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Upfront

News that you may have missed last fortnight
     Print Edition: Feb 16, 2014

Emerging-market economies will feel some impact from the US Federal Reserve's winding down of its stimulus but India is better prepared than last year to deal with it, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Other panelists at the discussion were Nikesh Arora, Chief Business Officer at Google Inc.; Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman of Bharti Airtel; Jeremy Bennett, CEO for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Nomura Holdings Inc.; and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.

CORPORATE
Domestic airlines have slashed fares by as much as 50 per cent on advance bookings as peak travel season draws to a close. SpiceJet was the first off the blocks, with IndiGo, GoAir, Air India announcing similar fares in quick succession. The discounted tickets are valid until April 15.

Ranbaxy Laboratories suffered a fresh setback as the US Food and Drug Administration banned drug imports from the company's Toansa factory citing manufacturing violations. Last year, the company pleaded guilty to felony charges relating to manufacture and distribution of adulterated drugs made at two factories and agreed to pay $500 million to settle charges.

- The richest 85 individuals hold wealth equivalent to that owned by the bottom half of the world's population, according to a report titled 'Working For the Few' by international development organisation Oxfam. Since the late 1970s, tax rates for the richest have fallen in 29 of the 30 countries for which data are available.

- Tata Motors has launched its first indigenously developed petrol engine Revotron for passenger vehicles. The company, which commands 9-10 per cent market share in the diesel segment, aims to make a strategic shift to a complete portfolio with the four-cylinder engine sporting multi-point fuel-injection technology.

Arogyaswami Paulraj, Professor Emeritus at Stanford University, has become the first Indian to bag the Marconi Society Prize, considered an equivalent to the Nobel prize for the technology sector, Paulraj, who served 25 years in the navy,  is credited with developing wireless technology used in Wi-Fi and fourth-generation (4G) mobile systems.

China's economy grew 7.7 per cent in 2013, matching the previous year's pace, amid painful reform measures taken to avoid defaults on huge debts. This is the first economic data of the government that assumed power last March under the leadership of Xi Jinping in a once-in-a-decade political transition in
the communist nation.

ECONOMY

The worst is over for India's economy, with gross domestic product likely to expand 5 per cent to 5.5 per cent this year and more than 6 per cent in 2015, according to Moody's Analytics. Concerns over the rupee and current account deficit are under control, said the agency. Ratings firm Crisil has forecast 6 per cent growth for 2014/15, up from the estimated 4.8 per cent for 2013/14.

Tepid economic growth, infrastructure bottlenecks, and lack of transparency and consistency in foreign direct investment policies seem to have taken a toll on India's attractiveness as an investment destination, says an Ernst & Young survey. Projects with FDI component fell 16.4 per cent across the globe in 2012 from the previous year. The drop in India was steeper at 21 per cent.

State-run carrier Air India is doling out free tickets to its 24,000 employees, even as it expects to incur a loss of Rs 3,900 crore this financial year and has a debt burden of Rs 35,000 crore. Functional directors and joint managing directors are entitled to get 24 free tickets each year while deputy general managers and above get 20 passages. Assistant general managers and senior AGMs with less than 20 years of service can avail 12 such tickets and those above 20 years can get 16. Half of these tickets can be used for global  travel.

550,000 The number of jobs generated across India  in 2013, a fall of 0.4 per cent as compared with a year earlier. The National Capital Region has a one-fourth share in total jobs created, according to a study by industry lobby group Assocham.  Banks, real estate, automobile and telecommunications sectors are showing a rise in job creation.

$805 mn Investments by venture capital firms in India during 2013, registering a drop of about 18 per cent over the previous year. The Information Technology and IT-Enabled Services industry retained its status as the favourite among venture capital investors in 2013.

MARKETS
Pakistan has temporarily banned gold imports for the second time in six months, as it tries to stem smuggling into India. India's import duty on gold is 10 per cent and curbs on purchases have dried up legal imports into what used to be the world's biggest bullion buyer. The World Gold Council puts the amount smuggled into India  at up to 200 tonnes in 2013.

The Reserve Bank of India  (RBI) has proposed that unclaimed bank deposits, estimated to be about Rs 3,500 crore, be used for education and awareness among depositors. According to the plan, deposits that have not been claimed for at least 10 years will be transferred to the scheme.

COMING UP
The government is planning to offer four of the proposed 10 coal blocks to be auctioned in the first lot through competitive bidding to the power sector. It is yet to finalise the sectors to which the other six blocks would be offered in the first tranche. The road map for the auction is set to be ready in a month.

The RBI has set up an expert panel to review the governance of bank boards. The panel, chaired by former chairman and CEO of Axis Bank, P.J. Nayak, will submit its report within three months after its first meeting.


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