Tuesday, February 8, 2000,
Chandigarh, India






THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
B U S I N E S S
Virgin boss Richard Branson (right) with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates following an interview on BBC’s Breakfast with Frost programme, aired on Sunday. Gates said cutting-edge computer technology could broaden the appeal of the national lottery in Britain, particularly with the use of the Internet. Microsoft Corp has signed up to provide the technology if Branson succeeds in his bid to take over running the national lottery. — AP

Govt rules out cut in EPF interest rate
NEW DELHI, Feb 7 — Union Minister of Labour and Employment Satyanarayan Jatiya today ruled out any reduction in interest rate on the Employees Provident Fund.

Ban on new urea projects
NEW DELHI, Feb 7 — The government today put a ban on setting up new urea projects for the next three years as the country has achieved near self-sufficiency in its production.



EARLIER STORIES
 

Anna Walker, from the Energy Department of British Trade Ministry, right, shakes hands with Hirobumi Kawano, chief of the Japan's Resource and Energy Agency prior to their talks in Tokyo on Monday. Walker, leading British officials, arrived in Tokyo to report their investigation over data falsification of nuclear fuel known as MOX, which was imported from British fuel company BNFL to Japan last year. Japan side is demanding BNFL takes back MOX fuel to remake them while British government is reluctant to accept the demand. — AP/PTI
 
Wearing a cutout depicting mushroom-shaped cloud of A-bomb, Canadian activist Stephen Ready shouts anti-nuclear slogans while British officials arrived at MITI to report their investigations by the BNFL on Monday at Tokyo. — AP/PTI

Talks on airports today
NEW DELHI, Feb 7 — The task force in infrastructure will meet tomorrow to discuss the proposal by the Civil Aviation Ministry to consider declaring certain airports as international airports.

Wipro Tech shifting to Silicon Valley
SANTA CLARA, Feb 7 — A former cooking oil company that has soared to the top of India’s commerce charts plans to shift the headquarters of its most crucial division halfway around the world to the Silicon Valley.

Pfizer to acquire Warner-Lambert
NEW YORK, Feb 7 — In a deal to create the world’s second-largest drug company, Pfizer Inc. is expected to announce that it is acquiring Warner-Lambert Co For $ 84.4 billion in stock, according to people familiar with the negotiations.

BFL Software to tie up with US co
MUMBAI, Feb 7 — Bangalore-based software service company BFL Software Ltd and web solution provider MphasiS Corp. Of the USA today decided to form a common entity under the chairmanship of the latter’s promoter and former head of Citibank’s development division Jaithirth (Jerry) Rao.

650 orders for Opel Corsa on first day
NEW DELHI, Feb 7 — General Motors India Limited (GMIL) collected over 650 fully paid orders for its new offering Opel Corsa today, the first day of opening order booking for the car.

Finolex Cables buys Lucent’s 51 pc stake
NEW DELHI, Feb 7 — Finolex Cables today concluded a deal with Lucent Technologies to buy its 51 per cent stake in Lucent-Finolex fibre optical cable joint venture, Finolex Machines Private Ltd., for an undisclosed amount.

Biotech fair on Feb 16
NEW DELHI, Feb 7 — Breakthroughs in technology, genetically modified organisms, tissue culture, commercial potential of biotechnology research and increasing market penetration of biotech products are among the issues to be discussed at a biotechnology conference and exhibition starting here on February 16.Top




Govt rules out cut in EPF interest rate

NEW DELHI, Feb 7 (UNI, PTI) — Union Minister of Labour and Employment Satyanarayan Jatiya today ruled out any reduction in interest rate on the Employees Provident Fund (EPF). Talking to mediapersons after addressing a seminar on new labour policy organised by FICCI here, Mr Jatiya said the issue of cut in EPF rate is not even in the agenda of discussion before the Board of Trustees.

There was some apprehension in this regard because of fall in interest rates, he said, but added that the Government will maintain EPF rate at 12 per cent.

When asked whether a cut in the public provident fund rate from 12 per cent to 11 per cent will not induce his Ministry to go in for similar step in the EPF rate, he said there is no link between the two rates.

The minister parried a reply on the Dave Committee recommendations on better utilisation of EPF, stating that the issue is not under the jurisdiction of his Ministry.

Expressing concern at the lack of money in the national renewal fund, Mr Jatiya said his Ministry will hold talks with the Industry Ministry on the issue. “The right decision will be taken at an appropriate time,” he added.

Mr Jatiya said workers’ interests will be protected while disinvesting the sick public sector units. He reiterated that the strike by PSU workers earlier this month was resorted to by a section of trade unions. “The two biggest unions: Bharatiya Majdoor Sangh and Indian National Trade Union Congress did not participate in the strike,” he said.

Later speaking at a seminar on “Creating Safety Net: towards a New Labour Policy” Jatiya said his Ministry was in talks with Industry Ministry for enhancing the allocation under National Renewal Fund (NRF) used for rehabilitating the workers.

Stating that there was a need to change according to the technologies and global change, he said proper steps should be taken to see that interest of the labour force is safeguarded due to global transformation in the industry.

Admitting that most of the units were turning sick due to lack of technological upgradation, Jatiya said that there is a need to effectively use the available abundant human resources in the country.

Speaking on the occasion, FICCI President G.P. Goenka said that restructuring of sick units was overdue for a long time and was getting delayed for the fear of loss of employment.

“Devising an appropriate safety net would also help speed up this process,” he said, adding absence of any such scheme had delayed the restructuring programmes causing the nation dearly.Top

 

Ban on new urea projects

NEW DELHI, Feb 7 (PTI) — The government today put a ban on setting up new urea projects for the next three years as the country has achieved near self-sufficiency in its production. No new grassroots urea project will be established in the public, private and cooperative sectors till the year 2003-04, an official release said here today.

However, the public and cooperative sector projects, which were proposed earlier for consideration, will be exempted from this ban. The Cabinet had earlier given in-principle clearance to the urea projects of IFFCO, KRIBHCO and Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilisers (RCF) but the Public Investment Board (PIB) had returned the proposals for re-consideration. Today’s decision will not affect these projects and they can be set up in a staggered manner, ministry sources said.Top



Talks on airports today

NEW DELHI, Feb 7 (UNI) — The task force in infrastructure will meet tomorrow to discuss the proposal by the Civil Aviation Ministry to consider declaring certain airports as international airports.

These airports are Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Guwahati, Amritsar, New Cochin and the proposed new airport at Bangalore.

The proposal for granting international status to these airports was considered by the Cabinet last month and referred to the task force for its views as it is already considering modernisation of the five airports at Delhi, Calcutta, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore.

The meeting will also consider the Department of Shippings report on the progress of corporatisation of major airports.Top



 

Wipro Tech shifting to Silicon Valley

SANTA CLARA, Feb 7 (AP) — A former cooking oil company that has soared to the top of India’s commerce charts plans to shift the headquarters of its most crucial division halfway around the world to the Silicon Valley.

Why? “We’ve got to be where the action is,” said Wipro Technologies CEO Vivek Paul, sitting in an austere conference room in his Santa Clara, California, offices. “This is the crucible of high tech business and we don’t want to miss out.”

Wipro Technologies planned a formal announcement later today that its technology division will be headquartered in the Silicon Valley.

Silicon Valley is home to more high-tech company headquarters than any other region in the world, as well as to 61 of the 500 fastest growing technology companies in the USA. Last year alone, venture capitalists invested more than $6 billion in local businesses, many started by recent graduates of Stanford University.

Wipro Corp — India’s largest publicly traded company, worth about $21 billion — is headed by former Stanford student Azim Premji, whose studies were cut short by the death of his father more than 20 years ago.

“We can do business for at least 30 per cent less in India than here,” said Paul.

A recent study by joint venture showed that corporate executives choose Silicon Valley over other regions to access a talented pool of employees and to create partnerships with other companies.

While Paul and his team of about 100 employees broker deal stateside, about 6,700 Wipro Technologies employees in India are writing software and checking it for bugs, helping companies shift onto the Internet and providing project management for engineering projects.

Nationwide, Indian software exports have risen from $734 million in the 1995 fiscal year to $2.6 billion last year, and are projected to reach $3.9 billion this year.

Last year Wipro Technologies brought in $35 million in new contracts, working with leading US Companies ranging from Home Depot to Cisco to Nike. Last week the company was chosen by Microsoft Corp to test and develop Windows 2000 enhancements.

“We chose Wipro Technologies in India, keeping in mind the company’s in-depth experience in being an outsource partner of various leading software companies across the globe,” said S. Somasegar, a Microsoft General Manager.Top




 

Pfizer to acquire Warner-Lambert

NEW YORK, Feb 7 (AP) — In a deal to create the world’s second-largest drug company, Pfizer Inc. is expected to announce that it is acquiring Warner-Lambert Co For $ 84.4 billion in stock, according to people familiar with the negotiations.

The combined company will keep Pfizer’s name and headquarters in New York, the sources said. Its medicine chest will include both impotence treatment Viagra and the blockbuster cholesterol fighting drug Lipitor.

The deal, will mark the end of a takeover battle that started in November when Warner-Lambert announced a $ 58.3 billion merger with American Home Products Corp and Pfizer followed with a hostile bid for Warner-Lambert.

To sever the contract between Warner-Lambert and American Home Products, Pfizer will pay American Home Products $ 1.8 billion — the largest breakup fee in history.

American Home Products decided not to wage a lengthy and expensive court battle to stop Pfizer, as per a person involved in the deal.

American Home Products could use the windfall as a cushion against verdicts or settlements related to its part of the fen-phen diet drug combination. The company has already set aside $ 4.7 billion to pay claims.Top



 

BFL Software to tie up with US co

MUMBAI, Feb 7 (PTI) — Bangalore-based software service company BFL Software Ltd and web solution provider MphasiS Corp. Of the USA today decided to form a common entity under the chairmanship of the latter’s promoter and former head of Citibank’s development division Jaithirth (Jerry) Rao.

The BFL board of directors will meet on February 14 to consider a proposal to issue 6.5 million equity shares on a preferential basis in exchange for all common stock equivalent securities of MphasiS to make the latter a wholly-owned subsidiary of BFL, a joint statement issued here said.

Barings, an investor in MphasiS and holding 52 per cent of BFL’s paid up capital, would remain a significant investor in the combined entity.

The issue would be in accordance with SEBI guidelines, subject to approval of all regulatory authorities in India and the USA and also the respective boards of directors and shareholders, the statement added.Top



 

650 orders for Opel Corsa on first day

NEW DELHI, Feb 7 (UNI) — General Motors India Limited (GMIL) collected over 650 fully paid orders for its new offering Opel Corsa today, the first day of opening order booking for the car.

“Over 650 orders have been collected across the country till this evening. We expect more order to flow in before the day ends,” GMIL Vice-President (Corporate Affairs) P. Balendran told UNI.

General Motors is going in for a changeover of image in India. Faced with embarrassingly low sales for it Opel Astra, the company is now making a desperate attempt at shedding its “expensive ownership” tag.

As a first step, it has adopted a “straddle pricing” strategy for all its models to combat competition through efficient benchmaking. The company has also reduced the price of its frequently used spare parts by 15-40 per cent.

Sonata price: Hyundai Motor India Limited is planning to position its luxury segment offering ‘Sonata’ in the Rs 12 lakh segment while the multi-utility vehicle ‘Sportage’ will be priced in the range of Rs 9 lakh.Top



 

Finolex Cables buys Lucent’s 51 pc stake

NEW DELHI, Feb 7 (PTI) — Finolex Cables today concluded a deal with Lucent Technologies to buy its 51 per cent stake in Lucent-Finolex fibre optical cable joint venture, Finolex Machines Private Ltd., for an undisclosed amount.

With this, Finolex Cables will have 100 per cent stake in the joint venture, a rise from the current 49 per cent.

The venture, which produces fibre optic cable for the Indian market, will continue to operate “as usual under the ownership of Finolex Machines and Finolex Cables, supporting all the company’s contracts and agreements,” a statement from the company officials said.Top



 

Biotech fair on Feb 16

NEW DELHI, Feb 7 (PTI) — Breakthroughs in technology, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), tissue culture, commercial potential of biotechnology research and increasing market penetration of biotech products are among the issues to be discussed at a biotechnology conference and exhibition starting here on February 16.

The three-day event, to be organised by the United Nations Asia Pacific Centre for Transfer of Technology (UN-APCTT), will bring together scientists and representatives from the industry and regulatory institutions from India and abroad. Called Biotechnology India 2000, it will showcase trends in agriculture, healthcare, drugs and food sectors, an APCTT release here says.Top



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BIZ BRIEFS

Bullion
Gold Std Rs 4800
Gold 22-Ct Rs 4650
Silver Ready Rs 8150
Silver delivery Rs 8090

Forex
US $ Rs 43.60/61
Stg Rs 69.62/64
Euro Rs 42.77/79
Yen (100) Rs 40.22/25

Networld
CHANDIGARH, Feb 7 (TNS) — Networld, a leading provider of e-commerce and networking solutions based in Punjab has launched a website — oomphs.com. It will provide youth and couples a meeting place on the Internet.

Dada Motors
LUDHIANA, Feb 7 (FOC) — Dada Motors Ltd today became the 52nd distributor of Indica car in the country. Mr Rajiv Dube, General Manager, Commercial, Telco, inaugurating the showroom, said the Indica’s market share was 8.2 per cent and in Punjab it was 9 per cent.

Bank branch
PHAGWARA, Feb 7 (FOC) — Bharat Overseas Bank’s fully computerised branch was inaugurated by Mr K.K. Sardana, JMD, Sukhjit Starch and Chemicals, here today.

New products
NEW DELHI, Feb 7 (TNS) — Devrishi Ayurved a manufacturer of herbal ayurved products, has released a face pack which is claimed to be anti-acne, anti-wrinkles and maintains natural charm.

* * * *

Padmini a semi-automatic washing machine, has been launched in the market. It is fitted with an ISI marked in-built heater, thermostatically controlled to heat up water. It costs Rs 6,450 upwards.

* * * *

Gopi Appliances Ltd has launched Gophi heat pillar, a room heater. It has two quartz tubes of 750 watts each.Top




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