MakeMyTrip lays off 350 employees due to COVID-19 impact

It is unclear when travelling will become a way of life, as it was pre-COVID, the company stated in a mail to employees

Online travel firm MakeMyTrip has laid off 350 employees due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its business.

Most of the fired employees are in international holidays and related line of business, according to sources.

In an email to employees, MakeMyTrip Group Executive Chairman and founder Deep Kalra and Group CEO Rajesh Magow said even as times remain unpredictable, what is evident is that the impact of COVID-19 crisis is going to be long drawn for the company.

It is unclear when travelling will become a way of life, as it was pre-COVID, they added.

“Over the past two months, we have analysed the impact closely and have spent considerable time thinking about the path to business recovery. As a result, it’s become agonisingly clear that there are certain lines of business that are far deeply affected and will take much longer than the others to recover,” they said.

It is evident that the pandemic has changed the context and viability of some of business lines in its current form, the mail said.

“Keeping this in mind we have had to take this sad but inevitable decision of rightsizing our workforce in these businesses,” Kalra and Magow said.

Mediclaim coverage

When asked about the number of employees that have been impacted, a company spokesperson confirmed that 350 employees have been impacted.

“To compassionately take care of the employees who have been impacted, we have tried to do our best to offer support including Mediclaim coverage for individuals and their families till the end of the year, leave encashment, gratuity, retaining the right to exercise part of RSUs as applicable, retention of company laptops and outplacement support apart from salary payments as per their notice periods,” they said.

Kalra and Magow also said that it was undoubtedly the toughest decision, “we have had to take so far and it’s the saddest day for us as an organisation”.

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Prioritising production as per dealer requirements: Toyota Kirloskar Motor

The company sold a total of 1,639 units this May. It had sold 12,138 units in the domestic market in the corresponding month last year, and exported 928 units of the Etios.

Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM) today said that the company sold a total of 1,639 units in May, 2020. The company had sold a total of 12,138 units in the domestic market in the corresponding month last year, and exported 928 units of the Etios.

Having announced the resumption of production in its plant in Bidadi since 26th May, TKM has been catering to the pending orders the company received since the lockdown began. By mid-May, almost 60% of Toyota’s dealerships were operational. However, this did not include the key metropolitan markets.

On the monthly sales, Naveen Soni, senior vice-president, sales and service, said, “We are conscious of the dealer business conditions in various parts of the country and we have been prioritising production at our end as per dealer requirements, both in terms of quantity as well as the grades they require.”

He added, “The market has been slow and with a reduced demand, we have been able to wholesale only 20% of what we would have clocked under normal situations. However, retail sales have been much higher compared to wholesales (TKM sales to dealers), thereby helping us reduce the inventory levels at dealerships.”

TKM has resumed over 300 Toyota outlets, with ongoing sales operations in close to 220 outlets and service operations in over 230 outlets. It claimed in a release that dealerships have been exceeding 50% of its normal capacity from its open outlets.

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Cresco Labs To Buy Four Medical Marijuana Dispensaries In Ohio From Verdant Creations

Cresco Labs Inc., a multi-state cannabis operator, said it has entered into agreements with Verdant Creations, LLC that will provide it the option to purchase four additional medical marijuana dispensaries in Ohio currently operated by Verdant.

Cresco will pay $375,000 in cash and $500,000 of its subordinate voting shares to Verdant for each dispensary. The company expects the transaction to close in the fourth quarter of 2020, subject to approval by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy.

Upon closing of the transaction, Cresco will have a total of five dispensaries in Ohio, the maximum allowed by the State.

Verdant currently operates dispensaries in Cincinnati, Chillicothe, Marion, Newark, and Columbus, Ohio. The Columbus location is not part of the transaction, Cresco noted.

“Upon completion of this Transaction and completing the final phase of buildout at our cultivation facility, we expect to drive increased revenue growth and operating leverage in this limited license state,” said Charlie Bachtell, Cresco Labs CEO and co-founder.

Bachtell noted that Ohio, the seventh most populated state in the U.S., now has over 100,000 registered patients and recorded over 30 percent growth in average weekly sales from February to April this year.

Cresco has 25,000 square feet of cultivation, currently undergoing upgrades, which are fully funded by a sale-and-leaseback agreement with Industrial Properties REIT.

Cresco noted that the four additional dispensaries will increase its vertical integration in Ohio and act as crucial customer touchpoints to increase recognition of the company’s portfolio of brands. Cresco products are currently offered in almost 60 percnt of dispensaries in the State.

Under the deal, Cresco has agreed to provide certain consulting services and financing to Verdant for the development as well as operation of the dispensaries, in consideration of Verdant granting Cresco an option to acquire the dispensaries when permissible under Ohio regulations.

In April, Cresco Labs said it reached a mutual agreement to terminate its acquisition of Las Vegas-based seed-to-sale cannabis company Tryke Companies LLC. In September 2019, Cresco Labs had announced a deal to acquire Tryke Companies for $282.5 million.

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Cabinet okays NBFC liquidity plan

Scheme is a non-starter, says industry body FIDC

The Union Cabinet on Monday approved a ₹30,000-crore special liquidity scheme for non-banking finance companies (NBFCs) and housing finance companies aimed at improving the cash position of these entities.

A special purpose vehicle (SPV) would be set up by a public sector bank to manage a Stressed Asset Fund (SAF) whose special securities would be guaranteed by the Government of India and purchased by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) only, the government said.

The proceeds of sale of such securities would be used by the SPV to acquire short-term debt of NBFCs/HFCs. The scheme will be administered by the Department of Financial Services, which will issue the detailed guidelines.

“The SPV would issue securities as per requirement subject to the total amount of securities outstanding not exceeding ₹30,000 crore to be extended by the amount required as per the need,” a statement by the government said.

“The securities issued by the SPV would be purchased by the RBI and the proceeds thereof, would be used by the SPV to acquire the debt of at least investment grade of short duration (residual maturity of up to three months) of eligible NBFCs / HFCs,” it added.

Raman Aggarwal, co-chairman, FIDC, the industry body of NBFCs, termed the scheme a non-starter due to the short tenure of the funds.

“The details of the special liquidity scheme has come as a disappointment,” he said.

“The funds will be made available for a tenor of up to three months while a majority of the lending done is for a tenure of 2-3 years.

“In order to prevent any asset-liability mismatch, the expectation was for a tenure of three years,” said Mr. Aggarwal.

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Occidental posts loss on $1.4 billion charges, cuts budget again

Mnuchin: No bailout for oil companies

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says there will be no financial aid package for the oil companies amid the coronavirus and that it will eventually rebound.

Occidental Petroleum Corp on Tuesday reported that it swung to a loss in the first quarter on write-downs, and the troubled oil producer cut its budget for the third time since March in response to the historic crash of oil prices.

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It reported a net loss of $2.23 billion, or $2.49 per share, for the quarter ended March 31, compared with a profit of $631 million, or 84 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

OCCIDENTAL PETROLEUM REACHES TRUCE WITH ACTIVIST INVESTOR CARL ICAHN

Occidental beat Wall Street estimates for adjusted earnings. Analysts expected an adjusted loss of 63 cents, but the company reported a loss of 52 cents, according to Refinitiv.

The company is "taking aggressive action to ensure our long-term financial stability," Chief Executive Officer Vicki Hollub said.

Write downs of $1.4 billion in pipeline assets, losses on interest rate swaps and impairments on oil and gas properties were partially offset by a $1 billion gain on crude oil hedges.

CORONAVIRUS CHOKEHOLD ON US WORSENS OIL INDUSTRY'S PAIN

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OXY OCCIDENTAL PETROLEUM CORPORATION 15.32 -0.20 -1.29%

Occidental has been struggling with debt taken on in last year's ill-timed acquisition of Anadarko Petroleum, a bet on rising shale oil prices months ahead of the worst price crash in decades.

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The purchase saddled Occidental with $40 billion in debt and the oil-price crash has cut the value of assets that Occidental picked up in the deal, dashing its hopes of selling them to pay down the debt.

The company cut its capital budget for the year to between $2.4 billion and $2.6 billion after earlier downsizing it to between $2.7 billion and $2.9 billion, nearly half the original forecast.

It has identified additional $1.2 billion in operating and overhead cost cuts for 2020, it said on Tuesday.

Shares closed at $15.32 on Tuesday, down 1.3% and are down 64 percent this year.

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We want to make it easier to buy things from within WhatsApp: Facebook India MD

‘With Jio, idea is to help shoppers find merchants, reduce friction in discovery’

Following Facebook’s ₹43,574-crore investment in Jio Platforms, the vice-president and MD of the India arm of the U.S.-based social networking giant, Ajit Mohan, spoke on the opportunities in India and the benefits the company sees from the deal, while also allaying concerns over data privacy. Excerpts from an interview:

You have talked about the Facebook-Jio deal in the backdrop of a digital revolution in India. What opportunities do you see?

[For Facebook], India has a special place for many reasons — the largest communities on WhatsApp, and Facebook app are from India.

It is hard not to look at India and see a pretty exciting economic and social transformation… in the last five years, there has been an explosive expansion in access to affordable mobile broadband bringing more than 500 million people online. I would imagine it’s one of the fastest expansions in access to the Internet probably anywhere in the world. So, I think that context sets the excitement.

All our three apps — Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp — have a particularly special place in the lives of Indians.

We see it from the engagement, we see in terms of how culturally embedded these services are in our lives everyday. Therefore, we’re not looking at it as specific short-term transactional opportunities.

We look at it from a long arc… even though India is in the beginning of that transformation, led by digital, the opportunities have opened up in such a substantial way, whether it’s in healthcare or education or entertainment, that there is an opportunity for us to play an enabling role. So, the horizon is very long. I think the arc of our thinking is focused on the long term.

How does Facebook benefit from the Jio deal?

One of the roles that Facebook plays in the digital ecosystem is that we are big enablers for small businesses.

Even today, businesses use and leverage our ad platforms on Facebook and Instagram to reach new customers, to find new markets, sometimes in the cities where they are and sometimes, outside India… most frugal marketing and growth spend from new ventures, the first-time entrepreneurs, invariably tends to be on Facebook because it is a marketing spend that is accountable. They get clear and measurable returns for the money.

I think we played a fairly material role in fuelling the growth of small businesses. And, that continues… one of the big pillars of the strategy that we articulated for India last year was: ‘how can we do even more to fuel entrepreneurship and the growth of small businesses in India’… on the back of the investment in Jio Platforms, the two companies have agreed to look at working together to fundamentally open new doors for the digital ecosystem with a particular focus on small businesses.

How do you see the three applications contributing to the digital revolution, specifically with respect to the Jio deal?

It is interesting when we look at each of these three apps. Each one plays a distinctive role.

We have articulated this as Facebook and Instagram represent a town square and WhatsApp represents the living room, where it is [about] the intimacy and privacy of your engagement. We have seen growth in all the three in India… both in terms of new people coming in as well as engagement.

We have seen it go up in India and around the world over the last few weeks.It’s great to see our apps being more relevant than even during the normal times.

With the Jio Platform investment, the first idea that we’re exploring is on WhatsApp. It could well be that over the next few months and years there will be ideas around Facebook and Instagram. But the first idea that we’re exploring is on Whatsapp because WhatsApp is encrypted, we are not able to see the messages, but we see it from observed behaviour that people use WhatsApp to communicate with their local stores, whether it’s the local kirana or the local pharmacy. It’s already happening.

We saw a potential to structure and reduce the friction around the behaviour that already exists and ways to make it a lot more easy for people and businesses. We’re really thinking through: ‘can we make it easier to locate a local merchant,?’ ‘can we service a product catalogue elegantly?’ And, of course, in a world where we get approval for WhatsApp payments, you’re paying from within WhatsApp.

This collaboration doesn’t assume Whatsapp Pay. We think there’s still a big opportunity to reduce the friction in discovery and connect merchants to people.

That’s exactly the value for us, because between Jio Platforms and JioMart, Jio is essentially activating and digitising millions of small businesses in India. They have a distribution and fulfillment backbone. Our focus will be on ‘Can we make it easier to service merchants and products from within WhatsApp, and to make it easier to buy things from within WhatsApp?’ We are exploring this in India first. From that lens this is super exciting for us.

Concerns have been raised on privacy and data sharing. How will data between the two companies flow?

When I look at the conversations that I have been a party to from across the digital ecosystem, the overwhelming message that I’ve heard is positive. Most businesses, especially the smaller ones, see it for what it is…that this is such a huge positive impetus to the digital ecosystem and that the two companies really have the opportunity to expand the economic pie and create new models.

To the extent that there are concerns about data, all that I can say is that this collaboration is not about data sharing. That is not the point of it at all. I think we are very clear that this is a non-exclusive arrangement. We are clear that we will adhere to all the principles of neutrality and data protection that have already been outlined.

That wasn’t even a part of our conversation because it’s a given that we will be open platforms. It’s a given that it won’t be exclusive; we will work with other partners.

Are you looking at more partnerships in India, and more sectors?

Absolutely. When you look at the history of Facebook in India and around the world, you will see a company that is actually constantly working with partners. I think working with partners of all kinds is an organising philosophy of the company and that doesn’t change…if I look at all our work across the ecosystem, we partner with creators, media companies, publishers, platforms and developers. The blood donation on Facebook has only been possible through partnerships with blood banks and governments. We launched Facebook fund-raisers last week, which essentially allows anyone to ask their friends and family to contribute to a charity of their choice. We have partnered with Give India for this. Even on a particular area of interest to us, which is video, we’ve opened up multiple collaborations on video, including the collaboration we announced with the International Cricket Council last year on partnering with them for big ICC events.

We have always believed that for a company like us, our success is quite vested in the success of the overall digital ecosystem. And that is very much true in India and as much as we see ourselves contributing to it, help fuel it, we are also clear that we benefit from it, and we benefit from partnerships.

Fake information is something that a platform like Facebook has been trying to deal with. But what are you doing, especially with respect to COVID-related misinformation?

I would sort of aggregate our efforts into three large buckets. One is how we can help ensure people have access to the right and accurate health information. We launched the COVID hub on the Facebook app. It’s the first thing that you see when you launch the app, and it’s essentially a gateway to an aggregation of accurate health information which is local. The collaborations we have done with myGov and 13 State governments for WhatsApp, 10 State governments for messenger, was really creating an architecture for a messaging based service for people to get access to information.

The second bucket is our work on fact checking and in India we have one of the largest network of fact-checking partners anywhere in the world. That work continues. We are clear that whenever we see any kind of information that is harmful, we take it down… these could include myths on treatment of coronavirus.

The third is on the economic front. We announced a $100 million corpus to help small businesses around the world, including in India. We’re launching that programme in the next few weeks and ramping it up.

We’re really leaning in a very front footed way to make sure that people have access to accurate health information and we’re kind of limiting access to any kind of misinformation on our networks. At the same time we are super focused on helping the economic recovery and of course the role that we have seen in all of this is that people are really using our apps to stay connected.

We launched Rooms on Facebook last week, which is an attempt to make it easier for a safe experience on video for friends and families. And you will see that there’s going to be a lot more product innovation around making it even easier for people to stay connected…it’s an extraordinary moment. It’s one of those moments where the entire people around the world are going through the same experience. They are looking at a lot of services but they’re also looking to us to play a particularly important role through these days and weeks and that’s a big focus as well.

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Stobart Group Announces Acquisition Of Stobart Air And Propius

Aviation and energy group Stobart Group Ltd (STOB.L) Monday said it has reached agreement to acquire Stobart Air and Propius for a consideration of up to 8.55 million pounds.

The deal includes an initial consideration of 300,000 pounds payable in cash at completion, a deferred consideration of 2 million pounds to be paid no later than December 15, 2020, and a contingent deferred consideration up to a maximum of 6.25 million pounds, among others.

The deal has been reached with EY, the administrators of Connect Airways Limited.

Propius is an aircraft leasing business that leases its eight ATR aircraft to Stobart Air, which operates regional flights under a franchise agreement for Aer Lingus. Stobart Group owned these businesses earlier, and sold in February 2019 to Connect, its joint venture with Virgin Atlantic and Cyrus Capital Partners formed to acquire Flybe.

Stobart Group noted that the Stobart Air and Propius businesses had continued to operate independently within Connect and were therefore unaffected by the Flybe administration.

The transaction, which has now been completed, will result in Stobart Group acquiring a 40 percent voting interest and 75 percent economic interest in the ultimate holding company of both Stobart Air and Propius, known as Everdeal 2019 Limited.

Stobart Group is also acquiring a 15 percent shareholding in the company that holds the remaining 60 percent voting interest and 25 percent economic interest in such holding company, with the Stobart Air Employee Benefit Trust retaining the balance.

This will provide the Company with an effective indirect economic interest of 78.75 percent in Stobart Air and Propius.

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Vodafone Group makes about ₹1,530 crore accelerated payment to Vodafone-Idea

The payment was due in September 2020 under the terms of the contingent liability mechanism with Vodafone Idea

British telecom giant Vodafone PLC on Wednesday said it has advanced infusion of $200 million (about ₹1,530 crore) in its Indian joint venture with Aditya Birla Group, that is facing a humongous liability of past statutory dues.

The amount is relatively small when seen in the context of over ₹58,000 crore liability that the cash-strapped Vodafone-Idea Ltd faces just on account of past statutory dues as a fallout of a Supreme Court decision.

Vodafone Group, in a statement, said it has “accelerated this payment to provide Vodafone Idea with liquidity to manage its operations, and to support the approximately 300 million Indian citizens who are Vodafone Idea customers as well as the thousands of Vodafone Idea employees during this phase of emergency health measures, taken as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Vodafone Group announces that it has accelerated a payment of $200 million to Vodafone Idea, which was due in September 2020 under the terms of the contingent liability mechanism with Vodafone Idea,” the statement said.

Also read | A royal mess: on the turmoil in telecom industry

Consequent to the decision by the Supreme Court on the definition of Adjusted Gross Revenue in October 2019, India’s telecom operators became liable for licence fees, penalties and interest dating back over 14 years, it further said.

“Vodafone Idea has made payments to the Government of India in relation to its AGR liabilities. Under the terms of the CLM (contingent liability mechanism), Vodafone Group is obliged to make payments to Vodafone Idea where amounts paid pursuant to the contingent liabilities of Vodafone India exceed those of Idea Cellular. The CLM took effect at completion of the merger of Vodafone India and Idea Cellular in August 2018,” it added.

The move comes at a time when the telecom industry is staring at massive AGR dues. These dues arose after the Supreme Court, in October last year, upheld the government’s position on including revenue from non-core businesses in calculating the annual AGR of telecom companies, a share of which is paid as licence and spectrum fee to the exchequer.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT), as per its own submission to the apex court last month seeking relief in payment tenure, had put dues of three companies Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Tata Group at ₹1.19 lakh crore.

The dues estimated by DoT for Bharti Airtel and Telenor was pegged at ₹43,980 crore, while that of Vodafone Idea was ₹58,254 crore, and Tata Group of companies at ₹16,798 crore. Against this, Bharti Group had calculated its dues at ₹13,004 crore, Vodafone Idea at ₹21,533 crore and Tata Group of companies at ₹2,197 crore.

In March, following an approval by the Cabinet, an application was moved before the Supreme Court (on March 16, 2020) seeking its permission for the licensees impacted by the AGR judgement to pay the unpaid amount of past DoT assessed/calculated dues in annual instalments over 20 years.

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COVID-19 | Synthetic textile industry seeks special relief package

The industry has incurred huge losses and fund shortage due to the cancellation and deferred orders: Synthetic and Rayon Textile Export Promotion Council

The Synthetic and Rayon Textile Export Promotion Council (SRTEPC) representing the man-made fibre textile segment has approached the government for a relief package to ensure business continuity post COVID-19 phase.

“Man-made fibre textile segment is one of the worst hit in this pandemic. The industry has incurred huge losses and fund shortage due to the cancellation and deferred orders, which has put the industry on ventilators,” said Ronak Rughani, chairman, SRTEPC.

Also read | Centre seeks suggestions to revive textile industry

SRTEPC has submitted a memorandum to the government seeking aid and relief.

It has asked the government to announce a special corona relief package for the textile industry including entire value chain of the manmade fibre textile segment to tide over the prevailing coronavirus crisis.

These include special export incentive of 3% on fibre and yarn, 4% on fabric, 5% on made-ups for at least six months or till the impact of coronavirus subsides and global markets stabilise, a separate package for manmade fibre textiles industry as this segment has been reeling under the inverted duty structure under GST.

Also read | Punjab’s textile industry hit by slowdown, lockdown

Welcoming the various suggestions of SRTEPC, Madhu Sudhan Bhageria, Chairman and Managing Director, Filatex India Ltd said, “The immediate requirement is to allow the manufacturing facilities to function with at least 50% capacity and gradually lift the restrictions, create an environment to export the produce without any hassles from different departments involved in the system.”

“The government should facilitate good support from banking system by providing moratoriums and enhanced working capital facilities, and ensure duty refunds from the Government of India with immediate effect,” he said.

“Correcting the inverted duty structure under GST on man-made fibre would be another long pending step the government can announce now to support the sector, Mr. Bhageria said.

“These measures would put us on par with international players across the countries who have been competing with us. Providing extra export incentives is another major relief for the sector,” he added.

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Petrol sales shrink 17.6%, diesel 26% in March as lockdown wipes demand

The only fuel that showed growth was LPG as households rushed to book refills for stocking during the three-week lockdown period

India’s petrol sales shrank by 17.6% and diesel demand tanked nearly 26% in March as the economy froze under the nationwide lockdown announced to check the spread of COVID-19.

COVID-19 | Interactive map of confirmed coronavirus cases in India

Also, aviation turbine fuel (ATF) sales fell by 31.6% as flights got suspended alongside the shutting of businesses and most vehicular traffic going off-road.

Petrol sales dropped to 1.943 million tonnes in March sold in the same month in 2019, according to provisional industry demand numbers.

Diesel, the most consumed fuel in the country, saw demand contract by 25.9% to 4.982 million tonnes.

Similarly, ATF sales fell to 4,63,000 tonnes.

Also read | No fuel crisis in India; enough stock of petrol, diesel, LPG available to last lockdown: IOC

The only fuel that showed growth was LPG as households rushed to book refills for stocking during the three-week lockdown period.

LPG sales rose 1.9% to 2.286 million tonnes in March.

These are provisional numbers for the three public sector oil marketing companies Indian Oil Corp (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL).

Actual March numbers after including sales by private sector firms would be announced in the next few days.

Pattern to continue in April

Industry officials said the pattern in fuel consumption is likely to continue in April as the lockdown is to last till mid of the month and there are indications that part restrictions will continue even after the lockdown is lifted.

Petrol and diesel sales in April are one-third of what they were a year back, they said adding demand is expected to pick up when the lockdown is lifted and restrictions on public transport lifted.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a 21-day lockdown beginning March 25, shutting offices and factories, barring those involved in essential services. Also, flights were suspended, trains stopped plying and vehicles went off the road as most people were asked to stay home to help check the spread of coronavirus.

March will be the first month in two-and-a-half-years when petrol sales would see a negative or degrowth. The fuel had registered an 8.2% growth during the first 11 months of 2019-20 fiscal.

Diesel has seen a 1.1% rise in consumption from April 2019 to February 2020. It had seen sales slip into negative territory in January this year before rising in February.

LPG consumption recorded a de-growth of 4.3% during February and a cumulative growth of 6.2%t in April-February.

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