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Finance Minister Arun Jaitley invited Australian businesses to invest in India.

MELBOURNE:  Showcasing significant investment opportunities in manufacturing and infrastructure sector, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has invited Australian businesses to come and invest in India as he wraps up his four-day visit to the Asia Pacific country.

During his visit, Mr Jaitley met Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, Treasurer Scott Morrison, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and several other top dignitaries and business leaders of Australia.

On his first day in Sydney, Mr Jaitley inaugurated ‘Make in India’ conference where he strongly pitched for foreign investments in India, especially in the area of manufacturing and infrastructure.

In Canberra, he met Prime Minister Turnbull and discussed trade and bilateral issues of the two nations. He also invited the Australian PM to visit India.

The finance minister also attended a special reception organised by the Indian High Commission where he met a large group of Indian diaspora from across the country.

In Melbourne, the finance minister met a high-powered delegation of Australia’s Superannuation funds and other investors along with FICCI delegation where he urged them to invest in India’s infrastructure projects and other manufacturing sectors.

He assured them that India’s economic story was all set to stay on path of growth and that the government was strongly focusing on ‘Ease of doing business’ by rationalising the tax system and other processes and policies.

Mr Jaitley, while attending a special dinner last night organised by Victorian politician Tim Pallas, called the Indo-Australian relations “evolving and growing” strongly.

“It’s not only sports where the relations are evolving but also in business, culture, politics and strategic relationships, which all determine our future destinies,” Mr Jaitley said adding that the two sides were natural allies.

He also raised the topic of Free Trade agreement which he said had passed the set deadline of last December while stating that “the more we cooperate, the more we coordinate, the better it is for both the countries as a win win situation.”

Greater Pacific Capital CEO Ketan Patel, who was accompanying the finance minister as a part of FICCI delegation said Mr Jaitley’s visit to Australia would galvanise the relationship of the two sides.

Mr Patel said the Australian investors were mainly worried about the history of India as a difficult destination to do business with.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, while attending a special dinner on Friday night organised by Victorian politician Tim Pallas, called the Indo-Australian relations “evolving and growing” strongly. Melbourne: Showcasing significant investment opportunities in the manufacturing and infrastructure sectors, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley invited Australian businesses to come and invest in India as he wrapped up his four-day visit to the Asia Pacific country.

During his visit, Mr Jaitley met Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg,Treasurer Scott Morrison, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and several other top dignitaries and business leaders of the country.

On his first day in Sydney, Mr Jaitley inaugurated the ‘Make in India’ conference where he strongly pitched for foreign investments in India, especially in the area of manufacturing and infrastructure.

In Canberra, he met Mr Turnbull and discussed trade and bilateral issues of the two nations. He also invited Mr Turnbull to visit India. Here, the finance minister also attended a special reception organised by the Indian High Commission where he met a large group of Indian diaspora from across the country.

In Melbourne, the finance minister met a high-powered delegation of Australia’s superannuation funds and other investors along with FICCI delegation where he urged them to invest in India’s infrastructure projects and other manufacturing sectors.

He assured them that India’s economic story was all set to stay on growth path and that the government was strongly focusing on the ‘ease of doing business’ by rationalising the tax system and other processes and policies.

Mr Jaitley, while attending a special dinner on Friday night organised by Victorian politician Tim Pallas, called the Indo-Australian relations “evolving and growing” strongly.

“It’s not only sports where the relations are evolving but also in business, culture, politics, and strategic relationships, which all determine our future destinies,” Mr Jaitley said, adding that the two sides were natural allies.

He also raised the topic of free trade agreement which he said had passed the set deadline of last December while stating that “the more we cooperate, the more we coordinate, the better it is for both the countries as a win win situation”.

Greater Pacific Capital CEO Ketan Patel, who was accompanying the finance minister as a part of the FICCI delegation, said Mr Jaitley’s visit to Australia would galvanize the relationship of the two sides.

Mr Patel said the Australian investors were mainly worried about the history of India as a difficult destination to do business with.

Adani’s plan to build one of the world’s biggest coal mines in Australia has been hampered time and again. Melbourne: Adani’s controversy-hit $21.7-billion (Rs 1.4 lakh crore at $1 = Rs 66.26) coal mine project in Australia on Sunday won three mining leases, but the Indian mining giant said final decision on investment will be taken only after the conclusion of “politically-motivated” legal challenges against one of the world’s largest mines.

Queensland Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Anthony Lynham approved the individual lease grant for the 70441 Carmichael, 70505 Carmichael East and 70506 Carmichael North mines, which are estimated to contain 11 billion tonnes of thermal coal.

According to state Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, the approvals had undergone “extensive government and community scrutiny” and were a step towards securing jobs for region, with more than 5,000 jobs expected to be generated during construction and more than 4,000 during operation.

“I know the people of north and central Queensland will welcome this latest progress for the potential jobs and economic development it brings closer for their communities,” she said.

“Stringent conditions would continue to protect the environment, landholders’ and traditional owners’ interests and Great Barrier Reef,” she said.

Mr Lynham confirmed no dredging at Abbot Point would take place until Adani demonstrated financial closure.

Over 200 conditions apply to the project which, if it goes ahead, would be the largest coal mine in Australia.

“The mine’s environmental authority had about 140 conditions to protect local flora and fauna, groundwater and surface water resources, as well as controls on dust and noise,” Mr Lynham said, adding, “A further 99 stringent and wide-ranging conditions apply to the rail and port elements of the project.”

The project now has 19 permits and approvals at all three levels of government, including nine primary approvals from the state and federal government.

“A number of other steps have to be completed before mine construction can start,” Mr Lynham said.

“They include secondary approvals for rail, port facilities, power, water, road works and the airport and a financial assurance with the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.”

“The independent Coordinator-General will continue to work with Adani to progress the project,” he said.

Welcoming the latest approvals, Adani said, “The granting of a mining lease helps deliver the company certainty with respect to timelines, while moving to the next phase of the project, subject to the resolution of legal challenges by politically-motivated activists.”

“Adani has consistently said that what is required for its projects to proceed is certainty on approvals. This is key approval helps provide that with respect to Carmichael,” the company said in a statement.

“Concurrent with that, the company will continue to finalise second tier approvals, with the clear aim of commencing construction in calendar year 2017.”

“It is for this reason that conclusion of second tier approvals and resolution of politically-motivated legal challenges is the company’s principal focus, prior to a final investment decision being made,” it said.

Last week, the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on his official visit to Australia denied reports that the Adani project issue was on his agenda.

Sources said that during his meeting with Australian energy minister Josh Frydenberg last Friday, Mr Jaitley was informed that the federal government was fully in support for the Adani project in the state.

Meanwhile, the latest state government decision has been severely criticised by environmental activists.

According to Greenpeace Australia Pacific, the Queensland government’s approval of a mining lease while the Great Barrier Reef was suffering its worst bleaching in over a decade was indefensible.

The latest approvals have come after Adani secured final environmental approval and had reached an agreement on compensation with a landholder last month.

Adani’s plan to build one of the world’s biggest coal mines in Australia has been hampered time and again. A federal court in August last year had revoked the original approval due to environmental concerns.

In October last year, the project got a new lease of life after the Australian government gave its re-approval.

NEW DELHI:  Prime Minister Narendra Modi today held talks with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz on ways to expand strategic cooperation in a range of areas including trade, investment and counter-terrorism. He was accorded an official welcome at the Royal court.

  1. Prime Minister Narendra Modi held wide-ranging talks with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz on Sunday afternoon, the last day of his three-nation tour. The two sides agreed on cooperation in exchange of intelligence related to money laundering, related crimes and terrorism financing.
  2. India and Saudi Arabia will also coordinate with each other on counter-terrorism operations, intelligence sharing, cyber security (including prevention of use of cyber space for terrorism, radicalization and for disturbing social harmony).
  3. Earlier, PM Modi had met the country’s Health Minister and head of the country’s national oil company. “Minister Al Falih to PM: Saudi Aramco looks to India as its No.1 target for investment,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted.
  4. PM Modi began the second day of his visit to Saudi Arabia at the Tata Consultancy Services or TCS all-women IT Centre in Riyadh. “I am meeting those IT professionals who I can say today represent the glory of Saudi Arabia ,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the in his brief address after which he posed for photographs, many of them selfies, with the women IT professionals.
  5. “In human resources, women play a very important role…Building the capacity of women would lead to the development of any country,” PM Modi said. “This atmosphere I am witnessing here today has the potential to give a strong reply to the world,” he added.
  6. Yesterday, he had addressed the representatives of the three-million strong Indian community in the Saudi capital. “The reason for India’s growth is its political stability,” Mr Modi had said in his address.
  7. “India’s agriculture sector, manufacturing sector, services sector – India is progressing very strongly on all three fronts,” Mr Modi said at the interaction.
  8. The meeting with the Indian community had followed a visit to the Al Masmak fortress in Riyadh. The Prime Minister’s Office tweeted images of his visit to the fortress, labeling it “an evening with history.”
  9. An Indian Prime Minister is visiting the oil-rich Gulf kingdom after nearly six years. In 2010, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had visited Saudi Arabia.
  10. Mr Modi was received at the King Khalid International Airport yesterday by Governor of Riyadh, Prince Faisal Bin Bandar Al Saud. “Salaam Riyadh. PM @narendramodi arrives in Saudi Arabia to a ceremonial welcome, received by the Governor of Riyadh,” Foreign Affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup tweeted.

[“source-ndtv”]

Before his talks with the King, PM Modi was accorded an official welcome at the Royal Court.

RIYADH:  Seeking to inject new momentum in bilateral ties, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today held wide-ranging talks with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz on ways to expand strategic cooperation in a range of areas including trade, investment and counter-terrorism.

Energy-powerhouse Saudi Arabia is India’s largest crude oil supplier, accounting for about one-fifth of total imports and both sides were of the view that cooperation in this sector should expand.

Before his talks with the King, PM Modi, who arrived in Riyadh yesterday on a two-day visit, was accorded an official welcome at the Royal Court.

In the last seven months, it is PM Modi’s second visit to the Gulf, a strategically important region which is home to over 8 million Indians and key to India’s energy security. He had visited United Arab Emirates in August last year.

India’s ties with Saudi Arabia have been on an upswing over the last two decades based on burgeoning energy ties.

Both sides are keen on expanding the economic ties in a range of areas besides the oil sector.

Ahead of his talks with the King, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Aljubeir called on PM Modi and discussed a number of issues of mutual interests.

Khalid A Al Falih, Minister of Health and Head of Saudi Arabia’s national oil company Aramco also called on PM Modi. He told the Prime Minister that Aramco looks at India as its most preferred investment destination.

“Minister Al Falih to PM: Saudi Aramco looks to India as its No.1 target for investment,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted.

Earlier, PM Modi interacted with a group of 30 Saudi and Indian businessmen and invited CEOs of top companies of the oil-rich country to invest in India’s defence, energy, railway, health and agriculture sectors.

Stating that there is huge opportunity to ramp up trade ties, the Prime Minister said time has come to move from “buyer-seller relationship” to chart a new path of growth and development which will benefit people of both the countries.

“We have to look beyond the buyer-seller relationship. Because that will be an obstacle in the path of progress,” he said.

PM Modi is the fourth Indian Prime Minister to visit Saudi Arabia after Manmohan Singh in 2010, Indira Gandhi in 1982 and Jawaharlal Nehru in 1956.

His visit to Riyadh comes amid the current turmoil in the Middle East and the issue is understood to have figured in his meeting with the Saudi leadership.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited oil-rich Saudi Arabia’s top business tycoons to invest in India’s key sectors like defence, insurance, railway and oil.

RIYADH:  Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday invited oil-rich Saudi Arabia’s top business tycoons to invest in India’s key sectors like defence, insurance, railway and oil as he projected his country as an attractive investment destination even in the face of a global economic slowdown.

Saudi Arabia is planning to set up world’s largest sovereign wealth fund of over USD 2 trillion and India was eyeing a major investment from the country which is India’s fourth largest trading partner.

Listing policy initiatives taken by his government to boost economic growth, PM Modi said his government was looking for major investment in defence production, railways and deep sea off-shore oil exploration in coal gasification to produce clean energy.

The Prime Minister made the pitch while interacting with a group of 30 top Saudi CEOs and Indian business leaders at the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce here.

The Saudi business honchos, who attended the interaction, collectively account for a major share of the Saudi GDP.

Talking about his government’s initiative in “high temperature deep sea off shore exploration”, PM Modi invited Saudi investment in the sector which has been opened up for FDI from this month.

He said “most transparent” policy framework has been put in place and that market driven revenue sharing model will be adopted for such project.

The Prime Minister said India plans to build a staggering 50 million low cost housing, a mega project requiring huge investment which will create massive economic opportunities besides creating jobs.

“I want to give house to every poor Indian. I think every year a new Saudi Arabia has to be built in my country. That is a huge requirement,” he said.

PM Modi said railways and food processing sectors have been opened up for 100 per cent Foreign Direct Investment and that there is huge investment opportunity in building cold storage network as well as in manufacture of equipment for generation of solar power.

Pitching for Saudi investment in the defence sector, PM Modi said India’s biggest import bill after petroleum products is defence equipment and asserted that the government now is focusing on indigenous production.

“We are importing everything. Why not we develop defence equipment in India. Your investment can play a major role in this,” he said.

Mumbai: Blackstone Group is buying a majority stake in Indian IT outsourcing services provider Mphasis Ltd from Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co in a deal worth up to $1.1 billion, in the US asset manager’s single-biggest investment in India.

The all-cash deal reinforces Blackstone’s bullish outlook on the outsourcing business, where western clients send IT jobs to countries such as India to cut costs. In December, Blackstone announced the purchase of a minority stake in India’s IBS Software for $170 million.

Blackstone is betting that India’s IT industry will continue to grow in double digits as companies move to high-margin digital services to offset a cut-back in routine IT spending by clients, a senior executive at the firm said.

“The reason we have made a strong commitment to the Indian IT sector is because this is a sector which has delivered very strong returns to Blackstone and other PE investors in India,” said Amit Dixit, Blackstone’s senior managing director in India.

“This sector is also poised for good growth … and especially digital services, an area in which Mphasis is strong in,” he said on a conference call after the deal was announced.

India’s IT and software services export revenue is likely to grow by 10-12 per cent in the fiscal year beginning on April 1 to as much as $121 billion, according to trade body National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom).

In what is one of the biggest M&A transactions in the country’s outsourcing sector, Blackstone will pay Rs 430 ($6.49) per share for at least 84 per cent of HP Enterprise Co’s 60.5 per cent stake in Mphasis.

It also made an open offer to buy a 26 per cent stake in Mphasis from public shareholders for Rs 457.54 a share to comply with Indian laws.

Depending on the response to the open offer, HPE could get as much as $825 million for its complete stake, while the final cost to Blackstone of the transaction could be as much as Rs 7,071 crore ($1.1 billion). The deal is expected to close in the coming months, Blackstone said.

Shares in Mphasis, which have gained more than 11 per cent from the beginning of March till end of last week in anticipation of a deal, fell 2.9 per cent on Monday to close slightly below the open offer price at Rs 454.90 on the Mumbai markets.

‘Last big asset’

“This is a consolidating industry and Mphasis was the last big asset, you could see some more PE deals for smaller software companies in the sector going forward,” said Ravi Menon, an IT sector analyst at Elara Capital.

Sources had told Reuters Blackstone was the frontrunner in an auction run by HPE for its Mphasis stake. HPE had been looking to exit from the Indian venture to shore up its capital, the sources had said.

Analysts have said that Mphasis’ move away from HPE, which accounts for about a quarter of the Indian company’s revenue, could hurt its sales.

But Blackstone has ensured that HPE maintains its commercial partnership with Mphasis. The Indian company has signed a five-year revenue guarantee of at least $990 million through sales to HPE, the companies said.

The US asset manager is not alone in initiating outsourcing sector deals in India.

In February, Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte and private equity investors Advent International and Bain Capital jointly bought a minority stake in outsourcing firm QuEST Global Services for $350 million.

State-run MTNL is working on a plan to operate its mobile services business in Delhi and Mumbai in partnership with BSNL on a revenue sharing basis.

“We are having a very low market share in mobile services and not in a position to make capital investment. We are in discussions with BSNL that can invest in infrastructure and run our mobile business on a revenue share basis,” MTNL CMD N K Yadav told PTI in an interview.

As per latest Trai report, MTNL had 36.23 lakh mobile customers at the end of January 2016, accounting for 0.36 percent of total market share.

He said the company has not been able to place the mobile network expansion order for which NokiaNetworks was selected due to financial as well technical challenges.

Yadav further said it will have to depend on debt for expanding mobile network and the interest that it will pay on procurement will not be in sync with the income it will generate from the mobile business.

“BSNL has high negotiating power as their scale of operation is much larger compared to MTNL. A high level committee at DoT is evaluating the way we can work in sync with other. We are seeing if BSNL can operate MTNL mobile network on a revenue share basis,” Yadav said.

When contacted, BSNL Chairman and Managing Director Anupam Shrivastava said BSNL is ready to invest and work with MTNL and discussions in this context are going on.

Yadav said the spectrum payment of about Rs. 11,000 crores by MTNL in 2010 disturbed its balance sheet.

“Besides principle, it (spectrum payment) increased interest on debt raised by MTNL. We have huge interest which we have been trying to lower by cutting cost and focusing on area where we are strong like fixed line broadband,” Yadav said.

As per Trai report, MTNL is the third largest player with 13.79 percent market share in fixed-line connections.

MTNL is focusing on converting its landline only users to broadband users, which it expects will increase average revenue per user (ARPU), he said.

“Out of about 35 lakh landline customers we have, only 12 lakh are using broadband. We get ARPU of Rs. 200 from voice calls and ARPU of Rs. 500 from broadband. We are targeting to convert 60 percent of only telephone service users to come on broadband by December,” Yadav added.

[“source-ndtv”]

Raghuram Rajan has ensured that banks have to adjust their lending rates every month

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is embarking on an experiment to remove much of the discretion the country’s commercial banks have to set lending rates and force them to base borrowing costs on prevailing market rates.

The experiment carries risks, as India periodically suffers severe cash crunches. But the rewards should be lower costs for borrowers.

The RBI adopted the rules, effective from the April 1 start of a new fiscal year, after deep frustration that it cut its key repo rate by 125 basis points last year, but banks lowered lending rates by only about 60 basis points.

The RBI, keen to see monetary policy be effective, on Tuesday is expected to cut the repo rate another 25 basis points as India bids to revive investment and spur economic growth.

Under the new rules, banks will need to adjust their lending rates every month based on what they offer for new fixed-rate deposits, which track short-term market rates such as for treasury bills and certificates of deposit.

PERIODIC CRUNCHES 

A hurdle for the rules will be India’s periodic cash crunches. They usually come in March, when banks and the government tend to hoard cash at the end of the fiscal year, or October when a string of festivals see large cash withdrawals.

That means the RBI will also need to stay nimble in injecting funds, or suffer an ironic outcome: spikes in short-term market rates that force banks to raise their lending rates, regardless of how many rate cuts the central bank has delivered.

“This is a now-or-never time for monetary policy to address growth as well as liquidity concerns as we start the fiscal year,” said Soumya Kanti Ghosh, chief economic adviser with the country’s largest lender State Bank of India.

Already, State Bank of India, the country’s biggest lender, and other lenders have announced new rates under the “marginal cost based lending rate” (MCLR) rules unveiled by the RBI that are slightly lower than existing loans.

The rules are not popular with lenders, who fear they will see their margins hit and left at the mercy of volatile market rates.

“On one hand, they expect the banks to reduce rates. On the other hand there is so much tight liquidity. RBI needs to do something to address the liquidity,” said a treasurer with a state-owned bank.

REVERSING COURSE 

After months of denying there was a liquidity problem, Governor Raghuram Rajan has reversed course.

Since December, the central bank has injected Rs 72,000 crore in funds via open market bond purchases, more than the Rs 60,000 crore total put in during the previous two years.

The RBI is also expected to announce on Tuesday more technical measures, including making it easier for banks to pledge illiquid bonds with it in exchange for cash.

Economists say the RBI will need as well to provide more details about its planned injections, rather than its current ad hoc strategy of announcing bond purchases when liquidity has excessively tightened.

Bankers, including SBI, are also calling for the RBI to allow lenders to manage the estimated Rs 1.5 lakh crore in government cash balance currently held by the central bank.

“Having this clarity and flexibility will help in transmission far better than any forced approach to bring down banking lending rates by fiat,” said Ananth Narayan, the regional head of financial markets for ASEAN and South Asia at Standard Chartered Bank.

[“source-ndtv”]

NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said the notion that India is a very complex place to do business is changing. New Delhi: Indian industries need to play the role of wealth creators in the economy as the country cannot rely alone on foreign direct investment (FDI) for growth, NITI Aayog Chief Executive Officer Amitabh Kant said on Monday.

“The domestic industry needs to play the role of wealth creators in the economy and India cannot rely on FDI alone. Also, there is need to focus on export promotion,” Mr Kant said during an event on ‘Global Slowdown-Implications of the World’s fastest Growing Economy’ at the CII Annul Session 2016 on Monday.

On ease of doing business, Mr Kant said the notion that India is a very complex place to do business is changing.

“The mindset of the bureaucracy is changing and the focus has now shifted to outcome-based implementation of policies,” he said.

Speaking on the occasion, Bharti Enterprises chairman and former CII president Sunil Mittal said the present global situation is “a crisis of sorts” and India needs to take advantage of this crisis.

“The Indian government is undertaking reforms to make India more competitive globally,” he said.

He is of the view that while these reforms will take time to make a real impact, Indian industry must take advantage of the situation and step up investment.

The NITI Aayog CEO spoke about the challenge of sustaining growth rate at 9-10 per cent over the next three decades to eradicate poverty.

There is a need to “focus on disruptive technology” to promote this growth.

“By 2020, India will have 1 billion smartphone users. We should use that to be the biggest disruptor. There are huge amounts of vibrancy and creativity among young entrepreneurs and start-ups,” Mr Kant said.

Underlining the importance of role of women in India’s growth, Mr Kant added, “Women should contribute 40 per cent of GDP. Presently, it is 17 per cent.”

He singled out urbanisation as a key driver of economic growth and laid a premium on promoting total factor productivity (TFP) in India to boost growth.

The TFP level is determined by how efficiently and intensely inputs are utilised towards production.