Cold wave in Delhi, minimum temperature dips to 3.1 degrees Celsius

A cold wave swept the national capital on Sunday morning, with the minimum temperature dipping to 3.1 degrees Celsius, the India Meteorological Department said.

However, clear skies and plenty of sunshine are expected to provide some relief. The maximum temperature is likely to settle around 22 degrees Celsius, an IMD official said.

This is the fourth cold wave day in Delhi in a week.

In the plains, the IMD declares a cold wave if the minimum temperature dips to 4 degrees Celsius. A severe cold wave is when the minimum is 2 degrees Celsius or less.

The minimum temperature on Tuesday and Thursday had settled at 2.1 degrees Celsius and 3.8 degrees Celsius, respectively, due to the cold and dry northwesterly winds barreling through the plains, the IMD said.

Cold wave conditions had prevailed in Delhi on Friday, too, with the minimum temperature settling at four degrees Celsius, five notches below normal.

On Saturday, the minimum temperature in the national capital rose slightly to5.4 degrees Celsius.

On New Year’s Day, the city had recorded a minimum of 1.1 degrees Celsius, the lowest for the month in 15 years.

COVID-19: India records over 13000 new cases in the last 24 hours

With 13,052 new COVID-19 cases reported in the last 24 hours, India continued its streak of low single-day cases, even as the overall tally mounted to 1,07,46,183, health officials said on Sunday.

For the past 24 days, the country has been recording less than 20,000 daily new infections. Also, the death toll remained below the 300-mark for the past 34 days.

On January 19, India had reported 10,064 new cases, the lowest so far this year. Last year, the lowest was recorded on June 3 with 9,633 cases.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Sunday said there were 127 fresh deaths taking the overall toll to 1,54,274.

As per the Ministry’s data, 1,04,23,125 people have so far been discharged, and currently, there are 1,68,784 active cases.

The recovery rate has increased to 96.99 percent, while the fatality rate is down to 1.44 percent.

About 82 percent of the daily new cases are reported from six states — Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat.

The nationwide immunisation drive began across the country on January 16 after the approval of the two COVID-19 vaccines.

More than 37 lakh beneficiaries have received the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine in the first phase so far.

IDFC First Bank posts Rs 130 crore profit in Q3

IDFC First Bank

IDFC First Bank on Saturday reported a net profit of Rs 130 crore for the third quarter ended on December 31, 2020. The bank, which came into existence recently after the merger of IDFC Bank and Capital First, had reported a net loss of Rs 1,639 crore for October-December period of 2019-20.

Total income during the quarter rose to Rs 4,711.72 crore from Rs 4,679.14 crore in the same period of the previous fiscal, the bank said in a regulatory filing.

Net Interest Margin (NIM) rose to 4.65 percent in the quarter from 3.86 percent in the third quarter of the previous fiscal.

The bank’s asset quality improved as gross non-performing assets (NPAs) or bad loans reduced to 1.33 percent of the gross advances as of December 31, 2020 as against 2.83 percent by the same period a year ago.

Similarly, the net NPAs improved to 0.33 percent from 1.23 percent in the third quarter of previous fiscal.

The collections are improving strongly every month since July 2020 and has already reached 98 percent of pre-COVID collections, IDFC First Bank CEO V Vaidyanathan said.

“Basis our experience in collections, a swiftly improving economy, and our provisioning policies we feel the Retail Gross and Net NPA will normalise soon and will revert to long term averages again of 2.3 percent and 1.2 percent respectively in retail loans within 2 to 3 quarters,” he said.

During the quarter, the bank made provision of Rs 595 crore as compared to Rs 2,305 crore same period of FY2020. This includes additional COVID provisions of Rs 390 crore during the quarter.

Boards of two TVS group firms approve merger plan

TVS Motor Company on Saturday said the boards of TVS Holding Companies and TVS Investments and Holdings have approved a composite scheme of amalgamation and arrangement which is to be filed with the NCLT soon.

In a letter posted on the BSE, TVS Motor Company Chairman and Managing Director Venu Srinivasan said the scheme will be filed with the Chennai Bench of the NCLT.

“I wish to inform you that the composite scheme of amalgamation and arrangement to be filed with the Honorable National Company Law Tribunal, Chennai Bench ( NCLT )..was approved by the respective board of directors of the TVS Holding Companies and TVS Investments and Holdings Pvt Ltd on January 30, 2021,” he noted.

The scheme, together with the necessary documents, will be filed with the NCLT soon, he added.

On December 10 last year, Srinivasan had informed that members of the TVS family have agreed to subscribe to the terms of a memorandum of family arrangement to align and synchronise the ownership of shares in various group companies.

In a letter posted on BSE, Srinivasan said that the senior members of the TVS family would deliberate to implement the family arrangement.

TVS Motor Company is not a party to this arrangement. The TVS Family has been engaged, for more than a century, in a diverse range of businesses through various entities in which the branches of the TVS family have invested in through TV Sundram Iyengar & Sons Pvt. Ltd, Sundaram Industries Pvt. Ltd. and Southern Roadways Pvt Ltd (collectively referred to as the TVS Holding Companies).

Over the decades, the TVS family has expanded their businesses and the TVS Group has grown into a large business conglomerate with interests in several businesses, including two-wheeler and automotive component manufacturing, automotive dealerships, distribution of automotive parts, financial services, logistics services, electronics and textiles.

BCCI secretary Jay Shah takes over as Asian Cricket Council president

BCCI secretary Jay Shah was unanimously elected as the president of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) at its Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Saturday, a development hailed by his colleagues in India.

The 32-year-old replaces Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) chief Najmul Hasan Papon.

While addressing the AGM, Shah said: “Formed with a view to organise, develop and promote the sport in the region, the ACC has steadily grown in stature.”

“The ACC continues to foster healthy rivalry among some of the biggest cricket playing nations while it also takes the sport deeper into the smaller pockets. We must remain committed to this cause and ensure there is an all-round development in the region,” he added.

Shah said the challenge facing the cricket boards at the moment is the resumption of women’s and age-group cricket.

“The pandemic has posed enormous challenges but history has shown that innovation often arises in periods of adversity and we must adapt and innovate to stay ahead,” Shah said.

“While I have noticed that most Boards have again started their cricketing operations with their senior team, the challenge still remains with women’s cricket and age-group cricket.

“The ACC has done pioneering work in both women’s cricket and age-group with the multiple tournaments it conducts across the year and we must build on this,” he added.

The AGM was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

BCCI president Sourav Ganguly, vice-president Rajeev Shukla and treasurer Arun Singh Dhumal congratulated Shah and wished him success.

“We have worked closely, and I am well aware of his plans and vision to develop the game of cricket,” Ganguly said in a BCCI release.

“I have personally experienced the zeal with which he worked to bring a turnaround in Chandigarh, Uttarakhand and North-eastern states in setting up the cricketing infrastructure and setting up the ecosystem.

“It is definitely a challenging phase, but I am confident he will successfully navigate the challenges posed by the virus. The BCCI will extend every help and will play a big role in rebuilding and restructuring of the cricketing activities in Asia,” Ganguly added.

ACC is responsible for organising the Asia Cup tournaments. The 2020 edition of the Asia Cup was postponed to June this year because of the pandemic. Pakistan was to originally host the tournament but it is now expected to be held in either Sri Lanka or Bangladesh.

“Young administrators have new ideas and fresh vision and the ACC is in safe hands under Mr Jay Shah’s leadership. I admire Jay’s work ethics. He is someone who puts attention to detail and takes great interest in developmental activities,” Shukla said.

“The ACC currently needs strong leadership to overcome the hardships faced by everyone in 2020 and Jay and BCCI will play a mentoring role,” he added.

Treasurer Dhumal also lauded Shah’s election to the top post of the continental body.

“Being the youngest president of the ACC speaks volumes of his passion. The ACC is in need of a strong leadership and he is definitely the right person to take charge.

“The BCCI in the past has always stood by Member Boards and will continue to play an important role,” Dhumal said.

Trial shipment of Rio Tinto’s rough diamond reaches at Surat SNZ

Diamond, gems and jewellery industry

A trial shipment of rough diamond of miner Rio Tinto from Canada arrived at the Surat International Diatrade Centre (SIDC) on Saturday before it starts operating likely from next month, an official of the Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) said.

The SIDC at Surat’s Gujarat Hira Bourse was declared a special notified zone in January last year and was expected to start functioning six months ago.

The operation was delayed due to coronavirus pandemic and resultant delay in required permission from the customs department, said GJEPC Regional Chairman Dinesh Navadiya.

With successful trial shipment, miners are expected to bring their rough diamond consignments at SIDC — the country’s second SNZ for rough diamond trading after Bharat Diamond Bourse operated SNZ in Mumbai — likely after the second half of February, he said.

The shipment will be kept here for 4-6 days before being re-exported.

After its re-export, the project will be formally opened for the interested parties, Navadiya said.

The purpose behind the trial shipment is to check the processes related to customs clearance and security system, bringing the consignment to the designated place, and following related rules, he said.

“The purpose of the trial shipment is to ensure that no difficulty is faced when the actual parcels start arriving here,” he said.

Customs department, custodian Diamond and Gem Development Corporation Limited (DGDC) and operator SIDC together conducted the mock trial, he said.

“The SIDC was likely to begin around six months back, but was delayed due to delay in permission from customs department and lockdown.

From next week, miners will be able to officially bring their rough diamond here,” Nevadiya said.

“But all these have been put in place and the mock trial has also been conducted properly. We expect that after mid February, miners will begin to bring their rough diamond here,” he said.

SJVN bags 679 MW hydro electric project in Nepal

NHPC

State-owned SJVN Ltd has bagged a 679 MW hydroelectric project in Nepal, the power ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

The Nepalese government has allotted 679 MW Lower Arun Hydro Electric Project in Nepal to SJVN through international competitive bidding, SJVN Chairman and Managing Director Nand Lal Sharma said.

The Investment Board of Nepal in its meeting on January 29, 2021, chaired by Nepal’s Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli awarded the project to SJVN.

Sharma has also met Oli in Kathmandu and assured him that the project will be completed in a time bound manner, the statement said.

Sharma said SJVN has bagged the project through international competitive bidding, after competing with various international companies including from China.

The Lower Arun Hydro Electric Project is located in Sankhuwasabha and Bhojpur districts of Nepal. On completion, the project will generate 3,561 million units of electricity per annum.

Sharma further stated that the projects being developed by SJVN in Nepal would result in overall development and boost mutual economic growth in India and Nepal.

He said the infrastructural development related to project activities would ensure overall socio-economic development of the region.

SJVN is already constructing 900 MW Arun 3 HEP (hydro projects) in Nepal and 217km 400 kV associated transmission system. With addition of Lower Arun Hydro Electric Project to its kitty, SJVN portfolio now stands at 8960.5 MW.

The company has presence in various sectors of energy generation which includes hydro, wind, solar & thermal. The company also has a presence in the field of energy transmission.

View: ‘Green Stimulus’ – Can Budget 2021 balance economic recovery and carbon neutrality goals?

The expectations from Budget 2021, especially with respect to the renewables sector is multi-fold this year owing to a significant change in the supply and power consumption and the COVID-19 impact on local manufacturing. The big question from the renewables perspective is – can the government provide the much needed ‘green stimulus’?

In this respect, experts and policymakers are increasingly mindful that climate change risks pose a much bigger threat to India’s economic development goals than the shocks induced by the current pandemic.

In April 2020, G20 countries including India committed for environmentally sustainable recovery measures. Now, they must seize this opportunity to walk the talk. An international poll (IPSOS MORI, 2020) revealed that 81 percent of Indian respondents believed government actions should prioritize climate change in the economic recovery post-COVID-19.

The low-carbon stimulus can spur economic recovery and job creation. Government spending on clean energy infrastructure has been proven to create more jobs than spending on fossil fuels. Moreover, stimulating low carbon economic recovery can boost India’s self-reliance goals in sectors such as energy, transportation etc. Solar-powered livelihood solutions are already driving self-reliance in many segments of the rural economy.

Lessons from international experience of implementing low-carbon stimulus plans

As per the International Energy Agency (IEA), green stimulus programmes implemented after the global financial crisis of 2008-09 provide useful lessons for the design of current green stimulus efforts.

Previous stimulus programmes have demonstrated that more private investment can be leveraged with well-targeted and well-functioning policy frameworks, thus lowering the need for budgetary support.

Modular technologies that benefit from learning-by-doing, proved to be more suitable targets for a short-term stimulus than large, complex engineering projects with lengthy project development times.

The need to prioritize shovel-ready megawatt-scale renewable power generation projects

There are over 500 shovel-ready solar PV, wind and hybrid renewable energy (RE) power projects with a cumulative capacity of more than 100 GW in the pipeline. Most of these projects are under development, seeking to execute power purchase agreements (PPA), obtain regulatory approvals, complete land acquisition, grid connectivity, etc.

Many of the inter-state transmission (ISTS) connected RE projects auctioned in the second half of 2019 and first half of 2020 are still awaiting to execute PPA. The plain vanilla solar PV projects auctioned under the manufacturing linked scheme has 12 GW of capacity lying idle without PPA. Most of these projects have a relatively higher tariff discovered as compared to recently announced auctions achieving record low tariff discovery.

A few projects involving energy storage solutions for peak power supply and round the clock (RTC) supply of hybrid renewable electricity are also facing inordinate delays to execute PPA because of the relatively higher tariff discovery.

Furthermore, tariff adoption and power procurement plan approvals by respective state electricity regulatory commissions are also delayed in a few cases. We believe the central off-takers can explore renegotiating tariffs discovered in those auctions wherever possible and offer better deals to the state-owned DISCOMs.

In the long term, a robust coordination mechanism between Central and State governments involving PSUs, DISCOMs and other stakeholders working towards firming up power procurement plans with regulatory approvals (ex-ante) for the planned RE projects would significantly ease the pressure of getting these projects through PPA and other regulatory approvals (ex-post) after tariff discovery through auctions. Various stakeholders need to come together and take this as a priority not just for the environment but also for economic revival.

Additionally, there is a need for the government to clarify whether the waiver of ISTS charges and losses on electricity generated from solar and wind projects will extend beyond 30th June 2023 and for how much period.

There is a sense of growing uncertainty within the renewables industry that is already grappling with challenges on several fronts to commission the projects as planned. The RE auctions planned in 2021-22 may not witness the same degree of competitiveness in tariff discovery if this clarity is not provided now.

For easing the pressure on ISTS connected RE projects, delayed because of land acquisition and grid connectivity issues, the Central government could to step in by pooling land and strengthening the evacuation infrastructure in RE resource-rich territories.

Can the Budget help to accelerate kilowatt scale renewable energy project pipeline?

The Budget can play a key role to boost demand for rooftop solar deployment in the institutional sectors, especially rural health centers and educational institutions.

As per the World Health Organization (WHO), unreliable electricity access leads to vaccine spoilage, interruptions in the use of essential medical and diagnostic devices, among others.

In India, both rural health centers and schools are vulnerable to irregular power supply and frequent interruptions, adversely impacting the delivery of essential healthcare and education in rural communities.

There are approx. 1.5 lakh health centers across the country with the potential for around 564 MW of rooftop solar deployment. Similarly, there are approx. 6.82 lakh rural primary schools managed by the government with potential for ~2 GW of rooftop solar deployment.

Hence, one of the key expectations from the Budget will be to allocate a dedicated capacity for rooftop solar deployment in rural schools (2 GW) and health centres (500 MW) with generation-based incentives.

– By Somesh Kumar, Partner and Leader, Power & Utilities, EY India with inputs from Mohammad Saif and Shuboday Ganta

Govt buys paddy worth over Rs 1.12 lakh crore at MSP so far

The government’s paddy procurement has increased by 19 percent so far this kharif marketing season to 596.98 lakh tonne, costing more than Rs 1.12 lakh crore to the exchequer, amid farmers’ protest at various Delhi borders against three new farm laws.

“In the ongoing Kharif Marketing Season (KMS) 2020-21, Government continues to procure Kharif 2020-21 crops at MSP (minimum support price) from farmers as per existing MSP Schemes,” an official statement said.

Kharif marketing season starts from October.

The Food Corporation of India and state agencies have procured 596.98 lakh tonne of paddy till January 29, 2021, up 18.92 percent from 501.97 lakh tonne in the corresponding period of the previous year.

“About 86.79 lakh farmers have already benefited from the ongoing KMS procurement operations with MSP value of Rs 1,12,709.84 crore,” the statement said.

Out of the total purchase of 596.98 lakh tonne, Punjab has contributed 202.77 lakh tonne.

Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, are protesting at various borders of the national capital, seeking repeal of farm laws and a legal guarantee for the MSP system.

Eleven rounds of talks between the Centre and around 40 farmer unions have failed to break the deadlock.

Future-Reliance deal: Biyani says Amazon creating confusion, ‘playing dog in the manger’

Future Group promoter Kishore Biyani has alleged that Amazon is “playing the dog in the manger” and trying to create confusion about the group’s Rs 24,713-crore deal with Reliance Industries.

“After all, they (Amazon) are inspired to name their product as Alexa… History tells us that Alexander conquered large parts of the world but failed in India. With you on our side and our relentless service to the Indian consumers, we will serve the best interests of our country and will continue to protect our fundamental right to survive, and to serve the Indian consumer,” Biyani said.

Seeking to assuage concerns of employees amid the ongoing tussle with e-commerce giant Amazon, Biyani said the organisation is on a firm legal footing and that has been vindicated by the regulatory approvals received for the deal from the Competition Commission of India (CCI), market regulator SEBI and the bourses.

The development comes days after Amazon petitioned the Delhi High Court to block the Future Group from selling retail assets to Reliance Industries and sought detention of Biyani and family members.

In a letter addressed to the Future Group employees, Biyani alleged that Amazon is running a concerted and coordinated media campaign and leaking misleading information.

Read here: Future Group’s Kishore Biyani writes to employees, says Amazon creating ruckus

Biyani said the Future Group was the target of a new form of attack and that a “corporate battle” is being fought for supremacy over Indian customers 70 years after India became a republic and also alleged that immense resources are being deployed on influencing Indian society’s mindset and belief systems.

“…Amazon is playing the dog in the manger, going all out to create a ruckus…For reasons we never believed earlier but quite evident today, this battle is about ownership of the Indian customer at any cost,” he said in his letter written on Friday.

Meanwhile, Amazon did not respond to an emailed query on the matter.

Biyani said he has received numerous letters, phone calls and messages from employees expressing their support, anxiety and queries on the various legal steps being taken by Amazon.

He justified the decision to sell retail, wholesale and some other businesses of Future Group to billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s RIL, saying he was left with no other option but to enter in a constructive deal with Reliance Group in the wake of the financial crisis in the retail sector on account of the pandemic.

Also Read: Amazon, Future Retail fight: Senior counsel says restraining Future Retail-Reliance deal will lead to job cuts

Biyani said Amazon’s policy of vexatious litigation and harassment was akin to Greek conquerer Alexander’s ruthless ambition to scorch the earth.

He further said that Amazon had relentlessly attacked Future Retail, the board of directors, lenders, promoters, and that those efforts had been unsparing of his close family members, including his father, uncle and children.

The Future Group founder noted that the deal between Future Coupons and Amazon in August 2019 was to build a coupons and gifting business, create an e-commerce distribution for brands and whenever FDI in retail is permitted, they could participate.

“FDI is not permitted in multi-brand retail, and as is the global policy trend, the government would like home-grown retailers to scale up,” he added.

In August 2019, Amazon had agreed to purchase 49 per cent of one of Future’s unlisted firms, Future Coupons Ltd (which owns 7.3 per cent equity in BSE-listed Future Retail Ltd through convertible warrants), with the right to buy into the flagship Future Retail after a period of three to 10 years.

Amazon had dragged the Future Group to arbitration at Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC), arguing that Future violated the contract by entering into the deal with rival Reliance.

On October 25, 2020, an interim award was passed in favour of Amazon with a single-judge bench of V K Rajah barring Future Retail from taking any step to dispose of or encumber its assets or issuing any securities to secure any funding from a restricted party.

After this, the Future Group filed a plea with the Delhi High Court. On December 21, a single-member bench rejected the plea to restrain Amazon from writing to regulatory authorities about the SIAC arbitral order but gave a go-ahead to the regulators to decide over the deal.

The court had also made several observations indicating that Amazon’s attempt to control Future Retail through a conflation of agreements Amazon has with an unlisted unit of the Indian company will be violative of the FEMA FDI rules.

Since then, Amazon has also filed a petition in the Delhi High Court seeking detention of Future Group founders, including CEO Kishore Biyani, and seizure of their assets as it sought to block the Future-Reliance deal.

(Disclosure: Network18, the parent company of CNBCTV18.com, is controlled by Independent Media Trust, of which Reliance Industries is the sole beneficiary.)