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BUSINESS AND ECONOMY - October 2020

Oct 2020

Oct 31, 2020

Alphabet Sales Growth Revived

  • Google parent Alphabet Inc on Thursday powered back to sales growth, beating analysts' estimates for the third quarter as businesses initially hobbled by the coronavirus pandemic resumed advertising with the internet's biggest supplier of ads.
  • Google's billions of users are spending more time online transacting and entertaining themselves this year as they try to avoid the virus.
  • But many advertisers ceased spending in the second quarter as travel and leisure activity disappeared. As the global economy in the third quarter began to chug along again, advertisers flocked to Google to let shoppers know about deals and adjusted service offerings. Google also gained from political ad spending ahead of the U.S. presidential election on 3rd November.
  • Ad sales surged across all regions and industries.

Axis Bank Rejigs Max Life Deal

  • Axis Bank said that the RBI has not allowed it to directly acquire 17% stake in Max Life Insurance and the lender will now purchase shares in the life insurer along with its subsidiaries.
  • Axis Bank and its entities have revised the agreement with Max Financial, the promoter of Max Life, to acquire 19.002% stake in the insurance firm.
  • In August this year (2020), Axis Bank had entered into a definitive agreement with Max Financial Services Ltd (Max Financial) for the direct acquisition of 17.002 per cent of equity share capital of Max Life Insurance Company Ltd (Max Life) by the lender.

Eurozone Bounces Back to Economic Growth

  • According to new official figures, the economies of the Eurozone bounced back in the third quarter of the year.
  • Economic activity for the region as a whole was 12.7% higher than in the previous three months.
  • But the growth was not enough to reverse the declines in the first half of 2020 due to the pandemic.
  • The outlook for the end of the year is further weakness caused by a renewed surge in Covid cases and tighter official restrictions.

McDonald's HQ Building Sells for over $412 Million

  • The McDonald's Headquarters building in Chicago has been sold for more than $412 million, the largest office property sale in the city since 2018.
  • Seller Sterling Bay and investment partner J.P. Morgan Asset Management bought the site from Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Studios.
  • McDonald's, one of the world's largest fast-food giant, moved its headquarters into the building in June 2018.

Israel to Export Agricultural Produce to UAE

  • Israeli farmers and companies have received permission to export agricultural produce to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
  • Following a concerted effort that included talks, exchanges of correspondence and coordination with the UAE's Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, Israel has received official approval from the UAE authorities to export fresh agricultural produce and propagating material, including seeds.
  • The Ministry noted that export costs to the UAE will be low due to the geographical proximity between the two countries and the logistical options for transportation.
  • The development comes after the UAE signed normalization deal with Israel at the White House on September 15.
  • It is the first Arab nation in 26 years to establish formal ties with Israel, after Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

Doing Business in India Report, 2020

  • The "Doing Business in India Report, 2020" was released by the UK India Business Council. According to the report, the business environment in India is improving and there is a greater opportunity for UK India collaboration.
  • The businesses in the UK find 'Atma Nirbhar Bharat Mission' as an opportunity to do more business in India. The report has been published for the sixth time since 2015. This year the report has been prepared based on an in-depth survey of 106 UK firms that are operating in India. These firms belonged to services, manufacturing and higher education sector.
  • As per the report, 66% of the surveyed organisations believed that the ease of doing business in India is increasing. According to the report, this change is mainly due to the progressive reforms and improvements in the business environment of India. The changes are predominantly found in availability of support, skilled labour, service providers and supply chain.
  • India's score of doing business has improved from 2.74 in 2019 22.9 to in 2020. The most frequent obstacles in doing business with India is its legal and regulatory boundaries. The other irritants according to the report in doing business in India are GST issues, foreign exchange regulations, high import tariffs and lack of alignment with international standards.

Oct 30, 2020

Government Allows Exports under New Scheme to Boost API Production

  • The government has tweaked the newly proposed production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for bulk drugs to extend the incentives to exports of the products and ease other norms such as minimum investment threshold.
  • The pharmaceuticals department (DoP) announced amendments to PLI scheme for promotion of domestic manufacturing of critical key starting materials (KSMs), drug intermediates (DIs) and active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) in India and PLI scheme for promoting domestic manufacturing of medical devices based on suggestions and inputs from the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.
  • Aimed at reducing dependence on China for APIs and KSM, the scheme for bulk drugs was initially meant to cater to only the domestic demand.

Union Cabinet Approves Mechanism for Procurement of Ethanol

  • The Union Cabinet approved the Mechanism for the public sector oil companies to procure ethanol.
  • Under the new mechanism, the prices of ethanol obtained from sugarcane based raw material have been increased for the forth coming sugar cane season. This is between December 2020 and November 2021.
  • Also, the prices of ethanol obtained from C heavy molasses, B heavy molasses have been increased. The increase in price was around Rs. 2 to 3 per litre. Additionally, the oil companies will now have to pay transportation charges and GST while procuring ethanol.
  • The Oil Marketing Companies were selling petrol blended with ethanol under Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme. This was applied to the whole of India except Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep Islands.
  • This was to reduce the energy dependence of India from oil imports and also to boost agriculture. Also, Ethanol Procurement Policy was adopted under the EBP programme.

CDSL IFSC Branch Gets Recognition as Foreign Depository

  • CDSL said that its branch at the International Financial Services Centre in Gift City, Gujarat has been recognised as a foreign depository by the International Financial Services Centres Authority (IFSCA).
  • The branch -- CDSL IFSC -- would facilitate holding and transfer of all the eligible securities which are permitted at the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC), Gujarat International Finance Tec (Gift) city.
  • The objective of the branch is to make IFSC the 'go-to' location for global investors and be the preferred choice amongst the financial markets.
  • Central Depository Services (India) Limited (CDSL) maintains and services over 2.61 crore demat accounts of investors or spread across the country. 

Output of Eight Core Industries Contracts for Seventh Consecutive Month

  • Production of eight core sectors contracted for the seventh consecutive month in September. Data released by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry shows that the output of India's eight core infrastructure sectors dropped by 0.8 per cent.
  • In September 2019, the production of eight core sectors had contracted by 5.1 per cent. This time around, the contraction has been attributed mainly to a decline in the production of crude oil, natural gas, refinery products and cement.
  • Data released by the central government indicates that the decline in output in September of this year was the lowest since March 2020.
  • All sectors, namely crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, fertilizer and cement recorded negative growth in September 2020 with the exception of coal, electricity and steel.
  • The output of the eight core sectors had dropped by 14.9 per cent in April-September of this year. In 2019, the core sectors had witnessed a growth of 1.3 per cent in the same period.

Geojit to Launch Global Investment Platform

  • Geojit Financial Services has announced the launch of its global investment platform to help its customers invest in the US markets and diverse global assets through a single account from anywhere in the world.
  • Geojit has partnered with New York-based global wealth management services platform Stockal, to develop the AI-powered global investment platform which helps investors diversify their portfolio by investing in international equities.
  • The comprehensive tech-enabled digital experience will benefit more than 10 lakh Geojit customers as well as Indian retail investors, high-net-worth investors, ex-NRIs and expat IT professionals who want to invest in the global assets.
  • The global investment platform from Geojit presently offers investment options in the US stock market and will soon be adding other key global markets such as the UK, Japan, Hong Kong, Germany and Singapore to the platform.

Oct 29, 2020

India, UK Ink Pacts on Infrastructure, Financial Services and Sustainable Finance

  • India and the UK signed agreements on financial services, infrastructure and sustainable finance at the 10th Economic and Financial Dialogue (EFD) between the two countries.
  • The agreements will help boost jobs and investments in both countries while building economic ties.
  • UK chancellor Rishi Sunak and finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman held discussions. 
  • This partnership is helping set up a project preparation support facility-cum-centre of excellence for PPP projects.

NPCI Launches RuPay Festive Carnival

  • The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) launched 'RuPay Festive Carnival'.
  • The 'RuPay Festive Carnival' will give compelling advantage and interesting discounts to RuPay users. It aimed at contactless, motivating safe and cashless payments.
  • Customers will be able to benefit discounts ranging from 10-65 % on famous brands, including, Swiggy, Samsung, Amazon, Flipkart among others.
  • The NPCI is an government organisation for operating retail payments and settlement systems in India. It is founded in 2008. 

DPIIT Releases Next Edition of Consolidated FDI Policy

  • The Commerce and Industry Ministry released the next edition of its consolidated foreign direct investment (FDI) policy document, incorporating all the changes made over the past year.
  • According to the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), the new circular comes into effect in October.
  • The consolidated policy is a compilation of various decisions taken by the government with regard to FDI in different sectors.
  • DPIIT, which deals with FDI related matters, compiles all policies related to foreign investment regime into a single document to make it simple and easy for investors to understand.
  • Investors would otherwise have to go through various press notes issued by the department, and the RBI regulations to understand the policy.
  • The whole exercise is aimed at providing an investor-friendly climate to foreign players and, in turn, attracts more FDI to boost economic growth and create jobs.

IFSCA Approves Two New Regulations

  • International Financial Services Centre Authorities approved to new regulations during the board meeting held.
  • During the meeting the following new regulations were approved:
  • International Financial Services Centre authorities Bullion exchange regulations, 2020
  • International financial services Centre authorities' Global in-house centres regulation, 2020
  • Based on the recommendation of the International Financial Services Centre authorities, the Government of India notified bullion depository receipt and bullion spot delivery contract as financial products. They were notified under the International Financial Services centre at Authority Act, 2019. The IFSCA was tasked to operate this bullion exchange. For the first time a single authority regulated both the derivative contract and the bullion spot.

Govt. Streamlines Patent Rules to Promote Ease of Doing Business

  • The central government amended patent rules to streamline the submission requirements regarding the working of a patented invention on a commercial scale in India, a move aimed at promoting ease of doing business.
  • The changed rules allow an applicant to file a single form for multiple patents, and a joint form for multiple patentees has been introduced.  
  • As per the commerce and industry ministry, the Patents (Amendment) Rules, 2020, which came into effect in October 2020, have further streamlined the requirements related to filing of Form 27 and submission of verified English translation of priority documents not in English language.
  • Form 27 is related to submission of statements regarding the working of a patented invention on a commercial scale in India.
  • As per the changed rules, priority document is not required to be submitted if it is available in World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and English translation of these documents is needed only in certain cases.

Direct Port Entry Facility Launched at the V. O. Chidambarnar Port

  • A direct port entry facility was launched at the V. O. Chidambarnar Port in Tuticorin by Union Minister of State for Shipping and Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilisers Mansukh Mandaviya.
  • The modern direct port entry would allow direct movement of containers from mills to the container terminal round the clock, without in-between handling at CFSs.
  • The customs segment is expected to generate the Let Export Order (LEO) under a single roof without any problem. A loyal team of CWC and conventional officials in association with VOC Port will serve Tier-II, Tier-III certified export and import clients.
  • IT-enabled infrastructure at ports would make ports world-class, aligning 'Maritime Vision 2030'.

Tatas to Buy Majority Stake in BigBasket

  • Indian online grocery startup BigBasket is in advanced talks to sell a majority stake for about $1 billion to salt-to-software conglomerate Tata Group.
  • The century-old group has been planning to launch a "super app", one that will tie in all its consumer businesses as it competes against Amazon and Reliance Industries, who have made big bets on India's booming e-commerce market.
  • Bengaluru-based BigBasket competes with Walmart Inc-owned Flipkart and Amazon's "Fresh" service as more consumers stay indoors and choose to shop online during the Covid outbreak.
  • China's Alibaba, which holds around 26% stake in BigBasket, is expected to sell its entire shareholding in the company.

Wipro Launches Tenant Acquisition Management Solution

  • Wipro Ltd announced that it will co-innovate with SAP SE on cloud-based solutions for the real estate industry.
  • To start with, the Bengaluru-headquartered IT major launched the Tenant Acquisition Management solution, which can be integrated as a cloud extension to SAP 'Customer Experience' and SAP S/4HANA software as well.
  • Anchored with technologies like robotic process automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning, the solution enables faster deal conversion with respect to tenant leasing by providing a seamless, real time and consistent experience for leasing agents to perform Lead to Lease activities.
  • The solution also leverages Wipro's preconfigured industry solution for real estate to accelerate SAP S/4HANA deployments and manage end-to-end real estate business processes.

Oct 28, 2020

India Extends Anti-dumping Duty on imports of Fluoroelastomers from China

  • According to a Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) notification, India has extended anti-dumping duty on imports of Fluoroelastomers from China by a month.
  • The decision has been taken after the Directorate General of Trade Remedies (DGTR) requested for further extension of the anti-dumping duty on the goods originating in or exported from China. The DGTR initiated a review in February, 2020 on whether the goods being imported were hurting domestic industry. 
  • India had first imposed the duty in January 2019, which was extended in July this year till October 27.
  • In international trade parlance, dumping happens when a country or a firm exports an item at a price lower than the price of that product in its domestic market. 

Implement Compound Interest Waiver

  • The RBI asked all lending institutions, including non-banking financial companies, to ensure that the scheme of waiver of interest on interest for loans up to Rs. 2 crore for the six-month moratorium period is implemented by November 5, as decided by the government.
  • Earlier the government had announced the scheme for grant of ex gratia payment of difference between compound interest and simple interest for six months to borrowers in specified loan accounts.
  • Housing loans, education loans, credit card dues, auto loans, MSME loans, consumer durable loans and consumption loans are covered under the scheme.
  • The scheme mandates ex gratia payment to certain categories of borrowers by way of crediting the difference between simple interest and compound interest for the period between March 1, 2020 and August 31, 2020 by respective lending institutions.

NSDL Increases Airtel's Foreign Ownership Limits

  • National Securities Depository (NSDL) increased Bharti Airtel's foreign ownership limits (FOL) to 100% from 49%. With the increase in FOL limits, Bharti's weight in MSCI India index is likely to double from the current 1.92%.
  • The current Foreign Inclusion Factor (FIF) is 0.23 which will increase to 0.43 now. Assuming that the MSCI benchmarked index makes around $35 billion, it would imply buying of 64.9 million shares worth over Rs. 3,000 crore.
  • MSCI in August had reduced Bharti Airtel weight from 3.68% to 1.92% citing no clarity on the effective date of change in its foreign investment limit, a move which has led to massive sell-off in Bharti shares. As per analysts estimates, foreign investors have cut exposure to the stock by nearly Rs. 3,800 crore in September. 

Kerala Becomes the First State to Fix Floor Price for Vegetables

  • Kerala became the first state to fix the floor price for vegetables, which would be 20 per cent above the production cost. The scheme would come into effect from November 1, 2020.
  • This is the first time that floor price is being fixed for 16 varieties of vegetables produced in Kerala.
  • Even if the market price went below this, the produce would be procured at the floor price from farmers.
  • The vegetables would be graded as per the quality and the floor price fixed accordingly.
  • Kerala Chief Minister said that 16 varieties of vegetables would be covered in the first phase and there was a provision to revise the floor price on a regular basis. 

Hero MotoCorp, Harley-Davidson Join Hands

  • The country's largest two-wheeler maker Hero MotoCorp and US bike maker Harley-Davidson have joined hands for the Indian market.
  • As per the distribution agreement, Hero MotoCorp will sell and service Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and sell parts and accessories and general merchandise riding gear and apparel through a network of brand-exclusive Harley-Davidson dealers and Hero's existing dealership network in India.
  • According to a licensing agreement, Hero MotoCorp will develop and sell a range of premium motorcycles under the Harley-Davidson brand name.

Oct 27, 2020

BJP Announces Eight Candidates from UP, One from Uttarakhand

  • The BJP announced its eight candidates for the Rajya Sabha polls from Uttar Pradesh and one from Uttarakhand. Earlier this month the Election Commission had announced elections to 10 Rajya Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh and one in Uttarakhand, falling vacant on November 25.
  • With the BJP having 304 members in the Uttar Pradesh assembly, the November 9 election for the ten Rajya Sabha seats from the state may turn out to be a nearly one-sided affair for the party, feel poll analyst.
  • The BJP's all eight nominees for Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh are likely to win as the party has the three-fourth majority in the state assembly.

Jack Ma's Ant Seeks to raise $35 Billion

  • Jack Ma's Ant Group Co. is set to raise almost $35 billion through initial public offerings in Shanghai and Hong Kong, a blockbuster listing that will rank as the world's biggest share sale ever.
  • The fintech priced its Shanghai stock at 68.8 yuan ($10.27) apiece and its Hong Kong shares at HK $80 ($10.32) each. Ant will be valued at about $280 billion before the IPO, and will raise about $34.5 billion from Shanghai and Hong Kong before exercising its green shoe option, based on filings.
  • The company's much-anticipated IPO is on track to surpass Saudi Aramco's $29 billion sale last year.
  • The company may raise another $5.17 billion if it exercises it Hong Kong and Shanghai green shoe options. That would give Ant a valuation of about $320 billion, making it bigger than JPMorgan Chase & Co. and four times larger than Goldman Sachs Group Inc. 

Paytm Money Launches ETFs, Targets 1 lakh Investors

  • Fintech major Paytm said that its wholly-owned subsidiary Paytm Money launched Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) on its platform after approval from the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).
  • An exchange-traded fund (ETF) is a collection of securities people can buy or sell through a brokerage firm on a stock exchange.
  • ETFs are investment avenues that everyone should add to their portfolio to earn index or market-linked returns at a lesser cost. The company is offering a user-friendly interface along with necessary factors that the user may need to make an informed decision and invest in ETFs of their choice conveniently.
  • The company is targeting 1 lakh users to invest in ETFs in the next 12-18 months through the platform. 

TRIFED Launches New Forest Organic Products

  • The Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED) launched 100 new forest fresh organic products. These products are to be available to 125 tribes in India.
  • These products include
  • Gold and green Apples from Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh
  • Baskets and boxes from Uttarakhand. They were made from Munj grass
  • Cloves, seeded tamarind, coffee powder and eucalyptus oil from Nilgri tribes
  • Masks made by Meena tribes of Rajasthan
  • Immunity boosters such as kadha and churan made by the Bhul and Gond tribes of Madhya Pradesh
  • Range of pulses, jamun powder and giloy powder made from Gujarat and Maharashtra
  • Pickles, red rice, bel juices, from the North-East.
  • Of these products, some are processed and packaged by the Van Dhan tribal startups. It acts as source of employment for tribal gatherers, home bound artisans and forest dwellers.
  • The TRIFED has also launched the E-Market platform called the Tribes India E-Mart Channel. It is an omni-channel for the tribal to sell their goods to the international and national audience.

SEBI Bans Birla Pacific Medspa, Yashovardhan Birla, 8 others for 2 Years

  • SEBI has barred Birla Pacific Medspa Ltd, Yashovardhan Birla and eight others from the securities market for two years for misutilisation of the IPO proceeds. Birla Pacific Medspa Ltd (BPML), which came out with offer documents in March 2011, had floated its over Rs. 65-core initial public offering (IPO) in June 2011.
  • The regulator found that the company made misstatements in the prospectus in respect of the objects of the IPO.
  • While around 75 per cent of the IPO proceeds were promised to be utilised in setting up of Evolve Medspa centres under the 'objects of the issue' in the prospectus, no such centres ultimately have been set up.
  • Accordingly, SEBI has barred the company, Yashovardhan Birla and eight other individuals from accessing the securities market and further prohibited them from buying, selling or otherwise dealing in securities for two years, while one individual has been prohibited from the capital markets for six months.
  • These individuals were the signatories to the prospectus of Birla Pacific Medspa.

Airtel Rolls Out Cloud-based Communications Platform for Business

  • Telecom operator Bharti Airtel entered the rapidly-growing cloud communications market with the launch of business-centric 'Airtel IQ'.
  • A cloud-based omni-channel communications platform, Airtel IQ, aimed to enable brands to deepen engagement with customers through timely and secure communication, terming the move as a "game changer" for the fast-evolving Indian enterprise communication segment.
  • The Indian cloud communications market, estimated at $1 billion, is seen growing nearly 20 per cent annually.
  • Airtel IQ aims to eliminate the need for multiple communication platforms for different channels, and already companies, including Swiggy, Justdial, Urban Company, Havells, Dr. Lal Path Labs and Rapido, have signed up as customers for Airtel IQ in the beta phase.
  • The platform, now commercially available, runs on a pay-as-you-go model meaning that the costs for enterprises would depend on the consumption levels.
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