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Central Railway completes 90 years of suburban services in Mumbai

The Central Railway today completed 90 years of suburban services in Mumbai.
 
It was on this day in 1925 that Sir Leslie Wilson, the  then Governor of Bombay, flagged off the first EMU service with four cars from the then Bombay Victoria Terminus to Kurla on the harbour line.
 
Much has changed since then. Today, for instance, the Central Railway runs 15-car trains on the Main line.
 
In 1925, the Central Railway ran 150 services and carried 2.2 lakh passengers every day. Today, it runs 1618 services and carries 41 lakh passengers daily, a press release from Central Railway added.
 
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1600 exhibitors from 30 countries to participate in Plastindia 2015

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As many as 1600 exhibitors from India and 30 other countries will participate in Plastindia 2015, one of the main plastics related events in the country, which will be held from February 5-10 at Gandhinagar in Gujarat.
 
About 150,000 business visitors are expected to attend the event that will be held over an area of 125,000 square metres, a press release from Plastindia Foundation, the organisers, said today.
 
Union Minister for Chemicals & Fertilizers Ananth Kumar and Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel will inaugurate the event and also release the Industry Status Report on plastics on the occasion.
 
The release said the exhibition would showcase the latest in technology, innovation, processes, products, responsible plastics management, recycling and a whole host of related aspects of plastics.
 
Mr. Subhash Kadakia, President, Plastindia Foundation said, “Apart from the dynamic exhibition, there will be a stunning bouquet of associated offerings that make Plastindia exhibitions a ‘must not miss’ affair for global plastics honchos. The new arena created with the help of the Gujarat government will showcase new facilities for the country." 
 
Concurrent to the event, an international conference, titled, ‘Gateway to Innovations,’ will be held at the Convention Centre at The Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar.
 
Alongside the main event, the fourth Proplast exhibition, which will showcase the global standard capabilities of India’s plastics processing fraternity, will also be held.
 
The 24th ASEAN Plastics Forum, the sixth Plasticon Awards, the Wintech Technology Transfer initiative, as well as numerous B2B meets on investment, finance, knowledge sharing and so on will be held concurrently, the release said.
 
The release said that a rebate of 5% will be offered on purchase of machinery from Gujarat based companies and 3% on machinery to companies outside the state, during the exhibition period. Purchase of raw materials will have further subsidies on VAT and 5% subsidy on the interest on purchase of machinery.
 
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RBI keeps repo rate unchanged at 7.75%, says no new developments in disinflationary process

The Reserve Bank of India on Tuesday decided to keep its key policy repo rate unchanged at 7.75 per cent, saying there had been no substantial new developments on the disinflationary process or on the fiscal outlook since January 15 when it had cut the rate by 25 basis points.

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The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today decided to keep its key policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) unchanged at 7.75 per cent, saying there had been no substantial new developments on the disinflationary process or on the fiscal outlook since January 15 when it had cut the rate by 25 basis points.
 
In his Sixth Bi-Monthly Monetary Policy Statement 2014-15, RBI Governor Raghuram G. Rajan also said that the cash reserve ratio of scheduled bans unchanged at 4.0 per cent of net demand and time liabilities (NDTL).
 
He said the statutory liquidity ratio (SLR) of commercial banks would be reduced by 50 basis points from 22.0 per cent to 21.5 per cent of their NDTL with effect from the fortnight beginning February 7.
 
The RBI has decided to replace the replace the export credit refinance (ECR) facility with the provision of system level liquidity with effect from February 7, 2015, he said.
 
It will continue to provide liquidity under overnight repos of 0.25 per cent of bank-wise NDTL at the LAF repo rate and liquidity under 7-day and 14-day term repos of up to 0.75 per cent of NDTL of the banking system through auctions.
 
It will also continue with daily variable rate term repo and reverse repo auctions to smooth liquidity, he said
 
Consequently, the reverse repo rate under the LAF will remain unchanged at 6.75 per cent, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate at 8.75 per cent, he said.
 
Stating that the momentum of inflation had significantly reduced, the RBI had on January 15, outside the policy review cycle, reduced the repo rate by 25 basis points from 8.0 per cent to 7.75 per cent.
 
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"Given that there have been no substantial new developments on the disinflationary process or on the fiscal outlook since January 15, it is appropriate for the Reserve Bank to await them and maintain the current interest rate stance," Dr Rajan said today.
 
Dr Rajan said that, by and large, inflation dynamics had so far been consistent with the assessment of the balance of risks by the Reserve Bank’s bi-monthly monetary policy statements, although with some undershooting relative to the projected path of disinflation. 
 
"While inflation declined faster than expected due to favourable base effects during June-November, the upturn in December turned out to be muted relative to projections. Augmenting these data with survey data on falling inflationary expectations as well as data on weak commodity prices and muted rural wage growth, the Reserve Bank projected that it would meet its objective of 6 per cent CPI inflation by January 2016. Having committed in public statements to initiate a change in the monetary policy stance as soon as incoming data permitted, the Reserve Bank cut the policy rate on January 15, 2015," he said.
 
He also recalled that the RBI had also indicated that "key to further easing are data that confirm continuing disinflationary pressures. Also critical would be sustained high quality fiscal consolidation…”. 
 
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The central bank said the upside risks to inflation stem from the unlikely possibility of significant fiscal slippage, uncertainty on the spatial and temporal distribution of the monsoon during 2015 as also the low probability but highly influential risks of reversal of international crude prices due to geo-political events. 
 
"Heightened volatility in global financial markets, including through the exchange rate channel, also constitute a significant risk to the inflation assessment. Looking ahead, inflation is likely to be around the target level of 6 per cent by January 2016. As regards the path of inflation in 2015-16, the Reserve Bank will keenly monitor the revision in the CPI, which will rebase the index to 2012 and incorporate a more representative consumption basket along with methodological improvements," it said.
 
The RBI said the outlook for growth had improved modestly on the back of disinflation, real income gains from decline in oil prices, easier financing conditions and some progress on stalled projects. 
 
"These conditions should augur well for a reinvigoration of private consumption demand, but the overall impact on growth could be partly offset by the weaker global growth outlook and short-run fiscal drag due to likely compression in plan expenditure in order to meet consolidation targets set for the year. Accordingly, the baseline projection for growth using the old GDP base has been retained at 5.5 per cent for 2014-15. 
 
"For 2015-16, projections are inherently contingent upon the outlook for the south-west monsoon and the balance of risks around the global outlook. Domestically, conditions for growth are slowly improving with easing input cost pressures, supportive monetary conditions and recent measures relating to project approvals, land acquisition, mining, and infrastructure. Accordingly, the central estimate for real GDP growth in 2015-16 is expected to rise to 6.5 per cent with risks broadly balanced at this point. The revised GDP statistics (base 2011-12) released on January 30 along with advance estimates for 2014-15 expected on February 9, 2015 will need to be carefully analysed and could result in revisions to the Reserve Bank’s growth projections for 2015-16," the statement said.
 
Dr Rajan said that, with liquidity conditions remaining comfortable, the recourse to export credit has been low – less than 50 per cent of the limit on monthly average basis since October 2014.
 
In pursuance of the Dr. Urjit R. Patel Committee’s recommendation to move away from sector-specific refinance, the ECR limit has been gradually lowered since June 2014. Continuing with this rationalisation, it has been decided to merge the facility with system level liquidity provision with effect from February 7, 2015. The Reserve Bank would continue to meet system wide liquidity needs as per the revised liquidity adjustment framework announced on August 22, 2014, he said.
 
He said that, in order to create space for banks to expand credit, the SLR was being reduced from 22.0 per cent of NDTL to 21.5 per cent. Banks should use this headroom to increase their lending to productive sectors on competitive terms so as to support investment and growth, he said.
 
Dr Rajan said the revision in the base year for GDP and GDP calculation methods would mean some revision in GDP growth numbers for 2014-15 as well as in GDP forecasts. 
 
"Domestic activity is likely to have remained subdued in Q3 of 2014-15, mainly reflecting the shortfall in the kharif harvest relative to a year ago. Agricultural growth is likely to pick up in Q4 with the late improvement in the north-east monsoon and in rabi sowing. Nevertheless, growth expectations should be tempered as lead indicators such as tractor and motorcycle sales and slowing rural wage growth all point to subdued rural demand," he said.
 
He said the improvement in industrial activity in November 2014 was broad-based, but continuing contraction in consumer goods production underscored the persisting weakness in consumption demand (even while raising questions about measurement of production). 
 
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Advance indicators of industrial activity - indirect tax collections; non-oil non-gold import growth; expansion in order books; and new business reported in purchasing managers surveys - pointed to a modest improvement in the months ahead, he said.
 
"Policy initiatives in land acquisition, as well as efforts underway to unlock mining activity and to widen the space for foreign direct investment in defence, insurance and railways, should create a more conducive setting for industrial revival. Faster clearances are also helping in resuscitating stalled projects. The improvement in business confidence is visible in a pick-up in new investment intentions, especially in transportation, power and manufacturing," he said.
 
The RBI said that, in the services sector, the purchasing managers’ survey indicated slower activity, especially in new orders. However, other indicators of the services sector including foreign tourist arrivals, automobile sales, cargo handled at ports, and railway freight traffic suggested improvement. 
 
"Overall, growth prospects will be contingent upon a turnaround in investment and a durable improvement in the business climate to complement the upsurge in business optimism. The sharp reduction in oil prices as well as in inflation is likely to increase personal disposable incomes and improve domestic demand conditions in the year ahead," it said.
 
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Reliance Industries applies for payments bank licence, SBI to take up 30% stake

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Energy, petrochemicals and retail major Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has applied for a payments bank licence through a joint venture in which it will be the promoter and the State Bank of India (SBI), India's largest lender, would be a partner with equity investment of upto 30 per cent.
 
The partnership is in accordance with the guidelines for payments banks issued by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and subject to grant of license by RBI, a press release issued by the two companies said.
 
"This partnership brings together the combined strengths of two of India’s Fortune 500 corporations committed to making a transformative impact on India’s financial inclusion landscape," it said.
 
According to the release, the payments bank would leverage SBI’s nationwide distribution network and risk management capabilities along with the substantial investments made by RIL in its retail and telecom businesses. It will deploy state-of-the-art technology, build scalable infrastructure and create extensive branch and business correspondent network in order to provide last-mile access and intuitive user experience to all sections of society, it said.
 
"Besides promoting financial inclusion by providing banking and transaction services to unbanked, underbanked and small businesses, the partners see formation of the Payments Bank as an opportunity to:
·        lead and co-create an eco-system to provide accessible, simple and affordable banking solutions;
·        digitize payments and act as a catalyst towards a cashless society;
·        democratise banking and payment services through massive adoption and low transaction costs," the release added.
 
RIL is India's largest private sector company, with a consolidated turnover of Rs 4,46,339 crore ($ 74.5 billion), cash profit of  Rs 33,980 crore ($ 5.7 billion) and net profit of  Rs 22,493 crore ($ 3.8 billion) for the year ended March 31, 2014.
 
The group's activities span petroleum refining and marketing, petrochemicals, exploration and production of oil and gas, retail and telecommunications.
 
SBI has16,081 branches in India, 189 international offices in 35 countries and approximately 225 million active customer accounts as of September 30, 2014. It is also the only Indian bank listed in the Fortune 500. 
 
The bank had deposits, net advances and total assets base of Rs 14,73,785 crores, Rs 12,09,648 crores and Rs 18,74,332  crores, respectively, as of September 30, 2014, the largest by each measure among banking institutions in India.
 
In order to expand its distribution network, SBI has tied up with over 61,501 business correspondents all over the country. 
 
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Sun Pharma receives US FTC clearance for Ranbaxy acquisition

 
Pharmaceuticals majors Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. and Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd today announced that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has completed its review of the proposed acquisition of Ranbaxy by Sun Pharma and has granted early termination of the waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976 (HSR Act).
 
The early termination of the waiting period under the HSR Act satisfies one of the essential conditions to the closing of the Ranbaxy acquisition, a press release from Ranbaxy said.
 
Sun Pharma and Ranbaxy also announced that the FTC accepted a proposed consent agreement pursuant to which, Sun Pharma and Ranbaxy have agreed to divest Ranbaxy’s interests in generic minocycline tablets and capsules to an external third party.
 
"Sun Pharma and Ranbaxy are working closely towards completion of the transaction and will comply with the conditions laid down in the FTC consent agreement within the specified time," the release added.
 
Sun Pharmaceuticals and Ranbaxy had, on April 7 last year, announced that they had entered into definitive agreements pursuant to which Sun Pharma would acquire 100% of Ranbaxy in an all-stock transaction.  
 
The combination of Sun Pharma and Ranbaxy would create the fifth-largest specialty generics company in the world and the largest pharmaceutical company in India. 
 
The combined entity will have operations in 65 countries, 47 manufacturing facilities across five continents, and a significant platform of specialty and generic products marketed globally, including 629 ANDAs. 
 
The transaction has a total equity value of approximately $ 3.2 billion, the two companies had said on that date.
 
On December 8, 2014, the two companies said they had received an order of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) of December 5 approving the acquisition.
 
One of the preconditions of the order is that parties procure the divestment of seven products. These products constitute less than 1% of the combined entity's revenues in India. 
 
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Jet Airways to increase frequencies on high demand domestic sectors

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Private sector carrier Jet Airways today said it would operate 16 additional daily Boeing 737 flights effective February 1 to March 28 to meet increased demand on key domestic sectors.
 
A press release from the airline said it would operate additional early morning flights from Bengaluru and Chennai to Mumbai and late evening services from Mumbai to the two key southern cities. 
 
Additional daily flights will also be operated from Bengaluru and Chennai to Delhi.
 
Jet Airways will further enhance its frequencies from Mumbai to Kolkata, Chandigarh, Kochi and Raipur with additional daily flights.
 
Jet Airways currently operates nine daily flights from Mumbai to Bengaluru, seven daily flights from Mumbai to Chennai and vice versa, five flights to Kolkata, one flight to Chandigarh, two flights to Kochi and two daily flights to Raipur. In addition, Jet Airways currently operates three flights from Delhi to Chennai and eight flights from Delhi to Bengaluru.
 
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SBI, European Investment Bank sign loan agreement to support SME, Mid-Caps

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State Bank of India (SBI), India’s largest bank, and the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union’s long-term lending institution, have signed a loan agreement for Euro 100 million to be utilised for onlending to private businesses in the country. 
 
This is the third tranche of a total sanction of Euro 200 million by EIB. A first tranche of Euro 55 million and second tranche of Euro 45 million was signed on June 25 and November 28 last year, respectively.
 
The agreement was signed on January 19 by SBI Chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya and Mr. Roman Escolano, Vice President, EIB at Luxembourg at the European Investment Bank head office, a press release from SBI said.
 
The loan will be utilised to support the development of private sector, in particular small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), social and economic infrastructure as well as climate change mitigation and adaptation in India, it said.
 
The EIB funds will be earmarked for financing projects across a broad range of sectors, including manufacturing, as well as wholesale and retail trade and services. 
 
The entire process was facilitated by SBI’s subsidiary, SBI Capital Markets, the release added.
 
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India’s forex reserves soar by $ 2.66 billion to all-time high of $ 322.135 billion

India’s foreign exchange reserves soared by a whopping $ 2.66 billion to an all-time high $ 322.135 billion in the week ended January 16, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
 
The country’s forex reserves had gone up by $ 236.4 million to $ 319.475 billion in the previous week.
 
The previous high had been reached in the week ended September 2, 2011 when the foreign exchange reserves had touched $ 320.79 billion.
 
In its weekly statistical supplement, the central bank said that foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, had gone up by $ 2.685 billion to $ 297.53 billion during the week.
 
Foreign currency assets expressed in US dollar terms include the effect of appreciation or depreciation of non-US currencies such as the euro, pound and yen held in the reserves.
 
According to the bulletin, the country’s gold reserves remained unchanged at $ 19.378 billion, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) went down by $ 19.3 million to $ 4.109 billion during the period.
 
 India's reserve position in the Indian Monetary Fund (IMF) went down by $ 5.2 million to $ 1.118 billion during the week, the bulletin added.
 
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RBI asks commercial banks to display loan interest rates, fees on their websites

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The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has asked all scheduled commercial banks in the country to display on their websites more information on interest rates and the fees and charges applicable on loans on their websites in order to promote transparency in their operations.
 
In a circular sent yesterday to all the banks, the RBI said that this was being done to further enhance transparency in the pricing of credit was based on the recommendations of the Working Group on Pricing of Credit.
 
"Banks should display on their website the interest rate range of contracted loans for the past quarter for different categories of advances granted to individual borrowers along with mean interest rates for such loans," it said.
 
The circular said the total fees and charges applicable on various types of loans to individual borrower should be disclosed at the time of processing of loan as well as displayed on the website of banks for transparency and comparability and to facilitate informed decision making by customers.
 
"Banks should publish Annual Percentage Rate (APR) or such similar other arrangement of representing the total cost of credit on a loan to an individual borrower on their websites so as to allow customers to compare the costs associated with borrowing across products and/ or lenders," it said.
 
The circular said the banks should provide a clear, concise, one page key fact statement/fact sheet, as per prescribed format to all individual borrowers at every stage of the loan processing as well as in case of any change in any terms and conditions. The same may also be included as a summary box to be displayed in the credit agreement.
 
In order to give banks sufficient time to comply with these instructions, it has been decided that the guidelines will come into force with effect from April 1, 2015, the circular added.
 
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Individuals can now carry Indian currency in Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denominations to Nepal, Bhutan

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The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has announced that an individual can now carry to Nepal and Bhutan Indian currency notes in denominations of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000, subject to a limit of Rs 25,000.
 
Earlier, individuals travelling to Nepal and Bhutan were allowed to carry Indian currency without any limit in denomination of only up to Rs 100. 
 
"This has been relaxed to mitigate the hardship faced by individuals travelling to Nepal and Bhutan from India," a press release from RBI said here yesterday, adding that it had suitably amended the regulations to incorporate the relaxation.
 
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Afcons installs process platform for ONGC using float-over technology

Civil enginering and construction major Afcons Infrastructure Limited, a part of the Shapoorji Pallonji Group, today said it had achieved a milestone by becoming the first Indian engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor to install a process platform using float-over technology on time.
 
The installation of the HRD Process Platform was executed for the public sector Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) in the Heera field off the west coast of India.
 
Float-over operation is a new concept being used in ONGC projects whrein an offshoe vessel or a cargo barge, which is carrying the heavy topside, is made to enter the slot created between jacket legs and stap the complete topside on the jacket legs.
 
"This was only the second float-over operation to be carried out in India," a press release from the company said.
 
In offshore oil and gas industry worldwide, most topsides are installed via conventional method of lifting. So far, only 27 topsides have been installed across the world using the float-over technique. 
 
Afcons, the leader in a consortium comprising Technip, France and THHE, Malaysia, became the first Indian contractor to adopt the technology and successfully execute it. The design and installation was handled by Technip, it said.
 
The HRD project has clocked six million safe man hours without any loss time incident till date, the release said.
 
The HRD topside was constructed in Vietnam, with loading out on the planned date. It was transported on a float-over barge to Heera Field, Indian offshore by sea all the way from Vietnam.
 
During this time, the jacket was installed and prepared to receive the topside. On January 15, the HRD topside was mated with the jacket making the Process Platform a single structure. The entire operation was complete in 34 hours from preparations to complete installation.
 
"It was a phenomenal event where a structure of 8,300 MT got installed in a single attempt," it said.
 
"Afcons could pull it off with the help of Dockwise team, who were subcontractors and owners of the float-over barge. They also did the ballast operation for the complete float-over," it added.
 
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TCS Research Scholarship Programme to be extended to reach over 200 computer science Ph.Ds

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IT services major Tata Consultancy Services has said that its flagship TCS Research Scholarship Programme (TCS RSP) will be extended for another five years to reach over 200 additional doctoral research scholars across India in the area of computer science. 
 
Till date, TCS has actively supported 188 research scholars across 33 institutes in India, under this programme. Six students have successfully completed their Ph.Ds under this scheme and are now employed in academia and industry R&D centres, a press release from the company said.
 
For the next five years, the TCS RSP will benefit 40 scholars annually. The programme supports nearly 20% of all the computing science Ph.D. scholars in India, it said.
 
The programme was launched in 2010 to provide a major fillip for quality research in areas such as computer sciences and engineering, information systems and technology, and software engineering. The programme also aims to promote development and innovation to contribute towards boosting the country’s technology landscape.
 
“There is a big gap between the demand and supply of quality scientists in computational science disciplines in India. Recent studies indicate the growing need for more research in this area to help develop intellectual property in this country. To address this gap, TCS created Research Scholar Program to improve the research talent base in the country and given its success, we are delighted to increase the number of students funded by another 200,” said N Chandrasekaran, CEO & MD, TCS.
 
TCS has identified and shortlisted 61 top-ranking institutes and universities in India with active Ph.D. programmes in the computing sciences. Invitations seeking applications for the Research Scholar Programme are sent out to these institutes, in January and July. Students who are registered for full time Ph.D. in areas such as Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Information Systems, Software Engineering, and Information Technology are eligible to apply, with a recommendation from their institute. The programme is entirely free of any obligation on the part of awardees - the RSP scholars do not have to join TCS or share the IP of their work in any way.
 
The selected research scholars will receive cash scholarship and contingency funds for four years, with a provision of extending the support for one more year. Further, they will also be awarded significant travel funds for international travel to attend and present their research work in international conferences and workshops.
 
TCS researchers and scientists from R & D and the CTO team offer technical mentoring, industry exposure, and insight into the real world scenario. The scholars are invited to various TCS conferences and symposiums and also have an opportunity to visit TCS innovation and research labs, the release added.
 
The TCS RSP has received the “World CSR Congress 2014 - Education and Training Social Enterprise Award."
 
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Marten Pieters to step down as Vodafone India CEO; Sunil Sood named successor

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The Board of telecom services provider Vodafone India today announced that Mr Marten Pieters will step down as its Managing Director and Chief Executive with effect from April 1 and will be succeeded by its Chief Operating Officer Sunil Sood. 
 
"After that date, Mr Pieters will continue to remain on the Board of Vodafone India in a non-executive capacity," a press release from the company, a fully owned subsidiary of the Vodafone Group plc., said.
 
Mr Pieters was appointed as Vodafone India Managing Director and Chief Executive in February 2009 after an international telecommunications career which included Board-level roles with KPN, Celtel and Millicom. 
 
"Under his leadership, Vodafone India doubled revenues, added more than 100 million customers, increased market share and launched data services used by more than 57 million customers. The longest-serving Chief Executive of an Indian telecommunications company, he has led Vodafone India's participation in all spectrum auctions since 2009. Mr. Pieters was appointed as the Chairman of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) in 2014," the release said.
 
As the COO, Mr Sood is currently responsible for day-to-day operations and P&L management together with new business development initiatives including the launch and expansion of mobile commerce activities. 
 
He joined Vodafone India's predecessor business, Hutch, in 2000 and has held roles leading the company's operations in Gujarat, Kolkata and Chennai. He had previously worked for Pepsi in a range of Indian and international leadership roles. Mr Sood graduated with a B Tech from IIT (Delhi) and PGDM from IIM (Kolkata) and is also a graduate of the Harvard Business School Advanced Management Program.
 
The Chairman of the Board of Vodafone India, Analjit Singh, said: "Marten's term as Chief Executive has been marked by outstanding business performance and exemplary leadership in a highly complex sector and operating environment. He is to be commended for his many achievements and hands on to his highly experienced and respected successor the stewardship of a substantial enterprise serving the needs of 174 million customers. Sunil has extensive operating experience and knows Vodafone India from within. He is therefore a great choice to grow and expand the business and I look forward to a successful transition."
 
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Vodafone Group Chief Executive for the Africa, Middle East and Asia-Pacific region, Serpil Timuray, said: "Marten has successfully led Vodafone India through a period of rapid evolution, establishing the business at the forefront of Vodafone Group's international portfolio while building strong organisational capabilities for the future. He has made an immense contribution to Vodafone over the last six years. The business will remain in good hands with Sunil who has also been integral to the growth of the company and the development of its capabilities, helping to drive consistent results through both good and challenging years."
 
Vodafone Group Chief Executive Vittorio Colao said: "Marten has been a fantastic leader in India and a wise and trusted contributor across the Group as a whole. He will stand down from his role as Chief Executive with warm thanks from everyone in Vodafone. I look forward to working with Sunil to build on the successes of a business widely admired in India and internationally."
 
Mr Pieters said: "It has been a pleasure and a privilege to lead Vodafone India and I would like to thank all of my colleagues for their passion and commitment in support of our goals over the last six years. I am delighted to hand over to Sunil; we have worked closely together throughout my time with Vodafone and I could not wish for a better successor."
 
Mr Sood's successor as Chief Operating Officer will be announced in due course, the release added.
 
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Reliance Industries raises $ 1 billion through dollar bond issue

Energy and petrochemicals major Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) today said it had raised $ 1 billion through a dollar bond issue and that the funds woud be utilized for its ongoing capital expenditure.
 
The 4.125% Senior Unsecured Notes due 2025 have been assigned a rating of BBB+ (S&P) and Baa2 (Moody’s), a press release from the company said.
 
It said this was the first 10-year issuance in the oil and gas sector out of Asia ex Japan since July 2014. It was the lowest coupon ever achieved by an Asia ex Japan corporate issuer in the BBB category for a 10-year issuance with a size of $ 1 billion or more.
 
The release said this was also the largest private sector oil and gas deal out of Asia ex Japan since the last RIL guaranteed bond in 2012.
 
The notes have been priced at 240 basis points over the 10-year US Treasury Note, at a price of 98.998 to yield 4.249%. The Notes will be denominated in US dollars, and will bear fixed interest of 4.125% p.a., with interest payable semi-annually in arrears and shall rank pari passu with all other unsecured and unsubordinated obligations of the company. 
 
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According to the release, the notes were oversubscribed more than 4.5 times across 272 accounts. In terms of geographic distribution, they were distributed 31% in Asia, 25% in Europe and44% in the United States. In terms of investor distribution, the notes were distributed to high quality fixed income accounts: 62% to fund managers, 7% to sovereign wealth funds, 18% to insurance companies and pension funds and 13% to banks and private banks.
 
Mr. V. Srikanth, Joint Chief Financial Officer of RIL, said, “This transaction opened up the market for private sector corporate issuances out of Asia, against the backdrop of challenging market conditions. We successfully concluded a swift intra-day execution to capitalize on the market window and lock in long term funding at an attractive cost. We are happy to see participation from repeat investors being supplemented by new high quality 
investors including central banks and real money accounts."
 
Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citigroup Global Markets Inc., The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited and Standard Chartered Bank acted as Joint Global Coordinators. Barclays Capital, Deutsche Bank, J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley acted as Active Joint Book runners. ANZ, BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole CIB and The Royal Bank of Scotland acted as Passive Book runners. 
 
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TCS wins digital transformation deal from Virgin Atlantic Airways

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India's leading IT services player Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) today said that it had been selected by Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA), one of the United Kingdom's leading airlines, to provide fully managed services to transform and optimise its IT processes, applications and infrastructure. 
 
TCS will set up a private cloud for Virgin Atlantic and provide services including Infrastructure-as-a-Service, End User Services and Application Support Services across the whole of Virgin Atlantic’s technology landscape, a press release from the company said.
 
The release said the initiative is a part of Virgin Atlantic’s strategy to invest in operational efficiencies and innovations to help it maintain its market leadership. 
 
"The project will create a service that is easy and straight-forward to administer whilst providing VAA with a progressive, industry leading portfolio of IT services. Through this partnership, Virgin Atlantic will also gain access to TCS’ Airline and Digital Innovation Labs, facilities designed to support the development of solutions that address the changing needs and expectations of the new digital consumer," the release said.
 
“In order for Virgin Atlantic to maintain and build on our position as market leaders, it is vital for us to simplify our IT processes and create a technology landscape that is more agile and responsive to our growing business requirements,” said David Bulman, CIO, Virgin Atlantic Airways.
 
“TCS has strong reputation in the aviation industry and – from our previous work with the company – we know it to be a very capable service provider with world-leading expertise. We are delighted to enter into a long-term strategic partnership with Tata Consultancy Services. We look forward to working closely together to improve the experience we deliver our customers, through the development of new digital solutions," he said.
 
S Sukanya, global head and vice president of travel transportation and hospitality unit, TCS, said; “The rise of the Digital Consumer Economy is creating opportunities, and challenges, for businesses across all markets and industries. To succeed in this new era organisations need to fully embrace a ‘digital by default’ approach. Virgin Atlantic has been one of our most valued clients in Europe and this deal has further strengthened the long-standing relationship between the two organisations. ”
 
The release said the company bagged similar deals from leading airlines in Europe, Asia Pacific and North America.
 
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Mahindra Two Wheelers acquires 51% stake in Peugeot Motocycles

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Mahindra Two Wheelers Ltd. (MTWL), part of the $ 16.5 billion Mahindra Group, and Peugeot Motocycles (PMTC), part of the Euro 54 billion PSA Group based in France announced today that they have completed the necessary formalities for MTWL’s 51% acquisition in PMTC.
 
PMTC, also known as  Peugeot Scooters, a key player in urban mobility in Europe for 116 years, is the oldest motorized two-wheeler manufacturer in the world. The company offers a range of scooters and mopeds, from 50cc to 400cc, including the successful three wheeled scooter – Metropolis - in the European market. 
 
This project was announced on October 7, 2014. The acquisition, which resulted in the satisfaction of all regulatory, legal and financial conditions of the agreement, was completed smoothly by both parties within a very short span of time, a press release from Mahindra said.
 
As part of the employee dialogue process and anti-trust law, the Works Council consultation process has also been successfully completed, it said.
 
Dr. Pawan Goenka, Executive Director, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. said, “At Mahindra, we are committed to the long term growth of Peugeot Motocycles and are confident that this relationship would be one of mutual respect, trust and learning. This partnership would enable both MTWL and PMTC to speed up their international expansion by driving synergies and leveraging respective strengths. It is our intention to work closely to enable a win-win for both partners". 
 
Under the terms of the agreement, MTWL has infused Euro 15 million into PMTC to finance projects implemented through the strategic partnership and has also bought shares held by PSA which would allow MTWL to take a 51% stake in PMTC.
 
The new board of PMTC has been constituted and would include: Dr. Pawan Goenka – Director MTWL & Executive Director, M&M Ltd.; Mr. V.S. Parthasarathy – Director MTWL, Chief Financial Officer, Group CIO, M&M Ltd.; Mr.Rajesh Jejurikar – Director MTWL, Chief Executive-Farm Equipment & Two Wheeler Division, M&M Ltd.; Mr. Maxime Picat - Chief Executive Officer, Peugeot Brand; and Mr. Emmanuel Delay – Executive Vice President, Operational Director, India-Pacific.
 
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Indiabulls Asset Management enters AIF space, real estate fund targets Rs 1000 crore

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Indiabulls Asset Management Company Limited (IBAMC) today said it planned to enter the alternative investment space through its maiden offering ‘Indiabulls Real Estate Fund’.
 
This fund has been rated ‘AAA (AIF)’ by Care Ratings and is targeting investments in residential projects in the top five cities, a press release from the company said.
 
"The fund intends to invest in geographies with proven market depth, high inherent demand, pricing stability and projects with low execution risk. The proposed target fund size is Rs 500 crore with an additional option of raising Rs 500 crore and focusing an average deal tenure of three years," it said.
 
The release said the investment focus would be to capture growth opportunities across lifecycle of investee companies through primary, secondary and co-investment opportunities. The investments shall be structured in the form of fully secured non-convertible debentures with a well-defined exit strategy and periodic returns on a quarterly basis along with a back-ended upside. 
 
The sponsor of the fund, Indiabulls Housing Finance Ltd, an AAA-rated company, has expertise in mortgage financing business with strong lineage in managing developer project lifecycles.
 
Mr. Akshay Gupta, IBAMC Group Executive head and CEO, said, "Indiabulls AMC will emerge as one of the key players in the real estate fund space in the coming years. We plan to scale up our AIF / Co-investment presence and have plans to raise over Rs 10,000 crore under real-estate fund category in next five years from offshore and onshore markets.”  
IBAMC has recently appointed Mr. Ambar Maheshwari as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of its alternate investment funds business. Earlier, Mr. Maheshwari was Managing Director of Corporate Finance at realty consultant Jones Lang LaSalle.
 
 “The recent announcement of interest rate cut is expected to boost housing demand and will help in reviving the real estate market sentiments. The various initiatives taken by the government such as relaxation of Foreign direct investment (FDI) norms in the construction sector, Ordinance on the Land Acquisition Act and the legislation awaiting Parliamentary approval on the Real Estate (Development and Regulation), Bill has the potential to spur new project developments in the real estate space," Mr Maheshwari said.
 
AIFs are generally funds established or incorporated in India for pooling in capital from Indian and foreign investors for investing in accordance with a well-defined policy. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) had notified the AIF regulations in May 2012, and since then had granted registrations to over 100 such funds. SEBI issued AIF Regulations to bring more transparency in private equity business and regulations cover Venture Funds, Private Equity and Hedge Funds under various categories.
 
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ICICI Bank launches banking services on Twitter

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ICICI Bank, India's largest private sector lender, today became the first bank in the country to allow customers to transfer money to anyone in the country through Twitter, provided both have accounts on the micro-bloggins site.
 
Customers can also check their account balance, view their last three transactions and recharge prepaid mobile telephones through the first-of-its-kind service in India, christened, ‘icicibankpay’, a press release from the bank said.
 
Mr. Rajiv Sabharwal, Executive Director, ICICI Bank said, "With the growing prominence of social media in every-day life, we believe our customers would be delighted to have yet another avenue which allows them to bank while they are on social media. In line with this, we introduced the world’s
most comprehensive banking facility on Facebook in 2013. Now, ‘icicibankpay’ will help our customers to execute banking transactions while they are socialising on Twitter."
 
"This innovation is in line with our philosophy of ‘khayaal aapka’ wherein we offer products and services which make banking easier and more convenient for our customers," he said.
 
Added Arvinder Gujral, Director, Business Development, Asia Pacific, Twitter,
“Twitter always has and will continue to encourage innovation on our platform and we congratulate ICICI Bank for their creative use of Twitter in their new banking service. As a company that is focused on consumers, ICICI Bank has made the banking experience more convenient and personal through social media. This initiative with ICICI Bank is testament to the growing importance of Twitter as the best way for Indians to stay connected to their world.”
 
Any ICICI Bank savings account customer, who has a mobile number registered with the bank and has a Twitter account, can access the facilities of ‘icicibankpay’. The customer can send money to anyone in India even if the recipient does not have an ICICI Bank savings account.
 
To register for the service, a customer needs to follow the Bank’s Twitter account, and follow the instructions in this regard.
 
More details about the new service are available here.
 
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SEBI cautions investors against investing in schemes offered by entities barred from raising money

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The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has cautioned investors against investing in schemes floated by certain entities which had been barred by it from collecting any further money or launch any new schemes and were promising unrealistic returns.
 
"These companies / entities without obtaining registration are illegally collecting / mobilising money, from investors by making false promises, assuring unrealistic return, etc.," a press release from SEBI said last Friday.
 
The release said that, wherever SEBI had found schemes offered by these entities to be in the nature of Collective Investment Schemes (CIS), appropriate actions had been taken against them and their directors.
 
The release pointed out that, since January 1, SEBI had passed orders against 63 entities and their directors for carrying on unregistered CIS. 
 
"As part of interim directions, SEBI directs the entities and (their) directors to stop collecting further money under existing / new schemes, not to launch any new scheme or float any new companies/firm to raise fresh money, not to divert or alienate any assets or money collected etc., and through final directions SEBI debars the company and (their) directors from accessing the capital markets, etc.," it said.
 
"Investors and general public are hereby cautioned that, other than GIFT Collective Investment Management Company Limited, no other entity is registered with SEBI under the CIS Regulations," it said.
 
The release said that, if any of the barred entities are found to be collecting / mobilising money, investors should not subscribe to such schemes and should report the same to SEBI, State authorities including Police authorities immediately, along with appropriate details / documents.
 
The list of such companies is given here.
 
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RIL reports 4.5% drop in net profit to Rs 5256 crore in Q3 of 2014-15

Energy and petrochemicals major Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) today reported a 4.5 per cent decline in its net profit for the third quarter (Q3) of financial year 2014-15 to Rs 5,256 crore from Rs 5,502 crore in the same quarter of the previous financial year.
 
The net profit for the first nine months of the year grew by 3.4 per cent at Rs 17,185 crore, a press release from the company said.
 
RIL Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh D. Ambani said, "Our focus on operational efficiency and the superior configuration of assets helped us deliver an industry-leading performance in the refining and petrochemicals business despite sharp decline in crude and feedstock prices."
 
"The performance also highlights the robustness of our risk management and proficiency of people and processes across the integrated chain. We continued to advance our refining and petrochemicals business capital investments, which will come to fruition over the next 4-6 quarters. These investments demonstrate our commitment to creating value through the business cycle. 
 
"During the quarter, Reliance Retail registered Y-o-Y growth of 19% in turnover with improved margins and profitability," he added.
 
The company said its turnover in the third quarter decreased by 20.4% to Rs 96,330 crore from Rs 121,077 crore in the corresponding period of the previous year, due mainly to the sharp y-o-y fall in the benchmark oil price of 30 per cent.
 
It said exports from India were lower by 21.5% at Rs 58,507 crore as against Rs 74,495 crore in the corresponding period of the previous year.
 
The company said cash and cash equivalents as on 31st December 2014 were at Rs 78,691 crore in bank deposits, mutual funds, CDs and Government securities/bonds.
 
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India’s forex reserves rise by $ 236.4 million to $ 319.475 billion

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India’s foreign exchange reserves went up by $ 236.4 million to $ 319.475 billion in the week ended January 9, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
 
The forex reserves had fallen by $ 471.4 million to $ 319.238 billion in the previous week.
 
In its weekly statistical supplement, the central bank said that foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, had gone down by $ 308.5 million to $ 294.845 billion during the week.
 
Foreign currency assets expressed in US dollar terms include the effect of appreciation or depreciation of non-US currencies such as the euro, pound and yen held in the reserves.
 
According to the bulletin, the country’s gold reserves remained unchanged at $ 19.378 billion, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) went down by $ 56.7 million to $ 4.129 billion during the period.
 
India's reserve position in the Indian Monetary Fund (IMF) went down by $ 15.4 million to $ 1.123 billion during the week, the bulletin added.
 
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RBI reduces repo rate by 25 bps to 7.75% as inflation slows down

Stating that the momentum of inflation had significantly reduced, the Reserve Bank of India on Thursday reduced the policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) by 25 basis points from 8.0 per cent to 7.75 per cent with immediate effect.

RBI logo
RBI logo
Stating that the momentum of inflation had significantly reduced, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today reduced the policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) by 25 basis points from 8.0 per cent to 7.75 per cent with immediate effect.
 
RBI Governor Raghuram G Rajan said in a statement that the central bank had also decided to keep the cash reserve ratio (CRR) of scheduled banks unchanged at 4.0 per cent of net demand and time liabilities (NDTL).
 
He said it would continue to provide liquidity under overnight repos at 0.25 per cent of bank-wise NDTL at the LAF repo rate and liquidity under 7-day and 14-day term repos of up to 0.75 per cent of NDTL of the banking system through auctions.
 
The RBI would also continue with daily variable rate repos and reverse repos to smooth liquidity, he said in a surprise early morning statement on monetary policy, outside the policy review cycle. It came less than three weeks ahead of the sixth bi-monthly monetary policy statement scheduled on February 3.
 
Consequently, the reverse repo rate under the LAF stands adjusted to 6.75 per cent, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate to 8.75 per cent with immediate effect.
 
The announcement came a day after India's headline annual rate of inflation, based on the monthly wholesale price index (WPI), came in at 0.11 per cent for December 2014, only slightly higher than the flat 0 per cent recorded for the previous month.
 
The consumer price inflation rate also went up marginally during the month to 5% from an all-time low of 4.38% in November.
 
Dr Rajan said in his statement today that, since July 2014, inflationary pressures (measured by changes in the consumer price index) had been easing. 
 
"The path of inflation, while below the expected trajectory, has been consistent with the assessment of the balance of risks in the Reserve Bank’s bi-monthly monetary policy statements.  To some extent, lower than expected inflation has been enabled by the sharper than expected decline in prices of vegetables and fruits since September, ebbing price pressures in respect of cereals and the large fall in international commodity prices, particularly crude oil. Crude prices, barring geo-political shocks, are expected to remain low over the year. Weak demand conditions have also moderated inflation excluding food and fuel, especially in the reading for December. Finally, the government has reiterated its commitment to adhering to its fiscal deficit target," the statement said.
 
The RBI said these factors had significantly reduced the momentum of inflation, compensating for the widely anticipated ending of favourable base effects. 
 
"Households’ inflation expectations have adapted, and both near-term and longer-term inflation expectations have eased to single digits for the first time since September 2009. Inflation outcomes have fallen significantly below the 8 per cent targeted by January 2015. On current policy settings, inflation is likely to be below 6 per cent by January 2016," it said.
 
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Dr Rajan said these developments had provided headroom for a shift in the monetary policy stance.
 
"It may be recalled that the fifth bi-monthly monetary policy statement of December had stated that 'if the current inflation momentum and changes in inflation expectations continue, and fiscal developments are encouraging, a change in the monetary policy stance is likely early next year, including outside the policy review cycle'. In its public interactions, the RBI had committed to initiate the process of monetary easing as soon as data indicated that medium term inflationary targets would be met," he said.
 
Dr Rajan said the fifth bi-monthly monetary policy statement had also stated that once the monetary policy stance shifts, subsequent policy actions will be consistent with this stance. 
 
"Key to further easing are data that confirm continuing disinflationary pressures. Also critical would be sustained high quality fiscal consolidation as well as steps to overcome supply constraints and assure availability of key inputs such as power, land, minerals and infrastructure. The latter would be needed to ensure that potential output rises above the projected pick-up in growth in coming quarters so as to contain inflation," he added.
 
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BAE Systems names Deepak Parekh as its India Chairman

Deepak Parekh
Deepak Parekh
Defence, aerospace and security major BAE Systems today said it had appointed Mr Deepak Parekh, Chairman of HDFC Ltd, as a non-executive Director and Chairman of its Indian subsidiary, BAE Systems India (Services) Private Limited, with effect from January 1.
 
A press release from the company said Mr Parekh’s association with BAE Systems began in 2010 when he was appointed as a member of its Independent Advisory Board for India.
 
In his new, part-time role as chairman, Mr Parekh will provide leadership to the BAE Systems India Board and help the company realise its aspiration to develop capabilities and infrastructure in the country in support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s "Make In India" initiative, it said.
 
"As a member of BAE Systems’ India Board, I look forward to working with the company and helping to contribute positively to the future development of world class defence and security capability in India. As India accelerates its pace towards the goal of self-reliance in aerospace and defence, it is an exciting time to help guide the Company in support of that objective," Mr Parekh said.
 
Mr Ian King, Chief Executive - BAE Systems Plc, said: “Deepak is one of India’s most respected business leaders. We are delighted to have the benefit of his experience and perspective as we continue to partner with India in order to Make in India.”
 
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India’s forex reserves decline by $ 471.4 million to $ 319.238 billion

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India’s foreign exchange reserves fell by $ 471.4 million to $ 319.238 billion in the week ended January 2, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
 
The forex reserves had declined by $ 287.5 million to $ 319.71 billion in the previous week.
 
In its weekly statistical supplement, the central bank said that foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, had gone down by $ 863.2 million to $ 294.537 billion during the week.
 
Foreign currency assets expressed in US dollar terms include the effect of appreciation or depreciation of non-US currencies such as the euro, pound and yen held in the reserves.
 
According to the bulletin, the country’s gold reserves went up by $ 392.7 million to $ 19.378 billion, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) fell by $ 0.7 million to $ 4.185  billion during the period.
 
India's reserve position in the Indian Monetary Fund (IMF) went down by $ 0.2 million to $ 1.139 billion during the period, the bulletin added.
 
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India Inc’s revenue growth likely to slip to six-quarter low in Q3: Crisil

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Ratings and research firm Crisil has said that India Inc.'s revenue growth could slip to a six-quarter low of 7 per cent on a year-on-year (y-o-y) basis in the December 2014 quarter due to slower growth in investment, export-oriented sectors and soft commodity prices.
 
"This tepid show will be due to weak performance of investment-linked sectors, stable currency exchange rates (y-o-y) impacting topline growth of export-oriented sectors, and weak global commodity prices," a press release from Crisil said here yesterday.
 
It said revenue growth was around 9 per cent in the preceding quarter and 13 per cent in the December 2013 quarter. On the profitability front though, it foresaw a marginal uptick in EBITDA margins.
 
“Investment driven sectors will drag down growth. For example, volume growth for top 15 cement companies, accounting for 55 per cent of industry volumes, will decelerate to 5 per cent in Q3 from 9 per cent in the first half of the year. Capital goods manufacturers, continuing to grapple with weak order inflows, are likely to report a 9 per cent yo-y decline in revenues. While construction companies will report a slight uptick in topline growth, growth will still lag aggregate corporate India revenue growth," Prasad Koparkar, Senior Director, Crisil Research, said.
 
According to the release, IT service providers are expected to report 10-11 per cent revenue growth y-o-y (in dollar terms) in Q3, similar to the growth recorded in each of the preceding six quarters. However, due to lack of currency tailwinds, rupee revenue growth will be far lower than in 2013-14, it said.
 
It said cotton yarn spinners would be hurt by weak export demand from China and lower yarn prices, but readymade garment exporters will continue to do well due to healthy growth in volumes.
 
The release said the rapid slide in global commodity prices would hurt topline growth of steel, petrochemical, manmade fibres, and chemical producers.  Aluminium, though, will buck the trend, reporting over 30 per cent topline growth led by better utilisation of new capacities and higher realisations. 
 
Among domestic consumption-oriented sectors, automobile revenues are forecast to grow at around 7 per cent (propelled by higher domestic sales of medium & heavy commercial vehicles). Others forecast to report above average topline growth include FMCG (realisation-led), telecom (spike in data usage), and pharmaceuticals.
 
Cril Research expects aggregate EBITDA margins to improve by 25-50 bps y-o-y in Q3FY15.
 
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Ajay Srinivasan, Director, Crisil Research, said, “We expect automobiles, cement, roads, and telecom to outperform. Margins may rise 70 bps in automobiles, propelled by commercial and passenger vehicle segments, while margins of component companies could expand by around 120 bps due to higher utiilisation levels and lower input costs. EBITDA margins of road developers are likely to jump 350-450 bps due to a rise in operational BOT (build operate transfer) projects, while surging data revenues and control over marketing costs will lift telecom operators’ margins by 140 bps."
 
"On the other hand, despite softer crude oil prices, profitability gains could be limited for companies with raw materials linked to the crude chain, due to losses booked on inventory previously procured. Central power utilities, coal, IT,
complex fertiliser and paper companies are expected to report lower margins," he added.
 
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