QBiz: RBI Eases ECB Norms; Microsoft’s Big AI Push in India

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Reserve Bank of India (RBI). 
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1. RBI Eases ECB Norms, Lifts Sector-Wise Limits

To further improve the ease of doing business in India, the Reserve Bank of India has drawn up a new external commercial borrowing (ECB) framework allowing all eligible borrowers to raise up to $750 million per financial year under the automatic route, replacing the existing sector-wise limits.

The central bank has also expanded the list of eligible borrowers and recognised lenders.

To curb volatility in the forex market arising out of dollar demand for crude oil purchases, the framework provides a special dispensation to public sector oil marketing companies.

(Source: The Hindu Business Line)

2. From 2020, Pre-Filled I-T Returns, Refunds in a Day

You could get a pre-filled tax returns form from next year and hope for a refund in a day with the Cabinet on Wednesday, 16 January, clearing an ambitious Rs 4,242-crore project for integrated e-filing and centralised processing.

The project will reduce the return processing and refund time from the current average of 63 days, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said.

The government is building an incentive for the service provider to process refunds in a day and there will be a penalty in case the work is not completed within 30 days, sources in the tax department said.

(Source: The Times of India)

3. FM Arun Jaitley Likely to Return on 25 Jan; Budget on Schedule: Officials

Amidst reports that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley may not present the 2019-20 interim Budget, it is learnt he will tentatively be back in India around Republic Day and officials maintain that he will present the speech in Parliament on 1 February.

A news website had reported on Wednesday morning, 16 January, that Jaitley may not present the interim Budget as he will likely undergo surgery in the US for treatment of soft tissue cancer in his thigh, a type of tumour which can metastasize to other parts of the body quickly.

(Source: Business Standard)

4. SBI Puts Loan Exposure to Essar Steel on the Block

The State Bank of India (SBI) on Wednesday, 16 January, put on sale its Rs 15,431 crore exposure to Essar Steel Ltd, as last-minute litigations continue to delay the recovery of its loans to the steelmaker. The bank has set the aggregate reserve price for the full-cash sale at Rs 9,588 crore.

In a notice on its website, SBI said its exposure to Essar Steel includes categories such as working capital, term loan, corporate loan, export performance bank guarantee and standby letter of credit.

The bank said the loans may be assigned in whole or in part to buyers and all the security in relation to that will be transferred and shared pari passu to the extent of the amount sold.

(Source: Livemint)

5. Microsoft Plans Big AI Push in India

Microsoft aims to skill five lakh youth, which includes 10,000 developers in artificial intelligence (AI) and set up labs in 10 universities, as it seeks to broaden its AI push in India.

The Redmond-based technology giant is working with stakeholders across public and private sectors, civil society and academia in the country to create the right conditions for human-focused AI. Microsoft is attempting to do this with government and private companies, around 700 in number at present.

Meetul Patel, COO, Microsoft India said India is at a tipping point in AI. “The growth of start-ups in this segment, coupled with availability of technology and talent, will help India to compete in the future.”

(Source: The Hindu Business Line)

6. Netflix, Hotstar to Start Censoring Content in India

Netflix Inc. and home-grown rival Hotstar plan to adopt self-regulation guidelines for content streamed on their platforms in India in an effort to prevent potential government censorship, people familiar with the matter said.

A draft of an unofficial code that will be adopted by Netflix, Hotstar and other local players, said that the platforms would prohibit content that shows a child “engaged in real or simulated sexual activities”, is disrespectful of India’s national flag or encourages “terrorism”.

(Source: Reuters)

7. SBI-Led Consortium of Lenders Likely to Bag Biggest Stake in Jet Airways

Even as the talks between Jet Airways and its lenders are learnt to have reached a stage of finality, the Naresh Goyal-led company issued an official statement to scotch any speculation around its foreign partner Etihad offering to raise its stake at a steep discount.

The statement, which came after the airline stock fell 7.95 percent, closing at Rs 271 on the BSE, confirmed that the resolution plan was considering various options on the debt-equity mix, proportion of equity infusion by stakeholders and the consequent change in the composition of the company’s board of directors.

At this stage of negotiation, it looks like the SBI-led consortium will hold around 40 percent, while Etihad’s stake could go up by 2 to 3 percent, an executive of a bank with exposure to Jet Airways said.

(Source: Business Standard)

8. Flipkart Invests $201 Million in Indian Wholesale Unit

Flipkart’s Singapore-incorporated parent has infused Rs 1,431 crore ($201 million) into its wholesale entity in India amid an intensifying and costly battle for market share with Amazon.com Inc.

The latest fund infusion from parent Flipkart Pvt. Ltd was approved in December.

The fresh outlay by Flipkart comes as the Walmart-owned company seeks to fight off the challenge from Amazon to keep its leadership of India’s growing Rs 18 billion- online retail market, and a regulatory tussle with the government, which has issued new foreign direct investment rules for e-commerce firms that threaten to upend the online retail industry.

(Source: Livemint)

9. Relief for Start-ups; New Procedure Put in Place for ‘Angel Tax’ Exemption

The Modi-led government on Wednesday, 16 January, came out with a new procedure for ‘angel tax’ exemption, bringing relief to the harried ‘start-ups’ in the country and providing the much-needed impetus to the start-up ecosystem.

Under the new procedure, issued by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), start-ups that have already issued or propose to issue shares (so that paid-up capital and premium after the proposed issue of shares) that do not exceed Rs 10 crore will have to make application to the DIPP in a new form (Form-2).

The DIPP will transmit the application of the recognised start-up to the CBDT, which will have 45 days to grant ‘angel tax’ exemption or reject the application.

(Source: The Hindu Business Line)

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