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BUSINESS AND ECONOMY - January 2020

Jan 2020

Aug 27, 2021

Afcons Bags Largest-ever Infrastructure Project in Maldives

  • Afcons, the infrastructure arm of Shapoorji Pallonji Group, has signed a contract for the largest-ever infrastructure project in Maldives. The $530-million project is funded by the Exim Bank of India under the Indian grant and Line of Credit (LOC).
  • It involves constructing the Male to Thilafushi Link project, popularly called Greater Male' Connectivity Project (GMCP) over 32 months.
  • The project includes a 6.7 Km bridge and causeway network connecting Male, Villingili, Gulhifalhu and Thilafushi islands. According to the government of Maldives, the bridge will be a national economic engine and lifeline connecting Hulhumale, Hulhule and Male with the proposed Gulhifalhu Port and the Thilafushi Industrial Zone.
  • Afcons operates in over 20 countries worldwide.

Govt. Launches Scheme to Support 300 Start-ups

  • The government launched a programme to support 300 IT start-ups under which it will provide seed funding, mentorship and market access with a view to creating 100 unicorns out of the selected start-ups.
  • The concept of the Startup Accelerator of MeitY for Product Innovation, Development & Growth (SAMRIDH) has been developed on the lines of Silicon Valley based accelerator YCombinator.
  • IT and Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said that he has mentored over 20 start-ups earlier and understands the need of mentoring them during the most important part of their journey when their idea is getting converted into products.
  • Under the Samridh programme, the Meity will provide seed funds of up to Rs. 40 lakh for the selected start-ups and mentorship for six months.

Aviation Ministry Signs MoU with Adani Group

  • The Civil Aviation Ministry signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Adani Group for providing services, including customs, immigration and security, at the Jaipur, Guwahati and Thiruvananthapuram airports.
  • The Centre had in February 2019 privatised six major airports of the country -- Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Mangaluru, Jaipur, Thiruvananthapuram and Guwahati -- and through a competitive bidding process, the Adani Group won the rights to run all of them for 50 years.
  • The Adani Group took charge of the Lucknow, Ahmedabad and Mangaluru airports in October and November last year. It is yet to take charge of the remaining airports.

India's First Agri Sectoral Index GUAREX by NCDEX

  • India's first sectoral index in the Agri commodities basket, i.e. GUAREX was launched by the National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange Limited (NCDEX). GUAREX is a price based sectoral index that tracks the movement in the futures contracts of guar gum refined splits and guar seed on a real-time basis. This index product will offer a lot of opportunities to the value chain.
  • The weightage of guar seed and guar gum refined splits in the index will be 63 per cent and 37 per cent, respectively. The index futures will be cash-settled. Initially, Guarex futures contracts expiring in September and October will be made available for trading.
  • India is the world's largest guar producer accounting for 80-85 per cent of the output, while Rajasthan is the country's top producer with 80 per cent market share. Guar seed was sown on 1.81 million hectares so far this year, down from 2.25 million hectares logged in the same period last year.

Karnataka Bank Launches KBL FASTag

  • Karnataka Bank launched KBL FASTag for seamless movement of vehicles at toll plazas by facilitating automatic deduction of the toll amount.
  • Customers can procure FASTag through the bank's website or by approaching the nearby branch.
  • A FASTag can be pre-loaded digitally for the required amount and can be recharged online through credit card, debit card, net banking, IMPS, among others.
  • KBL FASTag can be used across all the toll plazas throughout the country, which are registered in the National Electronic Toll Collection (NETC) programme.

RBI Extends Tokenisation Services to IoT Devices

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) extended its card tokenisation services to any token requestor, including consumer devices such as laptops, desktops, wearables (wrist watches, bands, etc.), Internet of Things (IoT) devices, etc.
  • Tokenisation refers to generating random numbers instead of the actual card numbers keyed in during transactions.
  • So far, the facility was available only for mobile phones and tablets of interested card holders, in which there has been a considerable uptick of tokenisation usage.
  • This initiative is expected to make card transactions more safe, secure and convenient for the users.

RBI Okays Hitendra Dave as HSBC India Head

  • HSBC India said that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has approved the appointment of Hitendra Dave as the country head for three years, effective August 2021.
  • Dave is a General Manager within the HSBC Group and a member of the Asia Pacific Executive Committee of HSBC, underlining the importance of the India business to HSBC.

Aug 26, 2021

Power Finance Corporation Inks pact with NHPC

  • State-owned Power Finance Corporation Ltd (PFC) has signed a pact with NHPC Ltd to lend funds for the development of hydro projects.
  • NHPC is engaged in the development of hydropower in India and has also diversified into solar and wind power. It also provides consultancy services to hydropower and renewable energy projects.
  • PFC has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with NHPC Ltd to lend funds for the development of hydro projects by NHPC. PFC will also provide financial assistance for the acquisition of stressed projects.

Future Retail Appoints Sadashiv Nayak as CEO

  • Future Retail Ltd (FRL) appointed Sadashiv Nayak as its chief executive officer.
  • Nayak has been associated with Future Group for over 17 years. In the last 8 years as the CEO of Big Bazaar, he has played a pivotal role in making Big Bazaar what it is today, it said.
  • He had worked at various designations during his association within the Group.
  • FRL operates retail stores as Big Bazaar, fbb, Foodhall, Easyday and Nilgiris.
  • Nayak, an alumnus of NIT Karnataka and XLRI, Jamshedpur, has over 27 years of experience.

Nangia & Co LLP Becomes CERT-IN Empanelled

  • Nangia & Co LLP has been empanelled by the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN), which will enable it to audit and assess government IT infrastructure.
  • The empanelment by CERT-IN empowers Nangia & Co LLP to offer its cybersecurity solutions, carry out IT security audits, including vulnerability assessment and penetration testing, ISMS Compliance Assessments, etc, of central and state governments, public sectors, and corporate organisations.

RapiPay Fintech Appoints Nipun Jain as CEO

  • RapiPay, a fintech company in the assisted payments category, has appointed Nipun Jain as the chief executive officer.
  • Jain has over three decades of experience as a retail banking professional with expertise in setting and scaling up of businesses, proficient in managing large retail assets, business banking, and branch banking franchise. Prior to joining RapiPay, he has previously worked with Yes Bank and ICICI Bank.
  • The leadership rejig at RapiPay is with an objective to gain foothold in Neobanking domain and thus expand the company's business further. RapiPay is working on expanding its footprint in the rural areas and Tier II cites to foray into newer businesses such as digital lending, POS, Digital Cards, Investments, Insurance and other financial services.

ReNew Power Seals Merger with RMG II

  • ReNew Power has completed its merger with RMG Acquisition Corporation II (RMG II). The move was needed to allow the listing and trade of Renew Power's shares on Nasdaq. Overseas companies use this route to list on the Nasdaq as it grants them access to American capital which would otherwise be limited to companies incorporated in the United States.
  • RMG II was a blank check company formed for the purpose of effecting a merger, amalgamation, share exchange, asset acquisition, share purchase, reorganisation or other similar business combination with one or more businesses.
  • With this transaction, ReNew has received $610 million in net proceeds, consisting of funds from RMG II's former trust account and from a private placement in public equity (PIPE), after redemptions and transaction fees.

RBI Imposes Penalty on Dhanlaxmi Bank

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) imposed fines of Rs. 27.5 lakh and Rs. 20 lakh, respectively, on Thrissur-headquartered Dhanlaxmi Bank and Gorakhpur-based NE & EC Railway Employees' Multi-State Primary Cooperative Bank. Explaining its decision, the central bank said that Dhanlaxmi Bank was being penalised for violation of norms related to the Depositor Education and Awareness Scheme while the action against NE & EC Cooperative Bank was due to deficiencies in its regulatory compliance.

Aug 25, 2021

Vedanta Makes Natural Gas Discovery

  • Billionaire Anil Agarwal's Vedanta has made a natural gas discovery in a block in Gujarat that it had won in the open acreage licensing policy (OALP) round.
  • The firm has notified the DGH and Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas of a gas and condensate discovery (named 'Jaya') in its exploratory well Jaya1 (earlier Jambusar-Updip-1), drilled in OALP Block CB-ONHP/2017/2 in Bharuch District of Gujarat.
  • The block was awarded to the company in October 2018 and is one of the 41 areas awarded to it in OALP-I round of bidding.
  • The company holds 100 per cent participating interest in the block.

RBI Approves Re-appointment of Sandeep Bakhshi as ICICI Bank MD & CEO

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has approved the re-appointment of Sandeep Bakhshi, MD & CEO, of ICICI Bank with effect from October 15, 2021, till October 3, 2023.
  • Bakhshi was appointed the MD & CEO of the bank, with effect from October 15, 2018.
  • Under Bakhshi, the bank in Q1FY22, reported a net profit of Rs. 4,616 crore, aided by an improvement in interest margins and lower provisioning.

ACME Group to Set up Green Ammonia, Green Hydrogen Facility in Oman

  • ACME Group signed a land agreement to set up a USD 3.5 billion green ammonia project at Special Economic Zone at the Port of Duqm in Oman.
  • The agreement was signed with The Public Authority for Special Economic Zones and Free Zones, a Government authority of Oman.
  • The plant will be an integrated facility using 3 gigawatts peak (GWp) of solar and 0.5 GWp of wind energy to produce 2,400 tonnes per day of green ammonia with an annual production of about 0.9 million tonnes.
  • This would be the first facility of this scale to be operational by 2022. The facility is being built to export green ammonia to demand centres like Europe and Asia with an investment of USD 3.5 billion.

Nirmala Sitharaman Launches the National Monetisation Pipeline

  • Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs, Nirmala Sitharaman has launched the asset monetisation pipeline of Central ministries and public sector entities: 'National Monetisation Pipeline'. Asset Monetisation, means a limited period license/lease of an asset, owned by the government or public authority, to a private sector entity for upfront or periodic consideration.
  • The National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP) lists out assets and asset classes, under various infrastructure ministries, which will be monetised over a period of time. Which means assets will be monetised.
  • The pipeline has been developed by NITI Aayog, in consultation with infrastructure line ministries, based on the mandate for 'Asset Monetisation' under Union Budget 2021-22.
  • NMP estimates aggregate monetisation potential of Rs 6.0 lakh crores through core assets of the Central Government, over a four-year period, from FY 2022 to FY 2025.
  • The top 5 sectors capture about 83% of the aggregate pipeline value. These top 5 sectors include- Roads (27%) followed by Railways (25%), Power (15%), oil & gas pipelines (8%) and Telecom (6%).

India Overtakes US to Become 2nd Most Attractive Manufacturing Hub

  • According to real estate consultant Cushman amp, Wakefield, India has overtaken the United States (US) to become second-most attractive manufacturing destination internationally.
  • India's improvement is driven mainly by cost competitiveness.
  • Ranking got switched due to plant relocations from China to other parts of Asia towards already established base in pharma, chemicals and engineering sectors.
  • China maintains its number one position according to 2021 Global Manufacturing Risk Index.
  • This index assessed the most advantageous locations for global manufacturing across 47 countries in Europe, Asia-Pacific and the Americas.
  • In the year 2020, US was at second position while India was at third.
  • US has slipped to third position. It is followed by Canada, Czech Republic, Indonesia, Lithuania, Thailand, Malaysia and Poland.

Aug 24, 2021

Govt. Launches New Portal to Facilitate Geospatial Planning of MGNREGA Assets

  • The government launched a new geospatial planning portal, 'Yuktdhara', which as per Union Minister Jitendra Singh will help in facilitating new MGNREGA assets using remote sensing and geographic information system-based data.
  • He said that the portal will serve as a repository of geotags created under various national rural development programmes.
  • The 'Yuktdhara' portal was launched by Minister of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Giriraj Singh.

PayPal Launches Crypto Buying and Selling in the UK

  • PayPal Holdings Inc has launched crypto buying and selling in the United Kingdom.
  • PayPal will allow customers in the UK to buy, sell and hold bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies now.
  • This roll-out marks the first international expansion of cryptocurrencies services of PayPal outside of the United States.
  • The move will further inspire mainstream adoption of new asset class.
  • PayPal is having over 403 million active accounts worldwide and is the largest mainstream financial company that offer consumers access to cryptocurrencies.
  • It launched cryptocurrency buying and selling in United States in the year 2021 and later enabled its customers to use their digital coin holdings in order to shop at millions of merchants on its network.
  • PayPal's service in the UK will be rival of established cryptocurrency exchanges like Coinbase Global Inc and fintech startups like Revolut. In UK, customers will be able to buy bitcoin, ether, litecoin and bitcoin cash by using the PayPal wallets online or on mobile app.

Govt. to Monetise 25 Airports over Four Years

  • The government is looking to monetise 25 AAI-managed airports, including Varanasi, Chennai, Nagpur and Bhubaneshwar, over the next four years, which could bring in investments worth Rs. 20,782 crore.
  • Further, divestment of Airports Authority of India's (AAI) residual stake in four airport JVs has also been considered under the national monetisation pipeline (NMP) unveiled. This includes the private sector operated airports in Mumbai (26 per cent stake), Delhi (26 per cent stake), Hyderabad (13 per cent stake), and Bangalore (13 per cent stake).
  • Under the ambitious NMP, the government has identified 13 sectors, including airports, which could monetise their brownfield infrastructure assets.
  • The airports sector contributes 4 per cent to the overall Rs. 6 lakh crore NMP unveiled by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

Honda Cars Ties up with Canara Bank

  • Honda Cars India Ltd (HCIL) has joined hands with Canara Bank to offer retail finance schemes to customers.
  • The partnership facilitates HCIL customers to avail easy financing options and hassle free car loans from Canara Bank for purchase of models like Amaze, City, Jazz and WR-V.
  • Special schemes for the auspicious festivities have also been offered to make this buying season even more attractive and rewarding.

LIC Launches Revival Policy

  • To provide continued risk cover to its policyholders, state-run insurer Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) launched a special campaign for the revival of lapsed individual policies.
  • Under the 'Special Revival Campaign', policies of specific eligible plans can be revived within five years from the date of the first unpaid premium, subject to certain terms and conditions.
  • The campaign has been launched from August 23, 2021 to October 22, 2021.
  • The insurer is offering concessions in late fee for plans other than term assurance and high risk plans, depending on the total premiums paid.

World's First Fossil-free Steel Manufactured in Sweden

  • Sweden's SSAB says it has "produced the world's first fossil-free steel" and has started delivering it to the Volvo Group, its first customer.
  • Development for the Hybrit project was set up in 2016 and is owned by SSAB energy firm Vattenfall and LKAB, a mining and minerals group. Both Vattenfall and LKAB are owned by the Swedish state. The idea underpinning Hybrit is to use "100% fossil-free hydrogen" rather than coal and coke in steel production.

RBI Appointed Panel Suggests 4-tier Structure for UCBs

  • A Reserve Bank-appointed committee has suggested a four-tier structure for the urban cooperative banks (UCBs) depending upon the deposits and prescribed different capital adequacy and regulatory norms for them based on their sizes.
  • According to the committee, UCBs can be split into four categories -- Tier-1 with deposits up to Rs. 100 crore; Tier-2 with deposits between Rs. 100-Rs. 1,000 crore, Tier-3 with deposits between Rs. 1,000 crore to Rs. 10,000 and Tier-4 with deposits of over Rs. 10,000 crore.
  • It has suggested that the minimum Capital to Risk-Weighted Assets Ratio (CRAR) for them could vary from 9 per cent to 15 per cent and for Tier-4 UCBs the Basel III prescribed norms.
  • In February, the RBI had the constitution of the Expert Committee on Primary (Urban) Co-operative Banks under the chairmanship of N. S. Vishwanathan, former RBI Deputy Governor.

HCL Tech, Munich Re Sign Pact to Digitalise Workplace Services

  • HCL Technologies said it has signed a contract with Munich Re, one of the world's leading reinsurers, to create a next-generation digital workplace for its workforce across 40 countries.
  • Building on its strategic digital transformation partnership with Munich Re, HCL will now modernise and standardise workplace services for more than 16,000 employees in 40 countries. The Noida-based HCL will adopt a "global" strategy to support Munich Re's global workforce in multiple languages, including German, Spanish and Mandarin, from near-shore locations.
  • Munich Re selected HCL as its preferred partner due to the strength of the existing relationship and its proven track record creating a modern digital workplace for other leading German and global organisations.

Aug 23, 2021

GAIL to Foray into Hydrogen Generation

  • India's top gas company GAIL will foray into hydrogen generation and take the acquisition route to scale up its renewable energy portfolio as it pivots business beyond natural gas to align with energy transition being witnessed across the globe.
  • As part of a push to embrace cleaner forms of energy, GAIL will be laying pipeline infrastructure to connect consumption centres to gas sources while also augmenting its renewable energy portfolio.
  • The firm is laying around 6,000-kilometres of pipeline, including a west coast to east coast pipeline from Mumbai to Jharsuduga in Odisha via Nagpur. It currently has around 13,700-km of natural gas pipeline network.

Adani Total Gas Buys Stake in Smartmeters Technologies Pvt Ltd

  • Adani Total Gas Ltd - the city gas joint venture of Adani Group and TotalEnergies of France - has acquired 50 per cent stake in a company that manufactures gas meters to aid its gas retailing business.
  • The firm bought 50 per cent in Smartmeters Technologies Pvt Ltd(SMTPL) for Rs. 1 crore.
  • Smartmeters, which had a turnover of Rs. 4.83 crore in the year up to March 31, 2021, manufactures gas meters which are used to measure consumption of gas piped into household kitchens.
  • The objective of the acquisition is "to manufacture gas meters with a focus on prepaid smart meters.

Zetwerk Joins Unicorn Club

  • Global manufacturing platform Zetwerk has raised $150 million in a Series E funding round led by D1 Capital Part¬ners. The investment has taken the valuation of the firm to over $1 billion, making it the newest member of the coveted uni¬corn club.
  • This is the second fundraise for the Bengaluru-based company in 2021. In February, Zet¬werk raised $120 million in a Series D round led by US-ba¬sed Greenoaks Capital and Lig¬h¬tspeed Venture Partners, to continue helping customers translate their digital designs into physical products via flexible manufacturing capacity from small manufacturers (SM¬¬Es). Sequoia Capital India and Kae Capital had also participated in the round.
  • The round has mo¬re than doubled the valuation of Zet¬werk to about $600 million.

USAID, DFC Tie-up with Kotak Bank for $50 mn Loan Guarantee for Women, Small business in India

  • Two American institutions have jointly sponsored a $50 million (about Rs. 372 crore) loan guarantee for Indian women and small business borrowers by tying up with private sector lender Kotak Mahindra Bank.
  • This is a loan portfolio guarantee to Kotak Mahindra Bank (KMB) by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) to support increased access to finance for women borrowers, and micro, small and medium enterprise.
  • It explained that KMB will be providing loans for on-lending to non-bank lenders operating in the MSME and micro lending space. The programme is likely to benefit 30,000 women borrowers and 7,500 MSMEs.

Kotak Mahindra Bank Launches 'Neo Collections' Digital Repayment Platform

  • Kotak Mahindra Bank has launched a platform named 'Neo Collections', which is a Do It Yourself Digital Repayment Platform for missed loan repayments. Kotak Mahindra Bank has launched the Neo Collections platform in tie-up with Creditas Solutions. The main objective of this DIY digital repayment platform is to make repayments for outstanding loans more convenient for customers.
  • Powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning, the 'Neo Collections' platform delivers a personalised and non-intrusive experience thereby enabling customers to manage their dues seamlessly on their own through an intuitive repayment platform.

FM Sitharaman Launches Ubharte Sitaare Fund

  • Nirmala Sitharaman, the Union Finance Minister, inaugurated the Ubharte Sitaare Fund (USF) for export-oriented small and mid-sized businesses and start-ups in Lucknow. During her Budget speech in 2020, Sitharaman proposed the fund in reference to the challenges experienced by small and mid-sized businesses in fulfilling their export goals.
  • The fund, co-sponsored by Exim Bank and SIDBI, comprises Rs. 250 crore in total, with a greenshoe option of Rs. 250 crore. The funds will invest in export-oriented businesses in the manufacturing as well as services industries using equity and equity-like products. The fund's goal is to find Indian businesses that have competitive advantages in terms of technology, products, or processes, as well as export potential, but are either underperforming or unable to reach their full potential.

NTPC Commissions 15 MW Floating Solar Capacity at Andhra's Simhadri

  • NTPC announced commercial commissioning of a 15MW capacity at the floating solar PV project in Simhadri, Andhra Pradesh.
  • With this, the installed capacity of the floating solar PV project at Simhadri stands at 25 MW.
  • Consequent upon successful commissioning of 15 MW capacity, Simhadri Floating Solar PV Project at Simhadri, Andhra Pradesh is hereby declared on commercial operation w.e.f. 10:00 Hrs. of 21.08.2021.
  • With this, the installed capacity of NTPC and NTPC Group stands at 53,475 MW and 66,900 MW, respectively.
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