(Current Affairs) Economy & Energy | December: 2014


NTPC is not certain on Fate of Coal Blocks

  • The fate of NTPC’s five coal blocks allocated between 1993 and 2010 hangs in the balance.
  • The Supreme Court on September 24 ordered de-allocation of blocks, except those given to ultra mega power projects and Central Government public sector units where there are no joint ventures. In question are 218 coal blocks, of which 12 were with ultra mega power projects and 10 belonged to NTPC.
  • Confusion arose with the Court specifically saving four blocks, including NTPC’s Pakri Barwadih. NTPC had 10 coal blocks, of which one that was not de-allocated is set to commence operations soon.
  • The company had got four blocks recently, while six were awarded earlier. Of the six, one was exempted from de-allocation by the apex court.
  • While NTPC has decided to wait for clarity from the Coal Ministry, the Ministry, in turn, plans to seek legal opinion on the matter.
  • The Coal Ministry has also decided to look into how the miners that were allocated coal blocks for captive use are handling the surplus. The case in point is Anil Ambani’s ultra mega power project in Sasan.

India’s e-commerce market is growing by “leaps and bounds”: Jeff Bezos

  • India’s e-commerce market is growing by “leaps and bounds”, according to the founder and CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos.
  • Mr. Bezos said that the launch experience of his business in India was “better and faster” than in any other market which is why he was committing $2 billion in fresh investment here. Amazon launched about a year ago in India.
  • Mr. Bezos said that connecting small and medium businesses with the digital market is a prime area for Amazon and will be a key differentiator compared to competition.
  • Refusing to be drawn into a discussion on the competition with Google in key businesses, he said that drone-deliveries are technologically proven but will have to wait for rules and regulations to be framed.

Healthy inflation declines are not enough: RBI Governor

  • As the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) gets ready to announce its fourth quarter bi-monthly monetary policy review on September 30, the usual expectations from the market for an interest rate cut are surprisingly muted.

  • The surprise element lies in the fact that whatever data that are available in the public domain would seem to suggest a softer interest rate regime. According to this view, the RBI has, after a very long time, a favourable environment to lower the benchmark repo rate, which has remained at 8 per cent for the greater part of the year.

  • The broad macro-economic indicators have generally been positive even though one ‘lead’ indicator — the index of industrial production (IIP) — continues to remain erratic.

  • Most significantly, inflation data for August — both retail and wholesale — have delivered big, pleasant surprises. Retail inflation based on the consumer price index (CPI) has declined by almost a full percentage point from July from close to 8 per cent to just above 7 per cent.

Reserve Bank of India unlikely to cut policy rate

  • While the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is likely to maintain its policy rate at current levels, the financial markets expect that the central bank would reduce the Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR) further.

  • In the last bi-monthly policy review on August 5, amidst uncertainty over the progress of the monsoon, the RBI had kept the short term indicative lending rate (repo) at the current level of 8 per cent and the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) unchanged at 4 per cent. However, SLR was reduced from 22.5 per cent to 22 per cent with effect from August 9. In the June bi-monthly policy also, the central bank had cut SLR by 50 basis points from 23 per cent to 22.5 per cent.

  • SLR is the portion of deposits banks are required to maintain in the form of gold or government securities, before providing credit to customers. CRR is the portion of total deposits of customers, which commercial banks have to hold as reserves either in cash or as deposits with the central bank and the repo rate is the rate at which the central bank lends money to banks.

  • In the last policy review, Dr. Rajan said that “The idea behind the SLR cut is that if government finances are improving and the government is on a fiscal consolidation mode, we can afford to liberate more access to government financing and make it possible for the private sector and public sector firms to get access to that financing.”

FDI should be understood as ‘First Develop India’: PM

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the ‘Make in India’ campaign at a high-profile event, which captains of industry from India and abroad immediately joined by committing multi-crore investments and projects in the presence of Mr. Modi.

  • Speaking on the occasion, Aditya Birla Group chief Kumar Mangalam Birla said his steel-to-software conglomerate already had its manufacturing base in India and now planned to leverage its global production facilities for bringing technology here.

  • The head of India’s largest private sector company, Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries (RIL), called the launch of the campaign a historic day for Indian industry and said, “We are committing ourselves to the movement our beloved Prime Minister had given to 1 billion Indians on Independence Day… The uniqueness of his leadership is that he dreams and he does.”

  • Unveiling the campaign logo earlier, Mr. Modi said “FDI should be understood as ‘First Develop India’ along with ‘Foreign Direct Investment’” while encouraging investors not to just look at India as merely a market but also as an opportunity.

  • The Prime Minister also noted that India ranked low on the “ease of doing business” index and said he was sensitising government officials to the need for “effective” governance.

Government to revive five PSUs

  • The government said it had begun the process of reviving five ailing PSUs and is working on one-time settlement, involving voluntary retirement scheme entailing a cost of Rs.1,000 crore for employees of six state-run units not capable of revival.

  • “The state-run units, which have been identified by the government for revival, include HMT Machine Tools; Heavy Engineering Corporation; NEPA; Nagaland Paper & Pulp Co; and Triveni Structurals,” Union Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises Minister Anant Geete said.

  • Mr. Geete said the government was working on a one-time settlement proposal for six terminally ill PSUs, which could not be revived, to eliminate higher recurring expenditure.

  • “The six companies which cannot be revived are: Hindustan Photo Films; HMT Bearings; HMT Watches; HMT Chinar Watches; Tungabhadra Steel Products Ltd; and Hindustan Cables. These six companies have employee strength of 3,603,” the Minister said at a press conference to mark the 100 days of the NDA government here.

MCX-SX is going to change name

  • The Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has approved a new name for MCX Stock Exchange (MCX-SX) which will now be known as ‘Metropolitan Stock Exchange of India Ltd’, abbreviated as ‘mSXI’.
  • The exchange is in the process of making an application to Registrar of Companies (RoC) for registration of the new name,” MCX-SX said in a statement

Government decided to give boost to inland waterways

  • The Union Government has decided to give a boost to inland waterways in a big way to reduce the cost of transportation as well as to curb pollution. This was stated by Union Minister of Road Transport & Highways, Shipping, Rural Development and Drinking Water & Sanitation Nitin Gadkari.

  • He said that the ministry had also been focusing on the ports sector. He said for road development the government was considering to use cement instead of bitumen to bring down construction cost.

  • The Minister also said private sector was shying away from public private partnership (PPP) projects primarily because of high interest rates and reluctance of banks to fund such projects.

India support exchange information on black money

  • India will support the proposed international automatic exchange of tax and banking information that is expected to aid unearthing and retrieving black money stashed offshore.
  • Forty-six countries, including India, have agreed to set rolling by 2017 the automatic exchange of information on tax evaders.
  • At present, countries exchange information on the basis of requests and that too only on suspected tax evasion and other financial crimes.
  • The proposed global standard would facilitate a systematic and periodic transmission of bulk taxpayer information by the source country of income to the country of residence of the taxpayer.
  • The implementation of these standards by developing countries could also improve domestic tax compliance as substantial amount of data received from financial institutions by the tax administration could be used for domestic tax purposes also.

Nepal finalises Hydel project with GMR group

  • The GMR Group said on 23rd September that it has signed a Project Development Agreement for  900 MW Upper Karnali Hydro Power project with the Nepal government.
  • It is the largest FDI for Nepal and also the largest investment for GMR Group outside India.
  • The Upper Karnali Hydro Power project was awarded to the GMR Group through an International competitive bidding process in 2008 on BOOT basis. The project, with a capacity of 900 MW, is being developed as an export-oriented project to be constructed in a period of about 5 years.

ONGC will start oil production from KG block in 2019

  • start production in 2019, ONGC Chairman and Managing Director Dinesh K. Sarraf said
  • The oil discovery in Krishna Godavari basin block KG-DWN-98/2 or KG-D5 is the first large oil  production from the State-run Oil and Natural Gas Corporation’s (ONGC) major oil discovery in the Bay of Bengal will east coast. The block also has 10 gas discoveries.

“Make In India” campaign

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch the “Make In India” campaign , aimed at reviving the job-creating manufacturing sector — key to taking the economy on a sustainable high growth path.
  • The drive, the Modi Government hopes, will do for investment sentiment what the “Incredible India” campaign has accomplished for tourism.
  • With his “Come, make in India” slogan in his Independence Day speech, Mr. Modi had invited global companies to set up manufacturing units in India to supply to the rest of the world.
  • For the launch, the Government is likely to invite the who’s who of the global corporate sector from the US, Japan, Korea, Sweden, Poland, Australia, China, Italy, Germany and France.
  • The campaign also includes invitations to the world’s top 3,000 companies to explore investment possibilities in India. Indian Embassies around the world are expected to join the campaign.
  • “The objective is to take manufacturing growth on a sustainable basis to 10 per cent over the long term,”.
  • The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion has set up an eight-member expert panel to redress grievances and handle queries of global and domestic investors within 24 hours.
  • Its role will be to provide information and solve investors problems.

BNP Paribas in collaboration with the World Bank

  • Financial services firm BNP Paribas, in collaboration with the World Bank, has launched the first equity index-linked green bond that will help raise funds for products seeking to mitigate climate change.
  • The 30-stock equity index, to which the ‘World Bank Green Bond’ is linked, comprises companies selected on the basis of their corporate sustainability ratings.

Abhishek Ganguly as new MD, Puma India

  • Rajiv Mehta, who was previously managing the reins of Puma India as the managing director for nine years, announced his exit from the company.
  • Puma India said that it had appointed Abhishek Ganguly as its new Managing Director, taking over the reins of the brand that recently launched the Forever Faster campaign.
  • Mr. Abhishek previously had been spearheading the sales and retail functions for the brand and had joined Puma right at its inception in 2005 as a founding director.

Infosys global partnership with Huawei

  • Infosys announced a global partnership with Huawei to offer enterprise customers big data and communication solutions besides expansion of its existing engagement with Microsoft and Hitachi Data Systems.
  • Providing details, in separate press releases, Infosys said the IT solutions to be developed with Chinese multi-national ICT firm Huawei would be for enterprise customers looking to modernise operations with cloud infrastructure.
  • Both the companies will build reference architectures and standardised solutions for big data platforms on Huawei hardware infrastructure.

Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M) partnered Snapdeal

  • Ahead of the launch of its new generation Scorpio, Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M) has partnered online marketplace Snapdeal for booking the sport utility vehicle (SUV).
  • Scorpio has been Mahindra’s one of the highest selling SUVs and the homegrown auto giant is to launch the refreshed version on September 25.
  • According to the details made available to users, the new generation Scorpio will be available in six variants.

Motorcycle Fazer FI

  • Yamaha Motor India Sales launched 149-cc motorcycle Fazer FI, priced at Rs.83,850 (ex-showroom Delhi).
  • The new model comes with a newly designed air-cooled 149cc, single-cylinder fuel-injected engine which provides enhanced fuel efficiency and acceleration.
  • The company had recently launched new variants under the FZ series.

Lupin tied up with Merck Serono

  • Lupin has tied up with Merck Serono, the biopharmaceutical division of Merck, to support the expansion of Merck Serono’s general medicines portfolio in emerging markets.
  • A statement from Lupin said the tie-up would address the local needs for affordable, high-quality medicines.
  • While no financial details of the tie-up were available, Lupin said it had an established working relationship with Merck and the agreement could add up to 20 new products to the current portfolio.
  • Lupin will receive an upfront and milestone based licensing fee. The first launches are expected in 2016.

TCS opens Saudi Arabia’s first all-women BPO centre

  • India’s largest software exporter Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) on Sunday said it has opened Saudi Arabia’s first all-female business process centre, which will provide employment to up to 3,000 women in three years.
  • Saudi Aramco and GE are the centre’s first customers, TCS said in a statement in Mumbai.
  • Both the clients have already surpassed their target of recruiting 100 women each, while the total number of those employed at the centre stands at 300, it said.
  • The Riyadh-based 3,200-sq mt facility will offer customers specialised finance and accounting, human resources, materials supply and office services to improve their operational efficiency, it said.

HDFC Bank to send debit card PINs via SMS

  • As part of its ‘go-green’ initiative, HDFC Bank has started sending PIN, unique code number, for debit card holders through SMS instead of sending it by post.
  • It is not just environment friendly but also convenient and saves time of both customers and the bank, HDFC Bank Senior Vice President and Business Had (Cards Payment Products) Parag Rao said.
  • Green PIN is One Time Password (OTP) sent to the customer’s mobile number registered with bank. Using the OTP, customer can set debit card PIN at the bank’s ATM, Rao said. Customers will get OTP within 48 hours of applying for it.
  • HDFC Bank has nearly 1.75 crore debit card holders and about 16.5 lakh cards on an average are issued annually by the bank.
  • This facility is for all States except in Jammu and Kashmir due to restrictions on bulk SMS delivery in the State, Rao said.

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