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In a bid to liberalise the coal sector, the government is planning to invite global players for the roll out of auction plan for commercial mining by December this year, Union Minister Pralhad Joshi said on Thursday.


The maiden move aimed at cutting coal exports is set to end the monopoly of domestic giant Coal India that accounts for over 80 per cent of the India's dry-fuel output.


"Hundred per cent commercial mining is approved. By December or so we are planning to roll it out," Coal, Mines and and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Joshi told reporters on the sidelines of the National Geoscience Award 2018.


He said that the government will invite global players for this, as 100 per cent FDI in coal will lead to more investors in coal mining operations with better technology.


"We are inviting global players. There is already 100 per cent FDI. More investors will come... We are hoping to get better technology. Whatever the shortcomings we have in this sector as far as mining coal is concerned that (commercial mining) will be a boost to address it. 100 per cent commercial mining is approved," Joshi said.


Coal is the most important and abundant fossil fuel in India. It accounts for 55 per cent of the country's energy needs and the government is trying to curb imports.


The country's coal imports increased by 28.7 per cent to 24.14 million tonnes in June as against 18.75 million tonnes in the corresponding month of the previous fiscal.


Total imports of thermal coal rose to 56.23 million tonnes during the quarter as compared with the year-ago period.


The country's coal imports swelled by about 13 per cent to 235.2 MT during the year-ended March 31, 2019.


Coal India along with the PSU Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL) are the only companies that till now were allowed to mine and sell coal.


Coal India is the the single largest coal producer in the world, operating through 82 mining areas with seven wholly owned coal producing subsidiaries and a mine planning and consultancy company, it accounts for about 600 million tonnes (MT) annual production.


As per the Coal Ministry, commercial primary energy consumption in India has grown by about 700 per cent in the last four decades but the current per capita commercial primary energy consumption in India is about 350 kgoe/year which is well below that of developed countries.


On issues pertaining to iron ore mining, the Mines Minister Joshi said that the government is working on it and will see to it that there are no shortages of the mineral.

India to invite bids from global coal miners before end of 2019: Sources

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India plans to invite bids from global firms for the first time for coal mining blocks before end-2019, sources familiar with the matter said, a move that would end Coal India Ltd's near-monopoly for the fuel as the nation tries to cut imports.

Coal is among the top five commodities imported by India, one of the world's largest consumers of the fuel. Coal imports are surging after the government failed to open the industry to competition, despite having passed a liberalization policy 19 months ago.

The coal block auctions are intended to attract global miners such as Glencore PLC, BHP Group, Anglo American PLC and Peabody Energy Corp.

The government aims to allow companies with winning bids to begin development of the coal blocks - which hold proven reserves - by early 2020, the three sources said.

It is not clear when the government expects to see first output from the coal blocks. India's Ministry of Coal did not respond to a request for comment.

Total imports of thermal coal - used mainly for power generation - rose by about a third during the quarter ended June 30 to 56.23 million tonnes as compared with the same period last year, according to government data reviewed by Reuters.

Coal India and a small stated-owned company are the only firms currently allowed to mine and sell coal in India. India does allow some power, steel, cement and aluminium companies to mine coal for their own captive use.

Wholesale price-based inflation unchanged at 1.08% in August

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Wholesale price-based inflation was unchanged at 1.08 percent in August even as prices of food items rose, government data showed on Monday.

The wholesale price index (WPI)-based inflation was at 1.08 percent in July this year and 4.62 percent in August 2018.

Inflation in food articles rose to 7.67 percent in August from 6.15 percent in July this year mainly on account of rise in prices of vegetables and protein-rich items.

Vegetable inflation too rose to 13.07 percent in the month under review as against 10.67 percent in July 2019.

Inflation in protein-rich items like egg, meat and fish rose to 6.60 percent last month from 3.16 percent in July.

However, fuel and power basket continued to witnessed deflation at 4 percent in August as against 3.64 percent in July.

RBI creates database for stressed loans of NBFCs

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The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has built a database of stressed non-banking finance company (NBFC) loans, similar to the Central Repository of Information on Large Credits (CRILC) that it has built for banks in 2014, sources privy to the developments told CNBC-TV18.

According to multiple people familiar with the development, the central bank has directed the NBFCs to inform the RBI database about SMA 1 and SMA 2 loans since last year.

SMA 1 refers to those loan accounts in which the instalment or interest is overdue for 1 month from 31st day to 60 days. SMA 2 refers to accounts in which the instalment or interest is overdue for 2 months from 61st days to 90 days.

For the past year or so, the data given by the NBFCs to the central bank is methodically arranged, plus the RBI has other data too, sources in the know told CNBC-TV18.

NBFCs, including housing finance companies (HFCs), came under stress following a series of defaults by the group companies of IL&FS in September last year.

India's fuel demand rose 2.8% YoY in August

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India's fuel demand rose 2.8 percent in August compared with the same month last year.

Consumption of fuel, a proxy for oil demand, totalled 17.04 million tonnes, data from the Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell (PPAC) of the oil ministry showed.

Sales of gasoline, or petrol, were 8.9 percent higher from a year earlier at 2.57 million tonnes.

Cooking gas or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) sales increased 13.0 percent to 2.40 million tonnes, while naphtha sales surged 3.7 percent to 1.15 million tonnes.

Sales of bitumen, used for making roads, were 23.8 percent up, while fuel oil use edged lower 15.9 percent in August.

PM Modi, K P Oli jointly inaugurate Motihari-Amlekhganj petroleum product pipeline

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Nepal counterpart K P Sharma Oli on Tuesday jointly inaugurated the Motihari-Amlekhganj petroleum product pipeline via a video link.

The over 60 km-long pipeline is the first-ever cross-border petroleum product pipeline in the South Asia region, according to a video presentation made before the inauguration.

As of now, tankers carry petroleum products from India to Nepal as part of an arrangement which is in place since 1973.

"This India-Nepal energy cooperation project is a symbol of our close bilateral relations. It will help to enhance the energy security of the region and substantially cut down on transit costs," the Prime Minister's Office had said on Monday.

Divorce insurance: Is it time for Indians to secure alimony settlements?

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Ashmit Gupta, a 38-year old Kolkata businessman who has filed for a divorce, must arrange Rs 30 lakh for the alimony his ex-wife has sought. While he has investments worth Rs 10 lakh that will pay a part of that amount, he is still to arrange Rs 20 lakh within the next few months.

Countries like Egypt are now contemplating a law to make divorce insurance mandatory to ensure that men are able to pay alimony to their ex-spouses without having to face a financial burden. Considering the financial costs linked to a divorce and subsequent payments to the spouse, it could be time for Indians to seek insurance to cover divorces as well.

While India still has among the lowest divorce rates, the numbers have doubled over the last one decade. As per Census 2011, there were 1,362,316 divorces in India. While the number is low compared to other countries, it is still a significant number.

If the average alimony amount per divorce stood at Rs 15 lakh, it is a whopping Rs 2.04 lakh crore in settlements itself for the 1.36 million divorces. Over and above that are the legal expenses and child support which would run into several lakhs of rupees.

It is estimated that the alimony payment amount in India has risen by 35 percent over the last five to seven years.

Taking an insurance policy that pays for the divorce proceedings is a financially-prudent idea. Usually taken at the time of marriage, this insurance product will provide for all financial costs pertaining to a divorce.

The premium payable depends on the earning capacity of the individual and the income profile of the couple. There is usually a period of initial two to three years during which a claim is not admissible.

As a starter, policies with a standard cover of Rs 25 lakh or 30 lakh could be offered. These would be priced at less than Rs 15,000 per annum. If any individual seeks additional insurance, top-up plans could be offered.

The amount and duration for which alimony is payable depends on how long the marriage existed. Marriages that last more than 10 years are even entitled to get a lifelong alimony.

In India, there is no cap on the amount of alimony that can be sought by the wife. In case of a lump-sum settlement, the amount could go up to one-third of the husband’s net-worth.

With Indian couples being far more open to the idea of a divorce than a decade ago, it is imperative that the financial costs will also be considered. Having insurance products available for this purpose could help sort out the financial matters and help the couple focus on other crucial matters including property division and child custody.

India Inc's foreign borrowings more than double to $4.98 billion in July: RBI

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India Inc's foreign borrowings grew over two-fold to $4.98 billion in July over the same month a year ago, according to Reserve Bank data.

Indian firms had raised $2.18 billion in borrowings from overseas markets in July 2018.

Of the total money borrowed by the domestic companies, $3.37 billion was through the automatic route of external commercial borrowing (ECB), $1.56 billion via approval route of ECB and the rest of $50.9 million was raised by issuing masala or rupee denominated bonds.

In the ECB category, the major borrowers tapping the automatic route were Adani Ports And Special Economic Zone Ltd -- which raised $750 million for rupee expenditure and $650 million for refinancing of earlier ECB, ONGC Videsh $500 million for other purposes.

Larsen & Toubro and HPCL-Mittal Energy raised $150 million and $125 million, respectively for rupee expenditure.

Among others, Aditya Birla Housing Finance; L&T Finance; GACL-NALCO Alkalies & Chemicals and India Infoline Finance raised $100 each for on-lending purposes.

In the approval route of ECB, Reliance Industries raised a total of $912.87 million in three different tranches to meet rupee expenditure and import of capital goods while REC Limited raised $650 million for on-lending.

Toyota Financial Services India was the only company that raised $50.86 million by issuing masala or rupee denominated bonds in the overseas market for the purpose of sub-lending.

Last Updated : Aug 30, 2019 01:06 PM IST | Source: PTI 8.65% interest on EPF to be notified soon: Santosh Gangwar

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The labour ministry will soon notify 8.65 percent rate of interest on Employees' Provident Fund (EPF) for 2018-19 as the finance ministry does not disagree on this rate, said Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar on Friday.

A notification by the labour ministry is required regarding the interest rate for crediting the interest amount into accounts of over 6 crore subscribers.

Besides, it would enable retirement fund body Employees' Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) to settle on withdrawal claims on this rate. Now, the EPFO is paying an interest rate of 8.55 per cent for 2018-19 under PF withdrawal claims. The 8.55 per cent interest rate on PF deposits was fixed for 2017-18.

"The finance ministry does not disagree with 8.65 per cent interest on EPF for 2018-19. I believe that it will soon be notified," Gangwar told reporters on the sidelines of a conference on private security guards at FICCI here.

In February, the EPFO's apex decision-making body Central Board of Trustees, headed by the labour minister, had decided to raise the interest rate on EPF to 8.65 per cent for 2018-19, which was the first increase in the past three years.

In April, the Department of Financial Services (DFS), a wing of the finance ministry, had given its concurrence to the EPFO's decision to provide 8.65 per cent rate of interest for 2018-19.

The rate was raised to 8.65 per cent for the previous financial year from 8.55 per cent provided in 2017-18. The EPFO had earlier reduced the interest rate for 2016-17 to 8.65 per cent as compared with 8.8 per cent for 2015-16.

After the finance ministry's concurrence, the income tax department and the labour ministry are required to notify the rate of interest for 2018-19. Thereafter, the EPFO would give directions to its over 136 field offices to credit the rate of interest into subscribers' account and settle their claims accordingly.

According to the EPFO estimates, there would be a surplus of Rs 151.67 crore after providing 8.65 per cent rate of interest for 2018-19 on EPF. There would have been a deficit of Rs 158 crore on providing 8.7 per cent rate of interest on EPF for the previous financial year. That is why the body decided to provide 8.65 per cent rate of interest for 2018-19.

Real Estate sector boost expected this week, policy changes in the works

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The package, aimed primarily at home buyers and real estate developers, is expected this week, the paper quoted government officials as saying.

"There have been discussions on a task force for real estate similar to the one for infrastructure projects announced last week. The finance minister spoke about promoting rental housing sector. A new policy is in the works," one of the officials told BS.

Measures being considered include the creation of a task force, easing of interest subvention norms, new rental housing policy, lifting the affordable housing category cap, cutting processing time for housing applications under partial guarantee scheme, and expanding credit reach to small exporters, they added.

The task force will identify and revive stalled projects while the recent circular by the National Housing Board (NHB), prohibiting interest subvention for housing loans, would be under review.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman might also lift the affordable housing category cap in metro cities from the present Rs 45 lakh to Rs 1 crore.

The development follows long-standing demands for regulatory and tax changes as the sector suffered a steady decline in demand and a sharp liquidity crunch over the past four years.

Sitharaman, in her budget, proposed "several reforms to promote rental housing … a model tenancy law to be finalised and circulated to the states."

While announcing the first set of economic measures on August 23, Sitharaman also promised two more packages. The expectations are stronger after the finance minister and Urban Development Minister Hardeep Puri met with industry representatives.

Apart from real estate, the other anticipated announcement is goods and service tax (GST) e-wallet provision for exporters, the report added.

In June, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said that exporters should be able to take more and more export credit in foreign currency. The ministry is now looking at raising the share of foreign currency in total export credit much beyond the present level of about 50 per cent.

"The same has been forwarded to the RBI for consideration as its foreign exchange reserves can be used for providing a line of credit for swap to good banks for this purpose. This will result in cheaper foreign currency loans," a senior official said.

The ministry has also discussed in detail the possibility of easing norms for banks when it comes to lending export credit by extending the cap on banks from the present two percent, the official pointed out.

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