A man reads a newspaper at the City of Santa Clarita Public Library Valencia branch in Santa Clarita, California, U.S. (Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg)  

BQuick On March 1: Top 10 News Stories In Under 10 Minutes

This is a roundup of the day’s top stories in brief.

1. Wing Commander Abhinandan's Homecoming

Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman returned to India at around 9:30 PM today. He was handed over by Pakistan authorities at the Attari-Wagah border.

  • Abhinandan will now be taken for a mandatory medical check-up.
  • The IAF pilot was captured by Pakistan after a Feb. 27 dogfight.
  • Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said they would release him as a "peace gesture" after India refused to negotiate any deal for him.
  • Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that the country will no longer be "helpless" in the face of terror, saying a 'New India' will pay back terrorists with 'interest' and that their influence has been curtailed and will be curbed further.
  • Modi also accused some opposition parties of doubting the armed forces and his government's fight against terrorism, saying their statements are helping Pakistan and harming the country.
  • Former Army Chief Bikram Singh said that the strikes in Balakot mark a change in how India deals with terrorism now.
  • The message has gone across to Pakistan that India won't accept any more “nonsense”, Singh told BloombergQuint.

Watch the visuals and follow updates about Abhinandan's return here.

Also read: India and Pakistan Are Both Losing

2. Tata Explores JLR Options

Tata Group is exploring strategic options for its Jaguar Land Rover Automotive Plc unit including a potential stake sale in the struggling luxury carmaker, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.

  • India’s biggest conglomerate is considering alternatives ranging from a minority stake sale to finding a venture partner that would jointly develop vehicles and lower costs, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.
  • The company is holding early-stage talks with potential advisers, and the deliberations may not lead to any transaction, they said.
  • Tata said there is "no truth" in rumours about divesting stake in JLR.

It is unlikely though that Tata Motors will give up control over its crown jewel.

Also read: Blame Hubris for Jaguar Land Rover's Misfire

3. Marginal Drop In GST Collections

The government's goods and services tax collections for January dropped to Rs 97,247 crore from Rs 1.02 lakh crore in December.

  • The GST collected in January, however, jumped 13.1 percent year-on-year from Rs 85,962 crore collected in January 2018.
  • The total number of GSTR-3B returns filed for the month of January by Feb. 28 marginally increased to 73.4 lakh compared to 73.3 lakh returns filed for December.

Here’s a possible explanation for why tax collected fell.

4. SEBI Tweaks Open Offer Rules

India’s market regulator disallowed discounts in preferential issues and exemption from open offer in a stake acquisition for all companies except lenders, a move that may make it tough for Etihad Airways PJSC to infuse funds in struggling Jet Airways (India) Ltd.

  • The Securities and Exchange Board of India, in its post-budget board meet today, tightened the regulations, according to a statement released by the regulator.
  • Pricing in a preferential issue during debt restructuring cannot be lower than the SEBI-mandated formula under Issue of Capital and Disclosure Requirements 2018.
  • The regulator also disallowed waiver from the obligation of making an open offer (under Substantial Acquisition of Shares and Takeovers Regulations, 2011) during debt restructuring.

Find out more about the decisions taken by the regulator at its meeting.

5. Sensex Ends Week On A High

Indian equity benchmarks ended higher for the second consecutive week.

  • The S&P BSE Sensex rose 0.54 percent this week and the NSE Nifty 50 Index ended 0.67 percent higher.
  • The 31-share index closed nearly 200 points higher today at 36,063 and the 50-stock index ended at 10,863, up 0.66 percent.
  • The market breadth was tilted in favour of buyers.
  • All the 11 sectoral gauges compiled by NSE advanced, led by the NSE Nifty Media Index’s 3.2 percent rally.

Follow the day’s trading action here.

BQuick On March 1: Top 10 News Stories In Under 10 Minutes

6. Automakers Continue To Struggle

Most large automakers saw their monthly sales either decline or remain flat in the month of February.

  • India's largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki sold 1.48 lakh units, a decline of 0.8 percent from last year.
  • Bajaj Auto Ltd.’s monthly sales rose at its slowest pace in over a year.
  • Ashok Leyland’s sales remained flat.
  • Tata Motors also noted a 3 percent fall due to weak consumer sentiment.

Catch all updates here on the auto sales blog.

7. Carlyle Picks Up SBI Life Stake

Carlyle Group said it acquired 9 percent stake in SBI Life Insurance Company Ltd. from BNP Paribas for Rs 4,600 crore.

  • BNP Paribas Cardif, a subsidiary of the France-based BNP Paribas group, sold 9.2 crore shares or 9.23 percent stake in SBI Life on the Bombay Stock Exchange, and 9 crore of those were acquired by CA Emerald Investments, an affiliate of the Carlyle Group.
  • The deal valued SBI Life at a discount of 10 percent to its Thursday closing price of Rs 580.50, according to Bloomberg
  • Following the transaction, BNP Paribas Cardif will own 12.8 percent stake in SBI Life, while SBI will remain the majority shareholder with 62.1 percent stake.

Read more about the deal here.

8. Mindtree Stake Sale Attracts Big Names

Larsen & Toubro Infotech Ltd. and Baring Private Equity Asia are the leading bidders for a major stake in Mindtree Ltd., as the Indian tech services and consulting firm’s largest shareholder seeks to sell his holding, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.

  • L&T and Baring are both offering 950 to 1,000 rupees a share and a decision may come as soon as next week, one of the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private.
  • V.G. Siddhartha, the largest shareholder in Mindtree, is selling a stake of about 20 percent that he holds through Coffee Day Enterprises and affiliated entities.
  • The deal would be valued at about Rs 3,400 crore ($480 million) at the top of the price range.

Mindtree’s management would prefer the stake not go to L&T though. Here’s why.

9. The Aadhaar Ordinance: Overruling The Supreme Court

Why is the government in such a hurry to reinstate Aadhaar provisions that were struck down as unconstitutional by the majority opinion of the Supreme Court, asks Reetika Khera.

  • If the intent of the lapsed bill is to go by, the ordinance will allow ‘voluntary’ use of Aadhaar number for authentication for KYC purposes.
  • The truth is that Aadhaar is not really about welfare.
  • Instead, it has everything to do with facilitating businesses that thrive on mining our personal data.
  • The Aadhaar project is a marriage of state and corporate power, consolidating and centralising control in their hands.

The substance of the Aadhaar ordinance and the manner in which it has been promulgated confirms those fears.

10. Spotify Is Finally In India. Can It Stand Out?

Spotify is the newest entrant, albeit late, in India’s crowded music streaming market that is yet to get people into the habit of paying.

  • The Stockholm-based company, whose service was finally made available both on web and mobile application on Tuesday, will not only be competing with its global peers such Apple Music, Google Music and Amazon Music in the country, but will also go head-on against domestic players such as JioSaavn, Airtel Wynk, Gaana, among others.
  • Spotify’s premium subscription, that offers features like offline playback and the ability to play songs on connected devices like televisions and speakers among others, are available starting at a monthly plan of Rs 119, or about $1.67, compared to $9.99 in the U.S.
  • The largest paid streaming service globally is likely to face challenges as it eyes the Indian market—getting users to pay is just one part of it.

Attracting subscribers will not be easy due to lack of tie-ups.