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COVID-19 impact | Banks knock on MCA's doors, seek speedy approval for 40 resolved IBC cases

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With uncertainty looming large, banks have approached the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) seeking a fast-tracking of 40 resolved, high-value insolvency cases in which a decision from the bankruptcy courts is pending, 

The extremely low recovery prospects in the imminent months have bankers worried sick as they fear they may lose buyers due to delay in pending approvals in the aforementioned cases, the report noted. A fall in the value of these deals due to the lack of movement in the economy may dissuade buyers from going ahead with these deals.

Additionally, companies that have been admitted for insolvency and are awaiting hearings also featured on the list that was sent to the MCA.

The ongoing lockdown has hit economic activity in the country, with a deterioration in the state of backlogs at bankruptcy tribunals across India. That these accounts awaiting approvals are likely to face additional challenges due to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, crisis is another cause of concern for bankers, who want the ministry to look at laying down guidelines to help them deal with the upcoming troubles.

This comes even as Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a blanket ban on fresh insolvency admissions for up to a year, while also exempting COVID-19-related debts from the definition of 'defaults' under the Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code (IBC).

Recession, job losses, another pandemic and protectionism top worries: WEF study

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A prolonged global recession due to COVID-19 pandemic, high unemployment, another outbreak of an infectious disease and increased protectionism are among the biggest near-term worries for companies around the world, a new study showed on Tuesday.

The study conducted by the World Economic Forum (WEF) also flagged that the world is not ready for the knock-on effect of far-reaching environmental, societal and technological risks, but a "green recovery" and more resilient, cohesive, inclusive and equal societies can emerge if leaders act now.

"Economic distress and social discontent will rise over the next 18 months unless world leaders, businesses and policy-makers work together to manage the fallout of the pandemic," according to the report.

As economies restart, there is an opportunity to embed greater societal equality and sustainability into the recovery, which would unleash a new era of prosperity, said Geneva-based WEF, which describes itself as an international organisation for public-private cooperation.

The study, titled 'COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and Its Implications', has been conducted in partnership with Marsh & McLennan and Zurich Insurance Group. It taps into views of nearly 350 senior risk professionals who were asked to look at the next 18 months and rank their biggest concerns in terms of likelihood and impact for the world and for business.

The immediate economic fallout from COVID-19 dominates companies' risks perceptions and these range from a prolonged recession to the weakening fiscal position of major economies, tighter restrictions on the cross-border movement of goods and people, and the collapse of a major emerging market.

The report also calls on leaders to act now against an avalanche of future systemic shocks such as the climate crisis, geopolitical turbulence, rising inequality, strains on people's mental health, gaps in technology governance and health systems under continued pressure.

"These longer-term risks will have serious and far-reaching implications for societies, the environment and the governance of breakthrough technologies," the WEF said.

As per the study, two-thirds of respondents identified a "prolonged global recession" as a top concern for business. Besides, one-half identified bankruptcies and industry consolidation, failure of industries to recover and a disruption of supply chains as crucial worries.

With the accelerated digitisation of the economy in the midst of the pandemic, cyber attacks and data fraud are also major threats, according to one-half of the respondents, while breakdown of IT infrastructure and networks is also a top concern.

Geopolitical disruptions and tighter restrictions on the movement of people and goods are also high on the worry list.

A second report from WEF, 'Challenges and Opportunities in the Post-COVID-19 World', which was also published on Tuesday, draws on experiences and insights of thought leaders, scientists and researchers to outline emerging opportunities to build a more prosperous, equitable and sustainable world.

WEF's Managing Director Saadia Zahidi said the COVID-19 crisis has devastated lives and livelihoods while triggering an economic crisis with far-reaching implications and revealing the inadequacies of the past.

"As well as managing the immediate impact of the pandemic, leaders must work with each other and with all sectors of society to tackle emerging known risks and build resilience against the unknown. We now have a unique opportunity to use this crisis to do things differently and build back better economies that are more sustainable, resilient and inclusive," she said.

Auditor report piles misery on M&M-owned Korean automaker SsangYong Motor

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KPMG Samjong, the auditor of Mahindra and Mahindra-owned Korean automobile company SsangYong Motor, has issued a 'disclaimer of opinion' on the automaker's quarterly financial results, according to a a report by Yonhap News Agency.

SsangYong's net loss widened in the first quarter of this financial year, making it the 13th consecutive quarter where the company continues to post hefty losses. The auditor said these issues raised a question over the company's ability to remain viable.

As its current debts surpassed its current assets by 576.7 billion won this quarter, SsangYong's shares tumbled on the back of the news.

A 'disclaimer of opinion' is one among the four different types of auditor's opinions issued against a company's financial results.

Indian automaker Mahindra and Mahindra owns around a 74 percent stake in the Korean carmaker. SsangYong has been struggling to keep up its numbers due to declining sales, while the parent firm has yet decided against liquidity infusion.

Earlier this year, M&M had plans of putting in 230 billion won into SsangYong subject to its board's approval. However, the board struck down the plan last month in light of the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on the domestic automobile industry.

Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana: FM Sitharaman reserves Rs 20,000 crore for welfare of fishermen

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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on May 15 said an amount of Rs 20,000 crore will be reserved for the welfare of fishermen through the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY)

Sitharaman was addressing a press conference to announce the third tranche of the economic stimulus package covering agriculture, fisheries and allied activities.

PMMSY scheme will be launched for integrated sustainable and inclusive development of marine and inland fisheries.

Rs 9,000 crore has been reserved for the development of infrastructure in fishing harbours, cold chains as well as markets.

The registration of the 242 shrimp hatcheries and rearing hatcheries have been extended for the next three months while marine capture fisheries and aquaculture has been relaxed to cover inland fish farming.

The scheme is expected to help with providing employment to over 55 lakh people and increase production to 70 lakh tonnes over the next five years. This is also expected to result in exports doubling to Rs 1 crore.

The FM also said that all COVID-19 related deadline extensions have been honoured including overseas contracts.

RBI sells net $4.05 billion of American currency in March in spot market

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The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) turned net seller of the US dollar after it sold $4.054 billion in March on a net basis in the spot market, recent RBI data showed. In the reporting month, the RBI had bought $3.984 billion of the US currency and sold $8.038 billion in the spot market, RBI data showed.

In March 2019, the central bank was net buyer of the greenback as it had purchased $9.408 billion. It bought $10.306 billion from the spot market and sold $898 million.

In February, the RBI had bought $10.604 billion of the US currency and sold $1.460 billion in the spot market.

In FY19, the apex bank was a net seller of dollars, offloading $15.377 billion in the spot market. It had bought $40.804 billion and sold $56.181 billion in the year to March 2019.

In the forward dollar market, the outstanding sales at the end of March was $4.939 billion, compared to a sale of $2.295 billion in February, the data showed.

FM Sitharaman press conference: Here is what different sectors are expecting

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India Inc will closely watch Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's announcements on May 13.

Sitharaman will address a press conference at 4 pm providing further information on the Rs 20 lakh crore economic package announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 12.

PM Modi said the economic measures earlier announced by the government to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, steps taken by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), and the latest package would come up to a total of Rs 20 lakh crore, nearly 10 percent of India's gross domestic product (GDP).

PM Modi hinted that there might be some measures announced for a large number of sectors.

>> Sectors such as auto and real estate will be looking at resumption of manufacturing and construction, and measures that could help push consumer demand.

Sales of commercial vehicles (CVs) and houses have plunged since the lockdown began on March 25.

>> The power sector, too, has seen a sharp drop in demand during the lockdown and is hoping for measures that could help revive demand and stem losses.

>> Ecommerce companies, which are yet to resume non-essential services in red zones, may see some announcements in this regard.

Online marketplaces were initially allowed to provide only essential items and services during the lockdown. They are now permitted to provide non-essential services as well in orange and green zones.

>> The aviation sector might look for any word on the resumption of commercial flights, which have been suspended since March 25.

This sector is looking out for announcements that could help them deal with the revenue loss faced during the lockdown.

China announces new list of US imports eligible for trade war tariff waivers

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China on Tuesday released a list of 79 American products which will be exempted from the second round of retaliatory tariffs imposed at the peak of the bilateral trade war, as it faced fresh pressure from the US to import more to end the bruising dispute.

This is the second list of American goods to be excluded from the second round of tariff countermeasures against the US Section 301 measure, according to a statement from the Customs Tariff Commission of China's State Council.

The exemption will be valid from May 19, 2020, to May 18, 2021, it said.

There are 79 products in total on the list published on Tuesday by the Ministry of Finance that included rare earth mineral ores, aircraft radar equipment, semiconductor parts, medical disinfectants, and a range of precious metals, chemical and petrochemical products.

well as petrochemical products.

Tariffs that have already been levied will be refunded, the statement said. The remaining US products subject to China's second round of additional tariffs will not be excluded for the time being, it said.

For US products that are not on the first two lists, the commission advised enterprises to apply for the exemption of additional tariffs following a specific product list that applies to domestic firms which plan to sign deals to purchase and import these products from the United States in a market-oriented and commercial fashion, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The US and China signed the phase one deal on January 16 to end the 22-month-long trade war during which two countries slapped tit-for-tat tariff hikes over nearly half a trillion USD worth of products.

Under the January deal, China agreed to increase its purchases of US goods from a 2017 baseline by USD 200 billion over two years.

China's announcement comes at a point when two countries are engaged in fiery exchanges over the origin of the coronavirus pandemic that had cast a shadow over the deal.

US President Donald Trump last week threatened to tear up the phase one trade deal if China did not increase its imports of US goods, as per the purchasing agreement element of the deal.

Trump had launched the trade war with China in 2018 demanding Beijing to reduce the massive trade deficit.

The US goods trade deficit with China was USD 419.2 billion in 2018.

His demands included an intrusive verification mechanism to supervise Beijing's promise to protect intellectual property rights (IPR) technology transfer and more access to American goods to Chinese markets.

Make modest opening of road, air transport to start economic activity: Chidambaram

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Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Monday urged the government to allow operation of road and air transport, saying it was the only way economic and commercial activities can effectively resume. He also welcomed the government's decision to start select inter-state train services.

The government has decided to start train services from May 12 connecting Delhi to some select stations across the country, bookings for which will begin from Monday by the IRCTC.

"We welcome the decision of the government to cautiously start operation of inter state passenger trains. The same modest opening should be started with road transport and air transport," the former finance minister said.

"The only way economic and commercial activity can effectively begin, is to open road, rail and air services for passengers and goods," Chidambaram said on Twitter.

The Congress has been demanding restarting of economic activities which have come to a standstill in view of the complete lockdown enforced due to coronavirus.

The Congress has also demanded a relief package for the poor and an economic stimulus package to help the industry.

Govt working on financial package for all sectors, says official

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The government is working on a comprehensive financial package not only for MSMEs but for all sectors of the economy, a top official said on Thursday. "Government of India, Prime Minister's Office and the Department of Economic Affairs are already working on a package, which includes not only the MSME but also the entire industry. All sectors of the economy being taken care of by a comprehensive package, being worked out in the government," said Giridhar Aramane, Secretary in the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.

He was speaking during an interaction with members of SIAM (Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers) Institute via video conferencing.

Participating in the same meeting, Union Minister for MSME and Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari also said "a package is going to be declared".

The demand for a package to stimulate the economy has been growing from various quarters, including industry bodies and MSME sector experts.

India's micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which contributes 29 per cent to the country's growth and 48 per cent to exports, is a major employment generator.

However, the sector is facing a huge crisis amid coronavirus pandemic, with millions of units staring at losses and the prospect of job cuts as they struggle to survive.

Government extends last date for filing annual GST return for FY19 until September

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The government has extended the last date for filing annual GST return for financial year 2018-19 by three months till September 2020.

In another trade-friendly move, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) has also extended the validity of e-way bills that were generated on or before March 24, and had expiry between March 20 and April 15, 2020.

A notification has been issued to extend the time limit for furnishing of annual (goods and services tax) return and reconciliation statement for the financial year 2018-19 till September 30, 2020, CBIC said in a tweet.

EY Tax Partner Abhishek Jain said, "With most part of the country under lockdown or partial lockdown, it would have been difficult for the industry to meet the timeline of June end. The extension provides much-needed relief to the industry and demonstrates the accommodative stance of the government."

A nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus was imposed on March 25, which has now been extended till May 17.

Last month, CBIC had extended the validity of e-way bills generated on or before March 24, and had expiry between March 20 and April 15, till April 30.

In view of the extension of lockdown and helping industry that has goods stuck in transit, the validity has now been extended till May 31.

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