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BUSINESS AND ECONOMY - March 2020

Mar 2020

Mar 31, 2020

IAG Sells Exits SBI General Insurance, 26 pc Stake For USD 310 mn

  • SBI on Monday said Australia's IAG has sold its entire 26 per cent stake in the lender's general insurance joint venture SBI General Insurance Co Ltd for USD 310 million (about Rs 2,325 crore).
  • The stake has been sold to Premji Invest and Warburg Pincus group.
  • "IAG (Insurance Australia General) is pleased to advise it has completed the sale of its 26 per cent interest in SBI General in India. The associated transactions were first announced on October 17, 2019," SBI said in a regulatory filing, referring to IAG's disclosure on Australian Securities Exchange about the sale.
  • As a result, IAG will book a net profit on sale of its interest in SBI General of approximately USD 310 million in the second half of FY20, as per IAG's filing to the Australian exchange.

Tata Power JV commissions 178 mw-hydropower project in Georgia

  • Tata Power Company's joint venture with Norway's Clean Energy Invest (CEI), and International Financial Corporation (IFC) has started commercial operation of a 178 megawatt hydropower project in Georgia, the Tata group utility said.
  • The joint venture company, Adjaristsqali Georgia LLC, is setting up one of the largest projects in Georgia at an overall project cost of approximately $ 500 million. After the 178 mw-Shuakhevi Hydro Power Project, the JV will comission a 9 mw units, namely Skhalta Hydro Power project.

RBI Raises FPI Investment Limit In Corporate Bonds To 15%

  • The Reserve Bank of India has increased the limit for Foreign portfolio investors (FPI) investment in corporate bonds to 15% of outstanding stock for FY 2020-21.
  • Revised investment limit for FPI investment in corporate bonds shall be Rs 5,41,488 crore for HY Oct 2020-Mar 2021.
  • The existing investment limit for FPI investment in corporate bonds stands at Rs 3.17 lakh crore, while the revised limit shall be Rs 4,29,244 crore for HY Apr 2020-Sep 2020 and Rs 5,41,488 crore for HY Oct 2020-Mar 2021.
  • The revised limits for FPI investment in Central Government securities (G-secs) and State Development Loans (SDLs) for FY 2020-21 will be advised separately.

Punjab National Bank Unveils New Logo Ahead Of Merger

  •  Ahead of its merger with the United Bank of India (UBI) and the Oriental Bank of Commerce (OBC) from April 1, 2020 Punjab National Bank (PNB) unveiled a new logo which bears the signages of all the three PSU banks. From the next financial year, PNB will become the second largest lender in India after the State Bank of India (SBI).
  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has already issued a statement that the merger will take place as scheduled on April 1. There were concerns that the 21-day nationwide lockdown might impact the mega merge plan in which 10 state-owned banks will be merged into four bigger and stronger banks.
  • OBC and UBI are the transferor banks while PNB is the transferee in this amalgamation process. The boards of UBI and OBC will cease to exist from April 1, 2020.

Mar 30, 2020

World Entered Recession: IMF

  • International Monetary Fund, IMF, has said that the world is in the face of a devastating impact due to the Corona virus pandemic and has clearly entered a recession. However, it projected a recovery next year.
  • Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said that IMF has reassessed the prospects for growth for 2020 and 2021. It said that the current recession is as bad or worse than in 2009. She said that the recovery in 2021 will only be possible if the international community succeeds in containing the virus everywhere and prevent liquidity problems from becoming a solvency issue.
  • Stressing that while containment is the main reason for the economy to stand still and get into a recession, Ms Georgieva said containment is very necessary to come out of this period and step in to recovery.

Mega Merger Of PSU Banks Comes Into Force From April 1

  •  Notwithstanding the 21-day coronavirus lockdown, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has decided to go ahead with the merger plan of ten state-run banks into four larger bank from April 1, 2020. The apex bank has issued four separate releases announcing that the branches of merging banks will operate as of the banks in which these have been amalgamated from next month.
  • RBI's statement comes after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's mega bank consolidation plan was very much on track and would take effect from April 1.
  • The government on March 4 had notified the amalgamation schemes for 10 state owned banks into four as part of its consolidation plan to create bigger size stronger banks in the public sector.

IBBI eases timelines within 330-day deadline for insolvency resolution Process

  •  Providing leeway to resolution professionals amid the coronavirus outbreak, IBBI has relaxed the timelines to be followed under the overall 330-day deadline for completion of insolvency resolution processes.
  • Against the backdrop of the 21-day lockdown to curb spreading of coronavirus infections, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India  (IBBI) has amended certain regulations.
  • The lockdown period would not be counted for the purpose of timelines set under the IBBI regulations for Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process (CIRP), according to a notification.

ADB Announces 100 Million US Dollars Funding For Indian Infrastructure Sector

  • Multilateral institution Asian Development Bank (ADB) announced a 100 million US Dollars funding for the Indian infrastructure sector through the government-promoted National Investment and Infrastructure Fund-NIIF. 
  • The Manila-based body will be investing in NIIF, tranche of funds, which will ensure that the actual money invested will be a few times more than the 100 million dollars. NIIF's Chief Executive Sujoy Bose said that the ADB's commitment to NIIF fund during these extraordinary and challenging times is highly meaningful. 
  • Mr Bose said, ADB has been funding Indian private equity funds for over two decades now and added the latest move will help NIIF commit money to private equity fund managers who may be struggling to raise money from overseas sources. The statement said, it has made commitments to three funds aggregating to over 2,600 crore rupees or 350 million dollars.

5G Pioneer Ashish Sharma Promoted at Inseego Corp.

  •  Inseego Corp., a pioneer of 5G and intelligent IoT device-to-cloud solutions, announced that Ashish Sharma has been promoted. The Indian American executive  will assume the role of president of IoT & Mobile Solutions. 
  • Sharma has served as the company's executive vice president of IoT & Mobile Solutions since joining the company in September 2017 and also served as the company's chief marketing officer. 
  • Prior to joining Inseego, Sharma was chief marketing officer at Spectralink. He holds a hachelor from the University of District of Columbia, a master's from George Mason University and an M.B.A. from the UCLA Anderson School of Management in Finance, Marketing and Strategy, his bio said.

Mar 28, 2020

Forex Reserves Fall By $12 Bn, The Most Since 2008 Global Financial Crisis

  •  In 2020, the country's foreign exchange reserves fell by a whopping USD 11.98 billion to USD 469.909 billion in the week to March 20 as the Reserve Bank continued to supply dollars into the market to stem fall in the rupee.  The rupee hit an all-time low of 76.15 against the US dollar on March 23 as foreign investors continued to withdraw money from domestic equity and debt market amid uncertainties due to the fast-spreading coronavirus.  In the previous week, the country's foreign exchange reserves fell by USD 5.346 billion to USD 481.89 billion. This was the first decline in the country's reserves in almost six months. Forex reserves had dipped by $15 billion during the week ended 24 October, 2008.
  • The reserves had touched a life-time high of USD 487.23 billion in the week to March 6, after it rose by USD 5.69 billion.

Govt Raises Rs 11,500 Cr From Strategic Sale Of THDC, NEEPCO to NTPC

  •  The government has raised Rs 11,500 crore through strategic sale of its stake in two state-owned power companies, THDC and NEEPCO, to NTPC. With this, the total disinvestment proceeds in the current financial year stand at over Rs 46,500 crore.
  • The Revised Estimates had substantially lowered estimates of disinvestment receipts for the current financial year to Rs 65,000 crore, from Rs 1.05 lakh crore projected in Budget. The government has sold 74.49 per cent stake in THDC for Rs 7,500 crore and 100 per cent in NEEPCO for Rs 4,000 crore.

GDP Likely To Grow Just 2% in 2020-21: ICRA

  •  Despite the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) massive actions to spur the economy, India's gross domestic product (GDP) is likely to contract by 4.5 per cent in the April-June 2020 quarter and will rise by only 2 per cent in 2020-21 on the coronavirus impact, according to domestic rating agency ICRA.
  • While announcing a number of measures in the policy review, the RBI refrained from giving its estimate on both growth and inflation, saying things are fluid and rapidly changing.
  • The Indian economy was already supposed to clock a decadal low growth of 5 per cent in 2019-20, according to official estimates, and the coronavirus-related worries have only compounded the problems.

3 Months Moratorium On Repayment Of EMIs For Borrowers

  •  Shaktikanta Das, Governor of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has asked all the lending institutions to provide a three-month moratorium on EMI repayments on all term loans.
  • This announcement is done to ease the pressure of EMIs on the borrowers amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The RBI Governor has further allowed the banks to deferment interest on working capital loans for the next three months.
  • This means that the loan borrowers would not have to pay the EMI instalments of the loan during this period i.e. moratorium period and will be applicable on all the term loans outstanding on March 1, 2020. 

Moody's Cuts India GDP Growth To 2.5% From 5.3% In 2020

  •  Moody's Investors Service has slashed its estimate of India's economic growth forecast to 2.5% during 2020 calendar year from an earlier estimate of 5.3% amid the rising economic cost of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Moody's said it expects the growth to bounce back to 5.8% in the calendar year in 2021 and expects a gross domestic product (GDP) growth of negative 0.5% in CY20 at the global level, before bouncing back in CY21.

RBI Governor's Full Statement After Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) Meeting

 Measures taken by the Reserve Bank are given below.
A cumulative reduction in the policy repo rate of 135 basis points.
Accommodative stance of monetary policy as long as necessary to revive growth, while keeping inflation within the target.
Two USD buy/sell swap auction of USD 5 billion each conducted on March 26 and April 23, 2019, injecting liquidity into the banking system amounting to Rs.  34,561 crore and Rs. 34,874 crore, respectively.
Seven open market purchases, injecting Rs. 92,500 crore into the system .
Four simultaneous purchase and sale of government securities under Open Market Operations (special OMOs or what is known as operation twist) during December and January (December 23 and 30, 2019 and January 6 and 23, 2020) to ensure better monetary policy transmission.
Five long term repo operations (LTROs) between February 17 and March 18, 2020 for one-year and three-year tenors amounting to ₹ 1,25,000 crore of durable liquidity at a reasonable cost (fixed repo rate).
Exemption on incremental credit disbursed by banks between January 31 - July 31, 2020 on retail loans for automobiles, residential housing and loans to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) from the maintenance of cash reserve ratio (CRR).
Two 6-month US Dollar sell/buy swap auction providing dollar liquidity amounting to USD 2.71 billion.
Fine-tuning variable rate repo auctions of Rs. 50,000 crore and Rs. 25,000 crore of 8 days and 3 days maturity on March 26 and March 31, respectively, with standalone primary dealers (SPDs) allowed to participate.
Fine-tuning variable rate Repo auction of 16-day maturity amounting to Rs. 81,585 crore on March 23-24, 2020.
The amount under the Standing Liquidity Facility (SLF) available for standalone primary dealers was enhanced from Rs. 2,800 crore to Rs. 10,000 crore on March 24, 2020, and this will be available till April 17, 2020.

Mar 27, 2020

Sameer Aggarwal Promoted As New Walmart India CEO

  •  Sameer Aggarwal was appointed as the new CEO of Walmart India on March 25, 2020. His appointment will be effective from April 1. 
  • Aggarwal will succeed Krish Iyer who is set to retire on March 31 after leading the retail giant for 8 years. With his retirement, Iyer's role will change from full-time management into an advisory one.
  • Aggarwal was promoted to the position of deputy CEO in January 2020. He has now been elevated again to the post of CEO of Best Price, Walmart India.

Mar 26, 2020

CCEA Approves Rs 1,340-Cr Recapitalisation For Weak Regional Rural Banks

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved a Rs 1,340-crore recapitalisation plan for the weak regional rural banks (RRBs) to help improve their capital to risk weighted assets ratio (CRAR) during 2020-21. RRBs are mandated to maintain a minimum CRAR of 9 per cent by the regulator.
  • Of this, Rs 670 crore each would be provided by the Centre and sponsor banks, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javdekar told reporters after the Cabinet meeting. This is, in a way, an extension of the recapitalisation plan that was to end this financial year (April 2019 to March 2020, of FY20).
  • The release of the government's share of funds would be contingent upon the release of the proportionate share by the sponsor banks

Indian Bank, UBI Launch Emergency Loans For Customers Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

  •  To help people and businesses affected by coronavirus outbreak, state-owned lenders, including Indian Bank and Union Bank of India, on Wednesday announced the launch of special emergency loan products like personal loans and soft loan for members of Self Help Groups.
  • Besides, the bank has taken steps to ensure the safety of its staff and uninterrupted banking services to customers.

ARCI Develops Technology To Improve Fuel Efficiency Of Internal Combustion Engines

  •  International Advanced Centre for Powder Metallurgy & New Materials (ARCI), an autonomous R&D Centre of Department of Science and Technology (DST), has developed ultrafast laser surface texturing technology, which can improve the fuel efficiency of internal combustion engines.
  • Laser surface micro-texturing, which offers precise control of the size, shape and density of micro-surface texture features has gained momentum as a way to control friction and wear. In this technology, a pulsating laser beam creates micro-dimples or grooves on the surface of materials in a very controlled manner. Such textures can trap wear debris when operating under dry sliding conditions and sometimes provide effects like enhancing oil supply (lubricant reservoir) which can lower friction coefficients and may enable reduced wear rate.
  • The texture surfaces were created on automotive internal combustion engine components, piston rings and cylinder liners using 100 fs pulse duration laser. The micro dimples of 10-20 μm diameter and about 5-10 μm deep which have been created with laser beams had a regular pattern.  The created textures were tested in an engine test rig under different speeds and temperatures of coolant and lubrication oil, and it was observed that there was a 16% reduction in the lube oil consumption with the use of texture on the piston rings. The 10-hour lube oil consumption test shows that the blowby substantially reduced with textured rings.

India Bans Export Of Hydroxychloroquine Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

  •  The Indian government on 25 March, 2020 that it is banning the export of hydroxychloroquine and formulations made from the medication, as experts test the efficacy of the drug in helping treat patients infected with COVID-19.
  • There are currently no approved treatments, or preventive vaccines for COVID-19, the highly contagious, sometimes deadly respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus. Researchers are studying existing treatments and working on experimental ones, but most current patients receive only supportive care such as breathing assistance.
  • Hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug, is among the medications that are being tested, as a potential treatment for patients with the disease.
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