Rising imports in September leaves big trade gap

New Delhi: India's exports shot up by 23.2% year-on-year to $18.02 billion in September this fiscal, while faster import expansion increased concerns over the widening trade gap, reports PTI.

Imports for September grew by annual 26.1% to $27.14 billion, commerce secretary Rahul Khullar said here today.

For the first half of the fiscal 2010-11, exports stood at $103.30 billion, an increase of 27.6%.

Cumulative imports for this period went up to $166.5 billion, leaving a large trade gap of $63.2 billion.

The trade deficit for September alone was $9.12 billion, the secretary said.

The government has been monitoring the trade deficit, commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma said on Saturday.

Mr Khullar attributed increase in exports to a "very strong" low base of comparison last fiscal, when the global trade was hit by economic slowdown worldwide.

He said September was the "first month in which exports were higher than (for a month) 2008-09".

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SC adjourns hearing on Vodafone tax case to 15th Nov

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today adjourned hearing in the tax case against Vodafone to 15th November after the telecom company sought time to go through the Rs11,218 crore tax notice sent by the income tax (I-T) department, reports PTI.

Vodafone submitted before the court that it received the tax department order late Friday and hence needed time to pore over it.

Considering the telecom giant's argument, a bench comprising Chief Justice SH Kapadia and Justices KS Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar adjourned the matter to 15th November. The bench also directed Vodafone to file replies of the I-T department's direction fixing their liability.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Vodafone, said that they have received the I-T department's order fixing the liability of Rs11,218 crore but did not get enough time to reply.

Meanwhile, the bench also said that the Vodafone's recent case filed by it at the Bombay High Court against the I-T department, holding them as Hutchison Telecommunication International Ltd's agent for the transaction would continue.

On Friday, the I-T department had issued an order raising a tax demand of Rs11,217.95 crore on Vodafone International holdings BV treating it as an assessee in default for failure to deduct tax as required before making a payment of $11,076 million (about Rs55,000 crore) to Hutchison Telecommunication International Ltd.

Following the stake transfer in 2007, Hutchison Essar was renamed Vodafone Essar.

Vodafone has since claimed that no tax is payable by the company and the Indian tax authorities have no right to seek tax as the transaction was executed outside the country.

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Life insurers should be in biz for 10 years to launch IPOs: IRDA

New Delhi: The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) is not in favour of allowing initial public offers (IPOs) by life insurers who have been in business for less than ten years, a condition holding up the IPO guidelines for the sector, reports PTI.

Companies who have been operational for less than ten years, but want to come out with IPOs, have been lobbying hard against this rider, but have not succeeded in their efforts so far. Industry sources said that this is among the key issues delaying the IPO guidelines.

"Insurers can come out with IPO only after completion of 10 years of operations," a senior official with Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) told PTI.

As per the Insurance Act, promoters having a 26% stake can offload equity after 10 years of operation.

However, the legislation empowers the government to reduce the mandatory waiting period before tapping the capital market.

Many companies want the norm to be relaxed so that this capital intensive sector can tap primary market to meet fund requirements. However, their plans have been on hold in absence of the IPO guidelines for life insurers.

Several private sector insurers, including Reliance Life and HDFC Standard Life, have already shown interest in tapping the capital market to augment their resource base.

Though HDFC Standard Life has completed 10 years of operations, Reliance Life does not meet this criteria.

Recently, IRDA chairman J Hari Narayan said that guidelines for life insurance companies to tap the capital market for funds were awaiting the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) nod and would be out soon.

"IPO guidelines for insurance companies will be out soon.

It has been approved by the Joint Committee of SEBI and has to be approved by the SEBI (board)," Mr Hari Narayan had said.

Last month, the regulator had said that the proposed IPO guidelines for non-life insurance firms were also in the process of finalisation.

The guideline for IPOs of life insurance companies are said to have been approved by SCADA, a body constituted by SEBI, and is awaiting final nod from the market regulator.

Currently, most of the 22 private life insurers and 17 non-life players have foreign partners. The Insurance Act caps foreign direct investment at 26%.

According to sources, another reason behind the delay in the IPO norms is profit track-record of insurance companies.

The present IPO guidelines of SEBI requires a three years track-record of profit for a company to float a public issue.

However, most of the insurance companies are yet to reach the break-even point and thus are not eligible for coming out with an IPO under the present norms.

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