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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
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B U S I N E S S

Maruti, Suzuki open car, two-wheeler units
To spend Rs 9,000 cr on Gurgaon, Manesar plants
Manesar, February 6
The Suzuki Motor Corporation (SMC) and Maruti Udyog Ltd (MUL) will spend Rs 9,000 crore on the Gurgaon and Manesar plants in Haryana up to 2010, SMC Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) O. Suzuki and MUL Managing Director Jagdish Khattar said at the inauguration of three manufacturing facilites set up the SMC and MUL.
Mr Osamu Suzuki (left), Chairman and CEO of Suzuki; Mr Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Chief Minister, Haryana (centre); and Japan's Ambassador to India Yasukuni Enoki at the inauguration of Maruti-Suzuki's auto plant at Manesar on Tuesday.

Mr Osamu Suzuki (left), Chairman and CEO of Suzuki; Mr Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Chief Minister, Haryana (centre); and Japan's Ambassador to India Yasukuni Enoki at the inauguration of Maruti-Suzuki's auto plant at Manesar on Tuesday. — AFP

ICICI Bank hikes deposit, lending rates
New Delhi, February 6
ICICI Bank today announced an increase of 1 per cent in its benchmark advance rate (BAR) and its floating reference rate (FRR) for consumer loans, including home loans, with effect from February 9.


A model wears an outfit designed by Oscar de la Renta at the New York Fall 2007 fashion show in New York on Monday.
A model wears an outfit designed by Oscar de la Renta at the New York Fall 2007 fashion show in New York on Monday. — AFP

EARLIER STORIES

 
A Matsushita Electric employee displays a new digital camera "Lumix DMC-FZ8", equipped with a 7.38 mega-pixel CCD image sensor, in Tokyo on Tuesday. Matsushita will put it on the market on February 9 at an estimated price of 50,000 yen ($420)
A Matsushita Electric employee displays a new digital camera "Lumix DMC-FZ8", equipped with a 7.38 mega-pixel CCD image sensor, in Tokyo on Tuesday. Matsushita will put it on the market on February 9 at an estimated price of 50,000 yen ($420). — AFP

Moser Baer buys 81 pc in Philips’ arm
New Delhi, February 6
Moser Baer, a leading optical storage device company, has acquired the optical R&D arm of Dutch electronics major Philips for an undisclosed amount to produce high-end discs at a much lower cost.

Laptop for Rs 450!
New Delhi, February 6

A laptop for only Rs 450 may sound incredible, but the HRD Ministry as part of its 'Sakshat' programme to bridge the digital divide is working to bring down the cost of a laptop to only Rs 450.

Fortis makes retail health foray 
New Delhi, February 6
Offering accessibility to quality medicines, Fortis today announced its retail health store chain with 1,000 shops in 400 towns of the country by 2012.

SAIL to buy 34 locomotives
New Delhi, February 6
SAIL will buy 34 high-powered locomotives from the Indian Railways at an expenditure of Rs 238 crores to ensure faster movement of goods. An MoU was signed here today under which the Railways would provide the locomotives within three years.

Meeting on Indian, AI merger on Feb 12
New Delhi, February 6
The Group of Ministers (GoM) constituted to examine the proposed merger of Indian and Air-India is scheduled to meet on February 12, when Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel would brief it about the outcome of his talks with various unions of the two state carriers.

Nath woos German investment
New Delhi, February 6
Commerce Minister Kamal Nath today called for greater cooperation between India and Germany in the field of science and technology, manufacturing and energy sector at a meeting with German Minister for Education and Research Annette Schavan here.

Mr David Dixon, Regional VP, Sales, Asia-Pacific, Bombardier (left) and actor Michael Wong pose in front of a Bombardier Global 5000 aircraft in Hong Kong on Tuesday. Bombardier announced the launch of a luxury jet travel card at the ongoing Asia Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition.
Mr David Dixon, Regional VP, Sales, Asia-Pacific, Bombardier (left) and actor Michael Wong pose in front of a Bombardier Global 5000 aircraft in Hong Kong on Tuesday. Bombardier announced the launch of a luxury jet travel card at the ongoing Asia Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition. — AFP

EMC acquires Andhra IT firm
New Delhi, February 6
US-based EMC Corporation has acquired Hyderabad-based IT company, Valyd Software Private Limited, for an undisclosed amount and announced to double the headcount of 1600 in India by 2010.

Ansals bullish on Punjab
New Delhi, February 6

Real estate major Ansal Properties and Infrastructure Ltd (APIL) today announced an investment of about Rs 11,000 crore in Punjab in next four years to develop 20 projects, including townships, housing, retail, commercial, and hotels.

Flag seeks $ 406 m relief from VSNL
New Delhi, February 6

Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG) company Flag Telecom has sought a monetory relief of $ 406 million plus interest from Tatas-owned Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL) relating to a dispute over the Flag Europe-Asia (FEA) cable system.

Rising interest rates hit India Inc: Assocham
New Delhi, February 6
The cost of borrowing for India Inc has risen sharply, by as much as 60 per cent, over the past 12 months across various sectors, an Assocham Eco Pulse (AEP) study has revealed.

Insurance Ombudsman achieves 100 pc disposal rate
Chandigarh, February 6
Within six years of establishment, office of Insurance Ombudsman for northern India has managed to achieve a 100 per cent disposal rate of complaints.

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Maruti, Suzuki open car, two-wheeler units
To spend Rs 9,000 cr on Gurgaon, Manesar plants
Ravi S. Singh

Tribune News Service

Manesar, February 6
The Suzuki Motor Corporation (SMC) and Maruti Udyog Ltd (MUL) will spend Rs 9,000 crore on the Gurgaon and Manesar plants in Haryana up to 2010, SMC Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) O. Suzuki and MUL Managing Director Jagdish Khattar said at the inauguration of three manufacturing facilites set up the SMC and MUL.

The three facilities were inaugurated by Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda in the presence of the Ambasassor of Japan to India, Mr Y. Enoki.

The three facilities inaugurated today are the MUL's fourth assembly plant, Suzuki Powertrain India Ltd's (SPIL) disesel engine and transmission plant and Suzuki Motorcycle India Private Ltd's (SMIPL), a two-wheeler facility.

MUL's fourth car plant and SPIL's diesel and transmission facility are located within the 600-acre campus at the Industral Model Township (IMT) here.

MUL's fourth car assembly plant,which was started with an initial capacity of 100,000 cars per year, will scale up the production up to 300,000 cars per year. An investment of Rs 2,500 crore will be made in this car plant by 2010.MUL's premium compact car, Swift, is being manufactured at this plant.In addition,the firm's new export model, expected to be launched in 2008-09, will also be manufactured in this plant. The SMC has 54 per cent equity in MUL.The Indian Government and others are other stake-holders.

Mr Khattar said that the assembly plant had been made to address the two auto giants’ global ambitions, and was among the SMC's best plants worldwide.The new assembly plant was also a key step forward in MUL's goal of achieving the annual sale of one million cars in India by 2010,he added.

MUL currently operates three fully integrated plants on its campus in Gurgaon. Significantly, SPIL's diesel engine and transmission plant is the auto giants’ first such facility anywhere in the world. The plant is under a joint venture company, Sujuki Powertrain India Ltd (SPIL), in which the SMC holds 70 per equity with the rest held by MUL. This plant wold entail an investment of Rs 2500 crore in phases till 2010.This facility has an initial capacity to manufacture 1,00,000 diesel engine a year,which would be scaled up to 300,000 engines by 2010.

The diesel engines manufactured in this plant would also be exported to SMC companies across the world, Mr Suzuki added.

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20 b yen for two-wheeler venture pledged

Suzuki Motor Corporation (SMC) Chairman and CEO Osamu Suzuki said today the group would invest 20 billion yen in its two-wheeler venture in India--Suzuki Motorcycle India Pvt Ltd. An additional 30 billion yen would be for overall other capital expenditure. On the issue of technology transfer, Mr Suzuki said the SMC would pass on the much-talked-about gearbox technology 100 per cent to MUL.

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ICICI Bank hikes deposit, lending rates

New Delhi, February 6
ICICI Bank today announced an increase of 1 per cent in its benchmark advance rate (BAR) and its floating reference rate (FRR) for consumer loans, including home loans, with effect from February 9.

The revised BAR will be 14.75 per cent per annum payable monthly as against 13.75 per cent at present. The revised FRR will be 11.75 per cent per annum as against the present 10.75 per cent.

For the existing floating rate customers, the increase in FRR by 1 per cent will be effective from the above-mentioned date.

The existing fixed-rate customers whose loans are fully disbursed, will, however, not be impacted by the increase and their contracted rates will remain unchanged, the bank said.

The bank also announced an increase in interest rates on 80C fixed deposits of value less than Rs 1 lakh by 1.25 per cent for five-year period with effect from February 9. The revised interest rate on 80C fixed deposit will be 9.5 per annum per annum as against 8.25 per cent at present. — UNI

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Moser Baer buys 81 pc in Philips’ arm 

New Delhi, February 6
Moser Baer, a leading optical storage device company, has acquired the optical R&D arm of Dutch electronics major Philips for an undisclosed amount to produce high-end discs at a much lower cost.

Moser Baer has acquired an 81 per cent stake in the optical research and development company OM&T BV, a wholly owned subsidiary of Philips, through its Cyprus-based arm Peraround, Moser Baer India Executive Director Ratul Puri said here.

"Presently we have acquired an 81 per cent stake in the company and the rest 19 per cent would be acquired in the next two years," he said.

"The deal would help Moser Baer in strengthening its business portfolio in the Blue-laser format," Company's Chief Financial Officer Yogesh Mathur said, adding that the platform provided a $5 billion worth of market opportunity.

Presently the market is in the range of 0.5 to $1billion but it would grow up to the size of $5billion in next three years, Mr Mathur said.

All intellectual property (IP) created by the Dutch firm would be transferred to Moser Baer. The joint venture would also focus on the development of photovoltaic technologies to support Moser Baer's PV business, he said. — PTI 

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Laptop for Rs 450!

New Delhi, February 6
A laptop for only Rs 450 may sound incredible, but the HRD Ministry as part of its 'Sakshat' programme to bridge the digital divide is working to bring down the cost of a laptop to only Rs 450.

The Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, has come up with a prototype model of a laptop that costs around Rs 4,500, an HRD Ministry official said.

In a year's time, the cost of the laptop could be brought down to just Rs 450, he said.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) had earlier developed for the 'Sakshat' programme, a laptop that would cost around Rs 6,750.

"The programme aims at bridging the digital divide and we want to start with the last man in the queue," the official said.

'Sakshat', that was recently launched by President A P J Abdul Kalam, is an interactive education portal that can be accessed by everyone. — PTI 

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Fortis makes retail health foray 

New Delhi, February 6
Offering accessibility to quality medicines, Fortis today announced its retail health store chain with 1,000 shops in 400 towns of the country by 2012.

Fortis HealthWorld, a joint venture of Ranbaxy Laboratories and Fortis Healthcare, would open stores offering health products for the entire family, said Mr Malvinder Mohan Singh, CEO and Managing Director of Ranbaxy Laboratories, here.

"We are entering retail and investing Rs 800 crore in the retail stores, covering over 400 towns. The launch of the chain of retail shops shows our clear desire to bring healthcare closer to the people across the country on affordable prices," he said after unveiling the Fortis HealthWorld logo.

The stores will offer prescription drugs, health supplements, health foods, alternate medicines, home and personal care products and a pathology lab collection centre.

Mr Shivinder Singh, CEO and MD of Fortis, said "the stores will run round the clock and would give customers value-added services like prescription reminder service, loyalty programmes, OPD appointments in our hospitals and free home delivery," he said. — PTI

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SAIL to buy 34 locomotives

New Delhi, February 6
SAIL will buy 34 high-powered locomotives from the Indian Railways at an expenditure of Rs 238 crores to ensure faster movement of goods. An MoU was signed here today under which the Railways would provide the locomotives within three years.

These locomotives would be manufactured at Panvel in Mumbai, where a branch of Diesel Locomotives Works has been set up. The availability of quality locomotives would be crucial as SAIL plans to raise its production from 13 million tonnes to 22 million tonnes by 2010, it said.

The MoU is a part of the domestic steel giant's plan to modernise and standardise the locomotives in all its plants that currently have 260 locomotives, of which around 140 are from DLW, Varanasi. — PTI

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Meeting on Indian, AI merger on Feb 12 

New Delhi, February 6
The Group of Ministers (GoM) constituted to examine the proposed merger of Indian and Air-India is scheduled to meet on February 12, when Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel would brief it about the outcome of his talks with various unions of the two state carriers.

The GoM chaired by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee will meet here on Monday next week after which a formal proposal was likely be sent to the Union Cabinet for approval, official sources said.

They said the GoM meeting was expected to finalise and tie up all loose ends so that the proposal, including the actual date for merger, could be cleared in the Cabinet meeting.

The proposed merger would enhance its valuation, besides making it the second largest airline in the Asian aviation sector with 112 aircraft. Singapore Airlines has the largest airline so far with 118 planes, followed by Malaysian Airlines having 110 and Emirates with 93 aircraft. — PTI

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Nath woos German investment
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 6
Commerce Minister Kamal Nath today called for greater cooperation between India and Germany in the field of science and technology, manufacturing and energy sector at a meeting with German Minister for Education and Research Annette Schavan here.

Mr Nath highlighted the importance of German small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to interact with those in India.

He also invited German investments and cooperation in India’s booming pharmaceutical and engineering sector, an official press note said.

The German Minister expressed her country’s keenness to explore cooperation in the area of renewable energy and energy efficiency products. Both ministers also discussed possible cooperation in the area of intellectual property rights, including the possibility of a bilateral agreement on IPRs.

A 15-member German delegation from diverse industries also met Mr Nath.

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EMC acquires Andhra IT firm

New Delhi, February 6
US-based EMC Corporation has acquired Hyderabad-based IT company, Valyd Software Private Limited, for an undisclosed amount and announced to double the headcount of 1600 in India by 2010.

"This acquisition is a significant milestone for innovation in Indian IT," EMC India and SAARC region President Manoj Chugh said, adding that the acquisition of Valyd would promote EMC's expansion plan worldwide. — PTI

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Ansals bullish on Punjab

New Delhi, February 6
Real estate major Ansal Properties and Infrastructure Ltd (APIL) today announced an investment of about Rs 11,000 crore in Punjab in next four years to develop 20 projects, including townships, housing, retail, commercial, and hotels.

APIL, the flagship company of the Ansal API Group, has also entered into an agreement with Ritesh Industries, a garment exporter, to build a housing project and business park spread over 42 acres in Ludhiana, with an expected revenue of about Rs 800 crore. — PTI

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Flag seeks $ 406 m relief from VSNL

New Delhi, February 6
Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG) company Flag Telecom has sought a monetory relief of $ 406 million plus interest from Tatas-owned Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL) relating to a dispute over the Flag Europe-Asia (FEA) cable system.

Flag has moved an arbitration tribunal of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), seeking the compensation regarding the interpretation of the construction and maintenance agreement governing the cable system.

The ICC Tribunal had in May last year ordered VSNL to grant Flag access to the Mumbai cable landing station of the FEA cable system for the purposes of installation, inspection, testing, training and other functions.

VSNL said it was studying the claim and would file its response in due course with the tribunal. VSNL said it had filed a writ in the Netherlands to seek to set aside the award.

RCom’s FCCB issue collects Rs 4,400 cr

Meanwhile, Reliance Communications has raised $ 1 billion (Rs 4,400 crore) through an offering of foreign currency convertible bonds (FCCBs) in the international market.

In a filing on the Bombay Stock Exchange, the company said the 10,000 FCCBs of $ 1,00,000 each would mature after five years at Rs 661.23 per share, reflecting a 30 per cent premium over yesterday’s volume weighted average price.

This is the highest amount raised through an FCCB issue by any Indian corporate entity, the previous being $ 500 million also by Reliance Communications in March, 2006.

The proceeds would be used for the expansion of Reliance Communications’ network in 15,000-20,000 new towns and cities, Reliance Communications said.

The FCCB issue comes in the midst of the company's endeavour to acquire Hutch-Essar Ltd, India's fourth largest mobile player.

The company is also planning to roll out its Direct to Home and IPTV services in the third quarter of next financial 
year. — Agencies

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Rising interest rates hit India Inc: Assocham
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 6
The cost of borrowing for India Inc has risen sharply, by as much as 60 per cent, over the past 12 months across various sectors, an Assocham Eco Pulse (AEP) study has revealed.

The interest rate regime, which started shooting up since March 2006, had its impact on the bottomline of companies across various sectors with the maximum brunt being borne by the firms in cement, followed by machinery and automobiles.

The inflation has risen consistently from the month of March when it crossed the 5 per cent mark. The inflation subsequently touched 5.7 per cent by May and the RBI hiked the reverse repo and repo rates by 25 basis points each, effective June 9, 2006, as a result banks revised upwards their PLR by 25-50 basis points from 10.25-11.25 per cent to 10.75-11.25 per cent.

PLR was again increased by another 25 basis points in month of August whereas during the third quarter of the previous financial year, PLR was in the range of 10.25 to 10.75 per cent.

To counter the inflationary pressures in the economy, the RBI decided to hike the cash reserve ratio (CRR) in two stages to 5.25 per cent.

The RBI has again increased the repo rate by 25 basis points from 7.25 per cent to 7.50 per cent in its third quarter review of the monetary policy, which would further build pressure on the credit availability to the industry.

The interest rates as a per cent of net profit has gone up by a huge 298 per cent in the case of cement companies and 248 per cent for machines, followed by automobiles at 118 per cent.

The AEP study covered a sample of 160 companies across sectors, including pharmaceuticals, cement, sugar, paper, breweries, metals, textiles, consultancy, IT, telecom, and engineering.

“The government and the RBI need to get a wake up call since the industry has a limit to absorb the continuous rise in the interest rates. Ultimately, it could impact the manufacturing competitiveness of Indian industry”, said Assocham President Venugopal Dhoot.

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Insurance Ombudsman achieves 100 pc disposal rate
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 6
Within six years of establishment, office of Insurance Ombudsman for northern India has managed to achieve a 100 per cent disposal rate of complaints.

In fact, the redressal forum for insurance-related complaints has not only managed to dispose off all complaints received by it, but also cleared the complaints received instantly during the special lok adalats organised in various cities of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Chandigarh.

As against 381 complaints received by the Insurance Ombudsman in the life insurance segment, between March 2006 and January 2007, it has disposed off 386 complaints. In the non-life insurance sector, as against 316 complaints received, 374 have been disposed off during this fiscal.

Talking to TNS here today, the Insurance Ombudsman for North India, Mr K.M. Chadha, said, “As the non-life insurance sector picks up in North India, more and more persons are now contesting the repudiation of their medical and motor vehicle insurance claims by the insurance companies. In the past two years, the complaints n non-life sector increased by 38 per cent, while there was a decline of 4 per cent in complaints received in life insurance sector”.

He added that in the five states under his jurisdiction, almost 35 per cent of the cases filed before the Insurance Ombudsman related to medical insurance and 40 per cent to the motor vehicle insurance.

However, lack of awareness and low penetration of life and general insurance in the states of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir is the reason for low turn out of contestants for repudiation of insurance complaints in these states.

Figures available from the Insurance Ombudsman Centre, Chandigarh, which deals with the states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Chandigarh, shows that while just 10 complaints were received from Jammu and Kashmir between March 2006 and January 2007, only 46 complaints were received from Himachal Pradesh. Comparatively, 295 complaints were received from Haryana and 272 from Punjab.

Mr Chadha said in the past five years, the total number of complaints (life insurance and non-life insurance) being received by the Insurance Ombudsman office have been increasing. “As against 118 complaints received in year 2000- 01, as as many as 697 have been received till January 2007,” he said. 

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BRIEFLY

BT to acquire i2i Enterprise
New Delhi, February 6
BT Group, the UK's telecom operator, will acquire Mumbai-based i2i Enterprise Ltd, a company specialising in Internet protocol services, to become a leading global carrier in the local market. The acquisition would help BT expand its customer base and build a broad-based platform for growth in India, BT India Managing Director C.S. Rao said here. — PTI

Flights to North
Bangalore, February 6
Paramount Airways will acquire 15 new aircraft to spread its wings to North India, company Managing Director Thiagarajan said today. Announcing the introduction of the Bangalore-Hyderabad service from tomorrow at a press conference here, he said the new aircraft, to be acquired by 2008-09, would be utilised for introducing services to cities in North India.— UNI

Indian offer
New Delhi, February 6
Indian today introduced a 24-hour online check-in facility called i-check-in, the self check-in facility was launched by Indian’s Chairman and Managing Director Vishwapati Trivedi here. The procedure is user friendly with simple steps to follow after logging on to the airline’s website www.indianairlines.in. The passenger can go directly for security check after taking a print out of the boarding card. — UNI

Birlasoft HQ
New Delhi, February 6
Birlasoft, the IT arm of the $1.2-billion C K Birla Group, has set up its global headquarter at Noida with a 700 seat facility at a cost of Rs 23 crore. The company is also planning two new facilities with a capacity of 1,000 employees each near the headquarter. The new facilities would be set up at a cost of Rs 30 crore each and would come up by August this year.— PTI

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