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After Jio, Mukesh Ambani bets big on Internet, video streaming market

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Reliance Industries Chairman and Managing Director 'Mukesh Ambani' (File Photo)

New Delhi, Jan 24: Reliance Industries Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani who has disrupted the mobile telephony market with Reliance Jio, is set to take on Internet and video streaming giants like Google, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Spotify.

According to an article in the winter 2019 issue of Foreign Policy magazine, “the second stage of Ambani’s plan is more ambitious” after creating a mega base of 28 crore Jio subscribers with ultra-cheap data plans and sending rival telecom operators into a tizzy.

“Jio’s real competitors aren’t local cellular providers, such as Airtel or Vodafone India; instead, insiders say Ambani has long had his eyes set on competing with Google, Netflix, Spotify, and Facebook,” read the article.

Jio services now include attractive lifestyle products — a streaming TV service with hundreds of channels, a digital payments system, a music library, a health care app, a connected home system, a messaging platform.

“Each of these could reach Jio’s growing customer base in a multitude of Indian languages,” the article added.

Reliance Jio Infocomm last week reported a 65 per cent increase in its standalone net profit for the October-December 2018 period.

Its standalone net profit stood at Rs 831 crore in the third quarter of the financial year 2018-19, against Rs 504 crore reported in October-December 2017-18.

“The journey of Jio has been truly remarkable and has surpassed all expectations.

“The Jio family is now 280 million strong and growing on one of the world’s largest mobile data networks, in line with our vision of connecting everyone and everything, everywhere — always at the highest quality and the most affordable price,” said Ambani.

For Jio, average data consumption per user per month was 10.8GB and average voice consumption was recorded at 794 minutes per user per month.

Video consumption drove most of the usage, increasing to 460 crore hours per month and this is the next growth area Ambani has firmly set his eyes on.

According to a latest survey by global digital content delivery platform Limelight Networks, Indian viewers are now watching online video content for an average of eight hours 28 minutes each week, more than the time they spend viewing TV every week.

The amount of time Indian viewers spend watching online videos is far higher than the global average of six hours and 45 minutes each week in 2018 which itself marks a 58 per cent rise from the 2016 figure.

Through online channels, Indian viewers largely watch movies, followed by news, TV shows and sports.

Asserting that the data is the “new oil and wealth” in the new world, Ambani in his speech at the India Mobile Congress last October said that Reliance Jio’s broadband offering can place the country among the top three nations in fixed broadband from a low rank of 135 currently.

Ambani said that India can be transformed when people get “Pehla TV, pehla camera, pehla Internet and pehla Artificial Intelligence (AI) — at just Rs 100 per month”.

“Every phone in India will be a 4G-enabled phone and every customer will have access to 4G connectivity,” he added.

IANS

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MTNL plans to sell assets in Mumbai through DIPAM

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MTNL chairman Purwar

New Delhi, Sep 19 : State-run telecom operator MTNL has submitted a set of assets for monetisation through the framework of the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM), which comes under the Finance Ministry.

The assets proposed for sale include land, staff quarters and telephone exchange in Mumbai, said Anurag Thakur, Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs, in reply to a question in the Lok Sabha.

“MTNL has submitted a set of assets for monetisation through the DIPAM Framework…. No property in Delhi is presently under monetisation through the DIPAM Framework,” he said.

He informed the Lok Sabha that international property consultants have been appointed for end-to-end transaction advice on monetisation of these properties.

Noting that the asset monetisation process is a complex one involving multiple stakeholders and agencies, he said that a specific time frame for the completion of these monetisation transactions cannot be defined at present.

The value at which the assets would be monetised would depend on the feasibility of monetisation of the asset, the monetisation model and the market conditions prevailing at the time of monetisation, Thakur said, adding that it would be difficult to anticipate the sale proceeds presently.

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Centre mulls closure of PSUs up for sale on case-to-case basis

Thakur noted that the government has given ‘in-principle’ approval for strategic disinvestment of 34 CPSEs, including subsidiaries and units of CPSEs.

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Centre proposes Disinvestment

New Delhi, Sep 19 : The Union government may consider the closure of central public sector units (PSUs) even if they have been approved for strategic disinvestment on a case-to-case basis.

In a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur said that the government follows a policy of closure of centre public sector enterprises (CPSEs) in terms of the approved revised guidelines dated June 14, 2018 issued by the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE).

“The government may consider the closure of the CPSEs even in cases earlier approved for strategic disinvestment on a case to case basis,” Thakur said, adding that the guidelines issued by the DPE on the closure of CPSEs addresses the concerns regarding the employees and assets.

Thakur noted that the government has given ‘in-principle’ approval for strategic disinvestment of 34 CPSEs, including subsidiaries and units of CPSEs.

Several of these CPSEs are loss making and sick entities where the government in the past had also faced difficulties in strategic disinvestment. Such companies which have lost value could be the ones that may be recommended for closure.

In certain other CPSEs, policy of minority stake sale without transfer of management control through various SEBI approved methods is being followed in order to unlock the value, promote public ownership and higher degree of accountability, he said.

The various modes of disinvestment commonly used for minority stake sale includes Initial Public Offer (IPO), Follow on Public Offer (FPO), Offer for Sale (OFS), buyback of shares and Exchange Traded Funds (ETF).

“Transaction receipts on conclusion of disinvestment transactions depend on the prevailing market conditions and investors’ interest,” the minister said.

The budget estimate (BE) of disinvestment receipts for 2020-21 from disinvestment of CPSEs was fixed at Rs 1.20 lakh crore.

The already lagging disinvestment plans, have been severely impacted by the ongoing pandemic and deadlines for submission of bids major PSUs on the block, such as oil major BPCL and national carrier Air India have been postponed.

The government is also coming up with a new strategic disinvestment policy as announced by the Finance Minister in May. According to sources, the Cabinet may soon take up and approve the new strategic disinvestment policy, which would include the banking and insurance sector.

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Doubts raised on transparency of 2 PM funds; LS passes Taxation Bill

The Congress raised questions on creation of PM CARES when PMNRF was already present and it was used to help states during various disasters from 2015 to till now.

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New Delhi, Sep 19 : The Lok Sabha on Saturday passed Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Bill, 2020 amid counter allegations levelled by both the BJP and the Congress members on their top party leadership.

Linking the present government’s PM CARES Fund and Prime Minister National Relief Fund (PMNRF) set up by India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1948, both the parties raised suspicion over transparency of both the funds.

The cross allegations created uproar for the second consecutive day in the lower House when Union Minister of State Anurag Thakur on Saturday again raised question on the transparency of PMNRF alleging Congress of utilising the money received in the fund for the benefit of Nehru-Gandhi family while participating in the debate over the Bill which was moved by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharamn on Saturday for consideration and passage.

The Minister made allegation against Congress’ interim President Sonia Gandhi and her family of utilising the fund of PMNRF being members of the trust.

He also alleged that funds received in PMNRF were transferred in Rajiv Gandhi Foundation and from their it was transferred into various other trusts.

Thakur also alleged that fugitive controversial televangelist Zakir Naik donated Rs 50 lakh into Sonia Gandhi-led Rajiv Gandhi Foundation in 2011.

Though the amount was returned in 2014 it clarified links of the party with Naik, Thakur alleged.

However, the Congress raised questions on creation of PM CARES when PMNRF was already present and it was used to help states during various disasters from 2015 to till now.

Congress leaders Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Gaurav Gogoi alleged that there are many “loopholes” in Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM-CARES) fund.

The party also sought details of Vivekanand Foundation and some other trusts related to the BJP.

The Bill was later passed with voice vote during over four hour long counter allegations by both the parties on each other.

The Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Friday to replace the Taxation and other Laws (Relaxation of Certain Provisions) Ordinance, 2020 which was promulgated on March 31 this year.

Speaking on the Bill, Sitharaman said we are raising questions on Rajiv Gandhi Foundation because Congress gave money to the trust from PMNRF.

Countering Congress allegations, the Minister said what names the party has taken are not given money from PM-CARES fund on which the opposition has raised question on several occasions earlier after it was set up to undertake and support relief or assistance of any kind relating to a public health emergency during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“You are a responsible political party. Don’t spread rumours. It’s not good for your credibility.”

Citing Rafale fight jet deal, the Minister said Congress indulged in “rumour mongering” and it got back replies. “You will again get answers.”

The government came with the Bill which seeks to amend the Income-tax Act, 1961, the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017; the Finance Act, 2019; the Direct Tax Vivad se Vishwas Act, 2020 and the Finance Act, 2020 which are administered by the Department of Revenue through two boards, namely, the Central Board of Direct Taxes and the Central Board of Indirect Taxes. Thus, no additional expenditure is contemplated on the enactment of the Bill.

The Bill provides for extension of various time limits for completion or compliance of actions under the specified Acts and reduction in interest, waiver of penalty and prosecution for delay in payment of certain taxes or levies during the specified period.

The Finance Act, 2020 is also proposed to be amended to clarify regarding capping of surcharge at 15 per cent on dividend income of the Foreign Portfolio Investor.

The Bill also proposes to empower the Central government to remove any difficulty up to a period of two years and provide for repeal and savings of the Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation of Certain Provisions) Ordinance, 2020.

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