According to Nomura, demand has slowed down quite substantially post a relatively strong festival season, however, margins for automakers would hold on due to recent price hikes
December auto sales were below expectations, especially for commercial vehicles (CVs), while the decline in car sales was somewhat arrested by Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. "As per our discussion with the companies and dealers, demand has slowed down quite substantially post a relatively strong festival season. However, margins would hold on due to recent price increase," said Nomura in a research report.
According to the report, car industry volumes declined by 5% in December marginally above Nomura's expectations of a 7-8% decline led by strong performance from Maruti Suzuki. The report said, "Maruti Suzuki's domestic volumes increased by about 6% while we were expecting a 4% decline. Strong growth in low-end petrol segment and D’zire led to the positive surprise, we believe. Maruti Suzuki's market share was around 55% in December 2013 – the highest in the past four years. This is quite positive especially considering increased competitive intensity from global original equipment manufacturers (OEMs)," Nomura added.
During December for other unlisted companies, Hyundai’s volumes were up 6%, while Honda’s volumes increased by about 30%, led by its Amaze variant. Other global OEMs like GM and Ford saw double-digit volume decline despite new launches.
Nomura said during the month, volumes in the medium and heavy CVs declined by about 25% as against its expectations of 20% decline. Volumes for Tata Motors declined by 22% while Ashok Leyland saw 26% decline in MHCV volumes and Eicher’s CV volumes fell by 34%, the report said.
Volumes in two wheeler increased marginally by 2%, led by Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India Pvt Ltd (HMSI). HMSI reported another strong set of numbers (up 36%) as its scooter volumes increased by 54% while bike volumes increased by 18%. During December Hero MotoCorp’s volumes declined by about 3% while Bajaj Auto had a weak month with domestic motorcycle volumes down around 30%. TVS’ volumes were flattish while Yamaha saw a strong 58% growth partly due to the lower base effect.
"Within our coverage, only Maruti Suzuki reported stronger-than-expected volumes. If the current trend continues, we see downside risks to our FY14F volume estimates for Bajaj Auto and CV OEMs – Ashok Leyland and Tata Motors. There could be some upside risks to our volumes estimates for Hero MotoCorp," Nomura said.
While rejected petitions filed by AUSPI and COAI, the High Court permitted CAG to conduct audit of private telecom companies under the TRAI Act
The Delhi High Court on Monday held that the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) can audit accounts of private telecom operators under the relevant provisions of the law.
A Bench of Justices Pradeep Nandrajog and V Kameswar Rao permitted the top accounting body to conduct audit of private telecom companies under the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Act.
The HC rejected separate petitions filed by Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers (AUSPI) and Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) against the decision of Telecom tribunal TDSAT on the issue in 2010.
The high court had reserved its order in November 2013 after conducting marathon hearings on the issue where it took on record submissions of the Centre, CAG and the petitioners — COAI and AUSPI.
Both the associations had argued, in essence, that CAG can’t audit private companies.
To achieve the purpose of audit, the operators had pointed out that they have already put in place mechanism of special audit as envisaged in the licence agreement between department of telecom and the companies.
The firms had claimed they maintain accounts in line with the TRAI rules and can’t be forced to furnish financials to CAG.
The CAG had vigorously staked its claim to audit the accounts and sought revenue sharing details from the telecom companies.
The strategic move by the MoEF should be applauded and hopefully, a number of pending cases of UMPPs will now progress
In a strategic move, which has been long overdue, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has decided that the UMPP (ultra mega power projects) will no longer be linked to obtaining clearances of their captive coal blocks. In the past, mines and power stations were considered a single component for green clearance. This notification appears to have been issued on 31 December 2013, and so, we may as well consider this move as a New Year gift!
It may be remembered that the power plants could not apply for environmental approvals till the time they got their coal block stage I (forest clearance). This is expected to speed up many pending cases.
In the case of Odisha power project, it is entirely dependent upon getting domestic supplies of coal, unlike its counterpart at Cheyyur in Tamil Nadu, which will be fired with domestic coal. It is an entirely different and difficult issue of overseas coal imports, when the country has substantial proven coal reserves, as Coal India (CIL), the sole supplier has too many problems on hand, including fall in production in the year.
It is interesting to note that, recently, while speaking at the Ravi Mathai Memorial Lecture, Arvind Kumar, joint secretary, in the Ministry of Finance, is reported to have stated that about 400 projects, worth an estimated Rs17.68 lakh crore covering power, steel coal, mining and petroleum industries were pending with the Cabinet Committee on Investments, for clearance. He further stated that "there is an urgent need to ease the logjam, improve quality of infrastructure to get commissioned and financed projects going". This is a tall order under the present circumstances, but, with some effort, it is not an impossible task to overcome.
It appears that KV Kamath, who appears to have attended the above meet, also felt that "the economy was given a wrong medicine in the form of increasing interest rates" and that "the there has been a significant drop in the financing of infrastructure projects at the ICICI bank in the past two years".
Reverting back to the Odisha UMPP 4000 MW (mega watt) power project at Bedabahal, it may be remembered that the Ministry of Coal had allocated three coal blocks (Meenakshi, Meenakshi B and dip side of Meenakshi) on 13 September 2006. Due to the apparent lack of adequate progress, now, the Ministry of Coal has issued a show cause notice to Power Finance Corporation, on 24 December 2013, seeking an explanation for the slow progress. It would be interesting to know why the Ministry has taken so long in following up the matter.
PFC (Power Finance Corporation) has invited the bids and expects to finalise the winner, who promises to generate electricity at the cheapest rate, bearing in mind that Odisha UMPP will solely depend upon domestic coal. The nine bidders are JSPL, NTPC, Adani Power, JSW, Sterlite Inventure, CLP India, NHPC and Larsen & Toubro. If the past performance is any criterion, India has awarded four UMPPs, out of which, only Tata Power has a fully operational power plant at Mundra, in Gujarat, while three others, awarded to Reliance Power, are in various stages of construction.
It now remains to be seen that, with the new change and notification of policy, all concerned officials and departments will expeditiously clear pending issues, so that project clearances are no longer the impediments in completion. Likewise, it is hoped that work will also move at a faster pace in the case of Tilaiya UMPP 3960 MW project, which Reliance Power bagged in 2009, and which has been unable to make much headway due to land acquisition problems.
According to the UMPP model, the government is obliged to extend all support for expeditious "clearances", and the contractual obligation actually to start when the required land is handed over for the main plant area. In the case of Tilaiya, for instance, Stage I (obtained in February 2010) and Stage II (November 2010) clearances have been obtained by the contractor, but the state government has yet to approve the transfer of possession of land to the project. The central government must be able to give a directive for doing the needful, because, ultimately, it is the nation that suffers.
Recently, a prime minister-headed panel had discussions on land issues with the power ministry, when the later wanted the later wanted the investment panel to advice the MoEF "to treat all UMPPs as central government undertaking projects as far as compensatory afforestation was concerned". Such a move would help the successful bidder of the UMPP to simply deposit the cost of land with the state government, under the Forest Conservation Act, and move on with the work. In the case of Reliance project at Tilaiya, MoEF took a stand that Reliance Power "is not a central government Undertaking". In this case, MoEF is certainly right in their standing, but we need to move on with the work and they need to work out a compromise formula so that any further delay can be avoided.
This strategic move by the MoEF should be applauded and hopefully, a number of pending cases will now, hopefully, progress.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)