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India, Japan reach pact on currency swap
New Delhi, August 22
India and Japan have agreed to sign a basic bilateral agreement on currency swap, which will add to a regional network of such accords designed to provide emergency financial liquidity to either or both parties in times of currency market or other turbulence. "A basic agreement has been reached on bilateral currency swap in response to short term liquidity crunch," Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said here today.
CMD of Bharti Group Sunil Bharti Mittal (left) with Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani at a meeting of India Japan Business Leaders Forum in New Delhi on Wednesday.
CMD of Bharti Group Sunil Bharti Mittal (left) with Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani at a meeting of India Japan Business Leaders Forum in New Delhi on Wednesday. Two hundred Japanese businessmen are part of a business delegation accompanying Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is on India visit. — AFP photo

Spectrum policy before year-end: Raja
New Delhi, August 22
The government today said it will announce the spectrum policy before the end of this year and consult telecom operators to explore the possibility of introducing a facility wherein customers can retain their mobile numbers even after changing the service provider.



EARLIER STORIES

 
A man passes underneath a giant retail advertising poster in Beijing on Wednesday. China's central bank announced it would raise interest rates for the fourth time this year in an effort to curb inflation that last month had climbed to its highest level in over a decade.
A man passes underneath a giant retail advertising poster in Beijing on Wednesday. China's central bank announced it would raise interest rates for the fourth time this year in an effort to curb inflation that last month had climbed to its highest level in over a decade. — AFP photo

Pooling LNG Prices
SC vacates stay
New Delhi, August 22
The Supreme Court today cleared the decks for implementation of the government notification and enforced uniform gas pricing policy in the country with effect from August 1.

Novartis to divert India investment
Zurich, August 22
Novartis will probably move large investments in India elsewhere after an Indian court backed a law, viewed as weakening patent protections, chief executive Daniel Vasella was quoted as saying today.

Onion prices dip for 2nd day
New Delhi, August 22
Onion prices continue to move south for the second consecutive day at major growing centres like Lasalgaon and Pimpalgaon in Maharashtra following the $ 100 hike in minimum export price (MEP) by Nafed.

ICICI Bank, JBIC in Rs 820-cr pact
New Delhi, August 22
ICICI Bank Ltd today signed an untied loan agreement totalling Rs 820 crore with Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting clean development mechanism (CDM) projects in the country.

Freight corridor project enters crucial phase
New Delhi, August 22
The Indian Railways is trying to put the much-touted Rs 28,181-crore dedicated freight corridor (DFC) project on track amid roadblocks.

ORG buys Belgacom’s satellite biz
New Delhi, August 22
Vikram Sarabhai-promoted ORG Informatics today announced the acquisition of satellite broadcast and service business, including TV and Telecom Teleport assets, of Belgium’s national telco, Belgacom, for about Rs 100 crore.

US sub-prime crisis unlikely to hit banks: Parekh
New Delhi, August 22
Indian banking system is unlikely to be affected by the sub-prime lending crisis in the US, but banks may face problems on account of rising domestic property prices, home loan leader HDFC's chairman Deepak Parekh said today.

Dabhol Project
GAIL to infuse Rs 475 cr more
New Delhi, August 22
State-run gas firm GAIL (India) Ltd will infuse an additional Rs 475 crore equity in Dabhol power project to help the beleaguered unit complete the construction of an attached liquefied natural gas terminal.

Motorola to beef up presence in India
New Delhi, August 22
Faced with the falling market share, US-based handset maker Motorola is all set to increase its vendor base in the country, one of the largest growing markets in the world, by acquiring space in 400 retail stores by this year-end.

Tatas filing frivolous cases: Birlas 
New Delhi, August 22
Tatas agreed to a joint venture, competed with it, later walked out and are now filing “frivolous” petitions against it, Birlas told Supreme Court in reply to Tata Industries’ plea for arbitration on mobile firm Idea Cellular.

Arcelor shareholders seek court order blocking buyout
Rotterdam (Netherlands), August 22
Hedge fund investors in steel giant Arcelor SA asked a Dutch court today to block the company’s $40 billion takeover by Mittal Steel Co NV, saying that a revised share swap deal has cost them $205 million.

 

 

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India, Japan reach pact on currency swap

New Delhi, August 22
India and Japan have agreed to sign a basic bilateral agreement on currency swap, which will add to a regional network of such accords designed to provide emergency financial liquidity to either or both parties in times of currency market or other turbulence.

"A basic agreement has been reached on bilateral currency swap in response to short term liquidity crunch," Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said here today, while speaking at an interactive session with business leaders from the two countries organised by apex industry chambers.

Though he did not elaborate on the issue, sources said as per the agreement, India and Japan will help each other if their currencies were to come under the attack of speculators.

It will also enable both countries to swap foreign currencies like US dollar or euro to maintain the value of rupee and yen in foreign exchange markets.

Sources said the Reserve Bank of India and Bank of Japan would be the nodal agencies, going by such agreements that Japan has entered into with other countries.

Japan has swap deals with other Asian countries like Thailand, Korea, China, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia. In some cases, the swap is one way, while in some others it is two-way. — PTI

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Spectrum policy before year-end: Raja

New Delhi, August 22
The government today said it will announce the spectrum policy before the end of this year and consult telecom operators to explore the possibility of introducing a facility wherein customers can retain their mobile numbers even after changing the service provider.

"I am very optimistic that in a couple of months spectrum policy will be ready... it would definitely be before the end of the year," communications minister A Raja told reporters.

The policy has at least four times missed the deadline announced by the ministry due to unavailability of spectrum from armed forces. But the defence ministry is expected to release some spectrum in the next couple of months.

Raja said the Department of Telecom (DoT) was aware of the spectrum crunch for existing mobile operators for normal voice services (2G) but the ministry needs at least 35 Mhz of radio waves from defence forces to release it among operators.

Number portability

On number portability that will allow mobile users to retain their numbers while switching to another operator, he said: "It is being considered ... the recommendation given by TRAI is being considered." Raja said telecom regulator TRAI's earlier recommendation was not rejected, but was kept in abeyance. "Now, we are actively thinking how it can be worked out," he said.

The minister said operators would be consulted before finalising any decision. "It is practiced in many countries and it is a greatly useful to customers," he added.

Raja said the telecom ministry was in talks with defence ministry for more spectrum and that exercise was still on.

He also said DoT had not decided whether to price 2G spectrum.

DoT is seeking release of 42.5 Mhz of spectrum from defence forces, for which it is making an alternate network.

Tariff hike

Meanwhile, the government today said it would refer to TRAI the issue of recent tariff hike by mobile operators and would take a decision only after knowing the regulator's opinion.

"SMS is a mode of tariff. Definitely tariff is in the control of ministry. Let TRAI decide on it first," telecom minister A Raja said today on the sidelines of a function organised by Telecom Equipment Manufacturers Association.

When contacted on the matter, TRAI chairman Nripendra Misra told PTI: "There has been no reference from DoT to look into the matter so far. I would have to get a communication from them first to be able to say anything on the matter." Earlier, the regulator had cited the market forces as a cause for the hike in SMS and local call charges by Airtel and Vodafone Essar.

The GSM operators earlier this month hiked SMS charges by a flat 20 per cent to Rs 1.20 per message and local call charges within their network by 20 per cent to Rs 1.20 per minute from Re 1 for pre-paid customers.

Just prior to that, majority of private GSM players hiked STD tariffs by over 10 per cent for pre-paid users.— PTI

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Pooling LNG Prices
SC vacates stay

New Delhi, August 22
The Supreme Court today cleared the decks for implementation of the government notification and enforced uniform gas pricing policy in the country with effect from August 1.

A Bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhan and VS Sirpurkar vacated the interim stay granted by Gujarat High Court against the implementation of the government notification.

According to the notification Petro Net Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Limited will adopt a uniform price policy throughout the country.

The gas is supplied by Ratnagiri Dhabol project.

Today’s order came on petition filed by Petro Net LNG Limited seeking transfer of the petitions pending in various High Courts to this court.

The apex court also directed Gujarat High Court to reconsider the issue of interim stay and remanded the matter back to the Gujarat High Court. The PSUs involved are Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum and GAIL. The Gujarat High Court had stayed the notification on July 31, 2007 against which the petitioner company came in appeal.

Seven petitions are pending in Gujarat High Court and one in Delhi High Court. And the transfer of all petitions is being sought on the grounds of avoiding multiplicity of litigations.

The pricing policy of the government move in accordance with fluctuations in international prices of crude oil. The notification was issued by Union Petroleum and Gas Ministry on March 2007. — UNI

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Novartis to divert India investment

Zurich, August 22
Novartis will probably move large investments in India elsewhere after an Indian court backed a law, viewed as weakening patent protections, chief executive Daniel Vasella was quoted as saying today.

“This is not an invitation to invest in Indian research and development, which we would have done. We will invest more in countries where we have protection. It’s not a punishment. It’s just a question of the culture for investment,” Vasella told the Financial Times.

Earlier in August, an Indian court had rejected a challenge by Switzerland’s Novartis to Indian law that denies patents for minor improvements to known drugs.

Vasella said that his ‘concrete plans’ for investment in India had stalled during the trial and that the investment would now go elsewhere, the Financial Times said.

The closely watched case had become a key battle in the long-running war between multinational drug firms and humanitarian campaigners, who say ‘big pharma’ is putting patents ahead of patients.

Novartis says the Indian patent system stifles innovation, such as making a drug more heat-resistant or able to be swallowed rather than injected. — Reuters

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Onion prices dip for 2nd day

New Delhi, August 22
Onion prices continue to move south for the second consecutive day at major growing centres like Lasalgaon and Pimpalgaon in Maharashtra following the $ 100 hike in minimum export price (MEP) by Nafed.

“Prices have come down significantly as a result of the hike in onion MEP by $ 100 to $ 445 a tonne,” National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (Nafed) managing director Alok Ranjan told PTI today.

He said stocks were sufficient to meet the demand for the next two-month, before new crop reaches market.

Prices of good-quality onion in the wholesale markets in Delhi, a major consuming centre in the country, today dipped to Rs 1,250-1,875 per quintal from Rs 1,625-2,000 a quintal on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, agriculture secretary P K Mishra said government was fully aware of the issue of onion prices. — PTI

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ICICI Bank, JBIC in Rs 820-cr pact

New Delhi, August 22
ICICI Bank Ltd today signed an untied loan agreement totalling Rs 820 crore with Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting clean development mechanism (CDM) projects in the country.

The agreement was signed by JBIC Governor Kyosuke Shinozawa and ICICI Bank Ltd CMD and CEO K Vaman Kamath. The agreement will finance CDM related projects in India and support acquisition of greenhouse gas emission credits generated from such projects. — UNI

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Freight corridor project enters crucial phase

New Delhi, August 22
The Indian Railways is trying to put the much-touted Rs 28,181-crore dedicated freight corridor (DFC) project on track amid roadblocks.

The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JBIC), which has agreed to provide about Rs 18,000 crore for the construction cost of the proposed 2,763-km freight corridor, has raised questions about the technology to be used and the cost of the project in its interim report to the ministry.

The DFC project aims to link Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata with high speed connectivity for exclusive freight movement.

The project consists of 1,483-km Delhi-Mumbai route, also known as western corridor and 1,280-km Delhi-Kolkata route, known as eastern corridor. While the construction of the western corridor is estimated to cost Rs 16,592 crore, the cost of building the eastern corridor is estimated to cost Rs 11,588 crore.

While the railways want to run double stacked containers in Delhi-Mumbai corridor by diesel locomotive, the JBIC is for electric locomotives because it is environment-friendly. The JBIC has estimated the total cost of the DFC at a Rs 50,000 crore, almost double the rly's estimate. — PTI

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ORG buys Belgacom’s satellite biz

New Delhi, August 22
Vikram Sarabhai-promoted ORG Informatics today announced the acquisition of satellite broadcast and service business, including TV and Telecom Teleport assets, of Belgium’s national telco, Belgacom, for about Rs 100 crore.

Belgacom is one of Europe’s premiere national telecom companies with over 6 billion euros of revenue annually.

ORG will now launch various satellite-based services like broadcasting, voice-over Internet protocol and satellite monitoring across Europe, Middle East and Africa, Group CEO Ajoy Khandheria said. — PTI

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US sub-prime crisis unlikely to hit banks: Parekh

New Delhi, August 22
Indian banking system is unlikely to be affected by the sub-prime lending crisis in the US, but banks may face problems on account of rising domestic property prices, home loan leader HDFC's chairman Deepak Parekh said today.

The Reserve Bank and the National Housing Bank have taken measures to insulate the banking system from such a housing crisis, he told reporters here.

He said lending rates were unlikely to fall in the next six months, although RBI, in its quarterly review of the annual monetary policy last month, sought to halt the rate hike spree in the face of low inflation.

Inflation was down to 4.05 per cent for the week ended August 4.

Parekh said the crisis in the US sub-prime market, which has been witness to banks extending loans to people with poor credit history, is unlikely to put pressure on Indian banking system.

He, however, added that the sub-prime crisis will have positive impact on rupee appreciation.

Not just banks, the sub-prime crisis is also unlikely to affect Indian companies, ICICI Bank deputy managing director Chanda Kochhar had said yesterday.

"No deal has fallen through from India because of the sub-prime crisis," she had said.

IT firms safe, says Citigroup

Indian IT firms are unlikely to be hit by the US subprime lending crisis as their exposure to clients in the mortgage sector is limited, says a research by Citigroup.

Most Indian IT services companies have significant exposure to the banking and financial services industry.

However, they have very few clients that are in the mortgage processing or subprime business, the report analysing the impact of subprime, or lending to people with poor credit history, on Indian IT services said.

"With all large caps clarifying that the exposure to the subprime segment is minimal, that is less than 1 per cent of the revenues, we do not see any material impact on earnings or visibility," Citigroup analysts Surendra Goyal and Hitesh Shah said. — PTI

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Dabhol Project
GAIL to infuse Rs 475 cr more

New Delhi, August 22
State-run gas firm GAIL (India) Ltd will infuse an additional Rs 475 crore equity in Dabhol power project to help the beleaguered unit complete the construction of an attached liquefied natural gas terminal.

GAIL currently holds 28.33 per cent in Ratnagiri Gas and Power Pvt Ltd, the company that took over the Dabhol power plant after bankruptcy of US energy major Enron Corp.

After the infusion of additional funds, its equity stake would rise to 32.88 per cent, RGPPL sources said.

State-run power firm NTPC, which also holds 28.33 per cent stake in RGPPL, will invest Rs 475 crore, while Maharasthra State Electricity Board (MSEB), having 15 per cent stake, would put in Rs 250 crore. The RGPPL needs Rs 1,200 crore to complete the receipt facility and build breakwater.

The MSEB, the sole purchaser of power from the plant, will see its stake rise to 17.37 per cent, while equity of financial institutions, who are not investing fresh funds, would fall to 16.83 per cent from 28.33 per cent.

GAIL, NTPC and FIs had infused Rs 500 crore equity each in RGPPL to takeover Dabhol two years ago. MSEB had at that time provided only Rs 265 crore.

The sources said GAIL board yesterday approved the proposal to pump in additional equity on the condition that the money would be used only for completing the 5 million tons a year LNG import terminal and that other promoters also make their contributions.

GAIL has also conditioned the additional funds on getting rights to market the LNG left after generating power at the project on the Maharashtra coast.

The RGPPL needs 2.1 million tons of LNG per annum for generating 2,184 MW power, leaving 2.9 million tons of LNG for sale to other users. — PTI

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Motorola to beef up presence in India

New Delhi, August 22
Faced with the falling market share, US-based handset maker Motorola is all set to increase its vendor base in the country, one of the largest growing markets in the world, by acquiring space in 400 retail stores by this year-end.

“We are coming up with space in 400 retail stores before this Christmas to improve our market share, which has been low for last couple of years. But, in the past six months there has been ups and downs,” Mr Jeremy Dale, vice-president (marketing), Motorola, told reporters here.

He, however, refused to divulge the details of investment plans and said that the company was in talks with the leading retail brands for the space. Motorola will not only eye top cities but also expand to smaller cities, Dale said during the launch of its new motostore in the national capital.

Recently, Tata Teleservices and Motorola launched their Moto Q smart phone in the Indian market.

The company registered a 13 per cent market share in the second quarter of this fiscal, against 22.1 per cent over the corresponding quarter last year.

The ultra low-cost handset (ULCH) marketplace is currently dominated by Motorola and Nokia, but Samsung, LG Electronics, and Sony Ericsson are showing increasing interest and other smaller vendors, including ZTE, Kyocera, Huawei, Haier, Sagem, Ningbo Bird, Philips, and Rose Telecom, are also beginning to address the market. — UNI

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Tatas filing frivolous cases: Birlas 

New Delhi, August 22
Tatas agreed to a joint venture, competed with it, later walked out and are now filing “frivolous” petitions against it, Birlas told Supreme Court in reply to Tata Industries’ plea for arbitration on mobile firm Idea Cellular.

In its counter-affidavit filed through Grasim Industries senior vice-president Ashok Malu, A V Birla group said Tatas’ plea for arbitration to resolve a dispute related to termination of their joint venture Idea Cellular was “frivolous and vexatious.”

“(Tata) have already exited Idea Cellular by selling their shareholding to the Birla Group on the terms and conditions determined by themselves,” Birla group submitted.

Though Tata Industries Ltd (TIL) and its subsidiary Apex Investments (Mauritius) Holding sold their 48.14 per cent stake in Idea to Grasim for Rs 4,406 crore last year, TIL claims that there was need for arbitration on termination notices served on Birlas before the stake sale.

TIL had served two notices seeking to terminate their joint venture with Birlas on the ground that the latter had violated the shareholders agreement.

If the arbitration is settled in Tata group’s favour, it will have the right to buy out Birlas’ stake in Idea.

A bench headed by Justice V S Sirpurkar has posted the matter to September 17 for further hearing.

Tatas had earlier moved the apex court seeking to appoint a nominee arbitrator on behalf of Grasim as the latter had refused to appoint one.

Terming this approach as mischievous, the Birla group said the proceedings initiated by Tatas were aimed at promoting the business interests of that group’s mobile telecom companies. — PTI

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Arcelor shareholders seek court order blocking buyout

Rotterdam (Netherlands), August 22
Hedge fund investors in steel giant Arcelor SA asked a Dutch court today to block the company’s $40 billion takeover by Mittal Steel Co NV, saying that a revised share swap deal has cost them $205 million.

“We are only getting 3.3 per cent of a valuable company and we should be getting 4.4 per cent,” Philip Price, chief operating officer of SRM Global, told reporters after the hearing at a Rotterdam court.

The steel companies already call themselves ArcelorMittal, but three funds — SRM Global Master Fund, Trafalgar Catalyst Fund and Trafalgar Entropy Fund — want to block the first phase of the merger, when Mittal is to combine with ArcelorMittal SA, a holding company.

Under a takeover offer made in August 2006, investors were offered 11 ArcelorMittal shares for seven Arcelor shares. But the bid was revised in May to offer eight ArcelorMittal shares for seven Arcelor shares. Mittal plans to seek shareholder approval for the deal on August 28 and complete it on September 3.

In the second phase, ArcelorMittal would merge with Luxembourg-based Arcelor, creating the world’s largest steel maker by sales.

The Rotterdam court will issue its written decision on Monday whether to block the merger, a day before the shareholder meeting.

Mittal lawyer Harmen de Mol van Otterloo said theDutch court had no jurisdiction because under the complex structure of the merger it would involve two Luxembourg-based companies. — AP

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BRIEFLY

Toyota plan
New Delhi, August 22
Japan-based Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) today said it will roll out its small cars in India in the next two years with the production slated from India. ''We are exploring and studying what kind of car is good for Indian use. The car will be produced in India but is meant for several countries,'' TMC chairman of the board Fujio Cho said. — UNI

HSBC office
Indianapolis, August 22
Banking giant HSBC will close by the middle of 2008 an Indiana finance office that employs 600 persons because of declining mortgage business. The Carmel location handles mortgage sales across the US and also employs underwriting and collections staff, HSBC spokesman Michael Trevino said yesterday. — AP

Alpha G Corp
Karnal, August 22
Alpha G Corp, which is developing an integrated township Alpha International City on 350 acres in Sector 28 and 29 in Karnal, today opened its office here. The Rs 600-crore project, in the first phase will see development of residential complexes which will be followed by retail, commercial, educational, healthcare establishments and condominiums. — TNS

Awarded
Shimla, August 22
Chairman-cum-managing director of public sector Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam H.K. Sharma has been conferred Mother India Award for Udyog Pratibha 2006 by the Indian Organisation for Commerce and Industry for outstanding contribution to the society and nation. The award was presented by Dr Bhai Mahaveer Prasad, former Governor Madhya Pradesh & Haryana, at Delhi yesterday. — TNS

Sterlite Optical
Mumbai, August 22
Sterlite Optical Technologies today said production at its new facility at Haridwar in Uttarakhand has started and with this the cumulative capacity of the company has touched 1,15,000 MT, making it one of the top five global manufacturers of power conductors. — PTI

Healthcare fund
Mumbai, August 22
Piramal Enterprises, part of Ajay Piramal Group, today said it will launch a $200-million private equity business. The fund would focus on healthcare as Piramal group has already established its presence in the domestic healthcare sector, the company said. — PTI

Banks’ strike
New Delhi, August 22
All banking transaction throughout the country would come to a standstill on September 12 following a day-long strike call by the United Forum of Bank Employees (UFBE), the umbrella organisation of the nation's 8.5 lakh bank employees. A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting of the UFBE in Mumbai this afternoon, according to Delhi State Bank Employees Federation joint secretary Ramanand. — UNI

Jet Airways
Toronto, August 22
Jet Airways will begin its five-day a week flight to Toronto from Delhi, via Brussels, from September 5, a company release said. The flight will operate daily except Tuesdays and Thursdays. — PTI

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