Today's top business news: Stocks pare gains, bidding for spectrum auction to start from March 1, petrol price at all-time high, and more

People walk past the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) building in Mumbai, India. (Photo for representation)   | Photo Credit: AP

The benchmark stock indices opened the day on a  positive note this morning making back losses from yesterday.

Join us as we follow the top business news through the day.

4:30 PM

Markets untroubled by violent protests

4:00 PM

Sensex slips 81 points; Nifty holds 14,100 level

Stocks lost all morning gains to end with losses.

PTI reports: "Equity benchmark Sensex slipped 81 points on Thursday, weighed by selling in IT, banks and consumption stocks despite a firm trend in global markets.

The 30-share BSE index ended 80.74 points or 0.17 per cent lower at 48,093.32. The broader NSE Nifty fell 8.90 points or 0.06 per cent to 14,137.35.

Titan was the top loser in the Sensex pack, shedding around 2 per cent, followed by Nestle India, HUL, HCL Tech, Infosys, ITC and Kotak Bank.

On the other hand, Bharti Airtel, IndusInd Bank, Axis Bank, Bajaj Finserv and L&T were among the gainers.

"After the US Democrats won the Georgia Senate, global cues were positive in morning trade. Afternoon trade, however, saw profit-taking in FMCG stocks despite which we saw a close above 48K led by financials and metals," said S Ranganathan, Head of Research at LKP Securities.

Elsewhere in Asia, bourses in Shanghai, Tokyo and Seoul ended on a positive note, while Hong Kong was in the red.

Stock exchanges in Europe were largely trading with gains in early deals.

Meanwhile, the global oil benchmark Brent crude was trading 0.02 per cent lower at USD 54.29 per barrel."

3:30 PM

Rupee plunges 20 paise to end at 73.31 against US dollar

A bad day for the rupee.

PTI reports: "The rupee dived 20 paise to settle at 73.31 (provisional) against the US dollar on Thursday, tracking muted domestic equities and a rebound in the American currency.

At the interbank forex market, the domestic unit opened flat at 73.10 against the greenback. It swung between a low of 73.31 and a high of 73.08 during the session. It finally settled at 73.31, down 20 paise against its previous close.

On Wednesday, the rupee had settled at 73.11 against the American currency.

Meanwhile, the dollar index, which gauges the greenback's strength against a basket of six currencies, rose 0.26 per cent to 89.75.

On the domestic equity market front, the BSE Sensex ended 80.74 points or 0.17 per cent lower at 48,093.32, while the broader NSE Nifty declined 8.90 points or 0.06 per cent to 14,137.35.

Foreign institutional investors were net sellers in the capital market as they offloaded shares worth Rs 483.64 crore on a net basis on Wednesday, according to provisional exchange data.

Brent crude futures, the global oil benchmark, advanced 0.13 per cent to USD 54.37 per barrel."

3:00 PM

Private sector willing to partner with govt for accelerating COVID-19 vaccine administration: FICCI

Where the private sector could chip in when it comes to vaccine distribution.

PTI reports: "The private sector is willing to support and augment government's capacity across the value chain of COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration, industry body FICCI on Thursday said.

In this regard, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) has submitted a detailed plan outlining what support private sector, including healthcare, can provide, through the FICCI-EY Strategy paper on 'Protecting India - Public Private Partnership for vaccinating against COVID-19'. The strategy paper was submitted to the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC) last month.

"Given that we are on the verge of launching the largest ever and a complex vaccination programme, effective partnerships and seamless collaborations will be pivotal for its success. We hope that the government has taken note of the intent and commitment from private sector players for accelerating the process of targeted vaccination across the country," FICCI Chair Health Services Committee and Chairman Medica Group of Hospitals Alok Roy said in a statement.

The FICCI-EY paper, that was developed in consultation with various stakeholders from healthcare, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, logistics, cold chain and allied sectors, states that India would need 1.3-1.4 lakh vaccination centres, 1 lakh healthcare professionals and 2.0 lakh support staff/ volunteers to support government's mass-inoculation programme.

Private healthcare sector, responsible for almost 70 per cent of healthcare delivery in the country, can adequately supplement the physical and human infrastructure supply in key capacity constrained regions, specifically in urban and semi-urban areas, FICCI noted.

A FICCI survey conducted in collaboration with EY and NABH, showed that 81 per cent of survey respondents from private healthcare industry are willing to inoculate front-line workers in local areas and 75 per cent are willing to inoculate their local communities, 70 per cent are willing to allocate manpower in semi-urban/rural areas for vaccination and 94 per cent are willing to impart training for inoculation, it added.

The private players are now waiting for a direction from the government on how to contribute towards the massive vaccination program, in national interest, FICCI said."

2:30 pm

Petrol price at all-time high, diesel crosses ₹81 in Mumbai

Petrol price on Thursday scaled to an all-time high of ₹84.20 per litre in the national capital after state-owned fuel retailers hiked rates for the second day in a row.

Petrol price on Thursday was hiked by 23 paise per litre and diesel by 26 paise a litre, according to a price notification from oil marketing companies.

In Delhi, petrol now costs ₹84.20 per litre and diesel is priced at ₹74.38. In Mumbai, petrol comes for ₹90.83 a litre and diesel for ₹81.07.

This is the highest ever price of petrol in Delhi, while diesel is at record high in Mumbai.

State-owned fuel retailers Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) had on Wednesday resumed daily price revision after nearly a month-long hiatus.

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2:00 PM

USTR slams India, Italy, Turkey on digital taxes but holds off on tariffs

Digital services taxes adopted by India, Italy and Turkey discriminate against U.S. companies and are inconsistent with international tax principles, the U.S. Trade Representative's office said on Wednesday, paving the way for potential retaliatory tariffs.

USTR, releasing the findings of its "Section 301" investigations into the digital taxes, said it was not taking specific actions at this time, but "will continue to evaluate all available options."

The probes are among several still open USTR Section 301 investigations that could lead to tariffs before President Donald Trump leaves office or early in the administration of President-elect Joe Biden. Among these is a more advanced probe into France's digital services tax.

USTR had set a Jan. 6 deadline for implementing 25% tariffs on French cosmetics, handbags and other imports valued at around $1.3 billion annually in retaliation against the French digital taxes.

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1:30 PM

SAP to invest Rs 500 cr to accelerate multi-cloud strategy in India

More investment in the cloud storage front.

PTI reports: "Tech major SAP SE on Thursday said it is investing Rs 500 crore to offer its cloud solutions on local data centres in India.

"Underscoring its commitment to India, SAP will make available its multiple cloud solutions in India data centres," SAP said in a statement.

SAP is further fortifying its commitment to enterprises with the benefits of integrated cloud technologies to deliver the greatest flexibility and be data compliant under the upcoming Personal Data Protection Bill, the statement said.

"SAP's commitment to support India's growth vision remains a top priority, and we are determined to achieve this with deeper collaboration with our customers, ecosystem and the government. Our investment in India is toward accelerating the nation's digital agenda and our customers' transformation in the cloud," SAP Asia Pacific Japan President Scott Russell said.

The move will allow SAP to tap deeper into sectors like banking and finance, telecom and public sector in the country that have strict data compliance requirements.

Customers are seeking scalability, faster deployment, data compliance and cost-effective solutions to enable innovation and achieve prompt business outcomes, SAP Indian Subcontinent President and Managing Director Kulmeet Bawa said.

"SAP intends to advance the vision of Aatmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) by leveraging an agile and scalable cloud technology that is co-developed in India and now made available in local data centres to help Indian enterprises recalibrate their businesses to run better," he added."

12:30 PM

FRAI urges PM to order recall of proposed changes in law on cigarettes, other tobacco products

The tobacco lobby's appeal to the PM.

PTI reports: "Federation of Retailer Association of India (FRAI), a representative body of micro, small and medium retailers, on Thursday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to order recall of proposed amendments in law on cigarettes and other tobacco products insisting the changes threaten to further attack livelihoods of petty retailers selling tobacco products across India.

FRAI, which claims to represent 4 crore micro, small and medium retailers from across India with membership of 34 retail associations from northern, southern, eastern and western part of the country, said small retailers are already reeling under impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and "this fresh attack will be devastating for their families".

The association said it and its member organisations from "all over the country are disturbed by the undemocratic amendment of COTPA (Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act) Bill 2020 proposed by the Ministry of Health, which disallows retail sale of loose sticks of cigarettes, prohibits sale of tobacco products persons below 21 years, put controls on in-shop advertising and promotion amongst others, as they seemed to be aimed at destroying the business for the smaller retailers without impacting large retailers".

The coronavirus-triggered lockdowns and economic destruction has further damaged the economic condition of small retailers and any further adverse policy which destabilises their business activity will be devastating...and this fresh attack will be devastating for their families, FRAI said in a statement.

Urging a recall of the proposed 2020 amendments in the COTPA law, FRAI said the changes "threaten to further attack the livelihoods of petty retailers selling tobacco and related products across India".

FRAI President Ram Asre Mishra said, "We humbly appeal for the Prime Minister's empathy and request him to instruct the designated ministry to immediately roll back the proposed COTPA amendments as they are extremely harsh." By making age-old trade practices like selling loose cigarettes a cognizable offence and an imprisonment of seven years for small violations makes small traders look like heinous criminals, he stated.

Compared to a two-year imprisonment for extortion or for dangerous driving that can cause death, this is the extreme of the extremes. This puts paan, bidi and cigarette sellers in the same crime list category as a person voluntarily throwing acid on someone or causing death by negligence, he added.

Mishra further said, "Already India has the toughest tobacco control laws in the world which has led to degrowth in legal tobacco consumption. Current laws have only helped illicit and smuggled cigarettes to grow benefiting anti-social elements." Petty retailers also asked the government for exemption for any such licensing requirement under the proposed amendment saying perpetual harassment will increase under the guise of administrative control."

12:00 PM

U.S. considering adding Alibaba, Tencent to China stock ban - sources

The Trump administration is considering adding tech giants Alibaba and Tencent to a blacklist of firms allegedly owned or controlled by the Chinese military, two people familiar with the matter said - a move that could inflame tensions with Beijing days before U.S. President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

Defence Department officials, who oversee the designations, have not yet finalized plans to add the companies and are also discussing adding other Chinese firms, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the deliberations are private.

If added, Alibaba and Tencent would be subject to an executive order signed by U.S. President Donald Trump in November, which bans U.S. investors from buying shares of the blacklisted firms starting in November, 2021.

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11:30 AM

India implemented several measures to facilitate trade during 2015-20: WTO

India has implemented several measures to facilitate trade, such as simplification of procedures and customs clearances for imports and exports, according to WTO.

Geneva-based World Trade Organisation (WTO) said that the other trade-facilitation initiatives introduced by India since 2015 include introduction of Indian Customs Electronic Gateway (ICEGATE); Single Window Interface for Facilitation of Trade (SWIFT); the Direct Port Delivery and the Direct Port Entry facilities; and the increased use of the Risk Management System (RMS).

These points were part of the report of India’s seventh Trade Policy Review (TPR), which began on January 6 at the World Trade Organization. The TPR is an important mechanism under its monitoring function, and involves a comprehensive peer-review of the member’s national trade policies.

India’s last TPR took place in 2015.

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11:00 AM

China to allow hog futures trade to tackle supply shock


10:40 AM

Bidding for spectrum auction to start from March 1: DoT notice

An important announcement from the telecom ministry.

PTI reports: "Bidding for the sixth round of spectrum auction for radiowaves worth Rs 3.92 lakh crore will start from March 1, according to a notice issued by the Department of Telecom on Wednesday.

The long-awaited spectrum auction is being held after a gap of four years and over two years after the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) calculated and recommended base price for the radiowaves.

The telecom department has made changes in the base price of some spectrum bands in select circles compared to the price recommended by the Trai.

The DoT has fixed January 12 for the pre-bid conference and January 28 as the last date for seeking clarification to the notice.

Telecom operators will need to submit their application by February 5 for participation in the auction.

The final list of the bidders will be declared on February 24 and the auction process is scheduled to begin from March 1.

The Union Cabinet had approved the proposal to auction 2,251.25 Megahertz (MHz) of spectrum worth Rs 3.92 lakh crore on December 17, 2020, in seven frequency bands - 700 Mhz, 800 Mhz, 900 Mhz, 2100 Mhz, 2300 Mhz and 2500 Mhz - at the base price recommended by the Trai.

The government has kept the frequency bands of 3,300-3,600 MHz band that industry identifies for rolling out 5G services out of the upcoming auction. These frequencies were part of Trai recommendations for the auction.

Bidders opting for 700 Mhz band will have to shell out at least Rs 32,905 crore on pan India basis for the frequencies in the premium spectrum band.

The signals transmitted in the 700 Mhz band are considered to cover three times compared to 2100 Mhz band -- popularly known as 3G band.

The DoT has made available spectrum in all the 22 telecom circles across the country for 700 Mhz band, 800 Mhz band and 2300 Mhz band, while radiowaves in 1800 Mhz band are available in 21 circles, 900 Mhz band and 2100 Mhz bands in 19 circles each and 2500 Mhz in 12 circles only.

Successful bidders opting for full upfront payment will need to do so within 10 days of declaration of the result.

In case of deferred payment option, successful bidders will need to make an upfront payment of 50 per cent in the case of 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz, and 2500 MHz bands, and 25 per cent in case of 700 MHz, 800 MHz and 900 MHz bands of the final bid amount should be made within ten calendar days from the date DoT issues demand notice.

There will be a moratorium of two years for payment of the balance amount of one-time charges for the spectrum, which will be recovered in 16 equal annual instalments.

In addition to the bid amount, successful bidders will also have to pay three per cent of the adjusted gross revenue (AGR), excluding wireline services, as spectrum usage charges for the spectrum won through this auction.

Industry body COAI said spectrum will help telecom operators to cater to the need for an increase in data usage, but lower reserve price of radiowaves would have encouraged additional investment in networks.

"While the government has addressed the requirement for the availability of more spectrum, lowering the reserve prices would have provided additional resources for network expansion to the Telcos. High reserve prices in past auctions have resulted in large amounts of spectrum remaining unsold," COAI director general Lt Gen SP Kochhar said.

Market analysts believe the upcoming spectrum auction will get bids in the range of Rs 30,000-Rs 50,000 crore.

According to market experts, telecom operators are likely to focus on the renewal of spectrum, and Vodafone Idea may not participate in the auction for renewal of their spectrum in some circles.

Rating agency Icra said it does not foresee any major participation in the 700 MHz band and pegged the bids to be in the range of Rs 55,000-60,000 crore.

JM Financials, on the other hand, expects bids to be in the range of Rs 30,000 crore only.

Bharti Airtel's 12.4 MHz of spectrum in the 900 MHz band and 47 MHz in 1800 MHz band and Reliance Communications' 44 MHz of spectrum in the 800 MHz band being used by Reliance Jio are coming up for renewal.

Vodafone Idea needs to renew 6.2 MHz of spectrum in the 900 MHz band and 38.2 MHz in the 1800 MHz band.

According to Credit Suisse, renewal of these spectrum frequencies will cost around Rs 15,000 crore to Bharti Airtel and Rs 11,500 crore to Reliance Jio."

10:20 AM

Maintain status quo on accounts of Anil Ambani firms, Delhi HC tells SBI

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday asked the State Bank of India (SBI) to maintain status quo with regard to the accounts of Anil Ambani’s Reliance Communication, Reliance Telecom and Reliance Infratel, which have been declared fraudulent.

Justice Prateek Jalan, however, allowed the SBI to take further steps in the nature of investigation or proceedings against the erstwhile directors and the three companies, independent of the order declaring the accounts as fraudulent.

The high court was hearing a plea by the erstwhile directors of the three companies challenging a 2016 circular of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on declaration of their accounts as fraudulent by banks.

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10:00 AM

Sensex jumps over 250 points in early trade; Nifty above 14,200

The bull run resumes after yesterday's corection.

PTI reports: "Equity benchmark Sensex jumped over 250 points in early trade on Thursday, tracking gains in index majors Reliance Industries, HDFC and ICICI Bank amid positive trend in global equities.

The 30-share BSE index was trading 270.69 points or 0.56 per cent higher at 48,444.75, and the broader NSE Nifty rose 80.95 points or 0.57 per cent to 14,227.20.

PowerGrid was the top gainer in the Sensex pack, rising around 2 per cent, followed by SBI, IndusInd Bank, L&T, Axis Bank, ONGC and Bajaj Finance.

On the other hand, Titan, TCS, HUL and Infosys were among the laggards.

In the previous session, Sensex ended 263.72 points or 0.54 per cent lower at 48,174.06, and Nifty fell 53.25 points or 0.38 per cent to 14,146.25.

Foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) were net sellers in the capital market as they offloaded shares worth Rs 483.64 crore on a net basis on Wednesday, according to provisional exchange data.

According to Binod Modi Head-Strategy at Reliance Securities, domestic equities look to be firm at the moment. Notably, FPIs turned net sellers after a considerable gap, which suggests profit-booking or sector rotation given sharp returns generated by select sectors like IT, pharma and metals.

US equities witnessed sharp recovery mainly on increased prospects of higher fiscal stimulus and capital expenditures towards infrastructure developments as Democrats' control in both houses of Congress will help Biden to push his agendas, said Modi.

"Notably, yesterday's rebound clearly overlooked the concerns of reversal of lower tax rates and disruption created by Trump's supporters in the US Capitol where a joint session of Congress was convened to certify Biden's victory over Trump," he added.

Elsewhere in Asia, bourses in Shanghai, Tokyo and Seoul were trading on a positive note in mid-session deals, while Hong Kong was in the red.

Meanwhile, the global oil benchmark, Brent crude, was trading 0.79 per cent higher at USD 54.73 per barrel."

9:30 AM

Oil scales 11-month high as Saudi vows output cut

Oil prices rose on Wednesday to their highest since February 2020 after Saudi Arabia agreed to reduce output more than expected in a meeting with allied producers, while industry figures showed U.S. crude stock piles were down last week.

Brent crude rose as much as nearly 1% to $54.09 a barrel, the highest since February 26. It was at $53.87 a barrel at 10:36 a.m. after jumping 4.9% on Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, agreed on Tuesday to make additional, voluntary oil output cuts of 1 million barrels per day (bpd) in February and March, after a meeting with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other major producers that form the group known as OPEC+.

Reductions agreed to by Saudi Arabia were included in a deal to persuade other producers in the OPEC+ group to hold output steady.

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Printable version | Mar 1, 2021 7:32:06 PM |

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