Tuesday, March 14, 2017

House approves amendment to Company Act

The Company Act Amendment Bill has finally been endorsed by the parliament.
The bill, which couldn’t get through the parliament on Friday due to lack of a quorum, was endorsed today. The new law is expected to simplify entry, operation and exit of companies in Nepal.
One of the key laws that could encourage prospective investors – both domestic and foreign – in Nepal, the amendment to the Company Act (2063 BS) has made things easier for companies, which are defunct for long and are looking to wind up their operations legally, according to industry minister Nabindra Raj Joshi.
The amendment has also relieved individuals and firms of liability to pay fees and fines piled up for several years. Such individuals and firms will have to pay only one per cent of their paid-up capital, according to a provision in the new law. Companies, which failed to report their operation details and pay liabilities for several years, can enjoy this facility for one time only.
“Around 50,000 defunct companies can benefit from this exit scheme,” according to the ministry.
According to the Act that has given exit chance to domestic and foreign firms in Nepal that are registered but are no longer in operation, any defunct firm can exist by paying 0.5 per cent of its paid-up capital or 0.5 per cent of due taxes that such companies owe to the government – whichever is less – in the next two years.
According to Joshi, the amendment, which started five years ago, has a number of provisions aimed at easing doing business and creating more jobs in the country.
“Apart from easy exit, the amendment has also made entry of a company easy,” Joshi said, adding that the amendments in the Company Act are expected to improve doing business environment and also attract private sector investments including foreign direct investments. "The Act has also given validity to online registration of companies and use of digital signatures."
With the introduction of online company registration three years ago, Nepal’s doing business indicator had progressed by five points.
The new law has also raised the threshold of paid-up capital of firms requiring compulsory formation of three-member auditors committee for auditing of their financial operations to Rs 100 million from existing Rs 30 million. Likewise, a firm can donate up to Rs 100,000 in a fiscal year up from Rs 50,000 in the existing law.
The legislature has also capped administrative cost of firms not distributing profit in the past year at 25 per cent of their annual expenditure. This measure is also believed to tighten screws on unscrupulous firms reporting loss by showing bloated meeting allowance and other unnecessary costs.
Similarly, the new Company Act has also increased the upper limit of number of promoters in a company from 50 to 101. The government has also introduced a provision whereby promoters of any company can participate in their annual general meeting (AGM) through video conference.

Telecommunication service providers must go public
Likewise, the new amendment has also made it mandatory for telecom companies having paid-up capital of Rs 50 million or above to float their shares to general public within the next two years. With such provision in the new law, private telecom operators will have to issue shares to the public in near future.
Except Nepal Telecom (NT), other five telecom service providers in Nepal are owned by the private sector. Among the private sector-owned telecom operators in the country, paid-up capital of United Telecom Ltd (UTL), Nepal Satellite Telecom and Ncell exceeds Rs 50 million. According to the Company Registrar Prem Kumar Shrestha, the provision is introduced for private telecom operators as they have comparatively higher direct every day linkage with the public.

Monday, March 13, 2017

NOC can import LPG from other countries

Nepal will be able to import cooking gas from countries other than India very soon.
A new clause is being inserted in the petroleum supply agreement to be signed between Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) and Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), which is due for renewal this month.
"As the demand for cooking gas has been increasing by 20 per cent annually in India, we are including a provision that allows Nepal to import liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) from other countries as well," deputy executive director of NOC Sushil Bhattarai said at a meeting of Industry, Commerce and Consumer Welfare Committee of the parliament today. He also said that the IOC has also agreed to include such provision in the agreement. "The agreement after renewal allows Nepal to import cooking gas from other countries," he added.
Nepal currently imports around 30 tonnes of LPG from India every month.
Speaking at the meeting, NOC managing director Gopal Khadka said that the draft agreement also includes a provision that allows NOC to buy crude oil and give it to Indian refinery for processing, should IOC fail to supply fuel to Nepal as per the demand. However, NOC failed to incorporate the provision of compensation, in case IOC fails to maintain the smooth supply of petroleum products like last year during the Indian blockade for nearly six months.
The parliamentarians, on the occasion, directed the NOC to include a provision of compensation in the new Supply Agreement – since it is a commercial agreement – that would require IOC to compensate NOC at times of supply disruption from the IOC side.
"The new Supply Agreement should be signed in such a manner that it ensures uninterrupted supply from IOC to Nepal even during difficult times," coordinator of sub-committee Subash Chandra Thakuri said, adding that provision of compensation in the agreement itself will compel IOC to make supply regular.
NOC had not only incurred huge financial loss – amounting to billions of rupees – due to almost six months-long disruption in supply of petroleum products to Nepal from IOC last year, but the economy also suffered.
The NOC had then also written a letter to IOC seeking compensation for the financial loss that it incurred due to fuel supply disruption. The IOC had, however, remained mum back then.
The sub-committee also directed NOC to keep enough space in the agreement that would allows NOC to sign commercial petroleum deal with other nations and import fuel from other sources at times of difficulties. "Along with IOC, NOC also should sign commercial petroleum deals with other feasible nations,” Thakuri said, directing NOC to expedite the process of signing commercial fuel deal with China.
Though NOC and PetroChina of China had signed a memorandum of understanding a year ago to engage in commercial petroleum deal, they have not been able to materialise the historic deal that would break IOC’s monopoly in petroleum supply to Nepal.
A team from IOC had visited Kathmandu last week to hold discussion with the NOC team on the new agendas that are being included in the agreement.
The existing agreement was signed in 2012.
After the Indian blockade that ran for nearly six months, NOC is under pressure to include some provisions, including allowing Nepal to import petroleum products from other countries, compensation to NOC, if IOC failed to supply petroleum products as per the demand, in the draft. But the draft has not included these provisions, despite pressure from all quarters.
Addressing the meeting, Khadka said that the draft of the new Supply Agreement with IOC has introduced a provision that allows NOC to procure fuel from third country in case IOC is unable to supply petroleum products to Nepal as per demand.
Meanwhile, Khadka said that commercial fuel trading with China and other countries is only possible through government-level agreement. "If we are to diversify our petroleum trade, the government should hold government-to-government talks with governments of different countries," he said, hoping that the visit of Prime Minister Puspa Kamal Dahal to China next week will expedite the process for Nepal-China commercial fuel trade deal.
However, NOC has included some provisions like reducing marketing charge that IOC has been levying on fuel supplied to Nepal from 2.5 per cent to 2 per cent. It is expected to reduce NOC's cost of import by more than Rs 1 billion every year.
The review meeting of Supply Agreement between IOC and NOC held last week had decided to reduce the marketing charge in the new agreement that comes into effect from April 1.
The new agreement will be in force until March 31, 2022.
The new agreement also allows Nepal to import fuel from third countries if IOC is unable to ensure regular supply of petroleum products to Nepal.
Likewise, IOC has also agreed to waive off interest levied on NOC for delay in payment. NOC makes payment to IOC twice a month, on 8th and 23rd day of every month. IOC had been slapping penalty for every day in case of delay in payments.

NATTA flays CAAN's decision to distribute bonus

Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents (NATTA) – the umbrella association of Nepali travel agents and tour operators – has opposed the decision of Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) to distribute bonus to its staffers.
Issuing a statement, NATTA has said that the decision taken by former tourism minister Jeevan Bahadur Shahi was against CAAN Act 1996, Bonus Act 1973 and Bonus Rules 1982.
The decision has thrown cold water on our hope that CAAN would spend the money collected from air passengers to expand existing airports and develop infrastructure of Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), NATTA said in its press note.
The CAAN currently collects taxes in two separate baskets. The government has authorised the CAAN to raise Rs 1,000 per passenger in airport development tax, which comes to Rs 1.70 billion annually.
In April 2013, the CAAN board authorised collection of development tax from the travellers departing from TIA to raise funds to repay its loans and finance ongoing improvement projects for a period of five years. The CAAN is authorised to spend this amount solely on development of airport infrastructure.
In addition, the CAAN collects another Rs 1,130 as passenger service charge from each international traveler, which amounts to Rs 1.80 billion a year.
However, CAAN is in the process of being split into two separate entities – service provider and regulator – which will require additional funding. It has also been upgrading Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) by acquiring a loan of $70 million from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), despite collecting millions of rupees from passengers to develop airport infrastructure.
How can the regulator that is also under debt distribute bonus is not only legal but ethical issue, the tourism sector said. "CAAN's regulation also forbids bonus distribution, if safety is compromised."
The decision to extend bonus comes at a time when the efficiency of Nepal’s aviation sector, including its human resources, has been widely questioned at national and international forums for lack of investment and training facilities. Nepal has been put in the bad books for the worst record of air safety oversight since 2009 by the UN aviation watchdog. The European Commission has also included Nepal in its air safety list for poor safety record in 2013.
NATTA has also reminded that the European Union (EU) and International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) have kept Nepali Airlines in blacklist as CAAN has not upgraded infrastructure of TIA and improved safety standards at Nepal's only international airport.
The decision has paved way for CAAN to distribute Rs 159 million to its 800 staffers. Each staff will get an average of Rs 199,062.
Meanwhile, the anti-graft body has started begin investigation on the matter.
Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has formally launched an investigation into the decision of CAAN to distribute bonus to its employees from money collected from passengers to develop airport infrastructure.
"We have seized necessary documents from the Tourism Ministry today over the decision to distribute bonus to CAAN employees,” said spokesperson of the CIAA Jib Raj Koirala
Though, the tourism ministry officials had recommended that distribution of bonus from money collected from taxpayers for development of airport infrastructure was not appropriate, the outgoing tourism minister Shahi had approved the decision to dole out bonuses. The tourism minister chairs the CAAN board.
The CAAN had decided to distribute Rs 530 million as bonus to its employees from profits earned during fiscal years 2011-12 to 2014-15.
Although the Bonus Act 1974 paves the way for organisations like the CAAN to distribute bonus from their profit, the Bonus Regulation 1983 forbids not-for-profit government-owned entities established to promote administrative, industrial, agriculture and other sectors from extending bonuses. The CAAN – as a regulator of the country's aviation sector – has been set up with the objective of ensuring safety, security and efficiency in the aviation sector. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Consumer body flays decision to hike cooking gas price

Consumer rights activists today urged the government to roll back its recent decision to hike price of cooking gas. Submitting a memorandum ot the Prime Minister Puspa Kamal Dahal at his office, National Consumers Forum (NCF) has also condemned the decision to hike price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), popularly known as cooking gas.
The forum has demanded that the government rollback the decision immediately. "The decision has hit consumers hard as the price of cooking gas has been increased twice in the past one and half months," it said in a press note. The government fuel monopoly has jacked up the price of cooking gas by Rs 25 per cylinder on Friday citing price hike in the international market.
The country is observing the World Consumer Rights Day on February 15. And the government and various organisations working for consumer rights have announced series of programmes to mark the World Consumer Rights Day.
But on one hand, the government talks about safeguarding the rights of the consumers and on the other hand it increases price of essentials like cooking gas when the World Consumer Rights Day is just around the corner, the consumer right activists blamed.
According to president of National Consumer Forum (NCF) Prem Lal Maharjan, the government should review its decision before announcing any awareness programmes targeting the World Consumer Rights Day.
He also threatened the government that consumer rights activists would boycott all government events to mark the World Consumer Rights Day, if the Supplies Ministry does not bring down the price of cooking gas as soon as possible.
As NOC has been logging profit in recent months, the decision to increase price cannot be justified,” the memorandum to the premier reads.
The forum has also argued that the intention behind increasing price of cooking gas is to fleece consumers.
Cooking gas now costs Rs 1,375 per cylinder.
The NOC had claimed that the price of cooking gas was increased because its sole supplier – Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) – increased price of the cooking gas. "NOC will suffer loss of Rs 291.50 per cylinder even after the fresh adjustment in price," according ot the corporation.
According to the new rates forwarded by IOC, the corporation would have suffered loss of Rs 313.51 per cylinder, had it not hiked the price.
NOC, however, has kept the price of diesel, petrol and kerosene unchanged. Earlier in February also the NOC had increased the price of cooking gas by Rs 25 per cylinder, citing price hike in the international market. The NOC is logging profits in sale of petrol, kerosene and aviation turbine fuel, while it is suffering loss in diesel and cooking gas, it claimed.
The corporation however has been selling petrol at a profit of Rs 1.23 per liter in March, while it has been facing loss of Rs 4.07 per liter in diesel. NOC has also claimed that it will suffer a loss of Rs 414.4 million in March.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Central bank to float foreign employment bonds worth Rs 250 million

The central bank is floating foreign employment saving bonds worth Rs 250 million from Wednesday.
On behalf of the government, we are floating the foreign employment saving bonds to pool savings of Nepalis working abroad to finance various development projects in the country, informed the central bank
These five-year securities – which will be on sale till April 6 and allotted to investors on April 12 – guarantee a return of 10 percent per annum, and interest will be paid every six months. The yield on the bond is higher than 9 percent fixed in the last fiscal year.
The return on foreign employment saving bonds was raised to match upward revisions made by banks and financial institutions on interest of deposits, and also to attract more migrant workers investment.
These securities carry zero risk and can be used as collateral to obtain loans.
The foreign employment bonds are exclusively sold to migrant Nepali workers, Non-Resident Nepalis (NRNs) and those, who has returned to Nepal from foreign employment destinations less than four months ago.
The central bank has also appointed nine commercial banks and four remittance companies as agents to sell these bonds abroad. These sales agents have contact persons in most of the countries including Australia, Bahrain, India, Israel, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the UK and the US, where large number of Nepalis is working.
The central bank has been selling foreign employment saving bonds for almost seven years to inculcate savings habit among Nepali migrant workers and pool their resources to finance various development projects in the country, but without much success.
The central bank first floated foreign employment savings bonds in July 2010. In 2010, when these bonds were first introduced, only 0.40 per cent of these were sold. The result was even worse in the next fiscal year, when only 0.07 per cent of securities floated were subscribed. However, the demand has been gradually increasing since 2013.
In the fiscal year 2014-15, some 33.5 per cent of foreign employment bonds up for grabs were sold, while subscription rate in 2015-16 hovered around 33 per cent.
Due tolow apetite of the migrant Nepali workers, central bank senior officials have been visitng some of the countries for marketing the bonds and also create awareness among the migrant Nepali workers on how to utilise their hard earned money.
"Due to lukewarm response the central bank has sent its missions to various countries including Qatar (deputy governor Chintamani Siwakoti) and South Korea (executive director Bhisma Raj Dhungana), to sensetise the foreign employment savings bonds," according to the central bank.
Another reason, according to NRNs, for lukewarm response for the bond is regular depreciation of the Nepali currency. Nepali rupee has been weakening by over 3 per cent per year vis-a-vis US dollar for the last one decade. Those working abroad see currency depreciation as a disincentive to invest in foreign employment bonds, as they have to exchange currency of the country where they are working into Nepali rupee to buy these bonds. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Cooking gas price up by Rs 25 per cylinder

Claiming that it is in loss on cooking gas, Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) has increased the price of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) by Rs 25 per cylinder.
LPG – popularly known gas cooking gas – will cost Rs 1,375 per cylinder from tonight, according to NOC spokesperson Sita Ram Pokharel.
This is the second time the NOC has raised the LPG price in the last one-and-a-half months. NOC had increased LPG price by Rs 25 per cylinder on February 2 also.
In the new price list, the sole supplier of the petroleum products to NOC – Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) – has increased LPG price by Rs 122 per cylinder. "With this adjustment in price, NOC has to bear a loss of Rs 333 on the sale of each cooking gas cylinder,” he added. "But the price increment, NOC will still suffer loss of Rs 291.50 per cylinder in a month."
The fresh upward adjustment in price has been made due to price movement in the international market, he said, adding that the corporation had to increase price of LPG after IOC increased price of the popular cooking fuel. "With the revised price, the loss has come down to Rs 288.51 per cylinder."
NOC, however, has kept the price of diesel, petrol and kerosene unchanged. The state oil monopoly is logging profits in sale of petrol, kerosene and aviation turbine fuel, while it is suffering loss in diesel and cooking gas. The corporation is making profits on other petroleum products – Rs 1.23 per litre on petrol, Rs 13.05 per litre on kerosene and Rs 13.01 per litre on aviation turbine fuel – though it claims to be incurring a loss of Rs 4.07 per litre on diesel.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Cabinet decides to recover CGT from TeliaSonera

Putting an end to a long-running controversy, the government today decided to recover capital gains tax (CGT) from the seller of GSM operator Ncell.
The cabinet meeting held today evening directed the Finance Ministry to recover CGT as per the decision of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of May 29 and Finance Committee of June 3 from the seller of Ncell, informed minister for Law and Justice Ajay Shankar Nayak.
The decision means Swedish communication firm, TeliaSonera AB which has been claiming that it did not need to pay any tax to Nepal government, now has to pay CGT to the Nepal government.
Malaysian telecom giant Axiata had bought Reynolds Holding, which held a majority stake in Ncell, from TeliaSonera at around $1.03 billion last April. Reynolds Holding was TeliaSonera’s wholly-owned subsidiary, registered at Saint Kitts and Nevis – a tax haven.
The TeliaSonera AB had sold its entire stakes in Ncell as part of its strategy to exit Asian and former Soviet markets to focus on Europe and its home Nordic region, according to the TeliaSonera.
The Swedish firm had sold a 60 per cent stake in Ncell and also dissolved its interest in an additional 20 per cent stake owned by local partner in December 2015. Ncell officially became a part of Axiata Group Bhd on April 12, 2016.
Both TeliaSonera and Axiata are public companies in their respective countries. The Nepali taxmen started an initiative to tax the transaction only after TeliaSonera exited Nepal raising lots of suspicion that the tax administration played foul by letting TeliaSonera exit the country without paying CGT to the government.
The cabinet today took the decision on the basis of directives issued by the Finance Committee and the PAC as the two parliamentary committees have been regularly asking the government to recover the CGT from the seller of Ncell. As according to the international law and domestic law, the beneficiary or the seller has to pay the CGT.
The largest transaction in Nepali corporate history has been in news – affecting Ncell’s plan to rollout 4G services – also due to some of the responsible government officials, including director general of Inland Revenue Department Chudamani Sharma, who have been saying that TeliaSonera does not need to pay CGT in Nepal. Likewise, TeliaSonera (currently Telia) has also been claiming that there is no need to pay CGT in Nepal since the transaction had taken place outside the country.
However, the house committees had been regularly directing the Large Taxpayers Office (LTO)) to fix the CGT the TeliaSonera owes to the Nepal government. Ncell is one of the largest tax payers in Nepal since last couple of years.