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Don’t privatise Air India, give it five years to revive: Parliamentary panel

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New Delhi :This is not an appropriate time to divest government stake in Air India, which should be given at least five years to revive and its debt written off, a parliamentary panel is likely to tell the government.

The panel is also understood to have concluded that the equity infusion in the national carrier, as part of the turnaround plan (TAP), was made on a “piece meal basis”, adversely affecting its financial and operational performance and “forcing” the airline to take loans “at a higher interest rate to meet the shortfall”.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture concluded that the government should review its decision to privatise or disinvest Air India and explore the possibility of “an alternative to disinvestment of our national carrier which is our national pride”.

 

Observing that Air India has always “risen to the occasion” at times of need like calamities, social or political unrest in India or abroad, the Committee said “it would be lopsided to assess and evaluate the functioning of Air India solely from business point of view, as has been done by the NITI Aayog.”

In its revised draft report on the airline’s proposed disinvestment, the panel noted that the TAP and financial restructuring plan (FRP) was for a period of 10 years from 2012 to 2022 and Air India has shown “an overall improvement in various parameters and every indication is that it is coming out of the red”.

“At the end of TAP period, government may evaluate the financial and performance status of Air India and take a decision accordingly,” the panel said.

The parliamentary committee, after hearing the views of all stakeholders, “strongly feels that it will not be appropriate at this stage to disinvest when Air India has started earning profit from its operations.”

It also said as some of its subsidiaries Air India Air Transport Services Limited (AIATSL), Air India SATS Airport Services Private Limited (AISATS), Alliance Air and Air India Express were making profits, these units should “not be disinvested.”

Strongly recommending that the airline’s debt “should be written off by the government”, the revised draft report said, “Air India should be given a chance for at least five years to revive themselves”. The tenure of five years indicates the end of the TAP and FRP period in 2022.

It said the airline’s debt was “due to policy directions of the Ministry of Civil Aviation. Air India may be permitted to function as a government PSU with less government control.”

The Committee also expressed apprehension that Air India’s strategic disinvestment “would result in job loss of many people” and asked the government to “make an assessment” of the job loss before deciding on stake sale.

“If the disinvestment of Air India and its subsidiaries is inevitable, the Committee emphatically recommends that the interests of employees should be protected,” the revised draft report said.

It asked the Ministries of Finance and Civil Aviation to “develop a strategic package to protect the rights and interests of officers and staff of Air India and its subsidiaries in respect of their pension, gratuity and VRS and also the wages of contractual workers engaged by government from time to time in case the disinvestment of Air India is inevitable.”

The panel found merit in the views of some of its members that if Air India is withdrawn from the aviation scene, “private airlines would indulge in gouging and that (will not be) in the interest of the consumers.”

Air India has a total debt of about Rs 48,877 crore at the end of March 2017, of which about Rs 17,360 crore were aircraft loans and Rs 31,517 crore were working capital loans.

The airline is expected to report a net loss of Rs 3,579 crore for 2017-18, as per budget estimates projected for 2017 -18 from a provisional net loss of Rs 3,643 crore for 2016-17.

The airline is projected to increase its operating profit to Rs 531 crore (BE projected) for 2017-18 from a provisional operating profit of Rs 215 crore for 2016-17, as per latest figures tabled in Parliament.


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US to eliminate Iran oil sanctions waiver for India, 7 others:Report

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Washington: The United States is expected to announce that all importers of Iranian oil will have to end their imports shortly or be subject to US sanctions, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters.

The source confirmed a report by a Washington Post columnist that the administration will terminate the sanctions waivers it had granted to some importers of Iranian oil late last year.

US President Donald Trump has been clear to his national security team over the last few weeks that he wants the waivers to end, and national security adviser John Bolton has been working the issue within the administration.

 

The US reimposed sanctions in November on exports of Iranian oil after Trump unilaterally pulled out of a 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and six world powers Washington is pressuring Iran to curtail its nuclear program and stop backing militant proxies across the Middle East.

Along with sanctions, Washington has also granted waivers to eight economies that had reduced their purchases of Iranian oil, allowing them to continue buying it without incurring sanctions for six more months

They were China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Italy and Greece.

But on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will announce “that, as of May 2, the State Department will no longer grant sanctions waivers to any country that is currently importing Iranian crude or condensate,” the Post’s columnist Josh Rogin said in his report, citing two State Department officials that he did not name
Frank Fannon, US Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources, repeated the administration’s position that “Our goal is to get to zero Iranian exports as quickly as possible.

“Other countries have been watching to see whether the United States would continue the waivers. Last Tuesday, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said that Turkey expects the United States to extend a waiver granted to Ankara to continue oil purchases from Iran without violating US sanctions.

Turkey did not support US sanctions policy on Iran and did not think it would yield the desired result, Kalin told reporters in Washington.

Washington has a campaign of ‘maximum economic pressure’ on Iran and through sanctions, it eventually aims to halt Iranian oil exports and thereby choke Tehran’s main source of revenue.

So far in April, Iranian exports were averaging below 1 million barrels per day (bpd), according to Refinitiv Eikon data and two other companies that track such exports and declined to be identified.

That is lower than at least 1.1 million bpd as estimated for March, and down from more than 2.5 million bpd before sanctions were reimposed last May. Brent crude futures , the international oil benchmark, were up nearly 2 per cent at USD 73.25 a barrel, on the report that the waivers were to end.

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Maruti drives in Baleno with BS VI compliant petrol engine

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New Delhi: The country’s largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki India (MSI) Said it has launched its premium hatchback Baleno with BS VI emission norms compliant petrol engine, priced between Rs 5.58 lakh and Rs 8.9 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi).

The auto major has also introduced two variants of the car with smart hybrid technology. The trim with 1.2 litre DUALJET, DUAL VVT petrol engine is priced at Rs 7.25 lakh, while the Zeta variant is tagged at Rs 7.86 lakh. As per the company, the models with smart hybrid technology would deliver a fuel efficiency of 23.87 km/litre.

“At Maruti Suzuki, we strive to bring newer, better and environment friendly technologies to our products. Baleno Smart Hybrid with BS VI stands testament to the same. We are confident that the premium hatchback Baleno will present a complete package in line with aspirations of evolving customers,” MSI Senior Executive Director Marketing & Sales R S Kalsi said in a statement.

 

The company said in order to achieve the stringent emission regulation requirement, it has upgraded both engine hardware and software along with exhaust system.”Baleno is country’s first premium hatchback to be offered with Smart Hybrid technology,” it added.

MSI has sold over 5.5 lakh Baleno units since its launch in 2015. It sold more than 2 lakh units of the hatchback in the last fiscal year.

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SpiceJet, Emirates sign MoU for code share partnership

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Mumbai: Budget carrier Spicejet announced signing of an initial pact for code share partnership with Gulf carrier Emirates.

The reciprocal partnership will allow opening of new routes and destinations for passengers of the two airlines, SpiceJet said in a statement.

“I am delighted to announce that as part of SpiceJet’s international expansion strategy, we have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a code share agreement,” SpiceJet Chairman and Managing Director Ajay Singh said in the statement.

 

SpiceJet passengers from 51 domestic destinations will be able to access Emirates’ network across the US, Europe, Africa and Middle East, it added.

Code-sharing allows an airline to book its passengers on its partner carriers and provide seamless travel to destinations where it has no presence.

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