Raj Thackeray Slashes Out At BJP, Shiv Sena, Says “PM Modi- Amit Shah Rule Ending Soon”

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray carried out a rally in Mumbai as part of his series of rallies which have turned into take downs and fact checks of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah. The new big thing this time was, he named his cousin Uddhav Thackeray, something he has avoided until now. 

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani has endorsed Congress candidate Milind Deora for the South Mumbai constituency where Mr Deora is pitted against sitting MP, Shiv Sena’s Arvind Sawant.

“Even though Uddhav Thackeray is close to Mukesh Ambani, he has endorsed Milind Deora,” Raj Thackeray said in a dig at his cousin, who heads the Shiv Sena, the alliance partner of the BJP in Maharashtra. “This is a message. Modi and Amit Shah’s rule is ending soon,” Raj Thackeray added.

Hitting out at the BJP for accusing him of taking orders from Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, Raj Thackeray did exactly that he has been doing over the last few days in a series of rallies across the state. First, he played out a sound bite of the Prime Minister during the 2014 elections saying, “The uncle-nephew duo will be uprooted from Baramati (Sharad Pawar’s bastion).”

Seconds later he played out another sound bite, months after the election, where the Prime Minister is heard praising Mr Pawar profusely. PM Modi says, “I have no qualms admitting that I have learnt a lot in politics from Sharad Pawar.”

Suggesting that Raj Thackeray was taking orders from NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had said, “Raj Thackeray was dancing at others’ weddings,” referring to his rallies which have been designed to attack the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo and indirectly help the Congress-NCP opposition in the state. Raj Thackeray’s own party, the MNS, has not fielded a single candidate in this election.

Raj Thackeray also fact checked another post on a pro-Narendra Modi Facebook page that talked about how the Prime Minister’s policies have been bringing relief to several families. Soon after showing the image on the electronic screen, Raj Thackeray, invited the family whose picture had been used on stage and accused the BJP of spreading lies on social media.

Whether Raj Thackeray’s rallies have actually helped the Opposition or not will be clear after the elections but with at least four more rallies scheduled, Raj Thackeray is going all out in his attack before polling in Mumbai and surrounding areas in Phase 4 on April 29. Voting across Maharashtra will conclude on April 29.

BJP Denies Ticket To Udit Raj For North West Delhi Seat, Joins Congress

Known Dalit leader Udit Raj was recently denied ticket by the BJP in the Lok Sabha election has joined the Congress party on Wednesday. 

Raj was the former Member of Parliament from North West Delhi. He said on Tuesday that he will resign from the party if he was not named as the candidate from the seat in the ongoing Lok Sabha election.

The ruling party at the Centre has announced Punjabi singer Hans Raj Hans’ name for the North West Delhi seat.

“Congress President @RahulGandhi welcomes Shri Udit Raj into the Congress party,” the party tweeted on Wednesday.

Raj said on Monday that he had tried to talk to BJP chief Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi about his ticket but did not get any response. Senior party leaders, including Nitin Gadkari and Rajnath Singh, had asked him to wait, he had claimed.

In a series of tweets Tuesday morning, Udit Raj had tried to building pressure on the party for a ticket. “I am waiting for ticket if not given to me, I will do goodbye to party,” he wrote.

Raj later said while speaking to reporters that he did not know the reason why the BJP denied him a ticket.

“I trusted the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and merged my Indian Justice Party with the BJP. I now realise many smaller regional parties have benefited more by remaining independent…. I’m deeply hurt that I was not even given a chance to defend myself,” Raj said.

The BJP had fielded Udit Raj, who had joined it just before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, from North West Delhi in the last Lok Sabha election to garner the support of the Scheduled Castes voters from the seat reserved seat for the community.

Huawei P30 Lite To Go For First Sale On Amazon Tomorrow

Huawei P30 Lite will be available for its first sale on Amazon India on April 25. The mid-range P30 Lite was launched alongside the Huawei P30 Pro this month. 

Huawei P30 Lite is priced at ₹19,990 for 4GB RAM + 128GB storage model and Rs 22,990 for 6GB RAM + 128GB storage model and will be available in Midnight Black and Peacock Blue colour variants.

Huawei P30 Lite launch offers

Huawei P30 Lite can be bought with no-cost EMI offer for six months and a Rs 2,000 worth exchange offer. The phone will also come bundled with Jio data benefits of up to 2.2 TB (terabytes) along with a cashback of Rs 2,200.

The cashback can be availed in the form of 44 Jio vouchers worth Rs 50 each that can be redeemed on the Rs 198 and Rs 299 tariff plans. The cashback vouchers can be applied over the tariff packs through the MyJio app.

Huawei P30 Lite specifications

Huawei P30 Lite is powered by HiSilicon Kirin 710 processor paired with up to 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The phone features a 6.15-inch FHD+ waterdrop-style display with 2321 x 1080 resolution. It has a 3340mAh battery with support for 18W fast charging.

The phone has a triple rear camera setup that carries a 24MP primary sensor with f/1.8 aperture, an 8MP ultra-wide sensor with f/2.4 aperture and a 2MP depth sensor. The P30 Lite has a 32MP selfie camera. Instead of an in-display fingerprint sensor, the phone comes with a physical fingerprint scanner mounted at the back.

AT&T Officially Reveals Speifications, Features Of Galaxy View 2

AT&T has officially confirmed the arrival of the Galaxy View 2. The orginal Galaxy View “movable display” was launched on AT&T as well. 

However, it hasn’t confirmed price and availability details yet. It has posted a video on YouTube giving some details of specifications and features. It may soon start selling the device. 

Galaxy View 2 specs and features

The Galaxy View 2 has been designed to be a bit more compact compared to its predecessor. The original Galaxy View had an 18.4-inch display and even an integrated handle for portability. That’s not present in the new model which opts for a hinged kickstand.

Described as a 4G LTE-connected “mobile TV” in the video, the Galaxy View 2 features a 17.3-inch Full HD display. It has a dedicated TV Mode which will let users quickly access DirecTV Now, AT&T’s online TV streaming service. There are quad speakers with Dolby Atmos for a “cinematic sound” experience. It can be used in tablet mode by collapsing the kickstand. Android apps can be used in both portrait and landscape mode on this massive device.

AT&T’s NumberSync service is supported on the Galaxy View 2. It will enable users to make and receive phone calls on the device. All of this is backed up by a 12,000mAh battery. The Galaxy View 2 also features 64GB of internal memory and supports external expansion up to 400GB. AT&T doesn’t mention the other technical specs but an earlier Geekbench sighting suggested that the Galaxy View 2 features an Exynos 7885 processor with 3GB of RAM.

With these Galaxy View 2 specs and features being officially revealed, it’s only a matter of time before AT&T confirms pricing and availability details as well.

Twitter Rolls Out Redesigned Desktop Layout

The microblogging site Twitter rolled out a redesigned desktop layout on Tuesday which which features a simpler, airer look. This redesign was previously available to a limited number of users through an opt-in program.

The design revamp doesn’t appear to be the same for everyone though. One layout features two columns rather than three, with a larger timeline on the left and the trending topics and who to follow features moved from the left to the right column. Still others are getting a layout with a third, static column that holds the usual tools such as notifications and messages.

A Twitter representative said the company is still testing new designs for the website.

“We’re testing a few things so people may see different versions,” a Twitter spokeswoman said. “We wanted to test out in the open to get feedback and see what people think.”

The new appearance also corrals other customizable features, some that had been made available piecemeal, including the option to change the size of your text, switch to dark mode (with a black background instead of white) and the option to choose the latest tweets first.

The changes come as Twitter continues to try to come up with new features to boost user engagement. On Tuesday, Twitter said its monthly active users increased to 330 million in the first quarter from 321 million users in the fourth quarter.

Even though Twitter warned months ago that changes were afoot, some users seemed confused by the changes Tuesday.

ED Calls Chanda Kochhar To Answer ‘Suspicious’ Questions Over Bhushan Steel, Jaypee Loans

During Chanda Kochhar’s tenure as CEO to Jaypee Group and Bhushan Steel, the loans of over ₹2,000 crore provided by ICICI Bank are under Enforcement Directorate’s scanner. ED has called her on May 3 to answer regarding “suspicious” transactions. 

Details of loans given to some corporates are submitted to the ED- the loans have since turned bad – during her tenure. 

Her husband, Deepak Kochhar, and brother-in-law have been summoned on April 30 in connection with a money laundering probe. A prevention of money laundering act (PMLA) case was registered by ED last year based on a CBI FIR where the latter alleged that Kochhar had entered into a criminal conspiracy with other accused to cheat ICICI Bank by sanctioning loans of over 3,000 crore to the Videocon group.

Now, the ED probe has been extended to all loans to corporates by ICICI Bank during Chanda Kochhar’s tenure. These include loans worth 1,000 crore each to Jaypee and to Bhushan Steel, which later turned bad. 

During searches at nine premises in Mumbai and two in Aurangabad, officials seized several documents and electronic data which may disclose a money trail. ED had also carried out searches at several premises of Kochhar, Videocon chairman Venugopal Dhoot and his associate Mahesh Pugulia on March 1 in Mumbai and Aurangabad. An income tax probe earlier revealed that after ICICI Bank extended huge loans to Dhoot’s Videocon group and the latter “invested” more than Rs 300 crore in Deepak Kochhar’s NuPower Renewables. The agencies are probing if the investment made by Dhoot was part of a quid pro quo for the line of credit he got from ICICI Bank.

Deepak Kochhar — founder director of NuPower Renewables — was asked by income tax department in April last year to give details explaining the source of Rs 325 crore his NuPower had received from two Mauritius-based entities. 

A source said the I-T department has shared details of transactions and money trail between Dhoot and Kochhar’s entities with ED to establish money laundering charges. The two Mauritius companies — First Land Holdings Ltd and DH Renewables Holdings Ltd — are under scrutiny for transactions with Kochhar’s Nu-Power Renewables. Kochhar was last year summoned by the I-T investigation to explain the source of funds in these two entities.

Debt- Ridden Air India Grounds 4 777 Wide- bodied Planes Due To Lack Of Funds

Debt- ridden Air India has asked State Bank of India to lease five Boeing 777 wide-bodied planes owned by Jet Airways. However, 19 of Air India’s own flights including at least four 777s, have been grounded for months due to lack of funds for maintenance of these planes.

An Air India official told that the airline was in the process of releasing Rs 500 crore to make these planes airworthy. “There are 19 aircraft grounded and these include Boeing 777, Boeing 787, Boeing 747 and Airbus A320s. Some of these aircraft are expected to be back in service by August,” the official said.

An official with Air India Engineering Services Ltd, the airline’s maintenance, repair and overhaul subsidiary, said the company has been cannibalising some of its new aircraft for parts to keep some of the older aircraft airworthy.

“We do not have funds to acquire parts for these planes, so we are taking them from newly delivered planes,” the official said, adding that the parts in question were small ones such as the microphone used by pilots for in-flight announcements.

In its fleet, Air India has 18 Boeing 777 aircraft, 27 Boeing 787s and four Boeing 747s. These planes are mostly used for medium and long-haul international operations. The Boeing 747 is also used for special Haj flights and for international flights of the President and Prime Minister.

The airline also operates 34 narrow-bodied Airbus A320 planes that are mostly used on domestic sectors. According to government data, Air India has inducted six aircraft into its fleet since October 2018.

On April 17, the day Jet Airways announced its temporary closure, Air India Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani wrote to SBI Chairman Rajnish Kumar that the national carrier was exploring the possibility of leasing five of its wide-bodied Boeing 777 aircraft that have been grounded and operate them to destinations such as London, Dubai and Singapore.

Jet Airways is currently under the management control of the SBI-led consortium of lenders, which has offered to offload between 32.1 per cent and 75 per cent stake to an eligible investor after evaluating all bids. So far, the lenders have received expression of interest (EoI) from four-five parties. Qualified parties would be asked to submit binding bids, and the process is expected to conclude by May 10.

Air India, which has a debt of nearly Rs 48,000 crore in its books, saw an unsuccessful stake sale process last year when the government put 76 per cent of its stake in the airline on the block. Following temporary suspension of Jet Airways, Air India has become the only Indian carrier to operate on long-haul international routes to destinations in Europe and the US.

Japan’s Softbank To But Stake In Reliance Jio

Japan- based Softbank is reportedly looking to invest $2-3 US billion in Reliance Jio as owner Mukesh Ambani looks to deleverage business by selling stakes. 

This comes on the back of reports of Saudi giant Aramco in discussions to buy a 25 per cent stake in Reliance Industries’ refining and petrochemical business for USD 10-15 billion.

“Softbank has long been seen as a potential investor in Jio,” JPMorgan said in a research report. “For the past 2 years, our conversations with investors have highlighted expectations of Softbank investing in Jio and hence the news flow is not surprising.” 

It, however, remains to be seen how much money does Softbank actually put in, what the implied equity valuation is and if the e-commerce venture is included in the Jio entity. 

It was reported that SoftBank’s Vision fund is currently undertaking due diligence to buy a stake in Jio Infocomm, which in September 2016 launched pure play fourth-generation or 4G technology-based telecom services and within a span of two years have become India’s third largest telecom company with highest monthly subscriber additions. 

Both Reliance and SoftBank spokespersons declined to comment on the matter. 

“In our view, for a meaningful de-leveraging, investors would likely want to see an equity inflow of more than USD 5 billion from a single investor or a combination of investors,” JPMorgan said valuing Jio at USD 50 billion. 

It, however, put implied equity value at USD 25 billion. Reliance Retail was valued at an implied equity value of USD 35 billion. 

“A potentially smaller equity sale, which although would establish a larger equity value of Jio, would not be seen as a meaningful positive, in our view,” it said. “We also need to see what the potential stake sale would involve. More importantly, from a stock price perspective, we believe the potential investment would have to be an equity investment in Jio and not in the proposed InviT as that would be a quasi-debt investment.” 

As of now, Jio is the carriage and content vehicle, while Reliance Retail is the offline retailer. It remains to be seen where the eventual commerce would sit – Jio or Retail, and whether it would be part of any Jio equity stake. 

“Overall, we maintain our view that while the earnings environment for the company is deteriorating with downside risks to refining and petchem (petrochemical), stock multiples would keep on moving higher on expectations of potentially large stake sales on higher than current implied equity values for the various businesses,” JPMorgan said. 

In a separate report, HSBC Global Research said RIL’s consolidated adjusted net debt has declined to USD 33.2 billion in the fourth quarter of 2018-19 that ended on March 31, from USD 42.7 billion in third quarter. 

This was a result of the restructuring of the telecom operations (Jio) by transferring control of its key assets − fibre and towers − to two separate infrastructure trusts (InvITs) along with Rs 70,000 crore (USD 10 billion) of external liabilities and part of RIL’s investments of Rs 36,600 crore (USD 5 billion). 

“RIL will monetise these investments once external investors bring capital into the InvITs in the coming months. Jio as an anchor tenant will pay rentals for using these assets. In addition, RIL expects a business case beyond Jio’s usage as other telecom operators and customers can also lease these assets and can participate in any such upside after the trusts service liabilities of Rs 1,07,000 crore,” HSBC said. 

It said investors will initially likely regard this restructuring as mainly a financing transaction to offload debt from RIL’s balance sheet, considering there is limited clarity on payments by Jio as well as any revenue upside from other customers. 

“We think deleveraging will remain a key theme, with more asset sales likely,” it said. “Strong earnings momentum, emerging signs of a strong outlook for both the telecom and retail businesses which extend beyond this decade.” 

Jio has transferred its 7 lakh route km of fibre and 1.75 lakh route km built and underdevelopment towers into two separate subsidiaries − one for the towers and one for the fiber assets. 

Control of these subsidiaries is transferred to two separate infrastructure trusts (InvIT) which will be managed by an independent party. 

RIL expects certain external investors to bring in capital into these trusts which will be further dropped down into two subsidiaries to refinance liabilities as well as pay for part of its investments into these assets, HSBC said.

ITC Files Petition In NCLT Against Hotel Leela Over ‘Oppression’ In JM ARC

After a month of Canada- based private equity player Brookfield closed a deal to buy four hotels and a property of Hotel Leelaventure, ITC, which has a 8.72 per cent stake in the hospitality firm, has filed a petition in the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), accusing the company of oppression and mismanagement.

The confectionery-to-tobacco giant, which is classified as a public shareholder in the beleaguered hotel, has also filed two applications seeking urgent hearing and the waiver of the requirement of minimum threshold of 10 per cent shareholding, Hotel Leelaventure said in its stock exchange filing.

According to sources, ITC has petitioned for cancelling the issue and allotment of 163.9 million equity shares in September 2017, which constitute 26 per cent of the issued capital of Hotel Leelaventure (Leela), to JM Financial Asset Reconstruction Company (ARC). JM Financial ARC had converted part of its loan amounting to about Rs 275 crore.

ITC has also sought the removal of Leela promoters Vivek Nair and Dinesh Nair and directors Vinay Kapadia and Vijay Sharma from the board. Further, ITC wants the appointment of an administrator to conduct and manage the affairs of Hotel Leela. 

ITC has also sought mandatory injunctions restraining Hotel Leela, its promoters, directors and JM Financial from the implementation of the decisions taken at Leela’s board meeting on March 18, where it approved the sale and transfer of assets of four hotels and one property to Brookfieldfor Rs 4,250 crore. The proposed transaction with Brookfield, according to ITC’s petiton, is skewed in favour of the promoters and JM Financial ARC and opposed to other shareholders, including itself.

The petition goes on to say the proposed transaction would have the effect of transferring a substantial part of Leela’s assets in favour of Brookfield. Of this, Rs 2,950 crore would be paid to the lenders while Rs 1,960 crore was being paid to JM Financial, and Rs 300 crore would go to the promoters.

According to the ITC petition, Leela’s revenue stream was being diverted to Brookfield and it would be left with no real business prospects while it retained large liabilities, which it would not be able to service.

ITC has sought inspection of the documents and agreements referred to in the postal ballot notice and the explanatory statement, but said it was allowed inspection of only some documents.

ITC said the promoters and JM Financial had not been identified as “related parties” and were entitled to vote in favour of the resolutions.

Proxy advisory firm SES advised shareholders to vote against the sale of Leela’s assets to Brookfield as it has not provided a valuation report on how the consideration for the slump sale was arrived at. It said there was lack of clarity on the future of the company and cast doubts over parallel transactions between the buyer and promoters. According to SES, the promoters should not cast their vote on the resolution as a good governance practice.

After the promoters and JM Financial ARC, ITC is the largest shareholder, but its shareholding has come down from 11.78 per cent in June 2017 to 8.72 per cent.

Under the Companies Act, a minimum shareholding of 10 per cent is required to file a petition for oppression and mismanagement. If the petition goes through it could lead to an injunction and a potential spanner in the works for the deal, said one corporate lawyer who declined to be named.

Executives at Leela, JM Financial and Brookfield did not respond to queries. A spokesperson from ITC said the matter was sub judice and, therefore, would not comment.

A source close to the Brookfield-Leela deal said, “While it was a done deal with Brookfield, with lenders too having no problem with it, a deal of this size would expectantly see a question or two float to the surface.” The acquisition by Brookfield is the largest for the hospitality sector in recent times.