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Soon, no more free incoming calls on Airtel, Vodafone-Idea

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New Delhi: Telecom operators Airtel and Vodafone-Idea may soon do away with life-time free incoming plans by charging a minimum amount from subscribers to keep their number in use.

Telcos feel that the aggressive competition in the market led by Reliance Jio has not only impacted their revenue, but also have led them to revamp the current tariffs.

Customers will no longer be able to avail life-time free incoming calls. This comes as a shock for many users, but it is not to be confused with minute-by-minute incoming charges. Telecom operators will not charge incoming calls per minute. Subscribers will have to recharge with a minimum amount for a certain validity period to enjoy the free incoming calls.

Airtel has launched a couple of minimum recharge plans. On its website Airtel has listed out three such recharge plans – Rs 35, Rs 65 and Rs 95. These recharge plans come with data, tariff cutter, talk-time and 28 days of validity.

Similarly Vodafone-Idea has said that the company is doing away with life-time free plans as a way to boost revenue by charging at least Rs 30 a month from such subscribers who are “substantial” in number.

Jio’s entry two years ago has hurt each of the entrenched telcos, resulting in the merger of Vodafone and Idea, and exit by RCom and Tata Tele, apart from the financial and job losses and even bankruptcies.

In the September 2018 quarter, Jio led the Arpu chart with Rs 131.7 (still down from Rs 135 y-o-y), followed by Airtel at Rs 101, but massively down from Rs 142 y-o-y, and Vodafone Idea had the lowest at Rs 88.

Also, barring Jio, none of the other two operators showed any growth in profit. While Jio reported a net income of Rs 681 crore, up from Rs 612 crore a year ago, Airtel reported a steep 65.7 percent fall in its net income at Rs 118.80 crore and Vodafone Idea a massive consolidated net loss of Rs 4,973 crore on a consolidated revenue of Rs 7,663 crore for the September quarter.


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Business

WPI inflation falls to 4.64 pc in November on softening food prices

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New Delhi: Inflation based on wholesale prices fell to a three-month low of 4.64 per cent in November, as prices of food articles, especially vegetables, softened.

The Wholesale Price Index (WPI)-based inflation stood was 5.28 per cent in October and 4.02 per cent in November last year.

According to the government data released , food articles witnessed softening of prices with deflation at 3.31 per cent in November, against 1.49 per cent in October. Vegetables, too, became cheaper with deflation at 26.98 per cent in November, compared to 18.65 per cent in the previous month.

Inflation in the ‘fuel and power’ basket in November continued to rule high at 16.28 per cent, but was lower than 18.44 per cent in October. This was on account of lowering of prices of petrol and diesel.

Individually, in petrol and diesel it was 12.06 per cent and 20.16 per cent, respectively, and for liquified petroleum gas (LPG) it was 23.22 per cent during October.

Among food articles, potato prices continued to rule high with 86.45 per cent inflation in November.While onion witnessed deflation of 47.60 per cent; the same for pulses stood at 5.42 per cent. The 4.64 per cent inflation is the lowest in three months, and a lower inflation than this was last seen in August at 4.62 per cent.

Data released earlier this week showed that the retail or consumer price index-based inflation for November also fell to a 17-month low at 2.33 per cent. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) mainly takes into account retail inflation data while formulating monetary policy.

In its fifth monetary policy review for the fiscal, released last week, the Reserve Bank kept interest rates unchanged, but held out a promise to cut them if the upside risks to inflation do not materialise.

The central bank lowered retail inflation projection to 2.7-3.2 per cent for the second half of the current fiscal, citing normal monsoon and moderate food prices.

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Reduce number, weight of government mandates for PSBs: Rajan

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New Delhi: Former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan on Friday said there is need to reduce uncompensated government mandates imposed on public sector banks (PSBs).

“This is lazy government – if an action is worth doing, it should be paid out of budgetary resources. It also is against the interests of minority shareholders in PSBs,” he said here.

The government should incentivise all banks to take up activities it thinks desirable, not impose it on a few, especially as the privileges associated with a banking license diminish, he said.

Along these lines, requirements that banks mandatorily invest in government bonds (the SLR requirement) should continue to be reduced, substituting instead with the liquidity coverage ratios and net stable funding ratios set by Basel, he added. He further said public sector banks still not adequately professionalised and there is a need to substantially improve risk management.

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Petrol, diesel prices unlikely to flare up ahead of 2019 polls

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New Delhi: Consumers may be spared big spike in auto fuel prices ahead of the 2019 general elections with state-owned oil marketing companies planning to absorb a portion of the anticipated hike while deciding on retail rates of petrol and diesel.

Sources said these companies built a buffer during the recent fall in global crude and product prices by effecting less than proportional decrease in retail prices of fuel. It means prices have not been lowered in real terms. The buffer could be put to use once prices begin to rise again when global markets starts to feel the impact of the latest Opec announced production cuts.

“The idea is to prevent fuel prices from touching record highs again. Crude prices, which have fallen about 25 per cent since mid-October, are likely to cross $70 a barrel soon. The buffer would be used to see that increase in retail fuel prices could be paused on few days while quantum of increase could be lowered on others,” said a government official privy to the development.

Retail price of petrol touched an all-time high of Rs 84 a litre and diesel Rs 75.45 a litre in Delhi (over Rs 91 a litre in Mumbai) on October 4 due to rise in global oil prices from around $50 a barrel in early part of the year to over $80 per barrel in September. The spike attracted wrath of public and severely dented the government’s image over its ability to contain price rise. The Indian basket of crude fell to a low average of $65.40 a barrel in November. But with Opec, including Russia, announcing to take 1.2 million barrels per day of production off the market for the first six months of 2019, crude is expected to start nearing $80 a barrel soon.

This could take petrol and diesel prices closer to October 4 levels, which the government wants to avoid especially ahead of general elections. If we look at the November data, petrol was being retailed at Rs 78 a litre and diesel Rs 72 a litre in the national capital even when crude price in the Indian basket was about $69 a barrel. At this level in April this year, petrol was being retailed at Rs 73-74 a litre and diesel Rs 65-66 a litre. And auto fuels’ price was high despite the government having reduced excise duty on them by Rs 1.50 a litre in October.

It would mean even if crude touches $80 a barrel, the retail price of fuel would be well below that the October highs.

Officials of OMCs disagree over higher cuts in retail price of fuel saying the current scenario should be viewed in the context of sharp fall in the rupee against the dollar making oil purchases expensive.

Oil prices have fallen over 25 per cent in last one and half months due to easing of supply pressures, particularly from Iran. The US waiver for oil imports from Iran to major oil importers has eased the situation. But analysts believe once Iran oil exports starts getting wiped out from next year, there could be supply issues and a resultant price rise. The Opec cuts only have added to price worries.

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