Government denies any move to discontinue free banking services

Jan 10, 2018 0

New Delhi– Describing media reports about discontinuing free banking services in the country from January 20 as being false, the government on Wednesday urged people not to pay heed to such “baseless rumours”.

Media reports had appeared earlier saying all free services of public sector banks would be discontinued from January 20.

“No proposal by banks to discontinue free services from 20th January. Pure Rumours. Pl Ignore, advises Indian Banking Association clarifying that rumours in section of social media are baseless and no such blanket removal. @finmin@pmoindia@PIB@ANI,” tweeted Financial Services Secretary Rajeev Kumar.

The Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) also denied that such a move was in the offing.

“There is neither a move by banks for a blanket removal of free services nor such a thing is being contemplated,” said a statement from the IBA Chief Executive’s office in this regard.

“However, banks, looking at their commercial and operational costs, would constantly examine and revise charges as the case may be,” the statement added. (IANS)


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SpaceX launches secretive Zuma spacecraft

Jan 8, 2018 0

New York– SpaceX began the new year with a mystery-shrouded mission to deliver a government spacecraft, called Zuma, into orbit, the media reported.

After more than a month of delays, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket vaulted toward the skies at 8 p.m. on Sunday with the secretive payload. It launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, reports CNN.

The space exploration firm, which is headed by Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk, had initially scheduled the Zuma mission last November.

SpaceX gave a couple reasons for the schedule changes.

The company said it delayed the mission for “fairing testing”. The fairing is the very top portion of the rocket that houses the payload. “Extreme weather” also slowed down the firm’s launch preparations.

Last week, SpaceX finally declared that both the rocket and the payload were “healthy” and ready for launch.

On Sunday, Zuma was delivered to low-Earth orbit, which is typically defined as any orbital path less than about 1,200 miles above the Earth’s surface, according to NASA.

Zuma’s destination was not disclosed, CNN reported.

When asked about the project in November, Northrop Grumman (NOC) — the Virginia-based aerospace and defence company that built the spacecraft — declined to give any details about which arm of the government funded it.

“The US government assigned Northrop Grumman the responsibility of acquiring launch services for this mission,” the company said in a statement.

“Northrop Grumman realizes this is a monumental responsibility and we have taken great care to ensure the most affordable and lowest risk scenario for Zuma.”

SpaceX completed a record 18 launches last year, and it plans to do even more this year, according to spokesman James Gleeson.

Later this month, the company plans to debut its latest invention: the Falcon Heavy, a monstrous rocket will have three times the thrust of the Falcon 9. (IANS)

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Google cashing in millions from health referral ads in Britain: Report

Jan 8, 2018 0

London– Google is secretly reaping millions of money from vulnerable people, seeking treatment for addictive diseases, by charging advertisers secretly working for private clinics’ in Britain, a media report said on Sunday.

The internet giant charges the middlemen — known as referral agents — as much as 200 pounds each time someone visits their website via search page advertisements at the top of a Google page, an investigation by The Sunday Times has revealed.

The referral agents advertise themselves as free advice helplines but receive as much as 20,000 pounds commission monthly each time a new patient is referred to private rehabilitation clinics, the report said.

“The level of payments for these referral agents via promoted links cannot be justified in my view especially as those desperate to tackle their addictions are unknowingly picking up the bill,” Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative MP, who chairs the health select committee, was quoted as telling The Sunday Times.

She also reportedly called on Google, which made 59 billion pounds from advertising in 2016, to stop selling advertisements to referral agents.

Google refuses to take advertisement from referral agents in the US, where the practice is illegal, but in Britain, it spurs by creating a bidding war between referral agencies who want their advertisements appear at the top of the Google search page, said the report.

However, the tech giant, in a statement on Sunday printed in the Sun, said that they have decided to “extend” the practice of banning referral agents to Britain.

The Sunday Times report meanwhile said that huge commissions taken by these agents have been blamed for significantly increasing the cost of private care for people suffering from addictions.

The referral agents are “parasites targeting sick people at the most desperate time of their lives”, said Dominic McCann, development director at the Castle Craig addiction hospital in Scotland.

The illegal practice was discovered by undercover reporters, who filmed two meetings held in 2017 between Britain’s leading referral agency executives with Google and the rehabilitation clinics.

The reporters were posing as executives from a new treatment centre that was to be opened in Gloucestershire.

One business owner was reported to have said he was spending 350,000 pounds on Google advertising, to ensure addicts visited his helpline first, the daily revealed.

The Sun quoted a Google spokesperson as saying that they “work to help healthcare providers — from doctors to hospitals and treatment centres — get online and connect with people who need their help”.

“Substance abuse is a growing crisis and has led to deceptive practices by intermediaries that we need to better understand.

“In the US, we restricted ads entirely in this category and we have decided to extend this to the UK as we consult with local experts to update our policy and find a better way to connect those that need help with the treatment they need,” the spokesperson said. (IANS)

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Business Briefs

Jan 8, 2018 0

Four arrested for selling chemically-ripened fruits

Imphal– Four retailers have been arrested in Nagaland for selling chemically-ripened fruits to unsuspecting consumers, police said on Monday.

The seized fruits, including bananas, oranges, apples and grapes, have been sent for forensic analysis, a police source said.

The Sunday raid took place on Sunday in Dimapur.

A similar exercise took place in Manipur a few months back when police raided some fruit shops on charges of selling chemically-ripened fruits.

Forensic scientist L. Fimate told IANS that fruit sellers use chemicals like calcium carbide, arsenic phosphorus and acetylene gas to ripen the fruits artificially.

A fruit seller said green fruits can be ripened in one or two hours by spraying chemicals. Another method is to inject chemicals into the fruits using medical syringes.

Maruti Suzuki to showcase new compact car design at Auto Expo

New Delhi– Passenger vehicle major Maruti Suzuki on Monday said that it will showcase an all new compact car design — ConceptFutureS — at the upcoming Auto Expo.

About the “#ConceptFutureS”, Maruti Suzuki India’s Senior Executive Director (Engineering) C.V. Raman said: “The increasing preference for UVs and their bold architecture inspired our design team to study a new character for compact cars.

“ConceptFutureS could mark a distinctive shift in how compact cars are shaped and designed in India in the future.”

The global premiere of “#ConceptFutureS” will take place at Auto Expo in early February.

Tata Motors to showcase 26 ‘smart mobility solutions’ during Auto Expo

Mumbai– Automobile major Tata Motors on Monday said that it will showcase 26 “smart mobility solutions” during the upcoming “14th Auto Expo – The Motor Show 2018”.

“The company will be demonstrating its capabilities and mobility solutions as the most powerful Indian OEM shaping India’s future of mobility,” the automobile major said in a statement.

“Giving a sneak peek into the future with global premiere of some key PV (passenger vehicle) and CV (commercial vehicle) models, the company will also reveal its new design language – IMPACT Design 2.0 in PV.”

The “Auto Expo” will be held at the India Expo Mart, Greater Noida.

Mercedes-Benz India’s 2017 annual sales up 16%

Mumbai– Mercedes-Benz India on Monday reported a 16 per cent growth in its 2017 annual sales.

According to the company, its 2017 annual sales increased to 15,330 units.

“Mercedes-Benz firmly retains its volume leadership in the luxury segment for the 3rd consecutive year,” the company said in a statement. (IANS)


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Business Briefs: BMW India, Airtel, Vodafine, Australia, LG, Apple

Jan 4, 2018 0

BMW India’s 2017 sales up 25%

New Delhi– BMW India on Thursday reported a growth of 25 per cent in its annual sales for 2017.

According to the company, its annual sales increased to 9,379 cars in 2017.

The BMW Group delivered 9,800 cars including those sold under BMW India and its Mini brand.

Airtel, Vodafone offer cashback on Samsung smartphones

New Delhi–¬† In a bid to make 4G smartphones affordable to consumers, telecom services provider Bharti Airtel and Vodafone on Thursday announced cashback offers worth up to Rs 1,500 on Samsung’s J series devices.

“Four models from Samsung’s Galaxy J-series including J2 (2017), J5 Prime, J7 Prime and J7 Pro will be available with cashback offers, bringing down their effective prices,” Airtel said in a statement.

Samsung Galaxy J2 (2017) will now be available for Rs 5,490 (earlier price Rs 6,990), J5 Prime will cost Rs 10,490 (earlier price Rs 11,990), J7 Prime will cost Rs 12,400 (earlier price Rs 13,900) while J7 Pro will be available at Rs 18,400 (earlier price Rs 19,900).

The cashback amount will be given to users over a period of 24 months.

“Users who make recharges worth Rs 2,500 over a period of 12 months, will be eligible for the first cashback of Rs 300,” Airtel added.

These devices will come bundled with Airtel’s recharge pack worth Rs 199 that offers 1GB data per day and unlimited calling.

Meanwhile, Vodafone also tied up with Samsung and announced a cashback offer worth Rs 1,500 on Galaxy J2 Pro, Galaxy J7 Nxt and Galaxy J7 Max smartphones.

“Prepaid customers have to simply recharge with Rs 198 per month for a period of 24 months. Postpaid users can opt for any Vodafone “Red Plan” to become eligible for a cashback of Rs 600 after first 12 months. After another 12 months, they will get a cashback of Rs 900 in their Vodafone M-Pesa wallets,” Vodafone said in a statement.

Australia aims to become top cannabis exporter

Canberra– The Australian government on Thursday said it aspires to be the world’s leading exporter of medicinal cannabis.

The country plans to change its regulations to join Canada and the Netherlands in selling products beyond a domestic market. Uruguay and Israel have announced similar plans, the BBC reported.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the move would also help local patients.

“Our goal is very clear: to give Australian farmers and manufacturers the best shot at being the world’s number one exporter of medicinal cannabis,” Hunt said.

Australia legalised the use of medicinal cannabis in 2016. Using the drug for recreation remains illegal.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that the changes would extend to products including oils, patches, sprays, lozenges and tablets.

Hunt said the change would stimulate the local industry, benefiting Australian patients as much as businesses, the BBC reported.

Earlier this week, California became the largest US state to legalise the use of recreational cannabis.

LG may supply OLED display for next Apple iPhone

Seoul– Samsung may soon not be the only supplier of OLED displays for Apple. The iPhone maker is reportedly finalising talks with LG on an OLED supply deal which could see the latter provide its panels for this year’s iPhone with edge-to-edge display.

“LG is likely to ship a relatively small number of panels — 15 to 16 million — in the second half of the year,” AppleInsider reported late on Wednesday.

“Apple is said to have pumped $2.7 billion into LG as an advance payment for OLED panels. At the time it was thought that the order was for panels shipping in 2019,” the report added.

This year’s iPhone is expected to be a mega-sized version of the iPhone X and could be purportedly named “iPhone X Plus”.

The Cupertino-based giant is expected to launch a 5.8-inch device alongside a 6.5-inch iPhone with OLED displays.

LG Display will supply Apple with the 6.5-inch OLED panels while Samsung will supply the 5.8-inch or 6-inch OLED panels, according to MacRumors.

The LCD panels which are currently being used in the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are supplied by LG.

However, its South Korean rival Samsung dominates supply of OLED displays for Apple’s flagship iPhone X.

It is believed that Apple will switch to OLED displays for all of its iPhone releases in 2019.

This is the reason Apple roped in LG to be its OLED display supplier when it already had Samsung — that owns 95 per cent market share of mobile OLED panels — in its league.

It is not just Apple that is investing in LG OLED display. Google has also realised LG’s potential and invested $900 million in OLED production for its first OLED smartphone, an earlier Investor report said. (IANS)

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BlackBerry joins Baidu to rev up autonomous vehicle technology

Jan 4, 2018 0

Ontario– Software major BlackBerry and leading Chinese Internet search provider Baidu on Thursday announced a collaboration to accelerate the deployment of connected and autonomous vehicle technology for automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and suppliers worldwide.

As part of the deal, BlackBerry QNX’s industry-leading safety operating system (OS) will become the foundation for Baidu’s Apollo autonomous driving open platform.

“By integrating the BlackBerry QNX OS with the Apollo platform, we will enable carmakers to leap from prototype to production systems. Together, we will work toward a technological and commercial ecosystem for autonomous driving, intelligent connectivity and intelligent traffic systems,” Li Zhenyu, General Manager of Intelligent Driving Group, Baidu, said in a statement.

BlackBerry and Baidu will also work together to integrate Baidu’s “CarLife”, the leading smartphone integration software for connected cars in China, as well as its conversational AI system “DuerOS” and high-definition maps to run on the BlackBerry “QNX Car (Infotainment) Platform”.

“Joining forces with Baidu will enable us to explore integration opportunities for multiple vehicle subsystems including ADAS, infotainment, gateways and Cloud services,” added John Wall, Senior Vice President and GM of BlackBerry QNX.

Baidu has made tremendous strides in Artificial Intelligence and deep learning.

“These advancements, paired with their high-definition maps and BlackBerry’s safety-critical embedded software and expertise in security, will be crucial ingredients for autonomous vehicles,” Wall added.

Baidu’s Apollo open platform provides a comprehensive, secure and reliable solution that consists of cloud services, an open software stack and reference hardware and vehicle platforms.

Apollo has now attracted over 70 global partners, including OEMs, Tier 1 suppliers, developer platforms and technology start-ups.

BlackBerry currently provides OEMs around the world with state-of-the-art cybersecurity technology to protect and mitigate, hardware, software, applications and end-to-end systems from cyber attacks. (IANS)

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Audi India’s 2017 sales up 2%

Jan 3, 2018 0

Mumbai– Luxury car manufacturer Audi India on Wednesday reported a rise of two per cent in its 2017 sales in India.

According to the company, its sales in the Indian market for 2017 increased to 7,876 units.

“Audi completed ten years in India in 2017 and we are delighted that within this short span, it has become one of the most preferred luxury car brands for enthusiasts in the country,” Rahil Ansari, Head, Audi India was quoted as saying in a statement.

“With 7,876 deliveries to customers in 2017, we have increased our sales by 2 per cent while earning a profitable growth for our dealer partners.”

“We are now looking forward to the launch of our trendsetting and immensely popular Audi Q5 in its new generation in January 2018.” (IANS)


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Samsung to lead premium TV shipments in 2018

Jan 2, 2018 0

Seoul– The global market for premium televisions sized 75-inches and above is set to rise sharply in 2018, led by South Korean tech major Samsung Electronics Co, industry data showed on Tuesday.

According to the data compiled by industry tracker IHS Markit, the global sales of such televisions was anticipated to reach 1.69 million units in 2018, rising sharply from 1.15 million units estimated for 2017, Yonhap New Agency reported.

“While the global TV market’s growth remains sluggish due to the expanding penetration of smartphones, the sales of premium TVs are still gradually increasing,” an industry insider said.

“Samsung Electronics’ strategy to focus on products 75-inches and larger seems to be effective,” the industry insider added.

Samsung is estimated to have sold 151,800 units of TVs (75-inches and larger) in the third quarter, followed by Japan-based Sony Corp. with 79,700 units and Samsung’s smaller South Korean rival LG Electronics Inc. with 34,900 units, IHS Markit data showed.

Industry data showed products sized 75 inches and over accounted for 8.1 per cent of Samsung’s combined TV sales in the third quarter of 2017, up from 3.2 per cent posted in the first quarter. (IANS)

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India’s Forex reserves rise by $488 mn

Dec 22, 2017 0

Mumbai– India’s foreign exchange (Forex) reserves rose by $488.2 million as on December 15, 2017, official data showed on Friday.

The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) weekly statistical supplement showed that the overall Forex reserves rose to $401.38 billion from $400.89 billion reported for the week ended December 8.

India’s Forex reserves comprise of foreign currency assets (FCAs), gold reserves, special drawing rights (SDRs) and the RBI’s position with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Segment-wise, FCAs — the largest component of the Forex reserves — increased by $478.3 million to $376.90 billion during the week under review.

Besides the US dollar, FCAs consist of nearly 20-30 per cent of major global currencies. It also includes investments in US Treasury bonds, bonds of other selected governments and deposits with foreign central and commercial banks.

The country’s gold reserves value remained stagnant at $20.70 billion, whereas SDRs inched up by $3.8 million to $1.50 billion.

Similarly, the country’s reserve position with the IMF rose by $6.1 million to $2.27 billion. (IANS)

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Airtel to acquire Millicom’s operations in Rwanda

Dec 19, 2017 0

New Delhi– Bharti Airtel through its subsidiaries has entered into a definitive agreement with Millicom International Cellular under which Airtel Rwanda will acquire 100 per cent equity interest in Tigo Rwanda, a company statement said here on Tuesday.

“Airtel has taken proactive steps in Africa to consolidate and realign the market structure in the last few remaining countries where its operations are lagging on account of lower market share and presence of too many operators.

“Airtel and Tigo have already merged their operations to create a strong viable entity in Ghana. Today, it has taken yet another important step to acquire Tigo Rwanda to become a profitable and a strong challenger in a two-player market,” said Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman, Bharti Airtel.

“We are also committed to the long term viability of our operations in two other countries i.e. Kenya and Tanzania, to ensure that in 2018 all our 15 operations in Africa start contributing positive margins and cash flows towards a healthy and profitable Airtel Africa,” he added.

The statement said the acquisition will consolidate the Rwandan telecom market and position Airtel as a strong number two operator in Rwanda.

“The consideration for the transaction is based on approximately six times Ebitda (Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) multiple, payable over two years.”

The agreement was subject to regulatory and statutory approvals.

The statement said the agreement aims to bring together the strengths of Airtel and Millicom in Rwanda and offer benefits to customers in the form of a wider network, affordable voice and data services, and superior customer care.

The existing customers of Tigo Rwanda will join Airtel’s global network, which currently serves over 370 million customers across 17 countries.

They can avail amongst other things, benefits of the ‘One Airtel’ network with lower roaming rates across Africa and South Asia, and Airtel Money.

“The acquisition reinforces our commitment to the Rwanda market and is a significant step towards creating a stronger presence in the country.

“It will create synergies with our existing business and help boost operational efficiencies in the market. The Rwandan telecom market will significantly benefit from this acquisition, further reiterating our stand that in-market consolidations do not just help achieve better market positions but benefit customers and the industry as a whole,” said Raghunath Mandava, AMD and CEO, Airtel Africa. (IANS)

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