|B U S I N E S S||
Monday, October 12, 1998
CII survey shows
Spend road taxes on
rises to 8.69 per cent
to set up hotel company
products matter, not brands
licence fee hike plan opposed
samadhan for litigation
CII survey shows slight recovery
NEW DELHI, Oct 11 (PTI) The CII has predicted an improved industrial outlook during the second half of current financial year on the basis of recovery shown by a number of industrial sectors.
In a survey of sector specific industrial performance, the apex chamber said that more than half of the total 113 industrial sectors registered moderate to excellent growth rates in the first six months of 1998-99.
The demand for basic goods like steel, cement and crude oil have picked up marginally over the previous years level but the industrial growth rate seems to be riding high on the wave of peak demand for consumer durables, particularly white goods.
Capital goods such as earthmoving, construction and mining equipments besides power transformers, telecom equipment and diesel engines are also showing moderate to high growth rates.
However, the sluggish recessionary trend that the economy has been witnessing for the past two years has left a scar in the growth of automobile sector, machine tools and textile machinery whose performances are negative.
While steel production increased by only 1 per cent in the first half of the current fiscal due to a low rate of growth in capital goods industries, cement clocked above 5 per cent production growth with a positive outlook for the remaining part of the year.
Dumping by CIS countries, South Korea and Japan along with continued increase in input cost have also dimmed the prospects of the steel sector.
The oil and natural gas sector has been affected by increased production costs with production of petrol increasing by 5.5 per cent while LPG showed a growth rate of 4 per cent.
Overall fertiliser production increased by 5.2 per cent in spite of constraints such as falling international prices of urea and ammonia and withdrawal of concessional pricing for raw materials.
Among automobiles, only motor cycles posted a high production growth rate of 27 per cent with demand recession in the commercial vehicles segment and high input cost constraining the growth of other segments.
The ASCON industry monitor survey, which calculates growth rates using information provided by member companies of the CII and its 69 affiliated associations accounting for more than 65 per cent of the countrys industrial output, categorises over 20 per cent as excellent growth rate and between 10 and 20 per cent as high growth.
The other two categories are moderate (below 10 per cent) and negative.
Telecom equipment posted little growth due to policy constraints although the outlook remained positive for this key sector. However, telecom cables witnessed 93 per cent growth in production with outlook remaining bullish due to bunching of orders in the second half of 1998-99.
In the capital goods sector, textile machinery and machine tools continued to post negative production rates with distorted duty structure affecting domestic production of textile machinery.
Exports of basic goods have also not done very well with only earth moving and construction equipment exports showing a 20 per cent increase, the survey said. Steel and cement both witnessed negative growth in exports.
The software sector maintained its performance in exports with an increase of 70 per cent in the first half of 1998-99. Other sectors that witnessed excellent export growth rates were scooters and refrigerators among consumer durables and cigarettes and tobacco among non-durables.
White goods also achieved above 20 per cent growth in sales with motor cycles sales recording 22.7 per cent growth.
Toffee is not a sweetmeat, says Supreme Court
NEW DELHI, Oct 11 (PTI) The Supreme Court has ruled that toffee is not a sweetmeat or commodity of a like nature and hence new toffee industries in Uttar Pradesh are entitled to sales tax exemption under the 1991 notification by the State.
Setting aside a high court order, a three-judge Bench comprising Justice S.P. Bharucha, Justice M.K. Mukherjee and Justice G.T. Nanavati directed the State Government to grant the required eligibility certificate to such industries and extend the benefit of sales tax exemption as legally available.
The Bench said: In the Hindi version of the notification for the word sweetmeat the word mithai is used. The word mithai has a definite connotation and it can be said with reasonable amount of certainty that people in this country do not consider toffee as mithai.
The high court committed a grave error in holding that as some manufacturers of toffees sell their products by describing them as sweets it can be said that in commercial circles toffee is known as sweetmeat, the court observed.
Spend road taxes on roads:
NEW DELHI, Oct 11 The Minister for Surface Transport, Dr M. Thambi Durai today called upon the States to allocate a substantial portion of road related taxes for the road sector.
After inaugurating the 28th meeting of the Transport Development Council here, Dr Durai said that one of the most serious drawbacks in the system of highway funding in the country is that road related revenues are not adequately allocated to the road sector.
Most of these are treated as general revenues and only about 40 per cent or so comes back to the road sector. Stating that development of road network in an area gives a boost to real estate activities in that area, the minister suggested that States should consider bringing out suitable legislation in this context to mop up resources for road development.
He also mooted another suggestion to generate resources for road sector - to collect about 20 per cent of the ex-factory price of automobiles at the manufacturing stage itself.
Dr Durai spoke about the increasing demand on roads due to the rapidly growing vehicle population and in this context emphasised on road safety and reducing vehicular pollution. For high-speed mobility, he said, his ministry was thinking of creating a dedicated organisation for planning and management of expressways in the country.
The Minister of State for Surface Transport, Dr Debendra Pradhan, said that to give a boost to the inland Water Transportation (IWT) sector a provisional amount of Rs 408 crore has been made during the 9th Plan against an outlay of Rs 240 crore during the 8th plan. He said that efforts are being made to attract private funds into this sector. However, he pointed out that unless basic infrastructure for navigation is provided, private sector is unlikely to invest.
The meeting was attended by ministers dealing with transport, highways, IWT and Secretaries from the States, UTs and representatives from motor vehicle manufacturers, Transport bodies like AIMTC, automotive Research Institute of India, Association of State Road Transport Undertakings.
The Transport Development
Council (TDC) is the apex body which advises the
Government on transport policy. The Chairperson of the
Council is the Union Minister for Surface Transport and
ministers dealing with highways, road transport, IWT from
the States, the UTs are its members.
DCM Fin trading to be suspended
NEW DELHI, Oct 9 (PTI) Delhi Stock Exchange (DSE) has decided to deal strictly with companies failing to redress investor complaints, following a directive from the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).
SEBI in a letter last week had asked all stock exchanges to take tough action against firms who do not redress various investor complaints like non-payment of dividend.
The exchange officials said DSE will suspend trading in DCM Financial Services for its failure to redress mounting investor complaints regarding non-payment of dividend to the shareholders.
We have decided to suspend trading in the companys shares for one week from tomorrow, DSE Executive Director S.S. Sodhi told PTI.
The exchange has over the past few months taken tough action against at least 35 companies including Rita Singh-promoted Mescos group.
The intention is just to send a message across to errant companies, Sodhi said adding that the exchange does not want investors to get affected because of the suspension.
Sources in DSE said there were at least 55 investor complaints pending against DCM Financial at the bourse and 20 of them related to non-payment of dividend amount for the financial year 1996-97.
Another complaint against DCM Financial was relating to its failure to make the repayment of its 18-month 19.5 per cent secured redeemable non-convertible debentures allotted in November 1996, sources said.
DCM Financial was said to be Avoiding payment of dividend saying that in January this year, the Reserve Bank of India issued directions to the company not to sell, transfer, create, mortgage or deal in any manner with its property or assets except for the purpose of repayment of deposits held by it without obtaining prior approval of the bank.
We are of the view that the RBI directive does not cover the payment of dividend. Further it cannot be assumed that the directive covers the payment of dividend as well since dividend once declared becomes a liability of the company, an exchange official said.
He said in any case the
company could have placed the dividend amount in a
separate account with a lien marked on it in favour of
the shareholders or even deposited the dividend amount
with the stock exchange till the receipt of clarification
from the RBI.
Inderjit Singh to get title of
NEW DELHI, Oct 11 Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, SGPC President, has announced that the title of Panth Ratan will be bestowed on Dr Inderjit Singh, a noted banker, posthumously on the 300th anniversary of Khalsa Panth. Dr Inderjit Singh will be the second person after Master Tara Singh to be decorated with Panth Ratan.
He was speaking at the bhog ceremony of Dr Inderjit Singh and his wife, Damyant Kaur, at Gurdwara Rakabganj here yesterday.
Rich tributes were paid to Dr Inderjit Singh by a large gathering which included Mr Surjit Singh Barnala, Minister of Fertilisers and Chemicals, Dr Manmohan Singh, a former Finance Minister, Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, Mr S.S. Ahluwalia, Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, Mr Om Prakash Chautala, Mr Buta Singh, Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal, Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra, Mr Tota Singh and Mr Simranjit Singh Mann. Several prominent industrialists and bankers were also present.
Sant Paramjit Singh announced that the Sant Samaj will honour Dr Inderjit Singh with the title of Yug Purush for his contribution to the community.
Dr Manmohan Singh said
that the nation has lost a great economist and financial
wizard who single-handed took Punjab and Sind Bank to
great heights and he was set to better his record with
the Bank of Punjab.
Inflation rises to 8.69 per cent
NEW DELHI, Oct 11 (PTI) The annual rate of inflation continued its upward march and touched 8.69 per cent for the week-ended September 26 from 8.55 per cent a week ago.
Sustained increase in prices of food articles and food products, especially vegetables and edible oils, pushed up the inflation to its second-highest levels in three years during the week under review.
Radisson to set up hotel company
NEW DELHI, Oct 11 (PTI) Radisson Hotels Worldwide (RHW), plans to set up a joint venture hotel management company in India to impart training in various aspects of hotel management.
Radisson, which has two operational hotels in the country, will use the new company in horning the skills of its employees and others in the field, Radisson Hotels International Inc Senior Vice-President (Development) James W. Olson told PTI here.
The new company will be known as RHW Management Services India Limited.
conference from Oct 29
Here products matter, not
CHICAGO, Oct 10 Neither foreign brands nor foreign technology were a guarantee of success in the Indian marketplace, potential American investors in India have been told.
What matters most to the Indian consumer is the product itself and the price, said T.R. Prasad, Industry Secretary and Chairman of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB).
Referring to the failure of some multinationals in India, he said: It is wrong to say that the market has given wrong signals. The Indian consumer is extremely price conscious, whether it is cars or consumer durables.
Industrialist K.K. Modi, President of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), added: The Indian is a demanding consumer and a frugal spender. But, he stressed, India is not a poor country. In how many countries do the people save 27 per cent of their income?
Prasad and Modi were speaking at a seminar on Strategies for Success in India here that was attended by over 150 executives from American companies, including Lucent Technologies, United Airlines, ABN AMRO, Kraft Foods and McKinsey.
Seeking to allay apprehensions about an economic slowdown, Prasad said multinationals like General Electric, Ford Motors and Citibank were expanding operations in India. Enron is bullish on India and there is a very strong presence of major global players in the country, he said.
Comparing India and China he noted that most ventures in the former, including Microsoft and Pepsi, are managed by Indian professionals. He added that Indias external debt as a percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP) was 29.2 compared to 26.3 per cent in South Korea and 45.8 per cent in Thailand.
While external debt had fallen sharply, foreign reserves had gone up from $ 21.69 billion in 1996 to $ 29.37 billion in 1998. Even if there is a run on reserves as a withdrawal of short term debt, the economy will be stable, he said.
The biggest fear among the foreign investors is political and economic uncertainty, noted Sudhir Jalan, FICCIs President-elect and Chairman of Bells Controls, but in India a minority government does not mean uncertainty, certainly not on the economic front.
He said India was an
elephant compared to the springing tigers of
East Asia. An elephant takes slow but steady steps.
You will probably not see sudden spurts of 12 per cent
growth followed by negative growth. American
economist Jeffrey Sachs, he added, had predicted that
India would be the fastest growing economy in the world
in the next millennium. IANS
Hotel licence fee hike plan
LUDHIANA, Oct 11 The local Hotel and Restaurant Association has presented a memorandum to the Local Bodies Minister, Mr Balramji Das Tandon, in Chandigarh regarding the proposed increase in the municipal licence fee for hotels and restaurants.
The Government is reportedly planning to raise the licence fee from Rs 500 to up to Rs 25,000, depending on the number of rooms in a hotel. It has also been proposed that hotels having a beer bar would also have to pay Rs 25,000 in addition to the licence fee of Rs 1 lakh being paid to the State Government.
Mr Mukesh Nayyar, general secretary of the association, said already the hotel industry was facing an acute financial crisis due to the slump in the market and if this proposal was accepted, it would further burden the industry.
Mr Jagdish Anand, President of the association, said hotels and restaurants were paying multiple taxes to the Municipal Corporation in the form of house tax, water tax, fire tax, generator tax, licence fee for food preparation, generator tax, etc.
A samadhan for litigation
Finance (No. 2) Act, 1998 introduced a new unique scheme Kar Vivad Samadhan Scheme 1998 popularly known as Samadhan scheme for declogging the system and twin objective of effective settlement of outstanding litigation and raising funds for the Government. It is expected that the government will get revenue of about Rs 10,000 crore, from this scheme which is user friendly.
It is open for direct and indirect tax penalty or interest dues outstanding as on March 31, 1998 and is available from September 1, 1998 to December 31, 1998.
In order to have some idea of this scheme, the brief features contained in Sections 86 to 98 are given below:-
(i) The scheme provides for settlement of certain disputed arrears of taxes in relation to disputed income, wealth, expenditure, chargeable interest, value of gift under direct tax laws and the arrears of duties, fine, penalty or interest under indirect tax law.
(ii) The declaration has to be made to the designated authority under the scheme on or after September 1, 1998 but on or before December 31, 1998. The rate at which the amount is payable is 35 per cent. In case of a company or a firm and 30 per cent in cases other than the company or firm of the amount in arrears, if the arrears comprise of tax, interest and penalty. Where the arrears comprise of only interest and penalty, the rate at which amount is payable is 50 per cent of the arrears. In search and seizure cases, however, the rate is 45 per cent and 40 per cent. Under the indirect taxes, the arrears are payable at 50 per cent. Different rates are applicable under wealth-tax, gift-tax and interest tax Act, such as 1 per cent of the disputed wealth, 30 per cent of the value of disputed gift, 10 per cent of the disputed chargeable expenditure.
(iii) The designated authority will pass the orders within 60 days from the date of receipt of the declaration and issue a certificate. The declarant shall pay the sum so determined within 30 days and produce the proof of such payment before the designated authority.
(iv) The provision of the scheme will not be applicable to those persons against whom prosecution proceedings are launched under various laws specified in the scheme.
(v) The designated authority shall grant immunity from instituting any proceedings for prosecution for any offence under direct tax law or indirect tax law or from the imposition of penalty under the above laws in respect of the matter covered in the declaration, subject to certain conditions.
KUALA LUMPUR, (Pool-Antara): Malaysia is ready to host the annual Asian Pacific Econimic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November and has no plan to shift the summit to new venue due to the current political unrest in the country, Malaysias International Trade and Industry Minister Rafidah Aziz has said.
Preparations for the meeting, including its agenda and security, are currently being completed by the organising committee.
The 18-member grouping, which will expand to 21 at the summit, have no reason to worry about their safety, Rafidah said, adding conditions in the Malaysian capital were quite secure.
Air fares rise
SINGAPORE (AFP): Asia-Pacific air fares, particularly in business class, have been climbing despite the regions economic and travel slump, according to a survey by the American Express Co.
Because volumes of travel in the Asian-Pacific region have dropped substantially and because of price wars in the leisure fare markets, airlines are trying to raise more revenue from premium class travellers, who tend to be less sensitive to price increases than leisure travellers, said Eric Meierhans, Director of the Purchasing Management Group at American Express.
TOKYO, (PTI): Japan has admitted to a contracting economy and Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi has asked his Cabinet to prepare a fresh stimulus package of $ 80-90 billion to support an earlier plan which had not taken off.
The Japanese Planning Ministry meanwhile revised its negative growth projection to 1.8 per cent from the earlier 1.9 per cent growth, a nearly 3 percentage point difference.
In its new report, the Minister as acknowledged the much-touted $ 140 billion (16 trillion yen) economy-stimulating spending package announced last April will take time to show results.
SHANGHAI (AFP): China Eximbank is due to issue six billion ($ 722.9 million) in commercial banks starting later this month.
Funds to be raised through the issue will be used to bolster loan support for Chinese exporters, battered by the Asian financial crisis.
In the rapidly growing aviation field, there is an urgent need for Air India to augment its fleet to widen the umbrella of operations. The more the operations on busy routes, the more will be the revenue. Unfortunately, the airline has not been able to buy aircraft, despite concerted efforts by the airline officials. The outcome: procrastination which is biting the very growth of the airline.
As a result of this situation, there is a talk of either restructuring the carrier or merging it with Indian Airlines (IA). The trouble becomes more serious as one airline intends to lease the aircraft while another is opposed to it. Amid this unsteady scenario, the airline sustains more losses and the situation become alarming.
The problems of AI in particular and two nationals carriers in general have further compounded because the ministry and Directorate-General and Civil Aviation are managed and controlled by persons who are not essentially aviation-oriented.
Regardless of Indias achievements in the arena of aviation, it has been elected to the Council of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). Indias popularity and public relations at the General Assembly was so good that it secured as many as 135 votes from 141. This was the highest number of votes received by any country in the elections to the Council (part II) held during the 32nd session of the General Assembly in Montreal.
The DGCA, Mr H.S. Khola, was elected President of the 32nd session.
BA art gallery
British Airways has announced the opening of its First Lounge Art Gallery to promote Indian artists and support the cause of underprivileged children.
The airline has transformed its exclusive First Lounge at the Sahara Airport into an art gallery that will display various artists work.
Part of the proceeds from the sale of paintings will go Silver Lining, a British Airways and CRY (Child Relief and You) fund for underprivileged children.
Q.: Please advise me about the prospects of SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals?
Taruna Narang, Chandigarh
Ans: SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals Limited (SBPL) is a subsidiary of SmithKline Beecham Plc of UK. With the foreign parent having a stake of over 40 per cent, this Indian subsidiary has a considerable advantage over most of its competitors in terms of technology and financial backing. Owing primarily to the runaway success of its Hepatitis B vaccine, (SMPL) had declared substantially improved results for the year that ended in December 97. Along with this came the announcement of a liberal bonus offer in the ratio of one share for every share held by the shareholders. The company had previously announced a bonus in 1994 in the ratio of 2:5. Though the company has over 30 products to its credit, the key ones include two antibiotics viz. Augmentin and Timentin, EngerixB which is a hepatitis B vaccine, Zental, Fefol-Z, Bactroban and Iodex. Coupled with this impressive product profile, the companys extensive marketing network and brand building exercise has yielded good returns. Yet the long-term prospects of this company are fairly bright.
Q: My broker has recommended investing in the shares of Mahavir Spinning Mills Ltd. for short-term gains. Please comment?
Mansukh Mehta, Shimla
Ans: Mahavir Spinning Mills Ltd (MSML) is a diversified company with interests in segments like yarn, sewing threads and alloy steels. Sluggish demand, both over-seas as well as in the domestic market, seems to have hampered the growth of this company. Currently, around 30 per cent of its turnover comes from sewing threads, 10 per cent from steel and the balance 60 per cent from different types of yarn. However, the company now seems to be focusing on increasing its orientation towards blended yarn and exports. During the current financial year, MSML is in the process of expanding the capacity of its export oriented unit (EOU) by 25,000 spindles. The current financial year too is likely to be marred by the poor offtake of yarn and high raw material costs. Thus, the growth rate is expected to slip, which in turn indicates that an immediate investment in this scrip is not advisable.
Q: Should I hold or sell the shares of Vikrant Tyres?
Pragya Jain, Chandigarh
Ans: Vikrant Tyres (VTL) has been a beneficiary of its management control changing hands and being vested on JK Industries, with effect May 97. Following the same, this hitherto loss-making company posted a turnaround, notwithstanding the fact that the auto industry was and in fact still is reeling, under recessionary pressure. Inspite of all this, 1997-98 proved to be a very good year for the company as several restructuring programmes were undertaken and met with immediate success. Currently, JK Tyres and VTL have a joint market share of more than 20 per cent. The company has now drawn up a modernisation plan that would involve an outlay of Rs 273 crore. The company is also entering into a tie-up with Continental AG of Germany, the fourth largest tyre manufacturer in the world, for steel radials for trucks and buses. The facility for this is scheduled to be ready by October this year. Moreover, to further reduce costs, the distribution network of both the companies is being synergised, as the management has no plans to withdraw the Vikrant brand. The long term prospects of this company thus seem to be quite satisfactory and hence its shares can be held on to.
Q: Please comment on the prospects of Monsanto Chemicals?
Manek Sethi, Ludhiana
Ans: Monsanto Chemicals of India (MCIL) is one of the leading producers of herbicides used on rice, wheat and tea crops. MCIL markets its herbicides under brand names such as Machete (R), Lasso (R), Avadex (R), Round Up (R) and Monlon (R). The company recorded good results during 1997-98 when its sales rose by 21 per cent to Rs 85.17 crore and net profits almost doubled to Rs 8.63 crore. This enhanced performance can be primarily attributed to the benefits arising from its new plant at Silvassa, which was commissioned in November, 1996. As a result thereof, the companys capacity increased from 4,000 kl of formulations to 19,000 kl of formulations and 6,000 tpa of granules. The reduction in excise duty and import duty on raw materials have also helped to enhance demand and profit margins. MCIL is, reportedly, likely to introduce at least six new formulations as part of a plan to increase its turn-over from Rs 100 crores to Rs 500 crores over the next 5-7 years. Among the new products will be Spark, Polaris and more products in the Round Up category, including the dry version of Round Up. The company is currently carrying out field tests for these products. MICL is a 40 per cent subsidiary of Monsanto Chemicals, US, a Fortune 500 company. Though the parent also has 100% subsidiaries, it currently does not intend to transfer any of the existing brands from MICL, and these existing brands are strong enough to sustain high growth in the future. Hence, MICLs prospects appear to be quite promising.
Q: Should I hold or sell the shares of Indian Hotels?
Vidyottama Shukla, Shimla
Popularly referred to as the Taj Group of Hotels, Indian
Hotels Company Limited is a name which has become
synonymous with grandeur, luxury and service. Starting
with a relatively minuscule capacity of 240 rooms, three
decades ago, the company has grown into a powerful
monolith and operates 37 hotels in India and 16 abroad.
It has a capacity of 2500 rooms spread across 12 cities
in all parts of the country. IHCL has a presence in every
segment Taj Luxurious, caters to premium
clientele. Taj Residency to the business client and the
Gateway Hotels for the budget tourist. The company has
been consistent on the bottomlines front and has been
registering steady performances. Amongst the new Taj
hotels proposed, three are in Mumbai two in Pune, two
each in Goa and Orissa, three in Rajasthan and one each
in Calcutta, Madras, Bangalore, Kozhikode and Hyderabad.
Notwithstanding the glut in demand in this segment, the
long-term prospects of this company seem quite
satisfactory. Hence, one can hold on to the shares of
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