Mukesh Ambani tops Forbes’ 2017 list of India’s 100 richest tycoons

Nov 2, 2017 0

New Delhi– With a net worth of $38 billion, Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) chairman Mukesh Ambani has topped Forbes’ annual list of India’s 100 richest tycoons of 2017, a statement said here on Thursday.

Mukesh Ambani

“Reliance Industries Ltd chairman Mukesh Ambani has topped Forbes’s annual list of India’s 100 richest tycoons, with a net worth of $38 billion. To put it in context, this is equal to the entire GDP of the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, as per World Bank Data 2016 estimates,” the statement said.

Forbes India will release the 2017 India Rich List by way of a special issue that hits the stands on November 6, 2017.

The richest newcomer in the list is Wadia Group of companies Chairman Nusli Wadia (No. 25, $5.6 billion).

At $19 billion, the net worth of Wipro’s Azim Premji — who jumped two places up over last year to become the second richest Indian on the list — is almost equal to Afghanistan’s GDP of $19.4 billion, the statement said.

The Hinduja family maintained the third position ($18.4 billion) in the list.

Last year’s second richest Indian, Dilip Shanghvi of Sun Pharmaceuticals (No. 9, $12.1 billion) is the biggest dollar loser on the list as his net worth fell by $4.8 billion.

“The Indian economy is still grappling with the impact of demonetisation and GST. This makes The Forbes India Rich List 2017 edition special since it features those who have faced the challenges head on and continued to deliver phenomenal results. The list has come to stand as a testament to brand India and also puts many emerging successful entrepreneurs on the global map,” said Forbes India CEO Joy Chakraborthy.

According to the list, the total wealth of India’s top 100 billionaires, which stands at a whopping $479 billion, is more than the country’s foreign exchange reserves estimated at $402.5 billion in September 2017.

The entry point to the list is at its highest ever, at $1.46 billion. Last year, the minimum amount required to make the list was $1.25 billion, 17 percent lower than this year.

The aggregate wealth of the top 100 has risen 26 percent over last year. (IANS)

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India jumps 30 ranks to 100th in World Bank’s ease of doing business list

Oct 31, 2017 0

New Delhi– India for the first time has moved into the top 100 in the World Banks Ease of Doing Business global rankings from its 130th position last year, riding on sustained government reforms which include making tax paying easier, according to the banks latest report released here on Tuesday.

The World Bank Group’s latest report ‘Doing Business 2018: Reforming to Create Jobs’ recognises India as one of the top 10 improvers in this year’s assessment, though the report does not take into account the big bang reform of Goods and Services Tax (GST) which rolled out on July 1.

“India has moved to 100th rank as a result of a number of reforms by the government. India is moving ahead in absolute ranking as well,” Annette Dixon, Vice President, South Asia region, told reporters earlier in the day.

It will be only over a period of 1-3 years that the full impact of GST reform on ease of doing business can be assessed, she added.

The report captures reforms implemented in 190 countries between the period June 2, 2016 to June 1, 2017.

“India made paying taxes easier by requiring that payments are made electronically to the Employees Provident Fund and introducing a set of administrative measures easing compliance with corporate income tax,” the report stated.

The report noted that India has adopted 37 reforms since 2003 with nearly half of these reforms having been implemented in the last four years.

“India, with eight reforms, was one of this year’s top ten improvers worldwide and the leading regional performer. This is the first year that India is in the top 100 economies globally,” it said.

Bhutan, in 75th place in doing business rankings, is the highest ranked economy in South Asia, followed by India (100) and Nepal (105). The region’s lowest ranked economies are Afghanistan (183) and Bangladesh (177). Sri Lanka is at 111, Maldives at 136 and Pakistan is at 147 in the ease of doing business report.

“India is the only large country this year to have achieved such a significant shift. India’s score went from 56.05 in doing business to 60.76. This means last year India improved its business regulations in absolute terms – indicating that the country is continuing its steady shift towards best practice in business regulation,” the World Bank said in a statement.

Dixon said, “Having embarked on a strong reform agenda to improve the business improvement, the significant jump this year is a result of the Indian government’s consistent efforts over the past few years. It indicates India’s endeavour to further strengthen its position as a preferred place to do business globally.”

This year, the indicators on which reforms were implemented in Delhi and Mumbai, the two cities covered by the report are: starting business, dealing with construction permits, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency.

“India performs well in the areas of protecting minority investors, getting credit and getting electricity. The country’s corporate law and securities regulations have been recognised as highly advanced, placing India in 4th place in the global ranking on protecting minority investors,” it said.

The time to obtain an electricity connection in Delhi has dropped from 138 days four years ago to 45 days now, almost 20 days less than the 78 days average in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) high-income economies.

While there has been substantial progress, India still lags in areas such as starting a business, enforcing contracts and dealing with construction permits, the report notes.

The time taken to enforce a contract is longer at 1,445 days than it was 15 years ago. In starting a business, India has reduced the time needed to register a new business to 30 days now, from 127 days 15 years ago. However, the number of procedures is still cumbersome for local entrepreneurs who still need to go through 12 procedures to start a business in Mumbai.

“Tackling these challenging reforms will be the key to India sustaining the momentum towards a higher ranking. To secure changes in the remaining areas will require not just new laws and online systems but deepening the ongoing investment in the capacity of states and their institutions to implement change and transform the framework of incentives and regulation facing the private sector,” Junaid Ahmand, Country Director India, World Bank said.

Commenting on the World Bank’s report, Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), said, “The huge improvement in ranking and score will immediately boost investor sentiments. The latest report validates the commitment of the government to fast-tracking economic reforms, addressing red tapism and facilitating business. The surge in ranking by as much as 30 places is an outcome of key reforms including digitisation of processes, enhancing tax payment and access to credit.

“It is a matter of great pride that India has been named as among the top ten reforming economies in 2016-17 with as many as eight reform areas out of ten. In fact, India is well on its way to emerge as a global leader in protecting minority interests and is currently ranked 4th in the world.”

Banerjee, however, rued that one of the most important reforms — GST — has not been considered in this year’s report owing to cut off date.

“CII is confident that on the back of GST and other reforms that are planned, India would see an equally impressive improvement next year. It is not too distant in the future that India would break into the league of top 50 countries,” he added.(IANS)

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Facebook launches Workplace Chat app for desktop

Oct 26, 2017 0

San Francisco– Facebook on Thursday launched the desktop version of its Workplace Chat app that can be downloaded by anyone on PC, Mac, Android or iOS.

“Now, we’re offering a messaging-focused experience through Workplace Chat, both on desktop and mobile,” said Julien Codorniou, Vice President, Workplace by Facebook.

Mark Zuckerberg

“Workplace Chat has always had mobile and browser components, and now we’re adding a desktop app. With the desktop app, people can access the same great features of the mobile app directly from their desktop,” Codorniou wrote in a blog post.

Workplace Chat includes video chat with a co-worker or group, screen sharing and file sharing.

“It also includes features like message reactions, @mentions, and gifts that keep the conversation fun but focused,” Codorniou added.

Workplace Chat will be updated in the coming weeks to include support for group video chat on desktop and on mobile.

“People will soon be able to click a button and instantly start a video call for their team,” Codorniou said.

Facebook launched Workplace a year ago to help make companies more connected and productive.

Currently, more than 30,000 organisations are using Workplace worldwide — including Walmart, Heineken, Spotify, Lyft and the Reliance Group. (IANS)

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GST a tsunami of tax terror, economy staring at disaster: Rahul

Oct 26, 2017 0

New Delhi–  Calling the Goods and Services Tax a “tsunami of tax terrorism”, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday compared demonetisation and GST with a double tap bullet fired at the economy to ensure it was dead.

In a hard-hitting attack, Gandhi also called Prime Minister Narendra Modi “a person with a small heart” and said the economy was staring at disaster, a “Modi-made disaster”.

Rahul Gandhi

“Modiji and his government have fired a double tap at the heart of our economy. First notebandi… bang…, and then badly conceptualised and implemented GST…, bang… have crippled our economy. The situation of joblessness in the country is extremely worrying. The government is creating a massive army of unemployed, which is toxic and dangerous,” Gandhi said in his speech at the 112th annual session of the PHD Chamber of Commerce followed by a question-answer session.

He again referred to GST as ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’, and termed it flawed.

“Their GST is wrecked with holes, moth eaten, flawed, punitive. It is forcing businesses to incur massive transaction costs. It is creating a 21st century License Raj. GST, as this government has formulated, has already unleashed a tsunami of tax terrorism and it is only going to worsen.”

The Congress leader said instead of admitting they are not able to provide jobs, the government are pitting “communities against each other in a bloody rage.”

“The way the regime is working, or not working, has led to a double tap killing of the Indian economy. Commandos, in hostage situation, fire what is called a double tap. Two quick closely-placed shots are fired at the chest to ensure that their terrorist target is down,” he added.

“In a couple of weeks, we will observe the ‘death’ anniversary of the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes. November 8 is the ‘barsi’ (death anniversary) of ‘notebandi’ — the day Modi personally wiped out overnight 86 per cent of the currency in circulation.

“It was a move taken without thought, without consultation, or concern, for its conseqences. The Prime Minister failed to grasp the basic concept of the Indian economy,” he said.

“All cash is not black, and all black is not cash. Without understanding this basic concept, the Prime Minister used his vast powers to unleash terror on the citizens of India, to make them stand in queues for two months. Many died in the process, millions lost jobs, and their livelihood.

“…To do all this, you surely need someone with a very big chest, but a very small heart,” he said in a quip at Modi.

He said demonetisation crippled micro, small and medium enterprises, and destroyed the unorganised sector, forcing workers to go back to their villages in search of MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) work.

He also claimed investments in India were at a 15-year low, growth, which was 6.6 per cent in 2014, “is today 4.2 per cent by the yardstick the government is using”, bank lending is at its lowest in 60 years and unemployment is skyrocketing.

“Recent research showed that inequality in India is now the highest in 100 years. We are staring at a disaster. This is a man-made disaster — or in Modiji’s terminology, an MMD or Modi-Made Disaster.”

Gandhi said public trust in the government was dead.

“For some reason, the Prime Minister and the government are absolutely convinced that every single person is a thief. The government does not believe its own people,” he said.

The Congress leader said one develops trust by listening but the government does not listen. “Business thrives on trust as it creates a reliable environment,” he said.

Recalling Modi’s first speech in Parliament, Gandhi said it was marked by a lot of taglines and did not have a concrete way forward.

“What disturbed me was the condescending tone that ran through his entire speech and that tone has embedded itself in his government’s psyche and has become the bedrock of its immense arrogance,” he said.

Gandhi said people had reposed faith in Modi in 2014 but “today, it is fair to say that expectation lies shattered”.

Stressing that growth has to be accompanied by job creation, he said six crore small, micro and medium enterprises were the backbone for creating employment but had very little support, while the government was only creating 450 jobs everyday compared to 50,000 by China.

“Startup India is welcome for the economy, but it cannot be accompanied by ‘Shut Up India’ in society,” he said.(IANS)

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Infosys to continue with market-driven strategy

Oct 25, 2017 0

Bengaluru– Emerging out of boardroom battles and troubled times, software major Infosys Ltd decided to continue with its market-driven strategy, said a top official on Tuesday.

“Our strategic direction will continue to be driven with a portfolio of market relevant design, consulting and technology services, enabled by software,” Infosys Interim Chief Executive U.B Pravin Rao said in a statement here.

U.B. Pravin Rao

With the return of co-founder Nandan Nilekani as non-Executive Chairman of the revamped Board on August 24, members of the new management team and Committee of Directors undertook a strategy refresh exercise over the past eight weeks.

“All programmes, accelerated execution plans and prioritised areas of investments across the services and software were reviewed to sharpen the direction,” noted Rao.

One of the outcomes of the exercise was a reinforcement of the strategy to beArelevant and accelerate the execution.

It has been a good quarter all around. We continue to be optimistic about the future,” added Rao.

The process of identifying the next Chief Executive Officer and shareholder consultation outreach were also progressing well, reiterated the statement.

“Q2 has been a quarter of stability and overall performance. Customer relations have stabled as evidenced by the increase in large deal wins. Our focus on operational efficiency continued into this quarter,” said Chief Financial Officer M.D. Ranganath in the statement. (IANS)

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Jaitley hits back at Rahul for ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ jibe

Oct 24, 2017 0

New Delhi, Oct 24 (IANS) Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday hit back at Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi for mocking the Goods and Services Tax (GST) as “Gabbar Singh Tax”, saying those “habituated” to scams would object to legitimate tax.

“Those habitual of 2G and coal block scams, will have objections to legitimate tax,” Jaitley said in response to a question on Rahul Gandhi’s jibe at GST.

Arun Jaitley

The Finance Minister was addressing the media after a cabinet meet which approved a massive recapitalisation plan for state-run banks worth Rs 2.11 lakh crore and also road building programmes of around Rs 7 lakh crore with a target to construct 83,677 km of roads in the next five years.

At a public rally in Gujarat, Gandhi had described GST as Gabbar Singh Tax and again took a dig at the government on Tuesday over the pan-India tax regime, saying it was designed to grab peoples’ earnings.

“Congress GST = Genuine Simple Tax. Modiji’s GST = Gabbar Singh Tax = Ye kamai mujhe de do (Give me these earnings),” Gandhi mocked in a tweet.

Gandhi’s remarks highlighted the difference of the GST proposed by the previous Congress-led UPA regime and the one implemented by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government.

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Telecom stocks, global cues push equity markets higher

Oct 23, 2017 0

Mumbai– Healthy buying in telecom and oil and gas stocks along with positive global cues lifted the Indian equity markets on Monday.

The healthy off-take in the two sectors was led by Airtel and Reliance Industries.

Consequently, the 30-scrip Sensitive Index (Sensex) closed 117 points or 0.36 per cent higher.

Similarly, the wider 50-scrip Nifty of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) closed on a positive note. It edged higher by 38.30 points or 0.38 per cent to close at 10,184.85 points.

The Sensex of the BSE, which opened at 32,411.86 points, closed at 32,506.72 points, higher by 116.76 points or 0.36 per cent from its previous close at 32,389.96 points.

The Sensex touched a high of 32,614.89 points and a low of 32,312.74 points during the intra-day trade.

“Markets ended with healthy gains on Monday after bouncing back from the Nifty lows of 10,124 points. Positive global cues supported gains on the domestic bourses,” Deepak Jasani, Head – Retail Research, HDFC Securities, told IANS.

“Major Asian markets have ended on a positive note, barring the Hang Seng index. European indices like FTSE 100, CAC 40 and DAX treded higher.”

According to Dhruv Desai, Director and Chief Operating Officer of Tradebulls, Monday’s rise was on the back of gains made by the telecom stocks after Reliance Industries Ltd’s unit Jio raised data tariffs last week.

“Bharti Airtel stock has gained 24 per cent over the past 10 trading sessions, despite the competitive pressure and regulatory headwinds in the telecom segment… Over the past 12 months too, the stock is up from Rs 307 level to Rs 471 at Thursday’s close, even while Reliance Jio entered the sector last September and offered free services till recently,” Desai said.

“The rally in 2017 led by telecom business helped Reliance Industries cross the market capitalisation milestone of Rs 6 lakh crore today. The stock price hit a fresh record high of Rs 932.50, up more than 2 per cent.”

In terms of investments, provisional data with the exchanges showed that foreign institutional investors (FIIs) sold scrips worth Rs 81.51 crore while domestic institutional investors (DIIs) purchased stocks worth Rs 307.84 crore.

On the currency front, the rupee remained flat. It inched up by 2 paise to close at 65.02 against the US dollar from its previous close at 65.04.

Sector-wise, the S&P BSE oil and gas index surged by 129.38 points, followed by IT index by 93.15 points and metal index by 68 points.

On the other hand, the S&P BSE healthcare index fell by 90.05 points, FMCG index by 67.21 points and capital goods index by 40.68 points.

Major Sensex gainers on Monday were: Bharti Airtel, up 4.99 per cent at Rs 497.50; Reliance Industries, up 3.05 per cent at Rs 938.10; ICICI Bank, up 1.82 per cent at Rs 262.55; Wipro, up 1.63 per cent at Rs 296.60; and Hero MotoCorp, up 1.40 per cent at Rs 3,790.40.

Major Sensex losers were: Tata Motors, down 2.71 per cent at Rs 234.80; Cipla, down 2.38 per cent at Rs 593.70; Axis Bank, down 2.27 per cent at Rs 449.90; Kotak Bank, down 1.61 per cent at Rs 1,061.95; and HDFC, down 1.52 per cent at Rs 1,720.90. (IANS)

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Apple shares down over poor iPhone 8 sales report

Oct 20, 2017 0

San Francisco– A report in a Taipei-based newspaper stating that Apple had cut orders for iPhone8 by more than 50 per cent owing to poor sales led to Apple shares plunging up to 2.8 per cent on Thursday.

However, the Economic Daily News which quoted analysts did not elaborate on what sort of orders had been cancelled.

Apple was yet to comment on this.

There’s a “more anaemic appetite for the iPhone 8 right now,” Joe Natale, chief executive of Canadian carrier Rogers Communications, was quoted as saying in an Irish Examiner report on Friday.

iPhone X has some hugely incremental features compared to the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, like less-bezel, facial-recognition system (FaceID), wireless charging and animoji, etc.

Earlier media reports had predicted weak demand for iPhone 8 owing to a “super premium” $999 iPhone X.

The queues outside Apple Stores were shorter than previous years and the growing craze to own “super premium” iPhone X was likely to be the reason.

The various Apple Stores across the world reportedly saw a lot thinner crowd, far fewer than last year’s iPhone 7 launch.

The latest development confirms earlier reports that iPhone X is cannibalising iPhone 8 orders.

“While it takes three to six weeks or more to ship new iPhone models after they are available for preorder, they see the iPhone 8 taking less than one to two weeks. This is due to the iPhone X cannibalisation,” Ming-Chi Kuo, the most famous Apple analyst with KGI Securities said recently.

There have also been some reports of iPhone 8 batteries swelling and phones being left split apart.

iPhone 8 and 8 Plus went on sale on September 22. Apple was yet to release figures for the early sales of iPhone 8 and 8 Plus.

The pre-orders for “super-premium” iPhone X will begin on October 27, with shipping starting November 3.

The iPhone X will come to India on November 3, starting at Rs 89,000.

Smartphone users in India have also said that the lack of innovation coupled with high price of the devices have affected their decision to buy iPhone 8 and 8 Plus.

The iPhone 8 (64GB) costs Rs 64,000 while the 256GB variant comes at Rs 77,000. The iPhone 8 Plus starts at Rs 73,000 for 64GB while the 256GB variant costs Indian users Rs 86,000.(IANS)

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Google offers $1000 to find bugs in Android apps

Oct 20, 2017 0

San Francisco– Google has launched a new bug bounty programme for security experts where the company will pay $1,000 for finding security flaws in Android apps and then reporting it to Google researchers.

“The Google Play Security Reward Programme recognises the contributions of security researchers who invest their time and effort in helping us make apps on Google Play more secure,” the tech giant said on its website late on Thursday.

All Google’s apps are included and developers of popular Android apps are invited to opt-in to the programme being run in partnership with HackerOne.

“Through the programme, we will further improve app security which will benefit developers, Android users and the entire Google Play ecosystem,” the company said.

For now, the scope is limited to RCE (remote-code-execution) vulnerabilities and corresponding POCs (Proof of concepts) that work on Android 4.4 devices and higher.

“This translates to any RCE vulnerability that allows an attacker to run code of their choosing on a user’s device without user knowledge or permission,” Google said.

This is how it works.

Researcher identifies vulnerability within an in-scope app and reports it directly to the app’s developer via their current vulnerability disclosure or bug bounty process.

App developer then works with the researcher to resolve the vulnerability.

Once the vulnerability has been resolved, the researcher requests a bonus bounty from the Google Play Security.

“The programme will evaluate each submission based on the vulnerability criteria. A reward of $1,000 will be rewarded for issues that meet this criteria,” Google said.

“We are unable to issue rewards to individuals who are on US sanctions lists or who are in countries (Crimea, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria),” it added. (IANS)

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India urges pricing flexibility, review clause in LNG contracts

Oct 18, 2017 0

Tokyo– Given the transformation in the global LNG market into a situation of oversupply, India on Wednesday called for flexible terms for gas purchases, including the provision of a pricing review, “take or pay” terms and abolition of destination restriction clause in contracts.

Indian Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan urged global LNG markets to join hands to design flexible terms at the LNG Producer-Consumer Conference here being held over October 17-18, according to a statement from the Indian Petroleum Ministry.

“Pradhan urged the global LNG markets, in which producers and consumers of LNG have equal stakes, to join hands to design flexible terms such as pricing review, flexible take or pay, abolition of destination restriction clause in the LNG contracts,” the statement said.

Indian Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan

“These reforms are essential for developing a transparent, efficient, truly global and balanced LNG market,” the Minister said in his keynote address at the conference.

Last month, India renegotiated the price of liquefied natural gas (LNG) it imports from the Gorgon project in Australia that will result in savings of more than Rs 10,000 crore.

The Gorgon project operators’ consortium led by American energy majors Chevron and Exxon Mobil have agreed to charge 13.9 per cent of the prevailing UK Brent oil price at the port of delivery, rather than 14.5 per cent at the port of loading as was agreed earlier.

Last year, India favourably re-negotiated its LNG agreement with Qatar to bring down the cost of importing natural gas to less than $5 per unit from $12.

According to the statement, Pradhan also met with Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry Hiroshige Seko and discussed increasing cooperation in the hydrocarbon sector between the two nations.

The ministers signed a memorandum of cooperation (MoC) on jointly developing a liquid, flexible and global LNG Market.

“The MoC provides a framework to cooperate in facilitating flexibility in LNG contracts, abolition of the destination restriction clause and also explore possibilities of cooperation in establishing reliable LNG spot price indices reflecting true LNG demand and supply,” it said.

“They also explored joint cooperation in the areas of LNG sourcing, swapping and optimization of LNG sources and commercial exploitation of methane hydrates,” the statement added.

Both India and Japan are among the top four LNG importers and have agreed to swap supply contracts in order to save on transporting the fuel from overseas.

“The MoC will promote the bilateral relationship between India and Japan in the energy sector and will contribute to the diversification of gas supplies for India,” the ministry said prior to Pradhan’s departure for the island nation.

According to the statement, Pradhan invited Seko to attend the 16th International Energy Forum Ministerial meeting to be held in New Delhi during April next year. (IANS)

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