Government moves SC seeking review of Vodafone tax verdict

The Government is seeking review of the apex court's decision which said the I-T department does not have jurisdiction to levy tax on the overseas deal between two companies

NEW DELHI: The Union Government on Friday moved the Supreme Court seeking review of the apex court's verdict in the Vodafone tax case. The SC had said that the Indian Income Tax Department does not have jurisdiction to levy Rs11,000 crore as tax on the overseas deal between Vodafone International Holdings and Hutchison Group, reports PTI.

The Court had on January 20 allowed Vodafone's appeal and had quashed the Bombay High Court verdict which had upheld the decision to levy tax on the overseas deal.

The apex court held that Vodafone's transaction with Hong Kong-based Hutchison Group was a "bonafide" foreign direct investment (FDI), which fell outside the tax jurisdiction of the Indian authorities.

A bench headed by Chief Justice SH Kapadia had held that the offshore transaction was a "bonafide structured FDI investment" into India which fell outside India's territorial tax jurisdiction.

It also asked the I-T Department to return Rs2,500 crore deposited by Vodafone, in compliance of its earlier interim order, within two months along with four per cent interest from the date of withdrawal of money by the tax department.

It also asked the Supreme Court registry to return within four weeks the bank guarantee of Rs 8,500 crore given by the telecom major.

Through the $11.2 billion deal in May 2007, Vodafone bought 67% stake in the Hutchison-Essar Ltd (HEL) from Hong Kong-based Hutchison Group through companies based in the Netherlands and Cayman Island.

Meanwhile, Vodafone in a statement, said that the apex court had clearly and unambiguously ruled that there was no tax to pay on the Vodafone-Hutchison transaction.

"Vodafone notes the filing of the tax authorities review petition, which will be evaluated by the same bench that ruled on the case and has no further comment to make at this stage," it said.


Flawed Greek: The bailout may be more than 320 billion euros

Probabilities point to the largest default in history. The cumulative costs to bail out the tiny Mediterranean nation might cross 320 billion Euros, which is more than the GDP of Greece

The unravelling of the Greek crisis has taken a toll on the European market sentiment of late. This has made the market second guess the outcome plenty of times over, which has not only led to increased uncertainty, but also increased sentiment and volatility.

According to Zero Hedge: "In Greece it is now clear that the process of avoiding a credit event for the past 21 months has been ruinously expensive. Frustrate the markets (again, individuals making rational, fiduciary decisions, not some conspiracy pursuing an agenda) and they will find a way around the frustration, in our view; in the meantime, costs will increase due to the inefficiencies created, as has happened in Greece."

To put it in plain English-policy makers have been bickering with each other, causing procrastination and policy paralysis, perhaps leading to the inevitable-a massive default (?). As you may be aware that during May 2010, it was decided to bail out the Greek economy to the tune of 110 billion euros. However, it is estimated that the cumulative costs to bail out the tiny Mediterranean nation might cross 320 billion euros, which is more than the gross domestic product (GDP) of Greece! The stubbornness of European politicians, technocrats and bankers has only made things worse, not better.

According to the same blog, "global bankers now have a priming lien on 136% of Greek GDP." Symbolically, Greece isn't Greece anymore; the country effectively belongs to the banking syndicate. The funny part is that it is the bankers who stand to gain from the very mess they have created. By giving massive loans to Greece, which it has defaulted, they not only pocket fees and interests but also stand to benefit from the "bailout" package that is, and more probably will be, given to Greece.

William Porter of Credit Suisse feels that the market may have misread the exact requirements of the bailout. Instead of the required 50 billion euros in capital that banks require, he feels that the "bailout" process will not be "orderly" since the requirement is much higher than what the market thinks. According to him, "The 2011 consensus range of bank capital requirements was 100 billion euros to 400 billion euros.... ....always seemed like a sensible estimate to us. The market is proceeding on the assumption that the need has all but gone away; many estimates now centre on 50 billion euros. Such numbers strike us as ridiculous...."

He adds, "The market is essentially proceeding on the assumption that banks' capital requirements can be met organically, through earnings and deleveraging...But this is not a short-term process and cannot be, if it is to remain orderly..."

In other words, the Greeks will have to work more hours, for less pay, in order to "earn" for the "de-leveraging" to happen, and this takes time, not a matter of months but years and possibly decades. After all, Greece only contributes to 2.5% of the Eurozone's GDP, hardly substantial enough to quickly recover.

Its economy virtually thrives on tourism. Instead of unifying and agreeing to certain conditions laid down by creditors, the Greeks have resorted to riots, in droves, on the streets of Athens, and protests en masse against "austerity measures". The Greek parliament passed these measures, which includes a 22% reduction in the minimum wage and 150,000 jobs from the public sector workforce by 2015. The Greek populace would have to work hard, for survival and to make bankers richer, in order to pay off its external debts.

This will not be sustainable as markets and policy makers are only concerned with short-term results, or as behavioural economists call it "recency bias". Markets tend to focus on recent events and put a premium on it. In order for Greece to survive, it would have to go through a lengthy period of restructuring, much like Japan. Most creditors who have lent to Greece do not have the patience, nor are the Greeks willing to toil for years.

The deadline for the Greek government bonds repayment is 20 March 2012. However, it seems that the country does not have enough funds to pay it off. William Porter feels that Europe will be better off if Greece simply defaults on the 20th March deadline. If Greece avoids default, and instead, pays for its ever increasing debt, it means pledging more assets (which is meaningless because Greece is virtually broke), agreeing to uncomfortable covenants in its debts which will have an impact on the daily life of an average Greek.

The ongoing negotiations have made the markets jittery is because Greece wants more debt, and policy makers seem to entertain the notion that Greece is an integral, and should be, part of the Euro, which otherwise might lead to "systemic" problems. We do not rule out another bailout; however, simply borrowing more debt in order to repay, well, more debt will only aggravate things further and will lead to a messy or "disorderly" ending-a market crash. Porter phrases it in a very succinct manner, stating that "Overall, we are left with a sense that the probability of delivering the largest default loss in history in a disorderly way on or before 20th March has increased relative to doing so in an orderly way."

To cut a long story short, despite what we have highlighted, the odds that the markets will be volatile in the coming months will be high and the potential damage unknown. As politicians, economists, technocrats and, the least liked, the bankers continue to pretend that a "solution" will be arrived at, the odds of a catastrophe is only increasing by the day as are the costs. It would be prudent to buckle up your seat-belts because it might be a bumpy ride from now on, because everything is in Greek and undecipherable now. The markets all over the world, including the Indian markets, are pretending that all European and American problems are over and a major bull market has begun. Either Credit Suisse has got it all wrong or the markets are under some delusion. We will know soon what the truth is.


FMC awaits FCRA amendment to decide on pulses trading

The FCRA Bill amendment seeks to vest the FMC with more autonomy, before taking any decision on lifting the trading ban on tur and urad

Mumbai: The Forward Markets Commission (FMC) on Friday said it would take a call on lifting trading ban on two pulses -- tur and urad -- once amendment is made to the Forward Contracts Regulation Act (FCRA), reports PTI.

"The Parliamentary Standing Committee report is already out indicating that the price rise has no links with futures trading.

"However, we are awaiting the passage of FCRA Bill amendment that seek to vest the FMC with more autonomy, before taking any decision on lifting the trading ban on tur and urad," FMC Chairman Ramesh Abhishek told reporters on the sidelines of the Global Pulses Conclave in Mumbai.

At present, only chana is traded on the futures markets among the pulses. Both tur and urad were banned from futures trading in January 2007 to put a curb on the rising prices of these two pulses. "We are hoping that the amendment will be introduced in Parliament this year," he added.

He said there was a need for more participation from farmers as well as consumers for efficient price-discovery mechanism to get more transparent.

"Along with the futures market, we also need good physical markets, warehousing and credit linkages for better price-discovery," he added.

About the turnover, Mr Abhishek said the commodity exchanges were expected to touch Rs1,70,00,000 crore in the current fiscal mainly due to higher participation of bullion and agri products. The turnover stood at Rs1,19,48,000 crore last fiscal, he said.

There are five national -- MCX, NCDEX, NMCE, ICEX and ACE -- and 16 regional commodity exchanges in the country.


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