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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

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India, Saudi Arabia ink six pacts
King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia waves during a India-Saudi Arabia business meeting in New Delhi on Wednesday. New Delhi, January 25
Business links between India and the oil-rich kingdom of Saudi Arabia got a big boost today with the signing of six commercial agreements between their public and private companies.

 

King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia waves during a India-Saudi Arabia business meeting in New Delhi on Wednesday. — AFP photo

Shock treatment awaits Himachal hydel projects
Shimla, January 25
The 200-old small hydropower projects assigned by the Himachal Government to the private sector may face rough weather with the state Electricity Regulatory Commission refusing to accept the memorandums of understanding (MoU) signed with the various independent power producers (IPPs) in this regard.

PM constitutes Task Force for petro investment
New Delhi, January 25
Seeking to attract investments, especially from NRIs, in petroleum, chemicals and petrochemical sectors, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has constituted a Task Force to speed up decision-making and policy initiative in these areas.

Pixar logo is seen at the main gate of Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, California. Entertainment giant Walt Disney Co. will buy computer animation studio Pixar in a $7.4-billion deal announced by the companies on Wednesday. Apple Computer co-founder Steve Jobs, who is chairman and chief executive at Pixar, will join Disney’s board of directors under the terms of the deal.

Pixar logo is seen at the main gate of Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, California. Entertainment giant Walt Disney Co. will buy computer animation studio Pixar in a $7.4-billion deal announced by the companies on Wednesday. Apple Computer co-founder Steve Jobs, who is chairman and chief executive at Pixar, will join Disney’s board of directors under the terms of the deal. — AFP


Monica Mckenzie, a model wearing a dress made from tea boxes and nearly 800 tea bags, poses in New York on Tuesday.
Monica Mckenzie, a model wearing a dress made from tea boxes and nearly 800 tea bags, poses in New York on Tuesday. Tea company Celestial Seasonings partnered with celebrity fashion designer Brett Cooper to create a dress aiming to raise awareness of heart disease among women.— AP/PTI

EARLIER STORIES

 

Chambers ecstatic, Left unhappy over FDI-in-retail decision
New Delhi, January 25
The government’s decision to allow global brands like Reebok, Nokia, Louis Vuitton and Gucci to own and operate their own stores in India has come in for sharp criticism from the Communists who today threatened to launch protests across the country against the move, even as the industry hailed it as a significant step.

Where parallel economy runs through extortions
Kohima, January 25
Cow milk sells for Rs 20 per litre here, bottled water for Rs 15 and a normal pullover from Ludhiana for Rs 750. These are not the black market prices or jacked prices by the shopkeepers in times of trouble.

Ajai Chowdhry HCL Info plans unit in Uttaranchal
Chandigarh, January 25
The computer hardware giant, HCL Infosystems, is all set to expand its production facilities at its Pondicherry plant. A new production facility is also being set up at Pantnagar in Uttaranchal.

L&T consortium wins ONGC order
Mumbai, January 25
Larsen & Toubro Limited (L&T) and Samsung Heavy Industries Co. Ltd. (SHI) consortium has bagged a Rs 2,117 crore order from the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) for new booster compressors and process facilities platform located off Indian west coast.

Assocham expands overseas
New Delhi, January 25
Assocham has opened three offices in China, the US and the Gulf to encourage FDI and for exchange of information related with the industries.

Nokia bags order
New Delhi, January 25
In a major outsourcing deal, Nokia has bagged an order to manage Hutch-Essar’s mobile network in nine circles for five years, for which it would take on board 600 employees from its client.

No policy for Kribhco fertiliser buyers
Ludhiana, January 25
Iffco-Tokio General Insurance Company Ltd. (ITGI), a general insurance company, has disassociated itself from Kribhco (Krishak Bharati Cooperative Ltd.) for the sale of its Sankat Haran Policy for the farmers.

Corporate Results

Ind-Swift Labs net up by 21 per cent
Chandigarh, January 25
Ind-Swift Laboratories has reported a 21 per cent rise in net profit at Rs 9.10 crore for the third quarter ending December 2005.

  • IOB profit up 22 pc

  • UCO Bank net dips

  • Grasim Industries

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India, Saudi Arabia ink six pacts
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 25
Business links between India and the oil-rich kingdom of Saudi Arabia got a big boost today with the signing of six commercial agreements between their public and private companies.

The pacts — coinciding with the visit of Saudi ruler King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud to India with a large business delegation — cover all oil, energy and technology, biopharmaceuticals, health, medical tourism and financial sectors.

The agreements were signed at a special session of the India-Saudi Arabia Joint Business Council, organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci).

The Saudi monarch is on a four-day state visit to India and will be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade in New Delhi tomorrow.

Petroleum ministry sources said New Delhi was looking at a long-term “strategic energy partnership with Saudi Arabia and appropriate institutions to support such a partnership”.

The sources said there was also a proposal for a special purpose vehicle which would bring together Saudi (oil firm) Aramco and two Indian oil majors — IndianOil Corp (IOC) and the Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) — to explore the possibility of investment in Saudi Arabia, India or a third country.

Among the pacts is one under which Engineers India will provide Manar Energy engineering consultancy in refinery, petrochemicals, oil platforms, pipeline, metallurgy, fertilisers, power and chemical processes in the Gulf kingdom.

Gujarat State Petroleum Corp’s agreement with FAS Saudi Holding Co calls for the state-run Indian company looking at possibilities in the field of upstream oil and natural gas exploration.

FAS Saudi Holding has entered into another agreement with Apollo Healthcare to set up a joint venture that will set up hospitals in three major cities in Saudi Arabia and polyclinics across the kingdom.

An agreement between Bangalore-based Avesthagen and a Jeddah-based group will explore opportunities in biopharmaceuticals and novel agri-biotechnology platforms.

Ficci has also entered into an agreement to promote medical tourism to Maharashtra from Saudi Arabia.

Indian and Saudi Arabian companies had signed 106 joint ventures last year with an investment of $445 million. Saudi officials hoped the King’s visit and the signing of an investment protection agreement would further push economic ties.

Saudi officials hoped India would further liberalise import regulations and reduce its high customs tariffs in certain products, which were hindering Saudi exports to India.

India has emerged as Saudi Arabia’s fourth largest export destination with $9.8 billion worth of exports — oil accounting for 94 per cent. Saudi imports from India were, however, much lower at $1.6 billion.

Saudi Arabia accounts for almost a quarter of India’s total imports of crude oil of 1.9 million barrels per day. In 2004, New Delhi bought crude worth $6.2 billion from the Saudis. 

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Shock treatment awaits Himachal hydel projects
Rakesh Lohumi
Tribune News Service

Shimla, January 25
The 200-old small hydropower projects assigned by the Himachal Government to the private sector may face rough weather with the state Electricity Regulatory Commission refusing to accept the memorandums of understanding (MoU) signed with the various independent power producers (IPPs) in this regard.

The commission has made it clear to the government that the MoU and implementation agreements (IAS) signed by the Himurja, the nodal agency for mini-hydroelectric projects up to 5 MW capacity, and the state electricity board (5 MW to 25 MW) contravened the Electricity Act, 2003.

It has pointed out that as per the Section 86 of the Act, the commission was mandated to “promote cogeneration and generation of electricity from renewable sources of energy by providing suitable measures for connectivity with the grid and sale of electricity to any person and also specify for purchase of electricity from such sources a percentage of the total consumption of electricity in the area of distribution licensee”.

The provision makes it clear that the sale of electricity from such sources, the rate thereof and the connectivity conditions with the grid are matters to be decided by the commission.

As such the commission will be unable to rely upon or accept MoU and IA. In the MoU, it has been mentioned that the power generated would be purchased by the board at the rate of Rs 2.50 per unit, which are matters to be decided by the commission.

The commission has also written a letter to the board and the Himurja that while signing MoU and IA, with the IPPs for the execution of small hydroelectric projects, the matters pertaining to the sale of electricity and the rate should be left for the commission to decide. Further, the provisions with regard to connectivity with the gride and attendant conditions shall also be decided by the commission.

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PM constitutes Task Force for petro investment

New Delhi, January 25
Seeking to attract investments, especially from NRIs, in petroleum, chemicals and petrochemical sectors, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has constituted a Task Force to speed up decision-making and policy initiative in these areas.

To be headed by the Prime Minister's Principal Secretary, it will promote investment 'regions' -— spread over large areas of up to 25,000 acres — in these sectors.

The Task Force on Petroleum, Chemicals and Petrochemicals Investment Regions (PCPIR) will identify sites for such projects after consultation with the state governments and expedite necessary clearances and connectivity.

The other members of the Task Force will be Member Secretary Planning Commission and Secretaries of Petroleum, Chemicals and Petrochemicals, Commerce and Industry, Economic Affairs, and Revenue. The Chief Secretaries of the states concerned will also be the members of the Task Force.

The NRI Task Force, which organised chemicals and petrochemicals investment regions round table in New Delhi and submitted a concept paper to the Prime Minister during his visit to the United States last year, will also be represented in the PM's Task Force.

An official press note said the Task Force will also examine government policies, including the areas of feedstock policies and related issues of availability, pricing and special incentives that were necessary.

It would also look into highway and railway connectivity, upgradation of airports, ports, environment, FIPB and other statutory clearances for such projects, besides monitoring progress and coordinating with the state government and NRIs. — PTI

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Chambers ecstatic, Left unhappy over FDI-in-retail decision
Tribune News Service & PTI

New Delhi, January 25
The government’s decision to allow global brands like Reebok, Nokia, Louis Vuitton and Gucci to own and operate their own stores in India has come in for sharp criticism from the Communists who today threatened to launch protests across the country against the move, even as the industry hailed it as a significant step.

CPM said the decision to allow 51 per cent FDI in retail sector would have “serious deleterious effects on the economy and the life of the people”

The CPM politburo said in a statement that it would urge upon the people to come forward to protest against the decision of the UPA government.

“Our party’s position is clear. We are opposed to FDI in retail sector,” CPM politburo member Sitaram Yechury said, adding, “the government says it will allow FDI in branded goods. But it is a loose term as anything can be branded. We want the government to specify the items where FDI is allowed.”

“Retail sector contributes very significantly to the country’s GDP and employment... and if you allow FDI in this sector, it will hamper employment opportunities,” he said.

CPI National Secretary D Raja said: “The government was to respond to the note we have submitted. When the issue is under discussion, they have taken a decision unilaterally.

“We strongly oppose the move. We will mobilise people to protest on the issue,” he said.

Ms Sushma Berlia, PHDCCI president, said that the measure would go a long way in developing organised retailing in the country. The development of organised retailing has to be seen as a major step in achieving the objective of creating a single-market in the country. FDI in retail would also bring about fiscal discipline in the sector and also provide the necessary capital for setting up organised retail store chains, along with associated supply chains. But the sector should be opened up completely in four to six years time. This would also give time to domestic retailers to adjust to changes, she said.

The retail industry is projected to grow at 5 per cent per annum implying an investment of Rs 1,00,000 crore for achieving just 20 per cent of share of overall market. Now with the government’s decision, such investment could now be funded by international investors/retailers.

The chamber, however, noted that potential roadblocks such as high real estate cost, absence of distribution networks, antiquated regulations and shortfall of trained manpower, remains one of the biggest impediments in the growth of retail sector in the country. More so, retailing is not regarded as an industry in the country and very few banks are willing to invest in this sector.

“The decision to permit up to 51 per cent FDI in single brand retailing will improve efficiency and cost effectiveness of the retail sector,” FICCI President Saroj Poddar said.

Expressing the hope that the government would consider allowing entry of multiple brands in the sector, he said this decision should be followed with opening up of retail in agri-sector.

Assocham President Anil K Agarwal said that opening up of retailing to MNCs would create job opportunities and accelerate exports.

While, over a period of 10 years, the share of organised retailing in the total retailing sphere has grown from 10 per cent to 40 per cent in Brazil and to 20 per cent in China, in India it has been only 2 per cent (between 1995-2005), which is expected to grow after the Government’s decision.

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Where parallel economy runs through extortions
Manoj Kumar
Tribune News Service

Kohima, January 25
Cow milk sells for Rs 20 per litre here, bottled water for Rs 15 and a normal pullover from Ludhiana for Rs 750. These are not the black market prices or jacked prices by the shopkeepers in times of trouble.

The market is right across police headquarters and the state assembly in this mountainous capital of Nagaland, where a section of the society has been up in arms against India for the past five decades. The periodic renewal of ceasefire has brought in new, but eerie peace in the region.

Outsiders can be spotted at the outset and you also feel the odd man out, because everything is different. A walk down the market is the first encounter with the world that is outside the mainstream Indian thought process and history books.

Prices shock you. Almost every item here is 25 to 50 per cent higher than the rest of India. The usual explanation is that trader has to pay high transport cost to import goods from Guwahati or Kolkata.

Mr Ankit Baruah, a shopkeeper from Assam whispers: “Besides higher transport costs, we also have to pay extortion money every month to two-three groups of underground Naga organisations from Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000. It would be finally charged from the customer.”

That innocent remark is a great revelation, answering million questions and posing million others for the policy makers to ponder.

If this happens in state capital, he says, you can well imagine what is happening in interior parts, where these organisations run their own government and collect taxes from each household. Due to absence of roads and communication links, the government has no control there.

A driver working with state government tells you: “Every salaried person or trader here has to pay money to the underground youth, otherwise they would come with gun. Hamara afsar khana nahin paisa khata hai (Our officials do not eat meals, but bribe),” when asked why there are no roads or any development around.

Admitting the prevalence of extortion, Pastor Rev L.Ritse in Pfutseromi village said: “A large section of Naga society still considers underground youth as their own boys and readily pays household tax varying from Rs 100 to Rs 1,000 annually. Now after division of NSCN, some people do oppose this taxation, feeling that these youth are enjoying the luxuries through their hard-earned money.”

In the absence of any job opportunities in the state, he says, perhaps joining underground group is the only option for educated youth. Extortion provides them with Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000 monthly. Though they cannot spend it on buying a vehicle, or home, but it is sufficient for their family needs.

Mr O. Alem, IG Nagaland Police said: “Our hands are tied under the ceasefire agreement. The security forces take action only if they are attacked by these youth, who move with weapons in populated areas. In the dense forest areas and in remote place, we have almost no control.”

“Does not the Centre and state administration know that underground groups publish their annual accounts varying from Rs 60 crore to Rs 80 crore openly. Every one knows from where does this money come from,” said Lt Gen (Retd.) R.V. Kulkarni, Chairman, Ceasefire Monitoring Committee. 

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HCL Info plans unit in Uttaranchal
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 25
The computer hardware giant, HCL Infosystems, is all set to expand its production facilities at its Pondicherry plant. A new production facility is also being set up at Pantnagar in Uttaranchal.

This was stated by the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of HCL Infosystems, Mr Ajai Chowdhry, in an exclusive interaction with The Tribune here today. He said the capacity of the Pondicherry plant would be increased from 6,00,000 computers a year to a million computers a year.

“We will begin producing a million computers a year from the coming fiscal year. The production in the plant at Pantnagar will begin in the 2007,” he said.

Claiming that there was immense potential for market expansion in computer hardware, he said the personal computer (PC) penetration in India was just 15 computers on a scale of 1,000 as compared to 100 out of 1,000 in China.

Talking about the new thrust in the hardware industry about creating low-priced PCs, Mr Chowdhry pointed out that HCL has been the pioneer in this segment. “In 2004, we launched our first low-cost PC at Rs 14,990, and last year, a new version at Rs 9,990. Now, the emphasis is not just on low-cost computer, but also on high-quality of product and easy finance options. Our strategy has been to make PCs more valuable by adding services, like the BSNL-HCL PC, where we provide a BSNL broadband service with computer, for a monthly instalment of just Rs 499. These low-cost PCs have opened a new segment of market as these are available in different configurations and prices, thus bringing PCs within the reach of common man,” he said.

He said the Rs 7783-crore company was now adding more hardware products, including a series of laptops ranging from Rs 27,000 onwards. “Our thrust is on providing quality of service and good quality product. This is the reason that the share of grey market in PCs and laptops has gone down from 72 per cent to 33 per cent in the last two years,” he added.

Asked about the expansion plans in North India, he said growth here was fast, and they were getting a majority of business from the Punjab Government , Education Departments and banks in the Chandigarh circle.

“We have signed an MoU with the Punjab Government for recruiting 40 persons each year from Punjab, and we have been doing so for the past four years as part of our corporate-social responsibility,” he added.

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L&T consortium wins ONGC order

Mumbai, January 25
Larsen & Toubro Limited (L&T) and Samsung Heavy Industries Co. Ltd. (SHI) consortium has bagged a Rs 2,117 crore order from the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) for new booster compressors and process facilities platform located off Indian west coast.

The contract is for the Vasai East Development project of ONGC, located 80 km west north-west of Mumbai, and it would be executed over the next two years, L&T said in a statement here today.

As consortium partner, L&T will execute jobs worth around Rs 776 crore, while SHI will execute the balance process platform facility for the project, it said.

The project will have oil-handling capacity of 4,200 barrels per day, gas-processing facility of 12 cubic metres per day and water injection of 47,000 barrels per day.

Once commissioned, the project will assist gas production at a lower pressure from the existing South Vasai field, it added. — PTI

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Assocham expands overseas

New Delhi, January 25
Assocham has opened three offices in China, the US and the Gulf to encourage FDI and for exchange of information related with the industries.

“With these offices it will be easier for the chamber to interact with the industries of the aforesaid countries for helping Indian industry for exchange of information and attracting higher FDIs, besides setting up of joint ventures in areas of mutual interest,” Assocham Secretary D.S. Rawat said in a statement here today. — PTI

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Nokia bags order

New Delhi, January 25
In a major outsourcing deal, Nokia has bagged an order to manage Hutch-Essar’s mobile network in nine circles for five years, for which it would take on board 600 employees from its client. The order is for Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Chennai, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and West Bengal. — PTI

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No policy for Kribhco fertiliser buyers
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 25
Iffco-Tokio General Insurance Company Ltd. (ITGI), a general insurance company, has disassociated itself from Kribhco (Krishak Bharati Cooperative Ltd.) for the sale of its Sankat Haran Policy for the farmers.

Henceforth, ITGI will not have any liability on any bag of fertiliser for Kribhco brand.

However, the policy will be available with Iffco (Indian Farmer’s Fertiliser Co-operative) and IPL (Indian Potash Ltd.) products.

ITGI’s Sankat Haran Policy was launched by ITGI in October 2001. The policy protects farmers against physical injury or death resulting solely and directly from accident caused by external violent and visible means.

As per the policy, a farmer receives Rs 4,000 insurance cover with every purchase of 25 kg fertiliser bag of Iffco and Indian Potash. The premium for the cover is paid by the fertiliser company as a value addition to the farmer. 

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Corporate Results

Ind-Swift Labs net up by 21 per cent

Chandigarh, January 25
Ind-Swift Laboratories has reported a 21 per cent rise in net profit at Rs 9.10 crore for the third quarter ending December 2005. Profit before interest, depreciation and tax increased by 19 per cent to Rs 16. 98 crore, while profit after tax went up 57.50 per cent to Rs 27. 42 crore. The earnings per share (fully diluted) stood at Rs 4.69 (for the quarter) as on December 31.

IOB profit up 22 pc

Indian Overseas Bank today posted a 22.33 per cent increase in net profit at Rs 197.21 crore for the quarter ended December 31, 2005 as compared to Rs 161.21 crore for the same quarter last fiscal.

Total income grew 11.11 per cent to Rs 1,303.31 crore for the third quarter this fiscal from Rs 1,172.99 crore in Q3 FY 04-05, the bank informed the BSE.

UCO Bank net dips

The profit of UCO Bank has registered a sharp decline in the first nine months of the current financial year which stood at Rs 255 crore as compared to Rs 338 crore during the same period in the previous fiscal.

Total business of the bank increased 31 per cent at Rs 88,304 crore during the first three quarters. Deposits have increased 22.06 per cent at Rs 52,092 crore, advances have also risen 46.91 per cent at Rs 35,402 crore.

Grasim Industries

Grasim Industries Ltd, a flagship company of the Aditya Birla Group, today reported a 25.43 per cent decline in net profit at Rs 161.87 crore for the quarter ended December 31, 2005 as compared to Rs 217.08 crore for the corresponding quarter in 2004-05.

Total income, however, increased to 4.12 per cent at Rs 1,663.44 crore for the third quarter in current fiscal from Rs 1,597.52 crore in the year-ago period, the company informed the BSE. — TNS/PTI

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BRIEFLY

Spice astro service
Chandigarh, January 25
Spice Telecom today announced the launch of Spice astro service, by roping in famous astrologer P. Khurrana. Announcing the launch here today, Mr Mukul Khanna, GM, Marketing, said the company would offer weekly predictions based on zodiac signs, besides a daily astrology alert. “Subscribers will have to dial 556. This service will be available at the rate of Rs 6 per minute. Spice users can also avail daily astrology alerts through SMS, at a rental of Rs 30,” he said. — TNS

Hertz International
Chandigarh, January 25
Hertz International, world’s largest car-rental company, today launched its Punjab operations with its office based at Chandigarh. The operations, including car-rental for self-driven cars, has been launched in partnership with Jhajj’s rent-a-car. A fleet of 25 cars, ranging from Getz, Swift to Skoda, Camry and limousines, will be available, Mr Rajiv K Vij, CEO, Carzonrent India, the sole franchisee for Hertz International, said. — TNS

Merger okayed
Kochi, January 25
The Centre has approved the proposed amalgamation of Ganesh Bank of Kurundwad Ltd with Kerala-based Federal Bank. The amalgamation scheme is effective from today, Federal Bank said. — PTI

Punj Lloyd
Mumbai, January 25
Punj Lloyd Ltd, an engineering construction company, today said it has bagged an order worth Rs 171.5 crore from Tokyo’s IHI for undertaking LNG tank civil and mechanical works in Gujarat. The company informed the stock exchanges that it has been granted the letter of intent by IHI for undertaking civil and mechanical works at the ‘Third LNG Tank Project’ and ‘Project Dahej Expansion’ in Gujarat.— PTI

Rejig in HLL
Mumbai, January 25
Undertaking a major restructuring exercise, consumer goods conglomerate HLL today announced a slew of top level management changes naming Douglas Baillie as the Chief Executive Officer to head the management committee. All appointments will be effective from March 1. — PTI

Aviva Life
New Delhi, January 25
Aviva Life Insurance, a joint venture between the UK-based Aviva plc and Dabur, today said it has pumped in Rs 139 crore to augment its paid up capital to Rs 450 crore to fund its future business growth. However, the company ruled out coming out with an IPO or issuing preferential shares to raise money in the near future. Aviva Plc would chip in Rs 36.14 crore to keep the stake of the foreign partner at the stipulated 26 per cent. — PTI
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