Formula One: Force India open to offers, says Vijay Mallya

Mallya says he had lost count of how many offers he had received for the team, and expected that to continue with changes in the distribution of prize money expected from 2021

Force India’s shareholders would consider serious offers for the British-based Formula One team but there are none at present, according to co-owner and principal Vijay Mallya.

The Indian businessman, who has a 42.5 per cent stake, said there was a possibility of main sponsor BWT getting more involved and changing the team’s name.

“If somebody comes along and wants to pay an attractive price for anything, you have to put your commercial hat on and think about it commercially, not emotionally,” Mallya told Reuters at the British Grand Prix. “And that’s precisely where I am.

“I cannot comment on the status of offers or discussions. But there is no agreed offer on the table backed by cash.”

Mallya is fighting in court against extradition to India on fraud charges, with Indian banks seeking to recover loans granted to his defunct Kingfisher Airlines.

His difficulties and those of co-owners Sahara Group have triggered speculation about the team’s future. But Mallya insisted they had no bearing on the day-to-day running of the team.

India’s Sahara conglomerate has been ordered to repay billions of dollars to investors in bonds that were ruled to have been mis-sold.

“Sahara’s problems and my problems are not new problems. They have been going on for more than three years. And within that period we have finished twice in fourth position in the world constructors’ championship,” said Mallya.

“This team is independent, it’s professionally managed. And it performs. So whatever difficulties the shareholders may or may not have, it doesn’t impact the team.”

ALSO READ: UK court entitled to take assets in my name, can’t go a step beyond: Mallya

Mallya said he had lost count of how many offers he had received for the team over the last 10 years and expected that to continue with changes in the distribution of prize money expected from 2021.

“When Liberty (Media) took over (the sport last year) and everybody thought things would change, there was serious interest from even private equity,” he said.

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Hate trains running late? Here’s Indian Railways’ worst performing division

Though Railways has made an all-out effort to prevent delays by improving the punctuality rate, Mail and Express trains are sometimes running more than 5 to 10 hours behind schedule

Howrah Division in Bengal is the worst performer as far as trains running on time is concerned, with a punctuality performance of only 34 per cent for the week ended June 3. It is closely followed by Lucknow Division with 39 per cent.

Curiously, an above 80 per cent punctuality rate is considered “reasonable” for Indian Railways, one of the largest railway systems in the world. Currently, Indian Railways’ overall punctuality rate is about 65 per cent — not an ideal situation for authorities or passengers.

Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani has said: “At the moment, punctuality rate is 65 per cent and I am not satisfied.”

Zone-wise, South East Central’s punctuality performance has remained at the bottom at 44 per cent followed by North Central’s 47.5 per cent, according to Railways data.

However, Bhavnagar has fared extremely well with 99.27 per cent while Sealdah Division has clocked 98.19 per cent in the week from May 28 to June 3 this year.

Delhi Division’s performance is below the 65 per cent mark at 64.64 per cent, while Mumbai Division is even worse at 55.5 per cent for the same period.

Though Railways has made an all-out effort to prevent delays by improving the punctuality rate, Mail and Express trains are sometimes running more than 5 to 10 hours behind schedule, causing much inconvenience to passengers.

Even premium trains like Rajdhani, Shatabdi, and Duronto are running late in some sectors due to various reasons, including ongoing track renewal and maintenance, bridge repair and speed restrictions.

“In order to ensure safety, Railways has undertaken a massive track renewal job, replacing old and aged lines in a concerted manner,” a senior official involved with safety operations told IANS. He added that track renewal is underway in almost every section.

Since track renewal is a priority now, lines are blocked for the work, which causes the trains to run slow.

The tracks fit for 110 km to 130 km per hour speed are also witnessing the slowdown effect, with even the Rajdhani service being hit.

Besides Lucknow, other divisions of the Northern Zone are also performing badly on the punctuality front with Moradabad’s being a low 40.14 per cent.

Fortis shortlists Munjal-Burman, TPG-Manipal, IHH, Radiant for stake sale

Fortis said it has received interest from various parties on May 31, as per the timeline specified in the fresh process for bidding

Fortis Healthcare on Friday said it has shortlisted four entities — the Munjal-Burman combine, Manipal-TPG consortium, Malaysia’s IHH Healthcare Berhand and Radiant Life Care to bid for the sale of its business.

In a regulatory filing, Fortis said it has received interest from various parties on May 31, as per the timeline specified in the fresh process for bidding.

It said the company’s board has decided to include the following four parties — Hero Enterprise Investment Office and Burman Family Office (Dabur), IHH Healthcare Berhand, Radiant Life Care, Manipal-TPG consortium in the bidding process.

Earlier this week, Fortis Healthcare initiated a fresh time-bound bidding process for its sale after terminating the offer made by the Munjal-Burman combine.

As part of the process, the Fortis board decided to invite three entities that had put in binding offers — Munjal-Burman combine, TPG-Manipal consortium, and Malaysia’s IHH Healthcare Berhad — to participate in the fresh bidding process subject to certain conditions.

The three entities were given time till today to confirm adherence to the new bidding process while other interested parties were also required to submit an Expression of Interest (EoI) by May 31.

As per the fresh criteria, the buyers have to make a minimum investment of Rs 1,500 crore into Fortis Healthcare by way of preferential allotment apart from having a plan for funding the acquisition of RHT Health Trust (RHT) and a plan for providing exit to private equity investors of diagnostic arm SRL.

Among others, the bids should be unconditional as well as mention about the source of funds for the transaction and elaborate on the plans for retention of current management and employees.

Last week, Fortis board was reconstituted after shareholders had voted out its director Brian Tempest, who was among the four directors whose removal was sought by two institutional investors.

Three other directors — Harpal Singh, Sabina Vaisoha and Tejinder Singh Shergill — had resigned ahead of an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) on May 22. During the meeting, shareholders voted out Tempest.

Interestingly, these four directors were among those who had favoured the binding offer made by Munjal-Burman combine.

Following the board revamp, Suvalaxmi Chakraborty, Ravi Rajagopal and Indrajit Banerjee have joined as independent directors.

RCom, Ericsson agree on settlement; green signal for Reliance Jio deal

The NCLAT asked the Anil Ambani-controlled firm to pay Ericsson Rs 5.5 billion by the end of September

The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) stayed the May 15 order of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) in Mumbai, which had admitted Reliance Communications (RCom) and two of its subsidiaries for insolvency proceedings.

The NCLAT asked the Anil Ambani-controlled firm to pay Ericsson Rs 5.5 billion by the end of September.

With the stay on bankruptcy proceedings, RCom can now continue with its asset monetisation scheme involving the sale of towers, optic fibre cable network, spectrum and media convergence nodes to brother Mukesh Ambani-controlled Reliance JioInfocomm (Jio) for Rs 170 billion.

On Tuesday, NCLAT chairman Justice S J Mukhopadhaya asked the parties to settle the matter stating that the fate of operational creditors under the corporate resolution process was not ideal, especially if Ericsson wished to recover the majority of its dues.

NCLAT also asked RCom and Ericsson to file an affidavit by June 7 stating that the two companies will abide by the settlement.

Ericsson India, a subsidiary of the Swedish telecom equipment maker and service provider, had filed a case at NCLT, Mumbai last September seeking the liquidation of Reliance Communications (RCom), and its subsidiaries Reliance Infratel and Reliance Telecom, in order to recover Rs 11.5 billion.

The three companies were subsequently admitted under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), and NCLT appointed a resolution professional (RP) to take over the management of each company. Ericsson had argued that it had entered into a seven-year agreement in 2014 with RCom and its subsidiaries for maintaining, upgrading and developing the latter’s telecommunications infrastructure, which was not honoured.

RCom and its subsidiaries owed Ericsson around Rs 9.78 billion for their services which, Ericsson’s counsel told the NCLT, had increased to around Rs 16 billion given that there were delays in the payment, despite several notices being issued to the Anil Ambani controlled companies.

RCom filed its appeal with the NCLAT, and was awarded with a stay on the order admitting the three firms under the IBC.

RCom and its subsidiaries now have the permission to go ahead with the debt restructuring plan that was prepared in December 2017. There were fears of the three Reliance group companies undergoing insolvency proceedings, which would have meant that the asset monetisation scheme under the plan would not be allowed.

Amazon may buy 10% in Future Retail for $600 mn, expand offline retail biz

The move comes days after Walmart acquired a majority stake for $16 billion home-grown e-commerce firm Flipkart at a valuation of around $20 billion.

 

Looking to expand and consolidate its presence in the Indian offline retail market, American e-commerce giant Amazon is in talks with Kishore Biyani-controlled Future Retail to acquire a 10 per cent stake in it, according to a FactorDaily.comreport.

The report comes days after Amazon‘s global rival Walmart acquired a majority stake for $16 billion in home-grown e-commerce firm and Amazon’s main rival in India, Flipkart, at a valuation of around $20 billion. With an increased burden of competition from Flipkart because of Walmart’s entry into the sector, Amazon is looking to make inroads into the offline retail sector to enhance its position in India’s retail space.

Here are some of the details of Amazon-Future Retail deal as reported by FactorDaily.com :

1. Future Retail’s valuation: The deal values Kishore Biyani’s Future Retail, the company that owns brick-and-mortar retail outlets like Big Bazaar and Easy Day, at about $6 billion (Rs 40,872 crore).

2. Deal value: Amazon may spend around $500-$600 million to acquire a 10 per cent stake in Future Retail, whose market cap is around $4 billion.

3. Coping up with the competition: After Walmart’s backdoor entry into India’s e-retail sector through Flipkart, competition is expected to get fierce in the country’s e-retail space. To expand its base in the Indian consumer market, Amazon is looking to enhance its business profile through the offline retail channel.

4. Amazon in IndiaAccording to a Citi Research report, Indian e-commerce sector is expected to be worth $202 billion in the next 10 years. Amazon is expected to be a major part of this growth, with a 35 per cent market share. The current valuation of Amazon India is pegged at $16 billion.

5. Amazon’s previous investments in offline retail: Amazon had previously picked up a 5 per cent stake in Shoppers Stop for $26.35 million (Rs 179.25 crore).

6. Other buyers in the race: Amazon is not the only one eying a stake in Future Retail. Jack Ma’s Alibaba and Walmart have also shown interest in it. Discussions are underway and any decision is yet to be taken.

7. What makes Future Retail a good investment target for Amazon? With a series of acquisitions, Biyani has consolidated Future Retail’s business and it could be a perfect choice for Amazon to enter into the offline market. Future Retail has 773 stores across the country, Big Bazaar and Easy Day combined. As Amazon wants to build a food and grocery business, it can capitalise on the fact that Future Retail gets 35 per cent of its business from garments and grocery and has a large number of in-house brands in 68 categories.

Moscow confused as IAF puts fifth-generation fighter on back burner to buy Rafale

Currently, the Sukhoi T-50 is powered by the NPO Saturn AL-41F1, which only is a souped-up version of the AL-31FP engine that powers the Sukhoi-30MKI

The ongoing MAKS 2015 air show in Moscow features an impressive flying display by the Sukhoi T-50, the fifth-generation prototype fighter’s first public outing in two years. But even the rousing applause fails to mask the disappointment of Russian officials at the Indian Air Force‘s (IAF’s) foot-dragging in co-developing the T-50 into a “fifth generation fighter aircraft” (FGFA) that the IAF will buy.

Well-informed sources in Moscow say the IAF vice chief has written a letter that effectively blocks the FGFA project. It criticises 27 different aspects of the FGFA, raising questions that must be answered before New Delhi and Moscow put $2.5 billion each into jointly developing the advanced fighter.

Business Standard also learns the IAF has vetoed a Russian offer to co-develop a fifth-generation engine for the FGFA. This is baffling to the Russians, given the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) long-standing attempts at joint engine development in order to end India’s expensive dependency on foreign vendors for aero engines. An internal DRDO estimation reckons that India will import aero engines worth Rs 3,50,000 crore over the next decade.

After the DRDO failed to develop the Kaveri engine to the level where it could power the indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), it strived to persuade French engine-maker, Snecma, to co-develop an engine. But Snecma declined to share key technologies, especially those relating to materials that can withstand the hellish temperatures created in the engine’s combustion chamber.

Nor has Washington agreed to share these technologies, even after President Barack Obama agreed during his January visit to New Delhi that a “joint working group” would explore US-India cooperation in engine technology.

DRDO and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) officials say the Russian offer of engine co-development fits well with the FGFA project itself, since the engine will power the same fighter. Currently, the Sukhoi T-50 is powered by the NPO Saturn AL-41F1, which only is a souped-up version of the AL-31FP engine that powers the Sukhoi-30MKI. A brand new, more powerful, engine is needed to let the FGFA supercruise, or fly at supersonic speeds while cruising without an afterburner. This is considered essential for a fifth-generation fighter.

Military aerospace experts worldwide believe that, given Moscow’s economic distress, the T-50 project badly needs India’s financial partnership to move forward. So far, the Russian Air Force has ordered only one squadron of T-50s.

Sergey Chemezov, who heads Rostec, the powerful Russian high-technology agency, downplays India’s delay. “As for the involvement with India, there is a certain delay, though this is not something that we (Russia) can be responsible for.

China is going after click farms and fake online sales

The Chinese law initially took effect in 1993 as a way to protect consumers and businesses from unfair market practices

China enacted sweeping changes to a business competition law to address fraud in the e-commerce industry, which is plagued by malfeasance ranging from fake positive reviews to merchants goosing sales numbers.

The National People’s Congress adopted revisions Saturday to the Anti-Unfair Competition Law intended to address online retailers, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The changes take effect January 1 but were announced days before Alibaba Group Holding’s November 11 Singles’ Day bargain extravaganza, which dwarfs Black Friday in the US in terms of revenue.

Fake Online Sales : The Chinese law initially took effect in 1993 as a way to protect consumers and businesses from unfair market practices. At that time, none of China’s biggest online companies — including Alibaba, Tencent Holdings, Baidu and JD.com — even existed. As e-commerce developed and prospered, attendant problems grew with it.

These latest revisions stipulate that operators shouldn’t deceive consumers by faking sales or employing “click farms” to rack up positive product reviews —increasingly common practices that have drawn the ire of buyers. And the rules encompass the entire breadth of internet commerce, from online goods and movie ticketing to food delivery. “You now cannot delete bad comments or employ people to leave good comments,” said Christine Yiu, an intellectual property law expert and partner at Shanghai-based Bird & Bird. “It’s a welcome change that echoes with the whole direction that China’s trying to move in, by strengthening old protections and discouraging infringement in the market.”

Another example of such fraud in China is e-commerce sites buying up movie tickets to artificially boost a film’s box-office rankings and to drum up popularity, Yiu said. (more)