18.7.19

Ebix to buy Yatra

The US-based Ebix group announced the acquisition of leading domestic travel portal Yatra for an enterprise valuation of $337.8 million (over Rs.2,300 crore).

Both the parties have signed a definitive agreement for the deal which would create the country’s largest travel services platform. It is the largest acquisition by Ebix Group in the country so far.

Ebix, in a statement, said that each ordinary share of Yatra will be entitled to receive 0.005 shares of a new class of preferred stock of Ebix. Further, each share of these preferred stock of Ebix will be convertible into 20 shares of common stock of the US firm.

Ebix will issue 2,43,747 convertible preferred shares, which, in turn, will be convertible into 48,74,931 shares of Ebix’s common stock, the statement said.

The company paid a 32% premium compared to Yatra’s closing price on March 8, when Ebix had offered to acquire Yatra.

Ebix, which is on an acquisition spree, has two global travel portfolios in the form of Via and Mercury.

In April last year, Ebix had acquired the forex card business of Centrum Direct for about Rs.1,200 crore.

Dibang dam gets nod

The Centre has given a green signal to the Dibang dam — set to be the largest hydropower project in India at 278 metres — which was put on hold during the United Progressive Alliance regime due to environmental concerns.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved ₹1,600 crore for pre-investment activities and clearances for the Dibang multipurpose project in Arunachal Pradesh, which is estimated to cost ₹ 28,080.35 crore to build, and once completed, will generate 2880 MW power.

Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar hailed the hydro-electric multipurpose project as a “major contribution of India” to the world which is battling climate change. “This project will produce 2880 MW of power but not use any coal,” Javadekar said.

In 2013, the Forest Advisory Committee of the ministry of Environment and Forests put the project on hold after it found that around 350,000 trees had to be felled for the project that was supposed to come up on the Dibang river.

Once complete, the project is expected to generate 2880MW (12x240MW) power to produce 11223 MU of energy in a 90% dependable year. “On completion, the government of Arunachal Pradesh will get 12% or 1346.76 MU free power from the project. The total value of the benefit to Arunachal Pradesh will be ₹ 26,785 crore over the project life of 40 years,” an official said.

The project has received statutory clearances, including the environment clearance, forest clearance (stage l) and defence clearance. Only forest clearance (stage II) remains, for the project to seek investment sanction from Centre.

A sum of ₹ 241 crore has been allocated for community and social development.

Sushanta Talukdar, a Guwahati-based analyst on Northeastern affairs, pointed out that the “main issue before the union government is to take the people of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh into confidence over the possible impact on the environment, as Arunachal Pradesh has a fragile geology.”

17.7.19

90% of Kaziranga park submerged

With over 150 anti-poaching camps in the Kaziranga National Park affected by the Assam floods, the authorities are working round-the-clock to check poaching at the UNESCO World Heritage site, officials said.

The staff and security personnel are performing their duties using mechanised and country boats to deal with any kind of eventualities, they said.

Ninety per cent of the Kaziranga National Park in Golaghat and Nagaon districts of the state was still submerged, a statement from the Assam Ministry of Forest and Environment said.

Besides forest guards, a State Disaster Relief Force team was engaged alongside Assam Police personnel in vulnerable spots of the park, Divisional Forest Officer, Kaziranga National Park, Rohini Ballab Saikia said The press communique said 155 of the 199 antipoaching camps at the KNP are affected by floodwaters.

The Kaziranga National Park is home to the world’s largest population of Indian one-horned rhinoceroses. Other animals such as tigers, elephants, sloth bears, monkeys and musk deer are also found in the forest.

Some of the animals have taken shelter in highlands within the park and many are migrating to the southern highlands of Karbi Anglong, crossing National Highway 37, the statement said. Though 90 per cent of the KNP is submerged, water level inside the park and the adjoining NH-37 has receded to some extent, restoring the movement of heavy vehicles on the highway on Tuesday.

However, passenger buses were not being allowed to drive through the park, Saikia said.

Till now, six accidents have been reported on the national highway, causing the death of five Hog Deer and a Sambar, the communique said.

Five other animals in the park are reported to have succumbed to injuries “for various reasons due to flood”, it said. “Teams for rescue operation of distressed animal, as per necessity, are kept in readiness. The Special Rhino Protection Force is also deployed in vulnerable locations of the park,” the communique said.

16.7.19

Wholesale Inflation Softens to 2.02%

A fall in energy prices and a moderate rise in prices of manufactured goods helped wholesale price-based inflation slow down for the second straight month and touch a 23-month low of 2% in June, as against 5.7% a year ago and 2.5% in May 2019.

In contrast, primary articles saw a rise with the food segment witnessing an increase of close to 7% in June, driven by a spike in prices of pulses, vegetables and onion. Economists attributed the over 23% rise in pulses to lower sowing, with the impact visible in the retail prices of tur and other daals.

Although monsoon has revived, economists are keeping a close watch as poor rains will have an adverse impact on food prices, something that policymakers are wary of.

Others also warned on some impact of the recent increase in taxes on fuel prices, which could stoke inflation.

On Friday, data released by the government showed that retail inflation had risen to a six-month high of 3.2% in June. So, what explains the divergence in the two inflation numbers? “Unlike the CPI where the weight (of primary products) in the index is higher, in case of WPI, manufactured products dominate and hence the overall impact of food inflation is less stark on headline inflation. Hence,... CPI inflation (will) be at a higher level than WPI inflation for the coming months,” CARE Ratings said in a statement.

NIA’s scope swells

The National Investigative Agency (Amendment) Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha, empowering the body to investigate cases not only in India, but also those affecting the “interests of India” abroad. Despite a heated debate over the bill, as Opposition parties raised serious objections to it, it managed to get a nod as the ruling party reigns in the lower house.

The bill proposed to broaden the NIA’s powers enabling it to investigate and prosecute ‘scheduled offences’ (a specific list of offences) and creation of special courts for trial among other things. G Kishan Reddy, minister of state (home affairs), told the House on Monday that NIA has a good track record with 90 per cent convictions.

Reddy said that the special court judges will be appointed by the Chief Justice of India in a bid to fast-track the justice delivery process. “State governments must constitute special courts to tackle terrorism. NIA will investigate cases under the Arms Act, and tackle cyber-terrorism,” he said.


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Exports contract for the first time in nine months


India’s merchandise exports contracted for the first time in nine months in June while imports shrank first time in four months, signalling that rising protectionism and trade tensions between the US and China are impacting India’s trade prospects as well.

Exports in June fell 9.71% to $25.01 billion, while imports dipped 9.06% to $40.29 billion, leaving behind a trade deficit of $15.28 billion during the month. Comparatively, China’s exports in June fell 1.3%, while imports shrank 7.3%, leading to a trade surplus of $50.98 billion, significantly higher than what analysts projected.

During June, petroleum exports declined 33% while non-oil, non-gems and jewellery exports contracted by 4.86%. Among other major items, exports of gems and jewellery (10.7%), ready-made garments (-9.18%), chemicals (-8.17%) and engineering goods (-2.65%) also contracted.