Top 10 biz headlines: External benchmarking of rates, GST cut mooted & more

1) RBI mandates banks to link fresh retail loans to external benchmark 

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Wednesday made it mandatory for banks to link all their fresh retail loans to an external benchmark, effective October 1 — the central bank’s repo rate being one such benchmark.

All public sector banks have moved to such a regime voluntarily, while private banks are yet to. The state-run banks have introduced repo-linked products for floating-rate home and auto loans, but the RBI said loans to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) should also be linked to an external benchmark. (Read more here)   

2) Demand down, govt seeks solution in new GST math 

Ahead of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council meeting on September 20, the ministry of finance has started crunching numbers to estimate the revenue it would lose if rate reductions, aimed at boosting demand during the festive season, are opted for, the Economic Times reported on Thursday.  

Two officials aware of the development told ET that the fitment panel, which examines rate changes, is expected to meet soon to consider suggestions mooted by select states, as well as industry. The panel comprises central and state officials. 

3) Synergy Group, RA Treasury make the cut for reviving defunct Jet Airways 

The resolution professional (RP) of Jet Airways has shortlisted South America-based Synergy Group and Russian fund RA Treasury from the three expressions of interest (EoI) that were submitted for the revival of the defunct airline, sources aware of the development said. Panama-based Avantulo Group’s EoI failed to make the list.

The two shortlisted entities will have to sign non-disclosure agreements after which they will get access to all the data pertaining to Jet. Subsequently, they will do due diligence and submit their resolution plans for the airline, sources said. (Read more here

4) Year after collapse, IL&FS on road to recovery; a quarter of debt addressed

A year after Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL&FS) collapsed, leading to a crisis in the financial sector, the resolution process set in place by the new board has started yielding dividend, with 10 road projects attracting investor interest and seven wind energy assets being sold.

Last week, the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) gave the go-ahead to the sale of seven wind energy assets owned by the IL&FS group to Japanese investor Orix Corp, which already owned 49 per cent in these assets. (Read more here

5) Auto cos slash production to drive through slowdown

The auto sector crisis is deepening and major companies are opting for production cuts to drive through the slowdown, the Times of India reported on Thursday.  

The report said that after Maruti Suzuki had an unprecedented full-day, unscheduled shutdown at its Manesar plant in August, it is now following it up with two full no-production days on September 7 and 9. According to the report, company insiders called the move as "scary, and never seen before in the recent past". Further, over-flowing inventory at factory premises, dealerships and external stockyards has made it difficult to find a location to park the fresh stock. 

The report added that Hyundai, which has been trying to balance the slowdown by shoring up exports, had to make "big adjustments" at its Chennai plant in August. The company has cut the production of sedans and some small car models. 

6) Wipro secures $300 million worth IT contract from ICICI Bank

IT services company Wipro on Wednesday said it has bagged an IT outsourcing contract worth around $300 million (around Rs 2,200 crore) from ICICI Bank under which it would provide a comprehensive suite of services to the lender.

As a part of the contract which has a tenure of 7 years, Wipro entered into a business transfer agreement with Vara lnfotech, a Mumbai based company, for an all cash consideration of Rs 321 crore. Vara Infotech currently provides IT services to ICICI Bank, and post acquisition of this business, Wipro will be the new service provider to the lender. (Read more here

7) Govt steps up asset monetisation of PSUs

The Centre has prepared a road map for monetising about two dozen assets of state-run companies, including land, as it speeds up the process to unlock the value of its investments in public sector companies and other government departments, the Times of India reported on Thursday. 

According to the report, the NITI Aayog, which has been tasked with selecting the state-run companies for asset monetisation, as well as the route to be followed, is finalising the list. Further, the Prime Minister's Office is overseeing some aspects of the drive. The national daily added that this latest push has come against the backdrop of a slowing economy and the need for reforms to boost growth. 

8) Sebi seeks IndiGo's response to Gangwal's letter over corporate governance

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) has sought a response from IndiGo on a fresh letter by the company's co-promoter Rakesh Gangwal regarding corporate governance issues.

In a filing to the stock exchanges on Wednesday, InterGlobe Aviation said the markets regulator has sought comments on a letter written by Gangwal on August 30. "The company will provide its response to the Sebi," the filing said.

On September 3, Sebi sought comments from the company on a letter received by the regulator from legal counsel of Gangwal. (Read more here

9) Economic slowdown fallout: Realty major Lodha group lays off 400 employees

Amidst rising debt which has crossed Rs 25,600 crore, and falling sales, Macrotech Developers, formerly Lodha Group, has given pink slips to around 400 employees.

However, a spokesperson for the largest realty player in India attributed the lay-offs to performance reviews.

The retrenchments at the company promoted by Mumbai BJP chief Mangal Prabhat Lodha come at a time when the economic growth has dipped to a six-year low of 5 per cent, which has led many to fear if the spectre of job losses across sectors awaits next. (Read more here

10) American fashion brands push for India-US FTA to streamline trade issues

Major American apparel brands such as Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Van Heusen, and Carters have made a case for a free trade agreement (FTA) between India and the US, arguing it will attract investments and streamline trade-related issues.

“An FTA with the US is a major component of bilateral business relations that is missing now,” Tara Joseph, president of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Hong Kong, said.

AmCham Hong Kong, in partnership with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), has brought a delegation of 15 top US apparel companies to India for exploring mega investment opportunities. It has also asked the government to reduce the customs duty on synthetic fabric imports. (Read more here)  

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