QBiz: COVID19 Shakes Biz Across Globe; Jio, Airtel Pay AGR Dues

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1. Central Banks on Offensive Fed Cuts Rate, Others may Follow

The US Federal Reserve slashed its policy rate by 50 basis points to help inoculate the global economy against a slowdown caused by the Covid-19 outbreak that continues to spread across the world.

The cut raised expectations of similar moves by global central banks for the first time since they coordinated to tackle the 2008 financial crisis. Malaysia and Australia have already cut rates while central banks in Britain, Japan and France have signalled willingness to ease policy measures.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had said earlier on Tuesday, 4 March, that it stood ready to safeguard the country’s banking system from financial and market risks stemming from the spread of Covid-19, citing expectations of “coordinated policy action” by central banks.

2. Taxpayers Nudged to Opt for Vivaad Se Vishwas

The income tax department is asking companies and individuals engaged in tax disputes to settle cases under the Vivaad Se Vishwas scheme even though the relevant law is yet to be passed by Parliament.

Tax experts said that the department is pushing taxpayers, including those based overseas, to settle but the government maintains that it’s only “encouraging” them to do so.

“It is seen from records that (there is) litigation pending between you and the department,” reads one such letter, a copy of which ET has seen. It asks the company concerned to contact the relevant officers in case it’s interested in availing of the scheme.

(Source: The Economic Times)

3. Life Insurance Companies May Sell Indemnity-Based Health Plans Again

Four years after it banned life insurance companies from selling indemnity-based health insurance policies, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (Irdai) has now formed a nine-member panel to study the feasibility of allowing life insurers to offer such policies once again.

The regulator had received representations from life insurance companies to allow them to offer indemnity products as well. The Irdai’s panel will be headed by G Srinivasan, director of National Insurance Academy. The panel will submit its recommendations within two months.

(Source: The Financial Express)

4. Maharashtra Sugar Mills to Now Sign Separate Agreement with Farmers for Cane Registrations

Sugar factories in Maharashtra will now have to sign separate agreements with farmers for cane registrations, cane supply and Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) payments to the growers from the next sugar season (SS) of 2020-21, according to a new notification issued by the Maharashtra Sugar Commissioner.

Earlier factories would sign a single agreement with farmers that contained details on the cane variety, amount of cane supply and the FRP to be paid in instalments to farmers.

When this issue alarmed the sugar commissionerate, sugar commissioner Saurabh Rao issued a notification which clearly mentions that a separate agreement will have to be signed between the buyer (sugar mill) and the cane seller (farmer).

(Source: The Financial Express)

5.Spectrum Dues: RJio Shells Out ₹1,053 Cr, Vodafone ₹3,043 cr

Bharti Airtel has made a payment of Rs1,950 crore to the Telecom Department towards its deferred spectrum dues, while Reliance Jio has paid Rs 1,053 crore, sources said on Tuesday, 4 March.

Deferred spectrum dues are essentially instalments that are paid by telcos for airwaves bought in past auctions and are separate from their AGR (Adjusted Gross Revenue) liabilities.

Vodafone Idea, too, paid about Rs 3,043 crore towards deferred spectrum dues, according to the sources. VIL’s payment, in particular, assumes significance as the company has been under tremendous financial pressure and is confronted with AGR liabilities of over Rs 53,000 crore.

(Source: The Hindu Businessline)

6. Personal Data Protection Bill: Compliance Costs to Rise for India Inc

The Personal Data Protection Bill 2019, currently being analysed by a joint parliamentary committee, would require companies operating in India to make various operational and structural changes for compliance once the provisions of the proposed law come into effect.

For example, the data localisation requirements of the Bill from a purely financial viewpoint are bound to negatively impact businesses. It could drive up costs both for international and Indian players alike, while harming the privacy of users, according to Udbhav Tiwari, Public Policy Advisor at Mozilla.

(Source: The Hindu BusinessLine)

7. Vistara Weighs London, Frankfurt, Paris for its First Long-Haul Flight

The outbreak of Covid-19 has led to a change in plans at Vistara for its first long-haul international flight, said a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

The airline, run by Tata SIA Airlines Ltd, was considering Tokyo among potential cities for its first long-haul destination. Instead, it is currently evaluating London, Paris and Frankfurt, the person said requesting anonymity.

“Vistara will consider flying to Japan once the situation improves,” the person said. The airline, a joint venture between Tata Sons Ltd and Singapore Airlines, is hopeful that the fast-spreading Covid-19 epidemic would subside in the summer, the person added.

(Source: Livemint)

8. Air India Selloff: NRI Holding May Not be Part of 49% Cap

The government is likely to clarify that NRI ownership of Air India (AI) will not be considered, while calculating the upper limit of 49 percent foreign holding for meeting the binding substantial ownership and effective control (SOEC) norm.

Sources said this clarification will be given to remove any doubts on the issue and pave the way for effective divestment of the debt-laden Maharaja in the second attempt. If not sold this time, AI could face closure, the government had warned.

A couple of big UK-based NRI business families have long been keen to operate an airline in India and had even looked at the now-grounded Jet Airways.

(Source: The Times of India)

9. Work From Home: The Bug Fix by Technology Firms

On Tuesday, 4 March morning, Intel India issued an extensive email advisory to its employees in Bengaluru mentioning travel restrictions, selective home quarantine, guidance to attend large gatherings and even handling packages.

Intel’s pandemic leadership team and emergency operations centre teams are monitoring the situation closely, the tech giant said in the email, adding it has begun screening visitors, delivery people and new contingent workers arriving at all its sites.

“Security personnel will now ask visitors, delivery people and new contingent workers about recent travel to areas impacted by Intel’s travel restrictions and potential exposure to Covid-19,” informed an employee who received the email, requesting not to be named.

(Source: Hindustan Times)

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