Tuesday, June 02, 2015

RBI Cuts Interest Rates To Boost World’s Fastest Growing Economy

IndusView, Tuesday 2 June 2015 (London): The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has today reduced its interest rates by 25 basis points to 7.25%, the third cut this year, taking advantage of subdued inflation to lend more support to India’s economy.

The Wholesale Price Index, India's most closely watched inflation gauge, has been in the negative zone since November 2014. In April last year, it was 5.55%. Deflationary pressure continued for the sixth month in a row with inflation dropping to a new low of (-) 2.65% in April, mainly on account of decline in prices of fuel and manufactured items even as food prices increased.  

“High inflation has been a constant roadblock for policymakers struggling to breathe life into Asia's third-largest economy and the RBI can’t be complacent about meeting its medium term inflation target,” said Bundeep Singh Rangar, Chairman of London-based advisory firm IndusView. “Today’s decision is unlikely to be the last in the current situation but we are predicting only one more 25 basis point cut.”

The cut comes after the Indian economy registered 7.5% growth in the January to March quarter compared with a year earlier. That made India the world's fastest growing major economy, overtaking China's 7% growth in the same quarter.

Current account deficit (CAD) is estimated to be around 1.5% of the GDP in the current fiscal, helped by sharp fall in oil prices even as gold imports rose in the past few months, the Reserve Bank said today. Gold imports spiked in the month of March and remained elevated in April owing to regulatory relaxations and festival demand. In the first half of the 2014-2015 fiscal, CAD was at 1.9% of the GDP or $18 billion.
South Asia's economic outlook is largely favorable since most economies are expected to experience a strengthening of growth in 2015-2016 on the back of stronger domestic consumption and investment, and a pick-up in exports. According to the United Nations report, the region is projected to reach a GDP growth of 6.7% in 2015 and 6.9% in 2016, up from an estimated 6.3% in 2014.
While portfolio and direct foreign investment flows were buoyant during 2014-2015, with net foreign direct investment into India at $36.6 billion and net portfolio inflows at $41 billion, the year 2015-2016 has begun with net portfolio outflows in the wake of a reduction in global portfolio allocations to India.

“There is a need to further improve the business environment. Reforms in the last one year are welcome, but more needs to be done in order to build foreign investors confidence,” said Rangar. “Decline in foreign investments could put pressure on the country’s balance of payments and also impact the value of the rupee.”

Australia and New Zealand have recently joined Japan in order to persuade India to open its rapidly growing e-Commerce sector for foreign investments. These countries want to include the sector in the 16-nation regional trade pact that's being negotiated.

India does not allow Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the business-to-consumer (B2C) segment but 100% FDI is allowed in business-to-business (B2B) transactions, marking the difference in rules for retail and wholesale. It allows 49% FDI in multi-brand retail but with restrictions.

The government is under pressure to come out with a policy on the e-commerce sector in four months as brick-and-mortar retailers have filed a case in the Delhi High Court on the issue.

The pact includes 10 Asean countries and the six partners with which they have free trade agreements (FTAs), including Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and New Zealand.

Friday, May 08, 2015

PremFina Wins Best New Business Award (Yes we know it’s early, we were surprised too.)

London, May 8, 2015 – PremFina (www.premfina.com) was named winner of the Best New Business Award at the 2015 Best Business Awards that took place on March 25, 2015. 

PremFina is an innovative company in the £6 billion UK premium finance market. It supplies insurance brokers with their own branded premium financing through the provision of both the software to manage the sale of broker-branded insurance policies to consumers and businesses as well as the financing to enable their customers to pay their policy premiums via monthly instalment plans.

Best New Business Award, aimed at companies marked by a clear point of differentiation that have been trading for less than three years, recognizes PremFina for bringing innovation to the UK’s insurance industry premium finance segment with its white-label premium finance solution. Brokers currently facilitate rather than manage the issuance of premium finance agreements, handing over a client relationship to the insurance company after finding customer the right policy. They make only small referral fees and operate using inflexible software. PremFina’s white-labeled premium finance service allows them to offer and manage financing agreements themselves. It gives them the ability to brand, set market relevant prices, maintain customer touchpoints to upsell and cross sell and gives them a bigger interest-based fee - all using the industry’s best software. It essentially puts brokers in control.

Upon receiving the Award, PremFina’s CEO Bundeep Singh Rangar said:
To be recognized for a disruptive potential at such an early stage in the game only gives us a reassurance that we’re on the right track. We truly believe that our “Give Premium, Get Premium” approach is what the insurance brokers were waiting for and now have the chance to experience first-hand.”

The Best Business Awards are one of the UK's highest profile awards. Its goal is to highlight and reward excellence across the private and public sectors. They pride themselves on having a large panel of over 20 independent expert judges who select winners according to strict criteria for each category and sector.  The winners all have one thing in common – they are truly excellent at what they do and PremFina is proud to have been recognized as being one of them.

About the Best Business Awards
The Best Business Awards are open to private, public and third sector organisations of all sizes. There are four rounds each year with quarterly deadlines being the last working day of January, April, July and October and winners for each round hold their title for twelve months.

About Awards Intelligence
The Best Business Awards are marketed and administered by Awards Intelligence the World’s leading provider of business awards and personal honours services, providing news and information and support to progressive individuals and organisations across the world.

London Entrepreneur Launches ‘the Uber of Premium Finance’

London, 13 May 2015 – CEO Bundeep Singh Rangar today announced the launch of PremFina (www.premfina.com) – a new player bringing innovation to the traditional UK premium finance market with its white-label premium finance solution. PremFina’s solution means better returns, better retention and greater autonomy for insurance brokers, and it is coming to BIBA 2015 to show them what they’ve been missing out.

PremFina takes premium finance to the next level. It transforms the rigid model adopted by the competition, which sees brokers facilitating rather than managing the issuance of premium finance agreements, using inflexible software and making small referral fees, by providing them instead with their own-branded premium finance facility. PremFina’s white-label solution offers brokers a combination of market-leading software to manage the sale of broker-branded insurance policies to consumers and businesses as well as the financing to enable their customers to pay policy premiums via monthly instalment plans. This means brokers get to keep everything in-house.

Because every industry needs its Uber. PremFina, like Uber, is in the business of changing how things are done by cutting out the middleman, with its disruptive technology. Uber has done it for taxi drivers with their ‘tech startup meets taxi service’ mobile app, giving drivers a platform for accelerating their business by connecting them with the customers directly. PremFina has done it with its premium finance solution that makes insurance brokers more ‘freelance’ by saving them from a hand over of their customer relationship to the financing company.

Like Uber, PremFina takes things up a notch with easy to use, flexible software that tracks the progress of customer journey, has options at every price and for different needs. All this translates into the highest standard customer service. Let’s face it, that’s what it’s all about.

With PremFina, you Give Premium, and Get Premium. That’s right. Our solution gives brokers the ability to brand, set market relevant prices, a bigger interest-based fee and an opportunity to maintain customer touchpoints to upsell and cross sell. It essentially puts the brokers in better control of their business.

“We’re really excited to be going to BIBA this year. It couldn’t be a better timing for us with PremFina launching just in time for the event“ said CEO Bundeep Singh Rangar. “If you want to have a drink and a chat about what we do, or just want to say hi, we’ll be at stand C58.”

The BIBA conference is a flagship event for the UK insurance industry. It offers invaluable networking opportunities and a programme of inspirational keynote speakers, senior industry personalities and experts in insurance and general business related fields. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

New India Budget Aims to Boost Growth

IndusView, Saturday 28 February 2015 (London): Asia’s third-largest economy unveiled its annual budget today saying it is aimed at a high-growth trajectory. The budget is focusing on improving infrastructure, cutting the fiscal deficit and boosting investment so that growth would accelerate to 8%-8.5% in India’s next financial year starting in April.

“The budget gives an opportunity to the increasingly young, middle-class and aspirational India to realize its full potential,” said Bundeep Singh Rangar, Chairman of London-based consulting firm IndusView. “The time was ripe for long-awaited reforms to kickstart the economy.”

Presenting the budget in parliament Mr. Jaitley said the country was growing at a strong rate, inflation was down and foreign exchange reserves were high. Falling global oil prices have given the government the room to spend on creating infrastructure without increasing inflation or messing with fiscal deficit targets.

He further announced a panoply of economic and tax reforms and promised $11.36 billions of dollars of investment towards infrastructure. Five ultra-mega power projects of 4,000 MW capacity each are planned. The government will introduce tax-free infrastructure bonds for road, rail and irrigation projects. The focus will be on additional road and ports projects.

To the delight of business, Mr. Jaitley said a nationwide general sales tax (GST) system – “a state-of-the-art indirect tax system” – would be put in place by April 1 next year, replacing a jumble of local fees and taxes that prevent India from being a single market for goods and services.

“This is not a ‘big-bang’ budget, but a good budget more focused on smaller issues, and ironing out a lot of irritants to investors in the process,” said Rangar. “Neither the financial markets, nor most analysts, detected the dramatic reforms that Mr. Modi’s supporters have been urging.”

Manmohan Singh, who served as India’s prime minister for 10 years under the Congress Party, faulted the budget as too cautious, arguing that the new government had missed a chance to cut spending or increase tax revenues.
Corporate taxes, meanwhile, will drop from 30% to 25%, which could increase Indian firms’ compliance.

This is a positive budget for the Private Equity (PE) industry as it addresses some of the key pain points of the industry. The removal of distinction between FPI and FDI is welcome as it is not really possible to differentiate between the two and has caused delayed response from investors. Foreign Investment is now allowed in alternative investment funds, which will stimulate the environment of foreign investment and private equity interest in India.

There are 200 plus active fund managers operate in India while 100 are domestic fund managers. The PE industry claims over 12% employment growth in PE/Venture Capital (VC) backed companies against 3% employment growth in non PE-backed companies.

Modi didn’t take further steps today to wind up fertilizer, cooking gas and liquid petroleum gas subsidies. Jaitley repeated pledges to provide homes, toilets and electricity for India’s 1.2 billion people by 2022, which would be the 75th anniversary of the country’s founding.

India’s economy is projected to expand as much as 8.5% in the next fiscal year, according to the latest Finance Ministry estimates, the fastest pace among the world’s biggest emerging markets. The ministry cautioned, however, that the forecast is based on a revised method for calculating gross domestic product and India’s economy is still recovering.

Friday, February 27, 2015

India’s 2015 Union Budget Expected to Boost Annual GDP Growth to 8% from 6.9%

IndusView, Friday 27 February 2015 (London): The new Indian government will unveil more reforms in its 2015-2016 Union Budget on Saturday, to woo foreign investment and make India a manufacturing destination, in order to boost Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth to 8% or higher. Mumbai’s stock exchanges, that have seen its benchmark Sensex index rise about 20% since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power last May, will exceptionally be open on Saturday.

The Modi government’s “Make in India” initiative is being closely followed by Indian companies and foreign investors. A lot of hope rests on the new government’s first full-year budget following its victory in last year’s general election.

The announcements to be made by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will impact the investment cycle that the world’s tenth largest economy needs to lift GDP growth to an expected revised target of 8% or more from current projections of 7.4% in the current fiscal year 2015-16. India grew 6.9% in its previous fiscal year.

“Foreign investment and better collection of taxes is needed to fund the $1 trillion requirement outlined by Prime Minister Modi to build the country’s infrastructure over the next five years,” said Bundeep Singh Rangar, Chairman of London-based advisory firm IndusView. “Better infrastructure is pivotal to increase India’s GDP as it will shear waste and inefficiencies in agricultural and industrial output. Widening its direct tax base beyond the current 3.3% of India’s population that pay tax and increasing the 15.5% contribution of tax to GDP is critical.”

India recently announcement investment plans of about $137 billion to upgrade its rail network. The state-owned Indian Railways operates one of the world's largest railway networks comprising 115,000 km of track that carry more than 13 million passengers a day and 1 billion tons of freight annually generating more than $26 billion in annual revenue.

Most corporate leaders and economists believe that there could be no better time to push through the reform agenda than now, given that the macroeconomic scenario has largely turned favorable, with inflation showing signs of coming under control, oil prices declining and growth in some of the more significant global economies showing signs of serious slowdown.

India's Wholesale Price Index (WPI) fell for the second time in three months in January as oil prices slumped, bolstering prospects for further interest rate cuts by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) that unexpectedly cut rates for the first time in two years in January. WPI unexpectedly fell 0.39% last month from the same period a year earlier, its biggest decline since June 2009.

India's Current Account Deficit (CAD) is estimated to come down to 1.3% of GDP in the fiscal ending March, helped by moderation in petroleum and gold imports that were significantly lower than earlier projections.

“The new government is committed to development with transparency and good governance,” said Rangar. “A number of reforms have been implemented, paricularly via ordinances and more changes are expected to be announced in the upcoming budget announcement.”

To attract foreign investments, the government should best amend its controversial tax law and not impose tax with retrospective effect on overseas deals involving local assets.

“The Indian tax man’s potential treatment of low cost intellectual capital work allocated by India to multinationals, as being a higher value service and therefore, taxable at higher rates, will give reason to multinationals to seek other jurisdictions where taxation is simpler and the cost advantages are as good, if not better than India,” said Rangar. “The tax man should focus its efforts to widen the tax base and harmonsing its Goods and Services Tax and thereby, increase revenue.”

India, currently the world’s tenth-largest economy, is vying to be among the top five by 2022, according to the London-based Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR).

Monday, February 09, 2015

M&A Deals Jumps to 1,177 in 2014

India saw a merger and acquisition boom in 2014. The total number of M&A deals of Indian companies in 2014 rose to 1,177 the highest ever in a decade and the momentum is set to pick up this year as well, said a report by London-based advisory company IndusView on Friday. M&A deals contributed close to $38 billion from 573 deals and PE deals contributed $12 billion from 604 deals, according to report by advisory firm Grant Thornton. E-commerce within IT space was the major contributor for PE investments with about $4 billion being raised from over 100 deals.
“Last year’s deal value at $50 billion has been a fantastic year for deal making with a very strong foreign investor interest in India,” said Bundeep Singh Rangar, chairman IndusView. “It is expected that 2015 deal-making will grow higher”.
Domestic M&A deals are riding on the consolidation wave with Sun Pharma acquiring Ranbaxy, Kotak merging with ING Vysya and others, it said.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Inflation Drop Leads to Unscheduled India Rate Cut

IndusView, Thursday 15 January 2015 (London): The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today pared its repurchase rate by 25 basis points to 7.75% from the current 8%, citing easing inflationary pressures.

In an announcement before the stock markets opened for trading, the central bank said inflationary pressures have been easing since July and the path of inflation has been below the expected trajectory.

“Oil importing countries like India, China, Brazil, Turkey, Indonesia and South Africa will be the big winners as oil prices continue to weaken in 2015,” said Bundeep Singh Rangar, Chairman on London-based consulting firm IndusView. “What is critical is for nations to use this window to usher in fiscal and structural reforms, which can boost long-run growth and inclusive development.”

India imports 85% of its crude oil requirement. Net oil imports at $95 billion accounted for 21% of India's total import bill and 64% of the trade deficit in 2014.

In the accompanying policy statement, the RBI mentioned that inflation momentum has significantly reduced and household inflation expectations have eased to single digit for the first time since September 2009. 

On the inflation outlook, the central bank said "on current policy settings, inflation is likely to be below 6% by January 2016". In the December policy statement the RBI had guided for a change in the monetary policy stance in early 2015, including outside the policy review cycle, if inflation data was supportive.

Making a decisive push towards generating investment to see the success of his 'Make in India' mantra, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his government was trying to revive the economy, and told global investors that India today was a land of opportunities.

Mr Rangar recently attended The Vibrant Gujarat 2015, where Prime Minister Modi was addressing the seventh edition of the Summit. Modi laid down his government's plan and effort to create a policy environment that is predictable, transparent and fair.

By contrast with India, South Korea’s central bank chief today signaled he’s unwilling to reduce borrowing costs in response to an inflation rate pulled down in part by the slide in oil. Governor Lee Ju Yeol said the current interest rate of 2% is “not insufficient to support growth” and that the central bank will set future inflation targets soon.

The rate cut is a change in monetary policy stance and comes a few weeks earlier than expected due to the sharp fall in commodity prices and the better-than-expected December inflation print.  Bloomberg’s Commodity Index is down nearly 28% since its 2014 peak in May, and 43% since its 2011 peak.

Rajan’s move today will spur commercial banks to lower lending rates for borrowers, K. Subrahmanyam, executive director at state-run Union Bank of India in Mumbai, said in a phone interview. State Bank of India, the country’s largest bank by assets, has left its base rate at 10 percent since November 2013.