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India signs 10-year pact to operate Chabahar Port in Iran

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New Delhi, May 13 (IANS) India on Monday signed a 10-year contract with Iran to develop and operate the Shahid Beheshti terminal at Chabahar port on Iran’s south-eastern coast.

The contract was signed in Tehran by India Ports Global Ltd (IPGL) and the Ports and Maritime Organisation of Iran in the presence Union Ports, Shipping and Waterways Minister, Sarbananda Sonowal, the Indian Embassy in Iran posted on X.

Under the agreement, government-owned IPGL will invest about $120 million while there will be an additional $250 million in financing, bringing the contract’s value to $370 million, Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development, Mehrdad Bazrpash, told journalists in Tehran,

The agreement was signed in the presence of Sarbananda Sonowal, who flew to Tehran for the crucial event amid the hectic Lok Sabha poll campaign.

Sonowal said with the signing of the agreement, the two countries have laid the foundations for India’s long-term involvement in Chabahar.

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The new pact replaces an earlier agreement signed in 2016, allowing India to operate the Shahid Beheshti terminal in Chabahar port which was ad hoc in nature and had to be renewed every year.

“Chabahar Port’s significance transcends its role as a mere conduit between India and Iran; it serves as a vital trade artery connecting India with Afghanistan and the Central Asian countries,” Sonowal said after the signing of the agreement.

“The signing of this contract will have a multiplier effect on the viability and visibility of Chabahar Port,” Sonowal said, adding, “Chabahar is not only the closest Iranian port to India, but it is also an excellent port from a nautical point of view.”

India has been developing a terminal at the port in Chabahar to transport goods to Iran, and the land-locked countries of Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. The new agreement with Iran would open a trade route between South Asia and Central Asia via Iran, bypassing Karachi and the Gwadar Port in Pakistan.

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There are plans to link the Chabahar Port with the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) that connects India with Russia via Iran, giving India access to the Central Asian region. This would be an alternative route bypassing the congested Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz sea lanes.

The development also comes at a time when China has been keen to increase its investments in ports and other coastal infrastructure in Iran.

Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister S, Jaishankar said in Mumbai that the agreement would provide the pathway for bigger investments and more linkages coming out of the seaport.

–IANS

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OYO clocks 1st-ever profit in FY24 at Rs 100 crore, says CEO Ritesh Agarwal

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New Delhi, May 30 (IANS) Ritesh Agarwal, Founder and CEO of global hospitality chain OYO Rooms, on Thursday said the company registered its first profitable financial year in 2023-24, with net profit at Rs 100 crore.

Agarwal said in a post on social media platform X that these are provisional numbers, “but the audited financials will likely be close to these”.

He said the company’s maiden net profitable financial year was at nearly Rs 100 crore.

“This was our eighth consecutive quarter of a positive EBITDA and we also have a cash balance of about Rs 1,000 crore,” Agarwal mentioned.

In his X post, Agarwal further said that the global credit rating firm Fitch has taken note of the company’s improved performance and strong cash flows, “upgrading our credit rating”.

The OYO CEO said that he sees growth ahead not just in India with emerging travel trends such as premiumisation, spiritual travel, business travel and conferences, and destination weddings but also in other key markets of Nordics, South East Asia, the US and UK.

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“FY25 will clearly be even more exciting,” said Agarwal.

Meanwhile, the hospitality major will refile its IPO papers with the markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) after refinancing its existing $450 million Term Loan B (TLB) at a lower interest rate.

With this move, the company anticipates annual savings of $8-10 million in the first year and $15-17 million thereafter.

–IANS

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Monsoon arrives simultaneously in Kerala, northeastern states

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New Delhi, May 30 (IANS) The southwest monsoon has arrived simultaneously in Kerala and the northeastern states on Thursday, two days ahead of its expected date of June 1.

“Southwest monsoon has set in over Kerala and advanced into most parts of northeast India today, May 30, 2024,” India Meteorological Department announced in a post on X.

IMD had said on Wednesday that conditions were rapidly becoming favourable for the onset of the southwest monsoon over Kerala within the next 24 hours. This was a day earlier than IMD’s first forecast for the onset of the monsoon on May 31.

The influence of Cyclone Remal is reported to have accelerated the onset of monsoon over the northeast as well.

Normally, the monsoon arrives in the northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, and Assam on June 5.

The onset of the monsoon in Kerala marks the start of India’s southwest monsoon season, which stretches from June to September, and accounts for over 70 per cent of the country’s annual rainfall.

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The monsoon plays a key role in the Indian economy as close to 50 per cent of the country’s farmland does not have any other source of irrigation. The monsoon rains are also crucial for recharging the country’s reservoirs and aquifers from which the water can be used later in the year to irrigate crops.

India has emerged as a key exporter of foodgrains but had to resort to curbing overseas shipments of sugar, rice, wheat and onions in order to increase domestic supplies and keep prices in check due to the erratic monsoon last year which hit farm production. A robust growth in the farm sector helps to keep inflation in check.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) defines average or normal rainfall as between 96 per cent and 104 per cent of a 50-year average of 87 cm (35 inches) for the June-Sept season.

Apart from supplying food, the farm sector also plays a key role in providing a demand for industrial goods such as two-wheelers, fridges and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG). An increase in agricultural production and incomes, therefore, apart from contributing directly to GDP growth also leads to an increase in industrial growth.

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–IANS

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Industry veteran Sharat Sinha appointed as CEO of Airtel Business

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New Delhi, May 30 (IANS) Telecom service provider Bharti Airtel, on Thursday, appointed Sharat Sinha as CEO of Airtel Business, with effect from June 3.

Sinha will report to Managing Director and CEO, Gopal Vittal, and will be a part of the Airtel Management Board, the company said in a statement.

“I am confident that Sinha’s broad global experience in product management and business leadership across many of the world’s leading technology companies will provide tremendous firepower to Airtel’s ambitions in rapidly growing our portfolio across connectivity and adjacencies,” said Vittal.

Sinha joins Airtel Business from Checkpoint Software Technologies, where he served as President of Asia Pacific.

He has earlier worked with tech companies like Palo Alto Networks, Cisco and VMware in various leadership roles.

“Airtel Business is a leader in the business-to-business (B2B) space offering marquee solutions to enterprises and I am delighted to join this passionate team as they continue to steer towards enhancing their leadership with future-ready technology innovations and solutions that deliver greater value to customers,” said Sinha.

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Airtel has over 500 million customers in 17 countries across South Asia and Africa.

–IANS

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RBI sees CPI inflation easing to 4.5 pc in 2024-25

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Mumbai, May 30 (IANS) The RBI has projected the country’s inflation rate, based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), at 4.5 per cent for 2024-25 in the backdrop of an above-average monsoon expected this year and easing of supply chain pressures.

“Headline inflation moderated by 1.3 percentage points on an annual average basis to 5.4 per cent in 2023-24. The easing of supply chain pressures, broad-based softening in core inflation and early indications of an above normal southwest monsoon augur well for the inflation outlook in 2024-25,” the RBI said in its annual report released on Thursday.

However, the increasing incidence of climate shocks impart considerable uncertainty to the food inflation and overall inflation outlook. Low reservoir levels, especially in the southern states and the outlook of above-normal temperatures during the initial months of 2024-25 need close monitoring, according to the report.

“The volatility in international crude oil prices, the persisting geopolitical tensions and elevated global financial market volatility also pose upward risk to the inflation trajectory. Taking into account these factors, CPI inflation for 2024-25 is projected at 4.5 per cent with risks evenly balanced,” the report states.

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The RBI has also highlighted the need to continue with the existing monetary stance to keep inflation under control.

“As the path of disinflation needs to be sustained till inflation reaches the 4 per cent target on a durable basis, the MPC (Monetary Policy Committee) in its April 2024 meeting, kept the policy repo rate unchanged at 6.50 per cent and noted that monetary policy must continue to be actively disinflationary to ensure anchoring of inflation expectations and fuller transmission. The MPC also decided to remain focused on withdrawal of accommodation to ensure that inflation progressively aligns to the target, while supporting growth,” the report observes.

The Reserve Bank said that it will remain “nimble and flexible” in its liquidity management through main and fine-tuning operations, both repo and reverse repo. It will deploy an appropriate mix of instruments to modulate frictional as well as durable liquidity to ensure that money market interest rates evolve in an orderly manner so that financial stability is preserved.

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–IANS

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Pine Labs partners Google India to enable Gift Cards integration with 'Wallet' app

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New Delhi, May 30 (IANS) Fintech company Pine Labs on Thursday announced it partnered with Google India to enable Gift Cards integration with the tech giant’s ‘Wallet’ app.

According to the company, the Gift Cards usage experience enabled by this partnership will provide ease and convenience to existing and new users and will eliminate the complexity around usage.

Google Wallet users will be able to easily store and manage their gift card journey from within the app and will be seamlessly reminded to use it when making a purchase.

“Considering the huge Android user base in the country, we anticipate a sharp jump in the usage of Gift Cards as more retailers and brands will now look to leverage it in their omnichannel strategy to expand their customer base, improve customer experience, retention, and loyalty,” Navin Chandani, President – Issuing Business, Pine Labs, said in a statement.

According to a report by Research and Markets, the Gift Cards market in India is expected to grow from $7.6 billion in 2023 to $15.7 billion by 2028.

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“The arrival of Google Wallet in India marks an important milestone in Android’s India journey, bringing innovative and convenient experiences to simplify people’s daily lives,” said Ram Papatla, GM & India Engineering Lead, Android at Google.

–IANS

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