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Credit Suisse Shares Plunge 30%, Top Shareholder Rules Out More Cash

ZURICH, March 15: Credit Suisse shares nosedived to historic lows Wednesday after its main shareholder said it would not invest any more money, as market jitters over European lenders spiralled in on the Swiss bank.

Switzerland's second-biggest bank, hit by a series of scandals in recent years, saw its share price tumble off a cliff after Saudi National Bank chairman Ammar Al Khudairy said it would "absolutely not" up its stake.

His comments came as European stock markets plunged amid renewed concerns about the banking sector.

Credit Suisse's market value had already taken a heavy blow this week over fears of contagion from the collapse of two US banks and its annual report citing "material weaknesses" in internal controls.

The bank's shares were quickly in freefall on the Swiss stock exchange, plunging more than 30 percent to a record low of 1.55 Swiss francs.

The bank regained some ground by the close, ending the day's trading 24.24 percent down at 1.697 Swiss francs.

Fears about the bank were spreading beyond Switzerland's borders.

A US Treasury spokesperson said the finance ministry was "monitoring" the problems surrounding Credit Suisse and was "in touch with global counterparts".

And French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne called on the Swiss authorities to step in and "settle" the problem, adding that the French and Swiss finance ministers were due to speak in the next few hours.

Amid the market panic, Credit Suisse chairman Axel Lehmann insisted at the Financial Sector Conference in Saudi Arabia that the bank did not need government assistance, saying it "isn't a topic".

"We have strong capital ratios, a strong balance sheet," Lehmann said, adding: "We already took the medicine," referring to the bank's drastic restructuring plan revealed in October.

Credit Suisse is one of 30 banks globally deemed too big to fail, forcing it to set aside more cash to weather a crisis.

The bank and financial authorities remained quiet about the share fall.

But citing three anonymous sources, the Financial Times newspaper reported that Credit Suisse had appealed to Switzerland's central bank and its financial regulator for "a show of support".

Analysts warned of mounting concerns over the bank's viability and the impact on the larger banking sector, as shares of other lenders sank on Wednesday after a rebound the day before.

"Where one big shareholder goes, others may follow. Credit Suisse now has to come with a concrete plan to stop outflows, and do it fast," IG analyst Chris Beauchamp told AFP.

Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at trading firm Finalto, agreed.

"If Credit Suisse were to run into serious existential trouble, we are in a whole other world of pain. It really is too big to fail."

The Saudi National Bank became Credit Suisse's largest shareholder in a capital raise in November, launched to finance a major restructuring of the Zurich-based lender aimed at steadying the ship.

But Khudairy said the kingdom's largest commercial bank would not be putting in any more money.

"Absolutely not, for many reasons outside the simplest reason which is regulatory and statutory," he told Bloomberg TV.

"We now own 9.8 percent of the bank. If we go above 10 percent, all kind of new rules kick in... and we are not inclined to get into a new regulatory regime," the chairman said.

In February 2021, Credit Suisse shares were worth 12.78 Swiss francs, but since then the bank has endured a barrage of problems that have eaten away its market value.

It was hit by the implosion of US fund Archegos, which cost it more than $5 billion.

Its asset management branch was rocked by the bankruptcy of British financial firm Greensill, in which some $10 billion had been committed through four funds.

The bank booked a net loss of 7.3 billion Swiss francs ($7.8 billion) for the 2022 financial year.

That came against a backdrop of massive withdrawals of funds by its clients, including in the wealth management sector -- one of the activities on which the bank intends to refocus as part of a major restructuring plan.

Tesla Slashes Prices Of Its Two Most Expensive Cars In US

Tesla Inc has cut prices on its two most expensive electric vehicles in the United States, according to the company's website, days after Chief Executive Elon Musk said recent price cuts on other models had stoked demand.

The price cuts, Tesla's fifth adjustment since the start of the year, ranged from 4% on the performance version of the Model S to 9% on the more expensive Model X.

Elon Musk has said repeatedly in recent months that Tesla would focus on bringing prices down to drive demand and that it had seen success in sparking orders with global discounts introduced in January.

"The desire for people to own a Tesla is extremely high. The limiting factor is their ability to pay for a Tesla," Musk said last week at Tesla's investor day.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the most recent price cuts.

Tesla slashed prices on its cars across all of its markets in January, offering discounts of up to 20% in what many analysts saw as the start of a price war by the electric vehicle market leader.

It has been adjusting prices since with a pace and frequency that goes beyond what established automaker's have attempted in an industry where a car's base price is still referred to as a "sticker price" on a vehicle in inventory.

The Model S and Model X, which come in base all-wheel drive (AWD) and performance "Plaid" editions, represented about 4% of Tesla's global deliveries in 2022. Its two cheaper models, the Model 3 sedan and Model Y crossover, made up the rest.

Tesla's website showed it had cut prices on both versions of its Model S by $5,000. The basic version of Model S was cut by 5% to $89,990, while the price of the performance, Plaid variant was cut by 4% to $109,990.

Prices of both the performance and basic variants of Model X cars were cut by $10,000, the electric vehicle maker's website showed. The price of the basic, AWD version of the Model X was cut by 9% to $99,990 while its performance Plaid version was cut by 8% to $109,990.

Tesla has a new version of the Model 3 codenamed "Highland" scheduled to go into production later this year and a change to the Model Y codenamed "Juniper" for next year, Reuters has reported.

India's Russian Oil Imports Hit Record High In Feb, 35% Share Of Total Now

NEW DELHI, March 5: India's imports of crude oil from Russia soared to a record 1.6 million barrels per day in February and is now higher than combined imports from traditional suppliers Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Russia continued to be the single largest supplier of crude oil, which is converted into petrol and diesel at refineries, for a fifth straight month by supplying more than one-third of all oil India imported, according to energy cargo tracker Vortexa.

Refiners continue to snap up plentiful Russian cargoes available at a discount to other grades.

From a market share of less than 1 per cent in India's import basket before the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict in February 2022, Russia's share of India's imports rose to 1.62 million barrels per day in February, taking a 35 per cent share.

India, the world's third-largest crude importer after China and the United States, has been snapping Russian oil that was available at a discount after some in the West shunned it as a means of punishing Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.

The rise in Russian imports have been at the expense of Saudi Arabia and United States. Oil import from Saudi fell 16 per cent month-on-month and that from the US declined 38 per cent.

According to Vortexa, Russia now accounts for more than the combined oil bought from Iraq and Saudi Arabia -- India's mainstay oil suppliers for decades.

Iraq, whom Russia has toppled to become the largest oil source for India, supplied 9,39,921 barrels per day (bpd) oil in February while Saudi supplied 6,47,813 bpd oil.

UAE overtook US to become the fourth largest supplier at 4,04,570 bpd. The US supplied 2,48,430 bpd, down from 3,99,914 bpd in January.

Iraq and Saudi supplies are the lowest in 16 months.

"Indian refiners are enjoying a boost in refining margins from processing discounted Russian crude," said Vortexa's head of Asia-Pacific analysis, Serena Huang.

"Refiners' import appetite for Russian barrels are likely to remain robust as long as the economics are favourable, and financial and logistical services to support the trade are available." Russia is selling record amounts of crude oil to India to plug the gap in its energy exports after the European Union banned imports in December.

In December, the EU banned Russian seaborne oil and imposed a USD 60-per-barrel price cap, which prevents other countries from using EU shipping and insurance services, unless oil is sold below the cap.

Industry officials said Indian refiners are using UAE's dirham to pay for oil that is imported at a price lower than USD 60.

"Almost a quarter of the Russian imports are now paid in dirham," an official said.

From a market share of just 0.2 per cent in India's import basket before the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Russia's share in India's imports rose to 35 per cent in February 2023.

GST Collections Up 12% To ₹ 1.49 Lakh Crore In February

NEW DELHI, March 1: Goods and Services Tax (GST) collections rose 12 per cent to more than ₹ 1.49 lakh crore in February as domestic economic activities and consumer spending on high-end goods gained momentum.

However, the collections are lower than January mop up of ₹ 1.58 lakh crore, which was also the second highest monthly revenue figure since the rollout of GST on July 1, 2017.

"Rs 1,49,577 crore gross GST revenue collected in February 2023; 12 per cent higher than GST revenue in same month last year," the finance ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

Generally, February being a 28-day month, witnesses a relatively lower collection of GST revenue, the ministry said.

During the month, revenues from domestic transaction (including import of services) were 15 per cent higher while revenues from import of goods was 6 per cent higher compared to the same month last year.

KPMG in India Partner, Indirect Tax, Abhishek Jain said this indicates a growing self-reliance within the domestic market and is a positive sign for the Indian economy.

As per the ministry data, out of the gross GST revenue, Central GST was ₹ 27,662 crore, State GST was ₹ 34,915 crore, Integrated GST was ₹ 75,069 crore (including ₹ 35,689 crore collected on import of goods) and Cess was ₹ 11,931 crore (including ₹ 792 crore collected on import of goods).

The cess collection of ₹ 11,931 crore was the highest since implementation of GST.


GDP Growth Rate Slows For Second Quarter, Q3 Growth At 4.4%

NEW DELHI, Feb 28: India's GDP (gross domestic product) may grow 7 per cent for financial year 2022-23, according to the second advance estimates released by the government today. The Q3 growth rate for 2022-23 slowed to 4.4 per cent from 6.3 per cent in July-September, according to the data released.

India's economy had grown 6.3 per cent year-on-year in the September quarter.

As per the first advance estimates released in January, the GDP growth for 2022-23 was pegged at 7 per cent.

The key difference between the two estimates is that the SAEs (second advance estimates) are calculated by incorporating the GDP data for Q3 (October to December).

The manufacturing segment declined by 1.1 per cent year-on-year in the quarter, a second straight contraction, showing subdued consumer demand.

"Real GDP or GDP at Constant (2011-12) Prices in the year 2022-23 is estimated at ₹ 159.71 lakh crore, as against the First Revised Estimates of GDP for the year 2021-22 of ₹ 149.26 lakh crore. The growth in real GDP during 2022-23 is estimated at 7.0 per cent as compared to 9.1 per cent in 2021-22," the NSO said.

The NSO (National Statistical Office) also revised upward the economic growth for 2021-22 to 9.1 per cent from 8.7 per cent estimated earlier.

Earlier in December, the Reserve Bank of India had cut the GDP growth forecast to 6.8 per cent for the current fiscal from 7 per cent earlier, on account of continued geopolitical tensions and tightening of global financial conditions. RBI had cut the growth projection for 2022-23 for the third time in December last year.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected the economy to grow at 6.8 per cent in 2022-23 while the Asian Development Bank pegs economic growth at 6.8 per cent.

France’s Total puts hydrogen partnership with Adani on hold pending clarity on allegation

France’s Total Energies has put on hold a planned investment in Adani Group’s USD 50 billion hydrogen project pending results of an audit launched following allegations by a US short-seller, chief executive Patrick Pouyanné said on Wednesday.

While the partnership where the French oil giant was to take a 25 per cent stake in the hydrogen venture of the Adani group was announced in June last year, TotalEnergies has not yet signed a contract, he said at an earnings call.

“Obviously, the hydrogen project will be put on hold until we have clarity” from Adani group on the allegation levelled by US short-seller Hindenburg Research, Pouyanne said.

TotalEnergies is one of the biggest foreign investors in billionaire Gautam Adani’s business empire and had previously taken stakes in the group’s renewable energy venture, Adani Green Energy Ltd and city gas unit, Adani Total Gas Ltd.

As per the June 2022 announcement, TotalEnergies was to take 25 per cent equity in Adani New Industries Ltd (ANIL) – the Adani Group firm that is investing USD 50 billion over 10 years in a green hydrogen ecosystem that includes an initial production capacity of 1 million tonnes before 2030.

The announcement by Total adds to the woes of Adani. The crisis around the group following the Hindenburg report has also been used by the opposition parties to attack the government, alleging that the tycoon’s rise was primarily because of his association with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The government has rejected the allegation.

“This project was announced but nothing has been signed… and for now it won’t be signed,” Pouyanne said. “It makes no sense to add more (projects) until there is clarity.” Adani has to explain the allegations, he said.

Hindenburg’s allegations of accounting and financial fraud unleashed an over USD 100 billion rout across Adani’s companies. Adani group has vehemently denied the allegations, calling them malicious and an “attack on India”.

“It was announced, nothing was signed. It doesn’t exist,” Pouyanne said on the hydrogen venture. “Adani has other things to deal with now, it’s just good sense to pause things while the audit goes forward.” He said Total has USD 3.1 billion investment and the firm was “happy” with those investments as both Adani Green and Adani Total Gas are performing well.

“These companies have assets and revenue” and are healthy, he said.

The French company conducted due diligence before and after investing in the Adani companies, he said. Shares of Adani Green and Adani Total Gas are still up by a factor of two and eight, respectively, since Total invested in them, Pouyanne added.

Total, France’s largest oil and gas company, first joined hands with Adani in 2018 for a liquefied natural gas (LNG) venture before buying a 19.75 per cent stake in Adani Green Energy Ltd and a stake in solar assets for USD 2.5 billion in 2020-21. It also took a 37.4 per cent stake in Adani Total Gas Ltd, the firm that retails CNG to automobiles and piped natural gas to household kitchens and industries.

Last week, the firm said its investments in Adani group companies were in full compliance with the law. “TotalEnergies’ investments in Adani’s entities were undertaken in full compliance with applicable – namely Indian – laws, and with TotalEnergies’ own internal governance processes,” it had said in a statement on Friday.

It added that it “welcomes the announcement by Adani to mandate one of the ‘big four’ accounting firms to carry out a general audit”.

TotalEnergies’ exposure resulting from these stakes is limited, as it represents 2.4 per cent (USD 3.1 billion as of December 31, 2022) of the company’s capital employed and only USD 180 million of net operating income in 2022, the firm had said on Friday.

“These investments being accounted for under the equity method, TotalEnergies has not performed any re-evaluation in its accounts of its stakes in the listed entities ATGL and AGEL in relation to the increase in their stock values,” the statement added.

Centre Converts Vodafone Idea's Dues Into Equity Worth $2 Billion

NEW DELHI, Feb : The government will take 33 per cent equity in Vodafone Idea after converting all interest related to payments for spectrum and other dues into equity, making it the largest shareholder in the telecom firm.

Vodafone Idea will convert dues of ₹ 16,133 crore into equity and issue shares for ₹ 10 each, the company said in a market filing.

Vodafone Idea is a combination of the India unit of Britain's Vodafone Group and Idea Cellular.

India's telecom sector was disrupted by the entry of billionaire Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Jio, which forced some rivals out of the market. Massive dues owed to the government compounded the telecom sector's troubles.

Vodafone Idea's board in January last year had approved the conversion of dues owed to the government into equity. The government has cleared it now.

Vodafone Idea shares closed at ₹ 6.89 apiece today at the Bombay Stock Exchange, up by 1.03 per cent since previous close. The filing came after market hours.

Adani Enterprises Calls Off FPO, Money To Be Returned To Investors

NEW DELHI, Feb 1: Adani Enterprises Ltd has called off its ₹ 20,000-crore follow-on share sale a day after it was fully subscribed, the company said in a statement. The company said it called off the follow-on public offer, or FPO, considering market volatility and will return the FPO money to investors.

FPOs are done by already listed companies to diversify their equity shareholding.

"...Today the market has been unprecedented, and our stock price has fluctuated over the course of the day. Given these extraordinary circumstances, the company's board felt that going ahead with the issue will not be morally correct. The interest of the investors is paramount and hence to insulate them from any potential financial losses, the board has decided not to go ahead with the FPO," Adani Enterprises Chairman Gautam Adani said in the statement.

Adani thanked investors for their support and commitment to the FPO as the subscription had closed successfully yesterday.

"Despite the volatility in the stock over the last week, your faith and belief in the company, its business and its management has been extremely reassuring and humbling," he said.

The sell-off in Adani group stocks and bonds continued today, with shares in Adani Enterprises plunging 28 per cent and Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone dropping 19 per cent, the worst day on record for both.

"We are working with our book running lead managers to refund the proceeds received by us in escrow and to also release the amounts blocked in your bank accounts for subscription to this issue," Adani said in the statement.

"Our balance sheet is very healthy with strong cash flows and secure assets, and we have an impeccable track record of servicing our debt. This decision will not have any impact on our existing operations and future plans. We will continue to focus on long-term value creation and growth will be managed by internal accruals. Once the market stabilises, we will review our capital market strategy. We are very confident that we will continue to get your support. Thank you for your trust in us." Adani said.

The FPO sailed through yesterday despite a scathing report by a US-based short-seller, Hindenburg, that pummelled stocks in Adani group companies. Hindenburg Research's January 24 report flagged concerns about the group's high debt levels and its suspected improper use of tax havens. Adani has called the report baseless.

Union Budget 2023 To Boost Infra, Manufacturing; Create Jobs

NEW DELHI, Feb 1: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday presented the Union Budget 2023 in Parliament, at a time when India’s economy faces challenges from a host of global factors, steep rise in inflation and a possible GDP growth slowdown in FY24.

“This is the first budget in Amrit kaal, it hopes to build on the foundation laid by the previous budget and the blueprint drawn for India at 100,” Sitharaman said. During her budget speech, the finance minister said the focus remains on widening the scope of economic growth, boosting key areas like infrastructure and manufacturing and job creation.

Here are some of the highlights from the finance minister’s budget speech.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the Indian economy is on the right track and, despite challenges, it is heading towards a bright future. "Our focus on wide ranging reforms and sound policies helped us perform well in trying times. India's rising global profile is because of several accomplishments: a unique world-class digital public infrastructure, Covid vaccination drive and a proactive role in frontier areas.

The finance minister said the government has implemented a scheme to supply free food grains to priority households for the next one year, under PM Gaarib Kalyan Anna Yojana. The entire expenditure of about Rs 2 lakh crore will be borne by the government, said the finance minister.

There are seven priorities that will be the focus of the Union Budget, said the finance minister. They are inclusive development, reaching the last mile, infrastructure and investment, unleashing the potential, green growth, youth power and financial sector.

The finance minister said this budget will lay the roadmap for the Amrit Kaal, which will include technology-driven growth and a knowledge-based economy. "Our vision for the Amrit Kaal includes a technology-driven and knowledge-based economy, with strong public finances and a robust financial sector. To achieve this 'janbhagidari' through 'sabka saath, sabka prayaas' is essential," she said.

As expected earlier, the finance minister made several announcements to boost the overall agricultural sector, including providing affordable solutions for challenges faced by farmers. She announced an agriculture accelerator fund to "transform" the sector.

The agricultural credit target will be increased to Rs 20 lakh crore, with focus on animal husbandry, dairy and fisheries. "We will launch a new sub-scheme with targeted investment of Rs 6,000 crore to aid activities of fishermen, fish vendors and MSMSEs," said Nirmala Sitharaman.

The finance minister said 157 new nursing colleges will be established in co-location with the existing 157 medical colleges established since 2014. ICMR labs will be made available for research by public and private medical college faculty and private sector R&D teams, to encourage collaborative research and innovation.

She also announced a new programme to promote research and innovation in pharmaceuticals. The government will also encourage industry to invest in research and development in specific priority areas.

A National Digital Library for children and adolescents will be set up to facilitate the availability of quality books across geographies, languages, genres and levels and device-agnostic accessibility, said the finance minister.

The outlay for the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, an initiative by the Government of India in which affordable housing will be provided for the urban poor, is being enhanced by 66 per cent to over Rs 79,000 crore.

Investment and job creation continues to be the government's top priority, as outlined by the finance minister in her budget speech.

During her budget speech, Finance Minister said capital investment outlay is being increased by 33 per cent to Rs 10 lakh crore, which would be 3.3 per cent of GDP.

She also announced that the provision for 50-year interest-free loans to state governments has been extended by another year. This will be done to spur investment in infrastructure and to incentivise them for complimentary policy actions, with enhanced outlay of Rs. 1.3 lakh crore.

The finance minister announced that the total outlay for the Indian Railway budget will be Rs 2.40 lakh crore, nine times more than the total outlay in 2013-14.

For business establishments required to have a Permanent Account Number, the PAN will be used as a common identifier for all Digital Systems of specified government agencies, said the finance minister.

The fiscal deficit target for FY24 has been reduced to 5.9 per cent of the GDP, compared to 6.4 per cent for FY23. The finance minister said, "I reiterate my intention to bring the fiscal deficit below 4.5 per cent of GDP by 2025-26."

The finance minister said a number of basic customs duty rates on goods other than textiles and agriculture should be reduced from 21 per cent to 13 per cent. As a result, there will be minor changes in the basic customs duties, cesses and surcharges on some items including toys, bicycles and automobiles. The customs duty on cigarettes has gone up once again.

"I propose to provide relief on Customs Duty on import of certain parts & inputs like camera lens & continue the concessional duty on lithium-ion cells for batteries for another year," the finance minister said.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the income tax rebate has been extended on income up to Rs 7 lakh, under the new income tax regime.

"Introduced in 2020, the new personal income tax regime with 6 income slabs, starting from Rs 2.5 Lakhs. I propose changing the tax structure in this regime by reducing the number of slabs to 5 and increasing the tax exemption limit to Rs 3 Lakhs," she said.

She also proposed to make tax slabs more flexible under the new tax regime. "The new tax rates are 0 to Rs 3 lakhs - nil, Rs 3 to 6 lakhs - 5%, Rs 6 to 9 Lakhs - 10%, Rs 9 to 12 Lakhs - 15%, Rs 12 to 15 Lakhs - 20% and above 15 Lakhs - 30%, " said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

No Tax On Income Up To 7 Lakhs, Centre Says New Tax Regime 'Attractive'

NEW DELHI, Feb 1: The central government today made a much-awaited mega announcement on increasing the income level up to which no income tax is payable: ₹ 7 lakh a year from the 2023-24 financial year. It was Rs 5 lakh so far. But there is a caveat: This change is only for those who choose the New Tax Regime.

Introduced in 2020, this New regime has none of the usual exemptions on insurance premium, mutual funds and other such investments. It did not gain traction as it resulted in higher tax burden in many cases. Those choosing the Old regime continue to get exemptions on investments, after which their final taxable income is calculated.

A five-slab structure will apply now under the New regime, also raising the no-tax slab by ₹ 50,000.

Income between ₹ 0-3 lakh will have no tax; it was zero to ₹ 2.5 lakh earlier.

From then on:

Income part from ₹ 3 lakh and 6 lakh will be taxed at 5 per cent;
Rs 6 lakh to ₹ 9 lakh, at 10 per cent;
Rs 9 lakh to 12 lakh, 15 per cent;
Rs 12 lakh to 15 lakh will attract a 20-per-cent tax; and
The part of income going above ₹ 15 lakh will be taxed at 30 per cent.
The minister also brought down the highest applicable tax rate in India after surcharges, from 42.7 per cent to 39.

Rates and slabs under the Old Tax Regime remain unchanged.

After listing out the slabs, the minister also announced that the Old regime — which has higher tax rates but several exemptions — will only be available on request now, and the New regime will thus be considered the default system for everyone.

She did add a benefit to the New scheme: Now, salaried people with income of ₹ 15.5 lakh or more can subtract ₹ 52,500 as Standard Deduction while calculating their taxable income.

Ms Sitharaman got to the tax bit near the very end of her 87-minute speech: "I have five major announcements to make... These primarily benefit our hard-working middle class."

The first one was about rebate. "Currently, those with income up to ₹ 5 lakh do not pay any income tax in both Old and New tax regimes. I propose to increase the rebate limit to ₹ 7 lakh in the New tax regime," she declared, as ruling alliance members thumped their desks and cheered her and PM Narendra Modi.

"The second proposal relates to middle-class individuals. I had introduced, in the year 2020, the new personal income tax regime with six income slabs starting from ₹ 2.5 lakh. I propose to change the tax structure in this regime by reducing the number of slabs to five and increasing the tax exemption limit to ₹ 3 lakh," she added.

She gave an example of how it will benefit: "An individual with an annual income of ₹ 9 lakh will be required to pay only ₹ 45,000." This was ₹ 60,000 so far.

She then announced the benefit of Standard Deduction while calculating taxable income of salaried class and pensioners under the New regime: "Each salaried person with an income of ₹ 15.5 lakh or more will thus stand to benefit by ₹ 52,500."

In her fourth announcement, she brought down the highest applicable tax rate from 42.74 per cent to 39.

"Lastly, the limit of ₹ 3 lakh for tax exemption on leave encashment on retirement of non-government salaried employees was last fixed in the year 2002, when the highest basic pay in the government was ₹ 30,000 per month. In line with the increase in government salaries, I am proposing to increase this limit to ₹ 25 lakh," she said.

Mitr Kaal Budget, says Rahul Gandhi

NEW DELHI, Feb 1: Congress's Rahul Gandhi today alleged that the latest Union budget proves the government has "no roadmap to build India's future". The last full budget before the 2024 national election, presented earlier by Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, has provided for a huge relief for taxpayers and massive outlay for capital spending and infrastructure.

"Mitr Kaal' Budget has: NO vision to create Jobs. NO plan to tackle Mehngai. NO intent to stem Inequality. 1% richest own 40% wealth, 50% poorest pay 64% of GST, 42% youth are unemployed- yet, PM doesn't Care! This Budget proves Govt has NO roadmap to build India's future," Rahul Gandhi tweeted.

Gandhi's party has called the budget "big on announcements and short on delivery".

"This budget will be called 'Naam Bade Aur Darshan Chhote Budget' (big on announcements and short on delivery)," said Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge. "No effort has been made in this budget to find a solution to massive unemployment. Inflation is hurting every household and the common man is in trouble. There is nothing in the budget that would reduce prices of items of daily use," he said.

"Overall, the Modi government has made life difficult for the people. The country's economy has been deeply hurt," he added.

His party colleague and former Union finance minister P Chidambaram said Nirmala Sitharaman "has not mentioned the words unemployment, poverty, inequality or equity anywhere in her speech. Mercifully, she has mentioned the word poor twice".

Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool leader Mamata Banerjee said the budget appeared to be a "half-hour" job.

"The budget they have presented, if I had had done it, I would have taken half an hour. How do you present a budget for the poor, how do you present a budget for a common man, how do you control prices of commodities? I have worked in many departments. We also present budgets; we don't increase taxes. We ensure people are not troubled, we help them," she said.

Earlier today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the budget "will build a strong foundation for a developed India".

"This budget will fulfill dreams of an aspirational society, including the poor, middle-classes, farmers... Our government has taken several steps to empower the middle class and ensure ease of living. We have reduced tax-rate and have given relief," he said.

She Said 'Poor' Only Twice: Chidambaram

NEW DELHI, Feb 1: Former Union finance minister P Chidambaram trashed the Union budget unveiled today, saying it had nothing for the poor or the unemployed and questioned if the capital investment outlay will be used. His party, the Congress, has alleged that a chunk of the capital outlay in the current financial year.
Union minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who presented the budget in parliament today, did not mention the unemployed at all or only mentioned the poor twice, Chidambaram said.

"In the 90-minute speech, the Finance Minister did not think it necessary to utter even once the words 'unemployment, poverty, inequality'. She said the word 'poor' twice," said Chidambaram.

"Now what is there in this budget for the poor? Has indirect taxes been cut? Has GST been cut? Has the prices of petrol, diesel, fertiliser, cement, which poor middle classes use, have been cut?"

In this context he quoted a research by the Azim Premji University, which says that as many as 5.6 crore people fell below the poverty line in the last three years, mainly because of the pandemic. "Now what have you done to lift them above the poverty line?" he said.

When the question of oil process came up at a post-budget press conference with the minister, an official of the ministry said, "There is no budget that has crude price as an input in any spreadsheet. Oil prices don't affect budget. No assumption has been made".

The budget announced today -- the last full budget ahead of next year's general election -- has included huge capital outlay in infrastructure and agri sectors and reworked tax slabs in a massive relief to the middle class. It has been hailed a dream budget by many.

In his remarks after the budget was presented, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it focuses on technology and new economy and will "fulfil the dreams of the poor, villages, farmers, middle class".

"In comparison with 2014, there has been a 400 per cent increase in infra investment. There is 10 lakh crore on infra investment. This will get jobs for youth and earn livelihood for a big population. Credit support and reforms have been taken forward. 2 lakh crore credit guarantee for MSMEs," he said.

Quoting figures, Chidambaram said the government has failed to spend the allotments made last year in the sectors of education, health and social welfare. "I can go down the list there are 10-12 items where they did not spend the money allocated," he added.

Gautam Adani Out Of Top 10 Richest List, Loses Asia Title

BENALURU, Feb 1: Billionaire Gautam Adani lost his title as Asia's richest person on Wednesday as his conglomerate plunged again in the wake of a US short-seller report.
Wednesday's stock losses saw Adani slip to 15th on the Forbes rich list with an estimated net worth of $76.8 billion.

Before the critical report by U.S. short-seller Hindenburg, Adani had ranked third.

The rout has wiped out around $92 billion of the value of the conglomerate's listed units since last week. The industrialist's personal fortune has plummeted by more than $40 billion in the same period.

The losses mark a dramatic setback for Adani, whose business interests stretch from ports and airports to mining and cement. Now, the tycoon is fighting to stabilise his businesses and defend his reputation.

It comes just a day after the group managed to muster support from investors for a $2.5 billion share sale for flagship firm Adani Enterprises on Tuesday, in what many saw as a stamp of investor confidence.

The report by Hindenburg Research last week alleged improper use by the Adani Group of offshore tax havens and stock manipulation. It also raised concerns about high debt and the valuations of seven listed Adani companies.

The group has denied the allegations, saying the short-seller's narrative of stock manipulation has "no basis" and stems from an ignorance of Indian law. It has always made the necessary regulatory disclosures, it added.

Shares in Adani Enterprises, often described as the incubator of Adani businesses, plunged 30 per cent on Wednesday. Adani Power fell 5 per cent, while Adani Total Gas slumped 10 per cent, down by its daily price limit.

Adani Transmission was down 6 per cent and Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone dropped 20 per cent.

Adani Total Gas, a joint venture with France's Total, has been the biggest casualty of the short seller report, losing about $27 billion.

Underscoring the nervousness in some quarters, it has been reported on Wednesday that Credit Suisse had stopped accepting bonds of Adani group companies as collateral for margin loans to its private banking clients.

India's markets regulator, which has been looking into deals by the conglomerate, has said it will add Hindenburg's report to its own preliminary investigation.

State-run Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) said on Monday it would seek clarifications from Adani's management on the short seller report. The insurance giant was, however, a key investor in the Adani Enterprises share sale.

Hindenburg said in its report it had shorted U.S.-bonds and non-India traded derivatives of the Adani Group.

India's GDP Growth To Slow Down To 6-6.8%, Forecasts Economic Survey

NEW DELHI, Feb 1: India's economic growth is forecast to be 6.5 per cent in fiscal 2024 compared to 7 per cent in the current fiscal, according to the Economic Survey released by the government a day ahead of the Union Budget presentation.

The Economic Survey forecasts a baseline gross domestic product, or GDP, growth of 6.5 per cent in real terms in fiscal 2024. Despite the lower growth forecast for next fiscal compared to the current one, the pace would still make India's growth the fastest among big economies.

"The projection is broadly comparable to the estimates provided by multilateral agencies such as the World Bank, the IMF, and the ADB and by RBI, domestically. The actual outcome for real GDP growth will probably lie in the range of 6 per cent to 6.8 per cent, depending on the trajectory of economic and political developments globally," the Economic Survey said.

The government hopes India's GDP growth in the 6-6.8 per cent range - which is still less than the 7 per cent forecast for the current fiscal - would be possible due to certain advantages the country has over other nations amid the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In making the forecast, the Economic Survey cited limited health and economic fallout for the rest of the world from the current Covid surge in China, leaving supply chains intact in many nations including India.

More money is likely to flow into India as advanced economies face "recessionary tendencies" while India's inflation remains below 6 per cent, the Economic Survey said. This will lead "to an improvement in animal spirits" and increase private sector investment, said the government survey that reviews how the economy performed in the past year.

Fears of a recession, however, have been heightened by mass layoffs by Big Tech in recent weeks.

India has recovered fast from the pandemic, the government said. The economic growth will be supported by "solid domestic demand and a pickup in capital investment", it said. The inflation rate peaked at 7.8 per cent in April 2022, the survey said.

But the risks are also high, especially from global factors. A long period of inflation has forced central banks across the world to tighten financial conditions, the survey said, adding this tightening is visible now in the form of slowing economic activity in advanced economies.

"Another risk to the outlook originates from the ongoing monetary tightening exercise. While the pace of rate hikes has slowed, major central banks have reaffirmed their hawkish stance on inflation," the Economic Survey said.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present the Union Budget tomorrow. It would be her fifth Budget since 2019. She may tweak income-tax slabs to provide relief to the nation's middle class and increase spending on the poor with programmes such as rural jobs.




India's GDP Growth To Slow Down To 6-6.8%, Forecasts Economic Survey
GST Collection At ₹ 1.55 Lakh Crore In January
IMF Predicts Global Growth To Fall To 2.9%
Richest 1% own 40.5% of India's wealth, says new Oxfam report


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