CBIC notifies ICEGATE as common portal for registration, bills of entry

Source: The Economic Times, Mar 30, 2021

The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) notified ICEGATE or Indian Customs and Central Excise Electronic Commerce/Electronic Data Interchange (EC/EDI) Gateway as the common customs electronic portal for all customs related documentation and duty payments.

In a notification issued Monday, the Board has specified the portal as the one for facilitating registration, filing of bills of entry, shipping bills, other documents and forms prescribed under the Customs Act or any other law, besides duty payments and data exchange with other systems within or outside India.

CBIC has also amended the bill of entry forms for goods arriving via land, sea or air prescribing the use of the common portal for submitting bills of entry. The Board has also specified that bills of entry must be filed before the end of the preceding day on which the goods arrive at the customs port, other than inland container depot and air freight station.

If goods are arriving from Bangladesh, Maldives, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, the authorised person will have to file the bill of entry before the end of the day of arrival of the vessel.

In case of goods arriving at customs airport, the authorised person will have to file the bill of entry before the end of the day of arrival of the aircraft.

In case of an inland container depot, air freight station, land customs station, at which goods are to be cleared for home consumption or warehousing, the authorised person has been directed to file the bill of entry before the end of the day before the vehicle, including train, arrives.
The changes form part of the move to making the customs processing of bills of entry and declarations more electronic, paperless and seamless, so as to facilitate trade.

Actis to set up 2 green firms with $850 million

Source: LiveMint.com, Mar 29, 2021

Private equity firm Actis Llp plans to invest $850 million in India to build two green energy platforms, said two people aware of the development, highlighting continuing interest among global investors in the domestic renewable energy market.

The first platform will focus on setting up grid-connected solar and wind power parks while the second will cater to the growing commercial and industrial (C&I) segment. These investments will be made from Actis Energy 5 LP fund.

“While Actis plans to make an equity investment of around $600 million for the new firm that will set up grid-connected wind and solar projects, the other new firm that will cater to the C&I segment may see an equity investment of around $250 million,” said one of the two people cited above requesting anonymity.

The person added that these firms will be set up shortly.

Considering the regulatory risks over green energy contracts and their enforcement, investors are increasingly looking at the C&I space as it tends to be insulated from risks such as curtailment in procuring power and tariff-shopping by state-owned distribution companies (discoms).

Green energy companies backed by global investors such as Petroliam Nasional Bhd-owned Amplus Energy Solutions Pvt. Ltd, Royal Dutch Shell-backed Cleantech Solar Energy, Netherlands Development Finance Co.-backed Avaada Energy Pvt. Ltd and Warburg Pincus-backed CleanMax Solar are currently supplying power to third-party as well as captive consumers in India who prefer such suppliers instead of depending on a more expensive electricity grid.

Also, there is considerable interest in the grid-connected clean energy space as well, given marquee deals such as the Goldman Sachs-backed ReNew Power’s proposed merger with Nasdaq-listed special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) RMG Acquisition Corp. II (RMG II), at an enterprise value of around $8 billion. Also, Greenko recently raised $940 million for refinancing through its latest dollar bond issue.

The third and the fourth firm clean energy firms being set up by Actis in India follow its earlier deal wherein it sold Ostro Energy Pvt. Ltd to ReNew Power Ventures in 2018 at an enterprise value of $1.5 billion.

Actis’s renewable energy platform in India—Sprng Energy—has an operational portfolio of 800 megawatts (MW) comprising wind and solar assets. With another 400MW coming online shortly, the PE firm plans to grow Sprng Energy to 2-gigawatt (GW) capacity before it monetizes it.

Some of the other clean energy platforms in India backed by private equity investors include KKR’s Virescent Infrastructure and European alternative asset manager EQT and Singapore’s state investment firm Temasek Holdings Pte.’s O2 Power.

The enthusiasm among global investors stems from India setting a target of 450GW renewable energy capacity by 2030. It currently has an installed renewable energy capacity of 89.63GW, with 49.59GW under execution. Also, ₹4.7 trillion has been invested in the country’s renewable energy space in the past six years, with an expected ₹1 trillion investment opportunity annually till 2030.

Actis, which invests only in emerging markets, has committed $2.1 billion in the Indian market so far spanning the energy, financial services and real estate sectors.

“Actis will also buy operating renewable and road assets through the Actis Long Life Infrastructure Fund, a yield-based fund,” said the first person cited above.

A spokesperson for Actis declined comment. Actis acquired two solar projects totaling 400MW from Acme Solar Holdings Ltd last year through Actis Long Life Infrastructure Fund. It has bid to acquire Ashoka Concessions Ltd.

CBDT notifies new rules, forms for trusts and non-profit organisations

Source: The Hindu Business Line, Mar 28, 2021

New Delhi: The Income Tax Department has notified a new set of rules and forms for trusts and non-profit organisations. Registration under these rules will help these organisations to get tax exemption for their own income. Also, the new rules will help in attracting funds where contributors will get exemption.

The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CDBT) has come out with a specific format of application to grant the approval of a fund, trust, institution, university, any hospital or other medical institution under various provisions of section 10.

As per the provision, mentioned in this section, there are incomes from certain funds, universities, educational institutions, hospitals, etc, that are not included in the total income for the taxation purpose.

The notification has also stated the rules are related to the approval of the institution for the fund under various provisions of Section 80G. Contributions made to certain relief funds and charitable institutions can be claimed as a deduction under Section 80G of the Income Tax Act. All donations, however, are not eligible for deductions under section 80G. Only donations made to the prescribed funds qualify as a deduction. These funds and institutions have been defined in the notification.

Sanjoli Maheshwarri, Director at Nangia Andersen India said the CBDT has finally issued a notification about amendments in the IT Rules and Forms for granting the approval to various non-profit organisations , under section 80G(5). Notably, the amendments were enacted through Finance Act 2020 wherein compliance and registration procedure for such entities were entirely revamped.

However, the required rules and forms to be prescribed got delayed given the nationwide pandemic crises. The rules and forms prescribed in the said notification indicates the procedure and details to be complied in the applicable forms for seeking registration of charitable & religious entities, hospitals, schools, scientific and industrial research organisation by DSIR, etc.

The newly notified forms are comprehensive and detailed as compared to the earlier forms requiring certain key details to be filled in the applications. “As per Section 12A, the requirement for registration has been mandated for all the existing registered entities under12AA as well as for the new entities seeking provisional registration. Further, the timeline to file the application for provisional registration was at least one month prior to the commencement of the previous year from which the said registration is sought,” Maheshwari said. However, considering the said notification has been issued on the verge of year end and the timeline for filing the application for seeking provisional registration has already lapsed, it has been provided that for applications filed during previous year on or after April 1 2021, the provisional registration sought shall be effective from AY 2022-23. “With this clarification, the Government has helped in removing various concerns and anxiousness of the concerned entities who were in dilemma and perplexed as to how to proceed and strategize in the absence of forms notified,” she said.

Biocon partners with Libbs Farmaceutica to launch generic drugs in Brazil

Source: Business Standard, Mar 30, 2021

New Delhi: Biotechnology major Biocon on Monday said its subsidiary has joined hands with Libbs Farmaceutica to launch generic drugs in Brazil, the world’s sixth most populous country.

Biocon Pharma, a unit of the company, has tied up with Brazil-based Libbs Farmaceutica to introduce generic formulations in the Latin American country, Biocon Ltd said in a statement.

This partnership, which marks the entry of Biocon’s generic formulations into Latin America, builds upon a successful association with Libbs, which began in 2017 to launch biosimilar Trastuzumab in Brazil, it added.

As part of the out-licensing deal with Libbs, Biocon Pharma will be responsible for drug development and manufacturing, while Libbs will leverage its deep expertise and reach in Brazil to import, distribute and market, subject to approvals from the Brazilian health regulatory agency, ANVISA.

“Expanding our association with Libbs Farmaceutica, a trusted partner, to our generic formulations, will help us establish a firm footing in Latin America, starting with Brazil,” Biocon Ltd Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director Siddharth Mittal said.

The company remains committed to expanding its global presence with high quality and affordable medicines and invest in strengthening capabilities that enables it to serve patients globally, he added.

Libbs Executive President Alcebades de Mendona Athayde Junior said the partnership that is going to make a difference in patients’ lives. “We started with Biocon Biologics years ago, and we were very successful: our Trastuzumab became a leader in the private market, a milestone for our company. We will now continue making a difference in people’s lives with Biocon, with the goal to expand access to quality, safe and effective treatments to our patients,” he added.

India’s goods exports to stand at $290 bn in FY21, says Piyush Goyal

Source: Business Standard, Mar 27, 2021

New Delhi: India’s goods exports will stand at USD 290 billion for the financial year ending March, 7 per cent short of the shipments in the previous fiscal, Union Minister Piyush Goyal said on Friday.

However, the minister said this was “great” considering the country has bounced back so quickly in a challenging year.

India’s goods exports stood at USD 313 billion in FY20.

“As against about USD 313 billion of goods exports last year, we will end the year with almost 93 per cent of that, USD 290 billion. Now isn’t that great,” Goyal said while addressing the Times Network India Economic Conclave.

Asked about big foreign firms which have made investments in India in the past year, the commerce and industry minister said Apple and Samsung have invested on a large scale in the country and expanded their facilities.

Referring to the two firms, he said: “I believe they are looking at India as their prime production base to meet the needs of the world.”

He added that pharma companies are also looking at expanding their investments in India.

The minister also expressed confidence that going forward, India will be able to overtake China in its engagement with Bangladesh.

His statement comes at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visiting Bangladesh.

The Prime Minister left for Bangladesh on Friday on a two-day visit during which he will take part in a wide range of programmes aimed at furthering cooperation between the two countries.

Goyal further said it will be a “record year” in terms of FDI inflows for India, despite the pandemic and “the fact that all international statistics suggest that foreign investments across the world are going to significantly fall in the current months.”

Observing that India was amongst the “rare countries” which saw FDI growth in 2020, the minister said he has “absolutely no doubt it will be a record FDI”.

Asked about India’s relations with Bangladesh vis-a-vis Bangladesh-China ties, he said India has been working relentlessly to build strong relations with all its neighbouring countries.

Goyal said India’s ability to add more value to the products and services has helped it expand trade ties with countries like Bangladesh.

“I have the confidence that going forward, we will be in a position to overtake China in their engagement with Bangladesh. We are working with that single-minded purpose and our industry has the ability,” said the minister.

He said India’s services sector has the confidence, adding that “we in government are also proposing several initiatives, some of which should be discussed during PM Modi’s visit to Bangladesh.”

However, he added that India does not hold a grudge against any country for its engagement with anybody else and focuses only on what it can do with that country better.

Goyal, who is also the railways and consumer affairs minister, said the Indian Railways has seen the highest freight loading in its history every month since September 2020 till February 2021.

“When we close March 2021, despite the setback of first few months of the lockdown, we will be exceeding last year’s loading in the Indian Railways in terms of freight and it will be the highest freight loading that Indian Railways has seen in its long history,” he said.

On the Bharat Bandh called by farmers” organisations on Friday to protest against the three farm laws, which included train blockade, Goyal said he has been monitoring the situation and in the last report sent to him, he saw that in the whole country some 60 odd trains were disrupted for 5 to 15 minutes.

The minister said this clearly shows that “farmers across the country are happy with these laws”, adding that the three farm laws do not take away anything from what was already existing and they are an added option given to the farming community. Asked about the ‘TRP scam’, Goyal said the investigation will bring to light any wrongdoing and stringent action will be taken against the guilty.

India, US agree to work towards resolving key bilateral trade issues

Source: Business Standard, Mar 27, 2021

New Delhi: India and the United States will look at ways to expand its trade relations and cooperate on pending bilateral issues, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said soon after meeting Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal.

“Then I met with Minister Piyush Goyal. We agreed to revitalize engagement through the US-India Trade Policy Forum, find ways to expand our trade relationship, and cooperate on a broad set of issues,” Tai said in a tweet.

Tai, who was confirmed as a top US trade negotiator last week, discussed crucial issues with Goyal over a phone call on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Goyal on Friday said that trade deals should never be done in a hurry and should not be looked at only as tools of diplomacy. Therefore, India is extremely cautious in its approach to trade deals and wants to ensure reciprocity in trade deals.

“I’m glad to share with you that only I think yesterday, I had my first engagement with my counterpart in the US, Miss Katherine Tai… We hit it off extremely well yesterday in our very first engagement, and we are looking forward to quickly ramp up our discussions,” he said at the India Economic Conclave.

“Having said that we are looking at expanding our trade ties through removal of non trade barriers through better mutual recognition agreements through other means to expand both the trade in goods and services,” he added.

In the past, India had extensive discussions with the US on a mini trade deal. However, that didn’t get through. “Of course, the US, new administration has broadly announced that they are not looking at free trade agreements in the near future. Probably they are also looking at the way India looks at it that doing these things in a hurry, is not always advisable,” he said.

MSMEs look at Foreign Trade Policy for relief from up to 50% spike in input, fuel costs

Source: The Economic Times, Mar 30, 2021

It’s not just bigger companies that are facing input cost rise.

Medium micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) are severely hit by rising raw material and fuel costs, prompting them to seek government help.

The rising prices of metals, plastics, fuel and other raw materials along with a shortage of shipping containers have been adding to the woes of the MSME sector, said Rupa Naik, senior director, MVIRDC World Trade Center, Mumbai – a trade facilitating organisation.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry is likely to roll out its new foreign trade policy for a five-year period effective from April 1 in a bid to boost India as a leader in international trade.

The need to address the inflationary trend in commodity prices needs to be addressed as India’s MSMEs, which contribute over 48% of the country’s exports, are operating on too thin a margin to absorb this cost pressure, Naik said.

Also, the forthcoming foreign trade policy should provide renewed thrust on 235 commodities that witnessed strong growth in exports despite the challenging world economic environment amidst the pandemic.
The trade
In the calendar year 2020, India’s trade surplus across select 235 commodities grew to $33 billion from $12 billion in the previous year as imports declined by 14% to $27 billion, while exports surged 36% over last year, as per the data analysed by World Trade Center, Mumbai.

Out of the 235 commodities, pharmaceuticals including medical equipment and agro-products are the largest categories accounting for 22 percent each with an export value of $13.4 billion and $13.2 billion, respectively. Metals and chemicals stand at third and fourth positions accounting for 18 percent and 11 percent respectively, out of these 235 commodities.

MSME trade bodies in Karnataka have said that the operating cost of over 60 lakh medium, small and micro enterprises (MSMEs) in Karnataka will go up at least 30% due to the recent hike in petrol and diesel prices. Manufacturing, engineering, and auto component firms are hit the most as they have to run their machines on diesel gen-sets during daily power cuts.

Also, MSME operations are heavily dependent on transport and logistics as they have to deliver products to OEMs and procure raw materials on a daily basis.
Corrugated box makers
The rising input cost coupled with the unabated increase in kraft and board paper prices has forced the corrugated box manufacturers of eastern India to go for a voluntary shutdown of their units this month.

A release issued by the Eastern India Corrugated Box Manufacturers’ Association (EICMA) said, “The corrugated box industry comprising MSME entrepreneurs has been suffering immensely as it neither has any control on the unabated increase in input costs nor over escalating kraft paper prices. The situation is critical and the survival of the industry is under threat.”

Other inputs including steel stitching wire, starch, labour, energy, transportation and other costs have witnessed unprecedented rise thereby increasing the conversion cost by 40 per cent to 50 per cent, it said.

Etailers differ on e-commerce FDI policy in meeting with DPIIT

Source: ETRetail.com, Mar 26, 2021

Leading e-commerce companies were split on the issue of the government’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy for the sector at a meeting with officials of the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) on Thursday.

US-based e-tailer Amazon and Walmart-owned homegrown e-commerce company Flipkart sought policy certainty for a stable investment climate amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

On the other hand, Tata Cliq and Reliance Retail pushed for a wider definition of group companies to prevent misuse and strict checks on violations of Press Note 2 regulations, along with penalties, multiple people who attended the meeting said.

The department has asked for written submissions from the companies in the next one week, they added.

An Amazon spokesperson told ET that the “FDI policy needs to be stable and predictable for investor confidence as any disruption in business will impact millions of livelihoods and jobs, have negative consequences on downstream suppliers and service providers including MSMEs, startups and offline stores which have barely recovered from the setback of Covid-19.”

Flipkart’s representative said at the meeting that frequent policy changes were disruptive and would spoil the country’s image and sought that the government refrain from changing any laws and for light-touch regulation to realise the full potential of the e-commerce sector.

There are already enough enforcement mechanisms to tackle violations in FDI laws and investments by domestic players were a positive for the sector, the Flipkart representative is learnt to have said at the meeting.

The virtual meeting, chaired by DPIIT secretary Guruprasad Mohapatra, was attended by representatives of about 25 e-commerce companies, including Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal, Reliance Retail, Jio Platforms, 1mg, Tata Cliq, Swiggy, Shopclues, Info Edge, Paytm, Grofers, Ola and Uber.

Some companies also raised issues such as capital dumping and manufacturing of own brands but sale via third parties by e-commerce players.

Tata Cliq’s submissions at the meeting were around ensuring a level playing field by curbing deep discounting, transparency through audits and disallowing marketplaces from owning inventory, said Gurvinderjit Samra, chief business officer.

“What is needed is for the government to do something on the ground (to address violations). It could be in the form of penalties or anything else,” Samra said. “Marketplaces should not be discounting from their side, which we see continuing to happen from time to time during large events”.

Reliance Retail, sources said, submitted that FDI laws were being violated and made a case for changing the definition of related parties.

Flipkart, Snapdeal and Reliance Industries did not respond to requests for comment till press time Thursday.

Recovery to continue for India’s telecom sector in FY22

Source: LiveMint.com, Mar 25, 2021

NEW DELHI: India’s telecom sector will continue on the path of recovery in the next financial year starting 1 April, amid consolidation that will lead operators to focus on digital transformation of their businesses.

According to India Ratings and Research, the second round of consolidation in the industry, which has kicked in, will drive telecom companies from being providers of traditional voice-only services to complete digital solutions for households that would enable customer retention.

Also, conducive regulatory environment will improve the sector’s performance. The credit rating agency has maintained a stable outlook for the telecom sector in FY22.

“Providing one or more of the services such as broadband services, cable TV services (direct -to-home), enterprise solutions (B2B), e-payment wallets/platforms, music applications and over-the-top (OTT) transmission platform, in a bundled form along with the traditional wireless mobile services has now become the need of the hour, to ensure customer stickiness and widen the market footprint,” it said.

The surge in data usage in the past one year and rising proportion of high-paying customers indicates that the sector is moving towards higher average revenue per user (Arpu), despite no tariff hikes. Competition among telcos has also intensified, as is evident from narrowing tariff differentials.

The development in the coming quarters will be key to the sector as it will determine whether “India’s mobility market will remain a 3+1 player market or will transition to a 2.5+1 player market, and how telcos will respond to the next phase of consolidation in the industry”, India Ratings said.

It should be noted that the entry of Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd in September 2016 in the country’s telecom space and its almost-free voice and data services caused massive disruption, forcing other players to drastically cut prices. Since then, while most firms exited their businesses, only Bharti Airtel Ltd and Vodafone Idea Ltd survived the brutal tariff war but continue to deal with high levels of debt.

In the December quarter, revenues of telecom sector rebounded to levels seen in the years prior to Reliance Jio’s launch. Net mobile revenues rose 4.5% sequentially to $25 billion in October-December, according to data issued by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai). The last time the sector earned $25 billion was in the June quarter of calendar year 2016.

The average revenue per user (Arpu), a key performance metric, of Bharti Airtel plunged to Rs100 per month in Q2FY19, from Rs196 in the first quarter of fiscal 2017. Prior to its merger with Vodafone, Idea’s Arpu stood at Rs181, which fell to a record low of ₹88, for the combined entity in the September quarter of 2019. Jio had an Arpu of ₹131.7 in the September quarter of 2019.

Centre offers 67 mines in second coal auction

Source: The Hindu Business Line, Mar 25, 2021

New Delhi: The Ministry of Coal on Thursday put on sale as many as 67 coal blocks under the second tranche of commercial mining auctions since the parliament allowed the entry of private firms in the industry in March last year.

Out of the total 67 mines offered, 37 have been fully explored, while the rest have been partially explored. “The coal mines on offer are a mix of mines with small and large reserves, coking and non-coking mines and fully and partially explored mines spread across six states: Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh,” the ministry said in a statement.

This round will kick off the “rolling auction” regime, under which bids for coal blocks can be received anytime, Minister of Coal and Mines Pralhad Joshi told industry executives at the auction launch event. “Coal mines will be up on offer on our website. Whenever you show interest, we will go for auction,” he said.

“Even if only one person shows interest, we will go for auction. If only one person participated, then we will put the same block up for auction for a second time, and if the second time too no one else makes a bid, then we will allot the mines to that single bidder,” he added.

Earlier, in case of a single bid for a block, the ministry had formulated an Empowered Committee of Secretaries from across central government departments to decide whether or not to allocate the block.

“Coal blocks will now always be available on our website for bidding,” said Coal Secretary Anil Kumar Jain. “Among the 67 blocks that we have offered this time, those which do not get picked up will remain on our website, and maybe we will determine a date every two months when the bids will be received.”

“The new blocks of which the Central Mine Planning and Design Institute completes the exploration and offers to us will get added to the list. We will not need to do bidding rounds,” he added

“With this round, commercial coal block auction will come to have become a permanent feature in the country,” Jain said. “Coal will be the first natural resource which will always be available to anybody wishing to set up coal-based activity.”

Last year, in the first tranche of auctions under the new regime, the ministry had put up 38 blocks on offer, out of which 19 blocks were auctioned successfully.

“Today, the coal and mining sectors contribute 1.25 per cent to India’s GDP,” Joshi said. “By 2024-25, we want to raise it to 2.5 per cent.”

This period is also likely to be the final hour of coal auctions, Jain added. “Considering the minimum gestation period to get the coal out and make it economically viable, you need at least a working span of about 15-20 years. With the increasing press of clean energy, we are sitting at the right time. I think it is only the next 2-3 years that virgin coal blocks may go in for mining. Thereafter you may not be left with sufficient time,” the secretary said.