General Motors begins vehicle exports from India

General Motors India on Monday said it has begun vehicle exports from India, with a first shipment to Chile.

The company shipped the first lot of 140 units of its hatchback Chevrolet ‘Beat’ from the Mumbai port to Chile last Thursday, a press release said in Mumbai.

Beat was launched in the Indian market in 2010. The vehicle is produced at the company’s Talegaon facility in Maharashtra. The plant has an annual production capacity of 1,70,000 vehicles and 1,60,000 engines.

The first 140 left-hand-drive Beats were shipped from the Mumbai Port on September 25 and it is expected to reach Chile in the next few weeks, the company said.

“The first shipment of Chevrolet Beats demonstrates our commitment to make our India-built products available in global markets,” GM India President and Managing Director Arvind Saxena said.

GM India will continue to ship models to Chile on a monthly basis, he said.

“We expect to identify additional export markets going forward. This will help drive capacity utilisation at our Talegaon plant,” Saxena said.

The compact car Beat is already manufactured and sold in many markets across the world.

Available in both petrol and diesel versions, Beat is GM India’s best-selling model.

As part of GM CEO Mary Barra’s recent trip to India, she participated in the roll out of the first Beat for export on September 10.

The Chevrolet portfolio in India includes the Spark, Beat, Chevrolet SAIL, SAIL Hatchback, Cruze, Tavera, Chevrolet Enjoy and Captiva.

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella visits India Development Centre in Hyderabad

Microsoft Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Satya Nadella on Monday addressed the employees at the company’s India Development Centre (IDC) in Hyderabad.

Nadella, who is on a hush-hush visit to the city, shared his vision during the address at IDC, the biggest campus of the software giant outside its headquarters at Redmond in the US.

A company official told IANS that the CEO visited the IDC campus located at Gachibowli in the morning.

Nadella later held a closed-door meeting with the top officials of the company at IDC, set up here in 1998.

There was no official word about Nadella’s other engagements in the city. He is likely to leave for New Delhi later in the day and attend a few programmes in the national capital Tuesday before returning to the US.

For Hyderabad-born Nadella, this is his first visit to India after taking over as the CEO.

He arrived in the city Sunday and met Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao. The visit was kept a closely guarded secret and the media was not informed.

There was no official statement about the meeting. Even pictures were not taken during the meeting. Sources described the half-an-hour long meeting as a courtesy call.

Nadella reportedly spoke to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu over phone. It was not clear if Microsoft CEO will meet Naidu, who is in Visakhapatnam to inaugurate a technology incubation centre.

An alumni of Hyderabad Public School (HPS), Nadella, 47, is son of former Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer B.N. Yugandhar. His wife is the daughter of another retired IAS officer K.R. Venugopal.

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Doha Bank seeks shareholders nod to buy HSBC Bank Oman’s India assets

The board of Doha Bank, Qatar’s fifth-largest lender by assets, has authorised the purchase of the Indian assets of HSBC Bank Oman, and has called a shareholder meeting in November to approve the deal, it said in a statement on Monday.

The transaction value was not given in the statement to the Qatar Stock Exchange.

HSBC Bank Oman, an affiliate of HSBC Holding, had said in April that it had approved the sale of its Indian business to Doha Bank. The Omani lender said then it had two branches and gross assets worth Rs 3.5 billion ($57 million) at the end of 2013.

Shareholders at the meeting will also be asked to approve the bank’s issuing of debt instruments of up to $2 billion, with no single deal exceeding $750 million, it said.

The Qatar-based Bank had in March 2012 sold one bond, which was five-year issue worth $500 million and priced at a spread of 262.5 basis points over midswaps.

The offering was trading at a z-spread of 97.3 basis points at 6:30 am.

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NSE’s India VIX index heads for fourth day of gains, surges 7.3 per cent

The India VIX Index of the National Stock exchange (NSE) surged 7.3 per cent, heading towards its fourth day of gains in five on fears of foreign investor sales.

The volatility gauge of NSE has risen nearly 20 per cent since September 22.

Foreign investors sold shares worth Rs 11.33 billion ($185.31 million) on Friday, as per data released the NSE.

According to Central Depository Services Limited (CDSL), overseas investors sold shares in each of the three sessions till Friday to a total of $337.9 million, which is their biggest selling streak since May.

Traders cited uncertainties, including the Supreme Court’s cancellation of 214 out of 218 coal blocks allotted since 1993, for the surge.

State elections in October were also seen weighing in on the index.

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Lenovo to close USD 2.1 bn IBM server deal on October 1

Lenovo Group will close its acquisition of International Business Machines (IBM) Corp’s x86 server division on October 1 for $2.1 billion.

The deal will give China’s biggest personal computer maker a major asset as it expands its offerings for business clients.

The closing purchase price is lower than the $2.3 billion valuation announced in January because of a change in the valuation of inventory and deferred revenue liability, Lenovo said.

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PM Narendra Modi woos US lawmakers at Madison Square Garden

Prime Minister Narendra Modi not only won the hearts of NRIs here but also of nearly 40 top lawmakers of the United States who described his words as “inspirational and visionary”.

During his speech at the Madison Square Garden, attended by nearly 40 top US lawmakers, the Congressmen immediately connected with Modi when he said he was a small man who reached where he stood “selling tea” but intended to do “big things for small people”.

Many described him as “charismatic” figure, while others felt he was “destined to transform the nation”.

His views on minimum governance also went quite well with the US lawmakers.

“I see now why the people of India elected him,” said Congressman Henry C ‘Hank’ Johnson from Georgia, adding, “He has got a vision. He has a plan to make it happen.”

“Prime Minister Modi just swarmed this place like a rockstar,” said Congressman Pete Olson from Texas.

Congressman Ami Bera, the only Indian-American lawmaker in the current US House of Representatives, described the prime minister’s speech as inspirational and visionary.

“Today the Indian-American community was celebrating. I look forward to continuing to work together to reinvigorate the US-India relationship,” he said.

“It was great to hear his message of peace and friendship at his address to an energised crowd at New York’s renowned Madison Square Garden,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.

“Modi’s visit marks a significant positive step toward growing the relationship between the US and India, which is a bond based on shared democratic values and a focus on mutual prosperity and security,” said Gabbard, who also called on the Prime Minister at his hotel.

The discussion was largely related to her own interest in the country.

Gabbard presented to Modi a Gita, which she said had taken oath when she was sworn in to the US House of Representative.

“Prime Minister Modi’s speech at Madison Square Garden was a home-run. He hit all the right themes, highlighted all the right issues, and brought the US-India relationship to a new high,” Congresswoman Grace Meng from New York said.

“It was an honour to be on stage at Madison Square Garden, and to be part of this historic and important event. I look forward to working with Prime Minister Modi and his administration to make the bond between India and the US even stronger,” Meng said.

Congresswoman Cynthia Lumins from Wyoming, who visited Gujarat in 2013 to meet Modi when he was the Chief Minister, described him as a transformational figure for India.

“I have very few Indian-American constituents, but I came from Wyoming for this event because I am confident that he is a potentially transformative figure for the Indian economy,” she said.

“The speech he gave today punctuated that, the fact that he talked about individuals and the ability that they have to do about communities for the good if the country,” she said, adding that lawmakers were highly impressed when Modi said that he was a small person and wants to do small things for them.

“He is a person like me who does not see governance as the answer, he sees government getting out of the way and playing a supporting role rather than a command and control role in transforming the country. I as a Republican believe in similar things as well,” Lumins said.

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Excise dept eyes higher luxury tax collection in Delhi

With an eye to boosting its luxury tax collection, the excise department has sought the help of Delhi Police and the tourism and trade and taxes departments for maintaining intelligence records of the city’s hotels, banquet halls, spas and gyms.

According to the excise department, which is also in charge of collecting luxury tax in the national capital, they will clamp down heavily on entities who are found to have evaded luxury tax following a study of their financial records.

“We have requested Delhi Police, the tourism department and the department of trade and taxes to help us keep intelligence records of Delhi’s hotels, gyms, spas and banquet halls.

“We have requested police to give details of such entities registered with them as come under the ambit of luxury tax so that we may first get the exact data,” said a senior official of the department.

The official said that hotels which charge a room rent of Rs 750 or more per day come under the purview of luxury tax.

“The department of trade and taxes has also been asked to provide financial details of hotels and other such entities to see if they are liable to pay luxury tax. Entities which are found to be evading luxury will be dealt with strictly,” he added.

Similarly, the excise department has also sought the tourism department’s help regarding details of all hotels registered with it with a view to tracking their earnings.

There are presently around 1,143 hotels of all categories registered with the excise department which fall within the luxury tax bracket.

“This is the first time that we are taking such a step to increase our luxury tax collection,” the official added.

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Limited upside left for Indian rupee against dollar

The Indian equity market party is showing no signs of losing steam with the benchmark indices closing at an all time high yet again Monday. However, the Indian rupee will not be a guest at this party for long. This column believes that there is very limited upside left for the rupee to appreciate against the US dollar.

It would be safe to assume that the USD/INR pair will not breach the crucial 58-level over the medium term. This is also the level the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) would be comfortable buying dollars to recoup its foreign exchange reserves.

Strong foreign funds flows have been a major pillar supporting the recent bullish attitude towards the rupee. Falling crude prices on the back of more stable geopolitical news flow and the continuation of gold import curbs has allowed the rupee to inch towards the all psychological 60-mark to the greenback.

Currency Corner has argued over the past several months that the implications of the US monetary policy normalisation have not yet played out in the financial markets. But they will sooner or later as the divergent paths of major central banks are increasingly becoming clear.

Last week, the European Central Bank slashed its deposit and refinancing rate by 10 basis points and announced the launch of a stimulus program which would involve purchases of Asset Backed Securities (ABS) and covered bonds. One of the primary purposes of these programs is to weaken the Euro to boost the ailing exports. Further, the sales tax hike has had a much more severe impact on the Japanese economy than many had expected.

The Bank of Japan’s October monetary policy meet will look to address these issues and possibly even hint at additional quantitative easing. Thus, on the back of these two events, the Euro has broken the major support of 1.3 against the US dollar and the USD/JPY pair is trading above 105.5. The net long positioning in the US dollar Index according to US-based Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) data is at a multi month high.

The value of the dollar’s net long position surged to $35.88 billion in the week ended September 2, from $32.92 billion previously. Last week’s net long contracts in the US dollar were the biggest since the week of June 4, 2013. On the back of these moves, the rupee has hugely outperformed other DM (Developed Market) and EM (Emerging Market) currencies.

However, going forward, if the US dollar continues to strengthen and US 10 year yields head higher, we can expect the rupee to hover around the 63-64 levels. As Bank of America Merrill Lynch point out in their research note, one should not expect the RBI to fight a rising US dollar, although USD-INR accounts for 85 per cent of India’s trade. It is not possible for it to offset cross-currency pressures from the US dollar given limited FX reserves.

On the other side, every dip will be used to recoup FX reserves. Bank of America Merrill Lynch estimates that the RBI will buy $35-40 billion by March, 2016 to maintain an eight month import cover. Thus, they are expecting the USD/INR to trade between the range of 58-62.

Further, if this range is broken it would likely be to the upside. If the US economy recovers faster than expected (although the latest jobs data was soft), we could see the US dollar Index heading towards 86-87 and the US 10 year yields around 2.9 per cent by early next year. In such a scenario, we can expect the rupee to trade around 64-65 to the greenback.

The current up-move of the rupee is coming to an end and the risk reward for rupee bulls is stacked against them for the near term.

(Vatsal Srivastava is consulting editor for currencies and commodities with IANS. The views expressed are personal)

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Why iPhone 6 outperforms Google Nexus 4

What is it with an Apple announcement and a full moon that brings out the crazies in the people? I am sure by now most of you must have seen the Apple iPhone 6 comparison with the Google Nexus 4 on the Internet. But it is more like comparing a Mercedes SLS AMG with a Toyota Camry.

You could list the similarities in the two cars – they both have a steering wheel, they both have four wheels that the car runs on and a spare one in the boot, they both have air-conditioning and they both have a horn, too. But a Toyota Camry would never be a match for the Mercedes SLS AMG. The same is true when comparing the iPhone 6 to the Nexus 4. Here is a list of features that the online posts fail to mention:

Processor

The new A8 chipset with the second-generation 64-bit architecture is zipping fast. Be it graphic games or any other heavy app, the chances of slowing down the phone is next to nil. Apple claims that the phone won’t heat up even at high performance. The Nexus 4, when launched in 2012, had a 1.5GHz quad core processor based on Qualcomm Snapdragon 8064 chipset. Even today’s Android smartphones with the latest chipsets heat up. And don’t ask about lags and freezing, which is often.

Camera

The Nexus 4 had an 8MP camera and so does the iPhone 6. But the imaging quality and sensor on the iPhone 6 are far superior than most cameras in smartphones today. The new Focus Pixel technology provides the sensor with more information about the image, giving a better and faster autofocus that one can see in preview.

Faster Wireless

The iPhone 6 has faster LTE connectivity and supports higher download speeds. LTE is short for Long-Term Evolution, commonly known as fourth-generation or 4G technology. Apple claims it supports more LTE bands than any other smartphone. Even for WiFi, it will work three times faster than the predecessor and most other smartphones.

Apps installed from browser

Do you actually care about these apps? Apple is particular about the apps listed on the iPhone. On Android devices, half the apps are useless or collect private information and can pose threat to your phone.

Premium smartphone

Since the first iPhone launch, all the iPhones had a premium feel. But holding the Nexus 4 wasn’t any match. And most Android smartphones look alike. The recent Panasonic Eluga U has a similar back as the Nexus 4.

Wireless Charging

The online posts also boast the Nexus 4′s wireless charging capabilities. But, typically, a Qi wireless charger doesn’t accompany the handset and it needs to be purchased separately. Of the number of people who purchased the Nexus 4 back then, I don’t really know anyone who invested in one.

Fingerprint scanner

That’s one thing Apple has and Nexus doesn’t. And this isn’t only for show-off as, until now, it was used to unlock phones or authorise purchases on the App Store. Now with the Apple Pay service, it will be used for authenticating payments too.

Customer support

The biggest advantage of owning an Apple device is the service. The whole network is so systematically planned that in case you have any issue with your device, just walk into any service centre. If the problem is beyond repair, in most cases the unit is swapped. It might be a refurbished unit, but you still get the warranty from the date of the purchase. Also, you are saved from the hassle of calling and visiting the customer care like in the case of most other brands. In India, with Nexus 4, people had a tough time to get the handset repaired.

You might call me an Apple fan but these are some genuine differences between using an iPhone and the Nexus 4. There are not many iPhone users I know who switch to Android. However, there are many Android users falling for Apple.

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Chinese President likely to announce infrastructure investments on India visit

The government on Wednesday said the forthcoming visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to bring about a “directional change” in the relationship between the countries in addition to boosting trade and investments.

Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that some announcements are expected during the visit with regard to setting up of industrial parks by China.

“This visit will bring a directional change to the relations between India and China in the last 60 years. The directional change will also help further strengthen the ties between the two nations,” she said.

“We think during this visit some announcement will be made pursuant to which China will move forward in setting up industrial parks in India,” she added.

The Chinese President is scheduled to visit India from September 17. He will start his three-day official tour from Ahmedabad.

China is expected to announce investments worth US $5 billion in setting up two industrial parks in Gujarat and Maharashtra.

The commerce minister said the widening trade deficit with China was “worrying” and in order to reduce this the government had asked the neighbouring country to give more market access to Indian products and set up manufacturing units in the country.

“Manufacturing in China and selling in India is not looking favourable to India. We believe this visit will present a good scope for increasing China’s investment and trade with India,” Sitharaman said.

The bilateral trade between the countries stood at US $65.85 billion in 2013-14. The trade deficit was about US $35 billion. China has invested only US $410 million between April 2000 and June 2014.

Further the Minister informed that both the sides had discussed issues related to investments in the country’s railways sector during her recent visit to China.

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