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Sunday,23-January-2022

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Several women candidates emerge favourites for CEA’s position

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Woman power may make a strong statement in next years Union Budget as the economic policy recommendations may come from Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman at the top, ably guided by a first-ever woman Chief Economic Advisor (CEA).

The process of selection of the new CEA, which is underway now, has participation from more women this year with a strong chance that the country for the first time may have a dual combination of a woman FM and CEA guiding the Budget making process for 2022-23.

Sources said that three names are being bandied about in the corridors of power. These include Dr Pami Dua, Professor at Delhi School of Economics; Poonam Gupta, Director General of the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) and Gita Gopinath, chief economist at the IMF, who vacates her office in January 2022 making her available for assignment in India.

The government has invited applications for the post of CEA which will fall vacant next month (December 7) as present incumbent K V Subramanian completes his three-year tenure. Subramanian has said that he will be leaving the finance ministry to return to academia following the completion of his tenure.

Sources said that though the applications invited from the Department of Economic Affairs are valid till next week, some of the candidates already identified by it may get preference and it is here that the chances of getting the first woman CEA get stronger. Sources also said that the current Principal Economic Advisor Sanjeev Sanyal may emerge as the dark horse for the position as he has been with the government for some time and is aligned to its thinking that would hold the key to framing next year’s Economic Survey.

With regard to women candidates, Dr Pami Dua was picked by the Modi government in 2016 as the first woman member of the RBI’s all powerful Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) for four years. Poonam Gupta, on the other hand, was the RBI Chair Professor at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy and was recently appointed as one of the seven members of the reconstituted Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM).

The name of Gita Gopinath, 50, is also doing the rounds over her strong India connections and talks on pandemic economics where India’s role has been lauded. The only drawback in her candidature comes from her holding US citizenship.

In these circumstances, sources said that Sanyal could be the right candidate. But as the budget is already round the corner, there is also thinking that the government delay the release of the Economic Survey 2021-22, till the appointment of the CEA is completed and the person is able to oversee the survey. However, this would mean that Budget announcements may come without a survey, an unprecedented event.

The process of appointing the CEA involves vetting of candidates by a search committee which will then shortlist at least three candidates whose names will go for approval before the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet headed by the Prime Minister.

Business

IBM sells its Watson healthcare assets to Francisco Partners

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IBM has announced to sell healthcare data and analytics assets from the company (currently part of the IBM Watson Health business) to Francisco Partners, a leading global investment firm.

Although financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed but previous reports pegged the value at around $1 billion.

The assets acquired by Francisco Partners include extensive and diverse data sets and products, including Health Insights, MarketScan, Clinical Development, Social Program Management, Micromedex, and imaging software offerings.

The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of this year, IBM said in a statement late on Friday.

“The agreement with Francisco Partners is a clear next step as IBM becomes even more focused on our platform-based hybrid cloud and AI strategy,” said Tom Rosamilia, Senior Vice President, IBM Software.

“IBM remains committed to Watson, our broader AI business, and to the clients and partners we support in healthcare IT.”

Watson was one of IBM’s highest-profile initiatives in recent years and a big bet on the growing healthcare sector.

IBM currently has a market value of $108 billion, way behind its Cloud-computing rivals like Amazon and Microsoft.

In its fourth quarter, cognitive applications revenue, which includes Watson Health, came to $1.5 billion, a decrease of 2 per cent year over year.

IBM Watson was one of the “strategic imperatives” under former CEO Ginni Rometty.

“We have followed IBM’s journey in healthcare data and analytics for a number of years and have a deep appreciation for its portfolio of innovative healthcare products,” said Ezra Perlman, Co-President at Francisco Partners.

Under the terms of the agreement, the current management team will continue in similar roles in the new standalone company, serving existing clients in life sciences, provider, imaging, payer and employer, and government health and human services sectors.

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Confirm willingness to fund debt owned to lenders: FRL independent directors to Amazon

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Amazon

 Future Retail’s independent directors have asked e-commerce giant Amazon if it is willing to fund Rs 3,500 crore to repay the retail company’s lenders.

Notably, the question to Amazon was posted after the e-commerce giant in an earlier letter to independent directors objected to the sale of Future Retail Ltd (FRL)’s small-format stores.

“FRL is in need for cash infusion urgently in order to repay its lenders. FRL is required to pay its lenders Rs 3,500 crore by January 29, failing which it will be classified as an NPA,” said the letter dated January 21.

“Since you are objecting to the sale of small-format sales, the proceeds of which were to be used to repay lenders and thereby avoid NPA classification, please confirm that you are willing to fund this amount by Monday through an unsecured, long-term loan, subordinated to FRL’s existing lenders or any other mutually suitable and legally acceptable structure.”

Besides, the letter to e-commerce giant said, “If you do so, FRL will use such funds in order to repay FRL’s existing lenders. Alternatively, you are also free to engage with the lenders so that we do not fall foul of our OTR process or obligations.”

Accordingly, the independent directors asked the e-commerce giant to provide the confirmations for such funds by January 22, 2022.

“Once you have provided these confirmations in writing and agree to infuse Rs 3,500 crore in order to repay FRL’s lenders by January 29, 2022, we would be happy to assess a detailed proposal and meet Amazon India Head Abhijeet Muzumdar.”

Furthermore, the letter asked Amazon, “Coming to the specific aspects of your proposal — we note that your letter refers to a potential transaction between Samara Capital and FRL as a ‘solution’.”

“In this regard, you are requested to confirm if Amazon can act on behalf of Samara Capital and has the authority to negotiate and finalise such transaction on its behalf.”

It asked Amazon to confirm the structure for the proposed transaction, and that the Manager of Samara Capital is owned-and-controlled by resident Indians.

“As you know, FRL is in the multi-brand retail sector and FDI in this sector is restricted. You are also aware that Amazon’s transaction in Future Coupons, has resulted in regulatory scrutiny, including by the Competition Commission of India, as well as enquiries by the Enforcement Directorate.”

“It is therefore critical that any investment being proposed is in compliance with all applicable laws, including FDI laws, CCI regulations and SEBI regulations, and that any such transaction should not raise further regulatory scrutiny.”

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Vodafone Idea’s net losses widen YoY in Q3FY22, ARPU improves sequentially

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Telecom service provider Vodafone Idea’s net losses widened year-on-year to Rs 7,230 crore during the Q3FY22.

In the same quarter last fiscal, it was Rs 4,532 crore. In Q2FY22, it was Rs 7,132 crore.

Revenue from operations during the quarter declined to Rs 9,717 from Rs 10,894 crore in the same period in the corresponding fiscal.

However, Average Revenue Per User during the quarter stood at Rs 115, as against Rs 109 in Q2FY22, an increase of 5.2 per cent quarter-on-quarter.

“We remain focused on executing our strategy to improve our competitive position and win in the marketplace. Separately, we have opted for upfront conversion of interest arising from deferment of spectrum and AGR dues into equity,” MD and CEO Ravinder Takkar said.

“Revenue for the quarter was Rs 97.2 billion, a quarter-on-quarter improvement of 3.3 per cent, aided by several tariff interventions including the recent tariff hikes taken by all operators in November 2021.”

The telecom company continued to invest in 4G to increase its coverage and capacity, it said in a statement.

“During the quarter, we added 4,000 4G FDD sites primarily through refarming of 2G/3G spectrum to expand our 4G coverage and capacity as well as continued to upgrade our core and transmission network,” the company said.

In late November 2021, Vofafone Idea, along with Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio, raised tariffs on prepaid customers by around 20 per cent.

The upward revision in tariffs helped Vodafone Idea in increasing its ARPU by five per cent in Q3FY22, it said.

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