India set to pay $1.4 bn Iran oil dues

Indian refiners have got the green light to prepare to pay Iran $1.4 billion in oil dues, two sources with knowledge of the issue said, in one of the first signs that last month’s nuclear deal is helping Tehran unlock frozen funds.

The landmark nuclear deal between Iran and six major world powers was struck on July 14 and sanctions could begin to be removed later this year if UN inspectors confirm Tehran is complying with its provisions.

Finance Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi asked refiners this month to prepare to pay Tehran two installment of $700 million, part of the money owed for oil imports, said the sources, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.

Iran is desperate for funds and investment to help its economy, crippled by decades of sanction.

Mehrishi last month led a delegation of officials from the Reserve Bank of India and state-run UCO Bank to Tehran to discuss oil payments.

The exact timing of the payments is unclear since the Finance Ministry is seeking clearance from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Department of Treasury to go ahead, one of the sources said.

The office of India’s finance secretary did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Release of some frozen dues allowed

The US Treasury said it did not comment specifically on countries or institutions involved in payments.

But in a statement said: “The US government has committed to render non-sanctionable the release in instalments of certain Iranian restricted funds held overseas in an amount consistent with instalments provided under previous JPOA relief periods.”

JPOA, or Joint Plan of Action, refers to an interim nuclear pact.

The Indian payments are likely to be conducted using a mechanism based on a series of back-to-back transactions in different currencies that are initially channelled through the Reserve Bank of India, the sources said.

Iran would eventually get the payment in dirhams from the United Arab Emirates’ central bank.

India is Iran’s biggest oil client after China, though New Delhi has reduced purchases under pressure from sanctions and Tehran has slipped to the seventh biggest supplier from the second before sanctions.

Indian refiners Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd Essar Oil, Indian Oil Corp, Hindustan Petroleum Corp and HPCL-Mittal Energy Ltd together owe Iran more than $6.5 billion.

This represents just over half of the bill for crude bought since February 2013, when a route to pay for Iranian oil through Turkey’s Halkbank was stopped.

Under an interim nuclear deal in November 2013, some of Iran’s blocked funds were released by Asian buyers, including India.

Indian companies have deposited 45 percent of their oil payments in a rupee-denominated account at an Indian state bank that Iran is allowed to use to buy goods not covered by sanctions such as food and medicines.

About Rs. 17,000 crore ($2.62 billion) are in Iran’s account with UCO Bank.

Source: TBH

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Indian archers in gold medal hunt at World Cup – Stage 3

Indian mixed recurve team of Mangal Singh Champia and Deepika Kumari stormed into the final to assure themselves a medal in the Archery World Cup – Stage 3 on Wednesday.

Indian archers in gold medal hunt at World Cup - Stage 3
The third seeded duo took a commanding 4-0 lead before wrapping the issue in the drawn fourth end against the second seeded French pair of Jean-Charles Valladont and Sophie Planeix 5-3 in the semifinals.

They will take on lower-ranked Mexican pair of Juan Rene Serrano and Aida Roman in the final on Sunday.

In the quarters, the Indian duo fresh from earning India quota berths for the Rio Olympics faced a stiff challenge from Spanish before ousting them 5-4 in the shoot off (20-15).

The duo were stretched in the last 16 which too went till the wire before Champia and Deepika sealed the issue 5-4 in the shootoff (19-17).

Meanwhile, Deepika got a bye into the last 32 after qualifying as a second seed behind Aida in the qualifications, while her teammates Laxmirani Majhi and Rimil Buriuly will have to battle it out in the last 48 after being ranked 33rd and 32nd respectively.

Deepika’s brilliant score in the qualification also ensured India a second seed as they will face lowly ranked Poland who qualified as 15th in the draw of team event.

Source: TOI

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Oil Prices Steady After US Stock Draw, but China Outlook Drags

Brent crude prices pared gains on Thursday as the market weighed a burst of optimistic news on demand against the global overhang of physical oil.

A customer prepares to fill the tank of her car at a fuel station in Sint Pieters Leeuw December 5, 2014.  REUTERS/Yves Herman

U.S. stockpiles of crude and gasoline fell last week, data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed on Wednesday, bolstering sentiment about the U.S. market.

But U.S. crude futures turned negative as problems with a major refinery in the U.S. Midwest cast doubt on the country’s ability to process its own crude oil.

Benchmark North Sea Brent crude oil LCOc1 was trading 20 cents higher at $49.86 a barrel at 1148 GMT after hitting a high of $50.39.

U.S. crude CLc1 was down by 20 cents at $43.10 per barrel.

Some market analysts were doubtful that Brent, which has fallen nearly 30 percent in the past three months, could hold on to its recent gains.

“This is short-term support …there is still excess in oil production,” said Abhishek Deshpande, lead oil market analyst at Natixis. “Once we are past the demand spikes and post-August high it will come under pressure again.”

Traders said early signs of falling U.S. oil production had been supportive for prices, but bearish signs came into focus on Thursday.

OPEC’s second largest producer, Iraq plans to export near-record volumes of Basra crude in September, adding to an already oversupplied market.

The problems that took out BP’s 165,000-barrel-per-day Whiting, Indiana, refinery have even raised concerns that the U.S. oil storage hub at Cushing, Oklahoma, could fill in the coming months.

“The BP mishap could result in a backup in inventories in both Patoka and Cushing and result in a build in Cushing crude oil inventories in the coming weeks,” said Dominick Chirichella, a U.S.-based consultant.

Additionally, while the International Energy Agency said on Wednesday that it expects 2015 demand growth to hit a five-year high, China’s shaky economic growth, and recent moves by Beijing to devalue its currency, cast doubt on its potential oil consumption.

China’s implied oil demand fell in July from the previous month amid a drop in vehicle sales that could mute growth further in the second half of 2015.

“All is not well with the Chinese economy,” Howie Lee of Phillip Futures told Reuters Global Oil Forum.

“There is so much pessimism attached to this move (yuan devaluation). For China to start a fresh currency war… smacks of desperation.”

Falling margins at Asian refineries have led Chinese and Korean refiners to cut production, thus lowering their demand for crude oil.

Source: Reuters

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Arun Jaitley Says Government Determined to Meet GST Deadline

File Photo: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley

The government is determined to implement the proposed goods and services tax (GST) from next April, the finance minister said hours after the latest session of parliament ended without approving the reform measure.

Arun Jaitley, however, said the government has still kept the option of reconvening the session to pass the bill.

“We have not taken any decision as yet as to when to prorogue the session,” he said.

The delay in the passage of the GST bill will make it tougher for the government to meet a self-imposed deadline of next April for its launch.

Source: NDTV

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Government offers seed, diesel subsidies to farmers hit by patchy monsoon

The government will offer subsidies on seeds and diesel to help farmers facing patchy monsoon rains in some key growing states, an official statement said on Wednesday.

Government Offers Diesel Subsidy to Farmers Hit by Patchy Monsoon
The government, which has earmarked Rs 100 crore for diesel subsidies, will also ensure subsidised seeds are available in case farmers need to plant their crops again, the statement said after a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Monsoon rains irrigate nearly half of India’s farm lands. So far, the June-September monsoon rains have been 9 per cent below a long-term average.

Fourteen states, including Bihar, Punjab, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, have received less than satisfactory rains this year.

Subsidies for seeds and diesel and a few other measures to help cushion the blow of poor monsoon would cost Rs 300 crore, said the statement.

Source: NDTV

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Govt to persist with subsidy reforms to meet fiscal deficit goal

The Finance Minister said that the macro-economic scenario has improved on the back of higher GDP growth and lower inflation.

The Government on Wednesday said it is committed to pursuing  subsidy reforms by efficient targeting of subsidies to the poor and  needy, while saving the ‘scarce financial resources’ for infrastructure  and development needs.
In his Medium-Term Expenditure Framework Statement tabled in  Parliament, finance minister Arun Jaitley said that it was essential to  gradually reduce expenditure on subsidy through reforms to meet fiscal  deficit targets but admitted that the Seventh Pay Commission award  “poses a risk”.

The outlay on salary of government employees is estimated to go up to INR 1.28 lakh crore in FY18 from INR 1 lakh crore in the current fiscal year (FY16). Separately, pension outgo is estimated to rise to INR 1.02 lakh crore in FY17 and INR 1.12 lakh crore in FY18 from INR 88,521 crore this year.

The Finance Minister said that the macro-economic scenario has improved on the back of higher GDP growth and lower inflation. “With fiscal deficit coming down, and easing of inflationary pressure, it is expected that interest rates would fall in years to come,” Jaitley said.

Source: IIL

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BSF plants four lakh saplings along Pakistan, Bangladesh borders for Independence Day

The BSF on Wednesday planted around four lakh saplings in just 30 minutes all along the Pakistan and Bangladesh borders to mark Independence Day.

Representational image. PTI

“Around 400,000 saplings were planted both in India’s eastern and northern frontiers along Bangladesh and Pakistan,” Border Security Force spokesman D.S. Bhati told IANS.

He said all BSF units and sector headquarters involved in the mass planting achieved the record in just 30 minutes — starting from 10 a.m.

“This plantation programme would also mark India’s Independence Day,” he added.

The saplings were planted as a part of BSF’s year-long golden jubilee celebrations that ends on December 1.

The BSF figures in the Limca Book of Records by planting over 309,000 saplings in 30 minutes last year. It bettered the record this year.

Concerned with global warming and climate change, the BSF launched the plantation programme on August 15, 2013 under the banner “My Earth, My Duty”.

“Since 2013, more than one and a half crore trees have been planted in the area of BSF’s command and along India’s borders with Bangladesh and Pakistan,” another BSF official said.

Source: FP

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