Mallya expresses willingness to return to India

Sep 9, 2016 0

New Delhi– Liquor baron Vijay Mallya in an e-mail to his lawyer has expressed his willingness to return to India and respect the country’s judicial system.

An hour before the hearing on Friday, Mallya sent an e-mail to his defence counsel Ajay Bhargava asking him to file a plea seeking exemption from personal appearance before a court hearing a case of alleged violation of foreign exchange rules on his behalf.

Vijay Mallya

Vijay Mallya

“I request you to kindly appear before the learned judge on the said date on my behalf and file an exemption application requesting the judge to kindly dispense with my personal presence on the said date of hearing (September 9),” Mallya wrote in the mail.

“I request you (defence counsel) to also kindly convey to the learned judge that I have the utmost respect for his authority and towards the judicial systems of the country, in general,” Mallya said in the mail.

“However, in the given circumstances, despite my best intentions to obey the order of the learned judge, I find myself incapacitated to travel to India, at this moment, even though I am making all the efforts to have the said revocation of my passport set aside.”

“As you are fully aware of the matter and duly authorised by me to represent me in the proceedings thereof – I request you to kindly proceed with the final arguments in the matter,” Mallya wrote.

Mallya on Friday sought exemption from personal appearance in court and said he is unable to return to the country and face trial in a case of alleged violation of foreign exchange rules as the Indian authorities had suspended his passport.

On July 9, the court had asked Mallya to personally appear before it on September 9, after allowing the Enforcement Directorate (ED) plea to withdraw the exemption given to him from personal appearance in the case.

Mallya’s counsel Ajay Bhargava moved a plea seeking exemption from his personal appearance and told Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Sumit Dass that his client is living in London.

Defence counsel apprised the court that Mallya’s passport had been suspended by Indian passport authorities in April.

On April 23, his passport was revoked without even affording a personal hearing which he had requested for, the court was told.

“… ever since the revocation of his passport, the applicant (Mallya) has been staying in London and is not in possession of any requisite travel document which could possibly enable him to travel to India,” Mallya’s counsel said.

The counsel said that Mallya had urged the court to allow him to be represented by his lawyer to continue with the final arguments and save the court’s precious time.

Public Prosecutor Navin Matta told the court that Mallya is evading questioning and proceedings in other matters pending against him.

The court allowed Mallya’s plea for exemption for today (Friday) and sought a reply from the Enforcement Directorate. It fixed October 4 for further hearing in the case.

During the last hearing, the court had allowed the ED plea to seek recall of a court order that granted permanent exemption from appearance to Mallya, who faces money laundering charges in India.

The court was hearing the final arguments in the 2000 case related to alleged violation by Mallya of provisions of the erstwhile Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA) in arranging funds to advertise his company’s liquor products abroad.

According to ED, Mallya had allegedly paid $200,000 to a British firm for displaying the Kingfisher logo in the Formula One World Championships in London and some European countries in 1996, 1997 and 1998.

The agency had claimed that the money was allegedly paid without prior approval from the Reserve Bank of India, in violation of FERA norms.

Mallya was summoned and tried in the case. He was granted exemption from personal appearance by the Delhi court on December 20, 2000.

The ED has sought withdrawal of exemption granted to Mallya and sought the court’s direction asking him to personally remain present in court on each and every date of final arguments of the case.

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India prohibits use of Samsung Galaxy Note7 on board aircraft

Sep 9, 2016 0

New Delhi– India’s civil aviation regulator on Friday prohibited the use of Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphone on board aircraft.

According to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the guidelines on the carriage and usage of the phone on board aircraft were issued after the recent safety related incidents involving the smartphone globally.

Galaxy 7In a public notice, the regulator advised travellers and the airlines to ensure that the communication device is not turned on or its battery charged on board the aircraft.

The notice further detailed that the smartphone should not be stowed away in any checked-in baggage. However, the smartphone can be carried in a switched off mode in hand-baggage.

“The Ministry of Civil Aviation has issued a public notice prohibiting the use of Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 smartphone on board an aircraft,” said an official statement.

“The Ministry has advised airlines and travelling public not to turn on or charge the said mobile during flights.”

Earlier, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a warning not to charge or switch on Galaxy Note7 on board aircraft.

The stern warning came at a time when Samsung is dealing with a global recall of nearly 2.5 million Galaxy Note7 shipped so far across the world.

Three Australian airlines have already barred passengers from using or charging the smartphone during flights.

More than 35 cases of exploding batteries have been reported since the phone, which retails for $1,035, was launched on August 19.

The smartphone was launched last month in India for Rs 59,900 with iris biometric scanner for enhanced security, upgraded S Pen and a dual-curved screen.

Samsung on its part said that Galaxy Note7 sales have not started in India, and that the company has delayed sales to alleviate any safety concerns.

“We are aware of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) notice. Consumer safety and peace of mind are our top priority,” a Samsung India Spokesperson said.

“Galaxy Note7 sales have not started in India, and we have delayed sales to alleviate any safety concerns. We plan to expedite new shipments of Galaxy Note7 soon to reduce any inconvenience for our customers.” (IANS)

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UP clears Rs 2,000-crore Baba Ramdev group project

Sep 9, 2016 0

By Mohit Dubey

Lucknow– Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurveda Limited (PAL) is all set to launch an ambitious Rs 2,000-plus crore ($300 million) project in Uttar Pradesh.

Officials say the proposal has found “favourable response” from the SP government and has, in fact, received the nod of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. It will now be taken to the state cabinet next week for approval.

Chief Secretary Deepak Singhal told IANS that the venture was first of its kind aiming at integrating farmers to the markets and the wider world. “Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has been telling us to ensure that all developmental projects and investments have something substantial to offer and the Patanjali project is one such,” he added.

Baba Ramdev

Baba Ramdev

Sources said two stretches of land, totalling 400 acres, have been identified in sectors 22E and 24A of Greater Noida on the Yamuna Expressway for setting up of a Super Mega Food and Herbal Park, and at the villages of Safa and Moza in Jhansi.

An official said the group’s proposal came just a fortnight back but was “attended to at a lightening speed”, and the Steering Committee of officials headed by Singhal — which takes a call on proposals above Rs 200 crore — stamped its approval on the project, after which the matter was taken to the Chief Minister for his consent.

The high point of the project is that for the first time something so big is being linked to the impoverished Bundelkhand which will see a chunk of Rs 500 crore going to it. All major purchases would be done from Bundelkhand.

A senior official of the Rs. 5,000 crore PAL group told IANS that they were “pleasantly surprised at the alacrity at which the project was considered” and taken ahead which would take the state government to another level.

Officials said that in line with existing state policies aimed at attracting investments, the project would receive sops like 150 per cent VAT concession, 50 per cent EPF contribution for three years (after three years of operation), five per cent infrastructure interest subsidy and five per cent capital investment subsidy.

“The state government has also committed 100 per cent electricity duty exemption and 24×7 power supply to the units. Other than this, the existing 25 per cent rebate on land rates and a 100 per cent stamp duty waiver are also likely to be given to the Patanjali Group. The Mandi (wholesale market) fees have also been exempted for five years on purchase of raw material,” an official told IANS.

Patanjali officials said the integrated unit would take two years to complete and will help build capacity for the growing demand for its agro, agriculture, food, herbal, cattle feed and dairy products. The company says it will double its turnover to Rs 10,000 crore this fiscal (till March 31, 2017).

Sources also said that the Chief Minister had given a carte blanche to his team of officials to speed up the process of getting companies to invest in the state.

“Right from the start the Chief Minister has made his intentions clear on investment and infrastructure improvement,” an official said, adding that “though, initially, industry showed reluctance largely due to its experience with the previous government, they are now literally queuing up to invest in the state”.

Officials said the state had received investments of Rs 5,200 crore in the last one month.

With the state going to polls early 2017, such developments, political observers say, may well bring in goodwill and possibly votes for the Akhilesh Yadav government, which is seeking a return to power. (IANS)

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Indra Nooyi Second Most Powerful Women: Fortune

Sep 8, 2016 0

NEW YORK—PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi is the second most powerful women after General Motors CEO and Chairman Mary Barra, according to Fortune Magazine.

Fortune recently released its annual list of 50 Most Powerful Women in 2016. Nooyi is the only Indian-origin women to make the list. She was ranked second on the list in 2015 as well.

Indra Nooyi-TwitterThe list comprises 22 CEOs of major companies and many more corner office contenders across industries. The 2016 list has nine newcomers, according to Fortune.

Nooyi is now in her 10th year as CEO and  she “shows no signs of slowing down,” Fortune said.

“Investors seem to have faith that Nooyi’s push towards healthier food and drink offerings will pay off, and they like the $63 billion company’s $3 billion cost cut over the past three years too,” Fortune said.

Barra retained the Fortune’s Most Powerful Woman title in 2016.

In addition to Barra and Nooyi, the Fortune’s  top 10 most powerful women in the list includes Marillyn Hewson of Lockheed Martin at the third place; Ginni Rometty of IBM (4th); Abigail Johnson of Fidelity Investments (5th); Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg (6th); Meg Whitman of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (7th); General Dynamics’ Phebe Novakovic (8th); Irene Rosenfeld of Mondelez International (9th) and Safra Catz Co-CEO, Oracle at the 10th place.

Singing diva Beyonce was ranked at the 51st place as the bonus pick.

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New RBI Governor Urjit Patel calls on Jaitley

Sep 8, 2016 0

New Delhi–After taking over charge in Mumbai earlier this week, new Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Urjit Patel called on Finance Minister Arun Jaitley here on Thursday for their first meeting.

Following the meeting, Patel told reporters here that the RBI’s next monetary policy review is due on October 4 “when we will talk”.

On Thursday, Patel was also due to address the parliament’s Public Accounts Committee and answer questions from PAC members on a Comptroller and Auditor General Report (CAG) report on public debt management.

Urjit Patel

Urjit Patel

The CAG report, tabled in parliament during the monsoon session this year, has recommended that India institute a legal framework clearly specifying the objectives of government borrowing and the public debt management strategy.

“A legal framework, consisting of both the primary and the secondary legislation, may include the definition of public debt, debt management objectives, borrowing purposes and requirement of debt management strategy,” the report said.

The CAG said there has been no evaluation of outcomes despite the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, 2003, mandating submission of three reports annually that include information on debt management activities, as well as lack of progress in setting up a separate Public Debt Management Authority (PDMA).

In a big backtrack on the issue by the government last May, Finance Minister Jaitley withdrew from the Finance Bill the clauses pertaining to setting up of a PDMA and the amendments to the RBI Act that would have taken away the Reserve Bank’s powers to regulate government securities.

The United Forum of Reserve Bank Officers Employees had struck work for a day last year to protest the government’s moves to curtail the RBI’s powers, saying the proposed PDMA “will also henceforth function as depository of government securities (G-Sec), thus taking away from RBI some vital operations having relevance to money market as well”.

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Indian tech firm raises $50 mn from Zuckerberg arm, partners

Sep 8, 2016 0

Bengaluru– India’s leading education technology provider Byjus on Thursday announced raising $50 million (Rs 333 crore) from Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) and four venture capital partners to fund its expansion plans.

The four partners are Sequoia, Sofina, Lightspeed and Times Internet.

“We will deploy the fund to fuel international expansion and inspire additional funding from leading companied the world over,” said Byju founder and Chief Executive Byju Raveendran in a statement here.

Byju Raveendran

Byju Raveendran

The investment by CZI, the philanthropic arm of the online social media network Facebook’s co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, is its first in an Asian firm.

The year-old start-up, however, did not disclose the amount of investment made by CZI and each of the four partners to its first round of funding.

“Our application (K-12 app), which has registered 5.5 million downloads, has 250,000 paid annual subscribers across the country,” said Raveendran.

The K-12 app offers learning programmes for students in classes 4-12 and competitive exams like JEE, NEET, CAT, IAS, GRE and GMAT.

“Our K-12 app is reinventing how students learn in the age of mobile devices, as our approach combines teachers, pedagogical methods and data science to deliver personalised learning, feedback and assessments for school students,” said Raveendran.

Noting that Indian families work hard to give their children education for a better future, CZI’s Vivian Wu said Byju’s represented an opportunity to help more students develop love for learning and unlock their potential.

“We support innovative models of learning wherever they are around the world,” said Wu, who will soon join Byju’s board.

With 40-miniute engagement rate per day and 90 percent of users renewing subscription, Byju’s is proving to be effective at improving learning outcomes.

“We are partnering with CZI to usher in the next stage of our growth, as our vision of advancing human potential and promoting equality aligns with it (CZI), added Raveendran.

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Opening up Indian solar mission to foreign companies good idea

Sep 8, 2016 0
Helena Li, President (Asia, Pacific and Middle East) Trina Solar

Helena Li, President (Asia, Pacific and Middle East) Trina Solar

By Biswajit Choudhury

New Delhi– Rolling out the red carpet to foreign companies in joining India’s 100-GW solar mission is a smart move, as it can cut costs and bring cutting-edge technology, says Helena Li, President of China’s Trina Solar, which has 20 per cent share in India’s solar panels’ market.

“Indian local manufacturing capacity is not developed enough to be as cost-competitive as China’s, for instance. So the Indian government’s push for solar power and its strategy to invite foreign companies to build the industry locally is a smart move,” Li, who oversees Trina’s Asia, Pacific and Middle East business, told IANS in an interview here.

Trina Solar, established in China in 1997, and listed on the New York Stock Exchange since 2006, is a global leader that has installed 19 gigawatt (GW) of photovoltaic modules worldwide.

In India, Trina, which, Li said, in Chinese signifies bringing together nature and humans in a harmonious way, has already sold 1.5 GW of solar PVs and will have done business of 2 GW by the end of the year. Total solar panels capacity installed in India is around 8 GW.

Trina’s clients in India include energy majors like Wellspun, Hero Future Energies, ACME and Renew Power. It has, in 2014, supplied 600,000 solar panels for India’s largest solar project of 151 megawatt at Neemuch in Madhya Pradesh.

With the Narendra Modi government’s major thrust on renewables — that resulted in the formation of the International Solar Alliance this year with its secretariat in Gurgaon — private players are entering the solar space in a big way.

“If Trina wants to grow in the Indian market, it has to produce in India. But the cost-effectiveness of producing in India is a major consideration,” she says.

Towards this end, Trina has recently signed an MoU with the Andhra Pradesh government for acquiring 90 acres of land to set up a production facility and has also identified the site. However, still lacking manufacturing of scale in the sector costs in India remain high, Li said.

“Although India wants local content, 90 per cent of India’s panels are imported. Indian manufacturers have to depend on accessories from China. Currently, most panels in India are Chinese manufactured,” she said.

“By manufacturing here, we can help to grow India’s market by bringing in the supply chain from China,” Li added.

This situation, however, has provoked measures to protect and encourage local industry through the domestic content requirement clause under India’s national solar programme, launched in 2010.

It mandates that a solar power producer compulsorily source a certain percentage of solar cells and modules from local manufacturers in order to be able to benefit from the government guarantee to purchase the energy produced.

A World Trade Organisation (WTO) panel ruled earlier this year that India’s domestic content requirement for the solar sector is inconsistent with its treaty obligations. The US had, in 2013, brought a complaint against India before the WTO, alleging violation of global trading rules.

Ironically, America and the European Union themselves have taken anti-dumping measures against cheaper Chinese solar panels in order to protect their own industries, Li pointed out.

India expects to add around 5.5 GW of solar capacity in 2016, making it the fourth-largest solar market globally.

While several major solar manufacturers have announced plans to expand production capacities this year, Chinese demand has slowed, resulting in a softening of module prices.

On the other hand, a recent report by global accounting firm KPMG says that in the absence of strong local manufacturing, India will need to import $42 billion of solar equipment by 2030, corresponding to 100 GW of installed capacity.

However, cheaper Chinese imports have provoked industry bodies like the Indian Solar Manufacturers’ Association to demand safeguard levies and anti-dumping duties.

It is in this context that Li lauds the current Indian government’s attempts to encourage global majors like Trina Solar, Canadian Solar, Hanwha Solar and First Solar to consider joint ventures to build module manufacturing in India, with appropriate concessions and incentives.

Trina has been a pioneer in India’s solar panels market since coming into the country five years ago, said Li, whose association with India dates back to 2000 when she was representing Microsoft.

“At that time, there were only a few companies here in solar,” she recalls, adding that India has from the beginning been a good market.

“Now it is a booming market, other Chinese companies are coming in. But Trina has been rooted in India from the beginning. We have all local employees in our office here. One needs to nurture the market, spend a lot of time with clients, which explains our leading market presence here,” she signed off. (IANS)

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GST will unleash significant economic activity: Obama

Sep 8, 2016 0

Vientiane, Laos–President Barack Obama on Thursday expressed confidence that the Goods and Services Tax (GST), passed by the Indian parliament last month, will unleash significant economic activity.

He said this during a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the 11th East Asia Summit here.

This could well be the last bilateral meeting between Modi and Obama before the latter demits office in January next year.

Modi Obama-Laos-croppedThe two last met in June when Modi visited Washington.

According to sources, during Thursday’s meeting, both leaders reviewed the immediate priorities in the strategic partnership between the two countries.

“President Obama praised Prime Minister Modi’s initiatives to reform the Indian economy,” the sources said.

“In particular, he said that the passage of GST will unleash significant economic activity.”

Obama also praised Modi’s vision of entrepreneurship and innovation, saying it would be “very important for a country like India”, it is learnt.

On his part, the Prime Minister praised the President for his contribution to the India-US relationship and the growing trust between the two sides.

The Second India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue was held in New Delhi last month.

Obama, according to the sources said, said that he has always been a friend of India and would continue to be a “strong partner of India and help in any way I can”.

“Discussions then focused around climate change issues and energy cooperation,” the sources said.

“The two leaders reviewed progress on Indo US collaboration in nuclear energy, solar energy and innovation.”

Both Modi and Obama had played crucial roles in the signing of the agreement at the Conference of Parties (CoP)-21 Paris climate summit.

According to the sources, when Modi invited President Obama to visit India after he demits office, the latter said that he would welcome any opportunity to visit India.

“As an aside, he added that he and (wife) Michelle were yet to see the Taj Mahal,” the sources said.

On Thursday, Modi attended the 14th India-Asean Summit and the 11th East Summit here.

He also held bilateral meetings with South Korean President Park Geun-hye, State Counsellor and Foreign Minister of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi and Laos Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith.

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Beleaguered liquor baron Mallya remains United Breweries chairman

Sep 7, 2016 0

Bengaluru–Beleaguered liquor baron Vijay Mallya will continue to be the chairman of United Breweries Ltd (UBL) though he is out of India since March and has not presided over board meetings, said an official on Wednesday.

“As regulatory rules do not prevent Mallya from holding the top executive post, he remains the chairman though he has not been attending board meetings in person as he is out of country since March,” UBL director Chug Yoginder Pal told shareholders at the 17th annual general meeting (AGM) here.

The company’s another director, A.K. Ravi Nedungadi, however, clarified that as Mallya had attended board meetings through video conferences, he could continue to be the UBL chairman as per the Companies Act.

Vijay Mallya

Vijay Mallya

On shareholders’ concerns over the company’s assets being attached by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which had on September 4 seized Mallya’s assets valued at Rs.6,300 crore in Karnataka and Maharashtra, Pal said none of the UBL’s assets were attached till date though he (Mallya) still holds 30.71 per cent of equity stake in the company.

In a written statement, read out at the AGM, Mallya said the company continued to have leadership position in the Indian beer market with about 50 per cent share.

“The company sold 151 million cases (12 bottles each) in fiscal 2015-16 as against the total sales of 295 million cases in the alcoholic beverage industry,” said Mallya in the statement.

Noting that Goods and Sales Tax (GST) would be a reality soon, Mallya said the company would make efforts to persuade state governments to review their outdated tax policies as alcoholic beverages were excluded from the new tax (GST).

Mallya is reported to be in London since he left India on March 2 ahead of the SBI-led banks’ consortium petitioning the Supreme Court to recover their outstanding loans amounting to Rs.9,431.65 crore, including interest that were sanctioned to his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines Ltd.

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No bank privatization, GST implementation on target: Jaitley

Sep 7, 2016 0

New Delhi– Even as India is merging some state-run banks, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday said there was no move to privatise them. He also said the target date of April 1 next year to implement a pan-India goods and services tax regime will be met.

“I don’t think that public or political opinion has converged to the point where we can think of privatisation of our banking sector,” Jaitley told the Economist India Summit at the Taj Palace Hotel here. “Health of public sector banks first priority for the government.”

The finance minister said the GST was a major reform in indirect taxation that had been waiting for long and that it would go a long way in stabilising the country’s various levies and bring them down in the long run.

“There is a national aspiration in support of GST reform. We have set stiff target to implement it. We are running against time to implement GST.” (IANS)

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