QBiz: FM Offers Relief Measures Amid COVID-19; Bond Market Freezes

Catch all the top business headlines here.  

5 min read
FM Nirmala Sitharaman. 

1. Coronavirus Impact: FM Offers Relief Measures, Says Bigger Steps to Follow

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday extended the deadline for filing tax returns by three months beyond 31 March. She also announced a slew of regulatory and compliance measures across sectors to alleviate the hardships being faced by various businesses. This comes as the country enters into an unprecedented lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The finance minister also announced removal of charges for three months for debit card holders withdrawing cash from ATMs of other banks and waived the minimum balance fees.

The mandatory requirement of holding meetings of the board of the companies was extended by 60 days till the next two quarters, while applicability of Companies (Auditor’s Report) Order, 2020, has been deferred by a year.

(Source: Business Standard)

2. Bond Market Freezes Amid Coronavirus Scare; Traders Working From Home

India’s bond market saw no trading in the first 30 minutes on Tuesday, as traders worked from home amid expectations of an imminent rate cut.

The volume in the anonymous trading platform, NDS-OM, was Rs 7,210 crore — less than half the normal volume, but not as bad as the start of the day indicated. The trading volume picked up in the latter part of the day as the finance minister held a video-conference on steps to be taken to fight the economic slowdown. Besides, a Rs 15,000 crore purchase of bonds from the secondary market by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) helped lift the sentiment.

The benchmark 10-year bond saw trading volume of Rs 1,325 crore, and was the most traded one.

(Source: Business Standard)


3. Coronavirus Impact: Telcos Face a Big Challenge to Keep India Inc Connected

Telecom companies are dealing with an unprecedented challenge, other than COVID-19 – of providing seamless internet services for a smoother work-from-home for India Inc. In a bid to do this at the available capacity, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have said they are doing everything to keep the situation under control. Companies have activated a comprehensive pandemic response plan with requisite risk mitigation protocols for keeping networks working as telecom is an essential service.

It is learnt that Airtel has a full-fledged contingency plan in place to deal with any event. This includes quarantining any of the company’s critical network operating centres and call centres, among others.

The company has enabled each location to operate in a distributed as well as virtual way.

(Source: Business Standard)


4. COVID-19 Cloud Hangs Over BS-VI Gear Shift as 31 March Deadline Looms

India’s transition to more stringent automobile emission norms from 1 April has been clouded by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, but any decision to extend the deadline can only come from the Supreme Court.

A senior government official told Business Standard that the government would consider an extension only on the apex court’s directions.

Federation of Automobile Dealers’ Association (Fada) and a couple of two-wheeler manufacturers — including market leader, Hero MotoCorp, and Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India — had last week petitioned the court seeking an extension of the deadline for shifting to the Bharat Stage (BS)-VI emission norms in the wake of COVID-19, as automobile companies could not sell BS-IV inventory in March. The matter has so far not been listed for hearing.

(Source: Business Standard)


5. Coronavirus Impact: Delivery for E-Commerce Firms Comes to a Grinding Halt

The Indian e-commerce sector has come to a near standstill across the country, hurting the supply of essential commodities, amid lockdowns in several states and cities to prevent the spread of coronavirus, according to industry executives.

They said there is a lot of police action on the ground and even inter-state movement has been stopped, because of which deliveries of essential items via platforms, such as Flipkart, Amazon, Grofers, and Milkbasket, aren't happening. Food-delivery firms — Swiggy and Zomato -- are facing similar challenges, according to the sources.

(Source: Business Standard)


6. Food Prices Set to Rise Amid Transport Curbs to Contain Pandemic

Urban India is staring at a possible spike in food prices and scarcity of fruits and vegetables in the coming days, as transport curbs and pandemic fears open up a wide chasm between the farm and the fork.

Major crop-growing states like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh have imposed lockdowns or curfews in a desperate attempt to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Inter-state goods transport is at risk as well, as truck drivers are harassed at borders, and casual labourers who sort, grade and load harvests are in short supply. So, while consumers in towns and cities may shell out more and fresh produce turns scarce, farmers will have to dump their perishables or leave the crop to rot in the fields. If mandis (rural markets) shutter across producer states, the moderate price rise seen so far, driven by panic purchases, could spike.

(Source: Livemint)


7. Reliance to Pay Twice to Those Employees Who Earn Below Rs 30,000

Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) announced a slew of measures to fight against deadly coronavirus infection spread across the country. Those who earn below Rs 30,000 per month, will get their salaries twice a month in the wake of coronavirus outbreak.

"For those earning below Rs 30,000 per month, salaries will be paid twice a month to protect their cashflow and mitigate any overwhelming financial burden," Mukesh Ambani led Reliance Industries said in a statement.

"RIL has deployed the combined strengths of Reliance Foundation, Reliance Retail, Jio, Reliance Life Sciences, Reliance Industries, and all the 6,00,000 members of the Reliance Family on this action plan against COVID-19," the company said.

(Source: Livemint)


8. Rupee Rises Against US Dollar, a Day After Hitting Record Low

The rupee today gained against the US dollar today amid a broad weakening of the greenback after US Federal Reserve announced another round of stimulus measures to cushion the impact of coronavirus on American economy.

Other Asian currencies were also higher against the US dollar today. The rupee rose to 75.93 per US dollar at day's high, as compared to previous close of 76.29. The rupee had hit a record low of 76.32 against the US dollar in the previous session.

(Source: Livemint)


9. Government Tells States to Ensure Bank, ATM Firm Employees Can Work Freely

The Department of Financial Services has asked states to ensure that bank, cash management and automated-teller-machine operator employees are allowed to work without any hindrance despite the lockdown imposed to check the spread of novel coronavirus.

As of Tuesday evening, around 519 cases of the Covid-19 were confirmed in the country, according to the Health Ministry.

In a 24 March letter to the chief secretaries of all states and union territories, the finance ministry asked that the state administrations and police to permit employees of these industries to travel during the lockdown to ensure these critical services continue running. BloombergQuint has reviewed a copy of the letter.

(Source: BloombergQuint)

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