News digest: Jeff Bezos' phone hacked, telcos miss payment deadline and more

Billionaire Jeff Bezos had his mobile phone “hacked”—a breach blamed on the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, reports said this week. Uber sold its loss-making online food-ordering business in India to local rival Zomato, leaving a highly competitive business. Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, and the Tata Group are among telecom companies that will miss the January 24 deadline to pay the government Rs 1.47 trillion as dues for spectrum as they wait for the Supreme Court’s verdict on their appeal for modification. Here is more on what made news this week.

Business Standard
18th January

  • The Supreme Court allowed the government to take total management control of the embattled realty firm Unitech Ltd and appoint a new board of nominee directors, giving respite to more than 12,000 homebuyers. The court approved Yudvir Singh Malik, a retired Haryana cadre IAS officer, as chairman and managing director (CMD) of the new board and scrapped the existing board of directors of the company.
  • Leading telecom companies including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, and the Tata Group plan to communicate to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) that while they will comply with the Supreme Court order on paying adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues, they will wait till next week, when their “modification” petition is heard in the apex court. The move means the telecom companies will skip the January 24 deadline the court gave for paying the government Rs 1.47 trillion.
  • The Fifteenth Finance Commission (15th FC), in its report for 2020-21, is believed to have reduced the devolution to states from the existing 42 per cent of the divisible tax pool, giving the revenue-strapped Centre some breathing space. However, the Commission has increased the tied funds, such as grants related to revenue deficit and disaster relief, and is bringing back performance-based incentives.
  • The world’s richest 2,153 people controlled more money than the poorest 4.6 billion combined in 2019, while unpaid or underpaid work by women and girls adds three times more to the global economy each year than the technology industry, said Oxfam. India’s billionaires hold a combined total wealth that is more than the Budget outlay for 2018-19, said the Nairobi-headquartered charity.
  • Amazon boss Jeff Bezos had his mobile phone “hacked” in 2018 after receiving a WhatsApp message that had apparently been sent from the personal account of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported. The encrypted message from the number used by Mohammed bin Salman is believed to have included a malicious file that infiltrated the phone of the world’s richest man.
  • Uber has sold its loss-making online food-ordering business in India to local rival Zomato in exchange for a 9.99 per cent stake in the start-up backed by China’s Ant Financial. As part of the deal, the U.S. company will shutter operations but direct all restaurants, delivery companies and diners to Zomato. The Uber Eats deal helps Zomato to catapult to the number one slot, leaving market leader Swiggy slightly behind.

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