ECONOMY - 2018 FEBRUARY

February 1

Google has completed its acquisition of HTC's smartphone business, which cost more than $1 billion
Google has announced it completed the acquisition process of Taiwanese device maker HTC and its smartphone division.
The deal, valued at $1.1 billion (£785 million), will see some 2,000 HTC engineers join the ranks of the search giant. Google will also receive a non-exclusive license of the Taiwanese firm's intellectual properties (IPs).
HTC will keep operating independently with regard to its virtual reality (VR) operations inside the standalone Vive VR division, and will also bring to market a number of HTC-branded smartphones too.
In addition to a team that has already worked on the two Pixel smartphones (which were outsourced to HTC), Google is also gaining a big facility in Taipei, Taiwan, which marks its biggest new headquarters in South-East Asia and establishes a noteworthy presence in the area.

India’s Growth Fells To 7.1% In 2016-17 From 8.2% In 2015-16: CSO
In line with the earlier official estimate of the country's GDP growth in the last fiscal, demonetisation-hit India's gross domestic product during 2016-17 grew at 7.1 per cent, Central Statistics Office (CSO).
According to the CSO's first revised estimates of national income released on the eve of the Union Budget for the next fiscal, growth last year came in lower than the 8.2 per cent rate for 2015-16. This has been revised upwards from its provisional estimate of 8 per cent.
In terms of Gross Value Added (GVA), which excludes taxes while including subsidies, the revised estimates showed a lower growth at 7.1 per cent for 2016-17, also as compared to the 8.1 per cent real GVA growth registered for 2015-16.

E-way bill roll out: New system for transportation of goods
New e-way bill system will come into effect. Under the new system, every transporter will have to carry a system-generated bill to move goods from one place to another.
These bills can be generated from the GSTN portal. The e-way bill system was introduced to bring uniformity across the states for seamless inter-state movement of goods.
The system was to be implemented earlier, but couldn't be done as the required IT infrastructure wasn't in place. Last month, the GST Council decided to implement the e-way bill mechanism throughout the country from February 1.
In a notification, the GSTN informed the transporters that E-way bill would become mandatory for inter-state movements of goods from February 1, 2018.

February 2

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Presented The Union Budget 2018-19
Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs, Arun Jaitley presented Union Budget 2018-19 in Parliament.
Union Budget of India is referred to as the Annual Financial Statement in the Article 112 of the Constitution of India.
To strengthen agriculture, rural development, health, education, employment, Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) and infrastructure sectors.
Agriculture
Minimum Support Price (MSP) for all unannounced kharif crops and majority of Rabi Crops will be at least 1.5 times of their production cost.
Volume of institutional credit for agriculture sector will be raised to Rs. 11 lakh crore for the year 2018-19 (as compared to Rs. 10 lakh crore in 2017-18).
Jaitley Jaitley announced setting up Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund (AHIDF) for financing infrastructure requirement of animal husbandry sector and Fisheries and Aqua culture Infrastructure Development Fund (FAIDF) for fisheries sector. Total corpus for these two funds will be Rs.10000 crore.
“Operation Greens” will be launched to address the challenge of price volatility of perishable commodities like tomato, onion and potato. Financial outlay for this initiative will Rs 500 Crore.
Agri-Market Infrastructure Fund (with a corpus of Rs.2000 crore) will be setup for developing and upgrading agricultural marketing infrastructure in 22000 Grameen Agricultural Markets (GrAMs) and 585 APMCs.
Rural Economy & Livelihood:
In 2018-19, all Union Ministries will spend Rs. 14.34 lakh crore for creation of livelihood and infrastructure in rural areas.
This expenditure will create employment of 321 crore person days, 3.17 lakh km of rural roads, 51 lakh new rural houses, 1.88 crore toilets and will provide 1.75 crore new household electric connections
Loans to Self Help Groups of women will increase to Rs.75000 crore by March, 2019.
Allocation of National Rural Livelihood Mission has been increased to Rs 5750 crore in 2018-19.
Under Ujjwala Scheme, free LPG connections will be given to 8 crore poor women instead of the previous target of 5 crore women.
Education and Social Protection:
For 2018-19, estimated budgetary expenditure on health, education and social protection is Rs.1.38 lakh crore. For 2017-18, it was Rs.1.22 lakh crore.
Ekalavya Model Residential School (on par with Navodaya Vidyalayas) will be set up by 2022 to provide the best quality education to the tribal children in their own environment.
“Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE) by 2022‟ with a total investment of Rs. 100000 crore (in next four years) has been announced. Objective of this initiative is to step up investments in research and related infrastructure in premier educational institutions, including health institutions. Higher Education financing Agency (HEFA) will be set up to look after the funding for this initiative.
“Prime Minister’s Research Fellows (PMRF)” Scheme will be launched, under which, 1000 best B.Tech students will be identified each year and will be provided facilities to undertake Ph.D in IITs and IISc.
Health & Social Protection:
Mr. Jaitley announced National Health Protection Scheme to provide health coverage upto 5 lakh rupees to 10 crore poor and vulnerable families. This is being termed as world’s largest government funded health care programme.
Rs 1200 crore has been committed for the National Health Policy, 2017, for bringing 1.5 lakh Health and Wellness Centres closer to the homes of people.
600 crore has been allocated to provide nutritional support to all TB patients at the rate of Rs.500 per 10 month for the duration of their treatment.
24 new Government Medical Colleges and Hospitals will be set up by upgrading existing district hospitals in the country.
Under Namami Gange Programme, 187 projects (entailing Rs. 16713 crore cost) have been sanctioned for infrastructure development, rural sanitation, river surface cleaning and other interventions.
Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises (MSMEs):
Rs. 3794 crore has been allocated for giving credit support, capital and interest subsidy and for innovations in MSMEs.
For 2018-19, target of Rs. 3 lakh crore has been set for lending Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency (MUDRA) loans.
Employment Generation:
Citing an independent study, Mr. Jaitley stated that 70 lakh formal jobs will be created in 2018-19.
Government will contribute 12% of the wages of the new employees in Employees Provident Fund (EPF) for all the sectors for next three years.
It has been proposed to make amendments in the EPF and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 to reduce women employees’ contribution to 8% for first three years of their employment against existing rate of 12% or 10% with no change in employers’ contribution.
Outlay for the textiles sector in 2018-19 will be Rs.7148 crore.
Infrastructure Development:
For 2018-19, budgetary allocation on infrastructure has been increased to Rs.5.97 lakh crore against estimated expenditure of Rs. 4.94 lakh crore in 2017-18.
In a bid to boost tourism, ten prominent tourist sites will be developed into Iconic Tourism destinations.
Approval for 35000 kms road construction under Phase-I Bharatmala Programme has been granted. Estimated cost will be Rs. 535000 crore.
Railways:
4000 kilometers of electrified railway network will be commissioned in near future.
During 2018-19, 12000 wagons, 5160 coaches and approximately 700 locomotives will be procured.
Total allocation on infrastructure Rs. 5.97 lakh
Railways Capital Expenditure Rs. 148528 crore
Air Transport:
Under a new initiative ‘NABH Nirman’, current airport capacity will be expanded by more than five times to handle a billion trips a year.
56 unserved airports and 31 unserved helipads would be connected under the Regional connectivity scheme of UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik).
Digital Economy:
NITI Aayog will initiate a national program to direct efforts in artificial intelligence.
A Mission on Cyber Physical Systems to support establishment of centres of excellence for research, training and skilling in robotics, artificial intelligence, digital manufacturing, big data analysis, quantum communication and internet of things will be launched by Department of Science & Technology.
For 2018-19, allocation on Digital India programme has been doubled to Rs 3073 crore.
Five lakh wifi hotspots will be set up to provide net connectivity to five crore rural citizens.
For 2018-19, Rs. 10000 has been allocated for creation and augmentation of Telecom infrastructure.
Defence:
India’s defence budget has been hiked by 7.81% to Rs 295511 crore from Rs 274114 crore last year
Development of two defence industrial production corridors has been proposed.
Industry friendly Defence Production Policy 2018 will be brought out to promote domestic production by public sector, private sector and MSMEs.
Fiscal Management:
Revised Estimates for expenditure in 2017-18 are Rs. 21.57 lakh crore (net of GST compensation transfers to the States).
For 2018-19, Total Expenditure will be Rs. 17.25 lakh crore.Jaitley has projected a Fiscal Deficit of 3.3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the year 2018-19.
Miscellaneous:
A unified authority for regulating all financial services will be established in International Finance Service Centre (IFSCs) in India.
Gold Trading: Policy will be formed to promote Gold as an asset class. Regulated Gold exchanges will be established. Gold Monetisation scheme will be revamped.
Disinvestment target for 2018-19 is Rs. 80000 crore.
Three Public Sector Insurance companies National Insurance Co. Ltd., United India Assurance Co. Ltd., and Oriental India insurance Co. Ltd., will be merged into a single insurance entity.
Monthly emoluments of President, Vice President and Governor have been revised to Rs. 5 lakh, Rs. 4 lakh and Rs. 3.5 lakh.

China’s Alibaba invests $146 million in online grocer BigBasket
A unit of China’s Alibaba has invested $146 million in online grocer BigBasket, strengthening its position in the country’s online retail space.
Alibaba.com Singapore Ecommerce Pvt Ltd led the $196.7 million Series E funding round, which was approved by the BigBasket board in January.
Online grocery sales are fast becoming popular in India, with BigBasket, SoftBank-backed rival Grofers and Amazon’s India unit vying for a bigger piece of the market.
Sands Capital Pvt Growth Ltd, International Finance Corp and Abraaj Basket I Pvt Ltd also participated in the latest funding round.

DoT to set up 5G development centre in tie-up with IIT Chennai
The Finance Minister has announced that the Department of Telecom will set up a development centre to work on 5G technologies in partnership with IIT, Chennai.
5G technology is still being standardised globally and India has the opportunity to take the lead in the development of this technology. 5G will enable applications such as Internet of Things and Machine-to-Machine internet.
Action has already begun in 5G technology in educational institutions with Ericsson and IIT Delhi signing an MoU to jointly roll out a ‘5G for India’ programme.
Ericsson will set up a Center of Excellence with a 5G test bed and incubation center at IIT Delhi and use this facility to drive development of the country’s 5G ecosystem.

Cochin Shipyard Limited signs MoU with Russian firm for development of vessels
Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL) and Joint Stock Company United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC), Russia have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collaborate and engage in Design, Development and Execution of contemporary, State-of-Art vessels for Inland and Coastal Waterways.
CSL and USC will collaborate for development of High-Speed Vessels, River-Sea Cargo Vessels, Passenger Vessels, Dredgers, and other watercrafts for inland waterways and coastal shipping.
The MoU will give a push to the Government’s Make-in-India programme, as also its plans to develop eco-friendly and economic transportation along India’s inland waterways and coastal shipping routes under SAGARMALA.
Once the infrastructure for water based transport is in place there will be a demand for different kinds of specialized vessels in the near and medium term. The MoU is an effort to get ready to cater to this demand.

February 3

Nepal gets a high Rs. 650 crore outlay
India’s annual financial allocation to Nepal for 2018-19 has nearly doubled under the Union Budget presented.
The External Affairs Ministry has been allocated a total Rs. 15,011 crore, which indicates a marginal increase of Rs. 1,321 crore over the previous year’s grant.
For India’s development and diplomatic engagement under the ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, the Budget has allocated Rs. 5545 crore. Bhutan is traditionally the largest recipient of Ministry’s allocation.
It has maintained the same position even as the allocation increased by Rs. 71 crore to touch Rs. 2,650 crore.

February 4

Reliance Industries to invest Rs 2,500 crore in Assam, create 80,000 jobs
Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani announced an investment of Rs 2,500 crore in Assam in various sectors, including retail, petroleum, telecom, tourism and sports, creating jobs for at least 80,000 people over the next three years.
Under this programme, the company will enhance its retail division's outlet to 40 from existing two, while the number of petrol depots will be increased to 165 from the existing 27.
Assam has always been a low priority market for other telecom operators, but it is a 'Category A' market for Reliance.

GAIL places Rs. 440 crore order for pipeline to Urja Ganga
GAIL (India) Ltd has placed an order worth Rs. 440 crore for laying 350-km pipeline from Vijaipur in Madhya Pradesh to Auraiya in Uttar Pradesh. This is part of the spurline of 665 km from Vijaipur to Phulpur in Uttar Pradesh to the existing upgradation pipeline system.
The pipeline laying contracts for the 315-km stretch from Auraiya to Phulpur was awarded in November 2016.
The Vijaipur to Phulpur pipeline will provide the gas feed to the ongoing 2,655-km-long Jagdispur-Haldia-Bokaro-Dhamra pipeline (JHBDPL) project of GAIL, also known as the ‘Pradhan Mantri Urja Ganga’ project.

February 5

Singtel to spend up to $413 million to nudge up stake in India's Bharti Telecom
Singapore Telecommunications (Singtel) would spend up to $413 million on shares in India's Bharti Telecom, lifting its stake slightly in the holding company for Bharti Airtel to just under half.
India's telecommunications sector has been hit hard by a price war since the entry of carrier Reliance Jio, the telecoms arm of Reliance Industries, more than a year ago.
The purchase worth as much as 26.5 billion rupees could increase Singtel's stake in Bharti Telecom by up to 1.7 percentage points to 48.9 percent and its holding in Bharti Airtel, the country's biggest mobile carrier, by up to 0.9 percentage points to 39.5 percent. The deal will be done via a preferential share allotment.
Singtel has assembled a portfolio of stakes in regional mobile firms outside its small home market, and overseas businesses now account for about 75 percent of its core earnings.

February 6

India FY2019 fiscal deficit to come in at 3.5% of GDP: Report
India’s fiscal deficit is expected to come in at 3.5 per cent of GDP in financial year 2018-19, as policymakers seek to promote economic growth by reducing the pace of fiscal consolidation.
According to the report by BMI Research, a unit of Fitch Group, there is room for fiscal slippage as the government seeks to achieve its 7.5 per cent growth target.
Therefore revising our forecast for the financial year 2018-19 fiscal deficit to come in at 3.5 per cent of GDP, from 3.3 per cent previously.
The government outlined a fiscal deficit target of 3.3 per cent of GDP in 2018-19 as against a revised estimate of 3.5 per cent in 2017-18, indicating some fiscal consolidation, albeit at a slower pace than that recommended under the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) framework.

Ola to pilot river taxi service in Guwahati, signs MoU with Assam govt
Bengaluru-based cab aggregator Ola has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the government of Assam to pilot an app-based river taxi service in Guwahati, which is the financial hub of Northeast.
The river taxis will be a machine-operated boat, which is faster than the ones in use and will help bring down the commute time down to 2-5 minutes from 45 minutes by road. These high-speed taxis that Ola will pilot will be high-speed taxis and will be operated on the Lachit Ghat, Machkhowa to North Guwahati route.
Ola is looking to enable advance bookings and cashless payments to make bookings more convenient and streamlined by making them app-based. It is aimed at boosting and strengthening the transportation ecosystem.

Capgemini acquires LiquidHub for 400 million euros, aims to boost India presence
The French IT services and consulting major Capgemini agreed to acquire LiquidHub, a digital technology services company. The cost of the acquisition is understood to be twice the revenues of LiquidHub, which is estimated to be around 400 million euros, going by its 2017 revenue.
Chrys Capital backed LiquidHub employs around 2,500 employees globally, of which around 1,500 are located in India, including Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Gurgaon.

February 7

Maharashtra becomes first state to clear policy to promote use of technology in financial services
With an eye to promote cashless economy, reduce carbon footprints, boost indigenous production of defence equipment and create jobs in small and medium units, the Maharashtra cabinet announced a raft of incentives.
To make Mumbai and its adjoining areas as “fintech (the financial technology) capital of the world”, the cabinet cleared a policy to help start-ups in the sector a first in the country. Fintech refers to use of technology in financial and banking services (eg. e-wallets, retail banking etc).
Under the fintech policy, the state government plans to create an environment where start-ups would be nurtured and allowed to grow as it has announced a slew of incentives for the first three years. The state government will support 300 fintech start-ups in the next three years.

Google, NCERT partner for internet safety training in schools
Google and NCERT signed a pact to integrate a course on ‘Digital Citizenship and Safety’ in information and communication technology curriculum.
The safety awareness programme with Google can be scaled by training teachers on latest development that takes place in internet space.
The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has curriculum on IT and communication technologies embedded in teachers training programme.
The curriculum developed by NCERT in collaboration with Google will be used to train students from class I to class XII across 1.4 million schools in India where they will learn how to become good and responsible digital citizens.

Uber, transport ministry partner to push road safety awareness
As part of its ongoing efforts to encourage road safety awareness, on demand ride-sharing company Uber joined hands with Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to push for the cause in the country which witnesses around five lakh accidents every year.
Uber will jointly promote road safety messaging on its mobile application and the social media through co-branded materials and mediums.
Ensuring road safety is key priority for the government as India witnesses around five lakh accidents and 1.5 lakh deaths every year.
This effort to make our roads safer has to be a collaborative multi-pronged initiative that needs joint action from policymakers, civic authorities, automobile industry, civil society and commuters in general.

February 8

Google, Tata Trusts promote IT adoption among TN rural women
Adding another chapter to its digital literacy initiative to empower women in rural India, Google India and Tata Trusts expanded their Internet Saathi programme to over 4,000 villages across six districts of Tamil Nadu.
The global IT giant and the Tamil Nadu government also announced their plan to facilitate the provision of Google Cloud credits and access through its affiliate for eligible startups engaged with the Tamil Nadu government’s startup initiative.
Google India will also, through its developer relations team, provide technical mentorship and advisory support to various startups.

Digital transactions rise to 1.11 billion in January
Digital transactions reached a new peak in January in terms of volume after crossing the 1 billion mark last month. They rose 4.73% to 1.11 billion in January from 1.06 billion
The impact of the government’s decision to bear merchant discount rate (MDR) for a period of two years, applicable on transactions made through debit cards, BHIM UPI and Aadhaar-enabled payments system (AEPS), which was implemented from 1 January, is clear, with a significant increase in the volume of transactions made through these modes during the month.
Transactions across UPI reached a new peak in January. The transaction volume was 151.7 million, up around 4% from 145.5 million in the previous month. The value of transactions rose around 18% to Rs155.4 billion in January from Rs. 131.4 billion in the previous month. Out of this, Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM) accounts for 9.57 million transactions, amounting to Rs 3.65 billion.

Google to buy Chelsea Market building for over $2 billion – report
Alphabet Inc’s Google has agreed to pay more than $2 billion for New York City’s Chelsea Market building.
Google, already the largest tenant with about 400,000 square feet in the building, is buying the property from Atlanta-based real estate investment firm Jamestown LP.
Google's plans for the building were unclear but it is expected to maintain the status quo at the property's retail component.
The 1.2 million-square-foot office-and-retail property at 75 Ninth Avenue houses a popular food hall and such tenants as Major League Baseball, the New York 1 news channel and the Food Network.

February 9

CCI slaps Rs 136 crore fine on Google for unfair business practices
The Competition Commission imposed a fine of Rs 136 crore on search engine major Google for unfair business practices in the Indian market for online search. Passing the order on complaints that were filed back in 2012. The penalty is being imposed on Google for "infringing anti-trust conduct".
Globally, this is one of the rare cases where Google has been penalised for unfair business ways. It was alleged that Google is indulging in abuse of dominant position in the market for online search through practices leading to search bias and search manipulation, among others.
The penalty amount of Rs 135.86 crore translates to 5 per cent of the companys average total revenue generated from India operations from its different business segments for the financial years 2013, 2014 and 2015, according to the CCI order.

February 10

Paisabazaar.com collaborates with Microsoft to build 'industry first' technologies
Online lending marketplace Paisabazaar.com has entered into a partnership with Microsoft to drive an 'industry first' technology innovation on its platform using artificial intelligence and machine learning.
As part of the overall partnership, Paisabazaar.com will move its entire infrastructure to Microsoft Azure.
Paisabazaar.com receives customers from varied segments from more than 750 cities and towns across India every month. By building cutting-edge technology on Microsoft cloud, Paisabazaar.com intends to offer customized, tailor-made and secure solutions for each consumer coming to its platform.


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