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Petrol and diesel prices increased with hike in international rates

With the rise in international oil rates, Petrol price in country has been increased by Rs 3.18 per litre and diesel by Rs 3.09 making it month's second raise. With effect from Saturday midnight, the new petrol price is Rs 60.49 per litre and that of diesel are Rs 49.71 per litre.

Government to raise funds through disinvestment

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his first full-year budget proposed to raise Rs 69,500 crore by disinvesting and strategically selling state-owned companies. Minority stake sale in PSUs will generate Rs 41,000 crore and Rs 28,500 crore is likely to come from planned sale in both profit and loss-making companies. Apart from this, PSU Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) will be used to raise Rs 5,000 crore. In the current fiscal year the government has raised near about Rs 24,500 crore by disinvesting in SAIL and Coal India. It is expected that government will raise Rs 6,850 in March, last month of this fiscal year.

Economic Survey 2014-15 Placed in Lok Sabha

Today Arun Jaitley, Union Finance Minister, presented pre-budget Economic Survey 2014-15 in Lok Sabha. The survey urged upon simplification of taxes and streamlining of regulations to improve business environment so that growth rate can be improved to 8.1-8.5 per cent during 2015-16 and to double-digit during 2016-17. It has stressed upon making ‘Make in india’ a success and strike balance between “Skilling India” and making India a leading manufacturing hub. The report acknowledged that IT-BPM industry has contributed US$119 billion in current fiscal, an increase of 12 per cent, and has therefore being included among 25 focus sectors in ‘Make in India’ initiative.  

Japan's Ambassador to India Complains about Series of Problems for its Companies Operating in India

Takeshi Yagi, Japan’s Ambassador to India, while addressing at International Engineering and Technology Fair 2015, organised by CII, has said that Japanese companies are facing series of multiple problems (related to taxation, customs, and infrastructure) in India. He said that both India and Japan agree on the fact that the bilateral investment trade must increase but acknowledged that the current scenario of both is not satisfactory and is actually stagnant currently. During his speech Takeshi Yagi added that many Japanese investors are waiting for friendlier business environment in India for making investments.  

Standard & Poor's Revises GDP of India Upwards to 7.9 Percent for 2015-16

Standard & Poor's Ratings Services has called India a “bright spot in Asia” and has revised upwards its forecast estimation of India’s GDP to 7.9 per cent for 2015-16 financial year. One of the most important aspects of S&P’s forecast is that it has lowered Asia Pacific region’s real GDP growth rate. S&P’s Chief Economist of Asia-Pacific region, Paul Gruenwald, said that the GDP growth has been revised from 6.2 per cent to 7.9 per cent for 2015-16 and 6.6 per cent to 8.2 per cent for 2016-17 on the basis of methodological improvements.

15,000 MW Solar Power Projects Cleared by Union Government

The Union government has given go-ahead to setting up of 15,000 MW solar power projects, available reports say. It is learnt that grid-connected solar power projects will be done through NTPC and NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam Ltd., a subsidiary of NTPC. Available reports say that the project will be implemented in three phases - 3,000 MW in the 1st phase, 5,000 MW in the 2nd, and 7,000 MW in the final phase. In the last five trading days, NTPC stock has risen from 145.00 at 10.30am of February 20 to 148.05 at 2.18 pm IST today.  

Ajay Singh-Led SpiceJet Intends to Clear Statutory Dues to Avoid Rerun of Kingfisher Story

Ajay Singh told media, a day after he got all the Spicejet stocks held by Sun Group’s Kalanithi Maran by paying Rs. 400 crore, that he doesn’t want a rerun on  Kingfisher Airlines story and that’s why intend to clear the statutory dues first, thereby increasing credibility of Spicejet’s new management. He categorically mentioned that the new management has prioritized paying employees’ salaries and service taxes. In the last five trading days, stock of SpiceJet Limited has increased from a low of 22.60 (as on 10.30am of February 20) to 24.70 (at 1.30pm of February 26).

Suresh Prabhu Presents Railway Budget 2015

Suresh Prabhu, Union Railways Minister, placed Railway Budget 2015 today and started his speech by saying "everything can't be done in a year". Prabhu’s budget didn't increase passenger fare, ruled out privatisation of Railways, made change in freight rates (on carriage of petroleum products, steel/iron, coke and coal, and cement) to increase income of the national carrier, and didn’t introduce any new train by referring to the on-going review of capacity to add more trains. Union Railways Minister stressed upon improving passenger safety and amenities, heavy routes’ decongestion, increasing speed of trains, and mobilisation of resource to increase investment. Planned outlay has been increased to Rs. 1.1 trillion, a rise of 52 per cent.

Finance Commission to Peg Fiscal Deficit Target at 3.6 per cent in 2015-16 and 3 per cent from 2016-17 and Onwards

The 14th Finance Commission has suggested decreasing the fiscal deficit target from the existing 4.1 per cent (during 2014-15) to 3.6 per cent of Gross Domestic Product. In the Action Taken Report, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said to look into the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission on fiscal consolidation road map, fiscal environment, GST, and others and consult multiple stakeholders on the suggestions. The commission’s report also said that from 2016-17 onwards till end of award period fiscal deficit ceiling will be pegged at 3 per cent of GDP.

FICCI Findings Bolsters Deepak Parekh's Views

Business Confidence Survey conducted by FICCI has found that sustainable turnaround in terms of exports, profits, and investments are still elusive. Industry body has opined that the condition has certainly improved from the last year but indication of firm turnaround is still not evident from quarter on quarter numbers. Per the poll conducted by FICCI, government decision undertaken in the last seven to eight months has attracted positive sentiment from business community but industrialists wary about the pace of reform implementation. FICCI’s finding corroborates views of business leader Deepak Parekh who opined that industry sentiment remains optimistic but nothing significant has changed on ground.  

CII Cautions Government on Increasing Import Duty on Medical Devices

Pavan Choudhary, Chairman of Medical Technology Division of CII, has opined that possible import duty rise on medical devices will adversely affect general healthcare sector of India. He went on to say that increase in import duty will not only damage the prospects of the booming market but also hurt patients severely from rise in cost. Reports say that medical devices industry is almost entirely (80 percent) dependent on imports. Choudhary also said majority of medical devices including the advanced ones are imported and the devices manufactured in India are all of basic nature. He went on to say that Make In India initiative can’t be promoted with tariff regime.   

PSU Bank Employees Reach a Deal on Wage Hike, Call Off Strike

United forum of bank unions successfully negotiated for better pay package and work-life balance as Indian Banks' Association (IBA) agreed partially to accept their demands and averted 4-day strike (February 25-February 28). IBA has agreed to increase wage of employees of state-run banks by 15 per cent, which will cost the banks an estimated Rs. 4,725 crore annually. According to the agreement between IBA and united forum of bank employees, the banks will remain closed on alternate Saturdays. The bank unions had earlier demanded 5-day working week and wage hike of 19 per cent. It took 18 rounds of negotiations for both parties to reach the agreement.

TRAI cuts call connect charges; Landline, mobile tariffs likely to fall

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has slashed the inter-operator charges on domestic landline-to-mobile and landline-to-landline phone calls to make these calls more affordable. In case of mobile-to-mobile calls, the inter-operator charge or termination charge has been slashed from 20 paise to 14 paise per minute. Analysts believe that this will help new entrants (Reliance Jio and Uninor) to offer tarrif discounts to their customers, but may lead to erosion of revenues of existing companies (Vodafone India and Bharti Airtel). Termination charge has been increased for incoming international calls from 40 paise to 53 paise per minute, which will help incumbents recoup some of their lost revenue. BSNL is expecting more people to opt for landline connections due to lower tariff.

ITC to Buy Park Hyatt Hotel in Goa, Offers Rs. 515.44 cr

The ITC Limited. has acquired Park Hyatt Goa Resort and Spa property at Arossim Beach in South Goa for Rs. 515.44 crore. ITC Limited has revealed that it has emerged as the highest bidder of the auction, which took place under SARFAESI Act, 2002. As per the media reports, 25 per cent of the total bid value (Rs. 129 crore approximately) has been remitted by ITC and the company is scheduled to pay the rest 75 per cent in the coming 15 days.  

Corporate Espionage Case Takes a New Turn with Arrest of Lokesh

Corporate espionage case took an interesting turn today when Lokesh, energy consultant with Infraline, was arrested for leaking Coal and Power Ministry information. Delhi Police has raided many places in the Coal and Power ministries and also registered fresh FIR. Lokesh is going to be produced to the court today itself. 12 people, who were arrested earlier, will also be produced in court today. Reliance ADAG has issued statement that except for a specific employee’s office of Reliance Power, no raid was conducted by the Police in any Reliance Group office across India.

Budget Session Starts with President's Address

President Pranab Mukherjee today addressed members of parliament from both upper and lower Houses, marking the start of Parliamentary Budget Session. Mukherjee stressed upon the need of inclusive growth and to include poorest of poor in the growth story while delivering his speech before the MPs. He also said that his government is committed in expanding the job market, protecting interests of the farmers, streamlining scholarship schemes for timely disbursement, developing skills, kick starting smart city initiatives, easing processes of doing business, etc. President reminded that these are the basic tenets of ‘sab ka saath, sab ka vikas’ slogan.

Six States to Earn Rs one Lakh Crore over coming 30 years After Coal Block E-Auction

Available information reveals that six mineral-rich states of India are going to earn over Rs one lakh crore in the coming 30 years after successful e-auctioning of coal block that ended yesterday. Sources reveal that during the first round of e-auction, 90 million tones of extractable reserve spread over 18 mines were bagged by some renowned industry behemoths. While boasting about his government’s success in conducting transparent e-auctioning, minister of state for coal, power and renewable energy Piyush Goyal told media that it will not only increase revenue of states but also decrease fuel costs of thermal power plants.    

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Appeals Bank Employee Unions to Drop Four-Day Strike Plan

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley asks public sector bank employee unions to drop their plan of four-day nationwide strike starting from February 25. He said that talks are already going on for wage settlement. Banks employee unions are stating that 15 percent wage hike had been granted since November 2012. Though banks have incorporated 15 percent hike in their accounting but are giving just 13 percent to employees, which is not acceptable. Earlier also union had postponed one-day strike that was scheduled to take place on January 7, as IBA approved wage offer from 11 percent to 12.5 percent.

One More Coal Block to Hindalco Industries, Three in Total

One more coal mine block goes into the kitty of Hindalco Industries that is aggressively bidding in the coal auction. Companies like Balco, ACC, Jayaswal Neco Industries, Godawari Power and Ispat, Rungta Mines and SKS Ispat and Power also participated in the auction. Hindalco has won total of three coal blocks, two in Chhattisgarh (GareIV/5 and Gare Palma 4/4 mine) and one in Jharkhand (Kathautia mine). The auction of mines in the first lot will end on Sunday and the auction for second tranche will commence on February 25.

India-Israel Strategic Partnership to Reach New High with Expected $2 Billion Defence Deal

Moshe Ya’alon, Defence Minister of Israel, met Indian PM Narendra Modi to vouch for greater cooperation between the two countries. Official sources reveal that defence deals to the tune of $2 billion are expected to be signed in the coming few years. It is learnt that Israel wants to increase strategic partnership not only in defence sector but also in other sectors including environment, water management, and agriculture. Narendra Modi has reportedly expressed satisfaction in terms of cooperation between the two countries.  While addressing an audience at an event, Moshe Ya’alon said that his country is interested to become a part of ‘Make in India’ initiative and share its latest defence technologies.