Arun Jaitley : It would take 3 months time for GST’s real effect
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Arun Jaitley : It would take 3 months time for GST’s real effect

Calling GST a win-win deal, finance minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday said the new tax regime will smoothen business operations, augment revenue and end 'inspector raj' while eventually bringing down prices for the common man. Speaking at the BJP parliamentary party meeting, Jaitley said prices of goods had come down between 4-8% since the rollout of GST from July 1. He said the real effect could be felt after three months.
The FM said there was no longer 'tax on tax'' and transport of goods across the country has been going on unhindered now. "More than one crore firms will be migrating to the new tax regime against around 80 lakh companies earlier," he said. Jaitley allayed fears of the MPs saying the new tax regime will be more beneficial for the states.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj separately briefed party MPs on recent foreign visits of PM Narendra Modi and said no Indian PM had ever received the kind of welcome in the US like Modi did (from President Donald Trump). Sushma Swaraj gave a detailed presentation on recent visit of Modi to the US and Israel as she termed the visits as one of the most successful since heads of both the countries offered a warm welcome to the visiting PM.
Congestion and pollution in Delhi is causing a loss of Rs 60,000 crore annually
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Congestion and pollution in Delhi is causing a loss of Rs 60,000 crore annually

Delhi has been losing Rs 60,000 crore annually due to increasing congestion, pollution in the city and this could go up to Rs 98,000 crore by 2030 if immediate steps are not taken to address the situation, says a report released by cab aggregator Uber on Wednesday. The report, which was released by the company to mark the launch of its 'Decongest India' campaign in Delhi, also says that the average time spent on the roads in Delhi has doubled over the last six years, as the speed of traffic has gone down by half. "As of 2016, people living in Delhi spent 3.43 hours on the road for a distance of 40 km, in comparison to 1.36 hours in 2011," the report adds. Uber's campaign, 'Decongest India', is a nationwide effort to identify and curb causes of congestion, starting with New Delhi. As a part of this campaign the company will be focusing on driving data-backed conversations on solving congestion across Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Bangalore in the coming days. The campaign's inaugural leg in New Delhi was announced in the presence of Manish Sisodia, Deputy Chief Minister, Delhi and Manoj Tiwari, MP, North East Delhi with the launch of the report "Moving Delhi Forward: The Case for Decongestion" "With the launch of Decongest India, we are hoping to draw the attention of policymakers on how cars can be part of the solution - rather than the problem. The first leg of the campaign is focused on Delhi,  clearly one of the most polluted and congested cities," said Uber's Head of Public Policy for Uber India & South Asia Shweta Rajpal Kohli. The company informed that through targeted conversations and data sharing with relevant stakeholders across government, media and civil society, 'Decongest India' aims to draw attention to incentivising car pooling, reducing dependency on parking, developing credible, affordable alternatives to private car ownership and complementing public transport by providing affordable and reliable mobility options that help cover the last mile. The company also revealed some interesting data points related to its ride-sharing service UberPOOL. Here are some of them.
  • More than 30 per cent of total trips in Delhi are POOL trips.
  • Over time, UberPOOL riders in Delhi have contributed to save over 19 million kilometres driven, which equals to saving of 936 kilo-litres of fuel and cut over 22 lakh kgs of CO2 emissions.
A sharp drop in the number of Rs 2,000 notes in circulation
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A sharp drop in the number of Rs 2,000 notes in circulation

A shortage of Rs 2,000 notes in recent weeks and months has stumped bankers and ATM operators who are already grappling with cash shortage in some parts of the country due to heavy usage and hoarding. Bankers and ATM service providers say that there has been a sharp drop in the number of Rs 2,000 notes in circulation. Supply of new notes from the central bank has plummeted in recent weeks leading to speculation that it could be a deliberate strategy to restrict the flow of high-value notes in the economy."Presently we are receiving currency notes from the Reserve Bank in the denomination of Rs 500 in high-value currency," said Neeraj Vyas, chief operating officer of State Bank of India. "The 2,000 denomination notes are coming over the counters by way of recirculation." There are around 58,000 ATMs of SBI out of the 2.2 lakh deployed in the country. The country's biggest bank has also moved a step ahead of its peers to recalibrate the Rs 2,000 currency cassettes in a few of its ATMs to Rs 500 currency ones so that more cash can be stuffed inside the machines. An email sent to RBI seeking comments was not answered. But the central bank continues to pump in Rs 500 currency notes ensuring that there is no overall cash crunch which was seen during demonetisation last year. Bankers say that this could be part of the strategy of the RBI to keep a leash on the total amount of high-value currency in circulation. "While there is a definite shortfall in the supply of Rs 2,000 denomination notes, overall supply is fine as banks are giving out sufficient Rs 500 notes which is convenient for the consumer as they can get change easily for smaller currency notes," said Ravi Goyal, managing director of AGS Transact Technologies which manages around 60,000 ATMs in the country on behalf of banks. The RBI rushed to print Rs 2,000 notes immediately after demonetisation was announced in November last year and that supply may have reached a level that the central bank is not comfortable with now, bankers said. This may be a conscious strategy to curb the new supply of high-value notes and print more low-value notes like Rs 500 or even Rs 200 which may be introduced soon. "A new phenomenon that is now happening in the market is that Rs 2,000 notes are not coming in for deployment at ATMs and along with this, we see a 12% increase in the average ticket size of ATM cash withdrawals post demonetisation," said Loney Antony, managing director of Hitachi Payment Services which manages more than 50,000 ATMs in the country. Based on RBI data, Hitachi has calculated that notes in circulation with a value of Rs 100 and lower crossed Rs 4 lakh crore in May from around 2.5 lakh crore before demonetisation. The Rs 500 denomination went down to Rs 4.1 lakh crore from Rs 8.1 lakh crore in November. The Rs 2,000 denomination dipped to Rs 5.5 lakh crore in May from the Rs 1,000 denomination notes of Rs 6.4 lakh crore in November. If this calculation is correct, it clearly shows a higher number of Rs 2,000 notes in circulation compared with Rs 500 notes. "The relevant currency which has come back to be stuffed into cash dispensing machines is still less by around 25%," said Antony. "There are still problems of cash hoarding in certain regions of the country."
Antony was alluding to the fact that the currency in circulation has still not reached pre-demonetisation levels. Latest RBI data shows that the currency with the public is at Rs 14.5 lakh crore as of June 23, six months after demonetisation. This is against Rs 17 lakh crore just before the notes were recalled. Industry executives who manage ATM networks say they can stuff around Rs 25 lakh in 500 notes in a machine and another Rs 2 lakh in 100 denomination notes, which usually lasts for three to four days depending on the location of the machine. While that would help make up for some of the Rs 2,000 note shortage, it may not help in cases where cash runs out very fast due to high usage or hoarding. Vyas said that they are finding shortage of cash in cities such as Patna, Kolkata and across the Andhra-Telangana region.
Its Xiaomi’s 3rd Mi anniversary: Redmi 4A will be given away at Re 1 and various other offers !
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Its Xiaomi’s 3rd Mi anniversary: Redmi 4A will be given away at Re 1 and various other offers !

Xiaomi's annual sale and it's 3rd Mi Anniversary is back with discount on mobile phones, accessories and a wide range of products. The sale to mark the company's third anniversary will take place on July 20th and July 21st. The top highlight of the 'Back With a Bang' sale are the flash sales in which many items, including Redmi 4A, will be given away at Re 1. Other items in the flash sales are 10000mAh Mi PowerBank 2, Wi-Fi Repeater 2, VR Play, Selfie Stick-Grey. Apart from the flash sale, there is also the 'Bid To Win' Offer. To win, buyers can bid on products on an hourly basis. The only condition being that the bid should be unique and lowest for the given time-slot. The winner will get the product at the price they bid. As a part of the festival, Xiaomi is also conducting the first sale of Mi Max 2 at 10am on July 20. The device was launched at an event on Tuesday. Successor to the Mi Max, the phone continues to impress with a large screen of 6.44 inches. Apart from the screen size, even the battery of the device is a mammoth 5300mAh. The Mi Max 2 will be available with a 4GB/64GB combination at a price of Rs 16,999. All Redmi phones will also be available on sale on July 20. Redmi 4A will be available at Rs 5,999. Redmi 4 will start selling at Rs 6,999 and Redmi Note 4 will start selling at Rs 9,999. The new Redmi 4 comes with 2GB/16GB, 3GB/32GB and 4GB/64GB options at Rs 6,999, Rs 8,999 and Rs 10,999 respectively. Any buyer, who needs a good budget smartphone without sacrificing on battery and looks, should opt for the Redmi 4. The Redmi Note4 sports a bigger form factor, the internals and design language is similar to the Redmi 4. However, the device will be a better choice for power users who need an extra boost in terms of performance; the device sports the beefier Snapdragon 625. A buyer who's looking for a complete package and big form factor should opt for the Redmi Note 4. Xiaomi is also offering an ultra-budget smartphone that's priced better than Redmi 4. However, the Redmi 4A comes with a polycarbonate built but sits in the same form factor as Redmi 4. The device comes with a smaller battery than the Redmi 4 but is also priced lesser, at Rs 5,999. One who wants to stick to strict budget can go for the Redmi 4A as it doesn't sacrifice much in terms of performance.
Most-anticipated declaration: Cheap 4G phone, JioFiber, more data expected at Reliance AGM
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Most-anticipated declaration: Cheap 4G phone, JioFiber, more data expected at Reliance AGM

Reliance Jio has been drawing eyeballs since its launch in September and is most likely not going to break tradition when Reliance Industries holds its Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Friday. Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani is expected to make some crucial announcements revolving around telecom disruptor Reliance Jio which may include higher speeds and cheaper devices. Reliance AGM will be held on July 21 and the most-anticipated declaration at the event this year is the launch of a really cheap 4G feature phone, along with launch of company's broadband network JioFibre. There might be more announcements related to Jio that might surface at the annual meet. With so many things likely to happen, here's what to look out for related to Jio at the Reliance AGM: Cheapest 4G phone, ever! Internet users across India have been going gaga since pictures of what has been touted as the cheapest 4G phone were leaked earlier this month. Chairman Mukesh Ambani is likely to launch the device during the AGM. The leaked pictures show a phone in black with physical alpha-numeric keypad and a huge torch button at the centre of the direction keys - visual characteristics reminiscent of the long-gone era of feature phones. The back of the phone shows a two megapixel camera unit. The leak also suggests that the 4G VoLTE phone by Jio will come with 512MB of RAM paired with 4GB of internal storage, which is expected to be expandable up to 128GB via a microSD card. The most striking aspect of the phone is its price; some reports suggest that the handset could be priced at an unbelievable Rs 500. Even if this proves to be merely wishful thinking, the phone will most probably be priced between Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500. It would seem that the company is sourcing handsets from various manufacturers. As recent reports suggest, Reliance has roped in Indian smartphone manufacturer Intex Technologies to make the handsets in India with Reliance Jio as a vendor. However, it will not have a say in the pricing or marketing of the phone. Earlier reports stated that Reliance has contacted Foxconn to manufacture the phones. Reliance Jio's growth was exponential in the initial months of its launch but has gradually slumped. One of the biggest hurdles the company faces is the limited number of 4G-capable phones in the country. However, with Jio launching a cheap 4G handset, the number might go way beyond the existing user-base. Pay less for 4G with Jio Mukesh Ambani may announce a cut in Jio tariffs when he addresses the Reliance AGM on Friday. This will again be to expand consumer base, similar to the cheap 4g phone. Both the low-priced phone and smaller and lower tariffs are expected to complement each other. Reports also suggest that Ambani might put an end to the freebies Jio customers have been enjoying since its launch, and introduce minimum floor rates. Minimum floor price, for both data and voice calls, has been demanded by a section of incumbent telecom operators, but implementing it could mean an end to freebies in the market. This new announcement from Reliance Jio about JioFiber is expected to shake-up the broadband industry of the nation. Earlier this year, the company announced that they will be launching JioFiber in Mumbai, Delhi-NCR, Ahmedabad, Jamnagar, Surat and Vadodara for free under its JioFiber Preview Offer. Last week, a picture was posted on Reddit, showing us a glimpse of what the JioFiber plans might look like. The image shows that the company will be offering 100Mbps speed with a cap of 100GB per month at Rs 0 for 3 months. The data is free but the user will have to pay Rs 4,500 for the installation. However, even this amount can be refunded later, according to the company. One of the biggest factors with the new service will be a free-period of three months. Later when the offer period ends, the broadband service prices are expected to start at Rs 500 for 600 GB data and for 1000 GB data at 100Mbps speed subscribers would be required to pay Rs 2,000 a month.
Air India privatisation: Air India plans VRS to one third of its 40,000 employees
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Air India privatisation: Air India plans VRS to one third of its 40,000 employees

Air India is drawing up a proposal to offer voluntary buyouts to just over a third of its 40,000 employees, two government officials said, in what would be one of the largest such offers in India's state sector, as the airline slashes costs ahead of a 2018 sale. The state-owned airline has also put fleet expansion on hold, scrapping a proposal to lease eight Boeing 787 wide-body aircraft, said one of the officials, a senior Air India employee who requested anonymity as the plans are not public. Air India's board approved that proposal in April but nothing further had been done. "Nothing has been finalised but our aim is to make the strategic sale as simple as we can," the company official said, adding that any fresh investment would also be put on hold. Air India spokesman Dhananjay Kumar said the company had not offered employees voluntary buyouts. India's flag carrier is on the block after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet last month approved plans to privatize the loss-making airline by selling part or all of the company and ending decades of state support. Founded in the 1930s and known to generations of Indians for its Maharajah mascot, Air India has a complex fleet, too many staff relative to rivals and $8.5 billion in debt. Since 2012, New Delhi has injected $3.6 billion to keep it afloat. An official in Modi's office said the prime minister, under pressure to cut spending and boost basic infrastructure such as ports and roads, was in "no mood" to provide fresh monetary assistance to any loss-making public sector company. The two government sources, who are familiar with Air India's plans, said top officials in the civil aviation ministry and at Air India had been asked to present a report on how a Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) could be offered to some 15,000 of Air India's 40,000 staff, including contractors. Many of the contractors, including office staff and ground handlers, have worked for the airline for years, and would need to be given buyout offers to prevent protests from them, said the senior company official, who is involved in the airline's daily operations. Previous attempts to offload the airline have failed mainly because of the scale and complexity of Air India's problems, as well as its influential unions. If Modi can pull the privatization off it will buttress his credentials as a reformer brave enough to wade into some of the country's most intractable problems. Separately on Tuesday, Air India Chairman Ashwani Lohani sent a letter to employees assuring them the government and the airline management "would like to safeguard your genuine and valid interests", according to a copy of the letter seen by Reuters. Kumar, the company spokesman, confirmed the letter.   The government will need to convince seven trade unions to accept the plan to make the airline attractive to potential buyers, including buyouts and other efforts to slash costs. Their initial response was not positive. "The government will propose a VRS scheme and we will throw their proposal in the dustbin," said J.B. Kadian, leader of a union that represents 8,000 non-technical Air India staff. Kadian said a joint forum of unions representing Air India employees would launch an "agitation" in August if the government pursues its privatization plans. On Tuesday, dozens of members of the Air Corporations Employees' Union gathered near Delhi airport holding placards and shouting slogans opposing the privatization and demanding the airline's debt be written off, marking the first protest against the government's plan. A committee of five senior federal ministers, led by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, is expected to meet this month and begin ironing out the finer details of the privatization plan. In the meantime, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said he wanted Air India to begin cutting at all levels. Earlier this month, the airline decided to stop serving non-vegetarian meals in economy class on domestic flights in a bid to save up to 100 million rupees ($1.6 million) over 10 months. The action provoked uproar on social media and was belittled by aviation experts, who argue that Air India's management needs a massive structural overhaul, tackling thornier issues such as its fleet and staff, rather than meals. The airline is also working to reduce the time its planes spend on the ground and launching direct flights to new international destinations. In July, Air India started a direct flight to Washington and will start flying to Stockholm, Copenhagen and Los Angeles later this year. "Keeping planes in the hangar makes no sense when Air India is trying to find new sources of income. We should optimize the use of all possible resources," Raju said. "The idea is to present a robust company to potential buyers."
Leading telecom players Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular user’s bill could go up if Trai accepts their demand
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Leading telecom players Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular user’s bill could go up if Trai accepts their demand

Leading telecom players Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular on Tuesday sought an increase in the interconnection usage charge (IUC) from the current level of 14 paise per minute on the ground that terminating incoming calls from other telcos on their networks costs 30-35 paise per minute. Any increase in IUC would lead to higher mobile call rates as the charge is included in the overall tariff paid by consumers. New entrant Reliance Jio, however, came out strongly in favour not levying any charge on incoming calls. The IUC is fixed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. At present IUC of 14 paise per minute is levied on every incoming domestic call by the telecom operator receiving it. When asked if telecom operators suggested increasing mobile termination rate in the range of 30-35 paise from 14 paise levels at present, Trai chairman Sharma answered in the affirmative without naming any particular operator. Today all the major operators participated. Some operators asked for reducing it, some said keep it constant at current level. Some others said that it should be increased,'' Sharma told journalists after a day long workshop meeting with telecom operators. He said there are other charges that are part of IUC but 14 paise charge for handling domestic calls dominated the discussion during the workshop because of the high volume of calls that are subjected to these charges. He did not give any timeline for firming up the IUC recommendations but said they will be finalised soon. Airtel has said their cost of carrying incoming call is 30 paise and hence IUC should be raised so that they are able to recover their cost, said a senior industry executive who did not want to be identified. Vodafone said the cost of carrying incoming calls on its network is 30 paise without taking into account the licence fees and 34 paise after including it, he disclosed. Aditya Birla group company Idea Cellular has said that cost of carrying incoming call on its network is around 30 paise as per methodology used by Trai, while as per its own calculation the cost is 35 paise per minute. The company stated that it is unable to recover its basic cost at the current IUC rates. Idea wants IUC to be raised so that telecom operators are able to recover cost of carrying load of incoming calls from other networks. Trai in a Supreme Court affidavit in 2011 had said that telecom operators should be given time till 2014 to move to bill and keep regime. Under this, operators only keep record of incoming calls on their network but don't raise any demand from other operators. The meeting comes amidst the ongoing price war between the incumbent players and new entrant Reliance Jio which has been offering free calls and data at dirt cheap rates. The established players have been forced to slash tariffs to protect their market share and as a result while some companies have plunged into a loss in recent quarters others have seen their profits plummet. The incumbent players claim that around 30% of the telecom sector earnings go to the government in taxes and levies, including spectrum usage charge and licence fees. The total debt for the sector is at around Rs 4.5 lakh crore. The government has started looking into the issue as the decline in profits will not only hit its revenue but could also lead to bad loans in the telecom sector having a cascading effect on banks.
Prices post GST is closely monitored by the Tax departments
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Prices post GST is closely monitored by the Tax departments

Tax departments across the country are keeping a close watch on prices following the July 1 rollout of the goods and services tax (GST). Makers of consumer goods and handsets, as well as some restaurant chains, have all got calls from local tax authorities seeking details of invoices before and after GST as part of the exercise. "In order to study prices under the GST, you are requested to send selling price of your top commodity... in the relevant format," read a notice sent to a company by local tax authorities in Tamil Nadu. Similar messages have been sent to companies in states such as Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Puducherry. Some have even got phone calls seeking price information, said a person aware of the development. The government is keen to prevent any spike in inflation due to GST as happened in some countries that implemented the levy. India has opted for a two-pronged solution to make sure this doesn't happen — a multi-rate GST structure and a proposed anti-profiteering agency. The GST Council has tried to ensure that items are placed in slabs that are closest to the rate at which they were taxed earlier. The levy has four tiers — 5 per cent, 12 per cent, 18 per cent and 28 per cent. Malaysia and Australia had put in place a mechanism to ensure prices didn't shoot up after the indirect tax was implemented in those countries. When industry had expressed concern that the anti-profiteering initiative may evolve into a modern-day inspector raj, it was assured that this wouldn't be the case. The government has so far maintained that the anti-profiteering provision is a deterrent and expects industry to pass on any cost reductions due to GST to consumers and not raise prices. Implicit in this was the assurance that investigations would be triggered by consumer complaints.The latest move by tax authorities comes as the anti-profiteering framework is yet to be operationalised. Experts said it would be an added complication as companies seek to comply with new tax regime. "These random enquiries by the authorities are not in line with the rules notified and lead to avoidable paperwork for companies at the time when they are trying to settle in the new tax regime," said Pratik Jain, leader, indirect taxes, PwC. "GST council should take a note of this and issue appropriate guidelines." The government is monitoring prices and the supply situation. More than 200 officials of the rank of joint secretary and additional secretary have been assigned four-five districts each to closely watch implementation. Anti-Profiteering Framework Rules empower a five-member National Anti-Profiteering Authority to order price cuts to the extent of lower taxes, impose penalties or even cancel registrations under the GST Act, effectively stopping the entity from doing business. Besides that, a standing committee of nine members, consisting of state, central and GST Council officials, will examine complaints that will be passed on to the director general, safeguards, for investigation. The proposed anti-profiteering authority will take the final call on whether a company has engaged in profiteering.
 
For Morganite Crucible, a debt-free smallcap, bull run is still on: 1,500% growth in 10 years
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For Morganite Crucible, a debt-free smallcap, bull run is still on: 1,500% growth in 10 years

Crucibles, used for melting and holding molten metal, have strengthened investors’ portfolios over the past 10 years. With a robust annualised growth in various aspects, smallcap company Morganite Crucible BSE 0.20 % (India) has seen its stock surge 1,487 per cent to Rs 1,178 till July 14, 2017 from Rs 74.25 on the same day in 2007. The increase in the company’s share price showed an investment of Rs 1 lakh in this stock 10 years back would have become over Rs 15 lakh today. In comparison, BSE benchmark Sensex has advanced nearly 110 per cent in last 10 years. The 30-share index surged to 32,020 on July 14, 2017 from 15,289 on July 17, 2007. Market experts are still bullish on the stock. Morganite Crucible (MCL) has a strong financial track record with an annualised revenue, operating profit and net profit growth of 15.70 per cent, 21.30 per cent and 30.20 per cent, respectively, over FY07-17. This is in addition to the average return on equity (RoE), return on capital employed (RoCE) and return on capital invested capital (RoIC) of 15.60 per cent, 21.30 per cent and 34.70 per cent, respectively. MCL is a debt-free company and has average cash flow yield of around 4.1 per cent.  Brokerage ICICIdirect.com estimated around 15 per cent topline growth for the company over FY17-19E. “We have a ‘buy’ recommendation on the stock with a target price of Rs 1,370,” the brokerage said in a research note.
The company is engaged in manufacture of crucible, crucible accessories, foundry consumables and allied products. MCL is a subsidiary company of the UK-based Morgan Advanced Material Company (previously known as Morgan Crucible Company).
MCL is a major manufacturer of silicon carbide and clay graphite crucibles, which are used primarily as consumables in manufacture of non-ferro alloys. These non-ferro alloys are consumed by a variety of industries like auto, industrial machinery, sanitary, electrical equipment, railways with the auto segment consuming maximum around 32 per cent of total castings.In tyre production, they are used for manufacturing zinc oxide, while in electrical equipment manufacturing, they are used for manufacturing copper alloys. “The foundry industry is vital for supporting manufacturing and related engineering sector. We believe as the ‘Make in India’ campaign gains steam and a corresponding pickup in capex of manufacturing companies, production of castings is likely to gain significant traction,” ICICIdirect said. Analysts say growth in casting production has moved hand-in-hand with growth in the auto segment. Over FY07-16, when the auto sector grew 9 per cent CAGR, production of non-ferrous castings grew 9.1 per cent CAGR. MCL is a prominent player in this segment and has been able to grow revenues 2 times over the same period at 17.4 per cent CAGR. “Going forward, we envisage auto volume growth at 9-10 per cent CAGR in FY17-19E. This will help MCL post accelerated revenue growth over FY17-19E,” ICICIdirect said. In an annual report, MCL said, “Increasing awareness and adoption of crucibles in non-ferrous induction melting will accelerate demand of our cylindrical crucibles. Few initiatives taken by company in the recent past will show significant revenue growth in over 3 to 5 years.”
WhatsApp could meet the same fate as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube in China
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WhatsApp could meet the same fate as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube in China

Netizens in China have reporter disruptions in service by Whatsapp, leading to the scare that the Facebook-owned chat app may be on its way to being entirely blocked. Several users have reported that the app is no longer properly accessible unless they use a virtual private network to send their internet traffic outside the country and around its great firewall, reports the Independent. Meanwhile, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said he had no information on the issue when asked by reporters on Tuesday. Whatsapp is known for helping those seeking a greater degree of privacy from government snooping than domestic app WeChat, which closely monitored and filtered. The development comes at a politically charged time in China, as while Chinese censors have boosted efforts to eradicate all mention of Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who died Thursday in government custody. Besides blocking Twitter, Facebook and YouTube over possible threat to national security, Chinese authorities are now turning their focus to encrypted messaging apps.