.25 billion initial public offering (IPO) of SBI Cards and Payment Services, the credit card arm of State Bank of India (SBI), will open on March 2, according to its prospectus.

The company plans to issue new shares worth 5 billion rupees and will offer up to 130.5 million shares for sale, the prospectus, dated Feb. 18, showed.

The bidding process will close on March 5. Reuters

11:40 AM

Trump economist says 'uncertainty' from trade disputes hit business investment

A slowdown in U.S. growth last year was at least partly the fault of President Donald Trump's global trade battles and the resulting hit to business investment, the administration's top economist said on Thursday in an outlook for the coming years.

“Once we got renegotiation of trade agreements, we saw uncertainty in the market, and investment took a hit,” Tomas Philipson, acting chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, said in a briefing with reporters about the CEA's annual Economic Report of the President.

Philipson said the CEA had only done internal estimates of the impact but referred journalists to a Federal Reserve study that said trade uncertainty may have reduced growth in U.S. and world gross domestic products by as much as 1%. Reuters

11:30 AM

Chidambaram slams Centre’s move to make crop insurance voluntary

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Thursday termed as “retrograde” the decision of the Centre to make crop insurance voluntary and said there can be nothing more anti-farmer.

He said more cropped area needs to be brought under crop insurance and the decision will reduce coverage putting millions of farmers at risk.

“Another example of the BJP government’s shortsightedness and misplaced priorities,” he charged.

“Nothing can be more anti-farmer than the central government’s decision to reduce its contribution to the Crop Insurance Scheme,” he said. PTI

11:15 AM

Sterlite Technologies shares jump over 7%

Shares of Sterlite Technologies surged over 7 per cent on Thursday after the company received an order worth Rs 1,500 crore.

The stock opened at Rs 111 and gained 7.2 per cent to touch a high of Rs 119 on the BSE. Later, it was trading at Rs 115.65 per unit, up 4.19 per cent.

On the NSE, the scrip rose as much as 6.97 per cent to Rs 118.80. It was trading 3.96 per cent higher at Rs 115.45.

The company on Wednesday said it has won orders worth Rs 1,500 crore. PTI

11:00 AM

Rupee slips 26 paise to 71.80 against US dollar in opening trade

The Indian rupee declined by 26 paise to 71.80 against the US dollar in opening trade on Thursday amid muted opening in domestic equities and rising crude oil prices.

Besides, as investor sentiments remained fragile amid coronavirus fears and sustained foreign fund outflows.

The death toll from the coronavirus epidemic in China has climbed to 2,118 with the death of 114 more people, while the overall confirmed cases increased to 74,576, Chinese officials said on Thursday.

The rupee opened weak at 71.75 at the interbank forex market and then fell further to 71.80, down 26 paise over its last close. PTI

10:50 AM

Modi government in denial of slowdown: Manmohan

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday said the Narendra Modi government was in denial of the economic slowdown and its target of making India a $5 trillion economy by 2024-25 was “wishful thinking”.

He was speaking at the release of Backstage: The Story behind India’s High Growth Years , authored by former Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

Dr. Singh also spoke about the challenges to the opening up of the economy during the 1991 crisis, and acknowledged the crucial role played by Mr. Ahluwalia and P. Chidamabaram, who was then Commerce Minister.

“We have today a government that does not acknowledge that there is such a word as slowdown. I think this is not good for our country because if you don’t recognise the problems that you face, you are not likely to find credible answers to take corrective action,” he said.

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10:40 AM

GST biggest madness of the century: Subramanian Swamy

BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy on Tuesday described the Goods and Services Tax (GST) as the ‘biggest madness’ of 21st century and called for radical reforms like abolishing income tax to achieve 10 per cent growth rate to make the country an economic superpower by 2030.

He said the country has to do something radical given the last one year of economic crisis.

The BJP leader exuded confidence that by 2030 India will become the most developed country and challenge the US, but said for this the country will have to grow at 10 per cent per annum.

He was delivering a talk on “India: An Economic Superpower by 2030”, organised here by the Pragna Bharati. IANS

10:30 AM

US trade deficit with India sign of strength, Trump doesn't understand this: NYU economist

US President Donald Trump’s worry about trade deficits with countries like India “does not make much sense” and he should instead see it as a sign of American strength, a top economist from the New York University’s Stern School of Business told IANS here.

“A lot of economists look at trade as ships going back and forth carrying cars and TV sets and grain and soybeans and they say well, that’s what’s really important, and the trade deficit is just a spin—off. But you could look at it another way and I say that maybe the finance is more important than the trade,” NYU’s Richard Sylla told IANS here on Wednesday in response to a question on an elusive India—US trade deal that’s been dogged by escalating tensions and constantly shifting goalposts.

Sylla is Chairman of the Board, Museum of American Finance and Professor Emeritus of Economics at New York University Stern School of Business

Sylla explained that America may simply have to run a trade deficit “in order to allow people in other countries to get the dollars to buy our stocks”. IANS

10:15 AM

IMF chief urges G20 nations to take actions on trade, climate

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva on Wednesday urged the Group of 20 (G20) economies to take further actions to reduce uncertainties.

“I believe there are three areas where the finance ministers and central bank governors can make progress in providing more certainty about future actions during the G20 meetings in Saudi Arabia: Trade, Climate, and Inequality,” Georgieva said in a blog post prior to the upcoming G20 meetings scheduled later this week, the Xinhua news agency reported.

The IMF chief noted that the China—US phase—one economic and trade agreement eliminated some of the immediate negative consequences for global growth, but the world still needs a modern global trading system that can unleash the full potential of services and e—commerce while protecting intellectual property rights. IANS

10:00 AM

India Fintech Festival postponed due to coronavirus outbreak

The coronavirus outbreak has resulted in the Union and Maharashtra governments on Wednesday deciding to postpone the ‘India Fintech Festival’, scheduled to take place early next month.

The festival, which aims to establish the financial capital as an important centre for the upcoming financial technologies stream, was scheduled to take place from March 4-5.

No new dates have been announced by the organisers. PTI

9:45 AM

Sensex, Nifty open marginally lower

Ashish Rukhaiyar reports:

Equities traded marginally lower during the first hour of the trading session on Thursday amidst an overall weak trend in the Asian markets as Japan reported two deaths on account of coronavirus and South Korea also reported a ruse in such cases.

At 9:30, the 30-share was trading at 41,313.78, down 9.22  points or 0.02%. The broader Nifty was almost unchanged at 12,125.70.

Elsewhere in Asia, the benchmarks of Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan were also trading lower during the day. Back in India, the market breadth was slightly positive with nearly 750 stocks in the green as against 466 declines.

9:30 AM

Govt should offer one-time settlement to telcos for principal due amount, waive penalties: Garg

Former finance secretary Subhash Chandra Garg on Wednesday said the government should offer a one-time settlement scheme to the telecom companies to pay the principal due amount as per the AGR definition and waive the penal interest and penalties.

The massive Rs 1.47 lakh crore of adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues are pushing telecom firms to the brink.

In a blog titled ‘Rebuilding Telecom Business in India’, Garg said the telecom crisis in India is not just limited to AGR-related issues. PTI

9:20 AM

Fitch sees tough operating environment for Indian FIs

India’s financial institutions would continue to face difficult operating environment amid the macro—economic slowdown and weak funding conditions, Fitch Ratings said here on Wednesday.

Fitch expects India’s real gross domestic product (GDP) growth to slow to 4.6 per cent in FY20 from 6.8 per cent in FY19, led by a squeeze in credit availability from non—bank financial institutions (NBFIs) and deterioration in business and consumer confidence. It expects a modest rebound to 5.6 per cent in FY21.

“Funding conditions are likely to remain weak and Indian FIs risk—averse in the year ahead — in line with Fitch’s negative sector outlook for both banks and NBFIs,” the report said.

According to the report, the asset—quality tensions may intensify, if stresses on non—banks, real estate and SMEs remained unresolved. IANS

9:10 AM

Indian Bank eyes lending to start-ups

Public sector lender Indian Bank is mulling the option of lending a helping hand to start-ups, said a top official.

“Instead of lending Rs. 100 crore to corporates, which carries a higher risk, let us give Rs. 10 crore each to 10 start-ups, where the risk is less and spread out,” said Padmaja Chunduru, managing director and chief executive officer, Indian Bank.

The idea to help start-ups, as a new activity, emerged at one of the town hall meetings Ms. Chunduru had with the officials of Allahabad Bank and Indian Bank in the last few months. Allahabad Bank is set to merge with Indian Bank on March 31.

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9:00 AM

Swiggy raises $113 million from investors led by Prosus

Food ordering and delivery platform Swiggy on Wednesday said it has raised USD 113 million (over Rs 805 crore) in the latest funding round led by existing investor Prosus NV.

Meituan Dianping and Wellington Management Company also participated in the funding round.

Having grown beyond food delivery, the company aims to use the funds to further develop its new lines of business, addressing visible gaps in the market, Swiggy said in a statement.

The company will continue to invest in new growth areas (Stores, Go and SuprDaily) as it delivers on its promise of bringing unparalleled convenience to the lives of urban consumers, it added. PTI

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Printable version | Mar 29, 2020 3:41:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/business/businesslive-20-feb-2020/article30867155.ece

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