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SC pulls up Reliance Communications on Ericsson’s plea, Ambani’s firm offers to deposit Rs 118 cr

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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday issued notices to Anil Ambani-led telecom firm Reliance Communications (RCOM) on a contempt plea filed by Swedish telecom gear maker Ericsson for allegedly not complying with its order to clear dues of Rs 550 crore. RCom has offered to deposit Rs 118 crore with the Supreme Court Registry.

Ericsson has sought arrest of Anil Ambani over recurring delays in payment of its dues. However, debt-laden Reliance Communications had on Sunday defended itself saying that Ericsson was sensationalising the issue of dues recovery, which might put the interest of even secured lenders at risk.

Ericsson India had moved the Supreme Court seeking initiation of contempt proceedings for the second time against RCom chairman Anil Ambani for allegedly not complying with its order to clear dues.

 

The Anil Ambani-led telecom firm has maintained that it remains committed to clear dues of Ericsson from spectrum realisation. However, the approval for the same is pending with the government. “It is deeply regrettable that Ericsson India Private Limited (Ericsson), an operational unsecured creditor, is attempting a trial by media and sensationalising issues, as evidenced in recent media reports,” RCom spokesperson had said in a statement .

The crisis-ridden telecom services firm has a debt of over Rs 47,000 crore. RCom said it has taken all required steps towards enabling the settlement and remains fully committed to make the payment to Ericsson from the proceeds of the spectrum sale.

“The Department of Telecom (DoT) approval is pending since August 7, 2018, for which RCom has moved a contempt petition against DoT before the Supreme Court which is listed on Monday, January 7, 2019,” RCom spokesperson said.

Last year, RCom signed a pact with Reliance Jio for the sale of wireless spectrum, tower, fibre and media convergence nodes assets — the proceeds of which were to be used to pare debt.

RCom expects to get Rs 975 crore from sale of the spectrum which it has promised to pay dues of Rs 550 crore to Ericsson and Rs 230 crore to settle dues of minority stakeholder Reliance Infratel.

The DoT has put the spectrum trading between the two companies on hold after Reliance Jio refused to bear the burden on any past dues that RCom owes to the government.

Both RCom and Reliance Jio are learnt to have approached jointly the telecom ministry seeking clarification on the stand of the government over their spectrum trading deal.

In a letter to the DoT on January 3, Jio cited petition of RCom before telecom tribunal TDSAT showing that the petitioners, who are the sellers, have retained the liabilities upon themselves.


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Saudi signs deals to invest USD 20 bn in cash-strapped Pakistan

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Islamabad: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have signed a slew of investment agreements worth USD 20 billion which will provide a welcome relief to the teetering economy of the cash-strapped South Asian country.

At a ceremony in the Prime Minister House, Pakistan and Saudi officials signed MoUs for bilateral cooperation in a number of areas a process overseen by Pakistan premier Imran Khan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who arrived in Pakistan on Sunday evening on a two-day visit.

“Today we signed MoUs. The amount of that kind of investment is USD 20 billion. It is big for phase one and definitely it (Saudi investment in Pakistan) will grow every month, every year in bigger numbers and it will be beneficial for both the countries,” the crown prince said.

 

“Pakistan is going to be very, very important country in the future and we want to be sure we are part of that,” he added.

Seven agreements, including MoUs in power, petrochemical and mining sectors, were inked as Prince Salman launched his diplomatic trip to Asia in Islamabad.

After Pakistan, the crown prince will travel to India, where he will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.

He is expected to finish the trip with a visit to China on Thursday and Friday.

Prince Salman said Saudi “cannot say no to Pakistan, whatever you (Pakistan) want we will do.”

“For Pakistanis, this is a great day,” the Pakistani premier said while addressing a dinner reception held in honour of the visiting Saudi guests at the PM House.

He said Saudi Arabia has always been there when Pakistan needed friends.

“I want to thank you for the way you helped us when we were in (a) bad situation,” Khan told the royal guest, adding that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were now taking their relationship to a new level, where investment agreements would be mutually beneficial for the countries.

“The future is exciting for both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia after joining hands,” he said.

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Cement, fruit shipments from Pakistan among 10 most hit imports after duty hike

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New Delhi: Fresh fruits, cement and leather are among the 10 main imported items from Pakistan that would take a major hit following the imposition of 200 per cent customs duty by India on products from the neighbouring country in the aftermath of Pulwama attack, say experts.

The top ten products exported by Pakistan to India include fresh fruits, cement, petroleum products, minerals, and leather. Processed minerals, inorganic chemicals, raw cotton including waste, cotton fabrics, and glass and glassware are also among such items that account for 95 per cent of the total shipments.

“After drastically hiking the import duty on goods coming from Pakistan, we will isolate them in front of trade. Hiking of the duty at this level would completely hit exporters of Pakistan,” Professor Biswajit Dhar of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) said.

 

Sharing similar views, Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) Director General Ajay Sahai said that Pakistan would face significant impact due to this decision.

The two main items imported from Pakistan are fruits and cement, which attracted customs duty of 30-50 per cent and 7.5 per cent, respectively.

Domestic importers who have already placed their orders from Pakistan may face issues after this decision. They may have to pay the 200 per cent duty or undertake lot of paperwork to get their consignments, an industry source said.

Taking strong economic action against Pakistan following the Pulwama attack, India Saturday raised the customs duty to 200 per cent on all goods imported from the neighbouring country.

India’s imports from Pakistan had increased to USD 488.5 million in 2017-18 from USD 455.5 billion in 2016-17.

Hike in the duty would drastically increase the prices of Pakistani goods in Indian markets which would make them far less competitive as compared to other imported goods. Slapping an import duty of 200 per cent effectively means almost banning the imports from Pakistan.

Total India-Pakistan trade has increased marginally to USD 2.41 billion in 2017-18 as against USD 2.27 billion in 2016-17.

At least 40 CRPF personnel were killed and five injured on Thursday in one of the deadliest terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir when a Jaish-e-Mohammad suicide bomber rammed a vehicle carrying over 100 kg of explosives into their bus in Pulwama district.

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India needs fewer but stronger, mega banks: FM Jaitley after RBI meet

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New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley addressed the customary post-budget meeting of the central board of the Reserve Bank on Monday.

Post the meeting, Jaitley said India needs fewer and mega banks which are strong.

“India needs fewer and mega banks which are strong because in every sense from borrowing rates to optimum utilisation the economies of scale as far as the banking sector is concerned are of great help,” Jaitley said.

 

On interim dividend, RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das said the central bank will take the decision based on the report by Bimal Jalan-led Committee.

Das also said that the RBI will discuss the issue of transmission of rate cut with bank chiefs on February 21.

Earlier this month, the Reserve Bank cut the benchmark interest rate by 0.25 per cent to 6.25 per cent.

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