Companies & Sectors
Google offers landline telephone service in US cities
Washington : Google, the technology giant born out of the internet age, rolled out a landline telephone service on Tuesday in some US cities.
The service, known as Fiber Phone, offers basic landline features including call waiting, caller identification, unlimited local and nationwide calling and 911 services at a price of $10 per month, Xinhua reported.
As part of the company's Google Fiber operation, it works with phone, tablet and laptop computer and brings subscribers new features such as transcribing voice mails and delivering them as text messages or email.
In direct completion against local telecommunications carriers and internet service providers, or ISPs, the cloud-based service is currently available in three US cities where Google Fiber is deployed, namely Austin, Kansas City and Provo, and is expected to expand to Salt Lake City, Nashville, Atlanta, Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham.
Two more cities, Louisville and Huntsville, are listed as candidates.
The landline service comes along with Google Fiber's ultra-fast internet access.
With cloud, wrote Google Fiber product manager John Shriver-Blake in a blog post, "it can ring your landline when you' re home, or your mobile device when you're on-the-go".
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.



Tata Steel looking to sell off UK operations
Mumbai : Having suffered nearly $3 billion in losses on its UK operations, Tata Steel is exploring to put its entire portfolio there up for sale, some 10 years after it forayed into Europe by acquiring Anglo-Dutch Corus for over $8.1 billion).
The decision comes less than a week after Tata Steel UK said it has reached an agreement to sell its Clydebridge and Dalzell steel facilities in Scotland to the local government, which will, in turn, hive it off to Liberty House, an international steel and non-ferrous metals group.
"The Tata Steel board today reviewed the recent performance of the European business of the, more specifically of Tata Steel UK. It noted with deep concern the deteriorating financial performance of the UK subsidiary in the last 12 months," a company statement said.
"Following the strategic view taken by the Tata Steel Board regarding the UK business, it has advised the board of its European holding company, Tata Steel Europe, to explore all options for portfolio restructuring including potential divestment of Tata Steel UK, in whole or in parts."
The company said while the global steel demand, especially in developed markets like Europe, has remained muted following the financial crisis of 2008, trading conditions in the UK and Europe have rapidly deteriorated more recently.
"These factors are likely to continue into the future and have significantly impacted on the long term competitive position of the UK operations in spite of several initiatives undertaken by the management and the workers of the business in recent years," it said.
"Even under these adverse market conditions, Tata Steel group has extended substantial financial support to the UK business and suffered asset impairment of more than £2 billion in the last five years," it said.
"Given the severity of the funding requirement in the foreseeable future, the Tata Steel Europe board will be advised to evaluate and implement the most feasible option in time bound manner."
The board also reviewed the proposed restructuring and transformation plan for strip products in UK prepared by the European subsidiary in consultation with an independent and internationally reputed consultancy firm. 
The board, according to the company, came to a conclusion that the plan is unaffordable, needing material funding support in the next two years, in addition to significant capital over the long term.
Since the assumptions behind it are inherently risky, and its likelihood of delivery is highly uncertain, the board also concluded it will not be able to support the investments necessary to proceed with the proposed strip products UK transformation plan.
Tata Steel's web site says it is the second largest steel producer in Europe with a diversified presence across the continent. It has a crude steel production capacity of over 18 million tonnes per annum there -- more than two thirds of the group's total capacity.
In UK and Ireland it has three steelmaking facilities at Port Talbot, Rotherham and Scunthorpe, with a combined crude steel production capacity of 11 million tonnes per annum. 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.



Union Budget 2016-17
This is with regard to the Union Budget 2016-17 and its impact. I call it a mischievous Budget, on the following 
I. Tax rebate on contributions to provident fund (PF), life insurance, housing loan, etc, is already restricted to Rs1.5 lakh. Private sector executives, who draw more salary and are contributing larger sums, are already paying tax on their contributions. Employees look for savings to fund their retirement corpus. If the amount is taxed, one can imagine their plight. These deposits earn low rate of interest compounded on half-yearly or yearly rests. The returns are not very high. This provision only indicated that policy-makers want to collect more revenue at the cost of small people.
II. This feeling gains credence, especially since the period of capital gains exemption on unlisted securities was brought down to two years from three years. Everyone knows who invests in these unlisted securities. Policy-makers are bestowing benefits on themselves and taxing the salary-earners who contribute to PF that goes into government bonds.
III. Everyone is praising the Budget as being rural-oriented, agriculture supportive, etc. The allocations to this sector will come from the taxes imposed on disclosures of tax-evaders. If the disclosures are |not substantial, from where are the resources coming?
IV. Farmers suffer for various reasons: (a) increased input and labour costs; (b) untimely rains; (c) poor remunerative prices for their produce; and (d) poor-quality seeds and fertilisers. Almost all reservoirs in a majority of the states are already dry. Groundwater levels are already precarious. Getting drinking water is posing a big problem. If the government is really interested in the agriculturists, they would have talked about the linking of the rivers and not about building four- or six- or eight-lane highways. In this context, we have to understand the behaviour of the people residing in various states. Eastern parts of the country, say, West Bengal and Orissa, with good water resources, agricultural fields and mineral resources, remain poor. We do not come across people with capitalist ideologies in these areas. Western parts, like Rajasthan and Gujarat, with large sandy terrain and not very fertile soil, exhibit more affluence. We rarely come across persons from these regions with a leftist attitude or concern for downtrodden.
The Budget is for the development of only a few and not for overall development of the public.
SM Ravipati, by email 




This is with regard to infringement of the principle of free competition in bank salary accounts of employees. Now, in theory at least, customers have a lot of choice in Indian banking industry. However, in reality, this choice exists only for the self-employed, the retired, the housewives and the like. 
‘Employees’, as a category, do not have much of a choice. In much of the private sector, the employer implicitly makes the choice for the employee through salary accounts. This limits competition in banking; it also discriminates against ‘employees’ as a group compared to others. 
Moreover, these days, there is frequent turnover in the job market and, as a consequence, many have been forced to migrate from one bank to another as far as their primary account is concerned. This matter now probably needs the intervention of the Reserve Bank of India and the Competition Commission of India so that the basic nature of banking service, as a utility, is maintained.
Sudip Kumar Ghose, by email




This is with regard to the Union Budget 2016-17 and the tax policy on employees’ provident fund (EPF). “Okay, let’s get the PF (provident fund) issue out of the way. We have received a lot of complaints about the proposal to tax PF,” says Jayant Sinha, Union minister of state for finance! “Honestly, we were doing them a ‘favour’ by keeping PF tax-free. If you had taken the same money and put it in a bank fixed deposit, you would first have to pay tax on it and then pay tax on the interest. We want to keep provident fund and pension fund on the same page.”
Note the language of the minister... He is doing them a favour. 
Clearly, no one in the government uses the EPF/PPF (public provident fund) as an option for saving, tax-savings or retirement-savings. Is the minister implying that all ministers have so much money that PF is not a useful scheme for them? Is PF used only by others—those poor, ordinary citizens who live on salaries?
Subrahmanian SH, by email



This is with regard to “Roadblocks to Road Building” by Sucheta Dalal. My experience is that positive change of scope happens more often than negative change of scope. Positive change of scope means addition by NHAI (National Highways Authority of India) of certain items.  Items that get added often include junctions, culverts, minor bridges, etc. These arise due to local requests, safety considerations and, at times, because it was missed earlier by the estimators. Beyond a certain percentage of cost, the expense for such extra work is reimbursable by NHAI. The developer incurs the expense and waits for months or years to get this reimbursement; also, one should not forget that these items are estimated lower by NHAI vis-à-vis the cost incurred. 
On the other hand, negative change of scope is very useful where a large part of land is not available, due to environment or other issues. However, 80% of the cost saved due to this negative change of scope needs to be paid to NHAI.
The provisional certificate of completion (PCC) is a very important provision in the agreement. Due to land issues, 100% completion of a road is near impossible. So, if only a small percentage of land acquisition is pending and the project is complete in all other respects, PCC is issued. 
In the absence of such a provision, even when 90% of the project is complete, the developer will be unable to make any revenue for several years beyond the due date. It may be noted that the toll collection, in such cases, is partial, i.e., linked to the road length completed.
Sonica Agarwal, online comment



This is with regard to “Wilful Defaulters Are a Result of Wilful Blindness” by Sucheta Dalal. Thank you for this article. When many are asking questions, Moneylife has shown the courage to answer some of the questions, including those raised by Mr Mallya. On 13 March 2016, I was reading an article by TV Mohandas Pai and wondering why authorities are after Mr Mallya whose Kingfisher Airlines’ default is a small amount compared to the Rs30,000-crore loss suffered by Air India. 
I suggest that Mr Pai, too, can take the initiative in exposing the squandering of public funds which include bank deposits, money raised by corporates and so on. 
Of late, every allegation is countered by another bigger allegation against someone else. The interests of the taxpayer, depositor and every citizen, who adds value to India’s GDP, need to be protected. Now is the time when authorities have woken up and the government is in no position to bail out wilful defaulters or anyone who is mismanaging ‘public funds’. Mr Mallya may be a member of the Rajya Sabha owing his position to the support of political parties. Even those political parties cannot rescue him from the present predicament in which he has landed.
MG Warrier



This is with regard to “I’m Back!” by Debashis Basu and Jason Monteiro. I completely disagree with this article. The movement of the Indian stock market matches completely with the Indonesian stock market. There was no Narendra Modi in Indonesia. But FIIs (foreign institutional investors) had a presence in both countries. When FIIs were set to exit EMs (emerging markets) in the wake of tapering of quantitative easing by the US Federal Reserve in August 2013, most EMs were affected. In January 2015, when the Fed indicated its intention to tighten rates, fund outflows from EMs started immediately. The US Fed is the game-changer and not Mr Modi. They are the masters of this universe. Anyone who misses this point misses the plot altogether.
Mohan Krishnan


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