QBiz: Railways, Jio in Talks; RIL’s Petition in Aramco Deal

Here are the top business stories of the day.

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1. Railways in Talks with Reliance Jio on Tower Use

Indian Railways is in talks with Reliance Jio Infocomm to allow the Mukesh Ambani-led telecom major’s use of its towers. The aim is seamless mobile and internet connectivity for passengers along the 67,368-km of tracks.

The Railway Board has entrusted its RailTel Corporation arm to work on the modalities with Jio. The railways has around 900 towers across the country — a little over 500 under the traditional microwave system and 300-400 for mobile radio communication.

2. UltraTech Leads Race to Buy Emami Group’s Cement Business

UltraTech Cement Ltd, India’s largest producer of the building material, has emerged as the front-runner to buy the cement business of Emami Group in an all-cash deal worth Rs 6,500-7,000 crore, according to three people with direct knowledge of the discussions.

The sale of Emami Cement Ltd has entered the final binding bid round, with Ambuja Cements Ltd, part of the LafargeHolcim Group, as the only other contender, the people said on condition of anonymity.

(Source: Mint)

3. RIL Mounts Counter to Govt Petition Seeking to Block Its $15 Billion Aramco Deal

Reliance Industries (RIL) has mounted a strong counter to the government petition in the Delhi High Court (HC) seeking to block its $15-billion deal with Saudi Aramco, saying the petition is an abuse of process as no arbitration award has fixed any final liability of dues on the company.

In a counter affidavit, RIL said it was a ‘falsehood’ that the arbitration tribunal had passed an award requiring the company and its partners to pay $3.5 billion to the government.

4. IndiGo May Have to Replace More Engines as Govt Intensifies Scrutiny

The government has stepped up scrutiny of engines on Airbus SE’s A320neo jets, forcing the country’s biggest airline, IndiGo, to have to replace more than previously estimated, a move that could further delay the budget carrier’s expansion plans.

A “more intense boroscopic examination” of engines manufactured by Pratt & Whitney has identified more engines at risk of shutting down in midair, Arun Kumar, the head of India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation, told Bloomberg News on Sunday.

Out of roughly 200 engines in use, IndiGo will now have to replace at least 130. India’s Aviation Minister, Hardeep Singh Puri, had earlier put the figure at 110.

5. RBI’s Operation Twist May Aid Govt’s Borrowing Plan

The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI’s) simultaneous sale and purchase of government bonds, on the lines of the US Federal Reserve’s Operation Twist, is expected to dampen term premium to stimulate private sector borrowing, as well as aid the government’s borrowing programme by making it cheaper, experts said.

The central bank announced on 19 December that it will conduct simultaneous sale and purchase of Rs 10,000 crore of government securities of varying tenor on 23 December.

(Source: Mint)

6. DoT Seeks Rs 1.72 Trillion in Past Statutory Dues from GAIL After SC Ruling

The Department of Telecommunications has sought Rs 1.72 trillion in past statutory dues from state-owned gas utility GAIL India Ltd following the Supreme Court's ruling on revenues that need to be taken into consideration for payment of government dues.

Sources with direct knowledge of the development said DoT sent a letter to GAIL last month seeking Rs 1,72,655 crore in dues on IP-1 and IP-2 licences as well as Internet Service Provider (ISP) licence.

7. Reliance-BP Petrol Pumps to Dent PSU Market Share: Report

India’s biggest company Reliance Industries Ltd and UK’s BP plc formalising plans to set up petrol pumps under Jio-BP brand will impact market share of state-owned fuel retailers, Morgan Stanley said in a research report.

Reliance and BP last week announced further details of their retail fuel partnership, in which the British firm has taken 49 per cent stake for $1 billion.

The tie-up will see RIL’s 1,400 existing pump stations being ramped up to 5,500 over five years. It also will increase the lucrative aviation fuel stations from 30 to 45.

8. No GST Rate Hike in Near Future, Rate Tweaks Only Once a Year: Bihar FM

There would be no hike in Goods and Services Tax (GST) rates or any merger of tax slabs in the near future amid the ongoing economic slowdown, Bihar’s Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister Sushil Kumar Modi said Saturday.

The GST Council in its last meeting has decided to tweak rates only once a year, he said, adding that more measures to boost compliance such as new returns system, Aadhaar authentication of GST registrants would be undertaken in the coming days.

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