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SolarWinds breach unlikely to ground Indian IT companies: Analysts

December 19, 2020 - 11:19am
BENGALURU: IT services providers may not be much impacted by the recent cyberattack on US-based IT monitoring and management solutions firm SolarWinds, although the breach of a key software – for which the Austin, Texas-based company has released patches – could turn out to be a headache for user organisations, analysts said. The company said in a regulatory filing on Tuesday that its chief executive was advised by cybersecurity company FireEye on December 12 of a vulnerability in its Orion Software Platform, the result of a sophisticated cyberattack. “While security professionals and other experts have attributed the attack to an outside nation-state, we have not independently verified the identity of the attacker,” it had said.Around 18,000 of its 300,000 customers who were using the Orion platform could be impacted and the company has already released patches to plug the vulnerability, it said. Analysts, however, said the issue was still unravelling and that the impact could be the “most wide-scale hacking of corporate networks ever seen”. They said that CIOs and CISOs across organisations were deeply concerned, although it will have limited impact on Indian IT services providers. “The vulnerability was with the software platform and hence the IT services firms are unlikely to see much of an impact,” said Peter Bendor-Samuel, CEO of Everest Group. “I think this is something (on which) there is a lot of discussion going on. At this stage, we are carefully evaluating it,” said Salil Parekh, CEO, Infosys. Wipro said it does not see any impact. “Wipro does not use SolarWinds Orion product for its internal IT operations and there is no impact on the company.”According to media reports, hundreds of Fortune 500 companies have been impacted. “(But) as this is beyond the scope of most outsourcing contracts, this will actually increase opportunities for services providers in the security realm,” said Phil Fersht, CEO, HfS Research. SolarWinds had said that cybersecurity experts had discovered a “kill switch” that prevents the malicious code from compromising systems.“It is true that this has happened to clients, but the vulnerability was with the software platform and hence the (IT) services firms are unlikely to get much of the blame. What this will do is underline the need for continued investment and this will work for the services firms,” said Bendor-Samuel.Fersht said these types of attacks will benefit technology services companies as organisations would be pushed to invest more on cybersecurity.“With the leading enterprises all ramping up their cloud migrations in the wake of the remote-working shift, trust in third-party providers and cloud providers is increasing, and confidence in in-house IT eroding. We are seeing security business with the likes of IBM, Accenture, Infosys and HCL all increasing,” Fersht said.
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Moderna COVID vaccine gets U.S. nod

December 19, 2020 - 8:19am
Moderna Inc's coronavirus vaccine on Friday became the second to receive emergency use authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, welcome news to a nation with a staggering COVID-19 death toll of over 307,000 lives lost.The FDA announced the authorization the day after the agency's panel of outside experts endorsed its use and a week after the FDA authorized a vaccine from Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE.The vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech, based on similar technology, has been put into the arms of thousands of U.S. healthcare workers this week in a massive nationwide rollout. Moderna injections are expected to begin in coming days for adults 18 years old and up."With the availability of two vaccines now for the prevention of COVID-19, the FDA has taken another crucial step in the fight against this global pandemic that is causing vast numbers of hospitalizations and deaths in the United States each day,” FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D, said in a statement.The speed of vaccine development is a stunning scientific success, although there is some hesitancy among the public."It is my hope that all Americans will protect themselves by getting vaccinated when the vaccine becomes available to them. That is how our country will begin to heal and move forward," top U.S. infectious disease scientist Anthony Fauci said in a statement.Older people in long-term health facilities are expected to get vaccines next, with a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expert panel on Sunday set to recommend what groups follow, as industries compete to have their workers given precedence.Moderna said it intended to apply for full U.S. license in 2021.The FDA decision marks the first regulatory authorization in the world for Moderna's vaccine and validation of its messenger RNA technology, shown to be nearly 95% effective with no serious safety concerns. It came less than a year after the first COVID-19 case was identified in the United States.The vaccine, developed in partnership with the National Institutes of Health, had relatively minor side effects including pain around the injection site and swelling.The biotech company has worked with the U.S. government to prepare for the distribution of 5.9 million shots as early as this weekend.Moderna's shot is expected to be used in harder-to-reach locations, such as rural hospitals. The vaccine needs to be stored and shipped frozen, but does not require the ultra-cold temperatures of the Pfizer/BioNTech shot.Once thawed, the Moderna vaccine can be kept at typical refrigerator temperatures. It is administered in two shots 28 days apart.Between the two vaccines, the United States is expecting 40 million doses before year end, enough to eventually vaccinate 20 million people, as both require two shots.U.S. President Donald Trump on Twitter hailed the authorization. "Congratulations, the Moderna vaccine is now available!" he wrote. The vaccine must be transported to hospitals and other centers before injections begin.Moderna said it would deliver approximately 20 million doses to the U.S. government this year and expected to have between 100 million and 125 million globally in the first quarter of next year, with 85-100 million of those for the United States.Moderna has deals with the U.S. government to provide a total of 200 million doses by the end of June 2021. Other vaccines still are in testing, including a one-shot injection from Johnson & Johnson, and a two-shot course from AstraZeneca and Oxford University.U.S. hospitalizations and deaths have surged, driven by last month's Thanksgiving holiday gatherings. Authorities have renewed restrictions and shutdowns across the country.Public health officials have warned infections from Christmas and New Year's celebrations could exacerbate a crisis that already threatens to overwhelm healthcare systems nationwide.Even with two highly effective vaccines, practices such as social distancing and face covering will be needed for months before enough people are inoculated to curb virus transmission and eventually end the pandemic.
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Cash-strapped Korean automaker SsangYong Motor may default on KDB loans now

December 19, 2020 - 8:19am
Mumbai: After defaulting on Rs 408-cr worth loans by a consortium of bankers, including JP Morgan Chase, BNP Paribas & Bank of America this week, cash-strapped Korean automaker SsangYong Motor is likely to default on the state-run Korea Development Bank (KDB) loans worth KRW 90 billion which is due on December 21, 2020.KDB may consider extending the maturity for these loans, but only on condition that SsangYong Motor, has cleared overdue loans to the foreign banks, people in the know said. The KDB has been taking a strict stance against SsangYong, saying that the situation called into question the company’s ability to continue its business as a going concern.Sources in the know say SsangYong’s collapse will probably lead to a series of job losses for not only the approximately 5,000 people directly employed by SsangYong, but also for SsangYong’s sale representatives and vendors. In this scenario KDB will be forced to agree to an extension for the loans once more, to prevent SsangYong’s collapse.Thats why KDB will extend support to SYMC if Mahindra resolves the current liquidity issue. KDB wants the major shareholder Mahindra to play a responsible role and come up with a sustainable solution to continue the company as a going concern.
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IIT Placements: 2 weeks on, 50% bag jobs

December 19, 2020 - 8:19am
New Delhi | Kolkata: IITs continue to break the mould, even in a pandemic year. Just two weeks into the final placement drive, more than half of 10,000 graduates of seven top IITs already have job offers. These seven IITs are those of Delhi, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Guwahati, Madras, BHU, and Roorkee.ET spoke to all seven IITs about their individual placement numbers so far — and the total across all the institutes comes to 5,300. Top recruiters so far include Microsoft, Intel, Flipkart, Oracle, Vedanta, L&T and ICICI, say IIT placement cells. The number of offers received this year are close to last year’s numbers, and IITs say they expect an improvement in core sector firms’ offers in the second phase of placements. Placements will continue in virtual mode till April-May 2021. The war for tech talent across IITs is also leading to average salaries moving north. Average domestic salary at Roorkee has risen to Rs 20 lakh per annum (lpa) compared with Rs 18.63 lpa last year. The average salary is up at IIT Kharagpur, too, from Rs 15 lpa last year to Rs 18 lpa. At IIT BHU (Varanasi), average salary has gone up to Rs 18.85 lpa from Rs 16.86 lpa last year, said Anil Kumar Agrawal, professor in-charge, Training and Placement Cell. “Domestic (salary) packages this year are really good. Profiles in domains related to finance and technology are driving these packages,” said Anishya Obhrai Madan, head, Office of Career Services, IIT Delhi. The highest domestic salary at IIT Kanpur this year is Rs 82 lpa, compared with Rs 62 lpa last year.79807221First-time Recruiters“Considering the unprecedented times, the response superseded our expectations, particularly from software and core engineering industries,” said Kantesh Balani, chairman, Students' Placement Office, IIT Kanpur. The pandemic hasn’t even cut short the list of first-time IIT recruiters. At Roorkee, a total of 200 companies are participating, including 54 first timers, according to professor-in-charge, placement and internship, Vinay Sharma. At IIT Madras, a total of 263 companies have registered for placements, of which 53 are visiting for the first time.
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Oberoi Realty buys out Sahana Group’s stake in Worli hotel for Rs 1,040 crore

December 19, 2020 - 2:19am
MUMBAI: Realty developer Oberoi Realty has bought out its partner Sudhakar Shetty-led Sahana Group’s entire 50% stake in an upcoming five-star luxury hotel property in Mumbai’s plush Worli locality for Rs 1,040 crore.The developer has purchased and taken possession of the under-construction hotel property on Dr. Annie Besant Road through its wholly-owned subsidiary Evenstar Hotels, the company said in a regulatory filing.Prior to the acquisition by Evenstar, the hotel property was owned by Oasis Realty, in which Sudhakar Shetty’s Sahana Group held 50% stake.The property is a 221-key luxury hotel and will be operated and managed under the Ritz-Carlton brand. The hotel is part of the project Three Sixty West developed by Oasis Realty. Sudhakar Shetty’s Sahana Group of Companies was in the news earlier this year after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) carried out searches on the premises of the company with regards to dubious financial transactions related to DHFL and late gangster Iqbal Mirchi.Started in 2003, Sahana group of companies’ business interest spans across private charter services, a real estate business and has majority stake in a news channel.
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SC stays criminal proceedings against Premji

December 18, 2020 - 11:19pm
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday stayed criminal proceedings against former chairman of Wipro, Azim Premji, and his wife on their plea seeking quashing of the summons issued by a Bengaluru trial court on a 'frivolous and mischievous' complaint filed by an NGO alleging breach of trust and corruption in merger of three firms with a Premji group firm.A bench of Justices Sanjya Kishan Kaul, Dinesh Maheshwari and Hrishikesh Roy also issued notice to an NGO, Indian Awake for Transparency and others and sought their response.Senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi, A M Singhvi appearing for Premji and others said that the complaint was 'mischievous' in nature.Senior advocate S Ganesh and advocate Vipin Nair appearing for G Venkateshwara Rao, said that the NGO India Awake for Transparency is being used by one R.Subramanian, as a corporate facade to file 'frivolous' litigation.Premji and others have challenged the High Court order of May 15 which had rejected their pleas for quashing of the January 27, summons issued by the trial court.Others who had challenged the High Court order include Pagalthivarthi Srinivasan, then regional director in the ministry of corporate affairs M R Bhat and chartered accountant G Venkateshwara Rao. The summons were issued by the trial court on the basis of a complaint filed by India Awake for Transparency alleging illegality in the transfer of assets worth Rs 45,000 crore from three companies into a private trust and a newly formed company.In their appeals, Premji and others have said that the complainant NGO had suppressed material facts and documents including that the scheme of amalgamation had already been sanctioned by Karnataka High Court by order dated March 26, 2015.They said that the trial court order of January 27, taking cognizance and summoning the accused has been passed without judicial application of mind and without considering the fact that the scheme of amalgamation had already been approved by the High Court.Rao in his appeal has said that the record clearly shows that complainant is linked to one R Subramanian-former promoter and director of a company known as Subhiksha Trading Services Ltd., which is a defaulter of Azim Premji's companies and complaint under section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act is pending against it. "Therefore there is clear animosity and bad blood between R Subramanian and Mr Azim Premji and the subject complaint appears to be one in line of many frivolous complaints and litigations instituted by R Subramanian against Azim Premji and his companies, many of which stand dismissed with cost by different courts/tribunals", the appeal of Rao said. The complainant India Awake for Transparency (IAT) had alleged that Azim Premji, Yaseem Azim Premji and Pagalthivarthi Srinivasan were entrusted with the dominion over the properties and assets of three companies Vidya Investment and Trading Company Private Limited, Regal Investment and Trading Company Private Limited and Napean Investment and Trading Company Private Limited as directors.
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About 14 per cent cut in CO2 emissions possible in small commercial vehicle segment with EV push: Study

December 18, 2020 - 11:19pm
New Delhi: India can see up to 14 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions in the small commercial vehicle segment with higher electric vehicle (EV) penetration in total sales by 2030, according to a study. The study -- Roadmap for Electrification of Urban Freight in India -- was conducted to assess the operational and financial feasibility of EVs in the urban freight (UF) segment by undertaking a survey-based analysis of five sectors in Delhi, Bengaluru and Surat. It was released by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in association with Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation (SSEF). The study has come up with various recommendations, including setting up of a nationwide vehicle scrappage policy programme, with a focus on electric vehicle replacement. The study has also called for a countrywide national programme for electrification of urban freight sector. It has recommended state and city-level action plans for electrification of urban freight segments besides establishing a financial credibility framework for the manufacturers and drivers. The study also sought favourable terms of finance for electric freight vehicle by the lending institutions. "Our key findings suggest that the total cost of operation is rapidly turning in favour of EV variants, and diesel prices, range of EVs and subsidies play a significant role in the overall total cost of ownership (TCO) of EVs," TERI Centre for Sustainable Mobility Associate Fellow and Area Convenor Sharif Qamar noted. Qamar, who has authored the study, also highlighted that a large proportion of light commercial vehicles (LCVs) currently plying in Indian cities are pre-BS-IV emission standards, and focus is needed to upgrade these to newer vehicles. "EVs are increasingly being introduced in the urban freight/last-mile delivery services in Indian cities. Up to 14 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions is attainable in the small commercial vehicle segment with higher EV penetration in total sales by 2030," Qamar said. Niti Aayog Adviser, Transport, Sudhendu J Sinha while unveiling the report in a virtual event said with the increase in the country's urban population, authorities need to address the transport sector. "The urban freight sector is no more confined to four and three-wheelers; it also comprises two-wheelers with the advent of e-commerce," he noted. One of the most significant challenges in the three-wheeler segment is with respect to finances. However, that cost is now coming down to 25-30 per cent in India, he added. Citing the success of the public-private partnership (PPP) model for the adoption of EVs in Kochi, he said that awareness campaigns should be taken up to promote the uptake of such electric three-wheelers.
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NTPC identifying jobs and roles that can be permitted under WFH

December 18, 2020 - 11:19pm
MUMBAI: State-run power major NTPC is in the process of identifying jobs and roles which can be permitted under WFH in the times to come.“We are identifying the jobs and roles which can be permitted under WFH, and in parallel, we are preparing comprehensive policy framework to ensure requisite IT/infrastructure support, engagement, performance assessment, regular communication and connect with the employees allowed work from home in the times to come,” according to a company spokesperson.“It is also expected that further advances in technologies such as cloud computing and online collaboration tools shall enhance the score in many jobs that once required in-person interactions,” the spokesperson added.Adaptability to new technological skills, social, and emotional skills will be some of the key capabilities required for WFH. The company will assess skills such as communication, self-motivation, trustworthiness, discipline, critical thinking, adaptability and accountability before allowing people WFH.“We foresee that specific skills are required to work in a WFH setup, however, it is also important that the managers’ managing WFH teams to have confidence, beliefs, and trust in their remote workers,” said the spokesperson.Last year, NTPC introduced remote working in few of the city-based locations engaged in performing commercial and inspection functions and were already preparing to further extend WFH. However, after the pandemic outbreak and the resultant remote working in some other functions, the company is considering replicating it in more service functions.“However, NTPC being mainly a power generator having power plants requiring round the clock manpower placement, only a small fraction of the workforce performing service/support functions in such power stations as well as people located at city based administrative offices may be subject to hybrid workplaces in the foreseeable future. Such numbers are expected to increase further when our proposed unified shared services center for finance and C&M are materialised,” said the spokesperson.
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MPC likely to maintain accommodative stance

December 18, 2020 - 8:18pm
Kolkata: The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) that voted unanimously to keep interest rates to ensure economic revival has raised red flags on short-term interest rates falling below the desired levels raising the risk of financial instability. The MPC members also warned that rising pricing power of oligopolistic businesses and commodity prices could narrow the room available to continue with accommodative monetary policy even as concerns over the fragility of economic revival remain.“Liquidity, credit and monetary aggregates will need to be closely monitored with an eye on macro-financial stability that can be enervated when short-term borrowing costs fall below the operational policy rate. If this results in persistence of negative real rates for too long, it can adversely affect savings, lend support to mispricing of financial asset prices and encourage excessive leveraging,” said Mridul K Saggar.The members, while supporting surplus liquidity to drive growth, talked about the need to sterilize the excess flow which has largely been contributed by the rise in inward overseas investment, to counter the threats of macroeconomic and financial risks.Ashima Goyal was of the view that as long as the MPC stance is accommodative, durable liquidity will be in surplus and short-term rates will not rise above the reverse repo rate. "Regulatory exposure norms can help prevent excess low rates driven short-term borrowing that creates risks,” she said.Since October, short term rates have fallen by a further 40 basis points. The cutoff yield in the last 91-day T-bill auction before the October meeting was 3.36% while the corresponding yield for the last auction before the December meeting was 2.93%.“The demand that is stimulated by a reduction in short rates is not accompanied by an offsetting supply boost, and therefore carries greater inflationary risks,” said Jayanth R Varma. He said that a sub 3% short rate – as against a negative real interest rate of −4.5% -- encourages speculative inventory accumulation and stokes inflationary buildup in sectors that are showing signs of cartelization and resurgence of pricing power.Businesses that suffered losses in the first quarter into the lockdown have raised margins to recover lost incomes.“A reduction in long rates that stimulates investment not only increases demand in the short run, but it also stimulates supply in the medium term as the new capacity becomes operational, and this new supply dampens inflationary pressures,” Varma said.Reserve Bank of India Governor Shaktikanta Das noted that investment demand has not gained traction even as the transmission of policy rate actions has been quicker.“Increase in government expenditure during the remaining part of the year will provide further impulses to growth. Given the large multipliers for capital spending, the recent trend of cuts in states’ capital outlays needs to be reversed. As strong capex multipliers for both central and state capital expenditure kick in, crowding in of private investment could take place, all of which is critical during a revival phase,” Das said, adding that a premature roll back of the monetary and liquidity policies would be detrimental to the nascent recovery and growth.His deputy Michael Patra however warned about the narrowing window for MPC to look through inflation pressures with growth gaining cyclical momentum.“Elevated inflation has checked in and may be here to stay… Returning cyclical demand, backed by improving business and consumer expectations, may allow a higher pass-through of input prices into selling prices as businesses endeavour to preserve profit margins,” he saidThe wedge of 6.1 percentage points between wholesale price index and consumer price index in the October 2020 readings is elevated relative to the historical record – an average of 3 percentage points between 2015 and 2019, and 4.3 percentage points in February 2020 before COVID struck.
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Pratt & Whitney-made GTF engines complete 2 million flight hours in India

December 18, 2020 - 8:18pm
Mumbai: Pratt & Whitney-manufactured Geared Turbofan (GTF) engines, which power Airbus A320 NEO family planes being operated by budget carriers IndiGo and GoAir have crossed two million flight hours in India, the US engine maker said on Friday. The two Indian carriers were the early adopters of these fuel-efficient engines with IndiGo inducting its first A320NEO plane in the fleet in March 2016 and GoAir in the same year, in June. There are over 180 Airbus planes with Pratt & Whitney (P&W) GTF engines in India. "Our customers IndiGo and GoAir were early adopters of the revolutionary GTF engine, and we are happy to say that these engines have crossed two million flight hours in India," Pratt & Whitney President and Country Head for India Ashmita Sethi said in a release. While GoAir has only A320NEO planes in its fleet powered by these engines, IndiGo has A321NEO as well along with A320NEO planes. "With more than 180 GTF-powered aircraft in India and an extraordinary engine dispatch reliability rate of 99.98 per cent, our customers are recognising the superior fuel efficiency that GTF engines deliver. "Since cost savings are especially important in the current environment, we've seen airlines prioritise operating their GTF-powered aircraft before any others," she added. Globally, GTF engine powers more than 900 aircraft across nearly 50 airlines and three aircraft families: Airbus A320neo, Airbus A220 and Embraer E-Jets E2, Pratt & Whitney said in the release. With a 99.98 per cent dispatch reliability rate, these engines have saved more than 400 million gallons of fuel and over 3.8 million metric tonnes of carbon emissions since they entered service in 2016, the company said. "Thanks to upgrades completed in close coordination with our customers in 2020, GTF engines for the A320neo family are now delivering industry-leading reliability," said Carroll Lane, president of Commercial Engines at Pratt & Whitney. "When you combine this with our best-in-class fuel efficiency and low carbon emissions, it's easy to see why GTF-powered fleets have seen high utilization as the industry begins to recover," he said. It also said that since entering service in early 2016, the GTF engine family has delivered on its promised ability to reduce fuel burn and carbon emissions by up to 20 per cent, and to dramatically reduce regulated emissions and noise footprint. According to the engine maker, the fleet has achieved an exceptional level of operational performance dwith aircraft having such engines averaging more flights and more hours per day than comparable aircraft. "The GTF-powered A320neo family is currently operating at about 90 per cent of pre-pandemic utilization levels," added Lane.
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India's Biological E. to start vaccine late-stage trials in April: Executive

December 18, 2020 - 8:18pm
BENGALURU: India's Biological E. Ltd plans to start large late-stage trials of its potential COVID-19 vaccine candidate in April next year, according to a top executive at the Hyderabad-based drugmaker.The privately held company said in November it had started early-stage and mid-stage human trials of its vaccine candidate, being developed in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and U.S.-based Dynavax Technologies Corp, and expects results by February."We should be in a position to offer about 100 million doses per month as soon as the product is approved," Narender Dev Mantena, who heads the company's global strategy as well as its speciality generic injectables and synthetic biology divisions, told Reuters.The company expects to enrol 20,000 to 25,000 subjects in 30 to 35 sites across India for the late-stage trials, Mantena added.India, which has the second highest number of COVID-19 infections in the world with almost 10 million cases, is looking to deploy its vast election machinery to deliver 600 million doses of vaccines to the most vulnerable people in the next six to eight months through conventional cold chain systems.So far, the Serum Institute of India, which is the local manufacturer of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine candidate, Pfizer/BioNTech and Bharat Biotech have applied for emergency use approval.India's drugs regulator said last week it had sought more data to make a decision on emergency authorisation for AstraZeneca's and Bharat Biotech's shots.Biological E., which was founded in 1953, develops, manufactures and supplies vaccines and therapeutics to over 100 countries.The company signed an agreement with Johnson & Johnson in August to make a drug substance used in the U.S. company's potential COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
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The quest to replicate Tesla’s success keeps EV mania alive

December 18, 2020 - 8:18pm
By Craig TrudellTesla has thrilled some investors and jarred others by soaring to a $616 billion valuation this month, an amount the world’s top seven carmakers were collectively worth at the beginning of this year. The company is now comfortably in a category by itself, defying even Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk’s warnings.“I actually said the stock is too high a long time ago,” Musk said at the start of December. “But they didn’t listen to me.”For startups aiming to mimic Musk’s success and for traditional carmakers struggling to disrupt themselves, most lingering doubts about future demand for electric vehicles have dissipated. Thanks in large part to the Tesla phenomenon, a consensus has emerged that they are undeniably the future.“What you’ve had is a greater realization of the inevitability” of EVs, said Michael Pye, an investment manager at Baillie Gifford, which oversees about $370 billion and is one of the biggest shareholders of both Tesla and China-based EV maker Nio. Ten years from now, “it’s likely we’ll look back on this as the electric decade.”Tesla alone has not brought the world to this point. A mix of stricter regulations against internal-combustion cars, increased support for plug-in vehicle purchases, improvements in technology and benefits of scale have led more consumers to embrace electrics. Still, two big questions remain: Can any other startup meaningfully replicate Tesla’s success? And will the EV market grow quickly enough to support both incumbents and startups?79800040“A reason all the current frothy action is happening is no one wants to miss the next Tesla,” said Jeff Chamberlain, CEO of Volta Energy Technologies, a Chicago-area fund that focuses on energy investments. “The question is, which one is the next Tesla?” Musk himself has described Tesla as having been “in mortal danger” before only recently pulling off a combination of high-volume manufacturing and cash generation. The time it took the 17-year-old company to get there suggests a high risk of failure for newer entrants trying to catch up. That risk is giving prominent investors who doubted Tesla a shot at redemption. Famed short seller Jim Chanos, who has had a “painful” year wagering against Musk, is betting that Nikola and other EV companies riding Tesla’s coattails are overvalued. “I would tell investors, if you’re in a hot area, be careful, because that’s an area in which promoters will try to foist off not only unprofitable but fraudulent businesses,” Chanos told Bloomberg Television.The dramatic rise and fall of Nikola over just a few months was this year’s cautionary tale. The company founded by entrepreneur Trevor Milton set out to transform the trucking industry by replacing the diesels in big rigs with batteries and fuel cells. It also said it would build a hydrogen-station network and charge customers upfront for refueling.In June, Nikola went public by merging with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, led by a former vice chairman of General Motors. Optimism that the infusion of cash would help the startup begin to produce trucks briefly sent its valuation soaring past Ford’s. The stock collapsed by September after a short seller claimed Nikola had deceived investors about its technology; the company has denied this. Regulators opened investigations, and Milton left the company.Nikola’s breakdown hasn’t deterred other SPACs. The so-called blank-check firms have raised $70 billion in 2020 — a fivefold increase from 2019 — and at least 15 EV companies have been taken public or have listings pending. Those that already made their debut include Lordstown Motors, which has said it will begin producing its Endurance electric pickup in September 2021, and Fisker, whose Ocean SUV is planned for 2022.“I have had very credible people, with very large sums of money, DM me on Twitter to see if we’d be interested in working with their SPAC,” said Gene Berdichevsky, CEO of Sila Nanotechnologies, a California-based battery company, and ex-Tesla engineer. The blank-check company board member who messaged him reached out in early October, after Nikola’s implosion.Tesla shares started their meteoric rise in late 2019, when Musk proved he could not only dominate the nascent EV market but also make a small amount of money in the process. The company got on a roll by accelerating production of Model 3 sedans in China and Model Y crossovers in California and has now recorded five consecutive quarterly profits.Companies getting in on the coinciding EV stock-buying bonanza include XPeng, the Guangzhou-based company co-founded by He Xiaopeng, the billionaire behind one of China’s most popular mobile browsers. Within three months after its U.S. listing in August, the stock almost quintupled.“We have been talking about our goals of penetration and growth for the past five years,” said Brian Gu, the vice chairman and president of XPeng. “Yet we hadn’t seen the real explosion until this year. There’s an increased confidence in the industry’s long-term growth.”Even so, XPeng won’t appear high up on global sales charts anytime soon. Bloomberg Intelligence analysts estimate the company will deliver about 25,000 P7 sedans and G3 SUVs this year. Its market cap still managed to reach $53 billion last month, a valuation Ford hasn’t seen in several years. Entering December, investors were awarding the company about $1.7 million of market cap per vehicle it’s expected to sell this year. If the same multiple were applied to Volkswagen, the German giant would be worth about $15.5 trillion. Instead, it’s being valued at about $10,000 per vehicle.79800048VW wasn’t alone in watching its valuation take a hit from the biggest disruption to auto-industry output since World War II. Vehicle sales in some markets were almost completely wiped out for the month of April. By June, the industry had taken on $72 billion of new debt to cope.But amid all the carnage, EVs outperformed. It hasn’t mattered that the price of oil crashed and remains depressed. China stepped in with a series of measures that supported plug-in car purchases, while Germany and France started offering subsidies to help boost automakers out of their slump.“If historically low oil prices, a major economic downturn, a plunge in auto sales and all these other factors didn’t derail the growth, it gets harder to see what does,” said Colin McKerracher, head of advanced transport for BloombergNEF. “The trajectory is getting clearer and clearer, and all these factors that might have derailed things are sort of bouncing off and not landing a blow.”The current quarter may well be the first ever in which automakers sell 1 million fully electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles worldwide. It took the industry until 2015 to get its first million on the road. The global fleet is now about to cross the 10 million mark. “Each order of magnitude, a different number of people become aware that this shift is happening,” McKerracher said. “EVs have become part of the general consciousness instead of the consciousness of a small number of people who care about them.”79800063Conventional carmakers are benefiting somewhat from the bump in EV demand, too, but only a handful have seen their shares rise meaningfully this year. Companies including GM and Daimler are getting credit for undergoing metamorphoses, though they have spent more than a century basing manufacturing, labor and retailing practices on the internal-combustion engine.GM’s stock got a boost when it told investors in November that it would spend $27 billion introducing 30 battery-powered models by 2025, increasing its budget by more than a third. But it’s going through an awkward process of buying out some Cadillac dealers that aren’t on board with the shift.Daimler, which envisions more than half of its global sales being electrified by the end of the decade, will have to overcome labor-union opposition to shrinking its variations of combustion engines by 70%. Workers protested last month after the leader of a powertrain plant Daimler is retooling for EVs left the company for Tesla.Musk may have ambitions to dominate Daimler’s home market of Germany and the rest of Europe, but the growth that has the region rivaling China for the first time this year has been driven by incumbents. In the U.S., GM and Ford have electric pickups in the works and have successfully defended that segment — far and away their most lucrative — from Toyota and others.“I would not underestimate traditional OEMs in this area,” said Christina Woon, a Singapore-based investment manager at Aberdeen Standard Investments, which manages about $563 billion in global assets, including Toyota shares. “Having an existing business that’s profitable and that has cash flows that you can use to invest in a new or emerging business — that does help to balance out that risk.”No automotive CEO has been as supportive and openly admiring of Musk and Tesla as VW’s Herbert Diess. He joined the company just before its 2015 diesel-emissions scandal and has remained consistent in his message about and moves toward electrification. During a two-hour briefing last month on the massive spending VW has planned for the next half-decade, Tesla’s name came up 31 times.“We think it’s a very important competitor” because Musk is “really pulling the industry,” Diess said in an interview last month. “Coming from a software background, he has capabilities which we still have to build up. He’s a reference for us.”But VW unintentionally echoed a troubling time for Tesla when launching a crucial new electric model this year. When software issues plagued the launch of the German carmaker’s ID.3, it hired a contractor to fix thousands of the electric hatchbacks in a tent, then rushed them to sale before some features were ready. The episode was reminiscent of when Tesla erected a structure in its parking lot two years ago during its struggle to get Model 3 sedans out the factory door.As rough as the ID.3 launch was, Diess is starting to see some payoff. The car outsold all other EVs across Europe in November. Analysts at Evercore ISI predict that VW and Tesla will form a global EV duopoly for the foreseeable future. Baillie Gifford’s Pye credits VW for grasping where the industry is headed. In his view, too many of its peers still don’t.“If you’re about to be run over by a 40-ton semi, don’t lie down in the middle of the road and smile,” Pye said. Even for those who “have got the gist of that,” like VW, “whether they’re able to act on it or not within the required time frame is more challenging.”
Categories: Business News

'India likely to see sharp rise in insolvencies'

December 18, 2020 - 5:17pm
Insolvency cases in India are expected to spike in the coming days, as they did world over after the 2008 financial crisis, according to MS Sahoo, chairman of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI). “The 2008 financial crisis had witnessed a sharp increase in corporate and personal insolvencies all over the world and that is an indication of the things likely to come in the days to come,” Sahoo said during a virtual conference hosted by the Gujarat National Law University on Friday. The statement came as the moratorium on sections 7, 9 and 10 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) was nearing its end on December 25. In June, the government suspended the specific sections of the IBC relating to initiation of corporate insolvency proceedings in light of the stress companies were facing due to the pandemic and lockdown. While the suspension was announced for six months from March, it was later extended for three months through the clause in the law which allows the Centre to maintain the moratorium for a year. According to Sahoo, measures like the suspension and increasing of the threshold default amount to initiate insolvency proceedings to Rs 1 crore from Rs 1 lakh were part of the first phase of the government’s approach to the crisis. “The actions of the first phase are mostly done and the work has begun on the second and third phases,” Sahoo said.The second phase would involve measures such as special out-of-court or hybrid frameworks, facilitating businesses through bridge financing and extending procedural deadlines for a limited period, the chairman said. The government felt that prepackaged insolvency would be an ideal solution that incorporates the virtues of both a formal and informal insolvency resolution framework, Sahoo said.For personal insolvency resolution, details of the fresh start process (FSP) was being worked out that would enable a person with qualifying debts below a certain threshold to be discharged of those debts, he added. “The chances of recovery in such cases are low, so low, that the cost of resolution proceedings become an additional burden to either the debtor or creditor or the state,” Sahoo said.
Categories: Business News

Non-film music category will become as big as film music in next 12-24 months: Vinit Thakkar

December 18, 2020 - 5:17pm
MUMBAI: For the longest time, Hindi music in India had been limited to Bollywood music, with a very few niche artists trying non-film, non-commercial ‘Indi’ or independent music.However, the trend slowly started changing in 2017, when Universal Music decided to start a separate division, VYRL Originals, to create and promote non-film commercial music on a large scale.Within three years, the company has already released 55 singles, and introduced many new artists to the industry. In fact, looking at the success of non-film music, other big music labels, which were predominantly known for their film catalogues, have now started venturing into non-film music.Talking to ET, Vinit Thakkar, COO, India and South Asia at Universal Music India and head of VYRL Originals said that in the next 12-24 months, the non-film music category is going to become as big as the film music category. “I think there will be pop stars that will emerge over the next couple of years and I'm very confident that some of them will come out from our label,” he said.He said that Universal Music identified the need gap sometime in the middle of 2017. “Every time you interact with people across the globe, one thing that always fascinated them was Indian music was not an artist led music business, but was a Bollywood soundtrack or a film soundtrack driven music business. This always used to be the moot point of conversation and as distributors we keep mulling about that,” Thakkar said.He pointed out that there used to be a non-film music industry earlier, with singers like Alisha Chinai, Baba Sehgal, Lucky Ali etc.“There were so many artists that time and film-music was probably lesser and smaller compared to the non-film music. But then there was a gap of about 15 to 18 years where literally filled music took away the complete limelight and music in India became centred around the Bollywood soundtracks,” he said.However, 2016 was a turning point as the industry was moving to digital streaming and with the launch of 4G, people in smaller towns also got access to the high speed internet at probably the lowest cost in the world.Thakkar added that the company realised that this whole digital world was exploding and there is going to be a lot more demand for great content.The supply side was restricted with just 40-50 Bollywood films surviving more than 1 or 2 weeks at the box office. Essentially, there were 50 soundtracks, with close to four songs. That’s just 200 songs in a year.“And so, we launched VYRL to create a culture and category of non-film music, which is artists first, and artist centric, like it is everywhere else in the world. I feel there is immense potential and talent that's available out there, and it’s just that companies need to find a way to harness this talent tyle and present it in a manner which is kind of palatable to the audiences.”The company first started the label, and then created a playlist, VYRL Top 20, which curated the top 20 songs across all audio streaming platforms every week. This was a mix of films and non-films music to help a consumer discover the non-films songs, amongst the popular commercial songs that they are listening to.“Most of the radio stations did not even play non-film songs in 2018. So we used to go to radio stations and take the artist along. We started telling them that this is the change that is going to come down, but we saw that there was very little excitement at that point in time from the radio community. So as a part of our category building activity, we partnered with one of the radio stations and we created India's first non-film countdown show, featuring the top 10 non-film songs in this country, not only from our label, but from across any label,” said Thakkar. “That's how we started to seed the bits and pieces of culture.”He added that over the past two years, other big music companies, who were focusing on film music only, are following the templates that VYRL has created for marketing songs.“It’s been a great journey from literally a thought and an idea to enter into the non-film music segment, and not only enter but be responsible for creating a culture and category and bringing a revolution in the way a music business in this country was done. We've come a long way in the journey and have a long way to go from here, but very grateful for where we reached here now,” Thakkar said.On remixes and recreations of songs, he said that between 2018 and 2019, 18 out of the top 20 songs of Bollywood, were recreations.“Film music started becoming wary of taking risks. Original music is always more riskier and it's very easy to recreate something old, polish and package it with bigger artists and your probability of success always increases. This is why film music has become so risk averse, but I would take that as one of the biggest opportunities for us, which I think we have very nicely capitalised over the last couple of years,” he said.VYRL Originals has released 55 singles, and every song has been an original song.“A lot of people say that we as a label are responsible for pushing the industry towards jumping back to original music,” Thakkar added.
Categories: Business News

Ansal Properties to raise Rs 100 crore, to focus on completion of existing projects

December 18, 2020 - 5:17pm
Real estate developer Ansal said it will raise Rs 35 crore through issue of warrants to non-promoters, as part of its plan to raise Rs 100 crore in the next few months. Ansal Properties and Infrastructure Limited, in its board meeting on Friday, approved the issue and allotment of 5,00,10,000 Warrants to Non Promoter (Public) investors, which would eventually be converted into equity share of the company giving the investors 5,00,10,000 of Equity shares representing 24.11% of the post issue equity outstanding. “For this, a total of Rs 35 crore will be invested through Warrants and shall be utilised for reducing debt and speed up development on existing projects,” the company said in a statement. The Board also took note of the fact that capital raise has become necessary to expand the permanent capital base as against the debt/working capital. “The company has plans to raise Rs 100 crores through various means and today's decision to issue warrants to non-promoters to raise Rs 35 crore is the first step in this direction. The decision strengthens the fact that the management continues to focus towards streamlining the operations and reduce the number of projects which are ongoing,” said Pranav Ansal, Vice Chairman and Whole Time Director of Ansal Properties and Infrastructure Limited. “We are committed to reducing the debt at a very fast pace as has been done in the past 12 to 18 months by settling debts with various lenders. Since the funds would be required immediately, therefore the capital raise of Rs 35 crore has been structured to ensure the inflow of funds in a short span of time,” he said. Company is exploring other options also to raise further capital to garner close to Rs 100 crore in the next few months. The board also commented that with the changing environment of doing real estate business, company needs to rely more on equity and permanent capital sources. Board also discussed the importance to reduce debt at a much faster pace and eventually become debt-free.“With Covid situation, there has been a sluggish response in the last 3 quarters in sales and collections and therefore capital raise would provide the necessary impetus to reduce debt of the company. Management has been working tirelessly towards completion of the existing projects and allocate necessary funds to fast track developments of projects which are in the last mile stage,” the company said in a statement. At this moment, the company does not seek new projects to be undertaken till the current projects are executed and completed.Ansal Properties & Infrastructure Limited is an integrated township developer with focus on mid-income housing space across various cities of Northern India (Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan & Punjab) wherein the Company acts as a master developer for its integrated township and Hi-Tech Township projects, starting from project conceptualization, planning, designing, construction and delivery. Till date, the company has developed and delivered an area of over 280 mn.sq.ft. across the real estate verticals including residential, commercial, retail, hospitality and integrated townships.
Categories: Business News

What technology charged up stock broking in the year of Robinhoods

December 18, 2020 - 5:17pm
Digitization of the broking industry has brought technology-based benefits to investors, who are increasingly looking for easy-to-use, secure and hassle-free trading platforms. The digital transformation of the Indian broking industry accelerated in 2020.During the lockdown, more and more people turned to trading on online brokerage platforms. To cater to this unprecedented trading volume and deliver enhanced trading experiences, brokers adopted innovative technologies such as cloud-based systems and IT-enabled applications that form the broking industry’s backbone.Brokers are increasingly migrating to cloud-based systems to meet the spike in trading volumes and new account openings. Unlike legacy infrastructure, cloud computing offers easy scalability, cost-effective and time-saving services, and a level of flexibility never seen before in the sector.The result? Today, one can enjoy high-value trading seamlessly, even on a smartphone. Technology has emerged as a critical differentiator in a highly-competitive market that helps brokers continuously create value for investors.Let’s deep-dive into the critical technology applications that helped brokerages stay competitive during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis:Business on cloudA game-changer in technology, cloud-computing relieved brokers from infrastructure management hassles, allowing them to focus on the server-side code. This facilitates easy code deployment at reduced costs by DevOps teams. They also offer the benefit of dynamic and real-time auto-scaling. This is essential to serve a growing customer base but lacks traditional legacy infrastructures with fixed server spaces.Cloud architectures are designed to help companies accommodate growing service requests without worrying about provisioning needs. They are unlike legacy servers, where developers estimate and buy server capacity without knowing how much they will ultimately use or require later.Besides scalability, cloud architectures offer the flexibility to ‘pay as you go’; and allow businesses to get charged for only what is used, unlike traditional servers, which need to be 24x7 operational. The result? Greater efficiency at reduced cost and without wastage of server space.Data lake and analytics platformsThe data-rich stockbroking industry needs to leverage data and derive real-time insights to make critical strategic decisions. Data lakes can function as a secure, one-stop-shop for different types of data from diverse sources, stored in raw or their native format, in fully structured, semi-structured, and unstructured manners. With data lakes, brokers can gather useful data and enjoy real-time analytics to uncover critical, relevant insights for faster and more improved decision-making.The same data lake allows different types of analytics to be run without needing separate systems. For instance, trading desks can leverage data to achieve a number of specific objectives, such as figuring out which stocks have an abnormal spike in volume. Real-time statistical analysis allows traders to make more informed decisions.Predictive modeling capabilitiesOutstanding customer experience is going to be the most significant competitive advantage for stockbrokers. Using machine-learning algorithms to analyze historical data and predict likely outcomes, brokers can forecast investor needs and proactively offer customised services at better prices.As more and more savvy investors are using digital assets like websites and mobile apps for trading, predictive modeling can help brokers design a UI that ensures an optimal user experience. For instance, a user-friendly UI empowers the user to assess various options before making a buy/sell call. It can let you know if a stock has been tagged as illiquid, expecting any corporate actions in the near future or any recent news centered around the industry.Smart machinesArtificial intelligence finds tremendous application in the broking industry. From automating processes to increase efficiency and designing agile, customer-centric solutions, AI helps brokers offer an improved value proposition to investors. By investing in cutting-edge cognitive automation technologies, brokers can reduce paperwork and automate processes, enabling professionals to spend more time in critical decision-making.AI-powered chatbots can help offer more personalized services, to investors, like stock research, quick and personalized portfolio creation, and addressing customer queries. With an increasingly younger pool of investors, global AI spends are expected to rise 48% CAGR and are projected to reach $1.4 billion by 2021. Clearly, AI-enabled trading will be the new normal.Enhanced risk managementStringent adherence to regulatory compliances fosters stakeholder trust. Technology can be a growth enabler in an increasingly-complex compliance and regulatory risk landscape, helping stockbrokers modernise and manage compliance better. Early adopters of the technology will enjoy a competitive advantage over others, as they will be able to offer more accuracy, convenience, and a top-notch customer experience through their services.From video KYC to the use of natural language processing (NLP) and cognitive automation processes to facilitate client onboarding, digitization offers a host of opportunities for more seamless compliance. Brokers need to invest in AI-ML models and technologies like big data analytics, biometric recognition for predicting risks of frauds, cybersecurity, data breach, and to enforce better compliance in a sector fraught with fraudulent activities.With the emergence of a digital economy, there has been a rapid change in investor expectations, market trends, and business ecosystems. The only way for stockbrokers to stay ahead of the curve is to redefine existing business models with digital transformation.(Shrini Viswanath is the Co-founder & CTO of Upstox. Views are his own)
Categories: Business News

Bombay HC to hear LVB-DBS merger cases

December 18, 2020 - 2:17pm
The Supreme Court of India on Friday directed that all cases related to the merger of Lakshmi Vilas Bank with DBS Bank India be transferred to the Bombay High Court. The Reserve Bank of India and DBS Bank had petitioned the apex court seeking the transfer.The amalgamation scheme of Lakshmi Vilas Bank and DBS Limited is under challenge before the high courts of Bombay, Karnataka, Madras and Delhi.Solicitor General Tushar Mehta representing RBI submitted that all cases should be bought under single high court to avoid multiplicity of orders.Though senior counsel Arvind Datar appearing for bond holders argued that Madras High Court would be the best jurisdiction to hear the matters owing to the registered office of LVB being in the same location. Datar also argued that the Madras HC had a faster disposal rate, a lawyer present at the proceedings said. This was opposed by senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi who was representing DBS Bank of India.With consent of all parties the bench of Justice M Shantanagoundar ruled that matters before the high courts of Madras, Karnataka and Delhi would be transferred to the Bombay High Court.Earlier, a division bench of the Madras HC in an interim order had sought to protect the interests of LVB shareholders, which was amalgamated with DBS under Reserve Bank of India directions. The bench ordered that no prejudicial action should be taken against the shareholders. It also asked DBS to furnish an undertaking that it would pay compensation to LVB shareholders in case the court directed it to do so.Meanwhile, a group of bond holders have also joined the petitioners, opposing the RBI move to write off tier-2 bonds worth Rs 320 crore. This group of the bondholders and investor had also petitioned finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman seeking her intervention in the matter. In a letter to Sitharaman, bondholders had argued that they would be in peril if the write-off of bonds was allowed to go through.The 94-year LVB wrote down Basel III-compliant tier 2 bonds worth 320 crore on November 26, just a day before its amalgamation with DBS Bank India. It was done on RBI's instructions. LVB ceased to exist from November 27 with all of its branches operating as DBS Bank.
Categories: Business News

Indian Railways to run demand-based passenger trains, scrap waiting list by 2024

December 18, 2020 - 2:17pm
The Indian Railways plans to run demand based passenger trains thus doing away with the provision of waiting list by 2024 while raising its share in freight movement from 27% now to 45% by 2030 as part of its National Rail Plan.Further, it plans to achieve freight movement of 2024 million tonne by 2024 as part of its Vision 2024 as against the current 1210 million tonne in 2019, which is 27% of the total national freight of 4700 million tonne last year. The IR has estimated total national freight movement till 2026 at 6400 million tonne. “This will require capital expenditure of Rs 2.9 lakh crore,” railway board chairman VK Yadav told the media on Friday. “We will seek a stakeholder view on the National Rail Plan and hope to finalise it in a months’ time,” Yadav said, adding the plan is to also rationalise freight tariff while bringing down our operating cost. According to Yadav, Indian Railways has tied up funding for all important projects to be completed by 2024. The plan is to double the tracks whereas multi tracking of others will be done wherever needed. Talking about the earnings of railway in the current year so far, Yadav said, substantial revenue loss has been seen in passenger rain revenue as operations were suspended for several months. The Indian Railways estimates passenger earnings of Rs 15,000 crore in the current fiscal compared to Rs 53,000 crore in the last financial year. So far, passenger train revenue in the current fiscal stands at Rs 4,600 crore. The freight revenue and loading, however, is expected to go up by 10%, Yadav said. “We will be able to meet operating expenses with our revenue in the current fiscal. We will be self reliant despite COVID-19 pandemic on the back of an estimated increase in freight earnings and substantial cut in expenditure cost,” Yadav said. According to Yadav, freight loading in December is expected to be higher at 120 million tonnes compared to 110 million tonne in November with major growth in loading of food grains, fertilizers and other goods. The passenger trains services, however, are yet to achieve pre-Covid levels. Currently, Indian Railways is running 1,089 passenger trains compared to 1,768 trains prior to the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.
Categories: Business News

Avenue Therapeutics gets regulatory update for intravenous tramadol, says Cipla

December 18, 2020 - 2:17pm
NEW DELHI: Drug major Cipla on Friday said its step-down associate company Avenue Therapeutics has received an update from the US health regulator for its new drug application for intravenous (IV) tramadol. Avenue Therapeutics' IV tramadol is intended to treat patients in acute pain who require an opioid. "Avenue Therapeutics, Inc., a company focused on the development of IV tramadol for the US market, today provided a regulatory update following receipt of the official meeting minutes from a November 2020 Type A meeting with the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) relating to a path forward for IV tramadol," Cipla said in a regulatory filing. In October this year, Avenue Therapeutics Inc had received a complete response letter (CRL) from the USFDA which stated that the regulator has determined that it cannot approve the application for IV tramadol in its present form. Cipla said Avenue had requested this Type A meeting to address a CRL it received from the US health regulator regarding the New Drug Application (NDA) for IV tramadol. Avenue intends to resubmit the NDA in February 2021, barring any COVID-19 related or other setbacks. Cipla said the NDA re-submission will incorporate revised language relating to the proposed product label and a report relating to terminal sterilisation. Shares of Cipla were trading 0.41 per cent higher at Rs 786.40 apiece on BSE.
Categories: Business News

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