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SBP maintains policy rate at 5.75 percent

CPEC related projects instrumental in managing overall balance-of-payments deficit, SBP

Naimat Khan

KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan on Friday announced to maintain the policy rate at 5.75 percent.

“The latest information reveals that economic activity is strong as corroborated by broad-based pick up in industrial output, gains in factors supporting production of major crops, and growth in private sector credit. This implies that the prospects of achieving 6.0 percent target of real GDP growth continue to be strong,” Pakistan’s central bank stated in a handout.

“Model-based projections for inflation and survey-based measures of inflation expectations show that in FY18 overall inflation is expected to remain well below the target of 6.0 percent”.

According to bank’s spokesman, on the fiscal front, healthy growth in tax revenue collection by FBR during Q1-FY18, 22.0 percent compared to the modest 4.5 percent during Q1-FY17, is a welcome development. Near-term balance-of-payments challenges continue to persist. However, visible improvements in export growth, notable increase in foreign direct investments and expected other financial inflows will help contain these pressures”.

A review of latest developments in the real sector show that during Q1-FY18 LSM growth has surpassed its earlier expectations as it has been recorded at 8.4 percent as compared to 1.8 percent in the corresponding period of FY17, according to SBP handout.

“This is explained by improved security conditions and power supply, transformation of fixed investment into enhancements of productive capacity on the ground, low inflation and stable interest rates. Further support comes from the continuation of CPEC projects”.

Barring any extreme seasonal events, agriculture sector is expected to perform better for the second consecutive year. This is explained by increase in both cultivated area and fertilizer off-take during the Kharif season, on-going trend of investment in mechanization, higher uptick in agricultural credit and unchanged support price for wheat at the time of its sowing.

Accordingly, demand for services is also expected to rise in FY18 given its inter-connectivity with the other two sectors. Taking all the evidence together, real GDP growth is expected to meet its target level of FY18.

Turning to inflation, CPI inflation averaged 3.5 percent during Jul-Oct FY18 – well below the annual inflation target. Higher international oil prices along with pass-through to domestic petroleum prices and the imposition of regulatory duty on non-essential import items are expected to increase inflation in the coming months.

However, while taking into account these effects, inflation is still expected to fall inside the range of 4.5-5.5 percent projected at the start of FY18. Indeed, supply side dynamics, both for food and non-food items, are improving given the gains in agricultural yields and investment in manufacturing. The current growth momentum is being translated into upward pressure in the services component of the CPI basket. Consequently, NFNE measure of core inflation remains relatively high although stable around its current level of 5.3 percent (YoY) since November FY17.

An important development in the monetary sector is a visible change in the pattern of government borrowing for budgetary financing. Instead of relying heavily on Central Bank financing like last year, Government is securing funds both from SBP and scheduled banks.

Alongside active liquidity management by the Central Bank kept the overnight repo rate close to the policy rate and is supporting the availability of credit. Indeed, the stock of credit to the private sector grew on YoY basis by Rs. 814.9 billion in October FY18 (a growth of 18.5 percent) as compared to Rs. 436.4 billion (11.0 percent growth) in the corresponding period last year. Looking into the break-up of this credit expansion, the already buoyant growth in fixed investment gained further traction at a slightly higher level relative to FY17, while both working capital loans and consumer financing showed encouraging trends. These developments are further supported by the improvement in capacity utilization of major sectors which indicates growing demand.

The current account deficit widened to US$ 5.0 billion during Jul-Oct FY18 as compared to US$ 2.3 billion during the corresponding period in FY17. Delving deeper, Pakistan’s exports have seen an improvement during Jul-Oct FY18, growing at 11.3 percent as compared to the decline of 3.1 percent in the comparable period last year.

Similarly, remittances recorded a modest increase of 2.3 percent during Jul-Oct FY18. Nonetheless, the impact of these positive developments on the overall current account was more than offset by growth in imports on account of rising domestic demand for consumption as well as investment and due to recent rise in international oil prices. However, the introduction of regulatory duties is expected to help curb some growth in imports during the coming months.

Finally, the financial account perspective shows that FDI inflows have risen, reaching US$ 940 million by the end of October FY18 as compared to US$ 539 million during the same period last year, indicating improving sentiments regarding the economy.

Despite this positive development, SBP’s foreign exchange reserves stand at US$ 13.5 billion on November 17, 2017 down from US$ 16.1 billion at end-June 2017. Going forward, progress on CPEC related projects and other official proceeds will be instrumental in managing the overall balance-of-payments deficit.

Following detailed deliberations, the Committee has decided to maintain the policy rate at 5.75 percent, the statement reads.

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NEPRA cuts Rs.2.23 per unit in power tariff

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) Thursday approved a total Rs.2.23 per unit reduction for October under monthly fuel adjustment mechanism.

The hearing was presided over by the NEPRA chairman Brig (R) Tariq Saddozai.

Central Power Purchase Agency (CPPA) in its petition requested the  to reduce Rs 2.20 per unit for October under monthly fuel adjustment mechanism.

However, the regulator approved Rs.2.23 per unit reduction for October the relief would be given in billing of November.

The CCPA had submitted to the regulator that some 9.866 billion units were sold in October costing Rs 50.632 billion.

The average cost of electricity remained Rs 5.13 per unit against the reference fuel charges  of Rs 7.33 per unit.

The share of hydel remained at 23.96 per cent, coal 6.75 per cent, furnace oil 25.03 per cent, Gas 18.31 per cent, RLNG 14.67 per cent and nuclear 8.23 per cent.

However, the reduction would not be applicable to the consumers using less than 300 units and K-Electric.


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UBL reaches Rs.1b mark in PR e-ticketing facility

F.P. Report

KARACHI: UBL Omni has achieved a milestone of PKR 1 Billion in collections for Pakistan Railways under the country’s first-ever e-ticketing facility. UBL Omni initiated this project of providing e-ticketing facilities to Pakistan Railways customers for3 trains, in August 2016. Today this e-ticketing service isavailable for online reservation and payments for 49 trains across Pakistan.

Customers from all over Pakistan can pay against their reserved tickets through digital payment modes i.e. online payment through any Debit/Credit Card, UBL Omni Wallets and UBL Omni Dukaans.Upon successful completion of the transaction, Pakistan Railways sends a confirmatory SMS to the passengers, in which the ticket, coach, seat and CNIC numbers of the passengeralong with date and time of the train are mentioned. This SMS can be treated as a ticket.

UBL Omni is now developingan e-ticket payments system through the UBL Omni application. This will be a one window solution, where customers will login and be able to make reservations and payments to Pakistan railways without leaving the UBL Omni App.

United Bank Limited (UBL) is one of Pakistan’s largest banks in the private sector. The bank operates a network of over 45,000 customer touch-points which include 1,400 branches across Pakistan and 19 branches overseas. It was declared Pakistan’s ‘Best Bank for Corporate Finance & Capital Market Development’ at the Pakistan Banking Awards 2017. The Bank’s entity ratings are AAA/A-1+. The Bank maintains its leadership in branchless banking through UBL Omni which has an agent network of over 42,100 Dukaans. The network also boasts 1120 ATMs and 480+ Contact Centre Agents across Pakistan. With a customer base of over 4 million, it leads the banking and financial services sector in Pakistan. Customers across the world have 24/7 access to the bank via UBL’s world class Internet Banking.

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HACPL participates at A&O Honda Journalist Meeting 2017

F.P. Report

LAHORE: Honda Atlas Cars Pakistan Limited (HACPL) recently participated in Asia and Oceania (A&O) Honda Journalist Meeting 2017, the event for media from 9 countries in A&O region. held in Japan. HACPL also joined Tokyo Motor Show 2017 hosted by the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA), a recognized international show aiming bring together one of the biggest automobile brands on a single platform.

At A&O Honda Journalist Meeting, Honda shared and highlighted its 2030 vision which was unveiled earlier this year. Honda aims to realize a carbon-free society by striving to electrify two-thirds of global automobile unit sales in 2030. The vision also focused on expanding people life’s potential by utilizing various advanced technologies including robotics such as Walking Assist and UNI-CUB to provide people the joy of making their lives better. The test drive activity mainly comprised of Honda Clarity Fuel Cell Vehicle, an ultimate zero-emissions vehicle technology and Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle is anticipated to earn an all-electric driving.

Media from Pakistan also participated the interview session with Takahiro Hachigo, President & Representative Director, CEO of Honda Motor Co., Ltd. and Mr. Shinji Aoyama Chief Officer, Regional Operations (Asia & Oceania), Honda Motor Co., Ltd., and President and CEO, Asian Honda Motor Co., Ltd.

At the 45th Tokyo Motor Show 2017, Honda Motor Co., Ltd. exhibited and showcased its lineup of production, technologies, concept-model automobiles and motorcycles as well as other highlights, using its passion “to serve people worldwide with the join of expanding their life’s potential” as the booth concept showcase its products, concept cars and technologies. The event was attended by automobile experts, journalists and participants from around the world.

Following Honda’s global 2030 vision, HACPL looks forward to build a better society and a greener environment for the people to live in.


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Telenor Microfinance Bank partners with EFU Life

F.P. Report

KARACHI: Telenor Microfinance Bank has joined hands with EFU Life Assurance Ltd. to launch ‘Kamyab Mustaqbil Plus’, an enhanced version of the Bank’s existing mass market product. The signing ceremony took place at Telenor Bank’s headquarters in Karachi where executives of both organizations were present.

‘Kamyab Mustaqbil Plus’ is a Shariah-compliant term takaful plan. Offered in exchange for an affordable annual contribution, it provides takaful coverage for natural or accidental deaths as well as medical expense reimbursement in case of an accident.

“This partnership furthers our inclusion goals where we strive to provide the underserved with easy and effective access to life’s basic necessities and prepare for its uncertainties,” said Shahid Mustafa, President & CEO, Telenor Microfinance Bank while speaking at the ceremony. “With this partnership, we aim to extend the maximum possible benefits of Shariah-compliant form of insurance to Pakistanis, securing their futures and helping them better plan their lives,” he added.

Speaking on this occasion Mr. Taher G. Sachak, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of EFU Life, said, “It gives me immense pleasure to sign this agreement as it further strengthens EFU Life’s relationship with Telenor Microfinance Bank. With the launch of ‘Kamyab Mustakbil Plus’, we aim to increase our outreach to even more segments of the society. Inclusive insurance is one of the key strategic pillars of EFU Life & I am happy to witness that both organizations are working closely to enhance the financial safety net for the masses.”

‘Kamyab Mustakbil Plus’ offers highly flexible subscription plans of up to 10 units with each unit costing just Rs. 700. The plan is valid for one year from the date of premium contribution payment. All Easypaisa customers aged 18-64 can avail the product.

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MCB Bank and Isra University sign MoU

F.P. Report
LAHORE: MCB Bank, one of the largest & most innovative banks in Pakistan, has entered into an agreement with leading academic institute Isra University for fee collection and financial services.
The agreement was signed by Prof. Dr. Ghulamqadir Kazi of ISRA University, MCB Bank CIO, Mr. Faisal Ejaz Khan and Mr. Azfar Nomani, Head Retail Banking South in the presence of senior executives from both organizations. Under the agreement, MCB Bank will facilitate the University and its students, with fee collection services, digital financial products and associated financial services.
At the ceremony, Mr. Azfar Nomani, Retail Head South appraised the delegation of the Bank’s diverse product portfolio and its customer centric financial solutions. Mr. Faisal Ejaz Khan, CIO MCB, also shared with the delegation details of the Bank’s digital solutions, including its innovative Internet Banking and Mobile Banking services. Mr. Khan also spoke of the importance of digital financial services, especially with regards to the National Financial Inclusion Strategy of the SBP.
MCB Bank, is one of the Largest & most Innovative banks in Pakistan. The Bank operates a strong and vast network of over 1300 ATMs, over 1300 branches in Pakistan and 11 branches overseas. MCB Bank was awarded ‘Best Bank in Pakistan, 2016 by Euromoney & Finance Asia’ and the bank continues to maintain a strong rating of AAA/A1+. With a customer base of over 06 million, it leads the banking & financial services sector in Pakistan and Customers across the globe have 24/7 access to MCB Bank via our World Class Internet Banking.

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Gwadar to emerge on world map as major trade hub: PM

F.P. Report
GAWADAR: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi performed the ground breaking of the Rs17 billion East Bay Expressway and directed that the series of development projects for Gwadar be completed on time to ensure that the port emerges on the world map as a major trade hub.
Addressing a ceremony here, the Prime Minister said the economic-free zone would be completed this year while work on the Port project, Pakistan China Friendship Hospital, Power Plant, Gwadar Airport etc, under the Rs170 billion plan for uplift of Gwadar would also complete on time.
The Prime Minister said these infrastructure projects would go a long way in generating economic activity in the country and ensure its progress. He said the 19.5 km, six-lane expressway would ease cargo handling through road and increase connectivity with rest of the country. The project would link Gwadar Port with the Makran Coastal Highway and improve logistic transportation of import and export.
Prime Minister Abbasi said a number of power projects under the CPEC have been inaugurated and were playing a significant role in the nation building activities. He hoped the completion of the East Bay Expressway would cut short travel time between major cities. The Prime Minister said the East Bay Expressway was symbolic of the lofty Pakistan-China friendship and said the CPEC would further strengthen and deepen their strategic partnership.
Prime Minister Abbasi said these projects would transform the small fishing town to a global shipping port. He said Gwadar would soon be on world map, owing to the CPEC project.
Referring to the two main issues raised by Chief Minister Hasil Bajinjo he said work was going on to provide electricity and clean drinking water for the local residents and said it was the responsibility of the government of Pakistan to address these issues. He said in few weeks time the people would feel the difference.
Regarding the issues related to border access with Iran, he directed Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal to take cognizance of the matter and take action to facilitate the people.
He said the local people of Gwadar need to be accommodated at all levels, and be provided training, capacity building, education so that they are seamlessly integrated into the new jobs being offered. He said he was appreciative of the local boat building industry and said it was part of the local heritage and needs to be encouraged. He asked the provincial government to submit its suggestions in this regard and said the federal government would fully support the traditional trade and encourage it.
He said work on road to Khuzdar was being completed and would transform the entire landscape. He said today Gwadar was at a distance of hours and not days anymore.
He said the China Pakistan Economic Corridor was not limited to any particular province, but was for the progress and prosperity of the country and said it has the support from across the political divide. There is no opposition to the CPEC, and said difference of opinion was part of democracy. However, he said today all parties stand united for the completion of the project.
He hoped it would be a landmark project and hoped other projects at Gwadar would be completed soon.

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PTCL sets a record of blood donation in country

F.P. Report
ISLAMABAD: Safe blood supply is a challenge worldwide which makes blood donation the most precious of all donations. Unfortunately, Pakistan also appallingly suffers from a lack of blood donors. In lieu of this despondent situation, PTCL conducted a nationwide Blood Donation Drive under its “Razakaar Program” bringing together 9,726 generous donors from across the country providing thousands of deserving people a chance at survival. Hosting the largest blood donation campaign of the year, PTCL set up 100 camps across the country, extending from Khyber to Mehran, encouraging its employees, their families and community partners to lend an arm.
The drive kicked off with an ambitious target of 5,000 pints of blood. PTCL partnered with the best blood collection agencies like AFIT, Thalassemia Center and Pakistan Red Crescent Society among some other trusted sources. The astounding jump to 9,726 pints attributes to the volunteers encouraged via a series of outreach programs i.e. social media campaigns, awareness sessions, video messages and roadshows conducted across the country, defying common myths about blood donation and encouraging many first time donors. Even the ones deferred from giving, helped spread the word. The drive was formally launched by the CEO and the senior members of the management who led the drive from the front, followed by employees from all tiers of the organization including front-line staff, guards and drivers, saving countless lives.
Mazhar Hussain, Chief Human Resources Officer, PTCL said on the occasion, “Each pint of blood we have collected is going to save up to three lives and touch the lives of so many more connected to them. This milestone record was only made possible through the combined efforts of everybody involved. Key objective of this campaign is to create awareness and spirit of volunteerism in the society”
Naimat Ullah Khan, CSR Nazimabad, PTCL said on the occasion “I have lost three siblings who died fighting a battle against blood cancer. I understand the value of this lifesaving commodity. I hope my donation allows somebody to be alive and healthy and a family to be complete.”
The gracious commitment from PTCL employees has laid the foundation of a lifesaving legacy, as the company has decided to make this drive an annual thing. Their contribution has ensured a sustainable supply of blood to many deserving souls.

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PM vows to continue cooperation on CPEC projects

F.P. Report
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Tuesday said Pakistan and China share the vision of a peaceful neighbourhood and would continue to work together for the development and progress of the both Nations.
Talking to Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou who led a delegation here at the PM Office, the Prime Minister expressed resolve to further strengthen Pakistan-China strategic cooperation.
The Prime Minister expressed satisfaction at the close cooperation between Pakistan and China on all issues of bilateral importance including high-level interactions, China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), trade, security and situation in the region and Afghanistan.
He noted that projects related to CPEC, energy and infrastructure were progressing smoothly and attaining timely completion.
He emphasized the need to further intensify cooperation on other CPEC-related projects including human development and livelihood, education and health. so that the benefits of CPEC could trickle down to the common man.
The Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister, who is visiting Pakistan for the eighth round of Pakistan-China Strategic Dialogue, conveyed Prime Minister Abbasi the best regards of Premier Li.
He appreciated Pakistan’s support to China on its core issues and thanked the Prime Minister for his letter of congratulations to the Chinese leadership on the success of 19th CPC Congress.
Prime Minister Abbasi said stated that China was Pakistan’s Iron Brother and thanked the Assistant Foreign Minister for the message from Premier Li.

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Another disaster for Uber: Hackers stole data of 57 million customers


Monitoring Desk

New York: Hackers stole the personal data of 57 million customers and drivers from Uber Technologies Inc., a massive breach that the company concealed for more than a year. This week, the ride-hailing firm ousted its chief security officer and one of his deputies for their roles in keeping the hack under wraps, which included a $100,000 payment to the attackers.
Compromised data from the October 2016 attack included names, email addresses and phone numbers of 50 million Uber riders around the world, the company told Bloomberg on Tuesday. The personal information of about 7 million drivers was accessed as well, including some 600,000 U.S. driver’s license numbers. No Social Security numbers, credit card information, trip location details or other data were taken, Uber said.
At the time of the incident, Uber was negotiating with U.S. regulators investigating separate claims of privacy violations. Uber now says it had a legal obligation to report the hack to regulators and to drivers whose license numbers were taken. Instead, the company paid hackers to delete the data and keep the breach quiet. Uber said it believes the information was never used but declined to disclose the identities of the attackers.
“None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it,” Dara Khosrowshahi, who took over as chief executive officer in September, said in an emailed statement. “We are changing the way we do business.”
Now Comes the Reckoning
After Uber’s disclosure Tuesday, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman launched an investigation into the hack, his spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick said.
Hackers have successfully infiltrated numerous companies in recent years. The Uber breach, while large, is dwarfed by those at Yahoo, MySpace, Target Corp., Anthem Inc. and Equifax Inc. What’s more alarming are the extreme measures Uber took to hide the attack. The breach is the latest scandal Khosrowshahi inherits from his predecessor, Travis Kalanick.

Courtesy: Bloomberg