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BUSINESS AND ECONOMY - December 2020

Dec 2020

Jun 13, 2021

India, Kuwait Sign Deal to Streamline Recruitment of Indian Domestic Workers

  • India and Kuwait signed an agreement to streamline the recruitment of Indian domestic workers and discussed ways to boost cooperation in food security, cyber security and the energy sector during external affairs minister S. Jaishankar's visit to Doha.
  • The signing of the memorandum of understanding for cooperation on the recruitment of domestic workers was among the key outcomes of Jaishankar's visit that concluded on Friday. The MoU brings Indian workers in Kuwait within the ambit of a legal framework that streamlines their recruitment and provides them protection of law.
  • It also introduces an employment contract to ensure the rights and obligations of employers and workers, and a mechanism for 24-hour assistance to workers. A joint committee will be created to carry out periodic reviews and follow up the implementation of the MoU. With this MoU, the total number of agreements between the two countries has gone up to 34.
  • The agreement was signed by officials during a meeting between Jaishankar and his Kuwaiti counterpart, Ahmed Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah. The meeting was also attended by Kuwait's trade minister Abdullah Issa Al Salman.

SBI to Offer Kavach Personal Loans for Covid-stressed Customers

  • The country's largest lender, State Bank of India (SBI), came up with a new loan offering 'Kavach Personal Loan' to provide relief to its customers who are facing financial challenges due to covid related treatment costs.
  • Kavach Personal Loan is a collateral-free offering by SBI, under which a maximum of Rs. 5 lakh loan can be availed at 8.5 per cent per annum for a period of 5 years.
  • This unique product is being offered under the collateral-free personal loan category and comes at the cheapest rate of interest under this segment. Reimbursement of expenses already incurred for Covid related medical expenses shall also be provided under the scheme.
  • This loan scheme by SBI will be under the Covid loan book that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had asked banks to create to provide relief to individuals and institutions affected due to covid.

Jun 12, 2021

United States Tops Bitcoin Investment Gains in 2020

  • The US traders have benefited the most in Bitcoin Investment Gain in 2020, with a profit of $4.1 billion, according to the latest report by Chainalysis, a blockchain analysis company based in Manhattan, New York. Chinese traders stood second, with a profit of $1.1 billion. India has been ranked at 18th spot with a profit of $241 million, among the top 25 countries, in Bitcoin investment gains 2020.

BharatPe Acquires Payback India

  • Merchant payment and lending service provider BharatPe acquired Payback India from American Express and ICICI Investments Strategic Fund.
  • This is the first-ever acquisition by BharatPe and will make Payback India a wholly-owned subsidiary of BharatPe.
  • Payback India - launched in 2010 - is a multi-brand loyalty programme with over 100 million members in the country. It has a network of more than 100 offline and online partners and allows its customers to earn and redeem points on every transaction at its partner merchant outlets.
  • The acquisition of Payback India is in line with BharatPe's strategy to build a robust and engaged network of over 20 million small merchants by 2023.

Gati Ltd Looks to Shut Two More Businesses Post Cold Chain Exit

  • After exiting the cold chain business, express distribution company Gati Ltd is now looking to shed some more weight and is currently engaged in doing away with two more of its subsidiaries-- trading solution and freight forwarding businesses.
  • While the company is engaged in closing down the Gati Import Export Trading Limited subsidiary, for its freight forwarding business, Gati Limited is in search of a suitable buyer.

Jun 11, 2021

Zomato Names Akriti Chopra as Co-founder

  • Initial public offering (IPO)-bound Zomato has named its Chief People Officer Akriti Chopra as co-founder of the food delivery platform, adding another name under its Founders' Programme.
  • Last year, the food delivery firm named Mohit Gupta Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of its food delivery business - as co-founder.
  • Gaurav Gupta, its chief operating officer, was also named co-founder earlier. These elevations are part of an initiative Zomato launched in 2019 called the Zomato Founders Programme.
  • Chopra has been with Zomato since November 2011, when she was senior manager, finance and operations, and moved on to vice-president of the same division. She was chief financial officer from April 2019 until October last year, and handed over the title to Akshant Goyal in November.

United States Tops Bitcoin Investment Gains in 2020

  • The US traders have benefited the most in Bitcoin Investment Gain in 2020, with a profit of $4.1 billion, according to the latest report by Chainalysis, a blockchain analysis company based in Manhattan, New York. Chinese traders stood second, with a profit of $1.1 billion. India has been ranked at 18th spot with a profit of $241 million, among the top 25 countries, in Bitcoin investment gains 2020.

GAIL Scraps Split Plan

  • A proposal to bifurcate state-owned gas utility GAIL (India) Ltd has been scrapped for now, and instead the company will monetise some of its pipelines by selling a minority stake through InvIT.
  • The company has sent a plan for monetising two of its pipelines to the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas and an Infrastructure Investment Trust (InvIT) is possible within the current fiscal if approvals come soon.
  • GAIL is India's biggest natural gas marketing and trading firm and owns nearly three-fourth of the country's 17,126-km gas pipeline network, giving it a stranglehold on the market.

Deal with Tellurian for 40-year Gas Supply No Longer Exists

  • Petronet's Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer A. K. Singh revealed that Petronet LNG and US-based Tellurian Inc. do not have an agreement any more.
  • This means that the proposed $2.5-billion investment in Tellurian's Driftwood LNG project will not fructify.
  • Under the terms of agreement, the two were to finalise an investment deal by December 2020. This was after an earlier extension to the agreement had lapsed in March 2020. When asked about the reason for another extension not being sought, Singh said, "It is not from Petronet LNG, it is from Tellurian. We did not get any request for an extension," indicating the deal agreement stands annulled.

RBI Hikes ATM Interchange Fee per Transaction

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) allowed an increase in the interchange fee structure for ATM transactions after almost 9 years, considering the increasing cost of Automated Teller Machines (ATM) deployment and expenses towards ATM maintenance incurred by the banks and white label ATM operators.
  • Accordingly, the RBI has hiked the interchange fee per transaction from Rs. 15 to Rs. 17 for financial transactions and from Rs. 5 to Rs. 6 for non-financial transactions in all centres, effective August 1, 2021.
  • The card issuing bank pays an interchange fee to the operator of the ATM when a customer makes a transaction at an ATM that does not belong to the card-issuing bank. Currently, the card-issuing bank pays an interchange fee of Rs. 15 for each cash transaction and Rs. 5 for each non-cash transaction.

Central Bank of India Inks Pacts with Indiabulls Housing, IIFL Home Finance

  • State-owned Central Bank of India announced co-lending partnerships with NBFC players Indiabulls Housing Finance and IIFL Home Finance.
  • Under this arrangement, non-banking finance companies (NBFCs) will originate and process retail home loans while Central Bank of India will take into its book 80 per cent of the housing loan under direct assignment transactions.
  • The bank said it has entered into strategic co-lending partnership with Indiabulls Housing Finance and IIFL Home Finance to offer housing loans under priority sector to homebuyers at competitive rates.

India Ranks at the Bottom of Global House Price Index

  • The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has impacted India's housing sector more severely than it has in other major economies. While the local housing market was already struggling to attract enough buyers, the current crises have resulted in a fall in average home rates by 1.6 percent dragging India's ranking by 12 positions in last one year. The Knight Frank Global House Price Index that measures rate fluctuations in 56 countries found India at the bottom of the list – at 55th position – only followed by Spain. In fact, average price in India was lowest in January-March quarter at least since mid-2015.

HUL Names Kedar Lele as Executive Director for Customer Development

  • Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) named Kedar Lele, currently Chairman & Managing Director Unilever Bangladesh, to the HUL Management Committee as Executive Director, Customer Development.
  • The appointment would come into effect from July 1, 2021.
  • Kedar takes over the role from Srinandan Sundaram who will move into his new role as Executive Director, Foods & Refreshment, the company said in a regulatory filing.
  • Kedar joined HUL in 2004 and over the last 17 years demonstrated a strong performance track record across Customer Development, Marketing and General Management.

Jun 10, 2021

El Salvador First Country to Adopt Bitcoin as Legal Tender

  • El Salvador became the first country in the world to adopt bitcoin as legal tender after the country's Congress approved President Nayib Bukele's proposal to embrace the cryptocurrency, a move that delighted the currency's supporters.
  • With 62 out of 84 possible votes, lawmakers voted in favour of the move to create a law to adopt bitcoin, despite concern about the potential impact on El Salvador's programme with the International Monetary Fund.

Skylo Partners Inmarsat for IoT Service

  • Internet of things (IoT) company Skylo tied up with satellite telecommunications firm Inmarsat for its solutions in India.
  • Skylo's IoT solutions with Inmarsat's satellite connectivity is available through BSNL and it plans to expand partnerships later this year.
  • Inmarsat is providing Skylo with capacity from its ultra-reliable L-band network to deliver the world's first NB-IoT ecosystem for satellite. Provision of the ecosystem will initially be focused on the Indian market.
  • Skylo provides IoT solutions that help customers receive continuous coverage to send and receive critical two-way messaging, alerts, and continuously transmit valuable sensor data including location, soil moisture, soil pH, temperature etc.

DBS Tops Forbes 'World's Best Banks' List in India

  • DBS has been named by Forbes in their list of World's Best Banks 2021 in India category. DBS was ranked number 1 out of 30 domestic and international banks in India for the second consecutive year.
  • The second bank in the list is Kerala-based CSB Bank, followed by ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank and Axis Bank. State Bank of India ranks seventh in the list.
  • Interestingly, India Post Payments Bank and Paytm Payments Banks are listed as well in the list. The only cooperative bank in the list of 30 banks is the Andhra Pradesh State Co-operative Bank.

RBI Asks Banks Not to Destroy CCTV Recordings of Demonetisation Period

  • RBI asked banks to preserve the CCTV recordings of their branches and currency chests from November 8, 2016, to December 30, 2016, till further orders with a view to assisting the enforcement agencies to take actions against persons involved in illegal activities during the demonetisation period.
  • On the basis of various inputs, the investigative agencies also started probing matters relating to illegal accumulation of new currency notes.
  • In order to facilitate such investigations, the RBI has asked the banks not to destroy the CCTV recordings of the period of demonetisation till further orders.

Tech Mahindra Plans Acquisition in Europe

  • IT company Tech Mahindra is looking for acquisitions in Europe to upgrade its capabilities in various segments, including cloud computing, 5G, SAP and Salesforce softwares and is also planning to add around 250 people in the Nordic region to support its growth.
  • The company is mainly looking at boutique companies specialising in particular domains like SAP, Salesfoce etc with several hundred of employees.
  • Dhyani said that Tech Mahindra's ability to computerise data and bring operating technology and IT for enterprises and deployment for 5G in organisations is driving the company's business in Europe, especially in the Nordic region.

US-based Advent International sells Stake in CG Consumer

  • US-based private equity firm Advent International-owned Amalfiaco sold a 5.36 per cent stake in CG Consumer at Rs. 400 per share, according to the bulk deal data. It garnered Rs. 1,348.1 crore from the transaction.
  • Among the buyers of stake include two Ashoka India funds (Rs. 166.2 crore), ICICI Prudential Life Insurance (Rs. 100 crore), HDFC Standard Life (Rs. 59.3 crore), Mirae Asset Mutual Fund (Rs. 120.1 crore), SBI Life Insurance Company (Rs. 74.9 crore), SBI Mutual Fund (Rs. 499.7 crore), Morgan Stanley Mauritius Company, Aurigin Master Fund, Bharti Axa Life Insurance Company and BNP Paribas Arbitrage Fund.

Jun 09, 2021

Bank of Baroda to Sell 46 NPA Accounts

  • State-owned Bank of Baroda will conduct an e-auction of as many as 46 NPA accounts later this month to recover dues of Rs. 597.41 crore.
  • The bank intends to sell these NPA accounts to asset reconstruction companies (ARCs) / banks / NBFCs or other financial institutions (FIs) on 100 per cent cash basis, for which the e-auction will take place on June 21, 2021.
  • The major NPA accounts put up for sale include Meena Jewels Export & Meena Jewellers Export (Rs. 60.76 crore); Crystal Cable Industries (Rs. 57.49 crore); J R Foods Ltd (Rs. 41.60 crore); Shree Raghuvanshi Fibres (Rs. 27.38 crore); Kaneri Agro Industries (Rs. 24.69 crore); Man Tubinox (Rs. 24.28 crore) and Aryans Educational and Charitable Trust (Rs. 20.79 crore).

Heineken Gets Extra Stake Buy Approval in United Breweries

  • The Competition Commission of India (CCI) said that the proposed additional stake buy in United Breweries (UB) by Dutch major Heineken does not raise any competition concerns, effectively clearing the deal.
  • UB is the country's largest beer company, while Heineken is the world's second-largest brewer after Anheuser-Busch (AB) InBev.
  • The proposed transaction sought to increase Heineken's stake in UB to 50 per cent from nearly 47 per cent now, liquor industry sources said. This paves the way for the Dutch major to acquire controlling stake in the firm subsequently.

RBI Announces Operational Flexibility for Reporting FPI Deals in G-Secs

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) announced that it has decided to provide operational flexibility for reporting of Over the Counter (OTC) transactions in Government securities (G-Sec) transactions undertaken by the Foreign Portfolio Investors (FPIs).
  • The new rules will come into effect from June 14.
  • FPIs/custodian banks must report their transactions to the Negotiated Dealing System – Order Matching (NDS-OM) platform within three hours after the close of trading hours for the Government securities market.
  • It further said information about trades undertaken by domestic counterparties with FPIs must be disseminated by the Clearcorp Dealing Systems (India) Ltd. (CDSL) after one leg of the trade is reported on the NDS-OM platform by the domestic counterparty with a suitable qualifier to indicate that the trade is awaiting counterparty confirmation.

NITI Aayog Recommends Privatisation of Central Bank, Indian Overseas Bank

  • NITI Aayog has recommended divesting government stake in Central Bank of India and Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) as part of the privatisation initiative announced in the Union Budget.
  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her Budget speech, had announced privatising two public sector banks (PSBs) and one general insurance company in 2021-22. As per the new PSE (Public Sector Enterprise) policy for 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat', NITI Aayog is entrusted with the task to suggest names of PSUs in strategic sectors to be merged, privatised, or made subsidiaries of other PSUs.

ReNew Power Merger with Blank-check Company RMG II Gets CCI Nod

  • The proposed merger of ReNew Power with blank-check company RMG Acquisition Corporation II (RMG II) received clearance from the Competition Commission.
  • A blank-check company is a developmental stage firm that does not have established business plan.
  • ReNew Power is into generating electricity through non-conventional and renewable energy sources.
  • The deal would result in the first major overseas listing of an Indian company via the Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) route.
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