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Air India’s new owners will inherit its planes and $5 billion of debt

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Mumbai :The government is selling a controlling stake in its flagship carrier along with two-thirds of the loss-making airline’s about $7.8 billion debt, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi moves ahead with the nation’s most high profile asset sale in decades.
The government will sell 76% of Air India Ltd, according to a document released by the civil aviation ministry on Wednesday. The airline’s overseas budget carrier will be completely sold in the offer, while the state will sell a 50% stake in the ground handling unit separately. The administration may also ask the buyer to conduct an initial public offering.
A successful sale of Air India, which is surviving on taxpayer-funded bailouts, is seen as test case for Modi to burnish his credentials as a reformist attempting to steer the state away from running businesses and boost spending on health and education. The national carrier has five subsidiaries, a joint venture and a combined workforce of as many as 27,000.
“Selling a 76% stake is the second-best option for the government; the best option would have been to exit completely,” said Kapil Kaul, South Asia CEO at CAPA Centre for Aviation, “There’s also a caveat there that the acquirer will have to list the company, which means the government is looking at exiting through an IPO route, which is fair enough and very positive.”
IndiGo, India’s biggest airline, is the only company to publicly disclose a desire to buy Air India’s airline operations — the most lucrative business that includes prime time slots at airports from New York to Heathrow, as well as bilateral rights to start flights to most countries. Singapore Airlines Ltd and India’s Tata Group, which run a joint venture airline named Vistara in India, said they were also open to look at the sale, but haven’t elaborated yet.
Selling a majority stake in the loss-making, 85-year-old company isn’t going to be a cakewalk. At least one attempt almost two decades ago failed amid fierce political opposition. The latest offer will include Rs 333 billion ($5.1 billion) of debt that the buyer will have to take over with the balance going to the government.
India intends to sell the remaining stake in Air India, which may include selling shares during an initial share sale. The government will not sell shares in a block, according to the document.
Air India has been unprofitable since its 2007 merger with state-owned domestic operator Indian Airlines Ltd. The company made an operating profit of about Rs 3 billion ($46 million) in the year through March 2017, primarily due to a slump in oil prices. It still posted a net loss of Rs 57.7 billion, junior aviation minister Jayant Sinha told lawmakers on Feb 8.
Indian regulations allow a foreign airline to buy as much as 49% of a local carrier, while overseas investors other than airlines can buy an entire carrier. Modi in January tweaked rules in January to include Air India which wasn’t a part of those rules until then.
Air India started as Tata Airlines in 1932 and later became state-owned. Founded by Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata, it took off flying mail between Karachi in then-undivided, British-ruled India and Bombay. Once it turned commercial, the airline quickly became popular with its advertisements featuring Bollywood actresses, high-end champagne and surrealist painter Salvador Dali-designed porcelain ashtrays.


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Income Tax return processing time to reduce from 63 days to just 1 day

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Mumbai:The Union Cabinet approved an integrated income-tax e-filing and centralised processing centre (CPC) portal, which will reduce the return processing time from 63 days to just one day. The new portal is also expected to process the refunds within one day of filing of tax returns, in huge relief for taxpayers. However, one will have to wait for 18 months to see its launch.

“Earlier, taxpayers would face troubles because of delay in refund processing and the CBDT used to spend a lot of money every year as interest on pending refunds, which will be history now,” Union minister Piyush Goyal told reporters after the Cabinet meeting here.

Last month, Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) Chairman Sushil Chandra had said a simplified return form and process would be put in place soon in which the department would process the self-declaration made by the taxpayer. The new Rs 4,241-crore project will incorporate these changes.

 

“This is a laudable initiative and will go a long way to ease tax compliance, and enhanced experience for taxpayers. However, the real success of this will be measured when it brings ease to a common man and is accompanied by changes in the culture of the tax authorities at the operational level,” said Neeru Ahuja, partner, Deloitte India.

Currently, the e-filing portal and the CPC work separately. While e-filing is being managed by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), the CPC is run by Infosys.

In the bids invited by the government, Infosys emerged as the lowest bidder and it would develop the ITR-CPC 2.0 project in 18 months from now, Goyal said.

Under the new system, Infosys will handle end-to-end solution — from e-filing to return assessment to refund processing. The CBDT and Infosys would work in a revenue-sharing model, sources in the know said.

Goyal said ramping up scrutiny was not the mandate of the new portal. Currently, about 0.3 per cent of the I-T returns are scrutinised, he said. The system intends to resolve taxpayer grievances as well as tax demands from the CBDT faster and equitably, he said.

“The decision will ensure horizontal equity by processing returns filed by all categories of taxpayers across the country in a consistent, uniform, rule driven, identity blind manner. This will assure fairness in tax treatment to every taxpayer irrespective of their status,” a government release said.

But even under the new ecosystem, only those applications which are clean would have the chance of getting processed in a day, sources said.

About 23 crore I-T returns have been processed, along with Rs 2.62 trillion worth of refunds, till September 2018 cumulatively. Of this, refunds worth Rs 1.83 trillion have been processed in 2018-19, said Goyal.

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Lenders considering resolution plan for Jet Airways: SBI

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Mumbai: State Bank of India (SBI) on Thursday said lenders are considering a resolution plan for Jet Airways to ensure long-term viability of the debt-laden company.

The SBI statement comes a day after the crisis-hit airline said discussions were “progressing well” with stakeholders on a comprehensive resolution plan that also contemplates equity infusion and consequent changes in its board of directors.

There are rising concerns over financial health of Jet Airways, whose shares have also taken a beating at stock exchanges.

 

“We would like to state that lenders are considering a restructuring plan under the RBI framework for resolution of stressed assets that would ensure a long-term viability of the company,” SBI said in a statement.

It said the restructuring plan for the cash-strapped airline would need approval from boards of lenders.

“Any such plan would be subject to approval of boards of the lenders and subject to adherence and clearance, if required, from the RBI and/or Sebi (takeover code, ICDR regulations.) and Ministry of Civil Aviation and in compliance with all regulatory prescriptions,” the statement said.

Shares of the airline are trading 4.24 per cent lower at Rs 259.50 apiece on BSE.

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NGT slams Volkswagen for not depositing Rs 100 crore as per its 2018 order

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New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) slammed German auto major Volkswagen for not depositing Rs 100 crore in accordance with its November 16, 2018 order and directed it to submit the amount within 24 hours.

A bench headed by NGT chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel took strong exception to the non-compliance of its order by the automobile giant and asked it to give an undertaking that it will submit the amount by 5 PM Friday.

“Why have you not complied with our order when there is no stay. We will not give you any further time,” the bench, also comprising Justice S P Wangdi, said while asking Volkswagen to submit an affidavit of compliance after deposit.

 

The tribunal deferred the matter for hearing after it was informed that the Supreme Court is also seized of the issue.

On November 16 last year, the tribunal had said that the use of ”cheat device” by Volkswagen in diesel cars in India leads to inference of environmental damage and had asked the German auto major to deposit an interim amount of Rs 100 crore with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

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