Sumantran joins IndiGo board

The board of directors of InterGlobe Aviation Ltd. (IndiGo) has appointed Venkataramani Sumantran as an independent director for a period of five years.

Dr. Sumantran, with experience of over 35 years, having worked in the U.S., Europe and Asia, has been an industry leader, technocrat, academic and an author. He is currently CMD of Celeris Technologies. He has expertise in multiple domains, including automotive, mobility, digital transformation, aerospace and technology.

Currently, he serves on several statutory boards and advisory boards in India, Europe and the U.S. He is also an adjunct professor at MIT-MISI.

Until 2014, he served as the executive vice-chairman of Hinduja Automotive, U.K. and vice-chairman of Ashok Leyland Ltd. Between 2001 and 2005, he was executive director of Tata Motors Ltd. and CEO of the car business where he worked closely with Ratan Tata.

He had also worked with the General Motors for 16 years starting at the R&D Centre in Detroit and subsequently as director, advanced engineering at GM-Europe. Dr. Sumantran in a statement said, “In a relatively short time, IndiGo has not only established itself as a market leader, but has also set new benchmarks in professionalism, efficiency, and customer satisfaction. I look forward to working with the Board of Directors as they propel the organisation towards a more successful flight path.”

M. Damodaran, chairman, IndiGo, said, “his intellectual prowess, analytical bent of mind, objectivity, wide-ranging experience and deep understanding of the aviation sector, will considerably strengthen the board.”

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Sun Pharma gets nod for drug trial in COVID-19 patients

DCGI approves testing of pancreatitis drug Nafamostat

Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. has announced that it has received the approval from the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) to initiate a clinical trial with Nafamostat Mesilate in COVID-19 patients.

Nafamostat is approved in Japan for improvement of acute symptoms of pancreatitis and treatment of Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation (DIC).

“A group of scientists from the University of Tokyo, Japan and Leibniz Institute for Primate Research, Germany, have recently demonstrated that Nafamostat, at very low concentrations, suppresses a protein (TMPRSS2) that the COVID-19 virus uses to enter human lung cells,” the company said in statement.

“Another group from Institut Pasteur, South Korea, also published data comparing the anti-viral efficacy of 24 drugs and Nafamostat, against SARS-CoV-2 in in-vitro studies in human lung epithelial derived cells,” the statement added.

In this research, Nafamostat was found to be the most potent drug and was able to inhibit virus entry at very low concentrations, consistent with findings from Japan and German labs, it said.

According to Sun Pharma these trials are being led by the University of Tokyo Hospital, Japan; Gyeongsang National University Hospital (South Korea); and a collaborative trial by University Hospital, Padova, Italy, University of Zurich, Switzerland and Yokohoma City University, Japan (RACONA study).

Dilip Shanghvi, Managing Director, Sun Pharma said, “Sun Pharma is constantly evaluating potential targets that can be explored for treating COVID-19 patients. Nafamostat has shown promising data against SARS-CoV-2 virus in in vitro studies conducted by three independent groups of scientists in Europe, Japan and South Korea.”

“We believe it holds promise in the treatment of COVID-19 patients,” he said.

Sun Pharma plans to initiate the clinical trials at the earliest considering the pandemic situation and urgent need for newer treatment options for Covid-19.

The company has initiated manufacturing of both, the API and the finished product of Nafamostat in India, using technology from Pola Pharma Japan which is its subsidiary.

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COVID-19: Coal supply by CIL to power sector dips 22% to 32 MT in April due to demand slump

Over 95% of CIL’s production comes from its 171 open cast mines.

The supply of coal to the power sector by state-owned Coal India has dropped 22 per cent to 31.95 million tonnes in April amid slump in the fuel demand in the country on account of COVID-19-induced lockdown.

Coal India (CIL) had supplied 40.90 million tonnes (MT) of April 2019, coal ministry said in a report.

CIL, the world’s largest coal producing company, is a major supplier of the dry fuel to the power sector in India.

The coal supply by state-owned Singareni Collieries Company Ltd (SCCL) to the power sector also dropped by 38.6% to 2.86 MT in April, from over 4.66 MT in the year-ago period, the report said.

With the power sector, a major consumer of the dry fuel, witnessing a drop in fuel consumption amid the lockdown, CIL has shifted its focus to overburden removal — the process of removing the top soil and rock to expose coal seams in its open cast mines.

The enhancement in overburden removal will enable CIL to accelerate production whenever the demand picks up and coal can be supplied to its customers at short notice.

Over 95% of CIL’s production comes from its 171 open cast mines.

The PSU removed 114.43 million cubic metres of overburden in its open cast mines in April 2020, as compared to 104.22 million cubic metres a year ago, registering an increase of 9.7%.

A Central Electricity Authority (CEA) report said that as on April 30, 2020, there were 50.89 MT of coal stocked up at the power houses in India, enough to last for 31 days.

CIL itself has a pit-head stock of about 76 MT as on April 30.

The PSU is in regular touch with its customers, especially in the southern states, and is pursuing them to increase the intake of domestic coal as a substitute for imported coal.

CIL, which accounts for over 80 per cent of domestic coal output, is eyeing one billion tonne of production by 2023-24.

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Amazon enters Indian food delivery market

The company did not elaborate further on its expansion plans in the Indian market.

Amazon India on Thursday said it is launching its food delivery operations in select parts of Bengaluru, a move that will see the e-commerce giant compete against major players like Zomato and Swiggy in the country.

Also read: Chennai’s latest food delivery app is for low budgets

The announcement by Amazon India — which has been testing the service for a few months – comes at a time when Zomato and Swiggy have announced laying off over 1,600 employees amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Customers have been telling us for some time that they would like to order prepared meals on Amazon in addition to shopping for all other essentials. This is particularly relevant in present times as they stay home safe. We also recognise that local businesses need all the help they can get,” an Amazon India spokesperson said.

The company did not elaborate further on its expansion plans in the Indian market.

The spokesperson added that Amazon Food will be launched in select Bengaluru pin codes. .

”…allowing customers to order from handpicked local restaurants and cloud kitchens that pass our high hygiene certification bar. We are adhering to the highest standards of safety to ensure our customers remain safe while having a delightful experience,” the spokesperson said.

The service will initially be available in four pin codes in Bengaluru – Mahadevapura, Marathalli, Whitefield and Bellandur covering over 100 restaurants. These include outlets like Box8, Chai point, Chaayos, Faasos, Mad Over Donuts as well as restaurants from hotel chains like Radisson and Marriott (Shao, Melange and M Cafe among others).

The orders can be placed through Amazon app but the option will currently be visible to customers in the live pin codes.

Amazon has been testing food delivery service in India among its employees for over six months.

Amazon’s entry in the food delivery space could be a major challenge for Zomato and Swiggy that occupy a majority share of the food delivery market in the country. Earlier this year, Zomato had acquired the Indian business of Uber Eats to strengthen its position in the Indian market.

However, the nationwide lockdown (which started March 25) and resulting impact on business of restaurants has forced Zomato and Swiggy to restructure their business.

In a blogpost last week, Zomato Founder and CEO Deepinder Goyal had said multiple aspects of the company’s business have changed dramatically over the last couple of months and many of these changes are expected to be permanent.

“While we continue to build a more focussed Zomato, we do not foresee having enough work for all our employees. We owe all our colleagues a challenging work environment, but we won’t be able to offer that to around 13 per cent of our workforce going forward,” he had said.

Swiggy had said the COVID-19 pandemic has “severely impacted” its core food delivery business and this will continue to be the case over the short term. It has also said it will scale down its cloud kitchen operations as well.

Interestingly, Swiggy on Thursday said it has started home delivery of alcohol in Ranchi and is in talks with various state governments to provide support with online processing and home delivery of alcohol in their states.

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Vedanta gets nod to delist

Proposal will now be put to shareholder vote; shares drop

The board of directors of Vedanta Ltd. on Monday approved a proposal to delist the company.

The nod came after it reviewed the due diligence report submitted by SBI Capital Markets. On May 12, the company received a letter from its promoter firm Vedanta Resources Ltd. to buy the public shareholding of Vedanta Ltd. at ₹87.25 per share.

Vedanta Ltd. shares dropped 2.7% to ₹89.95 on the BSE on Tuesday. The firm appointed Upendra C. Shukla, a practising company secretary, as the scrutiniser in terms of the Companies Act to conduct the process of the postal ballot.

According to proxy advisory firm Institutional Investor Advisory Services (IiAS), the delisting floor price at ₹87.25 per share is ‘unfair’ and shareholders ‘should have ideally got a base price of ₹225 per share’. However, the final offer price for the delisting proposal will be determined in the reverse book-building process.

The proposal will now be put to a shareholder vote and needs to be approved by at least 66.7% of the minority shareholders.

“The transaction is credit-positive and is a major step in the simplification of Vedanta Resources’ complex group structure of less than 100% ownership in operating subsidiaries, which has historically been a drag on its credit profile,” Moody’s Investor Service said in a report.

If successful, the transaction will provide Vedanta better access to future cash surpluses and cash of about $1.4 billion held by Vedanta Ltd. and its wholly owned subsidiary, Cairn India Holdings Ltd., as at December 2019, it added.

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OYO sees revival next quarter, seeks graded opening of hotels

Some of OYO’s hotels running at 80% occupancy: Kapoor

Softbank-backed OYO expects to see some revival in business starting next quarter, the company’s CEO for India and South Asia, Rohit Kapoor, said on Tuesday, adding that the hospitality firm’s only appeal to the government is to allow graded opening of hotels.

“My sense is that we are looking at a recovery starting in the next quarter and coming back to the pre-COVID levels, if you ask people, the range is anywhere between six and 24 months, I am more towards the six month side than the 24 month side… I don’t have any data or information which is more scientific,” Mr. Kapoor said.

Pointing out that currently hotel opening is only for specific purposes, for example, for hospital staff or for a quarantine, Mr. Kapoor said some of OYO’s hotels are running at 80% occupancy currently. “Are we seeing demand coming back, in terms of people enquiring more about ‘when are you opening up?’, ‘can I get a room here?’… that has gone up by 40-50% since May 3. But till the guidelines change, we won’t be able to cater to demand,” he said.

Mr. Kapoor was speaking during a conference to announce measures relating to post-lockdown preparedness, including checks for sanitisation, hygiene, and protective equipment and minimal-touch SOP for check-in and check-out, housekeeping and room service.

“Whatever money the government has for the sector should go to smaller players first, whether it is a small hotel owner or a travel operator… there’s a lot of distress there, especially [for] people who are leveraged. If that happens, it would ensure hotels don’t close.

“They will be able to pay salaries to staff; a positive virtuous cycle will come out of that,” he said.

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PG&E’s bankruptcy plan wins support from wildfire victims

California Gov. Newsom: PG&E’s reorganization falls short of safety requirements

Not data has been held for ransom in New Orleans cyber attack, California governor Newsom’s rejection of PG&E’s bankruptcy plan and Willis Tower makes TripAdvisor’s list of the world’s top tourist attractions in 2019. FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo with more.

Pacific Gas & Electric’s plan for getting out of bankruptcy has won overwhelming support from the victims of deadly Northern California wildfires ignited by the utility’s fraying electrical grid, despite concerns that they will be shortchanged by a $13.5 billion fund that’s supposed to cover their losses.

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The company announced the preliminary results of the vote on Monday without providing a specific tally. Those numbers are supposed to be filed with U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali by Friday.

JUDGE OKS PG&E PLAN TO PAY $19M IN FEES FROM VICTIMS FUND

The backing of the wildfire victims keeps PG&E on track to meet a June 30 deadline to emerge from bankruptcy in time to qualify for a coverage from a California wildfire insurance fund created to help protect the utility from getting into financial trouble again.

The current bankruptcy case, which began early last year, will require PG&E to pay out about $25.5 billion to cover the devastation caused by its neglect. It’s the second time in less than 20 years that PG&E has filed for bankruptcy.

The backing for PG&E’s plan isn’t a surprise, even though some of the roughly 80,000 wildfire victims had been trying to rally resistance to what they consider to be a deeply flawed plan. The misgivings mostly center on the massive debt that the utility will take on to finance the plan and uncertainties about the fluctuating value of the $6.75 billion in company stock that comprises half of the $13.5 billion promised them.

As it became apparent that the COVID-19 pandemic would drive the economy into a deep recession, PG&E’s shares plunged along with the rest of the stock market during March. That led one financial expert to estimate the PG&E stock earmarked for the wildfire victims’ trust would be worth only $4.85 billion, a nearly 30 percent markdown.

PG&E TO PLEAD GUILTY TO INVOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTER CHARGES IN DEADLY CALIFORNIA WILDFIRE

But PG&E’s stock price has rebounded in recent weeks and it’s now worth more than it was when the deal setting up the victims’ trust was struck last December. The shares surged 8 percen Monday to close at $12.27. The stock stood at $9.65 when PG&E reached its settlement the wildfire victims.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
PCG PG & E CORP. 12.27 +0.94 +8.30%

Critics of the utility’s plan also are upset because the company still hasn’t specified when the fire victims will be able to sell the shares. It now seems likely the victims will have to hold the stock through the upcoming wildfire season in Northern California, raising the specter that another calamity caused by the utility’s badly outdated equipment could cause the shares to plummet before they can cash out.

A petition signed by more than 3,100 wildfire victims recently urged Gov. Gavin Newsom to consider pushing back the deadline for qualifying for the state’s wildfire from June 30 to late August to allow for more time to revise PG&E’s plan. Newsom’s office hasn’t responded to inquiry about the plan from The Associated Press.

But the lawyers representing the wildfire victims advised their clients to vote in favor of PG&E’s plan, contending that it’s the best deal they are going to get.

PG&E still must get its plan approved by the judge supervising its case. The confirmation hearings are scheduled to begin May 27. The judge, though, has indicated he will give great weight to the wishes of the wildfire victims.

California state regulators also must approve PG&E’s plan. A vote on that is scheduled Thursday before the Public Utilities Commission.

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Hightimes Holding To Buy 13 California Dispensaries From Harvest Health

Hightimes Holding Corp, the owner of the High Times cannabis brand, has agreed to acquire thirteen California dispensaries from Harvest Health & Recreation Inc. for $80 million.

HIghtimes said it has reached a deal to acquire certain equity and assets with respect to thirteen planned and operational California dispensaries from Harvest Health.

The companies intend to close the transaction by June 30, 2020. Consummation of the transaction is subject to certain closing conditions, including the receipt of certain regulatory third-party consents.

Hightimes noted that the successful closing of the mostly stock-based transaction will enable it to enter the retail sector and become one of the largest branded cannabis retailers in California overnight. The company plans to fully convert the cannabis retail stores in to High Times destinations.

Separately, Tempe, Arizona-based Harvest Health said it is selling the portfolio of California dispensaries for a total consideration that includes up to $5 million in cash, $7.5 million as a one-year promissory note with 10 percent interest, and $67.5 million in Series A preferred stock issued by High Times.

Harvest Health will retain select retail dispensaries and licenses for potential retail locations in California, following completion of this transaction.

According to Harvest Health, the sale will enable it to focus on optimizing operations and expanding assets in core markets such as Arizona, Florida, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, while retaining a smaller retail presence in California.

“This transaction allows Harvest to invest in one of the most iconic brands in the industry. As one of the pioneers of the regulated cannabis ecosystem, we have always admired the work of High Times and are excited to watch the High Times brand flourish, as they poise themselves to enter the cannabis distribution and retail spaces,” said Steve White, Harvest Health’s Chief Executive Officer.

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Automakers remain stationary in April

Most companies report nil or negligible sales on account of the COVID-19 triggered lockdown

Automakers reported negligible or nil sales in the domestic market last month with the country under lockdown for all of April due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

The country’s largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki India on Friday said it made zero dispatches to dealers in the domestic market in April 2020. “This was because, in compliance with government orders, all production facilities were closed,” it said in a statement.

However, the company added that following resumption of port operations, the first export shipment of 632 units was undertaken from the Mundra port, ensuring that all guidelines for safety were followed. Likewise, Hyundai Motor India exported 1,341 units last month. “Domestic sales stood at zero amid the nationwide lockdown due to pandemic COVID-19,” Hyundai said in a statement.

Naveen Soni, senior V-P, Sales & Services at Toyota Kirloskar Motor noted that the COVID crisis exacerbated the already prevalent pressures on the automobile industry, but that the challenges this time were multi-dimensional. While Mr. Soni said the lockdown was absolutely necessary, the unavoidable side effect had been the adverse impact on economic activity.

Homegrown auto major Mahindra & Mahindra said it exported 733 units last month. Veejay Nakra, CEO, Automotive Division, Mahindra & Mahindra said, “We are hopeful that our dealerships will open soon and have stocks to cover the first few weeks of sale.”

Meanwhile, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd.’s Farm Equipment Sector said its tractor sales stood at 4,716 units in the domestic market, while exports were 56 units.

Its president Hemant Sikka said “The extension of the national lockdown impacted the business, with dealers partially open for just a few days. Going forward, several positive factors, including a good rabi output, opening of procurement centres by the government, indication of good crop prices, reservoir levels etc., augur well for tractor demand.”

“However, the rate of improvement will depend on how quickly the on-ground sales operations, including the start of NBFCs, are normalised, following the relaxation of the lockdown.”

MG Motor India also saw zero sales as showrooms remained closed. The company, which has begun operations and manufacturing on a small scale at its facility in Halol, expressed hope that the production will ramp up in the month of May.

VE Commercial Vehicles said due to the halt in operations, it sold a total of 85 units in the domestic and export markets for April 2020, while Royal Enfield posted sales of 91 units.

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Cresco Labs Q4 Loss Widens; Terminates Acquisition Of Tryke Companies

Cresco Labs Inc. on Monday reported a net loss for the fourth quarter that widened from last year as higher costs and expenses offset strong revenue growth.

The multi-state cannabis operator also said it has reached a mutual agreement to terminate the acquisition of Tryke Companies LLC. In September 2019, Cresco Labs had announced a deal to acquire Las Vegas-based seed-to-sale cannabis company Tryke Companies for $282.5 million.

Cresco Labs’ fourth-quarter net loss widened to $45.22 million from $4.41 million in the prior-year period.

The latest quarter’s results included acquisition and other non-core costs of $7.2 million, $4.1 million related to share-based incentive compensation, $3.4 million in expansion, relaunch and rebranding costs, and $1.3 million fair value mark-up on acquired inventory.

However, revenue for the quarter more than doubled to $41.38 million from $16.96 million in the year-ago period, driven by Cresco Labs’ expansion into new markets and continued growth in the states where the company operates.

Cresco Labs said it has terminated the agreement to purchase all outstanding equity of Tryke Companies, noting that its capital allocation strategy has adapted due to several recent changing dynamics.

According to the company, its acquisition of Tryke was impacted by regulatory delays, a decline in capital markets, and COVID-19, which brought additional risk to this transaction.

However, Cresco Labs noted that terminating the acquisition puts it in a position to better manage any potential future implications from COVID-19 and also take advantage of the current macro environment.

Cresco Labs said it has agreed to pay equity valued at $1.25 million as total consideration for the termination of the agreement. With the termination of the deal, the company noted that it has no outstanding acquisitions or major capex obligations, leaving its balance sheet unencumbered.

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