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RBI, govt to accommodate each other by November 19 meet

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New Delhi: The finance ministry and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) are burning midnight oil to defuse worsening tensions that has threatened to unnerve investors, ease the credit pressure on MSMEs and liquidity squeeze in NBFCs and reach a mutually agreeable solution over PCA-scarred banks.

While the rift is far from healed, both sides are trying ironing out some of their policy differences to restore calm and avoid acrimony at a board meeting of RBI on Monday (November 19).

While RBI governor Urjit Patel’s threat to quit is thought to be off the table for now, the uneasy truce is likely to see the central bank ease up on some lending restrictions to help the government stimulate the economy.

 

According to sources, Patel could agree to tweak restrictions on lending to improve credit flows for smaller companies with a borrowing limit of Rs 250 million.

The RBI board will also discuss norms for reserves and its sharing with the government under the capital framework besides the relaxation of the prompt corrective action (PCA) framework, sources said.

But redressal of credit squeeze in the MSME sector tops the finance ministry’s priorities, which is seeking some relaxation in norms for lending and addressing the liquidity crisis in the NBFC sector in wake of the IL&FS mess.

If not at this board meeting, sources said, the PCA framework relaxation could be reached in the next few meetings and it could happen without a board meeting and some banks may wriggle out of the framework by the end of this financial year. Of the 21 state-owned banks, 11 are under the PCA framework.

According to sources, RBI may take into account these banks’ performance in the last few quarters, their credit growth, slippages, asset quality, NPAs, return on assets (RoAs) and provision coverage ratio to decide on their eligibility to come out of the PCA framework.

The PCA framework kicks in when banks breach any of the three key regulatory trigger points — capital to risk weighted assets ratio, net NPAs and RoAs.

But the most urgent attention and steps would be sought from RBI in easing of lending norms for MSMEs, including strict rating criteria to improve credit flow, sources said.

The central bank seems to have been convinced by the North Block’s consistent efforts to relax some of these criteria to augment credit to this sector. RBI is also expected to consider special dispensation for MSMEs and NBFCs that have been facing liquidity issues.

The government feels MSMEs that employ about 1.2 million plays a critical role in the economy and the sector hit by demonetisation and the goods and services tax (GST) needs support. But RBI has been averse to the government demand for special dispensations for MSMEs and NBFCs as it considers them vulnerable and doesn’t want to increase the risk of higher NPAs.

On RBI’s capital framework, there could be discussion but no action or resolution on Monday, sources said. A committee may be set up to deliberate on the issue, as it will need threadbare discussions taking both sides concerns and arguments into account.

Last week, finance minister Arun Jaitley said there is a need to minimise NPAs to maintain the banking system’s strength and enable it to help economy grow. Only a strong banking system will be able to improve credit flow to sectors in dire need of it, he had said.


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India to get extra oil from major producers to make up for loss of Iranian oil: Pradhan

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New Delhi: India will get additional supplies from other major oil producing countries to compensate for the loss of Iranian oil, Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said.

The United States on Monday demanded that buyers of Iranian oil stop purchases by May 1 or face sanctions, ending six months of waivers which had allowed Iran`s eight biggest buyers, most of them in Asia, to continue to import limited volumes.

Pradhan said on Twitter that India has put in place a robust plan for adequate supply of crude oil to refineries.

 

“Indian refineries are fully prepared to meet the national demand for petrol, diesel and other petroleum products,” he said.

Reuters last week reported that Indian refiners are increasing their planned purchases from the nations of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Mexico and the United States to hedge against loss of Iranian oil.

Refiners in India, the worlds third-biggest oil importer and Irans top oil client after China, had almost halved their Iranian oil purchases since November when petroleum sanctions went into effect. At the time, the United States granted waivers from sanctions, known as significant reduction exceptions (SRE), for six months to countries that purchased some amounts of Iranian crude, including India.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday that Saudi Arabia and other OPEC nations could “more than make up” for any drop in Iranian oil supplies to global markets now that the waivers are ended.

Saudi Arabia, the world`s biggest oil exporter, said on Monday it would coordinate with other oil producers to ensure an adequate crude supply and a balanced market.

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Industry delegation calls on RBI Guv, discusses steps for MSMEs, NBFCs

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Mumbai: A delegation led by PHD Chamber President Rajeev Talwar met RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das here on Monday and discussed concerns related to the growth of MSMEs, NBFCs, affordable housing and the real estate sector.

The chamber in its submission has also sought further cut in the repo rate in the coming quarters.

“PHD Chamber in its submission has urged RBI to increase the limit for classifying over dues of MSMEs to 180 days from the current level of 90 days as working capital cycle of MSMEs keeps prolonging due to delays in realisation of their bills/receivables,” said Talwar.

 

It has also requested that at least one year period should be considered for eligibility of MSMEs’ stressed and NPA accounts under the restructuring scheme.

All such Accounts which turned into defaulters or became NPAs after January 1, 2018 should be covered under the policy of RBI for being eligible for restructuring, said Sanjay Agarwal, Vice President, PHD Chamber.

It was also recommended that the loans given by banks to NBFCs for the purpose of on-lending to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) should be treated as indirect finance to MSMEs eligible for classification under the Priority Sector lending of banks, said D K Agrawal, Senior Vice-President.

The industry body said that infrastructure financing should ideally be carried out by specialist players like Infrastructure Finance Companies (IFCs).

“IFCs should be allowed to deploy a minimum of 50 per cent of their total assets in infrastructure loans, while the rest may be deployed towards financing allied and ancillary activities for infrastructure projects, which are essentially non-infra in nature,” PHD Chamber said.

The chamber said that IFCs should be allowed to issue tax-free bonds and on-tap resource mobilisation through issuance of Non-Convertible Debentures (NCDs) to retail investors.

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Jet Airways waits for buyer as rivals muscle in on territory

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Mumbai: A revival of Jet Airways India Ltd., once the nation’s biggest carrier by market value, is at risk as days roll by since its operations were completely halted.

While the cash-strapped carrier awaits potential investors to pump in money, rivals are aggressively going after its most prized assets. A government desperate to limit public backlash after flight ticket prices escalated is parceling off landing and parking slots at congested airports. Lessors are also adding to the woes by allocating grounded aircraft to competitors.

“It appears to me that lenders are not very confident of getting any serious bid,” said Harsh Vardhan, chairman of New Delhi-based Starair Consulting. “You can not hold on to slots, and planes are not Jet Airways’ property. They have to find a buyer as soon as possible.”

 

Jet Airways, the oldest surviving private airline which broke into a monopoly of Air India Ltd., had a fleet of 124 and flew profitable routes like connecting India, the fastest growing aviation market in the world, with London and Toronto. With nearly 23,000 jobs at stake, its collapse last week couldn’t have at worse time for Prime Minister Narendra Modi who’s seeking a second term based on his business-friendly image.

While the arrangement to give Jet’s landing slots and aircraft to rivals is temporary, the process to swap them again is complicated and is the domain of airports. It may get more difficult once rivals start new flights and sell tickets in advance, and that could potentially leave close to nothing for a potential new owner.

Jet Airways started flying in the early-1990s after India liberalized its economy, and quickly cemented its spot as a leading airline offering an alternative to Air India, while averting several downturns that forced dozens of its peers to close shop. But a boom of budget airlines in the mid 2000s, on top on rising fuel prices and a weakening rupee, kept adding to Jet Airways’ costs in the notoriously price-sensitive market.

The airline, which controlled 13.6 percent of the local market as recently as January, needs 85 billion rupees ($1.2 billion) to restart operations. So far, it isn’t clear whether Jet Airways will find a buyer to fly again, or if lenders will take it to a bankruptcy court. Over the weekend, local media reported Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s richest man, and salt-to-software conglomerate Tata Group are keen to pick up a stake or purchase Jet’s assets.

Shares of Jet Airways gained as much as 9.2 percent to 168.95 rupees in Mumbai and were trading at 167.35 rupees as of 11:06 a.m. local time. The shares plummeted 36 percent in the previous two trading sessions, after all flights were grounded last week.

Local carriers have been quick to take advantage of the situation. SpiceJet Ltd. plans to induct more than a dozen Boeing Co. 737 planes, offering flights on the routes previously operated by Jet Airways. Market leader IndiGo, operated by InterGlobe Aviation Ltd. has also added additional flights from New Delhi and Mumbai, the two busiest airports of the nation which hardly had any landing slots available when Jet Airways was operating.

Ambani, who controls Reliance Industries Ltd., may partner Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways PJSC to pick up a stake in Jet Airways, while also exploring a possible bailout of state-run Air India Ltd, the Indian Express newspaper reported over the weekend. Etihad, which already owns 24 percent of the Jet Airways, has put in an initial bid showing interest in purchasing a stake in the carrier, the newspaper said.

The Tata Group may jump into the fray if the sale process fails, and bankruptcy proceedings kick in, the Mint newspaper reported separately, citing two unidentified people. The government reached out to the group, which has a majority stake in two local airlines, last year to potentially bail out the airline but it did not materialize into a deal.

A Reliance spokesman declined to comment but said the company evaluates various opportunities on an ongoing basis. A Tata group representative also declined to comment.

With lessors taking over aircraft and slots going to rivals, the value of Jet Airways has eroded, said Mark Martin, founder of Dubai-based Martin Consulting.

“The lenders should have paid some money to lessors and urged them not to take over the aircraft while the sale process is on, and should have finalized a payment plan for past dues over the next 18 months, Martin said. “But they did not, and that’s really unfortunate.”

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