New Delhi, Jan 15 (IANS) The Centre is likely to intimate the qualified bidders for national carrier Air India by the end of the month, as the evaluation of the expressions of interest (EoI) is still underway, official sources said. The government was to intimate the bidders by January 5.
People in the know of the developments said that the transaction advisors are in touch with the interested bidders regarding several queries and the qualified bidders will be intimated only after the government is satisfied with the responses from the bidders.
The second phase of the strategic disinvestment of Air India was scheduled to start on January 5 with the announcement of the names of the qualified bidders. Tata Sons and the New York-based Interups Inc backed by strategic NRI investors from the US and Europe are said to be the interested bidders for the national carrier.
DIPAM Secretary Tuhin Kanta Pandey had earlier said that the government has received multiple expressions of interest for the strategic disinvestment of Air India. The process has been divided into two stages. In stage I, expressions of interest have been submitted by the interested bidders and they will be shortlisted based on the eligibility criteria and other terms mentioned in the Preliminary Information Memorandum (PIM).
In stage II, the shortlisted interested bidders will be provided with a request for proposal (RFP) and thereafter there will be a transparent bidding process.
In view of the prevailing situation arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic, the last date for submission of EOIs was extended up to December 14, 2020.
The privatisation of the flag-bearer has already faced several hurdles with initial lack of interest for the airline.
Last month, the Ministry of Civil Aviation had said that in view of the post-Covid situation and the severe impact on the aviation sector, the government has considered various options related to disinvestment, including bidding parameters in the PIM, while meetings have been held regularly of the inter-ministerial group and the core group of secretaries on disinvestment to review the disinvestment process.
The interested bidders were asked to indicate their interest on the enterprise value of Air India.
The PIM for inviting EoI issued on January 27, 2020 had offered 100 per cent sale of equity share capital of Air India Ltd (AIL), sale of AIL's 100 per cent shareholding in the Air India Express Ltd (AIXL) and sale of 50 per cent shareholding in Air India Airport Services Private Ltd (AISATS).
Even as China featured among the few countries that managed to post a healthy growth in 2020 notwithstanding the severe economic and health impact of the coronavirus pandemic, several economists have questioned the veracity of the data. While the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected a 7.9 per cent growth for China in 2021, it said that the dragon must allow its overburdened lenders to be liquidated for economic growth to be sustained in the medium term, the Nikkei Asia reported.
The opaque nature of information flow from the country has added to the worry for think tanks and ratings agencies across the world.
Spanish economist Daniel Lacalle in his blog, about two months ago, said that China's is a "planned GDP" and that the growth is not demand driven but is pushed by a tactfully expanded government expenditure.
"A planned GDP. The GDP of China is dictated by production, not demand. It is not an observed GDP, but rather planned by the government together with the provinces. For this reason, many analysts scrutinize the data and deduct various factors, including the increase and valuation of inventories," Lacalle pointed out in his blog.
However, he also noted that economic recovery is underway but "it is not dissimilar to that of many of the leading Asian countries".
"It is not by chance that inventories of iron ore, automobiles and finished goods have risen to the highest level in seven months as the economy recovers. If the economic situation were in the announced expansion, inventories would be falling rapidly when sold. Much is produced that is then not sold and remains in warehouses," Lacalle added.
Interestingly, China also does not follow the practice of revising GDP figures. The final December figure "stands and is consolidated without question".
China's rising debt problem
As China has been expanding its hold over the world through the much hyped Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which runs across over 70 countries, its debt is rising continuously.
The Washington-based Institute of International Finance (IIF) last year said that China's debt was on track to hit a whopping 335 per cent of GDP. This however included debt across all sectors such as household, government, financial and non-financial corporate.
The country's overall level of debt is driven primarily by real estate, corporates and shadow banking.
Deftly, China has kept direct borrowings by the central government at a reasonable level but the accounts of the local governments and its companies and banks are mired in a web which is difficult to analyze.
The Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt, in a study done before the Covid-19 outbreak highlighted that China's overall debt calculation is complicated though "research has been able to estimate central government debt with precision".
What makes it murky is the accounts of the local governments and state owned enterprises. "The central government is not over-leveraged and benefits from ample foreign currency reserves. But regional governments have expanded unsafe financial operations since 2007, and often resort to off-the-counter loans or shadow banking.
Analysts said that while the Chinese government had started the exercise of cleaning up the mess, the pandemic has derailed the drive.
"While China's lending traditionally comes from the major state-controlled banks, there has been a gradual shift towards less transparent alternative lending sources that can produce high-risk loans and contribute to China's debt woes. This lending is at times done through smaller local and provincial banks that sell lightly regulated investments," wrote ChinaPower.
The Harvard Business Review in an article pointed out that China has turned into a major global lender in the last two decades with outstanding claims exceeding more than 5 per cent of global GDP. Almost all of this lending is official, coming from the government and state-controlled entities.
According to the HBR, "China has extended many more loans to developing countries than previously known" and the "systematic under-reporting of these loans has created a ‘hidden debt' problem – meaning that debtor countries and international institutions alike have an incomplete picture on how much countries around the world owe to China and under which conditions".
It said that the Chinese state and its subsidiaries have lent about $1.5 trillion in direct loans and trade credits to more than 150 countries around the globe, making China the world's largest official creditor.
However, the country has never published any official data on this despite the huge lending size.
Surprisingly, China is not a member of the Paris Club, an informal group of creditor nations with the aim to strike workable repayment solutions. Not just that. The country is also not part of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Both Paris Club and the OECD maintain loan records of official creditors.
China's financial assistance is directed in the form of trade credits, foreign direct investment advances under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) besides direct loans. An analyst on condition of anonymity said that China's immediate problem emerges from the fact that most of the countries that have benefited from the dragon's loans have been "badly hit" by the coronavirus pandemic and are in no position to repay the debt.
(This content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)
Netflix is reportedly testing support for spatial audio for users of AirPods Max and AirPods Pro.
Citing an anonymous Netflix employee, French news website iPhoneSoft says that Netflix has been testing support for the audio feature across iPhone and iPad since the end of last year and may launch the feature with a "small catalog" in the spring.
Currently, only Netflix's highest-end Premium tier supports Dolby Atmos surround sound and it is expected that the streaming giant may also limit Spatial Audio to the Premium subscribers only.
Spatial audio is available to AirPods Max and AirPods Pro users who are running an iPhone with iOS 14 or later or an iPad with iPadOS 14 or later.
According to Apple, "Spatial audio comes with dynamic head tracking which brings a theater-like sound that surrounds you from the movie or video you're watching so that it seems as if the sound is coming from all around you. The sound field stays mapped to the device, and the voice stays with the actor or action on the screen."
Strong demand and prices for steel in China should provide a cushion to regional and Indian steel prices already at lifetime high levels, Motilal Oswal Institutional Equities said in a report on Friday.
"China's domestic steel prices remain strong and are at nine-year highs (led by robust overall demand and higher raw material cost locally) which we believe should provide a cushion to regional and Indian steel prices (at lifetime highs)," the brokerage said in its report on the steel sector.
Steel prices have already touched all-time high in the domestic market and are currently hovering around Rs 57,250 per tonne. Through Q3, HRC (hot roller coils) and Primary rebar prices increased by Rs 12,000 per tonne and Rs 15,500 per tonne respectively.
On average, per-tonne HRC/Rebar prices were up by Rs 6,500/Rs7,200.
Higher prices have also been supported by increase in Iron ore prices, which on an average, rose by Rs 1,270 per tonne in Q3, driven by strong steel production and also iron ore shortage after the auction of 19 mines in Odisha which did not match up the production rates prior to the auction.
But one of the reason for an upturn in the steel sector is rising demand in China. The country's December 2020 trade data exhibits a normalization of the steel trade as net steel exports turned positive YoY for the first time since the onset of the pandemic. While the country's steel exports rose marginally YoY for the first time in eight months, imports (which had surged 100 per cent due to supply disruption in China) also declined YoY for the first time in ten months.
According to the brokerage, demand for flat steel remains strong, with passenger car sales up 7 per cent YoY.
"We believe demand for long steel has however moderated, possibly weighed by weakened construction activity due to weather conditions and the resurgence of Covid-19 cases in parts of the country," the report said.
Amid the debate over privacy concerns, several people are switching to Telgram and Signal from WhatsApp, but the terrorists in India and abroad are using a much more advanced secure messaging platform to communicate with their counterparts across the globe without being traced and without leaving any digital footprint, a National Investigation Agency (NIA) probe has revealed.
The NIA during its probe into the Islamic State Iraq and Syria Khorasan Province (ISIS-KP) case has found that arrested accused Jahanzaib Sami Wani and his wife Hina Bashir Beigh and Bengaluru-based doctor Abdur Rahman aka 'Dr Brave' were using Threema, a secure messaging platform.
Wani and Beigh were arrested in March 2020, while Rahman in August.
In a statement on January 12, an NIA spokesperson had said: "Till recently Rahman was in regular communication with ISIS terrorists located abroad as well as in India, including Sami on 'Threema', a secure messaging platform."
The revelations were made on Tuesday when the anti-terror-probe agency filed a chargesheet against Rahman, who had returned from Syria in December 2013 and was misusing his medical knowledge to develop laser-guided missile system for the banned terror group.
According to NIA officials related to probe, who wished ro remain anonymous, said that Rahman was using his knowledge of ophthalmic lasers for developing a project on laser-guided system through which the trajectory of an unguided missiles can be changed with laser technology for the benefit of ISIS.
The official said that the "basic components" for such system are pulse transmitters and receivers, which are same or almost similar in flight circuits or ophthamology nanosecond lasers and could be used to guide missiles or rockets or payloads towards intended targets..
The NIA ISKP case is based on the one registered by Delhi Police's Special Cell in March 2020 after the arrest of Wani and his wife from Okhla Vihar in Jamia Nagar area here for alleged links with the the terror group.
The NIA had taken over the probe on March 20, 2020.
However, this is not the first time that the NIA has come across the secure messaging platform used by the IS terrorists as well as Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Al Qaeda terrorists.
Earlier, the NIA has taken the help of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to crack the messages of the terrorists in connection with its probe into the February 2019 Pulawama terror attack case, in which 40 CRPF troopers were killed.
The NIA and the Intelligence Agencies in its probe had earlier found that Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist were using peer-to-peer software service -- YSMS -- or a similar mobile application to communicate with their counterparts in India and abroad.
An NIA source related to probe told IANS: "The terrorists are using Threema application as well as its desktop version as it leaves minimal digital footprint making it almost impossible to be traced back.
"Tracing of the message or call generated from the Threema are tough to locate."
According to NIA officials, Threema is a secure messaging platform which has been developed in Switzerland and is a paid open-source end-to-end encrypted instant messaging application for iPhone and Android smartphones.
The source said that on Threema like so many other secure applications, a user does not require to enter an email address or phone number to create an account, thus allowing the user to use the service with a very high level of anonymity.
The source said that Threema also hides all the tracks of the user as it minimises the footprint on servers that route traffic.
The source claimed that on Threema the contacts and messages are stored on user's device, instead of on the server.
He said that Threema offers text and voice messages, voice and video calls, groups and distribution lists as features in the application, thus allowing the terrorists to remain "untraced".
The official said besides the mobile application, there is also a browser-based secure desktop chat option of Threema which also does not log IP addresses or metadata of the user.
(Anand Singh can be contacted at email@example.com)
The new year had brought better prospects for country's trade with exports rising 16.2 per cent year-on-year between January 1-7 driven by good performance from engineering goods and petroleum products.
In value terms, the exports in the first week of the new year grew by $866 million with the bulk of this increase (73.5 per cent) coming from 51.8 per cent or $686.8 million growth in exports of engineering goods. Engineering goods performance was led by a 30 times rise in exports to South Africa at by $462.2 million.
Petroleum products also contributed to increase in the exports and accounted for 13.2 per cent of the total increase. The exports increased by 17.3 per cent YoY at $114.7 million. This was driven by increase in exports to South Africa (+$71 million) and Australia (+$93 million).
Some of the increase in exports in week one was offset by decrease in exports of readymade garments (-26.0 per cent YoY, -$87.3 million), man made yarns (-22.0 per cent YoY, -$23.2 million) and inorganic and organic chemicals (-5.5 per cent YoY, -$22.0 million).
During the week, overall imports grew by 1.1 per cent YoY or an increase of $92.4 million.
Imports of pearls, precious and semi-precious stones increased by 86.5 per cent YoY (+$220.6 million) accounting for 238.8 per cent of the overall increase.
The import growth was led by increase in imports from UAE (63.4 per cent YoY, +$74.2 million) and USA (345.8 per cent YoY, +$47.6 million)
Vegetable oil also registered significant increase of 88.2 per cent YoY (+$121.4 million) accounting for 131 per cent of the total increase
Some of the increase in imports was offset by decrease in imports of Transport Equipment (-59.8 per cent YoY, -$425.4 million), Petroleum Products (-14.5 per cent YoY, -$324.6 million) and Fertilizers (-35.9 per cent YoY, -$88.0 million).
New Delhi, Jan 13 (IANS) Breaking his silence after the news broke that Tesla has finally entered India by registering it as a company in Bengaluru, its CEO Elon Musk said on Wednesday that he is on the way to fulfil his promise to let electric cars run on the roads of the country.
According to the details available on the Registrar of Companies website, Tesla India Motors and Energy Private Limited has been incorporated and the registered address is in Lavelle Road, Bengaluru. Reacting to his 41.2 million followers, Musk tweeted on making India his next destination: "As promised".
Musk, who communicates on all important company issues via Twitter, however, did not divulge any further details on his India plans.
In October last year, Musk, who overtook Amazon founder Jeff Bezos as the world's richest man with a whopping $195 billion net worth, had said that the electric car maker is finally ready to enter the India market next year.
Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa tweeted on Tuesday to inform that Tesla is setting up its research and development (R&D) centre in Bengaluru to commence its India operations soon.
The Karnataka government had made a strong pitch to invite Tesla to the state.
"Karnataka will lead India's journey towards Green Mobility. Electric Vehicle Manufacturer Tesla will soon start its operations in India with an R&D unit in Bengaluru. I welcome @elonmusk to India & Karnataka and wish him all the very best," Yediyurappa had tweeted.
Tesla is also in touch with other state governments like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh to start its India operations.
Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari had said last month that Tesla will begin operations with sales in early 2021 and then "maybe" look at assembling and manufacturing vehicles in the country.
Tesla sales teams are currently working on building custom sales and production orders for the India market, ensuring orders are complete and validated once the configuration is finished.
The move will also open India to select as one of the countries where Tesla cars can be purchased.
Tesla officials had held talks with the Karnataka government in September last year for opening its research facility in this tech hub. The R&D unit in India is Tesla's second outside the US. Its first such overseas centre is in Shanghai where it has a Gigafactory to make electric cars.
The tech-savvy Karnataka is the first state in the country to have an electric vehicle policy to woo investments in the sunrise sector. A slew of startups like Ola Electric, Sub Mobility and Ather have set up their operations in the city.
New Delhi, Jan 13 (IANS) Telegram, which has surpassed 500 million monthly active users (MAUs), registered 25 million (2.5 crore) new users joining the platform globally in the last 72 hours alone as users shun WhatsApp over data privacy concerns, its CEO Pavel Durov has revealed.
These new users came from across the globe -- 38 per cent from Asia, 27 per cent from Europe, 21 per cent from Latin America and eight per cent from MENA (Middle East and North Africa).
"This is a significant increase compared to last year, when 1.5 million new users signed up every day. We've had surges of downloads before, throughout our 7-year history of protecting user privacy. But this time is different," Durov said in a blog post on Tuesday.
"People no longer want to exchange their privacy for free services. They no longer want to be held hostage by tech monopolies that seem to think they can get away with anything as long as their apps have a critical mass of users".
According to data from App analytics firm Sensor Tower, Signal led the pack with over 23 lakh new downloads between January 6 and January 10 in India, while Telegram clocked more than 16 lakh new downloads in the same period.
Meanwhile, WhatsApp's downloads fell by 35 per cent over the January 6 to January 10 time-period, with 13 lakh new downloads.
Between January 1 to January 5, WhatsApp had clocked 20 lakh new downloads.
According to Durov, with half a billion active users and accelerating growth, Telegram has become the largest refuge for those seeking a communication platform committed to privacy and security.
"We take this responsibility very seriously. We won't let you down".
Vivo on Tuesday launched its new budget smartphone 'Vivo Y12s' with a 5000mAh battery in India at Rs 9,990 for a 3GB RAM + 32GB ROM variant.
The smartphone is available for purchase in two colour options- phantom black and glacier blue on Vivo India E-store, Amazon, Flipkart, Paytm, Tatacliq, and across all partner retail stores.
"The Y12s is yet another effort from Vivo to continue offering convenient features like reverse charging with 5000mAh battery and capable AI Dual Camera with Bokeh mode at a reasonable price point," Nipun Marya, Director- Brand Strategy, Vivo India said in a statement.
The smartphone features a 6.51-inch Halo FullView display with HD+ (1600X720) resolution, providing a seamless experience for both videos and games.
It also offers a side fingerprint scanner with the power button to easily unlock and power-on the device at the same time.
The device is powered by the Helio P35 processor and comes with the latest FunTouch OS 11 based on the latest Android 10.
The phone is equipped with a dual rear rectangular camera setup of 13MP with an f/2.2 aperture and 2MP with an f/2.4 aperture.
For the front, there is an 8MP camera sensor for selfies and video chats.
The key Indian equity indices traded on a negative note on Tuesday amid choppy trade, with the BSE Sensex losing around 150 points.
Selling pressure was witnessed in the banking, finance, IT and consumer durables stocks.
Analysts said that concerns regarding rising non-performing assets of banks raised by the Reserve Bank of India in its Financial Stability Report for January 2021 weighed on the banking and finance stocks.
Around 10.15 a.m., Sensex was trading at 49,124.91, lower by 144.41 points or 0.29 per cent from its previous close of 49,269.32.
It opened at 49,228.26, and recorded an intraday high of 49,267.06 and a low of 49,082.04 points.
The Nifty50 on the National Stock Exchange was trading at 14,464.75, lower by 20 points or 0.14 per cent from its previous close.
Facebook, Google and Microsoft have announced that they were freezing political contributions from their political action committees (PAC) in the wake of the January 6 riot in the US Capitol by President Donald Trump's supporters.
"Following last week's awful violence in D.C., we are pausing all of our PAC contributions for at least the current quarter, while we review our policies," Xinhua news agency quoted Facebook spokesman Andy Stone as saying in a statement on Monday.
Alphabet Inc's Google said it would pause contributions from its PAC.
"We have frozen all NetPAC political contributions while we review and reassess its policies following last week's deeply troubling events," a Google spokesperson said.
Microsoft said the company is halting its political spending until after it assesses the implications of last week's events.
"The PAC regularly pauses its donations in the first quarter of a new Congress, but it will take additional steps this year to consider these recent events and consult with employees," the company said in a statement.
Also on Monday night, Amazon announced that it will pause donations from its PAC to lawmakers who voted against the certification of the presidential election results.
"We intend to discuss our concerns directly with those Members we have previously supported and will evaluate their responses as we consider future PAC contributions," an Amazon spokeswoman said in a statement.
The attack on the Capitol building took place on January 6 while Congress was in session considering the ratification of the electoral college votes electing Joe Biden as President and Kamala Harris as Vice President.
Before the violence, Trump, who has claimed that their election was invalid because there was massive fraud, told a rally of his supporters before the Congress session began to go there.
A section of his supporters stormed the Capital and invaded the Senate chamber and the offices of the Speaker and others, bring the session to a halt and evacuating the legislators to safe places.
Five people, including a police officer, were killed during the riots.
Congress met later and put its seal on the election of Biden and Harris, who will be sworn-in on January 20.