OPINION, P6 COMPANIES, P4 INTERNATIONAL, P8 EDITORIAL NARENDRAN-SPEAK FACING THE HEAT ‘Steel demand to grow at rate of GDP growth or higher in FY22’ Samsung heir faces nine years in jail as bribery trial wraps Vaccines to lead Covid fight, but focus on therapeutics R&D too Comprehensive digital education strategy a must, govt needs to partner ed-tech firms NEW DELHI, THURSDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2020 FOLLOW US ON TWITTER & FACEBOOK. APP AVAILABLE ON APP STORE & PLAYSTORE WWW.FINANCIALEXPRESS.COM READ TO LEAD VOL. XLVI NO. 261, 22 PAGES, `6.00 (PATNA `6.00, RAIPUR `7.00) P U B L I S H E D F R O M : A H M E D A B A D , B E N G A L U R U , C H A N D I G A R H , C H E N N A I , H Y D E R A B A D , K O C H I , K O L K ATA , L U C K N O W, M U M B A I , N E W D E L H I , P U N E SENSEX: 47,746.22 ▲ 133.14 NIFTY: 13,981.95 ▲ 49.35 NIKKEI 225: 27,444.17 ▼ 123.98 HANG SENG: 27,147.11 ▲ 578.62 `/$: 73.30 ▲ 0.12 `/€: 89.91 ▲ 0.04 BRENT: $51.44 ▲ $0.35 GOLD: `49,774 ▼ `80 WITH ITS telecom infrastructure in the state being damaged during farmers' protest, Reliance Jio has written to Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh seeking his intervention for action against those responsible for the incidents of "sabotage and vandalism", reports PTI. ‘Pvt banks taking away share from PSBs in rural credit’ RURAL CREDIT growth gathered steam in FY20 and surpassed growth in other categories after a gap of four years, reports fe Bureau in Mumbai. Private banks have begun to gain share in this segment even as PSBs’ footprint reduces, RBI said in its trend and progress report. Subscribers can now exit NPS via online mode PFRDA ON Wednesday said subscribers can now use the online mode also to exit from the National Pension System (NPS), reports PTI. Under the current process, the subscribers have to physically approach points of presence to complete the exit process. PUNJAB STIR Farmers win in two of four issues No stiff penalties for stubble burning; no change in electricity subsidies; will discuss MSP & repeal of laws FE BUREAU New Delhi, December 30 THE CHANCES OF a solution to the prolonged agitation by farmers at the border of the national capital and elsewhere appeared bright for the first time on Wednesday, with the government acceding to two of the four demands raised by farmers. The government also agreed to discuss the othertwo (more important) demands — repeal of the laws and legally guaranteedminimumsupport prices (MSPs) — at the next round of talks on January 4. The government also is learnt to have suggested that In the next round of talks, the remaining issues will be discussed and I hope there will be an agreement between government and farmer unions. —NARENDRA SINGH TOMAR agriculture minister Govt accedes to two of the four demands of farmers: To keep farmers outside the ambit of air pollution Ordinance, meaning no stiff penalties for stubble burning; to continue current electricity subsidy system for irrigation,where farmers pay at highly subsidised rates Demands for repeal of the three contentious laws and legal guarantee for MSPwill be discussed in the next round of talks on January 4 an expert committee be formed to weigh the ramifications of a legally mandated MSP system. Continued on Page 2 Welcome the spirit of today’s talks, hopeful of a positive outcome in the next round of discussions. —RAKESH TIKAIT spokeman, Bharatiya Kisan Union COVID COMBAT POWER PACT Astra gets UK nod, awaits India approval EU, China seal investment deal To be prioritised for most vulnerable UK groups, with shots starting Monday THE EUROPEAN UNION and China agreed onWednesdayto an investment deal that will give European companies greater access to Chinese markets and help redress what Europe sees as unbalanced economic ties. The agreement has been nearly seven years in the making and is likely to take at least another year to enter into force. It forms part of a new relationshipwith China,which the EU views as both a partner and a systemic rival. European firms will gain permission tooperatein China in sectors including electric cars, private hospitals, real estate, advertising, the maritime industry, telecom cloud services, airline reservation systems and ground handling. Some requirements that companies operate as part of joint ventures with Chinese SUZI RING December 30 ASTRAZENECAAND the University of Oxford’s Covid-19 vaccine won UK clearance, marking the first approval worldwide for a shot that’s faced questions butwill be key to mass immunisations. The vaccine will be prioritised for the country’s most vulnerable groups, with shots starting Monday, according to the government. It’s the second coronavirus injection to be cleared for emergency use in the UK after Pfizer and BioNTech’s in Serum expects approval in the next few days The BorisJohnson government has already bought 100 million doses of theAstraZenecaOxfordvaccine It’s the second corona shot to be cleared for emergency use in the UK after the PfizerBioNTech one FE BUREAU Pune, December 30 Thevaccine can be deployed swiftly because it’s easier to transport and store than the Pfizer one early December. The move will help the UK ramp up vaccinations as a new surge in infections strains hospitals. It has reported record numbers of cases this week, with a new variant of the pathogen raising concern globally. CYRUS POONAWALLA, THE chairmanofSerumInstituteof India (SII), said on Wednesday 17 million doses of the Covid19 vaccine were ready to be shipped out and that the companywas awaiting the government’s approval. Poonawalla said a purchase agreement was yet to be signed and that an approval was expected in the next couple of days. SII has an agreementwithAstraZenecato manufacture and supply the Covid-19 vaccine in India and lowincome countries. Continued on Page 2 Continued on Page 2 India-UK flights to remain suspended till January 7 PASSENGER FLIGHTS between the UK and India would remain suspended till January 7 and they will resume in a “strictly regulated” mannerthereafter,aviationministerHardeep Singh Puri said on Wednesday,reports PTI. The civil aviation ministry had last week suspended all flights between the European country and India from December 23 to December 31 as a mutated variant of the coronavirus was detected there. Puri’s announcement has come following a recommendation bythe Union health ministry to extend the suspension of India-UK flights till January 7. ■ Page 3 PHILIP BLENKINSOP Brussels, December 30 What's in the deal PEAK POWER demand of the country touched the 1,82,888-mega watt (MW) mark on Wednesday — an all-time high — marking the reversal of the trend of tepid RBI LIQUIDITY Special Feature Keeping us sane: Best gadgets of the pandemic year Gadgets became the way to connect with the world, work and stay relevant in a year that saw Covid-19 upset all norms of human behaviour. Check out the smartphones, laptops, et al that emerged winners ■ Gadgets, P9 QuickPicks Cabinet nod: Sops for grain-based ethanol, approval for infra projects THE CABINET committee on economic affairs (CCEA) on Wednesday cleared an additional interest subsidy of `4,573 crore for setting up distilleries that will be free to use for not just cane but also grains like rice, wheat and corn to produce the ethanol, marking an important shift in its usual canecentric bio-fuel policy, reports fe Bureau in New Delhi. It also approved `7,725 crore for creating trunk infrastructure in two industrial areas and for setting up logistic and transport hubs. Of the `7,725 crore, as much as `3,884 crore will be spent on setting up a multi-modal logistics hub and a multi modal transport hub in Greater Noida. PAGE 2 HIGHLY-RATED FIRMS accounted fora majorityof the funds disbursed to non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) under the central bank’s targeted long-term repo operations (TLTRO).Arating-wise analysis shows that firms with ‘AAA’ and ‘AA’ ratings accessed 88% of disbursements made under the targeted liquidity operations, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said in its report on the trend and progress of banking in 1.8 BBB Unrated 0.3 A 9.9 AA 17.7 (%) AAA 70.3 Rating-wise share of NBFCs in total disbursement $1.4-bn fundraising: Vedanta says no pledge on shares VEDANTA LTD'S promoters cannot sell or create any security on shares they hold in the group as part of the terms attached to the recent $1.4 billion fund-raising — conditions which technically fall within the definition of 'encumbrance' but no pledge on shares has been created, the company said on Wednesday, reports PTI. Vedanta had on Tuesday informed the stock exchanges about its promoters raising $1-billion debt by issuing equivalent notes to Citicorp International Ltd and another $400 million in notes to an entity under Oaktree Capital Group. PAGE 4 `4,837-cr bank fraud: CBI books Hyd-based firm IVRCL,its MD THE CBI on Wednesday carried out searches on the premises of infrastructure firm IVRCL, its managing director E Sudhir Reddy and joint managing director R Balarami Reddy who have been booked by the agency for an alleged fraud worth over `4,800 crore against a consortium of banks, officials said, reports PTI. The agency has booked the Hyderabad-based company and its directors on a complaint from State Bank of India, CBI spokesperson RC Joshi said. The CBI has alleged that the company had availed credit facilities from consortium members and cheated them by not repaying the loan amount. Source: Staff calculations based on supervisory data and Prime Database firmswill gain permission to operate in China in sectors, including electric cars, private hospitals, real estate, advertising ■ Requirements that companies operate as part of jointventures with Chinese partnerswill be lifted ■ Chinawill ban the forced transfer oftechnology from foreign companies partners will be lifted. Companies that could benefitincludeDaimler,BMW, Peugeot,Allianz and Siemens , all with a large presence in China. Continued on Page 2 growth in energy demand during the pandemic and signalling a spurt in commercial and industrial activities, reports fe Bureau in NewDelhi. ■ Page 2 ● RELIEF Deadlines for filing GST, I-T returns extended Top-rated firms get 88% of funds FE BUREAU Mumbai, December 30 ■ European Power demand hits all-time high India for FY20. The TLTROs were aimed at providing system-level liquidity as well as targeted liquidity to sectors and entities experiencing liquidity constraints and restricted market access. However, the data put out by the central bank suggests that stronger companies may have benefited the most from these operations. A study of the distribution of TLTRO funds reveals that `76,843 crore was requested byNBFCs and housing finance companies (HFCs), four-fifths of which has been disbursed. NBFCs garnered 60% of the total disbursement. “Non-deposit taking NBFCs, particularly NBFCsND-SI (systemicallyimportant non deposit-taking NBFCs), havebeenmajorbeneficiaries,” the central bank said. Within NBFCs-ND-SI, investment and credit companies (NBFCs-ICC) and infrastructure finance companies (IFCs) cornered 88% of the funds.“Furthermore, a ratingwise analysis shows that these firmswerealsowell-rated,with ‘AAA’ and ‘AA’ rated firms accessing 88% of disbursements,”the report added. NBFCs-ND-SI, which accessed TLTRO funding, constitute 57.4% of the NBFC universe. Continued on Page 2 FE BUREAU New Delhi, December 30 SHOT IN THE ARM US vice-president-elect Kamala Harris receives a dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at United Medical Center in Washington, US External trade FE BUREAU GDP slump keeps current account in surplus India’s current account remained in surplus for the third month in a row in the second quarter as goods imports contracted sharper than exports, reflecting the economic slump. Current account surplus of $15.5 billion, plus a similar balance in the capital account, led to accretion of a robust $32 billion to reserves in Q2. Net accretion/depletion of forex reserves, $ billion (LHS) Current account balance, % of GDP (RHS) 36 31.6 21.6 24 14.2 12 0 -11.3 -1.9 -0.7 -2.3 -2.9 -2.7 Q1 Q2 Q3 FY19 18.8 5.1 -4 -12 -24 14 Q4 -2.1 Q1 -0.9 3.8 19.8 IN THE NEWS Damage to infra: RJio writes to Punjab CM -0.4 Q2 Q3 FY20 6 4 2.4 0.1 2 0 -2 Q4 Q1 Q2 FY21 -4 THE GOVERNMENT ON Wednesday extended the due dates for various tax filings, including for making declaration under the direct tax dispute resolution schemeVivad Se Vishwas, in view of the difficulties faced by taxpayers due to the Covid-19 pandemic. On the indirect tax compliance, the government has extended the date for filing annual returns under GST for financialyear2019-20 to February 28 from the previous deadline of December 31. For salaried employees,the deadline for filing income tax returns for the current assessment year (AY 2020-21) has been pushed by10 days to January 10. This had been extended twice previously from the original deadline of July 31. Similarly, for direct tax assessees who are required to get their personal and company’s account audited, the deadline has now been extended to February 15 from January 31 earlier. Continued on Page 2 BUMPER RUN Bitcoin hits new high, set for biggest monthly gain since 2019 ERIC LAM December 30 BITCOIN, THE WORLD’S largest cryptocurrency, is on track to close out a banner year with another bang.The digital asset surged above $28,000 on Wednesday to a record high, adding to its 47% rally so far in December, according to data compiledbyBloomberg.Bitcoin rose as much as 6.2% to $28,572.10 inAsia trading and is on track for its biggest monthlygain since May2019. Bitcoin has almost quadrupled in value this year amid the global coronavirus pandemic, while the wider Bloomberg Galaxy Crypto Index tracking the largest digital currencies is up about 270% as rival coins such as Etherhave also rallied. The latest price surge continues to divide opinion between those who view cryptocurrencies as a hedge against dollar weakness and inflation risk, and others who question Bitcoin Santa rally Largest crypto on track for strongest month since May 2019 (%) XBT-USD cross rate - price change 1 day percent 60 40 20 0 -20 June 2019 Source: Bloomberg Sept Dec Mar June 2020 Sept Dec Bitcoin’svalidityasanassetclass givenitsspeculativenatureand boom-and-bust cycles. “While a growing institutionalpresencehasbeenpartof thenarrativeofthecurrentbull run,wemayseeincreasedretail interest in Bitcoin as a form of digital gold,” Paolo Ardoino, chief technology officer of crypto exchange Bitfinex said in an email. Regulatory concerns also remainawiderfactorforcrypto investors. The Securities and New Delhi Exchange Commission this monthaccusedRippleLabsand its top executives of misleading investorsinaffiliatedtokenXRP. While Ripple plans to challenge theaccusationinthecourts,the development underscores the prospect of stricter oversight of digital assets. XRP has plummeted almost 70% this month and faces further pressure with Coinbase the latest exchange to announce plans to suspend tradingin the token. —BLOOMBERG
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