The discontinuation of the tax holiday on the STPI scheme and the extension of MAT to SEZs has dealt a double blow to IT and ITeS industries
In the 1917 work, The Silence of the Sirens, the great philosopher Franz Kafka writes-"Someone might possibly have escaped from their singing; but from their silence, certainly never."
It rang true for the IT and ITeS industries when the Finance Minister remained silent on the STPI scheme. The scheme offered tax sops to technology companies operating and exporting services from designated technology parks. The scheme which initially ended on 31 March 2010 was extended for a year during the Budget proposals last year.
The industry sought another extension leading into the Direct Taxes Code (DTC), expected to come into effect on 1 April 2012. However, Pranab Mukherjee was in no mood to heed the call of the industry. The impact, though, will be absorbed mostly by the mid-cap companies from among the 7,000-odd companies operating in over 51 STPIs spread across the country.
For instance, almost 95% of KPIT Cummins' Rs730 crore revenues stem from units located inside these parks. Similarly, Hexaware also has about 80% of its revenues and consequent profits emanating from its STPI units. Firms like these are expected to face a situation where the tax outgo is likely to double for FY2011-12. While companies like Zensar, Hexaware, Hinduja Global, KPIT Cummins and Sonata Software are bracing for an increase in tax outflows, bigger and more established players will not be majorly affected by the provisions, having already run their benefits off their respective balance sheets.
Moving to an SEZ would mitigate some of the pain, but the FM has struck a pre-emptive blow even there by extending MAT to companies operating in SEZs. The rate has also been increased by 50 basis points from 18%. Prateek Aggarwal, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Hexaware highlighted the pain facing the mid-cap IT segment-"the smaller companies would find it difficult to make huge investments in moving to SEZs. It could prove to be a significant drain on all resources."
Again, the implication of MAT will be marginal on the IT majors, but complicates life for the small and medium players by forcing them to pay higher taxes, irrespective of where they ply their trade. It remains to be seen how many of these tier-II players opt to make the heavy investments needed to establish new capacities inside an SEZ. It is also going to cost more to take space inside an SEZ, as MAT has also been extended to the developers of SEZs. A little bit of additional pain will also be inflicted by Mr Mukherjee's decision to increase levies on aviation fuel and air travel. Travel is one of the major components of direct expenses for most IT companies and the new levies will add to their operational expenses.
NASSCOM, the association for technology companies, was disappointed with the Budget proposals.
"The IT-BPO sector faced double negatives-imposition of MAT on SEZs and withdrawal of tax exemption under Section 10A/10B. The SEZ Scheme was announced as an Act of Parliament. Only last year, it was clarified that under the Direct Taxes Code, SEZ units set up till 2014 would continue to get profit-linked tax exemptions. Imposition of MAT at 18.5% with an effective rate of nearly 20% nullifies the impact of any such incentive," it said.
However, there were a couple of positives too for India's mainstay in the services sector. First, the proposal to reduce tax on dividends received through foreign subsidiaries from 33% to 15% will help Indian multi-nationals retain a larger chunk of their foreign income.
The industry will also look to capitalise on India's renewed emphasis on e-governance. It is an area that promises to offer significant domestic business opportunities for the nimble and networked players in the market. There are several high priority initiatives like UID, GST Network, National Knowledge Network, Centralised Processing Units and rural broadband that will offer opportunities to help the government bridge the growing digital divide.
Reacting to the budget, S Mahalingam, CFO of TCS chose to focus on the positives and ignore the marginal impact on the taxation front. "Increased thrust in key areas like primary education, health, infrastructure, rural development, and financial inclusion would fuel broad-based growth and development," he said. "Enhanced focus on SEZs to drive growth and employment and clarity on the tax regime is welcome. This would aid recovery for the IT industry. Social transformation and technology enabled governance will gain momentum and this is good news for the country."
Overall, the finance minister has opted to resist the temptation to eschew popular measures for the IT sector and opted instead to continue moving towards a tax policy that integrates the hitherto blue-eyed industry with other major sectors of the Indian economy.
Prakash S Korati has taken over charge of Axis Private Equity as the acting CEO
Axis Private Equity Ltd, a 100% subsidiary of Axis Bank, announced that Arun Prakash S Korati has taken over charge of the company as the acting CEO. Mr Korati replaces Alok Gupta, managing director and CEO, who resigned for personal reasons. Mr Gupta’s resignation has been accepted by the Board of Axis Private Equity.
Mr Korati joined Axis Private Equity in June, 2007 and is currently an executive director of the company. He has been actively involved in the strategic and investment decisions of the company. Axis Private Equity will continue to leverage opportunities available in the infrastructure space.
Signs of the turmoil in Libya spreading to other countries in the Middle East led global markets lower
While the Indian bourses are closed today on account of a local holiday, here is a brief view of the global markets. Markets in the US were pulled down on Tuesday by higher oil prices which are expected to spike consumer price inflation. Markets in Asia were weighed down by concerns about increasing energy costs and were in the red in early trade on Wednesday.
The domestic market opened with decent gains on Tuesday, as investors cheered the budget proposals. Reacting to these proposals, buying by institutional investors was on the rise. Besides, positive economic indicators and firm Asian markets also supported the rally.
The Sensex opened with a gap up of 159 points at 17,982 and the Nifty opened at 5,382, a gap up of 49 points. The market never looked back and kept rising throughout the day. Eventually, the Sensex ended up 623 points (3.5%) at 18,447 and the Nifty up 189 points (3.54%) points at 5,522. Tuesday’s gain is the biggest since 28 May 2009. The gain from the three-day rally (starting 25 February 2011) has completely covered up the loss of three days of fall from 22 to 24 February 2011.
In the past three days, both the Sensex and Nifty made higher highs and higher lows, finally leading to a massive burst today. This shows that the market rally is a strong one.
Wall Street settled lower as an increase in crude prices led to the markets closing at their lowest levels in a month. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke cautioned investors that the rise in commodity prices could lead to a ‘temporary and modest increase’ in consumer price inflation. Besides, International Energy Agency chief economist Fatih Birol said that if the price of oil averages $100 a barrel this year, the US would have to spend $385 billion on oil imports—nearly $80 billion more than it did last year. Concerns of the turmoil in Libya spreading to other countries in the region renewed worries about the pace of economic growth.
The Dow tanked 169.38 points (1.39%) at 12,056.96. The S&P 500 declined 21.04 points (1.59%) to 1,306.18 and the Nasdaq fell 44.86 points (1.61%) to 2,737.41.
Markets in Asia were in the red in early trade on Wednesday on concerns that the increase in oil prices could threaten growth in the export-oriented nations in the region. Besides, signs of the political turmoil in Libya spreading to other Middle East countries also kept investors guarded.
The Shanghai Composite declined 0.50%, the Hang Seng tumbled 1.71%, the Jakarta Composite fell 0.72%, the KLSE Composite was down 0.45%, the Nikkei 225 tanked 1.58%, the Straits Times shaved off 0.99%, the Seoul Composite fell 0.47% and the Taiwan Weighted was 0.59% lower in early trade.
Oil advanced for a second day in New York amid speculation that turmoil in the Middle East may spread from Libya to Iran, the second-largest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Crude for April delivery rose to $100.69 on Tuesday before settling $2.66, or 2.7%, higher at $99.63. Prices are up 26% from a year ago.
Brent crude for April settlement advanced $3.62, or 3.2%, to $115.42 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange yesterday, the highest since 27 August 2008.
Back home, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday exuded confidence that the fiscal deficit target of 4.6% of the GDP for 2011-12 would be achieved. He said the government spent Rs50,000 crore on social projects during the current fiscal as it received revenues from sale of spectrum.
In his Budget presentation for 2011-12, Mr Mukherjee had proposed to reduce the fiscal deficit to 4.6% in the next fiscal from 5.3% of the gross domestic product (GDP) this year.