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Budget 2023: What healthcare, manufacturing sectors expect from FM Sitharaman

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While the healthcare sector is looking forward to raising its funding, the manufacturing industry, recovering from the disruptions caused by the unprecedented pandemic, is banking on Budget 2023 to resurrect operations. The Union Budget 2023 will be presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on 1 February.

The healthcare sector also expects more spending on infrastructure to focus on research and development initiatives. According to Jyoti Prakash Mahapatra, chief financial officer of Ruby Hall Clinic, as quoted by Mint, the funds can be used to manufacture or import state-of-the-art healthcare facilities.

After Covid-19 rocked the nation’s fragile healthcare systems, there’s a renewed interest in expanding pharmaceutical investments. The industry which shot to prominence in the last two years for its vaccines and medicines, is looking forward to better funding, R&D specific policies and tax breaks on medications, Mint quoted Raheel Shah, Director of Business Development, BDR Group, in a report.

Experts added that spending on public healthcare should be urgently looked into as Budget 2023 will be important in providing access to innovative solutions for health emergencies, apart from Covid.

With India expected to face an economic slowdown in FY24, experts from the manufacturing industry shared with Mint their anticipations from Budget 2023. Dr Deepak Jain, Founder of The Fragrance People, said that the upcoming budget should introduce ‘investment allowance’ along with a mix of subsidies and schemes to accelerate the machine tool industry.

The president of the apex body of the recycling industry in India, Sanjay Mehta, wants basic customs duty on metal scrap to be removed, which will be a shot in the arm for the MSME sector, which uses it as an important raw material.

Local manufacturers should be incentivised and companies following sustainable and innovative practices should be rewarded by the government, according to Lokendra Singh Ranawat, CEO of WoodenStreet.


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‘Rationalise corporate tax rates’: US group’s appeal to govt ahead of budget

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Ahead of the annual budget presentation, an India-centric top US strategic and business advocacy group has urged Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to simplify and rationalise direct and indirect taxation system in India, a move it believes would increase the confidence of global investors and yield greater foreign direct investment.

Click here for full coverage of Union budget 2023

Direct taxes can be in the form of income tax, capital gains tax or securities transaction tax, while indirect taxes such as GST, Customs Duty or VAT are levied on all end-consumers to buy any goods or services.

“Rationalise corporate tax rates for foreign companies,” said the US-India Strategic and Partnership Forum (USISPF) in its submission to the finance ministry ahead of the annual budget presentations on February 1. It said that the rate for foreign companies, including banks be reduced to bring parity and sought to rationalise tax for new manufacturing companies.

Urging India to simplify capital gain tax reforms, USISPF sought harmonising holding periods and rates of different instruments.

“Reiterate India’s commitment to the global tax deal,” it said and urged the Union Finance Minister to extend the concessional tax regime to Foreign Portfolio Investment (FPI) from investment in securities.

USISPF has also suggested tax incentives to specific sectors like renewable energy and R&D investment in the health sector.

Among the Forum’s recommendations include advocating for a stable and predictable tax environment, improving the ease of doing business environment, rationalisation of the cost of doing business, and rationalisation of tax rates and tariffs.

On indirect taxes, the USISPF sought clarification on customs duty exemptions provided to oil and natural gas companies, reduction in customs duty rates for x-ray machines from 10 per cent to 7.5 per cent and providing customs duty exemption on all items imported by specified research and development units.

USISPF urged the finance minister to roll back the customs duty increase on nutritional products considering the importance and significance of the product and encourage the availability of scientifically designed nutritional food in India.

Among its recommendations on customs tariffs and duties and customs, processes include addressing ambiguities in the customs tariff act on telecom products, an extension of concessional customs duty to advanced biofuel projects and strengthening the process on the ground with respect to trade facilitation schemes like CAROTAR and Faceless Assessment.

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LIC doubles down on Adani amid Hindenburg’s fraud claims

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India’s largest life insurer is plowing more money into Gautam Adani’s flagship unit, undeterred by a short seller’s fraud allegations that wiped out more than $50 billion of the conglomerate’s market value in two sessions. State-controlled Life Insurance Corp. of India is spending about 3 billion rupees ($37 million) as an anchor investor in a $2.5 billion new share sale by Adani Enterprises Ltd., according to a filing. The investment would add to its current holding of 4.23%.

Also Read | LIC, SBI savings at risk amid Hindenburg vs Adani? Here’s what banks said

LIC’s investment signaled its vote of confidence in Asia’s richest man and his beleaguered group on Jan. 25, which is facing its toughest test yet after US-based Hindenburg Research in its report earlier this week characterized its meteoric rise as “the largest con in corporate history.” LIC is among 33 institutional investors coming in as anchors in the FPO, along with names such as Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and Al Mehwar Commercial Investments LLC.

While the amount Mumbai-based LIC is investing is relatively tiny — considering it has almost 43 trillion rupees of assets under management at LIC — it marks a contrarian position to other domestic financial institutions that have little to no Adani investments. It also comes in the face of a contagion that hit stocks exposed to Adani Group, including LIC that plunged the most in more than a month on Friday in Mumbai.

“LIC thinks contrarian,” said Arun Kejriwal, founder of Kejriwal Research & Investment. “It has always minted money whenever there is market volatility. It doesn’t receive money for short duration. It acts as long-only fund.”

Also Read | Gautam Adani: Asia’s richest man in the eye of a storm

An email and text messages sent to the LIC chairman seeking comments on its Adani Group investments were not immediately answered.

With over 250 million policy holders across India and assets under management as large as the nation’s mutual fund industry, LIC is among India’s systemically most important institutions. Its exposure to the Adani Group, known to be closely aligned to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s development goals, is also symbolic of the tycoon’s political clout.

LIC is an investor in five Adani companies, with stakes ranging from 1% to 9% that was worth a total of 722.68 billion rupees on Jan. 24 — just before the Hindenburg report was published.

No other Indian insurance company has any significant holding, as per December 2022 data filed with stock exchanges. Most mutual funds have largely stayed away from the group, despite some wild rallies seen by some of the stocks. Adani Enterprises for instance, surged over 1,900% in the last five years, trumping even the likes of Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc.

The high exposure of state-backed financial institutions “has implications for financial stability” and for the millions of Indians “whose savings are stewarded by these pillars of the financial system,” Jairam Ramesh, a lawmaker with the opposition Indian National Congress party, said in a statement Friday.

Adding Weight

The sell off triggered by Hindenburg’s report may now be adding more weight to such concerns. The rout deepened Thursday, with some units like Adani Green Energy Ltd. and Adani Total Gas Ltd. tumbling by their daily limit of 20%. Adani Enterprises fell 19%.

The short seller has alleged that Adani Group was involved in “brazen” market manipulation, accounting fraud, used offshore shells for money laundering and siphoned from listed companies. The conglomerate has dismissed the report as “a malicious combination of selective misinformation and stale, baseless and discredited allegations.” It said it’s also exploring legal action.

Last week, Adani Group Chief Financial Officer Jugeshinder Singh acknowledged the lack of interest shown by domestic institutional investors.

“We understand mutual funds missed Adani growth stock rally,” he said at a press briefing. “We should have communicated to mutual funds.”

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LIC, SBI savings at risk amid Hindenburg vs Adani? Here’s what banks said

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As the shares of Indian billionaire Gautam Adani faced a bloodbath on Friday following a report by a US investment firm claiming it had committed “brazen” corporate fraud, concerns have been raised over its implications for financial stability and savings of crores of Indians in financial institutions such as Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) and State Bank of India (SBI).

The Congress party called for an investigation into the allegations made by Hindenburg Research and said it may have exposed India’s financial system to systemic risks “through the liberal investments in the Adani Group made by strategic state entities like LIC, SBI and other public sector banks”.

Jairam Ramesh, Congress general secretary in charge of communications, said in a statement that the Hindenburg report demands a response from the Congress party since the Adani Group is “no ordinary conglomerate” and has been “closely identified with Prime Minister Narendra Modi since the time he was Chief Minister of Gujarat.”

“Furthermore the high exposure of financial institutions such as the Life Insurance Company of India (LIC) and the State Bank of India (SBI) to the Adani Group has implications for financial stability and for the crores of Indians whose savings are stewarded by these pillars of the financial system (sic),” Ramesh said.

“These institutions have liberally financed the Adani Group even as their private sector counterparts have chosen to avoid investing because of concerns over corporate governance and indebtedness. As much as 8 per cent of LIC’s equity assets under management, amounting to a gigantic sum of 74,000 crore, is in Adani companies and comprise its second-largest holding,” the statement added.

Also Read | For Hindenburg Research, Adani Group is a man-made disaster in the making

CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said if the allegations are proven correct it will “destroy lives of crores of Indians who park lifelong savings in LIC & SBI.”

As Friday witnessed a sharp fall in shares of group companies and the lenders that have exposure to it, some of India’s leading public sector banks said their exposure to the Adani Group was within the limits prescribed by the Reserve Bank of India. RBI allows for no more than 25% of a bank’s available eligible capital base to be exposed to any one group of connected companies.

“There is nothing alarming about our Adani exposure and we don’t have any concerns as of now,” Dinesh Kumar Khara, chairman of country’s largest lender State Bank of India, told Reuters.

Khara said the Adani Group hadn’t raised any funding from SBI in the recent past and that the bank would take a “prudent call” on any funding request from them in the near future, reported Reuters.

SBI has reached out to the company for clarification and the board will take any decision on the bank’s exposure to the group only after that, reported Reuters quoting an unnamed official.

An official at the state-run Bank of India said the loans to the Adani group were within permissible limits.

“Our exposure to the Adani Group is below the large exposure framework of the Reserve Bank of India,” Reuters quoted an unnamed executive at the Bank of India as saying.

“Till last month, the Adani Group’s interest payment on loans has been intact.”

Bank executives at two other private lenders said that they were not yet in “panic mode” but being watchful, according to the report.

The Adani Group comprises the flagship Adani Enterprises Ltd, as well as Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd, Adani Power Ltd, Adani Green Energy Ltd and Adani Transmission Ltd.

The ports-to-energy conglomerate said it was exploring legal action against Hindenburg Research calling the report “maliciously mischievous”. Hindenburg responded that Adani had ducked the issues its research had raised and instead resorted to “bluster and threats”.

“If Adani is serious, it should also file suit in the US,” the firm said in a statement. “We have a long list of documents we would demand in a legal discovery process.”

(With inputs from Reuters)


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