November 14, 2019 / 4:52 AM / 3 months ago

Indian shares fall on inflation data; telco worries hurt banks

* NSE index down 0.3%, BSE index falls 0.15%

* Vodafone Idea slumps to all-time low

* Bharti Airtel falls 3.5% ahead of earnings

By Sethuraman N R

Nov 14 (Reuters) - Indian shares edged lower on Thursday, after retail inflation breached the central bank’s medium-term target of 4% for the first time in 15 months, while lenders fretted about a possible insolvency of Vodafone Idea.

Annual retail inflation rose to 4.62% last month on higher food prices, but most economists expect the central bank to look past the inflation print and cut rates for a sixth straight time next month.

Higher inflation and reports of a liquidation of Vodafone Idea were pulling down the markets, said Sumit Pokharna, vice president, Kotak Securities.

“If Vodafone Idea goes for a toss, then the pain will come to the banks. Again, the next leg of non-performing assets will start. Even private banks have exposure to Vodafone Idea,” he said.

Aditya Birla Group will not infuse fresh equity into its venture with Vodafone and let it opt for insolvency if the government does not provide substantial relief, the Economic Times reported, quoting senior executives.

Vodafone Idea shares slumped as much as 23% to a record low in early trade.

Earlier this week, Vodafone said its future in India could be in doubt unless the government stopped hitting operators with higher taxes and charges, after a court judgment over licence fees resulted in a 1.9 billion euro group loss in its first half.

The NSE Nifty 50 index was down 0.3% at 11,806.65 as of 0413 GMT, while the S&P BSE Sensex was 0.15% lower at 40,051.12.

The Nifty bank index, the public sector undertaking index and the private bank index were the top losers, down by 0.6% to 2.3%. All indexes except the Nifty information technology were in the red.

Bharti Infratel fell 8.7% and was the top loser in the Nifty 50, while Bharti Airtel fell 3.5% ahead of quarterly results due later in the day. (Reporting by Nallur Sethuraman in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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