EU agency ponders approval for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine

The European Union’s medicines agency was meeting Wednesday to consider giving the green light to Moderna Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine, a decision that would give the 27-nation bloc a second vaccine to use in the desperate battle to tame the virus rampaging across the continent.

The meeting of the European Medicines Agency’s human medicines committee (CHMP) comes amid high rates of infections in many EU countries and strong criticism of the slow pace of vaccinations across the region of some 450 million people.

The EMA has already approved a coronavirus vaccine made by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech. Both vaccines require giving people two shots.

Ahead of the meeting on the Moderna vaccine, the agency said in a tweet that its experts were working hard to clarify all outstanding issues with the company. It did not elaborate on what those issues were. Moderna also declined to comment.

Early results of large, still unfinished studies show both the Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines appear safe and strongly protective, although Modernas is easier to handle since it doesnt need to be stored at ultra-frozen temperatures.

The United States, Canada and Israel have already approved use of the Moderna vaccine. The U.S. gave it the green light for emergency use in people over 18 years on Dec. 18, followed by Canada five days later with an interim authorization also for people over 18. Israel authorized the vaccine on Monday.

If the EU agency joins the list, its decision will have to be confirmed by the bloc’s executive commission in Brussels before vaccinations with the Moderna shot can begin.

Moderna said Monday that it is increasing its estimate for global vaccine production in 2021 from 500 to 600 million doses. The company said it is continuing to invest and add staff to build up to potentially 1 billion doses for 2021.

Both Modernas and Pfizer-BioNTechs shots are mRNA vaccines, made with groundbreaking new technology. They don’t contain any coronavirus meaning they cannot cause infection. Instead, they use a piece of genetic code that trains the immune system to recognize the spike protein on the surface of the virus, ready to attack if the real thing comes along.

Also Read: India approves Covishield and Covaxin COVID-19 vaccines: Here are the key things to know

The EU officially began giving out Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination shots on Dec. 27, but the speed of each nation’s inoculation program has varied widely. France vaccinated around 500 people in the first week, while Germany vaccinated 200,000. The Dutch were only beginning to give out vaccine shots Wednesday, the last EU nation to start doing so.

Click here: For the latest news and updates on COVID-19

Moneycontrol Pro Ideas For Profit: Here’s why CCL Products is in focus

coffee

One of the largest processor and exporter of instant coffee globally, CCL Products, has nearly 10 percent market share in the global private label instant coffee market. It has a total capacity of 35,000 metric tonnes per annum and the plants are located in India, Vietnam and Switzerland.

However, the company does not own any coffee plantation and works on cost-plus model. It deals in both B2B and B2C with over 90 percent of its revenue coming from the former.

Moneycontrol.com’s Nandish Shah gets more details on the company’s performance in the special segment ‘Moneycontrol Pro Ideas For Profit’.

Watch video for more.

New pipeline to increase revenue by Rs 180 cr per year over 1-2 years, says Petronet LNG

LNG

The Kochi-Mangaluru pipeline will increase the revenue of Petronet LNG by Rs 180 crore per year for the next 1-2 years, said Vinod Kumar Mishra, Director-Finance of the company. “The Kochi-Mangaluru pipeline is a boon to Petronet LNG,” he said.

The Kochi-Mangaluru pipeline was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday. The work was given to the LNG terminal of Petronet LNG in Kochi for the 450-km natural gas pipeline between Kochi in Kerala to Mangaluru in Karnataka.

The gas pipeline will ensure supply to domestic as well as commercial establishments across the region.

“This Kochi-Mangaluru pipeline was long-awaited and it was to be commissioned by 2013-2014 but because of various land-related issues, it could not be completed. Finally, it has been done, it is a boon to us because our Kochi terminal – which was being utilised at a low level at 16-17 percent – will enhance to the level of almost 30-35 percent,” Mishra said in an interview with CNBC-TV18.

He expects the utilisation to increase once the city gas distribution network expands further. “City gas distribution projects, whenever they come up in future in the next five years, the utilisation will further enhance,” he said.

“Perhaps, it will further enhance the revenue of the company to the extent of almost Rs 180 crore in the next one-two years,” Mishra said.

In terms of volumes, he said, “At present, we are more than pre-COVID levels. Consumption level in November and October was to the extent of almost 157-160 mmscmd.”

Mishra is expecting more demand from the city gas distribution segment. “We are also expecting more demand from city gas distribution projects in times to come. That is an area which has a lot of potential in the future which will help us increase our consumption,” he said.

For full conversation, watch video…

China slams US, says it firmly opposes third party meddling in border conflict with India

A day after US Envoy Kenneth Jester stressed on the importance of cooperation between India and the United States to counter China’s aggression along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), Beijing on Wednesday said it firmly opposes any third party meddling in the issue.

“We have noticed recent remarks with reference to China by the US side. We firmly oppose any third party meddling in China-India border issue and hope the US relations with others not target any specific country,” tweeted Chinese Ambassador to India, Sun Weidong.

Kenneth Juster, outgoing US Ambassador to India, on Wednesday said, “No other country does as much to contribute to the security of Indians and India. Our close coordination has been important as India confronts, perhaps on a sustained basis, aggressive Chinese activity on its border.”

Juster stated that the US and India are committed to strengthening defence and security cooperation and pointed out that in the past four years, the two countries have purposely deepened this cooperation to keep our nation safe from a growing array of threats and to provide security beyond our own borders.

He also said that the Indo-Pacific region needs stability, leadership and a democratic model for development that does not threaten the sovereignty of other countries.

India and China are engaged in a border conflict since May 2020 and have had several rounds of talks at the diplomatic and military level to resolve the conflict.

At least 20 Indian Army personnel were killed during a violent confrontation with Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley in June 2020.  The Chinese side had also suffered heavy casualties.

In the last round of talks, both sides agreed to continue working towards ensuring disengagement of troops from all friction points along the LAC in Ladakh region.

(With inputs from agencies)

 

 

Maruti Suzuki adds S-Cross, Ignis, WagonR to its subscription offering

The country’s largest car maker Maruti Suzuki India on Wednesday said it has added models like S-Cross, Ignis and WagonR to its vehicle subscription offering for individual customers. The company had launched its Maruti Subscribe initiative in major cities like Delhi-NCR, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, Mumbai, Chennai and Ahmedabad, with its models Swift, Dzire, Vitara Brezza, Ertiga from its Arena network and Baleno, Ciaz, and XL6 from Nexa retail chain.

”Subscription has become more affordable with the inclusion of WagonR in Maruti Suzuki ARENA and Ignis in NEXA,” the company said in a statement. Customers will pay an all-inclusive monthly subscription charge starting Rs 12,722 for WagonR Lxi and Rs 13,772 for Ignis Sigma in Delhi (including taxes) for a tenure of 48 months, it added.

The company said under this initiative a customer can use a brand-new car without actually owning it. The customer needs to pay an all-inclusive monthly fee that comprehensively covers maintenance, 24×7 roadside assistance and insurance for the complete tenure, it said.

Also Read: Maruti Suzuki total December sales rise 20% YoY to 1.6 lakh units

The plan comes with tenure options of 24, 36, and 48 months, as per the customer’s choice, Maruti Suzuki India said.

NMDC hikes prices yet again taking overall increase to 50% in last month

Coal India,

State-owned NMDC (National Mineral Development Corporation) has hiked prices again, as per people in the know.

Overall, there have been three price increases in the last 35 days and together it amounts to a hike of 45-55 percent.

NMDC on last Friday posted over 23 percent rise in iron ore output at 3.86 million tonne (MT) during December 2020. In the year-ago period, the miner had produced 3.13 MT iron ore from its mines, NMDC said in a BSE filing.

The company’s total sales during the month under review were at 3.62 MT, up 19 per cent from 3.04 MT in December 2019.

NMDC, under the administrative control of the Ministry of Steel, is the country’s largest iron ore miner, presently producing about 35 MT of iron ore annually from three fully mechanised mines in Chhattisgarh and Karnataka.

Besides iron ore, it is also involved in the exploration of a wide range of minerals like copper, rock phosphate, limestone, dolomite and gypsum.

Watch the video for more details about the price hike.

Bird flu outbreak: Centre issues advisory, 7 states on alert; MP restricts sale of poultry birds

Several states on Wednesday raised an alert to contain the outbreak of the H5N8 strain of bird flu and sent samples for testing, while Kerala began culling of chickens and ducks. The Union Ministry of Agriculture has also issued an advisory to the states to avoid the spread of the infection. Madhya Pradesh has restricted the sale of poultry birds after the H5N8 strain of bird flu has been tested positive.

Kerala has begun culling of chickens and ducks after 1,700 ducks died due to the flu. The operation to cull birds in and around a one-km radius of the affected areas in Alappuzha and Kottayam in Kerala was launched a day after the results of samples tested at the National Institute of High-Security Animal Diseases in Bhopal confirmed the outbreak of the bird flu in the two districts. Culling of birds in four panchayats of Nedumudi, Thakazhy, Pallippad, and Karuvatta in the Kuttanad region, where the outbreak has been reported, is expected to be completed by today evening, Alappuzha district authorities said. In Karuvatta panchayat alone, around 12,000 birds will be culled, an official said.

Southern states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu stepped up surveillance and formed guidelines following the outbreak of the viral infection in neighbouring Kerala.

In Haryana, over four lakh poultry birds have died at farms in Panchkula district in the past 10 days, officials had said, adding a team from Jalandhar’s Regional Disease Diagnosis Laboratory has collected samples.

In Madhya Pradesh, officials said that 155 dead crows in Indore have been found with the H5N8 strain since the pathogen was first detected in the city a week ago. In Indore, the presence of bird flu was first detected on December 29, when about 50 crows were found dead on the Daly College campus of the Residency area, and tests run on two of the carcasses confirmed the presence of the pathogen. Madhya Pradesh veterinary department deputy director Pramod Sharma said 155 crows were detected with the H5N8 virus in the Residency area in the last eight days.

The deadly avian influenza has not been found in any other bird species apart from crows in Indore so far, he said. The survey is being carried out in the Residency area to check people with symptoms like cold, cough, and fever, a state health department official said but added that no case of the H5N8 infection has been found in humans.

Meanwhile in Rajasthan, after Jhalwar, birds in Kota and Baran were found with the infection. However, no cases have been reported yet in Maharashtra, which shares borders with Madhya Pradesh.

Officials in Himachal Pradesh surveyed the area around the Pong Dam Lake sanctuary in Kangra district to check the spread of the flu to domestic poultry birds, a day after samples of dead migratory birds tested positive for H5N8. Till now, 2,700 migratory birds, mostly bar-headed geese, have been found dead in the lake area and samples have been sent for testing, state animal husbandry officials said.

Jammu and Kashmir has sounded an alert and started collecting samples to check the health of winged guests flocking to the Union territory during winters, officials said as Himachal Pradesh reported cases of bird flu.

With inputs from PTI

Despite festive recovery, July-December housing sales see a decline: Knight Frank

Real estate, commercial real estate

Indian real estate may have staged a breathtaking recovery in the run-up to and during the festive season, but that rally wasn’t enough to stop declining residential sales and launches in the last six months of 2020, reveals a study.

On Wednesday, property consultant Knight Frank India’s released its real estate report, which said that the top eight property markets pan-India sold about 94,997 residential units between July and December, a 19 percent year-on-year decline. The report added that launches stood at 86,139 new homes — a fall of 23 percent year-on-year.

“The first half of the year witnessed a complete standstill of activities due to the forced lockdown starting March 2020, followed by encouraging government and central bank interventions at rapid intervals and tryst of the medical fraternity for vaccine development, which holds the potential to bring stability,” said Shishir Baijal, Chairman and Managing Director, Knight Frank India

Oct-Dec quarter shows signs of recovery

While the tepid sales and launch numbers are no doubt a reflection of the dullness prevalent right through the COVID-19 pandemic, the October-December quarter saw stellar festive sales. Soaking up the festive boom, the last quarter of 2020, Knight Frank’s report said registered a whopping 61,593 residential units in sales, up 84 percent from the previous quarter. This period also saw a more-than-healthy 55,033 launches pan-India.

“A significant amount of latent demand came to market during the festive season in Q4 2020 and as a result, with 84 percent quarter-on-quarter jump, housing sales reached an exact 100 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels,” Baijal added.

Mumbai the top performer, Bengaluru the worst

Through the general gloom, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region seems to have been the standout performer in sales. The city sold 30,042 residential units, a pleasantly surprising 10 percent rise in year-on-year sales. Taking a cue from its neighbour, Pune saw a similar 9 percent jump in sales. In all, Mumbai and Pune were the only two cities that saw a spike in year-on-year sales.

The worst performer in H2 2020 was Bengaluru, which the report says sold only all of 11,402 units in the second half of last year, registering a massive fall of 43 percent year-on-year. In fact, Bengaluru ended the year selling 51 percent fewer units when compared to 2019.

Among the long list of other poor performers in 2020 were cities like NCR, Hyderabad and Chennai registered a sales decline of 31 percent, 34 percent and 29 percent, respectively between July and December.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi to interact with leading economists on Friday

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will interact with leading economists and sectoral experts on Friday to deliberate on measures that may be included in the upcoming budget for promoting growth, amid uncertainty on multiple fronts caused by COVID-19. The meeting, being organised by the government think tank Niti Aayog will be held virtually and will also be attended by Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar and Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant.

”The Prime Minister will meet economists on Friday to seek their inputs for the next budget,” said a government official on condition of anonymity. The meeting assumes significance as according to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), India’s economy is projected to contract 7.5 percent in the current fiscal ending March 31, 2021, while the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank estimates the contraction at 10.3 percent and 9.6 percent, respectively.

India’s economy recovered faster than expected in the September quarter as a pick-up in manufacturing helped GDP clock a lower contraction of 7.5 percent and held out hopes for further improvement on better consumer demand. India’s economic growth stood at an estimated 4.2 percent in 2019-20.

The upcoming Union Budget is likely to be presented on February 1, 2021.

SC agrees to examine ‘love jihad’ laws, issues notice to UP, Uttarakhand

Plea seeks transfer of PILs on uniform marriage age from Delhi, Raj HCs to SC

The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to examine controversial new laws of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand regulating religious conversions due to inter-faith marriages. A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde, however, refused to stay the controversial provisions of the laws and issued notices to both state governments on two different petitions.

The pleas, filed by advocate Vishal Thakre and others and an NGO Citizen for Justice and Peace’, have challenged the constitutional validity of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020 and the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018 which regulate religious conversions of inter-faith marriages.

At the outset, the top court asked the petitioners to approach the Allahabad High Court after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that it is already seized of the matter. The bench said that this is not the transfer petition where it can transfer to itself all the cases on the law after one of the petitioners said that the issue should be examined by the top court.

Senior advocate CU Singh, appearing for the NGO, referred to the judgement of Justice (retd) Deepak Gupta and said that similar laws are being made in various states. He sought the stay of the provisions of the law and said that people are being in the middle of wedding ceremonies. Singh added that some of the provisions of these laws are oppressive and horrible in nature and require the prior consent of the government to marry which is absolutely obnoxious.

The bench said that it is issuing notice and sought a response from both the state governments within four weeks.