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Disorder, Disorder!

     

    Last week, Indians saw something that will go down in the pages of judicial history. Four Supreme Court judges addressed a press conference about their rift with the Chief Justice of India, while breaking the judicial protocol. Though, the act undermined the veracity of India’s apex court, it also left several questions unanswered than it answered.

    7

    What is it? The size of the delegation from the Bar Council of India, led by its chairman Manan Kumar Mishra, meeting Supreme Court judges.

    Why is it important? In an unprecedented move, four senior-most Supreme Court judges alleged that Chief Justice Dipak Misra was not following established rules to allocate cases among judges. They added this was adversely affecting the judicial delivery system. After meeting with one of the four aggrieved judges, Mishra said it was an internal matter and that a solution would be found in 2-3 days.

    Tell me more: At an emergency meeting convened on Saturday, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) passed a resolution to “express grave concern” over the differences the four senior-most judges have with the Chief Justice. The SCBA President handed a copy of the resolution to Misra, who said he will look into it. Separately, four retired judges have written an open letter to Misra saying they agree with the issues raised by the four working judges and that the issue needs to be resolved within the judiciary.

     

    6

    What is it? The number of days for which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in India, beginning Sunday.

    Why is it important? This is his first visit to the country and also the first trip by an Israeli leader to India in 15 years. Netanyahu is accompanied by the largest-ever business delegation (130) to travel with an Israeli leader where executives from companies in defence, cyber and agriculture sectors seek to pursue deals with India. The visit is also seen as a means to deepen diplomatic ties. Though India has been known to vote against Israel in the United Nations, the former has increasingly abstained in issues relating to the Middle Eastern nation in the last two years.

    Tell me more: Bilateral trade between the two countries has increased to $4.16 billion in 2016, from $200 million in 1992 when they established diplomatic ties.

     

    4

    What is it? The minimum number of years for which the World Bank would correct and recalculate national rankings of business competitiveness in the annual report titled ‘Doing Business’, according to its chief economist Paul Romer.

    Why is it important? This raises questions about the authenticity of the rankings. Romer made a personal apology to Chile, whose rankings have dipped from 34 to 57 in the last three years. This review could impact India, whose rankings have jumped to 100 in 2018 from 140 in the previous year, the biggest improvement among all countries. After assuming power in 2014, the Narendra Modi-government had set a target of breaking into the top 50 in these rankings.

    Tell me more: Romer said the World Bank had changed the methodology of calculating the ranks of countries repeatedly in ways that were unfair and misleading.

     

    36

    What is it? The number of players who have set their base price in the Indian Premier League (IPL) auctions, to be held on January 27 and 28, at the maximum of Rs 2 crore.

    Why is it important? As the eight IPL franchises look to rebuild, with the IPL completing 10 years and all players barring 18 going into the selection pool, the Rs 2 crore set is where the top players and the team mainstays reside. It comprises 13 Indian and 23 overseas players, and franchises are expected to vie for their services, stretching their budgets. After completing their permissible player retentions, the eight teams have anywhere between Rs 47 crore and Rs 67.5 crore to complete their squads from 1,122 players who have registered for the auction.

    Tell me more: So far, 18 players have been retained by the eight teams. Royal Challengers Bangalore spent the most on one player: Rs 17 crore to retain Virat Kohli, making him the most expensive player in IPL history.

     

    139:10

    What is it? The swap ratio set for the merger between Capital First and IDFC Bank, announced on Saturday. Shareholders of Capital First, a non-banking finance company, will receive 139 shares of IDFC Bank for every 10 shares held by them.

    Why is it important? IDFC Bank is paying top money—on Friday, the market capitalisation of Capital First stood at Rs 8,266 crore and that of IDFC Bank at Rs 23,019 crore—to buy itself growth and scale, especially on the retail side. It had tried to do the same with the Shriram Group, but that deal fell through in October 2017.

    Tell me more: Post merger, V Vaidyanathan, currently chairman and managing director of Capital First, will take over from Rajiv Lall as managing director and CEO of the combined entity. And Lall will step into the role of non-executive chairman of IDFC Bank.

     

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      JioCoin Is In The Works

         

        Reliance Jio Infocomm is going big on investing in blockchain technology, specifically to create its own version of cryptocurrency- JioCoin. Cryptocurrencies are not legally recognised in India, given that challenge, it will be interesting to watch how JioCoin does after it is launched.

        2

        What is it? The number of years for which all firms in the Price Waterhouse (PW) network have been barred from auditing listed companies and intermediaries (such as brokers), according to an order by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi).

        Why is it important? The market regulator has found the audit firm guilty in the nine-year-old Rs 7,136 crore Satyam Computer Services scam, saying that Price Waterhouse was in connivance with the main wrongdoers of the accounting fraud and did not comply with auditing standards. The company, in response, has said was no intentional wrong by PW firms and that it was confident of getting a stay from a court before Sebi’s order comes into force.

        Tell me more: In January 2009, B Ramalinga Raju, the then chairman of Satyam, shocked the corporate world by admitting to have inflated the firm’s revenues and profits over several years in India’s biggest accounting scam, which is sometimes referred to as ‘India’s Enron‘.

         

        Rs 6,531 crore

        What is it? The net profit of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in the October-December quarter of 2017-18, which is 3.6% down from that in the same quarter a year ago.

        Why is it important? The dip is mainly due to a decline in spending by banking and financial services clients. With the exception of BFSI (banking, financial services and insurance) and retail, all industry verticals grew above 9.5% on an annual basis. With a tough 2017 for reasons including slow growth (mainly due to firms’ inability to grow their digital businesses) and the United States’ protectionist measures, for the IT industry, TCS’ business largely continued uninterrupted and also, won a $2.25 billion contract over nine years (the biggest by an Indian firm) from Nielsen.

        Tell me more: In the quarter ended December, TCS saw a gross addition of 12,534 employees, taking its total headcount to 390,880.

         

        50

        What is it? The size of the team Reliance Jio Infocomm plans to create to work on blockchain technology. This technology is essentially a decentralised and distributed digital ledger where information exists as a shared and reconciled database.

        Why is it important? Besides working on multiple applications such as smart contracts and supply chain management logistics, Reliance Jio plans to work on blockchain technology’s most popular application of cryptocurrency to create JioCoin. However, it remains to see how the firm’s newest ambition takes off given that cryptocurrencies are not legally recognised in India. Recently, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said cryptocurrencies are not legal tender and those transacting in it are doing so at their own risk.

        Tell me more: Reliance Jio, which disrupted the telecom market in the last few months with its competitively-priced plans, has a total customer base of 152 million (as of November).

         

        1

        What is it? Number of women lawyers who have been directly appointed to be a Supreme Court judge, instead of the standard route of being elevated from a high court. Yesterday, the Supreme Court collegium recommended the name of senior advocate Indu Malhotra.

        Why is it important? Besides being the first woman lawyer to take this route, Malhotra will be only the seventh woman judge since independence in the Supreme Court. At present, of the 25 judges in India’s apex court, 24 are men. The lone woman judge is Justice R Banumathi, whose term runs till July 2020.

        Tell me more: The government still has to clear her appointment. As per rules, the government can return the recommendations of the collegium once, and even then the collegium has the final say on the appointment.

         

        14

        What is it? The seeding that Novak Djokovic, six-time Australian Open winner, was awarded yesterday for the 2018 tournament, which begins in Melbourne on Monday.

        Why is it important? In the last six years, Djokovic has never been seeded outside the top two at a grand slam. But a forgettable 2017, plagued by poor results and an elbow injury that saw his year end at the halfway mark, have resulted in the ranking of the 12-time grand slam winner slip. At Melbourne, Djokovic has a difficult draw, and could face Gael Monfils, fourth seed Alexander Zverev and 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka to reach the semi-finals.

        Tell me more: Last year’s winner Roger Federer is seeded second behind Rafael Nadal. In the women’s draw, the top two seeds are Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki.

         

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          Air India: Welcome Aboard, MNCs

             

            The new tweak in India’s FDI policy would allow foreign airlines to have a stake in India’s bleeding domestic airline- Air India. Though government would keep the controlling stake, rest of it, 49%, is up for sale. Under the new changes, government has opened up all doors for foreign direct investment in single-brand retail trade.

            That and there’s more in news in numbers today. Take a look

             

            57%

            What is it? The day-on-day increase in the share price of Eastman Kodak Company on Wednesday, which comes on the back of a 119% increase on Tuesday.

            Why is it important? On Tuesday, the company—that was once synonymous with photos and whose fortunes fell with the rise of digital cameras and smartphones—announced plans to develop a new blockchain-based digital rights management platform for photographers. The platform, KodakOne, would let photographers publicly register their rights in digital photographs on an immutable blockchain. KodakCoin will be the currency used on that platform.

            Tell me more: Even as analysts tried to place Kodak’s latest plans in context, the price of cryptocurrency Ripple fell 37% in two days and famed investor Warren Buffett said he was near-certain that cryptocurrencies will “come to a bad ending”.

             

            100%

            What is it? The foreign direct investment (FDI) in single-brand retail that can now be made under the automatic route, against 49% previously.

            Why is it important? On Wednesday, the government tweaked the FDI policy to do away with prior government approval for a 100% investment. It also liberalized local sourcing norms, in a move that is seen to benefit the likes of Ikea and H&M. The relaxation in FDI norms days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi travels to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, later this month—the first by an Indian PM after 1997.

            Tell me more: The government yesterday also allowed foreign airlines to buy up to 49% in Air India, which is proposed to be privatized, with prior government approval. Existing rules allow foreign airlines to own up to 49% in private Indian airlines, but not in Air India.

             

            $1 billion

            What is it? The amount the world’s biggest automotive alliance of Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi plans to invest in automotive start-ups over the next five years.

            Why is it important? There are several big shifts underway in the transportation sector, and traditional automobile powerhouses are not at the helm of many of these. But they are increasingly looking to participate in, and shape, these changes through ventures like these. The trio’s venture capital fund, Alliance Ventures, is looking to invest in new developments in electrification, autonomy, connectivity and artificial intelligence.

            Tell me more: Renault and Nissan are funding Alliance Ventures to the tune of 40% each and Mitsubishi 20%. Alliance has already made its first investment: Ionic Materials, a US-based company that is developing cobalt-free battery materials.

             

            2

            What is it? The number of additions to the board of directors of Warren Buffett-controlled Berkshire Hathaway, taking its board size to 14. The two new appointees are Gregory E Abel and Ajit Jain.

            Why is it important? Both have also been promoted in executive operations. Both Abel and Jain are long-standing Berkshire executives who have been seen as potential successors to Buffett and the latest move adds credence to that thought by handing them greater responsibility in the Berkshire empire.

            Tell me more: In the aftermath of the announcement, Buffett said that this is “part of a movement to succession over time”. Buffett is 87 and his trusted lieutenant Charlie Munger 94.

             

            2.52%

            What is it? The government stake in National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) sold to investors in the company’s two-day offer for sale, which concluded on Wednesday.

            Why is it important? The government had initially planned to sell 1.5%, with an option to sell 1.5% more, depending on demand. The NMDC offer for sale was oversubscribed three times, indicating an investor appetite for better-run state businesses, and the government decided to divest 2.52%. It raised about Rs 1,200 crore, which will add to its disinvestment kitty and provide a much-needed boost to revenues.

            Tell me more: Against the issue price of Rs 153.50, shares of NMDC closed the day at Rs 155. With this transaction, the government shareholding in NMDC has come down from 74.9% to 72.4%.

             

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              Higher Direct Tax Collection Brings Some Solace

                 

                Rs 6,56,000 crore 

                What is it? The direct tax collections for the first nine months of 2017-18. This is an increase of 18.2% over the corresponding period of 2016 and 67% of the budget estimate.

                Why is it important? This 18.2% growth in direct taxes comes as a breather for the government, which is running the risk of overshooting its fiscal deficit target for 2017-18. Last month, the finance ministry said it will borrow an additional Rs 50,000 crore this year due to lower-than-expected collections under GST and higher revenue expenditure, a step that could raise the fiscal deficit to 3.5%, against the targeted 3.2%.

                Tell me more: For the nine-month period to December, advance tax collections rose 12.7%, led by a 21% growth in personal advance income tax and 10.9% growth in corporate advance tax.

                 

                $28 billion

                What is it? The annual cost of food-borne diseases to India, which is 0.5% of the country’s GDP (gross domestic product), according to a study by ‘Food for All’ partnership of the World Bank Group and the Netherlands government.

                Why is it important? The study says that though Indians transitioning from simple staples to more nutritious food should have positive impacts, this is leading to consumption of “risky foods”. Some of the main reasons for food contamination include unregulated use and management of pesticide, indiscriminate use of antibiotics for non-therapeutic reasons (most bacteria that cause food-borne diseases have been found to be multi-drug resistant) and chemical additives in processed and packaged food, according to the Centre for Science and Environment. The burden of food-borne diseases in India is unknown.

                Tell me more: The researchers say there could be an adverse impact with potentially large costs, due to an increase in poverty and under-nutrition, if no investments in food safety are made.

                 

                70%

                What is it? The proposed safeguard duty by India on cells and modules shipped from China and Malaysia.

                Why is it important? This is reportedly in response to an application filed by five domestic cell and module makers, and has been made on the basis that imports from China and Malaysia in this regard are a “threat of serious injury” to the domestic industry. Last year, India was the largest solar cell and module importer from China. If this proposal is implemented, it could potentially result in the end of record low solar tariffs, according to an analyst. Solar tariffs hit a record low of Rs 2.44 per unit last May.

                Tell me more: India’s average requirement of solar cells is 20 gigawatts per year, whereas its annual manufacturing capacity is just 15% of that.

                 

                64 years

                What is it? The number of years that Old Monk, the iconic Indian brand of dark rum sold in a distinctive squarish bottle, has been around.

                Why is it important? It was reported yesterday that, Kapil Mohan, the man who shaped and nurtured this brand to become the most popular rum and something more for a generation of Indians, passed away on January 6 at the age of 88 years. In the 1970s, Mohan took over the reins of Mohan Meakin, a family business, and breathed new life into the company.

                Tell me more: While consumption of alcohol in India has been increasing, sales of rum have been on the decline. And Old Monk has seen its market share fall from 15% in 2005 to 5% in 2014.

                 

                84

                What is it? The number of McDonald’s outlets that Connaught Plaza Restaurants, the licencee for north and east India of American fast food chain McDonald’s, plans to reopen by the end of this week.

                Why is it important? Connaught Plaza and McDonald’s are embroiled in a messy, and public, dispute. In this backdrop, last month, Vikram Bakshi-controlled Connaught Plaza had shuttered these outlets after differences with its logistics partner, which, it claimed, was acting at the behest of McDonald’s. Connaught Plaza has since signed a new partner. The reopening of the restaurants could open new fault lines as McDonald’s has, in a public statement, called these outlets “unauthorised”.

                Tell me more: The dispute dates back to 2013, when McDonald’s removed Bakshi as the managing director of Connaught Plaza. Bakshi challenged the decision before the Company Law Board, saying this was an attempt by McDonald’s to buy out his 50% share for a low valuation.

                 

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