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Tariffs still very low, pricing revival critical for telecom sector: Vodafone Idea Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla

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New Delhi: Telecom tariffs are “still very low” and pricing revival is critical for the long-term growth of the sector, Vodafone Idea Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla said on Wednesday. Addressing Vodafone Idea Ltd (VIL) shareholders at the company’s Annual General Meeting, Birla said the telecom industry had witnessed the first round of tariff hikes by all operators in December 2019.

“However, tariffs are still very low and therefore pricing revival is critical for the long-term growth of the sector,” he said.

The Average Revenue Per User (ARPUs) in the Indian market continue to remain the lowest in the world, while data consumption is among the highest globally.

“The verdict on the long-pending industry issue of Adjusted Gross Revenue or AGR also added to the financial woes of telecom operators… Efforts from the Government of India to soften the financial burden by recommending payment through instalments has now been upheld by the Supreme Court,” Birla said.

In a stock exchange filing, Vodafone Idea said multiple items – including resolutions seeking approval of borrowing powers of the company, alteration of Articles of Association, nod of issuance of securities of up to Rs 15,000 crore – as set out in its September 4 notice, were transacted at the AGM.

The results of the voting will be intimated separately, the filing said.

Earlier this month, the board of Vodafone Idea approved fund-raising plans of up to Rs 25,000 crore through a combination of equity and debt instruments, subject to shareholders’ nod.

The board’s move had come just days after Supreme Court directed telecom operators to pay 10 per cent of total Adjusted Gross Revenue-related dues this year, and rest of the payments in 10 instalments starting from next fiscal year.

The ambitious fund raising plans promise to throw a lifeline to cash-strapped Vodafone Idea, which has suffered massive losses, has been losing subscribers and ARPUs, and faces outstanding statutory dues of about Rs 50,000 crore.





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Karnataka govt okays Rs 4,636 cr upgradation of 150 ITIs in tie- up with Tata Technologies

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Bengaluru: The Karnataka cabinet on Thursday gave its approval for upgradation of 150 government-run industrial training institutes (ITIs) in the state at a cost of Rs 4,636.50 crore in partnership with Tata Technologies Limited, official sources said. The upgradation was being done to bridge the skill gap between ITIs and the industries as per current standards and keeping in mind the future demands, they said. In collaboration with Tata Technologies training will be revamped with the state-of-the-art infrastructure in order to bridge the skill gap and provide employment opportunities.

According to the sources, Tata Technologies Limited will invest Rs 4,080 crore on 150 ITIs, which is about Rs 27.20 crore on each institute, along with five years of free annual maintenance contract (AMC), making 300 trainers in two years and providing free online platform.

The government would contribute the remaining amount, they said. In addition, the Karnataka Skill Development Corporation will spend Rs 105 crore from its own funds to take up the building expansion, repair, furniture, additional electricity requirements and other related works.

Officials said the partnership was aimed at providing advanced training, new technology and equipment, and industrial linkage to create technology hubs to train people in line with the industrial requirements in the state and in other states.

Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler (KPMG) has been roped in as the knowledge partner for this for a period of 24 months at the expense of about Rs 5.18 crore.

There are a total of 1,713 ITIs in the state, out of them 270 are government, 196 aided and 1,247 private, with a total enrolment of about 1.8 lakh students.

Other decisions taken by the cabinet included extending the concession agreement with the Bangalore International Airport Ltd (BIAL) for 30 more years, officials said. a clause that allows BIAL to operate the HAL airport in the city has also been added.





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ATF price up 2%, kerosene rate cut by Rs 2.19/litre

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NEW DELHI: Jet fuel (ATF) price was hiked by almost 2 per cent on Thursday, while rate of kerosene sold through PDS was cut by Rs 2.19 per litre as oil firms synced rates in line with international cost.

The price of aviation turbine fuel (ATF) was raised by Rs 719.25 per kilolitre (kl), or 1.82 per cent, to Rs 40,211.78 per kl in the national capital, according to a price notification of state-owned fuel retailers.

Besides, the oil firms reduced the rate of kerosene sold through public distribution system (PDS) for cooking at poor households.

The price was cut from Rs 25.84 per litre in September to Rs 23.65 per litre in Mumbai, Indian Oil Corp (IOC) said in a statement.

No PDS kerosene is sold in Delhi since July 2016 after LPG and piped natural gas covered all of its residents.

A fall in international oil prices had led to elimination of subsidy on kerosene and domestic cooking gas (LPG) a few months back.

“Cumulative reduction in retail selling price (of kerosene) at Mumbai since February 16, 2020, has been Rs 12.73 per litre,” IOC said. “There was a corresponding reduction in other markets during this period.”

There has been no change in the selling price of domestic LPG in Delhi and other markets across India for the month of October 2020. A 14.2-kg cylinder comes for Rs 594.

IOC said retail selling price of diesel has been reduced by Rs 2.93 per litre and petrol by Rs 0.97 per litre in Delhi during September, in line with international rates.

There was a corresponding reduction in other markets during this period.

While petrol and diesel prices are revised on a daily basis in line with rates of benchmark fuel in the international market, PDS kerosene, LPG and ATF prices are revised on first of every month.

There has been no change in rate of petrol since September 22 and it costs Rs 81.06 per litre in Delhi. Diesel price has remained unchanged at Rs 70.63 per litre since September 29.





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alcohol: Any import duty cut on alcoholic beverages must be gradual: Industry body

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New Delhi: Apex body of the Indian alcoholic beverage industry, CIABC, on Thursday urged the government that any reduction in import duty in the sector should be gradual and in a controlled manner with a view to provide reasonable protection to domestic firms.

Proposing a bilateral free-trade agreement, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal last month stated that India is open to discussing import of scotch whiskey from the UK in a larger measure.

In a letter to the minister, the Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC) has urged the government not to “go ahead” with any proposal to reduce basic customs duty (BCD) on alcoholic beverages imported from the UK.

“India is considering reduction in the BCD on alcoholic beverages as part of its negotiation with the UK.

Any reduction in BCD must be gradual in a controlled manner in order to provide reasonable protection to Indian companies against predatory imports, give level-playing field against western firms, and help Indian products achieve global scale and success,” it said.

The Confederation added that not doing so will have a disastrous impact on the Indian industry and would lead to great loss to Indian farmers and cause massive unemployment.

Stressing that the Indian alcoholic industry was not against reduction in BCD, CIABC Director General Vinod Giri said that the industry is urging the government to ensure a level-playing field.

“Any reduction in BCD should be done in a phased manner to allow Indian companies time to prepare and build their own competitiveness,” he said.

He demanded that the duty should only be reduced to a level in line with average prevailing duties in ASEAN countries.

“To prevent dumping and predatory pricing against mainstream Indian products, products below a certain import price (threshold import price) should be taxed at the threshold import price rate only irrespective of actual import price,” the confederation said.

It said the European Union and the UK should be persuaded to cut non-tariff barriers imposed on Indian products.

“They should accept alcoholic products made in India… They should not insist on a minimum maturity period on Indian liquor products,” it added.

Giri said that when the industry is already going through a tough phase in view of COVID-19 pandemic, the government should avoid taking such decisions to cut duties which are detrimental to the growth of the industry.

“Indian industry needs support from the Government to help grow into a globally competitive force. We need protection against dumping and time to prepare itself against the unfair competitive structural advantages that large Western firms enjoy,” he said.

He also said the Indian industry’s attempts to create a global market for its brands are resisted by the same countries that seek easy access to the domestic market.

He alleged that many countries apply various non-tariff barriers to Indian made products.

“Like, the definition of whisky under EU regulations has been tailored to clearly exclude Indian products. Even suggestions to introduce a separate class called ‘Indian Whisky’ have not been accepted by them,” he said.





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