Business News

Mahindra's tweet about ‘Kamala Devi Harris …’

Business News - January 21, 2021 - 2:00pm
America got a new President in Joe Biden on Wednesday. The 78-year-old was sworn-in as the 46th president of the United States at the inauguration ceremony in Washington DC. His deputy, Kamala Harris, created history as she became the first woman to take oath as vice-president. Miles away, back in India, there was reason enough to celebrate the transition of power in the Oval Office. Harris, apart from etching history by fixing the diversity score in American politics, is also the first person of Indian descent to occupy the V-P’s office. And from the time she became Biden’s running mate to the inauguration when she stood on the dais and took the oath, she has continued to win hearts in India. Wednesday was no different. Dressed in purple, the 56-year-old - whose mother was born in Tamil Nadu - confirmed her allegiance to upholding the democratic values that defined America. And the historic moment was not lost on corporate tycoon Anand Mahindra who tweeted a video of her raising her right hand and taking the oath. The chairman of the Mahindra group - which has interests across technology, automobiles and defence - captioned his tweet: “Kamala Devi Harris …. I’m letting that sink in.” Kamala Devi Harris. I’m letting that sink in... https://t.co/p6EMOAgjdD— anand mahindra (@anandmahindra) 1611164874000Mahindra was not the only one overwhelmed by Harris taking over. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, the founder of Biocon, also retweeted a video posted by the Democratic leader herself captioned aptly: “I’m here today because of the women who came before me.”I’m here today because of the women who came before me. https://t.co/ctB9qGJqqp— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) 1611150305000If Harris’s Indian roots tilted the scales in her favour, there was another woman who stole the show. Poet-laureate Amanda Gorman had her own moment in the Biden ceremony as she recited some powerful lines about change and offered a hopeful vision for a deeply divided country with her poem ‘The Hill We Climb’.And in Debjani Ghosh, the 22-year-old found a fan. The chief of Nasscom, which is a non-governmental trade association and advocacy group focused mainly on Information Technology and Business Process Outsourcing industry, quote-tweeted a WSJ journalist Julie Bykowicz who had shared a verse used by Gorman at the ceremony. But while democracy can be periodically delayed,It can never be permanently defeated.In this truth, in this fai… https://t.co/0HXmtmLoIo— debjani ghosh (@debjani_ghosh_) 1611164489000Harsh Mariwala, the Marico Group chairman, also found Gorman “powerful, moving, inspiring & reflective” as he described her in his tweet.Meanwhile, RPG Group Chairman Harsh Goenka had a cheeky take on the change of guard at the White House. His tweet was a dig at Donald Trump’s next assignment.I am continuously getting this call. I am wondering if I should pick up ! https://t.co/ddM4OiI3PM— Harsh Goenka (@hvgoenka) 1611139706000
Categories: Business News

Stage set for multi-yr private sector capex cycle

Business News - January 21, 2021 - 2:00pm
Stocks are roaring well ahead of the real economy but hopefully the real economy is also on a pretty solid recovery path in the coming months, says Arvind Sanger, Managing Partner, Geosphere Capital. This is a great mix of factors: Biden taking over as US president, his stimulus proposal coming with additional unemployment benefits; the vaccine rolling out. Given all of these parameters, it looks like there is no other way but to go up!Obviously Biden coming to power is good news but it is discounted by the markets. So, from a market standpoint, today was not significant in the overall scheme of things. The markets are forward looking and they are looking at what is coming next and clearly there is hope that this $1.9-trillion stimulus package will make it through the Congress and that will be the next big catalyst for the market. The vaccine rollout has started and it is going to drive improvement in economic activity as immunity grows both in the US and the rest of the world. The Fed and other central bankers are completely supportive in terms of liquidity injections and out of that $1.9 trillion, some amount is going to find its way into stocks and some into the real economy. Stocks are roaring well ahead of the real economy but hopefully the real economy is also on a pretty solid recovery path in the coming months. If in March 2020, somebody had said Sensex would hit 50K within a year, it would have been unbelievable. The markets have been way ahead of the economic recovery.That is a really good point that none of us could have foreseen but in a way, Covid compressed for India the slowdown that was already taking place. It accelerated that slowdown and then growth accelerated. It has helped the formalisation of the economy which helps companies that are part of the stock market. It does not help the informal economy, some of which was already taking place but at a slow pace after GST was introduced. Some of the more marginal players both in the public listed equities but more so in the informal economy have been big losers. The online businesses have benefited a lot and some companies have benefited from that. In our opinion, in CY21, the pre-Covid slowdown is slowly but meaningfully reversing and for Indian companies in FY22, the earnings upside could be dramatically better than even what many analysts are forecasting. If something goes wrong and the things do not play out as we expect, that could hurt the market but right now I do not see signs of anything that we should worry about and India is benefiting from global liquidity. Some of the announcements that have come around are setting up for what is likely to be a multi-year potentially private sector capex cycle driven by some of those factors.
Categories: Business News

Cancellation fears cloud Tokyo Olympics

Business News - January 21, 2021 - 2:00pm
TOKYO: When the Tokyo Olympics were postponed last year, officials promised they would open in 2021 as proof of mankind's triumph over the coronavirus. But six months before the rescheduled start, victory over the virus remains distant, and fears are growing rapidly that the Games may not take place at all. Publicly, organisers are still adamant the Games can go ahead, and say they can be held safely even if the virus is not under control by the time the flame is lit on July 23. "It's precisely because we're in this situation that we need to remember the value of the Olympics -- that humankind can coexist peacefully through sport," Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto told AFP. However, with much of the world still paralysed by Covid-19, and Tokyo under a state of emergency, the doubting voices are growing louder. Former London 2012 deputy chairman Keith Mills this week said he thought the Games looked "unlikely" to happen, while British Olympics legend Matthew Pinsent said it was "ludicrous" to go ahead. The long path to Tokyo's second Summer Games has been littered with obstacles, from bid bribery allegations to fears over the summer heat. But none has loomed as large as the pandemic, which last March forced the first peacetime postponement in modern Games history. - Public disenchantment - In Japan, whose emergency measures cover greater Tokyo and other parts of the country, public disenchantment is rising. A poll this month found 80 percent of respondents opposed hosting the event this year, with 35 percent favouring outright cancellation and 45 percent calling for further postponement. The Australian Open tennis Grand Slam has underlined the complexity of organising international sport in the pandemic, with major problems bringing in players and keeping them Covid-free. "It's been really eye-opening here in Melbourne to see and hear the amount of logistical challenges and the scale of trying to organise just a tennis event in the current situation," said Gordon Reid, the British wheelchair tennis player and Paralympic gold-medallist. "You've got to multiply that by a thousand when it comes to the Olympics and Paralympics because they are on another scale." Tokyo 2020 chiefs say another postponement is "absolutely impossible", meaning the Games will be cancelled if they cannot go ahead this year. They are pushing ahead with a raft of coronavirus countermeasures intended to ensure a safe Games, even without vaccines which remain non-mandatory for athletes. A 53-page interim report released in December outlines measures including a ban on supporters cheering, regular testing for athletes and limited stays at the Olympic village. Much is still undecided though, including a decision on how many spectators will be allowed -- if any.Clock is tickingThe coronavirus has taken a considerable financial toll, with some studies rating Tokyo as the most expensive Summer Olympics yet. Anti-virus measures and other delay-related costs have added 294 billion yen ($2.8 billion) to the price tag, which has ballooned to at least 1.64 trillion yen ($15.8 billion). Efforts to reduce costs by cutting back on athlete welcome ceremonies and other trimmings have produced only minimal savings, though organisers say they have managed to keep all domestic sponsors on board. Meanwhile many athletes are still sweating on qualification, with several events outstanding. Disruption to training and competition schedules is also causing huge uncertainty. However, plans to start the nationwide torch relay in March remain on course, with social distancing measures set to be enforced. Japan is now desperately hoping it does not lose another Olympics -- following the cancellation of the 1940 Summer and Winter Games because of war. Cancellation would deal a serious blow to the Olympic movement and Japan's national pride, not to mention the huge financial impact on both Tokyo and the IOC. Tokyo 2020 chiefs are betting the public mood will begin to swing in the Games' favour in the months ahead, when winter is over and vaccinations ramp up. But the clock is ticking. Japan has yet to approve a coronavirus vaccine, but Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has said he hopes the first jabs can begin in late February, with health workers and the elderly expected to be first in line. Reports say the rest of the Japan will start receiving vaccines in May -- just two months before the Games start.
Categories: Business News

MF managers suggest how best to play Sensex at 50k

Business News - January 21, 2021 - 2:00pm
The Sensex has finally crossed the much awaited 50,000 mark and this has brought cheer to the investors. However, this feat also brings with it a lot of uncertainty and fear of correction. Mutual fund investors are wondering whether they should pump in more money, stop their SIPs or continue with the existing asset allocation. Who can answer these questions better than the fund managers. ET Mutual Funds reached out to the top fund managers in the industry and asked them how mutual fund investors should allocate money at 50k. Manish Gunwani, CIO-Equity Investments, Nippon India Mutual Fund says, “while at one level 50,000 is just a number, the fact that it has come so much faster than most of us thought a few months back is testimony to the remarkable resilience and massive potential that the Indian economy presents. As long as the economy delivers high nominal GDP growth equities will compound and investors should benefit from this by taking a long term view.” Speaking about long term, Radhika Gupta, MD & CEO, Edelweiss AMC says that, “Its always nice to see markets hit a major milestone and this is no different.Markets have their highs and lows and short term volatility, but when we step back and see the journey of Sensex from 5000 to 50000 we are reminded of the power of long term wealth creation.” These fund managers believe that it is also very important to rebalance your asset allocation when the markets run up so fast. Rebalancing helps you to reduce risk and get your portfolio back to comfortable levels. “We sincerely urge investors to stick to their asset allocation. Abrupt market run ups and crashes do give a review and rebalance opportunity to reverse to the mean allocation model,”Swarup Mohanty, CEO, Mirae Asset Investment Managers. Sorbh Gupta, Fund Manager – Equity, Quantum AMC says that lumpsum investments can be risky at the moment and SIPs should be the way to go. “Six months ago with the pandemic raging no one would have thought about Sensex hitting 50,000 mark. Better and quicker than expected economic recovery and strong FPI inflow has made this possible. Investors should hold onto their equity allocations and map them to their financial goals. Any fresh allocation to equities should be in a staggered manner.”
Categories: Business News

Why ITC may get valued at 35-40 PE over 3-5 years

Business News - January 21, 2021 - 2:00pm
Liquidity playing X factor in market rally, says Yogesh Mehta, Founder, Yield MaximisersWhat do you think is lending exuberance to the equity markets? Is it earnings that is taking precedence because so far India Inc has not disappointed? So far, the earning season which has kickstarted with the IT bellwethers have not disappointed at all. But it is liquidity that is playing the X factor in the entire rally from below 7,500 to 12,430 onwards. This liquidity driven rally has given India a strong position. FIIs are still looking very positively at India and growth is visible now. I am projecting 20-22% growth rate for FY22. The growth is driving more attractive valuations towards India and that is why the liquidity is coming into this segment. Also redemption from China and its reallocation to emerging markets is also playing out very well. It seems the result season and the Budget fever both are strong plays and we are at new highs. Don’t you think that we are in an expensive zone? Do you think the PE that the Nifty is commending currently is okay?There are two aspects to this. One, if you evaluate the entire Nifty basket and look at the average PE multiples, then it is higher. But if you take the top 10-15 contenders out of that, which are at much higher PE level, then you will see that in the bottom 25, the valuations are still attractive or reasonable. So everything is not expensive. The entire FMCG basket is still available at 45-50 PE multiple which is the average PE multiple of the last 10 years long-term average. IT companies are also near 35 PE multiples right now based on FY22. The imbalance of the PE multiple is why there is a confusion regarding Nifty PE but I would say that rather than PE numbers, one should look at growth-oriented companies and chase growth. There’s a lot of investor interest around ITC. How is it trading even when it comes to the valuations?ITC balance is distributed 45:55 between the cigarette and the non cigarette business. If with a price hike in cigarette business and a volume growth of 3-4%, the EBITDA level rises 5-8%, it will not be significant on the balance sheet numbers but it will be positive because every time in the Budget, everyone is expecting the sin tax to be increased and that is a burden ITC carries every year. Tobacco products are out of the GST regime but overall ITC is a great value company and still available at 20 PE multiples, So there’s a valuation gap within the peer sector and the growth is more than that of the other peer companies but this is the only laggard which is pulling the valuation down. Two, three, four years down the line, the moment we see that the balance or the distribution is in favour of the non cigarette business over the cigarette business, then it will have a much better valuation to command. I do not have any doubt that this company can again be valued at 35-40 PE multiples over the next three, four, five years, if not immediately. So, it is a great company with a great balance sheet, good dividend payout, higher ROE and ROCE numbers and the growth rate is also commendable. This company can be looked at by an investor with a 3-5 year timeframe. How are you looking at the overall story of Tata Motors? Do you think that Rs 240 is a good entry point?It is too difficult to predict right now because almost everything is priced in, There may be some headroom left for Tata Motors from the current levels and I am expecting the profitability to return soon. It will be Rs 100 crore but then also it seems that the commercial vehicle contribution would be around 56% in the Q4 numbers as well. India business losses are now trimmed down further and the JLR mix is also improving continuously. Higher sales in China are showing some good traction. The volume upgrades of CVs and PVs both together have already been priced in and even if we compare the FY22 numbers, and it is too difficult to predict right now because the losses will halve from FY20 to FY21 on an annual basis but FY22 may see a breakeven. Overall, Rs 300-320 would be a fair valuation for Tata Motors. It leaves hardly 10-12% upside from the current level. Where within the midcaps are you finding quality companies? Saurabh Mukherjea recently said that we need more companies like IndiaMART, Info Edge. What would define a strong midcap company and which are these companies within the broader markets?There’s a lot of value still in midcap companies. The ROE numbers should be at least 15% to start with and be in the 15-20% bracket. ROCE should also be 15-20%. I would say that each and every company cannot be evaluated on the promoter basis; transparency and the balance sheet quality should be better indicators. So in the midcap space, specialty chemical, even pharma companies can be looked at and the valuations are not so much attractive but they are reasonably priced right now. But the growth for next two-three years can be decently played at around 25% to 30% growth rate. So rather than looking at only the largecap companies, HNI and retail investors should look into the midcap space where there is a lot of quality. That’s why we have seen a good runup in the last two months in many of the companies and right now, they are just consolidating into a higher range. To name a few in the pharma space, in API field, Granules and even Laurus Labs are ideal to invest in. Over the next two years, the growth rate would be more than 30% and the top line number will double in the next two to three years, particularly in Laurus Labs. So, one can look into CDMO space. In real estate, post this the new laws have been incorporated and implemented and the inventories are almost cleared. One can look at the debt-free companies from here. Among Mumbai-based companies, Oberoi Realty and Godrej Properties can be considered. These are the two companies which can be looked at and even if somebody wants to play on commercial property, it will be DLF. We have seen a remarkable rally over the last one month. It has been up by almost 40-50% and precision is there. But there’s still way to go for these companies and these are a few names to be looked at in the midcap space.
Categories: Business News

Indian real estate attracted $5 billion institutional investments in 2020: Report

Business News - January 21, 2021 - 2:00pm
MUMBAI: Institutional investors continued to show interest in Indian real estate with a total $5 billion investments, equivalent to 93 per cent of transactions witnessed in the previous year, despite a sudden halt brought on by the pandemic, showed data from JLL India.The annual performance received major support from the fourth quarter’s $3.5 billion investments, while office assets accounted for a major share of investments during the year.The uncertainty over income and yield stability of commercial properties due to the pandemic had led to pull back in investments. However, large global funds have rather used this as an opportunity to negotiate portfolio deals with developers who offered quality rent yielding assets in cities with a high-quality tenant profile.A deeper analysis of institutional investments in 2020 indicates that the recovery has been narrow-based, as 27 deals were transacted in 2020 over 54 in 2019. The two large portfolio deals with an estimated value of $3.2 billion accounted for 65 per cent of the total investments in 2020. These investments by large global funds in times of uncertainty validate the investment potential of Indian real estate.The two major deals- the Blackstone Group picking up 21 million sq ft completed and under construction office, retail and hospitality assets from Prestige Estate for $1.2 billion and the Brookfield Group’s $2 billion deal with RMZ Group to acquire 12.5 million sq ft office and co-working assets indicate that office assets account for a major share of the portfolio deals.“India’s office sector has witnessed continuous growth over the last four years with the average annual net absorption crossing 30 million sq ft, leading to steady rentals and capital appreciation till the onset of the pandemic. Global investors, looking for stable yields and regular returns, believe that the technology sector driven office space demand is expected to grow further and keep absorption robust,” said Samantak Das, Chief Economist and Head of Research & REIS (India), JLL.The 2020 comeback holds significance when seen against the pace and percentage of the recovery from the last global financial crisis. Not only did the post-GFC recovery phase take more than three years, but the drop in 2009 was more than that witnessed in 2020 Over the years, investments have moved in tandem with reforms and maturity in the real estate sector. Moreover, various structural reforms during the last decade have brought much-needed transparency and accountability to the sector.
Categories: Business News

Luxury car sales in India to grow 25-30 percent in 2021, says BMW India's President

Business News - January 21, 2021 - 2:00pm
NEW DELHI | MUMBAI: Luxury car sales in the local market is expected to grow in strong double-digits, albeit on a low base, in the ongoing calendar year on back of new model launches, increased consumer preference for personal mobility solutions and recovery in the broader economy.BMW Group India President Vikram Pawah told ET while he expects the industry to grow 25-30% in 2021, his company should outperform the market given that it is in the midst of its biggest ever product offensive with 25 new vehicles scheduled for launch during the year. "Given the fact that three to four months of 2020 were a complete washout, we expect roughly 25-30% growth in 2021. For our company, the growth has to be higher because of 25 new launches we have planned for 2021,” informed Pawah.Luxury car sales declined by about 40% to 21,000 units in 2020 as the nationwide lockdown imposed the check the spread of the coronavirus pandemic and falling economic growth severely impacted the demand for high end cars in the market. BMW Group India’s sales in the period fell 32% to 6604 units. Pawah elaborated BMW Group India has seen rapid recovery in the Indian market post third quarter of 2020. With international and domestic travel off the charts on account of the pandemic, consumers opted for personal vehicles, also for driving holidays with family members, boosting sales of cars and sports utility vehicles."I clearly see that demand for personal mobility will only go up, it is becoming very evident from consumer behaviour. With the time to spend with our family, lack of international and local travel, there are a lot of driving holiday concepts coming up as well which is increasing the demand for premium and luxury cars as well”, said Pawah, on the sidelines of the launch of BMW 3 Series Gran Limousine priced between Rs 51.50-53.90 lakh (ex-showroom).Given the momentum in the market, BMW Group India expects to regain peak sales of 11,105 units recorded in 2018, in the next one or two years. “We may reach our peak in 2021 or 2022 max. It will depend on the overall automotive market”, said Pawah.However, even though new products are expected to boost volumes the next couple of years, the share of luxury cars in overall passenger vehicle sales in India is expected to remain low due to the differential tax structure levied on such vehicles. "The normal demand (for luxury cars) should be about 5-10% of the overall market but distortion happens because of the price differential due to taxes, Can that distortion be corrected? That will also support the automotive industry. A little bit of reduction, will add value to the auto industry and economic development”, Pawah said. Luxury cars accounted for less than 1% of passenger vehicle sales in India in 2020. Taxation on vehicles in India is among the highest in the world. A popular luxury SUV costing about 48,000 Euro in the US and 60,000 Euro in the UK, costs about 82,500 Euro in India after taxes, data from Jato Dynamics, an automotive business intelligence firm show.As far as electric vehicles are concerned, Pawah said there are likely to be production interventions in the space under the BMW badge next year. He informed, “From a global perspective, we will be launching 25 electrified products in the next three years, half of them will be fully electric, all of them will be looked at for India, but it will depend on the demand, policy framework and the electric vehicle infrastructure. We are keen to bring all of them and make sure that Indian buyers have accessibility to our global electric vehicle portfolio.” In 2021, the Group will launch an electric vehicle under the MINI brand.
Categories: Business News

Challans to make car cover costlier

Business News - January 21, 2021 - 10:59am
NEW DELHI: With the insurance regulator planning a “traffic violation premium” to rein in errant drivers, a year-long pilot project would be launched soon in Delhi linking vehicle insurance premiums to traffic violations committed in the last two years. To begin with, the vehicle owners of Delhi and adjoining areas in the NCR would be the first ones to pay the additional premium while renewing their vehicle insurance for violating motor vehicle and traffic rules.Such extra premiums would be anywhere between Rs 100 and Rs 750 for two-wheelers, and for four-wheelers and commercial vehicles, it would be in the range of Rs 300 to Rs 1,500, according to the insurance regulator. 80376428According to the exposure draft published by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA), while a driver caught drunk driving would attract the maximum traffic violation points, the second highest score would be for dangerous driving which includes talking on the phone while driving.The traffic violation points will double and triple if the offence is committed second and third time in two years.The Delhi Traffic Police has been recording traffic violations digitally. Though initially the pilot was planned only for vehicles registered in Delhi, it was found that a huge number of vehicles from the NCR ply on the city roads and hence those vehicles would be brought under this ambit.Based on the finding of the pilot in Delhi, this would be extended to other states and UTs. TOI on June 29, 2020 had first reported the IRDA’s plan to launch this pilot in Delhi.The additional premium would be paid by the vehicle owner since he/ she is responsible for allowing anyone to drive the vehicle. The traffic violation premium will float over both Own Damage and Third Party sections of motor insurance and can be attached to any section of motor insurance cover being purchased. The IRDA has invited inputs of all stakeholders on the recommendations till February 1.
Categories: Business News

Tax refunds of this much won't be paid

Business News - January 21, 2021 - 10:59am
Did you get an intimation from the income tax department after processing of your income tax return, for a tax demand or tax refund amount of less than Rs 100? If you have, then you are neither liable to pay such tax demand amount nor will you receive such refund amount in your pre-validated bank account. Such tax demand dues will be adjusted against future income tax refunds.Here is why."The Government vide a press note dated January 05, 2012, clarified that demand of less than Rs 100 would not be enforced but is liable for adjustment against future refunds. Thus, any tax dues less than Rs 100 would be carried forward for the purpose of set-off against the refunds of any future years," says Dr Suresh Surana, founder, RSM India, a tax consultancy firm.Sec 143 (1) notices sent by the income tax department to taxpayers after processing their returns also indicate the above in cases where there is a refund or tax demand of less than Rs 100. Corroborating this view, Abhishek Soni, CEO and founder, Tax2Win.in, an ITR filing firm says, "Practically, we have observed that if the amount of income tax refund is below Rs 100 then it is not processed by the income tax department. Also, if the tax demand amount is below Rs 100 then also deposit of the same is not demanded by the income tax department."Surana says, "There is no extant procedure provided either under the Income-tax Act or by way of any notification or circular for the treatment of such demand of less than Rs 100, however, practically payment towards such miniscule demand of earlier year is not enforced, unless there is a refund in the subsequent year/s and the demand is proposed to be adjusted against such refund.""Do keep in mind that if there are taxes payable before the filing of ITR, say Rs 50, then such payment of taxes must be made or else you will not be able to file ITR," says Soni.Why was press note issued by the government in 2012The press note was issued by the government as many taxpayers in 2012 received tax demand notices from the department for the payment of even minuscule tax dues of Re 1, Rs 4, Rs 6 etc. "It has been reported in some sections of the press that the Central Processing Centre, Bangalore is sending notices for payment of taxes which are as small as Rs 1, 4, 6, causing unnecessary hardship to assessees. It has been argued that when refunds for amounts less than Rs 100 are not issued by the income tax department, then the demand for less than Rs 100 should also not be collected," said the press release issued at that time.The press release further said, "The income tax department has created a central repository of all demands for better demand management as required by Standing Committee of Parliament and C&AG. To achieve this, all officers were asked to collate demand lying at various places viz. IRLA, TMS and manual registers and upload onto CPC portal. This was also part of the annual action plan. Consequently, AOs have uploaded the same. During a meeting with Bangalore Chartered Accountants association, it was suggested that taxpayers should also be informed about the same so as to enable them to take necessary action if the outstanding demands were incorrect. This measure was aimed at providing greater transparency. Therefore, a communication has been sent to taxpayers informing them about existing arrears. It may be clarified that this communication is not a demand notice. This measure is, in fact, an assessee -friendly exercise. The department has also written to all chief commissioners to amend such entries, if found incorrect, when approached by taxpayers. This would correct the database if a taxpayer has proof of payment etc. As per extant procedure, demand of less than Rs 100 is not enforced but is liable for adjustment against future refunds."
Categories: Business News

What you can do to avoid the new Covid strain

Business News - January 21, 2021 - 10:59am
New variants of the coronavirus continue to emerge. But one in particular has caused concern in the United States because it is so contagious and spreading fast. To avoid it, you’ll need to double down on the same pandemic precautions that have kept you safe so far.The variant known as B.1.1.7., which was first identified in Britain, doesn’t appear to cause more severe disease, but it has the potential to infect an estimated 50% more people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has predicted that this variant could become the dominant source of infection in the United States by March. Variants with the same mutation have been reported in Brazil and South Africa, and now scientists are studying whether a variant with a different mutation, and first found in Denmark, along with one identified in California, have caused a surge of cases in California.The new variant spreading in the United States appears to latch onto our cells more efficiently. The change suggests it could take less virus and less time in the same room with an infected person for someone to become ill. People infected with the variant may also shed larger quantities of virus, which increases the risk to people around them.“The exact mechanism in which it’s more transmissible isn’t entirely known,” said Nathan D. Grubaugh, assistant professor and public health researcher at the Yale School of Public Health. “It might just be that when you’re infected, you’re exhaling more infectious virus.”So how do you avoid a more contagious version of the coronavirus? I spoke with some of the leading virus and infectious disease experts about what makes the new variant so worrisome and what we can do about it. Here’s what they had to say.How can I protect myself from the new coronavirus variant?The variant spreads the same way the coronavirus has always spread. You’re most likely to contract the virus if you spend time in an enclosed space breathing the air of an infected person. The same things that have protected you from the original strain should help protect you from the variant, although you may need to be more rigorous. Wear a two- or three-layer mask. Don’t spend time indoors with people not from your household. Avoid crowds, and keep your distance. Wash your hands often, and avoid touching your face.“The first thing I say to people is that it’s not a different virus. All the things we have learned about this virus still apply,” said Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health in Rhode Island. “It’s not like this variant is somehow magically spreading through other means. Anything risky under the normal strain just becomes riskier with the variant.” And let’s face it, after months of pandemic living, many of us have become lax about our COVID safety precautions. Maybe you’ve let down your guard, and you’re spending time indoors and unmasked with trusted friends. Or perhaps you’ve been dining in restaurants or making more trips to the grocery store each week than you did at the start of lockdowns. The arrival of the variant means you should try to cut back on potential exposures where you can and double down on basic precautions for the next few months until you and the people around you get vaccinated.“The more I hear about the new variants, the more concerned I am,” said Linsey Marr, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech and one of the world’s leading aerosol scientists. “I think there is no room for error or sloppiness in following precautions, whereas before, we might have been able to get away with letting one slide.”Should I upgrade my mask?You should be wearing a high-quality mask when you run errands, go shopping or find yourself in a situation in which you’re spending time indoors with people who don’t live with you, Marr said. “I am now wearing my best mask when I go to the grocery store,” she said. “The last thing I want to do is get COVID-19 in the month before I get vaccinated.”Marr’s lab recently tested 11 mask materials and found that the right cloth mask, properly fitted, does a good job of filtering viral particles of the size most likely to cause infection. The best mask has three layers — two cloth layers with a filter sandwiched in between. Masks should be fitted around the bridge of the nose and made of flexible material to reduce gaps. Head ties create a better fit than ear loops.If you don’t want to buy a new mask, a simple solution is to wear an additional mask when you find yourself in closer proximity to strangers. I wear a single mask when I walk my dog or exercise outdoors. But if I’m going to a store, taking a taxi or getting in the subway, I double mask by using a disposable surgical mask and covering it with my cloth mask.Do I need an N95 medical mask?While medical workers who come into close contact with sick patients rely on the gold-standard N95 masks, you don’t need that level of protection if you’re avoiding group gatherings, limiting shopping trips and keeping your distance from others.“N95s are hard to get,” Jha said. “I don’t think people should think that’s what they need. Certainly there are a lot of masks out in the marketplace that are pretty good.”If you’re working in an office or grocery store, or find yourself in a situation in which you want added mask protection, you can get an alternative to the N95. Jha suggested using a KF94 mask, a type of mask made in South Korea that can be purchased easily online. It resembles an N95, with some differences. It is made of a similar nonwoven material that blocks 94% of the hardest-to-trap viral particles. But the KF94 has ear loops, instead of elastic head bands, so it won’t fit as snugly as an N95.The KF94 is also disposable — you can buy a pack of 20 for about $40 on Amazon. While you can let a KF94 mask air dry and reuse it a few times, it can’t be laundered and won’t last as long as a cloth mask. One solution is to save your KF94 mask for higher-risk situations — like riding a subway, spending time in a store or going to a doctor’s appointment. Use your cloth mask for outdoor errands, exercise or walking the dog.Are there additional ways to reduce my risk?Getting the vaccine is the ultimate way to reduce risk. But until then, take a look at your activities and try reducing the time and number of exposures to other people.For instance, if you now go to the store two or three times a week, cut back to just once a week. If you’ve been spending 30 to 45 minutes in the grocery store, cut your time down to 15 or 20 minutes. If the store is crowded, come back later. If you’re waiting in line, be mindful of staying at least 6 feet apart from the people ahead of you and behind you. Try delivery or curbside pickup, if that’s an option for you.If you’ve been spending time indoors with other people who aren’t from your household, consider skipping those events until you and your friends get vaccinated. If you must spend time with others, wear your best mask, make sure the space is well-ventilated (open windows and doors) and keep the visit as short as possible. It’s still safest to take your social plans outdoors. And if you are thinking about air travel, it’s a good idea to reschedule given the high number of cases around the country and the emergence of the more contagious variant.“The new variants are making me think twice about my plan to teach in person, which would have been with masks and with good ventilation anyway,” Marr said. “They’re making me think twice about getting on an airplane.”Will the current COVID vaccines work against the new variants?Experts are cautiously optimistic that the current generation of vaccines will be mostly effective against the emerging coronavirus variants. Earlier this month, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their COVID vaccine works against one of the key mutations present in some of the variants. That’s good news, but the variants have other potentially risky mutations that haven’t been studied yet.Some data also suggest that variants with certain mutations may be more resistant to the vaccines, but far more study is needed, and those variants haven’t yet been detected in the United States. While the data are concerning, experts said the current vaccines generate extremely high levels of antibodies, and they are likely to at least prevent serious illness in people who are immunized and get infected.“The reason why I’m cautiously optimistic is that from what we know about how vaccines work, it’s not just one antibody that provides all the protection,” said Dr. Adam Lauring, associate professor of infectious disease at the University of Michigan. “When you get vaccinated you generate antibodies all over the spike protein. That makes it less likely that one mutation here or there is going to leave you completely unprotected. That’s what gives me reason for optimism that this is going to be OK in terms of the vaccine, but there’s more work to be done.”If I catch COVID-19, will I know if I have the new variant?Probably not. If you test positive for the coronavirus, the standard polymerase chain reaction test can’t definitively determine if you have the variant or the original strain. While some PCR test results can signal if a person is likely to be infected with a variant, that information probably won’t be shared with patients. The only way to know for sure which variant is circulating is to use gene sequencing technology, but that technology is not used to alert individuals of their status. While some public health and university laboratories are using genomic surveillance to track the prevalence of variants in a community, the United States doesn’t yet have a large-scale, nationwide system for checking coronavirus genomes for new mutations.Treatment for COVID-19 is the same whether you have the original strain or the variant.Are children more at risk from the new variant?Children appear to get infected with the variant at about the same rate as the original strain. A large study by health officials in Britain found that young children are only about half as likely as adults to transmit the variant to others. While that’s good news, the highly contagious nature of the variant means more children will get the virus, even if they are still proportionately less contagious and less prone to getting infected than adults.If I’ve already had COVID-19, am I likely to have the same level of immunity to the new strain?Most experts agree that once you’ve had COVID-19, your body has some level of natural immunity to help fight off a second infection — although it’s not known how long the protection lasts. The variants circulating in Brazil and South Africa appear to have mutations that allow the virus to evade natural antibodies and reinfect someone who has already had the virus. The concern is based on lab tests using antibodies of people with a previous infection, so whether that translates to more reinfections in the real world isn’t known. The effect of the vaccine against these variants isn’t known yet either. While all of this sounds frightening, scientists are hopeful that even if the vaccines don’t fully protect against new variations of the virus, the antibodies generated by the vaccine still will protect people from more serious illness.Untitled Carousel 80309707 80359276 80365951
Categories: Business News

Biden may have only 2 years to get things done

Business News - January 21, 2021 - 10:59am
Bumping Senator Mitch McConnell to the minority increases Joe Biden’s odds of passing his agenda, but there is a catch.In the Senate in recent decades, the filibuster has morphed from the long-winded speeches portrayed by Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” into a silent but lethal tool that lets any one senator raise the threshold for passing bills from a simple majority (where the framers set it) to a supermajority of 60 votes.The harsh reality is that when the dust settles on the chaos and violence that marked the end of the Trump presidency, Republican senators will have the same powerful incentives to deny Mr. Biden the 10 or so votes he will need, in addition to all 50 Democrats, to pass most bills in the Senate.With Republicans needing just a handful of seats to take back majorities in the House and Senate, they will seek to make Democrats look feckless and ride voter discontent to gains in the 2022 midterms. In all but three times since 1914, the party that won the White House — in this case, the Democrats — loses House seats in the midterms. The next two years may be Mr. Biden’s best and perhaps only window to pass his agenda.He can choose to avoid this fate, all while restoring the institution he spent 36 years in and empowering moderates. He and his fellow Senate Democrats can choose to reform the filibuster.Mr. McConnell will run the same playbook on Mr. Biden that he ran on President Barack Obama: Just as Mr. McConnell realized that Mr. Obama’s political brand hinged on his promise to fix “the broken politics in Washington,” he knows that Mr. Biden’s relies on his ability to deliver bipartisan cooperation.Mr. McConnell will come up with excuses not to work with the president that will sound lofty and politically valid. By the 2022 midterms, Mr. Biden’s pledges of bipartisan cooperation will lie in shambles.Some commentators have argued for the use of end-runs around the filibuster like reconciliation. But they are harder than they look, and forcing bills to comply with reconciliation’s restrictive rules will probably lead to key provisions getting struck or force Democrats to try to change Senate rules anyway. More important, reconciliation cannot be used to advance critical policies necessary to repairing our democracy, like automatic voter registration and statehood for the District of Columbia. Nor can it be employed to pass many climate change policies.The Senate’s paralysis has become accepted as normal. But the chamber was not meant to be a perpetual obstacle to new legislation — it’s important to look at history to see why it should be restored to its proper role.The supermajority threshold of today flies in the face of the framers’ intent. They wanted the Senate to be a place where debate was thorough and thoughtful, but limited, and where bills passed or failed on majority votes when it became clear to reasonable minds that debate was exhausted. Originally, Senate rules included a provision allowing a majority to end debate, and an early manual written by Thomas Jefferson established procedures for silencing senators who debated “superfluous, or tediously.” Obstruction was considered beneath them.The reason the framers set the threshold at a majority is that they wrote the Constitution to replace the Articles of Confederation, which they saw as a disaster because it required a supermajority of Congress to pass most major legislation. As Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 22, the idea that a supermajority encouraged cooperation had proven deceptive: “What at first sight may seem a remedy, is, in reality, a poison.” Rather than encourage cooperation, he prophesied, the effect of requiring “more than a majority” would be “to embarrass the administration, to destroy the energy of the government, and to substitute the pleasure, caprice or artifices” of a minority to the “regular deliberations and decisions of a respectable majority.”For all of James Madison’s embrace of minority rights, he saw the complex system of government itself — not a Senate supermajority threshold — as the minority’s protection. Even without the filibuster, the United States government ranks high on the number of “veto players,” or checks on untrammeled majority rule, among modern democracies. Within this system of checks and balances, Madison believed, decision points on governing should be majority-rule.The filibuster did not emerge until after the framers died. Its leading innovator was the South Carolinian John C. Calhoun. Seeking to protect slave owners against abolitionism, Calhoun envisioned a Senate where this powerful pro-slavery minority would have not just the voice Madison intended but a veto — or as he put it, “a negative on the others.”To advance his vision, Calhoun forged the “talking filibuster” of popular imagination, marrying lofty defenses of minority rights with long-winded speeches. Radical as it was, the talking filibuster could only delay bills, since its practitioners eventually had to yield. Votes remained majority-rule into the 20th century. Many historic compromises on far-reaching legislation passed on majority-rule votes: the Missouri Compromise passed by just four votes; the Constitution itself hinged on majority-rule votes; the Great Compromise that created the Senate and saved the Constitutional Convention passed by a single vote.The supermajority threshold now associated with the filibuster emerged in the Jim Crow era, when Southern senators used it to stop civil rights (and only civil rights) legislation. In 1917, the Senate created Rule 22 to “terminate successful filibustering,” giving a supermajority (today 60 senators) the ability to bring closure (or “cloture”) to a filibuster. Majority-rule votes remained the norm for all other legislation, but filibustering Southerners made this step of cloture — and its supermajority threshold — the standard for the dozen or so civil rights bills that passed the House and came before the Senate. So although Rule 22 was enacted to bring some constraint to filibusters, it ended up being wielded by Southerners as an effective veto of civil rights legislation.Southerners inflated the minority’s right to unlimited debate with soaring oratory backed by intimidation from their monopoly of the Senate’s all-powerful committees, which controlled the prospects for legislation as well as senators’ careers. (At the time, most Southern members of Congress were Democrats, and they were sometimes in the majority of the chamber but in the minority on civil rights legislation, which had broad support.) Unlimited debate was a sacred principle only on civil rights; on the vanishingly rare occasion other issues faced filibusters, Southerners voted to end them. From the end of Reconstruction until 1964, the filibuster killed only civil rights bills.After cloture was finally used to break a Southern filibuster in 1964, something unexpected happened: The filibuster and its supermajority threshold became normalized and streamlined to make the Senate’s expanding workload more manageable. Soon, any senator could invoke the supermajority threshold simply by registering an objection, which today can be done via email. In the hands of Senator McConnell, this user-friendly filibuster became a weapon of mass obstruction. Today, nearly every bill in the Senate faces it, and therefore must clear 60 votes.The Senate never made a conscious choice to operate this way, and its leading lights denounced the decline of the upper chamber, many of them moderates. Horrified by Calhoun’s innovation, Henry Clay of Kentucky, the Great Compromiser, was the first to try to limit the filibuster. In 1957, the Eisenhower administration backed filibuster reform in an effort to pass civil rights, but was outmaneuvered by Southerners. In the mid-2000s, the constitutional case for restoring majority rule was laid out compellingly by Martin Gold, who had been chief counsel to the Republican Senate leader Howard Baker, and Dimple Gupta, who worked in the Justice Department under George W. Bush.As these moderates of both parties saw, reform is necessary because Senate obstruction has evolved exactly as the framers feared when they warned against enabling a “pertinacious minority” to “control the opinion of a majority.” Calhoun’s vision of a minority veto has come to pass.The key to reform is eliminating the minority’s ability to impose a supermajority threshold on legislation while still giving the minority a platform and making it easier for senators to bring bills and amendments up for votes.For example, the Senate could require a Jimmy Stewart-style talking filibuster, not just an emailed objection, reviving debate and making the chamber a place where incentives align to produce thoughtful solutions. In such a Senate, the floor will be lively and moderates like Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, and Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, would be kingmakers.The most frequent objection is that such reform would make the Senate like the House. To the contrary, restoring floor debate and a basic ability to get things done would make the Senate the Senate again. The chamber’s fundamental purpose is to produce thoughtful solutions to the challenges we face, and its rules should exist not to entrench paralysis but to serve that goal.In his memoir “A Promised Land,” Mr. Obama chronicles his regret that he “hadn’t had the foresight” to rally Senate Democrats to “to revise the chamber rules and get rid of the filibuster once and for all.” Because of his long Senate service, Mr. Biden has unique credibility to lead a successful push for reform. We can’t afford for the Senate to remain the place where good ideas go to die. We need to make the Senate great again. 80378563 80378014 80372200
Categories: Business News

Farmers reject govt's offer to stay farm laws

Business News - January 21, 2021 - 10:59am
The government on Wednesday proposed to suspend the three contentious farm laws for one and half years and set up a joint committee to discuss the Acts to end the stalemate, but farmer leaders did not immediately accept the proposal and said they will revert after their internal consultations. The next meeting has been scheduled for January 22, a day after the farmer unions hold their internal discussions on Thursday, farmer leaders said after the 10th round of talks ended at Vigyan Bhawan here after nearly five hours of talks, including two breaks. "The government proposed to suspend the farm laws for one and a half years. We rejected the proposal but since it has come from the government, we will meet tomorrow and deliberate over it," Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) president Joginder Singh Ugrahan said. Another farmer leader Kavitha Kuruganti said the government also proposed to submit an affidavit in the Supreme Court for suspending the three farm laws for a mutually-agreed period and set up a committee. The leaders said unions are firm on their demand for a complete repeal of the laws, but they will still discuss the government's proposal and give their final decision in the next meeting. During the meeting, the government also offered to amend the three laws but farmer leaders stuck to their demand and alleged that the Centre was avoiding discussion on a legal guarantee for MSP. Farmer leaders said there was no breakthrough in the first two sessions as both sides were stuck on their stated positions vis-a-vis the three farm laws and there was little hope of any outcome other than fixing the date for the 11th round. Sources said the government proposed to keep the three farm laws suspended for a fixed time period and form a committee comprising of farmer union leaders and government representatives. The ministers proposed that the laws would remain suspended till the committee gives its report and urged farmer unions to suspend their agitation too till that time, sources added. The laws have already been stayed till further orders by the Supreme Court, which has formed a committee to resolve the deadlock. The committee, which had its first meeting on Tuesday and will begin its consultations with various stakeholders on Thursday, has been asked to give its report in two months. Farmer leaders also raised the issue of NIA notices being served to some farmers, alleging it was being done just to harass those supporting the agitation, to which the government representatives said they will look into the matter. The two sides took a break after around one hour of discussions when farmer leaders had langar food. The meeting began at around 2.45 pm with the three ministers greeting farmer leaders on the occasion of Gurupurab. The meeting resumed at around 5.15 pm after a lunch break, but the two sides took another break at around 6 pm during which the farmer leaders discussed the government proposal for suspending the laws for a fixed period of time. Kuruganti said the meeting began with the NIA issue, followed by unions' demand for a repeal of the laws. The farmer leaders presented multiple Parliament replies given by the agriculture minister where he had stated that agriculture is a state subject, while one reply mentioned even agri-marketing as a state subject. She said the discussion did not appear progressing anywhere. "The government offered to carry out some amendments, but farmer leaders maintained they do not want anything less than a complete repeal of the laws," Tikait said. Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Railways, Commerce and Food Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash, who is an MP from Punjab, are holding the talks with the representatives of around 40 farmer unions at the Vigyan Bhawan here. Before the meeting, the three ministers also met senior BJP leader and Union Home Minister Amit Shah. The tenth round of talks was initially scheduled on January 19, but later got postponed to Wednesday. In the last round of talks, the government had asked protesting farmers to prepare a concrete proposal about their objections and suggestions on the three farm laws for further discussion at their next meeting to end the long-running protest. But, unions stuck to their main demand of a complete repeal of the three Acts. Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, are protesting at various border points of Delhi for over a month now against the three laws. Farmer groups have alleged these laws will end the mandi and MSP procurement systems and leave the farmers at the mercy of big corporates, even as the government has rejected these apprehensions as misplaced. On January 11, the Supreme Court had stayed the implementation of the three laws till further orders and appointed a four-member panel to resolve the impasse. Bhartiya Kisan Union president Bhupinder Singh Mann had recused himself from the committee appointed by the apex court. Shetkari Sanghatana (Maharashtra) president Anil Ghanwat and agriculture economists Pramod Kumar Joshi and Ashok Gulati are the other three members on the panel. Under attack from protesting unions for their "pro-government" public stand on three contentious farm laws, the members of the committee said that they would keep aside their own ideology and views while consulting various stakeholders, even as they indicated a complete repeal won't augur well for much-needed agriculture reforms. Earlier in the day, a group of farm union leaders met top officials of Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh police to discuss the route and arrangements for their tractor rally on January 26 to protest against the three farm laws. But the unions rejected a suggestion by police officers to hold their rally on the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal Expressway instead of Delhi's Outer Ring Road, sources said.
Categories: Business News

Home First IPO: Should you subscribe?

Business News - January 21, 2021 - 10:59am
Home First Finance Company plans to raise Rs 265 crore from fresh equity issue to augment the capital base and another Rs 888.7 crore through offer for sale. The mortgage lender operates in the country’s fast growing affordable housing segment. It has reported a sharp increase in lending activities over the past three years. Its business is concentrated in three states. The IPO valuation seems to capture its growth prospects. These factors make the IPO more suitable for investors with high risk appetite.Business and financialsThe affordable housing finance company targets first time home buyers in the low and middle income groups. Home loans comprised 92% of the total loan assets worth Rs 3,730 crore as of September 2020. This proportion is higher than 60-83% for other home loan companies. The lender’s activities are concentrated in three states including Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu, which together account for over 70% of the loan book and host 46 out of the total 70 branches as of September 2020.The company’s assets under management (AUM) increased by 63.4% annually between FY18 and FY20 to Rs 3,618.3 crore. Revenue rose by 73.8% to Rs 398.6 crore while net profit surged five-times to Rs 79.2 crore during the period. The AUM of another affordable home finance company Aavas Financiers grew by 38.4% annually to Rs 7796.1 crore during the period.80377528 Affordable housing is a promising credit segment given the government’s incentives. According to CRISIL Research, the affordable home loan segment will grow by 9-10% annually between FY20 and FY23 to Rs 11.9 lakh crore.ValuationThe IPO price is at nearly 55% premium to Rs 334.7 at which the company undertook a preferential allotment to Orange Clove Investments, an affiliate of Warburg Pincus in October 2020. Considering the equity after the IPO, the company demands a price-book (P/B) multiple of 3.6. Its direct peer Aavas Financiers trades at a steeper multiple of nearly seven and has better net interest margin and higher return ratios. Some of the other home finance companies are available at P/B between one and three.
Categories: Business News

QR code health cards for all in Delhi by Aug

Business News - January 21, 2021 - 10:59am
NEW DELHI: Delhi government has set the ball rolling for ensuring that by August every Delhiite has a QR code-based health card with his or her basic clinical details to easily access public healthcare facilities.The health card would be linked to the government’s ambitious cloud-based Health Information Management System (HIMS), which would make information like location of public healthcare facilities, availability of beds in government hospitals, doctors’ qualification, specialisation and availability, medicines in stores, etc, just a click away. 80378526An expression of interest (EOI) has been floated for the selection of a health card issuing and distribution agency (IDA) and a request for proposal for selection of a service provider to operate a call centre of a centralised health helpline.While HIMS is envisaged to track and record the complete medical record of each resident and help provide continuum of care, the health cards issued by the IDA would help by containing complete records and key clinical details, along with other related information about the individual’s eligibility under various health scheme and programmes of Delhi government in one place and also function as a Unique Health ID.The health cards would facilitate easy identification of key clinical information that may be vital for the treating doctor to provide personalised healthcare services from anywhere in the city and any new diagnosis would get included in the card.The data would also be updated on HIMS, which would digitally bring together the 38 government-run hospitals, apart from approximately 180 dispensaries, 25 polyclinics and 500 operational Aam Aadmi Mohalla Clinics that would be scaled up to 1,000.Every Delhiite aged 18 or older would be issued the health cards and those between 1 and 18 years would also be issued the document linked to their parents cards. Newborns up to 1 year of age would be linked to their mother’s health card.The cards would have the GIS coordinates of the patients based on their current address in the form of QR codes and would be assigned a unique health ID based on the guidelines defined under National Digital Health Mission. While the card would help them get healthcare services in any institution of Delhi, the benefits may be further extended to institutions outside Delhi too.Initially, all Delhiites would be issued e-health cards with all required details. Subsequently, PVC cards would be sent to their registered address along with a letter from chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and a brochure highlighting the benefits, usage, and Dos and Don’ts. Cardholders would be able to rectify mistakes in demographic details and also request issuance of a duplicate card.While the IDA would make cards based on Delhi’s electoral roll, there would be an option of self-registering and counters would be opened at healthcare facilities for this purpose.According to the EOI, the IDA would have to take “utmost care” to ensure data privacy of all citizens. There are plans of capturing facial recognition and biometric data of all Delhiites and linking it to the health cards in the future.Delhi government is also planning a mobile application and a 24x7 centralised helpline number, which would be mentioned on the health card for any support patients might need. The proposal for the helpline mandates that selected service providers would create a 50-seater call centre with trained responders to answer queries related to any healthcare facility.
Categories: Business News

Vodafone Group may sell small stake in Indus Towers to inject capital into Vi

Business News - January 21, 2021 - 10:59am
Kolkata | Mumbai: Vodafone Group Plc is considering selling a small portion of its 28.12% stake in Indus Towers to inject capital into its ailing Indian telecom joint venture, Vodafone Idea (Vi). This comes even as Vodafone Idea’s potential global lenders are pressing the telco's co-promoters — the UK telecom major and India’s Aditya Birla Group — for some capital infusion to improve their overall comfort levels, three people with direct knowledge said.The Vodafone Group has previously said that it would not infuse any fresh equity into Vi. But its stake in the now-listed Indus Towers is an existing and separate telecom-related investment in India, which may make it easier for the British telco to convince shareholders, if required, one of the people told ET.“With the recent closure of the Infratel-Indus merger, it is definitely an available option to demonstrate the UK co-promoter’s commitment to Vi,” said another person, a senior banker familiar with the discussions.Indus Towers’ shares closed 1.6% lower at Rs254.25 Wednesday on the BSE, giving it a market capitalisation of Rs 68,519 crore and valuing Vodafone Group’s stake at Rs 19,268 crore.Over the past three weeks, Vi’s stock has jumped nearly 20% on hopes of the completion of its Rs25,000-crore fundraising via a mix of debt and equity. On Wednesday, Vi shares closed 0.4% higher at Rs 13.37 on the BSE.A person close to Vi’s potential foreign lenders said formalising the final funding terms, leading to a binding term sheet, is expected next month, but the timeline also depends on how soon one or both promoters signal intent to infuse funds into the cash-strapped Indian telco.Investment firm Oak Hill Advisors is believed to be leading a consortium including GoldenTree Asset Management, Pacific Investment Management Co, Sixth Street, Twin Point Capital and Varde Partners to provide an around $2 billion (Rs 14,600 crore) credit line to Vi. They are expected to invest through a mix of convertible instruments, comprising bonds and warrants with a linked equity option that will allow them to convert a portion of the debt into shares. 80377952Vodafone Group and Oak Hill spokespersons declined to comment on the matter, while the Aditya Birla Group, Vodafone Idea and the potential investors did not respond to ET’s queries till press time Wednesday. Indus Towers also declined to comment.Following the recent merger of erstwhile Bharti Infratel and Indus Towers, the Vodafone Group now owns 28.12% in the tower entity. Bharti Airtel effectively controls the tower company with a 41.72% stake, while private equity firm KKR and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board own a combined 7.1% stake. The balance is held by public shareholders.The Vodafone Group is believed to be mulling selling only a small part of its holdings in Indus, but is yet to take any firm decision on how much. “It will first need to take its UK shareholders on board before signalling any such intent,” said a person.Also, the UK parent needs to factor in the fact that it has pledged some of its Indus holding to secure operational payments by Vi for a year to the merged towers entity.“While some stake divestment in Indus is possible, the Vodafone Group may first need to get the share pledges released by clearing underlying liabilities,” one of the people said."A holder of shares would typically require an NOC from the lenders with whom shares of a particular company are pledged for any transfer," said a senior lawyer from a large firm. "Subject to necessary consents being taken and disclosures, nothing stops any stakeholder from selling its pledged stake in a company," the lawyer added.Lossmaking Vi needs funds urgently to ramp up its 4G operations, arrest a steady loss of subscribers to rivals and clear statutory dues to the government. It has more than Rs 50,000 crore of AGR dues payable to the government over 10 annual instalments through March 31, 2031.
Categories: Business News

Instamojo ramps up hiring, introduces permanent WFH option

Business News - January 21, 2021 - 10:59am
BENGALURU: Instamojo, a full-stack solutions provider for MSMEs, has announced that it has ramped up hiring and on-boarded more than half its new hires from tier 2 and 3 cities and towns, across the last three months. Hiring was conducted across several verticals including tech, marketing and product teams. The company has also introduced a permanent work from home flexi option where employees can choose to either work from home or office as per their convenience.With an employee strength of 140 people across the country, the recent hiring cycle saw new hires from tier 2 and 3 towns such as Krishnagiri, Kolar, Dehradun and Sitapur.“The pandemic brought in an array of changes, not just impacting the economy but the way India Inc coped, too. Geographical locations were no more a barrier, and with Covid-19 changing work norms across organisations, hiring also witnessed a 360 degree shift. Candidates were hired and on-boarded virtually. While this helped us widen our access to reach the right candidates, new hires had the benefit to work out of their hometowns and continue to contribute to the company,” Akash Gehani, co-founder and COO, Instamojo, told ET.The company aims to end the quarter with around 160 employees, Gehani added.Along with the introduction of the permanent work-from-home feature, the company plans to continue following its work from anywhere policy, with the office space open and accessible to all employees. With the rapidly increasing rate of digital adoption, Instamojo aims to transform micro businesses into digitally independent entrepreneurs. Through the pandemic, the company introduced several products to address the needs of small businesses that were grappling to survive, and consequently recorded a 25% growth in merchant base. The startup’s investors include Gunosy Capital, Blume Ventures, and Kalaari Capital, as well as angel investors Rajan Anandan, Sunil Kalra, Shailesh Rao, Rob de Heus, among others.
Categories: Business News

States look for ways to immunise the reluctant

Business News - January 21, 2021 - 7:58am
NEW DELHI: Battling with low immunisation figures in several states, the health ministry has advised states to run awareness programmes to ensure healthcare workers come forward and take the Covid vaccine.State governments have come up with different strategies to tackle vaccine hesitancy. Apart from the usual appeals from state health ministers and administrative machinery that vaccines are safe, the states have identified Covid warriors who would be inoculated to dispel any fears. Bihar health minister Mangal Pandey told ET, “We initiated our drive with AIIMS director PK Singh taking Covaxin. Now we have identified our top doctors and every day some well-known doctors would take the vaccine to give a message to our healthcare workers that these vaccines are safe.” Bihar is one of the 11 states that have got Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.Gujarat health secretary Jayanti Ravi told ET that the state government has decided to be proactive in involving doctors in the drive. “We have addressed this at multiple counts. Even in the doctors’ fraternity, sometimes there are facts that can be misleading. To plan this out, we have a team of experts, mainly with people like Naveen Thakkar who has done work with Pulse Polio, and Swapan Pandya who is an immunologist … Involving local medical associations and practising doctors at district level is also helping us. We had practitioners from the private sector volunteering with us which helped us in ironing out doubts,” he said. All district collectors have also been asked to reach out to religious groups and minority institutions in their areas.Tamil Nadu, which has one of the lowest Covid vaccine coverages in India at 34%, is trying to involve religious leaders and social influencers to ensure healthcare workers take the vaccine. The state achieved only over 16% of its targeted coverage on the launch day, and the compliance further dropped the second day. But it has now improved and state health secretary J Radhakrishnan said: “It was anticipated that once Pongal holidays are over it will pick up… Apart from communicating and clarifying the doubts, the opinion leaders among the doctors and various associations willingly coming forward has also helped. We will be taking it by the day and simultaneously also focussing on regular prevention and control work too."Launching just a “no side effects” campaign won’t suffice as the effort should be really at clearing the doubts that the health workers have, said HS Nigam, health secretary of West Bengal. Shuchin Bajaj, founder of Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals, said: “The government needs to be transparent with information to eliminate the natural doubts people have. There should be a nationwide campaign with a strong messaging saying ‘if you don’t want your loved ones to die, or lose your job or an important surgery getting postponed, vaccination is the way forward’. It’s also very important that government helplines should be established so that someone can proactively listen to people’s concerns and respond accordingly.”
Categories: Business News

New Cricket stars may score ad deals

Business News - January 21, 2021 - 7:58am
NEW DELHI: Talent management firms representing the Indian cricketers who crafted a historic win over Australia on Tuesday have started sending feelers to brands for endorsements, industry executives said.Fees have gone up for some of the cricketers who already endorse brands, they said. The team consisted largely of lesser-known players with little international experience after more than half the first string was laid low, mostly through injury.“Between yesterday and today, endorsement fees of some of the youngsters have gone up 30-50%,” said a senior executive at a top talent management firm. “We are telling brands to sign up the young upcoming talent now, since they will also benefit as these are youngsters who charge a 10th of fees compared to some of the established names.”Pant, Gill Played Key RolesAmong the newer lot, while Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah are represented by the talent arm of IMG Worldwide and Reliance Industries IMG Reliance, JSW Sports announced Wednesday it would represent Rishabh Pant’s commercial engagements, brand endorsements and appearances, social media monetisation and other commercial interests.Cornerstone Ventures, the talent management firm that represents India captain Virat Kohli, also represents Shubman Gill. Pant and Gill played key roles in the win.RPG Enterprises chairman Harsh Goenka hinted at a potential deal with his tweet: “Shubman Gill deserves the Ceat bat again.”Ceat, an RPG subsidiary, had signed a bat endorsement deal with Gill over two years ago, which got over this year. He could be back with Ceat, with a bat deal valued at about 30% higher.Brands are looking at signing up some of the new talent.“We have seen a meteoric rise of new-age cricketing talent from India. As a brand, we are extremely excited to partner with not just established players but also some of the young guns who have performed so well,” said Abhishek Ganguly, managing director at sportswear maker Puma for India and South-East Asia, though he declined to mention details of upcoming deals.“Growth in brand valuation of these cricketers is inevitable. They are what MS Dhoni was many years back. Almost all of them are from small towns who are making their mark through sheer hard work,” said Arun Pandey, chairman of Rhiti Group, the sports management firm that gained fame a decade ago when it formally started representing Dhoni.Growth in Brand ValueUntil now, these emerging stars have signed very few deals or have done so mostly with lower profile brands. While Bumrah has been brand ambassador for furniture hardware and accessories maker Ebco, Pant has had endorsement deals with sports equipment maker SG and Adidas. Fees for players like Bumrah and Hardik Pandya, who didn’t play in the last Test, are Rs 20-50 lakh per endorsement, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Pant and Gill charge Rs 10-20 lakh, they said. Ajinkya Rahane, who led the team, has been associated with a few brands such as Ceat, edu-tech firm ELSA Corp and sports tech and events startup Huddle.“We are looking at signing up at least a couple of the new talent, and hope to formalise the deal before the upcoming India-England series,” a senior executive at a leading healthcare brand said, declining to be named for confidentiality reasons.“Brand value of the upcoming cricketers is surely up, given the pull of cricket,” said Tuhin Mishra, managing director of sports management firmBaseline Ventures, which represents Prithvi Shaw. “Brands will surely be considering the talent for endorsements. Signing of new deals, though, hasn’t been formalised because it’s just been one day.”While Shaw didn’t play in the final match, he was a member of the team in the first Test.The winning team comprised several who made their Test debut or were on their first overseas tour such as Mohammed Siraj, Washington Sundar, Shubman Gill and Navdeep Saini.
Categories: Business News

Centre offers to put farm laws on hold for 1-1.5 yrs

Business News - January 21, 2021 - 7:58am
NEW DELHI: The Centre proposed suspending the implementation of three contentious farm laws for up to a year and a half so that the government and protesting farmers can arrive at a consensus on them. The government said a joint committee will also be set up toward this end. The farmers’ unions said they will revert on Friday after discussing the proposal among themselves. They said the government had offered to suspend the laws for as much as two years. Farmers said the government had been forced into making the move due to the nearly two-month-long protests at sites on Delhi’s borders but that they are still committed to the repeal of the laws.“The Supreme Court has put the implementation on hold for small duration,” Union agriculture minister Narendra Tomar told reporters after the meeting, referring to the apex court’s recent ruling. “We proposed to suspend it for one and half years. During this time, we will form a committee comprising representatives from farmers and government to arrive at a mutually agreed resolution on the three laws and their demand on minimum support price (MSP).”He said the government had wanted to resolve the “crisis” at the 10th meeting held on Wednesday between the two sides to commemorate the birth anniversary of the 10th Sikh Guru--Guru Gobind Singh.“We started with a firm mind of discussion as per the provisions of farm laws,” he said. “But today is dedicated to Guru Gobind Singhji. So we wanted resolution of this issue. Hence, we have given them the proposal of suspending the laws, which the unions have agreed to think over.”Tomar said that if the unions agree to the proposal, the committee comprising government representatives and farmers will work in parallel to the panel appointed by the Supreme Court to arrive at a resolution of differences. “We are committed to the Supreme Court,” Tomar said. “But government is also directly accountable to farmers and the situation emerged due to this agitation. We will fulfil our responsibility. Both committees will work towards welfare of farmers.”Tomar said the government came up with the proposal so that the farmers could call off their agitation.“They are having hard times in this chilling winter and amid the Covid situation,” he said. “We want them to go home. Their representatives can discuss with us and find a solution.”The farmers said they needed to discuss the proposal and assess the general sentiment. “Our stand is for the repeal of the laws,” farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal told ET. “The government came up with a fresh proposal today to suspend the laws for a year to 1.5 years and even mentioned once a period of two years, and giving an affidavit to the Supreme Court on the same.”He said the government had wanted an answer immediately as it was the birth anniversary of the 10th Sikh Guru. “But we have asked for a day to discuss the matter at length amongst all unions tomorrow,” he said. “We will give an answer to the ministers at the next meeting on January 22.”He also said that ministers also gave an assurance that there would be no action by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) against innocent people involved in the protests. Some of those participating in the protests have been summoned for questioning by the NIA for alleged links with the Khalistan secessionist movement. The suspension could mean the laws being inoperative until after elections next year in Punjab, a state where the BJP is facing intense political opposition. Another senior farmer leader said the government had not got any relief from the Supreme Court on the farm laws and was under “severe pressure” a week ahead of the proposed tractor rally in Delhi on Republic Day. He argued that if the unions hold their ground, the government could even repeal the laws.“We may not need the tractor rally on January 26 if we agree to the law suspension proposal or we can take it out on January 26 in the form of a victory march,” another senior farmer leader said on condition of anonymity.Farmer leader Bhog Singh Mansa said the government’s argument that a majority of farmers in the country are in favour of the laws has been disproven as it is ready to suspend them.“What happened today is a major success in a way that government has conceded that there is a major issue with the farm laws which requires a long detailed look at them,” he said. “We have to make a big call now.”
Categories: Business News

I-T dept checking fake invoices of cos

Business News - January 21, 2021 - 7:58am
MUMBAI: The direct tax department has started scrutinising invoices of companies to check for tax evasion even as the indirect tax department continues its aggressive drive against tax dodgers. The income tax department has started scrutinising financial statements of companies to check if there are any fraudulent transactions or false entry that could result in low payment of taxes.The tax department is questioning certain transactions where it suspects either the sale has not happened or in cases where it’s difficult to verify details of companies or clients, said people in the know.The tax department suspects that several companies are forging financial statements so that they have to pay fewer taxes. The tax department is relying on a newly inserted section in the tax regulations that refers to a “false entry (accounting entry) or omission of an entry” for evading taxes. 80377404The tax department would also start scrutinising sale and purchase invoices of companies and whether this corresponds with the financial statements and taxes paid.This comes at a time when the indirect tax department is going out of its way to nab companies that are availing input tax credit based on fake invoices. Input tax credit mechanism under the Goods and Service Tax (GST) framework allows companies to set off part of the tax paid against future tax liabilities.Tax experts point out that the income tax department’s scrutiny could also cause issues for several small companies that may depend on old ways of business or that may not be maintaining proper financial records. Also the way the new regulation is defined could cause some issues, they say.“False entry has been very widely defined and it even covers the transactions which are not for evading income-tax liability. Every person and company may be required to maintain documents establishing the identity of buyer or seller,” said Paras Savla, partner, KPB & Associates, a tax advisory.Tax experts say that penal provision is enacted to combat fraudulent transactions and they are in addition to any other penalty whether prescribed under income-tax or other laws like GST.The sudden spurt in investigations by the tax departments also comes at a time when the government is looking to increase its revenue amidst Covid pandemic. Tax officials are given annual targets they have to achieve in order to be eligible for professional growth.Despite Covid pandemic and the impact it has had on corporate India the government has not reduced revenue targets for tax officers. A recent circular by the Central Board of Direct Taxes issued a few days back also asked tax officials to look at the newly inserted section that deals with fake invoices and entries.
Categories: Business News

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