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Infosys is boring again, and that’s a good thing: Nilekani

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Mumbai : Infosys Ltd. has returned to stability, almost a year after the appointment of a new chief executive ended a tumultuous period at the Indian software and services company.

Chairman Nandan Nilekani, speaking on the sidelines of Bloomberg’s New Economy Forum in Singapore, said that the turnaround is complete. “This is all very much from the past,” he said of the board turmoil that engulfed the company last year. “I’ve been chairman now over a year. We have an excellent CEO in Salil Parekh. Infosys is really on a very stable and forward-looking path.”

Investors seem to agree. The Bangalore-based company’s shares are up almost 30 percent this year, compared with a 3.1 percent gain in 2017. In the latest quarter, Infosys booked more than $2 billion in deals and net income topped projections. Parekh, who formally took over in January, has focused on stabilizing the company after public wrangles between its board and co-founders culminated in the dramatic exit of the well-regarded Vishal Sikka.

“The future of India’s IT services is bright because all over the world, the businesses and even governments are going through a huge digital transformation,” Nilekani said. “Be it automobile, retail, financial services, in every industry there is massive reinvention going on.”

The same is true for Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., Infosys’s bigger rival, which in April became India’s first company to top $100 billion in market value in more than a decade. Both are adjusting to the adoption of automation in key areas such as financial services, while immigration curbs hamper its ability to move workers into its largest market of the U.S. India’s $167 billion-IT services industry is now investing in cloud computing and artificial intelligence to jump-start growth.

Nilekani also pointed to Aadhar, India’s biometric national ID system, as an opportunity for companies like Infosys as well as a tool of empowerment for individuals.

Using iris-scanning technology, the database lets people identify themselves, while private companies have embraced it as a way to authenticate job seekers, blood donors and loan applicants.

“Historically, data has benefited companies and governments,” the Infosys chairman said. “India’s unique infrastructure, thanks to Aadhar, thanks to its regulations, has the ability for every individual to access his own data and put it to good use. We call that data empowerment, which means a person can use his own data to get a loan, better health care, better education.”


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Centre to snub RBI gov, empower board

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New Delhi: In a move that could further widen the rift between the RBI and itself, the Narendra Modi government has proposed changing rules to allow closer supervision of central bank functions by its board.

The government has recommended that “the board of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) draft regulations to enable setting up of panels to oversee functions including financial stability, monetary policy transmission and foreign exchange management”, said a foreign news agency on Friday quoting sources.

The move is meant to empower the regulator’s board, which includes government nominees, and give it a supervisory role.

The recommendations being considered include setting up several committees comprising two to three board members each. The body has the powers to frame rules under Section 58 of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 and no legislative change is required.

The RBI’s board regularly advises and guides the regulator, leaving the decision-making to the governor and his colleagues.

However, Swaminathan Gurumurthy, a chartered accountant who was nominated by the government to the board, and government nominees Subhash Chandra Garg and Rajiv Kumar have been vocal about perceived shortcomings in banking supervision, flow of credit to industry and easier financial conditions to overcome a crisis in its NBFC sector.

The RBI board is scheduled to meet on Monday to consider contentious iss-ues including easing rules governing transfer of surplus funds to the government, liberalising norms for weak banks to boost lending.

It will also review rules on capital and risk weight for Indian banks which are considered more stringent than the Basel guidelines. Other proposals on the agenda include restr-ucturing of loans upto $3.5 million availed by micro, small and medium enterprises.

Former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan had recently said that board’s role historically has not been to take “operational decisions” but to focus on broader strategy as well as ensure good governance. He had said that RBI board during his tenure rarely tried to put themselves in the position of the professionals.

“So, they (board) are there to ensure that the government’s money is well spent in the RBI and also to serve as a sounding board which is why we have people from different walks of society, very eminent people,” he had said. “So, my sense is the objective of the board is to protect the institution, not to serve others’ interest,” Dr Rajan had said.

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All telcos, except Jio, fail Trai’s call drop test on select highway, rail routes

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New Delhi: All telecom operators, except Reliance Jio, failed to meet call drop benchmark in drive test conducted by sector regulator Trai on different highway and rail routes, says a report.

According to a Trai report published on Thursday, while network performance of telcos differed on highways, none of them, except RJio, could meet call drop benchmark on the three rail routes covered under the test.

“Only RJio is meeting quality of service benchmark of drop call rate …,” the report said.

According to the quality of service rules, not more than 2 per cent of total calls in a telecom circle on a network should automatically get disconnected.

The highways between Asansol to Gaya, Digha to Asansol, Gaya to Danapur, Bengaluru to Murdeshwar, Raipur to Jagdalpur, Dehradun to Nainital, Mount Abu to Jaipur and Sri Nagar to Leh were covered in the test. Railway routes between Allahabad to Gorakhpur, Delhi to Mumbai and Jabalpur to Singrauli were covered.

Either 3G or 2G network of Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and state-run BSNL failed to meet call drop benchmark on four highway routes and all the three rail routes. Trai also named Tata Teleservices Ltd (TTL) network for not complying with service quality norms on select highways.

The report found that TTL, which is in the process of merging mobile business with Airtel, failed to even complete call connection as per benchmark betwen Bengaluru to Murdeshwar, Dehradun to Nainital and Gaya to Danapur and on the three rail routes.

Airtel could not meet call connection rate or call setup success rate (CSSR) on Gaya to Danapur highway and the three rail routes. Vodafone Idea network could not meet CSSR rate on Raipur to Jagdalpur highway and all the three rail routes.

Trai has mentioned Vodafone and Idea separately in the result as some tests were conducted before completion of their merger. Both the companies completed their merger on August 31 and now operate as Vodafone Idea Ltd.

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No proposal yet for Jet airways takeover: Tatas

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Mumbai : The Tata group said there have been preliminary discussions on the acquisition of struggling Jet Airways but it has not made any formal proposal for buying out the 51 per cent stake held by the Naresh Goyal family in the airline which has accumulated losses of over Rs 12,000 crore till the September 2018 quarter.

While the board of Tata Sons, the holding company of the group, discussed the acquisition of the airline, sources said both the parties are going slow as the broad contours of the deal, especially on the continuance of Goyal on Jet board after the takeover and other issues, have not been thrashed out.

Indicating that they are moving cautiously, Tata Sons issued a statement after the board meet, saying, “Over the last few days there has been growing speculation in the print and electronic media about Tata’s interest in Jet Airways. We would like to clarify that any such discussions have been preliminary. No proposal has been made.”

Jet Airways said in a stock exchange filing, “Reports (on merger of Vistara with Jet) is purely speculative in nature and that there are no discussions or decisions by the Board, which would require a disclosure.”

Sources said Tata Sons Chairman N Chandrasekaran had a preliminary discussion and an understanding over the broad contours of the deal with Jet Airways promoter Naresh Goyal for a possible share swap agreement between the Tata and its foreign joint venture partner Singapore International Airlines, Vistara, and also exit of Abu Dhabi based carrier Etihad that holds 24 per cent in Jet Airways.

Sources aware of the talks said that Tatas would definitely want a non-compete clause that bars Goyal and family from entering aviation business for a substantial period of time. However, sources say Goyal might have reservations over exiting the airline that he has created over 25 years and made it as a formidable brand in full service space and agree to a non-compete clause and complete exit.

The Tatas are looking at dilution of Goyal’s shareholding which is currently 51 per cent. A possible preferential allotment of shares might be looked at triggering an open offer as cash strapped Jet needs equity infusion on an immediate basis. “Liquidity continues to be worrisome, and Jet Airways earnings are most levered to oil prices and rupee depreciation. A potential entry of a strategic buyer would address the current liquidity crunch. Jet’s liquidity concerns are unlikely to dissuade a well-capitalised group like Tata, which has a track record of mega acquisitions. A prospective deal may involve a notable control premium,” said a report by Edelweiss equity research.

However, Jet Airways acquisition will not come cheap for the Tatas as the airline has accumulated losses of Rs 10,772 crore till FY18 with another reported loss of Rs 2,620.46 crore till the first half of FY18/19. Its other liabilities stack up to a staggering Rs 11,000 crore. It has immediate vendor payments that are stretched and lease rentals that are due. The airline has 16,000 employees .

Aviation analysts say it is the immediate scale that an acquisition of Jet Airways by Tatas will give to a fledgling Vistara that the Tatas are eyeing along with slots, that are at a premium for expanding Indian carriers as most of the metro airports are slot constrained restricting expansion of the airlines. “It is a billion dollar deal for the Tatas,” said an investment banker who has background in cutting out aviation deals in the Indian aviation market. Tatas have already accumulated losses of Rs 2,100 crore on account of both its airlines — Vistara and budget carrier AirAsia. It might not have the appetite to take over huge losses of Jet.

“It is all in the structuring of the deal. There are a lot of complications and also regulatory compliance issues in a deal such as Tata-Jet Airways. It will take time for the final proposal to be put on table,” said a person familiar with the ongoing discussions.

Jet’s share closed at Rs 346.85, up 8 per cent from its previous close of Thursday. The stock continued its four day rally, soaring 43.3 per cent over the past four days on the deal buzz with Tatas.

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