Budget proposal for service tax on hospital bills may be rolled back

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, in his Budget 2011-12, had proposed to replace the service tax on health check-ups with a tax on all services provided by hospitals with 25 or more beds and having central air-conditioning, with an abatement of 5%

New Delhi: Hinting at the possibility of the budget proposal for imposition of service tax on 25-bed hospitals and diagnostic check-ups being rolled back, the government has said it is willing to discuss the issue, reports PTI.

"We can discuss 25-bedded hospitals with central air-conditioning... we can discuss whether a person who has malaria and needs to go for blood test, whether he should pay service tax for that diagnostic or not," revenue secretary Sunil Mitra said here.

Interacting with members of leading chambers, Mr Mitra yesterday said that service tax on healthcare is basically meant to apply to high-end treatment.

His comments came following opposition from various quarters with respect to the proposal to impose service tax on the sector.

Presenting the Budget for 2011-12, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had proposed to replace the service tax on health check-ups with a tax on all services provided by hospitals with 25 or more beds and having central air-conditioning, with an abatement of 5%.

Mr Mitra added that more services are being brought under the ambit of taxation in preparation for the proposed Goods and Services Tax (GST), which will subsume all indirect taxes.

"... We are moving toward GST, which will have a comprehensive negative list. There should not be any apprehension," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Mukherjee said that healthcare and education remain the two priority sectors for the government.

"Therefore the emphasis is on these two things- education and healthcare. Health is basically a state subject.

We will have to take up the matter with them and discuss how to increase allocation," he said.

Mr Mukherjee further added: "The 12th Plan will start next year. I have no doubt that the Planning Commission will be able to take this into consideration. I expect spending on healthcare to increase during the 12th Plan."

The finance minister accepted that healthcare spending in India as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) is still low compared to many other emerging economies.

"Therefore, we are making effort to achieve increase in expenditure... We can have full democratic dividend if we can make our workforce educated and healthy," he said.

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GVK to increase shareholding in MIAL to 50.5%

MIAL is a public-private partnership joint venture between GVK, BSDM, ACSA Global and Airports Authority of India (AAI). As a result of the stake acquisition, GVK's equity shareholding in MIAL will increase to 50.5% from 37% at present

Mumbai: GVK Airport Holdings Private Limited (GAHPL) today said it has signed a share purchase agreement with Bid Services Division (Mauritius) Limited (BSDM) to buy an additional 13.5% stake in Mumbai International Airport Pvt Ltd (MIAL), reports PTI.

GAHPL is a step-down subsidiary of GVK Power & Infrastructure Limited.

As a result, the equity shareholding of GVK in MIAL will increase to 50.5% from 37% at present through the acquisition of 10,80,00,000 equity shares. The agreement is subject to regulatory and other approvals.

MIAL is a public-private partnership joint venture between GVK, BSDM, ACSA Global and Airports Authority of India (AAI). It was awarded the mandate for operating and modernising the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA), Mumbai, in April 2006.

Upon completion of this transaction, GVK will lead the consortium with a stake of 50.5%, BSDM's stake will be reduced to 13.5%, ACSA Global will hold 10% and AAI the remaining 26% in MIAL.

GVKPIL chairman GV Krishna Reddy said, "The Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai, is GVK's first and flagship airport project in India. As a part of our overall stated objective of consolidating our presence in the airports sector in India, we have taken this significant step of increasing our shareholding in MIAL."

"This signifies our commitment to the airports sector and further reinforces our vision of transforming CSIA into a world-class airport," he added.

GVK, which operates two key airports in India-Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai and the Bengaluru International Airport-has emerged as India's largest airport operator in the private sector. The two airports together handled passenger traffic of 40 million in 2010.

Since taking over airport operations in 2006, MIAL has brought about a number of changes at CSIA with an on-going focus on passenger convenience and comfort in the long-term.

MIAL is currently implementing a master plan which includes building a new integrated passenger terminal at Sahar with state-of-the-art infrastructure and facilities to cater to passenger traffic of 40 million per annum.

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US SEC charges Rajat Gupta with insider trading

The US regulator has alleged that Rajat Gupta, a friend and business associate of Raj Rajaratnam, provided him with confidential information learned during board calls and in other aspects of his duties on the Goldman and P&G boards

Washington: US Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) today charged Indian American Rajat K Gupta, a former board member of Goldman Sachs and Proctor & Gamble, with insider trading, accusing him of providing confidential information to the key figure in a major hedge fund probe, reports PTI.

The SEC has accused him of illegally tipping Galleon Management founder and hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam with inside information about the quarterly earnings at both firms as well as an impending $5 billion investment by Berkshire Hathaway in Goldman.

SEC alleges that Mr Gupta, a friend and business associate of Mr Rajaratnam, provided him with confidential information learned during board calls and in other aspects of his duties on the Goldman and P&G boards.

Mr Rajaratnam used the inside information to trade on behalf of some of Galleon's hedge funds, or shared the information with others at his firm who then traded on it ahead of public announcements by the firms, it said.

The insider trading by Mr Rajaratnam and others generated more than $18 million in illicit profits and loss avoidance.

Mr Gupta was at the time a direct or indirect investor in at least some of these Galleon hedge funds, and had other potentially lucrative business interests with Mr Rajaratnam, SEC said.

"Gupta was honoured with the highest trust of leading public companies, and he betrayed that trust by disclosing their most sensitive and valuable secrets," said Robert Khuzami, director of the SEC's Division of Enforcement.

"Directors who violate the sanctity of board room confidences for private gain will be held to account for their illegal actions," he said.

SEC alleges that while a member of Goldman's board of directors, Mr Gupta tipped Mr Rajaratnam about Berkshire Hathaway's $5 billion investment in Goldman and Goldman's upcoming public equity offering before that information was publicly announced on 23 September 2008.

Mr Gupta called MR Rajaratnam immediately after a special telephonic meeting at which Goldman's board considered and approved Berkshire's investment in Goldman Sachs and the public equity offering.

Within a minute after the Gupta-Rajaratnam call and just minutes before the close of the markets, Mr Rajaratnam arranged for Galleon funds to purchase more than 175,000 Goldman shares.

Mr Rajaratnam later informed another participant in the scheme that he received the tip on which he traded only minutes before the market close.

Mr Rajaratnam caused the Galleon funds to liquidate their Goldman holdings the following day after the information became public, making illicit profits of more than $900,000, SEC said.

Mr Gupta also illegally disclosed to MR Rajaratnam inside information about Goldman Sachs' positive financial results for the second quarter of 2008.

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein called Mr Gupta and various other Goldman outside directors on 10th June, when the company's financial performance was significantly better than analysts' consensus estimates, the SEC said.

Blankfein knew the earnings numbers and discussed them with Mr Gupta during the call.

"Between that night and the following morning, there was a flurry of calls between Mr Gupta and Mr Rajaratnam. Shortly after the last of these calls and within minutes after the markets opened on 11th June, Mr Rajaratnam caused certain Galleon funds to purchase more than 5,500 out-of-the-money Goldman call options and more than 350,000 Goldman shares," SEC said.

"Mr Rajaratnam liquidated these positions on or around 17th June, when Goldman made its quarterly earnings announcement. These transactions generated illicit profits of more than $13.6 million for the Galleon funds," it said.

SEC also alleges that Mr Gupta tipped Mr Rajaratnam with confidential information that he learned during a board posting call about Goldman's impending negative financial results for the fourth quarter of 2008.

The call ended after the close of the market on 23rd October, with senior executives informing the board of the company's financial situation.

"Mere seconds after the board call, Mr Gupta called Mr Rajaratnam, who then arranged for certain Galleon funds to begin selling their Goldman holdings shortly after the financial markets opened the following day until the funds finished selling off their holdings, which had consisted of more than 120,000 shares," SEC alleged.

"In discussing trading and market information that day with another participant in the insider trading scheme, Mr Rajaratnam explained that while Wall Street expected Goldman Sachs to earn $2.50 per share, he had heard the prior day from a Goldman Sachs board member that the company was actually going to lose $2 per share.

"As a result of Mr Rajaratnam's trades based on the inside information that Mr Gupta provided, the Galleon funds avoided losses of more than $3 million," SEC said.

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