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Will not pursue proposal to acquire AI if deal not profitable: IndiGo to employees



New Delhi, June 30 : Budget passenger carrier IndiGo’s management has told its employees that it will not go ahead with its proposal to acquire Air India, if the deal “does not add value”.

“Let me be very clear that if it is not profitable and does not add value to our employees, customers and shareholders, we will not embark on this journey,” Aditya Ghosh, President and Wholetime Director, IndiGo said in a letter to its employees dated June 29.

“At the same time, we recognise that the Indian government is taking a big, much needed decision and it is important that this decision is always remembered as a huge success,” he said.

“As one of those who bleeds blue and who has helped build this great organisation, you can rest assured that your leadership team and the founders of IndiGo will never do anything to jeopardise what you helped build and will always act in the best interest of IndiGo,” Ghosh said.

According to Ghosh, the airline is interested in Air India’s international operations.

“Over the past decade, we have created a significant domestic network and that gives us the confidence to build a world class international airline in the scale and scope of some of the largest airlines in the world,” he said.

“Without our domestic feed network, it just does not make sense to embark on this journey and if we do go down this path, it would require significant restructuring of the acquired operations.”

Ghosh added that: “In that journey, we are not going to take on debts and liabilities that could not be supported by the new restructured operations.”

On Thursday, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said that the budget passenger airline IndiGo has expressed interest in participating in the stake sale of the flag-carrier.

“There has been interest shown for Air India. IndiGo has approached the ministry with a formal expression of interest proposal,” Raju told IANS.

According to Civil Aviation Ministry Secretary R.N.Choubey, a formal proposal from IndiGo was received after Wednesday’s cabinet decision on Air India’s divestment.

The Union cabinet’s decision on Air India comes after NITI Aayog in a recent report to the Civil Aviation Ministry recommended strategic disinvestment in the loss-making Air India.

At present, the national passenger carrier has a debt burden of more than Rs 50,000 crore.


Telecom: Year of turmoil with bleeding balance-sheets under GST’s shadow




New Delhi, Dec 18: It was a year of turmoil for the hyper-competitive Indian telecom sector as the balance-sheets of many major players kept bleeding, prompting the government to form an panel to chalk out plans to bail out firms.

Reliance Industries’ Jio continued to disrupt the market with its free or low-priced offers while three or four majors fought for the telecom pie tooth and nail. Despite assurances to the sector, the central government’s policy did not help: the Goods and Services Tax (GST) hiked the tax on the sector from 15 per cent to 18 per cent.

Also, the Telecom Regulator Authority of India (TRAI) reduced the Interconnection Usage Charges (IUC) to 6 paise from 14 paise per minute from October 1, 2017, putting additional pressure on the incumbents.

However, a few mergers and acquisitions in the sector sparked hopes of a better tomorrow as consolidation would help the majors to cope with challenges better, even as the cumulative debt of telcos rose to around Rs 4.6 lakh crore and the revenues fell. The sector’s adjusted gross revenue fell to Rs 30,759 crore for the quarter ending September 2017 — a year-on-year decrease of 18.1 per cent.

“This is a consequence of a number of developments over the years, including the entry of new operators in 2009 and the voice tariff war. This was followed by expensive auctions for spectrum (2016), needed by the telcos to offer communications services,” Rajan S. Mathews, Director General, Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI), told IANS.

“In 2018, consolidation in the sector is likely to take shape and the telcos will get the benefit of synergy in operations and the overall costs are likely to come down. Eventually, pricing power could also return, enabling longer-term sustainability overall,” he added.

However, Mahesh Uppal, Director of consultancy firm Com First, feels competition from Reliance Jio would continue to hurt margins of the incumbents.

“With Jio guaranteeing free calls to its subscribers, other players will find it difficult to sustain revenues from voice calls. They will be forced to do the same. They will then compete aggressively in the market for data services, especially by providing larger data packs at even cheaper prices. It is not clear whether players will compete more vigorously on quality of service. This might take more time,” Uppal told IANS.

But Amresh Nandan, Research Director, Gartner, said Jio’s disruption with free voice and data offers would eventually subside and become normal.

“Beyond a point, quality and reliability of service matter most. As that takes centre-stage, which has started to happen, free or even discounted services won’t help. If Jio comes up with products beyond connectivity — that enables greater interaction and transactions for consumers with necessary quality and reliability, then the competitive scenario may change,” he said.

Talking about mergers and acquisitions, Uppal said the sector was in the process of reaching an optimal number of players. “I expect the eventual survivors to be Airtel, Jio, the combination of Idea and Vodafone and the government-owned MTNL-BSNL,” Uppal said.

Nandan said mergers and acquisitions were good for the market from the economic perspective.

“Four telcos are dominant in the market and it should lead to a better scenario. However, real value from these deals will take time. These M&As are yet to reach operational culmination, which in itself will shake-up things a bit more,” he added.

“As far as consolidation is concerned, no market in the world has more than five telecom operators, but in India, there were more than 10. In 2018, the Bharti Airtel-Tata Teleservices-Telenor combine and the Idea Cellular-Vodafone combine would take shape,” said Mathews.

The country saw almost 40 per cent jump in 10 months in the number of wireless broadband users from 217.95 million at the end of December 2016 to 322.18 million users at the end of October 2017.

The regulator also came up with recommendations on net neutrality during the year, largely in agreement with suggestions made by the industry on “no blocking, no throttling, no fast lanes”, while allowing reasonable traffic management.

However, according to Mathews, the industry was disappointed that the authority did not adopt their recommendation “to have a wider approach to net neutrality, where issues of OTT (over-the-top) players, definition of net neutrality to include issues around connecting the next one billion unconnected users and national development priorities.”

The industry is now awaiting norms for in-flight connectivity, which is scheduled to come from the regulator by the year end.

The highlights of the year were:

** Announcement of merger of Vodafone India and Idea Cellular

** Airtel’s MoU with Tata Teleservices & Tata Teleservices Maharashtra to merge their Consumer Mobile Businesses

** JioPhone’s digital empowerment of 50 crore feature phone users at an effective price of zero

** Reliance Communications completion of merger with MTS

The telecom buzzword for 2018 appears to be 5G — smarter, faster communication. But that’s going to take around two to three years for full deployment.


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Adani parts ways with mining services company Downer over Carmichael mine




Sydney, Dec 18: Embattled Indian miner Adani Group has parted ways with mining services giant Downer and said it will build and run the Carmichael coal mine, Australia’s biggest coal venture in central Queensland’s Galilee Basin, on its own, a media report said.

Adani in a statement on Monday revealed that both parties had cancelled a conditional $2.6 billion contract as part of Adani’s cost-cutting drive following last week’s decision by the Queensland state government to veto an A$900 million federal government loan to Adani.

The split comes after Australian company Downer became the target of a nationwide activist campaign pressuring it to quit the Carmichael project in central Queensland, reported.

The move raises further questions about the fate of the massive project, with Downer one of only two mine contractors – along with Thiess – considered capable of handling an operation producing up to 60 million tonnes of coal a year.

It is the latest in a long series of project hiccups for the Carmichael mine, including the veto of Adani’s application for a Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) loan last week, and its so far unsuccessful attempts to raise finance in China.

Adani said in a statement it remained committed to the project and the split with Downer was “simply a change in management structure”.

“Following on from the NAIF veto last week, and in line with its vision to achieve the lowest quartile cost of production by ensuring flexibility and efficiencies in the supply chain, Adani has decided to develop and operate the mine on an owner operator basis,” the statement said.

“Adani and Downer have mutually agreed to cancel all Letter of Awards and Downer will provide transitional assistance until March 31, 2018.

“Adani remains committed to develop the Carmichael project and will ensure the highest level of standards and governance.

“This will not affect our commitment or the number of local jobs across Queensland.”

Adani had intended to outsource the operation of its Carmichael mine to Downer under an agreement that was worth $2bn at the time of its announcement in 2014.

The very first act of Queensland’s newly re-elected Labor government was to make good on its election promise to veto a loan to Adani of up to $1bn from the federal Northern Australian Infrastructure Fund (Naif).

The government has said it backs the mine and wants the jobs it will create, but also says the project must be viable without taxpayer funds, including federal funds.

Adani is yet to secure funding for the mine. Earlier this month, Chinese lenders ruled out providing finance, joining Australia’s big four banks in avoiding the controversial project.


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Key Indian equity indices recover – after Gujarat shock 




Mumbai, Dec 18: Key indices of the Indian equities markets recovered on Monday after early indications of a possible BJP defeat in Gujarat sent the market plunging during early morning trade session.

Both the S&P BSE Sensex and NSE Nifty took an early beating but recovered from the day’s low levels as value buying helped pair initial losses following reports that the Bharatiya Janata Party was set to retain power in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state.

There has been an intra-day swing between the highest and lowest point of trade at the S&P BSE Sensex of over 800 points.

At 9.50 a.m., the wider Nifty50 of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) traded lower by 36.30 points or 0.35 per cent at 10,296.95 points.

The barometer 30-scrip Sensitive Index (Sensex) of the BSE, which opened at 33,364.52 points, traded at 33,320.20 points — down 142.77 points or 0.43 per cent — from its previous close.

The Sensex touched a high of 33,398.73 points and a low of 32,595.63 points during the intra-day trade so far.

The BSE market breadth was bearish as only 1,091 stocks advanced against a decline of 884 scrips.


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