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Friday, September 20, 2019
Apple mulling 2-3 physical and an online retail store in India

Apple plans to set up up to three brick-and-mortar outlets in India besides an online store as the iPhone maker looks to further cement its position in one of the world’s largest smartphone markets.

According to sources privy to the development, Apple has conveyed to the government its plans to set up physical as well as an online store, in line with its ‘global experience’ centres for Apple-branded products.

The move comes at a time when global smartphone manufacturers have reiterated their commitment to the Indian market and are looking to significantly ramp up their manufacturing capabilities in the country.

Apple, which works with Taiwanese contract manufacturer Wistron in India, currently makes iPhone 6S and 7 here. One of the sources said Apple is looking at assembling more models in the country. Apple did not respond to a query on this issue.

FDI norm relaxation
In a major push to single-brand retail, the government last week had relaxed FDI norms, offering players more flexibility on local sourcing norms. It also did away a provision that required companies to mandatorily set up a brick-and-mortar store before getting into online retail trading.

Following the announcement, Apple had said it is keen on offering online and in-store experiences to Indian users that are at par with its global standards and aims to open its maiden retail store in India.

Possible locations
While the company has remained mum on the locations of its stores, reports suggest that Mumbai could become home to India’s maiden Apple retail store.

India is looking to galvanise smartphone manufacturing and position itself as a global hub, dishing out incentives to sweeten the deal for international brands.

Amid growing concerns around US-China trade war, India now has an opportunity to woo companies that had so far concentrated their manufacturing operations in China.

The government has been engaged in a dialogue with key players to understand their concerns and requirements.

India's mobile handset market
A recent report by industry body IAMAI had pointed out that India’s mobile manufacturing lacks scale and depth despite its ambition to become global production hub, and the country needs to “think big” by manufacturing at scale, producing high-end phones, and incentivising exports.

The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) report had also noted that the global handsets market is worth about USD 467 billion (about Rs 32 lakh crore), and this demand is being met almost entirely by China, Vietnam, South Korea and Taiwan.

The same report stated that in 2018-19, India exported mobile handsets worth USD 1.4 billion compared to USD 2.7 billion in 2012-13.

The production of mobile handsets had reached 225 million units in 2017-18 and India has the potential to manufacture one billion handsets annually, it had said. (Source:The Hindu Businessline)


Twitter CEO's hacked account sends racist tweets before being secured

‘No indication that Twitter's systems had been compromised’ The account of Twitter Inc Chief Executive Jack Dorsey was hacked on Friday afternoon, sending public tweets and retweets including racial slurs and curse words to 4 million followers before Twitter secured the account.

The social media company, co-founded by Dorsey, said the phone number associated with his account was compromised due to a security oversight by the mobile provider. “This allowed an unauthorised person to compose and send tweets via text message from the phone number. That issue is now resolved,” the company said, adding separately that there was no indication that Twitter's systems had been compromised.

One of the tweets from the hacked account said Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was innocent, while others contained derogatory comments about black people and Jews. There was also a tweet suggesting there was a bomb at Twitter's headquarters. The account posted a hashtag that was used during the apparent hacks of several YouTube stars last week.

The hack underscored potential vulnerabilities in the social media platform, which is widely used by world leaders and politicians, including US President Donald Trump. It comes at a time when social media companies are facing scrutiny over management of their networks, privacy issues and security of user data.

The offensive tweets and retweets were deleted less than an hour after the incident. Some Twitter accounts named in the compromised tweets and retweets appeared suspended on Friday.

Screenshots of the tweets appeared to show they were sent through Cloudhopper, a mobile text messaging service that Twitter acquired in 2010. Twitter did not immediately respond when asked to confirm if the hack took place via Cloudhopper.

Security researcher Brian Krebs said it appeared that Dorsey was the victim of a SIM swapping attack in which a mobile provider is tricked or otherwise convinced to transfer a victim's phone number to a SIM card controlled by someone else.

The Friday incident was not the first time that Dorsey's Twitter account has been hacked. His account was compromised in 2016 by a group that also hacked the Twitter accounts of Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Twitter shares were down less than 1 per cent in after-hours trade following the hack. (Source: The Businessline)

Google to pay out $150-200 mn over YouTube privacy claims

Privacy groups said YouTube had violated laws protecting children’s privacy by gathering data on users under the age of 13. Google will pay USD 150-200 million to settle allegations that YouTube violated a children’s privacy law while gathering data to better target its adverts, US media reports said on Friday.

The US Federal Trade Commission agreed the amount of the settlement against YouTube parent Google, which if approved by the Justice Department would be the largest settlement in a case involving children’s privacy, the New York Timesreported.

The allegations against YouTube were made by privacy groups who said the platform had violated laws protecting children’s privacy by gathering data on users under the age of 13 without obtaining permission from parents, Politico reported. The FTC is expected to announce its decision on the settlement in September, the New York Times said.

US regulators have long argued Google fails to protect children from harmful content and data collection on its YouTube platform. Advocacy group The Center for Digital Democracy said in a statement that the proposed settlement would be “woefully low” given Google’s size and revenue, and called on the FTC to “enjoin Google from committing further violations” of children’s privacy law.

Google remains the money-making engine for parent company Alphabet, with most of its revenue coming from digital ads, which accounted for USD 116 billion of the USD 136 billion the Silicon Valley-based company took in last year.

In January, France’s CNIL data watchdog slapped Google with a record 50-million-euro fine for failing to meet the EU’s tough General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force early last year. Google is appealing the fine.

Fellow US tech giant Facebook recently settled a record $5 billion fine with the US Federal Trade Commission for misusing users’ private data. (Source: The Hindu Businessline)

Ecomm may Face a Repackaging Challenge

Cos have to find alternatives to single-use plastic; govt may also make them recycle the waste they generate. Ecommerce companies such as Flipkart, Amazon and BigBasket will have to find alternatives to single-use plastic, as the government is likely to restrict its use for packaging from October 2.

The government is also thinking of ways to make ecommerce companies recycle the waste that they generate. This will, in turn, push these companies to come up with alternative packaging materials quickly.

“They (ecommerce companies) are the ones creating all this waste, so the onus of recycling it has to be put on them as well,” said environment secretary CK Mishra, without confirming whether the government was indeed proposing to ban single-use plastics. “It’s all about reduction of waste, and then, they gradually need to move towards alternative packaging.”

Last Thursday, Walmart-owned Flipkart said it had already reduced use of single-use plastic by 25% and has set a target of using 100% recycled plastic by March 2021.

The homegrown etailer has also filed for an extended producer responsibility (EPR), aiming to collect back 30% of the waste it generates in the first year.

EPR is a policy approach where producers are responsible for treating or disposing waste after the sale of products.

Several other ecommerce companies, including Amazon and Big-Basket, are also trying to reduce the use of single-use plastic. Big-Basket has stopped using them to package products in Bengaluru, which has banned the use of such plastics altogether.

“Creating alternatives for single use plastic packaging is one of the significant steps we have taken towards fulfilling our commitment to create a sustainable ecosystem. Our long-term vision is to eliminate the use of plastic and maximise the use of recycled and renewable materials,” Kalyan Krishnamurthy, group CEO of Flipkart, said in a statement last week.

Mishra said the ecommerce firms will need to create awareness among consumers, set up mechanisms for waste collection and ensure proper recycling, to hit their ambitious targets. (Source: Economic Times)

RCom Lenders may Get Only ₹10k cr Against ₹49k-cr Claims

ON THE BLOCK are spectrum, towers and fibre assets of RCom and two of its subsidiaries; telcos Airtel and Jio, tower cos, PE firms and ARCs are among the prospective bidders

The assets of Reliance Communications (RCom) and its two units, including spectrum and towers, are expected to fetch ₹9,000- ₹10,000 crore, people familiar with the matter said, likely leaving financial lenders staring at a steep haircut given their combined claims of over ₹49,000 crore.

“The initial valuation shows that the assets should fetch at least ₹9,000-₹10,000 crore, if the insolvency proceedings complete within the next few months,” said one of the people directly involved. “The value of a telecom firm’s assets, especially spectrum, shrinks with time and all approvals need to come in place for a successful sale.”

In the ongoing insolvency process for RCom and its two units — Reliance Infratel and Reliance Telecom — assets up for sale include airwaves in the 850 MHz band—to be used for 4G — in 14 of India’s 22 telecom circles, about 43,000 telecom towers and some fibre.

Those that have shown interest in the assets include mobile phone operators Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel; tower firms like ATC Telecom Infrastructure; asset-restructuring firms such as Asset Care & Reconstruction Enterprise Ltd and UV ARC; private equity firm TPG Asia VII SF Pte; and India Infrastructure Fund II.

The companies mentioned above did not respond to ET’s queries while TPG declined to comment.

As many as 53 financial lenders have raised claims of about ₹57,382 crore, of which ₹49,223.88 crore had been verified by RCom’s resolution professional (RP), Deloitte.

Top Indian financial lenders include State Bank of India with a verified exposure of over ₹4,800 crore, Bank of Baroda (over ₹2,500 crore), Syndicate Bank (over ₹1,225 crore) and Punjab National Bank (nearly ₹1,127 crore). Top overseas lenders include China Development Bank (nearly ₹9,900 crore), Exim Bank of China (over ₹3,356 crore) and Standard Chartered Bank (Mumbai and London, over ₹2,100 crore).

Another person said that the resolution professional is trying to wrap up the insolvency proceedings by mid-October.

“We are bound by confidentiality obligations and are unable to comment on client-specific matters,” said a Deloitte spokesperson in response to ET’s queries.

The person added that the companies that have expressed interest have started their due diligence into the assets, but the main stumbling block in way of the successful sale of assets as part of the overall insolvency process remains spectrum, the most valued asset.

Like Aircel, another telco that’s undergoing bankruptcy resolution, RCom is embroiled in a battle with the telecom department over ownership of spectrum in the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).

The government wants both telcos to return the airwaves, which it regards as a national asset, since they haven’t been paying fees or dues. The telcos say they bought the spectrum at auction and, since it’s within the validity period, the operators have the right to sell it to another party and repay financial lenders, many of which are state-run entities.

RCom holds the licences for 850 MHz 4G spectrum, which will expire in July 2021. Any delay will see its value drop further. Any order in favour of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will hit the asset-sale process, and thus, lenders.

In an earlier deal to sell wireless assets to Reliance Jio, which collapsed last year after it wasn’t cleared by the telecom department over unpaid dues, RCom was supposed to sell the spectrum for ₹7,300 crore.

Besides banks, operational creditors such as tower companies, equipment vendors and DoT are facing losses as well. They have claimed nearly ₹30,000 crore in dues, of which over ₹21,000 crore has been verified. For example, in the case of Aircel, the resolution plan has earmarked just about ₹16.5 crore for hundreds of operational creditors, which had claimed about ₹20,000 crore in dues. (Source: Economic Times)

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