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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
B U S I N E S S

Panel to study IDPL revival
New Delhi, August 2
In a breather to the 400-odd employees of the Indian Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Limited (IDPL), the Minister of Chemicals and Fertilisers Ram Vilas Paswan has decided to set up in independent committee of experts to go into the prospects of its revival.

IDBI may take over IFCI, IIBI
New Delhi, August 2
In a bid to strengthen the development financing character of the IDBI, the UPA government has revived the proposal to merge two ailing institutions — IIBI and IFCI — with it after segregating their bad assets.

Cheaper air fares fail to hit AC train occupancy
New Delhi, August 2
The Railways today said that there was no decline in air-conditioned train occupancy following the introduction of cheap airfares by airlines.

PNB recovers Rs 26 cr from defaulters
Chandigarh, August 2
The Northern Zone of the Punjab National Bank (PNB) has recovered a sum of Rs 25.92 crore from defaulters. This recovery has been made as part of the action taken under the securitisation, reconstruction of financial assets and enforcement of the Security Interest Act, 2002.



EARLIER STORIES

 

Radio Mirchi, Pepsi have best promos
New Delhi, August 2
Pepsi India’s Cricket World Cup campaign and Radio Mirchi’s ‘Kismat Khol De’ figure among the best promotional campaigns in Asia.

9 pc senior citizen savings scheme soon
New Delhi, August 2
The special saving scheme for senior citizens offering a high 9 per cent return will be launched in a day or two.

Mumbai 15th expensive city for office rentals
New Delhi, August 2
Mumbai ranks the 15th most expensive city in the world for office rentals while Delhi ranks 32nd, according to the latest global survey by real estate consulting firm CB Richard Ellis.

Leather industry seeks new export-oriented policy
New Delhi, August 2
The leather industry has called upon the government to bring out the new leather policy during the current Budget session itself to encourage exports and generate additional employment opportunities in this labour-intensive industry.

Lead singer of Euphoria rock band (centre) Palash Sen at the launch of Motorola New E398
Lead singer of Euphoria rock band (centre) Palash Sen at the launch of Motorola New E398 at a press conference in New Delhi on Monday. Eyeing more than 50 per cent growth this fiscal on the back of new product launches targetted at the youth segment, the company today rolled out a 3-D surround sound cellphone, allowing users to carry their personalised play lists, packed with a camera and a 64 MB memory card to provide mobile entertainment. — Tribune photo by Rajeev Tyagi

No logic in mortgage clause, tractor makers tell banks
New Delhi, August 2
Tractor Manufacturers Association today asked commercial banks to do away with minimum land holding condition in their offer of loans for buying tractors.

Graphic: India's agricultural imports

Auto Scene

Maruti drives on high-sales road
New Delhi, August 2
Domestic car market leader Maruti Udyog Ltd (MUL) today said its July vehicle sales grew 4 per cent to 43,419 units from 41,781 a year ago and total sales were 9.7 per cent higher than in the previous month.

  • TVS

  • Hero Honda

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Panel to study IDPL revival
S. Satyanarayanan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 2
In a breather to the 400-odd employees of the Indian Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Limited (IDPL), the Minister of Chemicals and Fertilisers Ram Vilas Paswan has decided to set up in independent committee of experts to go into the prospects of its revival.

“The names for the experts’ committee will be decided soon and the committee will be given time till September 30 to submit its detailed report,” Mr Paswan told The Tribune here today.

A decision to set up the committee comes soon after IDPL Employees Union leaders led by CPM leader Gurudas Dasgupta met Mr Paswan this morning and demanded all-out effort from the UPA Government to revive the IDPL units.

Mr Dasgupta and union leaders are understood to have impressed upon the need to revive the IDPL unit not only in terms of protecting the interests of the employees but also to fulfil the promise made in the UPA’s Common Minimum Programme (CMP) to provide essential life saving drugs to people at a cheaper cost.

When the delegation members repeatedly pressed that the IDPL unit could be revived and with prudent management could register profits in due course, Mr Paswan agreed to set up an experts’ committee, independent of the nodal ministry as well as employees’ union, to study the prospects of revival.

Mr Paswan, however, said that he categorically rejected the suggestion of some of the delegation members that land and property of one or two units could be sold to revive the organisation.

IDPL, having its units in Rishkesh, Gurgaon, and Hyderabad, among others, has been running into huge losses and the Centre had been thinking of closing down the PSU after offering voluntary retirement schemes to its employees.
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IDBI may take over IFCI, IIBI

New Delhi, August 2
In a bid to strengthen the development financing character of the IDBI, the UPA government has revived the proposal to merge two ailing institutions — IIBI and IFCI — with it after segregating their bad assets.

The government has provided a Rs 9,000-crore in the Budget to enable FIs to transfer their NPAs to the Stressed Asset Stabilisation Fund by the end of this fiscal. This is being viewed as one of the steps to facilitate the mega merger.

Apart from the troubled FIs, it is now certain that the IDBI will merge its private banking arm IDBI Bank and its home finance subsidiary with itself to emerge as an entity with an asset base of over Rs 1,00,000 crore comparable with only the State Bank of India, FI sources said.

Finance Ministry officials confirmed that the Kolkata-based IIBI would be merged with the IDBI. But a final decision on IFCI has yet to be taken.

Finance Secretary D. C. Gupta indicated that the government was not averse to the mega merger of IDBI, IFCI and IIBI.

“I will not hazard a guess. It is a matter of details. After due diligence, if it is found that this (merger of IFCI with IDBI) is a really workable proposition, then only we can proceed with it,” Mr Gupta said.

The merger would depend on synergies of operations and commercial viability would be the main criterion, he said.

While maintaining that the IDBI, in which the government has a 57 per cent interest, was open to such mega merger if there is a need, Mr Gupta made it clear that the Finance Ministry would not forcefully merge the institutions but leave it to the respective boards of directors to decide.

Mr Gupta admitted that the IFCI was in financial trouble and the government had backed it, considering the relevance of DFI in the country.

Referring to the McKinsey report on the IFCI, he said the bad and good assets had to be segregated before it was merged.

There were issues like fixed costs that need to be addressed before taking a decision.

He said the revamp of the IFCI should not be a mere restructuring of balance sheet, which is the easiest way to address a problem. The Finance Secretary stressed on a long-lasting solution.

“DFIs will always have a relevance. Long-term financing will come from DFIs. The FIs also have other strengths like project appraisals,” he added.

IFCI board had cleared a proposal to merge it with Punjab National Bank last fiscal and SBI Caps is carrying out the due diligence for the proposed merger.

Sources privy to the developments in IFCI said the proposed merger with PNB had hit a legal roadblock, apart from growing resentment from employees of both IFCI and PNB.

The institution’s top brass did not accept SBI Caps’ assessment of IFCI as the merchant banker unduly over-estimated non-performing assets of the troubled FI. — PTI 
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Cheaper air fares fail to hit AC train occupancy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 2
The Railways today said that there was no decline in air-conditioned train occupancy following the introduction of cheap airfares by airlines.

According to a press note issued by the Ministry of Railways here today, all air-conditioned berths in various trains to and from Delhi, New Delhi and Hazrat Nizamuddin were running full capacity and there was no decline in the passenger load in air-conditioned classes due to cheap fares introduced by the airlines.

The note further states that the number of passengers booked during the plast one and a half years (from January 1, 2003 to June 30, 2004) in air-conditioned accommodation of all trains to and from the National Capital Territory (NCT) were 1,28, 538 in 1-AC, 6,52,516 in 2-AC and 19,41,535 in 3_AC Classes.

The Railways operates 15,000 trains everyday. Of these, 9000 are passenger trains and 6000 goods trains.
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PNB recovers Rs 26 cr from defaulters
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 2
The Northern Zone of the Punjab National Bank (PNB) has recovered a sum of Rs 25.92 crore from defaulters. This recovery has been made as part of the action taken under the securitisation, reconstruction of financial assets and enforcement of the Security Interest Act, 2002.

Addressing mediapersons here today, the General Manager, Punjab National Bank, Mr B.P Chopra, said the bank had at the zonal level, comprising Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir and Chandigarh, issued notices to 731 defaulting borrowers amounting to Rs 113.63 crore under Section 13 of the Act. Of the 326 borrowers, who approached the bank for compromises amounting to Rs 44.55 crore, 315 proposals amounting to Rs 37.76 crore were settled. As many as 254 accounts with balance of Rs 2.64 crore have been upgraded from the non-performing assets (NPA) category, leading to a recovery of Rs 25.92 crore in 516 accounts.

Mr Chopra said under the Act recovery of bad debts was being affected within 5-6 months from the date the account went bad. Giving figures, he said PNB in Chandigarh region, comprising PNB network in Chandigarh, Ambala and Yamunanagar districts, has taken possession of 30 properties, of which 11 have been sold through auctions and tenders. In four other accounts, the borrowers came forward to pay the dues. The region made recoveries amounting to Rs 86 lakh.
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Radio Mirchi, Pepsi have best promos

New Delhi, August 2
Pepsi India’s Cricket World Cup campaign and Radio Mirchi’s ‘Kismat Khol De’ figure among the best promotional campaigns in Asia.

Pepsi India won the Promotion Marketing Awards of Asia (PMAA) 2004 in the ‘Best in Asia’ category while Radio Mirchi won the gold and bronze for its ‘98.3 Kismat Khol De Promotion and Hungama’ in the interactive media category, a statement issued here said.

India won awards in 10 categories among a total of 45 categories. The winners will vie for the 2004 Marketing Agencies Association (MAA), Globes programme to be held in US. Agencies from Europe, the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and South America will participate in the competition. — UNI
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9 pc senior citizen savings scheme soon

New Delhi, August 2
The special saving scheme for senior citizens offering a high 9 per cent return will be launched in a day or two.

An official notification in this regard would be issued shortly, Finance Ministry sources said today. The ‘Senior Citizen Savings Scheme’ would have an upper investment ceiling of Rs 15 lakh and it would be in the form of a bond.

The bonds that are to be available for persons above 60 years would be taxable.

The savings scheme was announced in the Budget by Finance Minister P Chidambaram to provide a cushion to elders who have been hit by falling interest rate regime in the country.

The scheme comes in place of the “Dada Dadi Bonds” proposed in the interim budget by former Finance Minister Jaswant Singh.

The bonds would have five-year maturity period, sources said, adding that the idea was to continue it beyond that period.

The scheme may offer monthly returns at 9.0 per cent to enable senior citizens to get a regular quarterly income depending on their investment amount. — PTI
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Mumbai 15th expensive city for office rentals

* London’s West End is the most expensive office location in the world followed by London (City) and Tokyo (Inner Central)

* The occupation cost stands at $ 56.83 per square ft per annum in Mumbai while in Delhi it is $ 40.6.

New Delhi, August 2
Mumbai ranks the 15th most expensive city in the world for office rentals while Delhi ranks 32nd, according to the latest global survey by real estate consulting firm CB Richard Ellis.

Mumbai moved two ranks up from the last quarter ranking of 17 while Delhi moved up six positions from 38th rank at CBRE’s Global Market Rents, as per the survey of office occupation costs in 158 cities.

London’s West End is the most expensive office location in the world followed by London (City) and Tokyo (Inner Central), it said.

“The real estate market in India is looking up and is on track to achieve the expected space take-up of 20 million sq ft by 2004-end,” Anshuman Magazine, Managing Director of CBRE in South Asia, said.

The occupation cost stands at $56.83 per square ft per annum in Mumbai while in Delhi it is $40.6.

Technically, occupation cost represents rent plus local taxes and service charge.

The highest occupation cost was recorded at $ 177.39 in London’s West End, followed by London (City) at $119.39 and Tokyo (Inner Central) at $116.23.

The most expensive US location now is Midtown Manhattan, which ranks 20th at $ 52.04 per sq ft per annum.

Out of the top 50 most expensive office locations in the world, 29 have experienced a fall in the occupational cost over the last six months.

Though the real estate cost in India remained firm, this upward movement in ranks is attributed to the decline in the occupation costs globally. — PTI
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Leather industry seeks new export-oriented policy
Manoj Kumar
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 2
The leather industry has called upon the government to bring out the new leather policy during the current Budget session itself to encourage exports and generate additional employment opportunities in this labour-intensive industry.

The industry asserts that due to high livestock population coupled with skilled and cheap manpower, the country is best suited for the manufacturing leather items, like handbags, jackets, luggage, sport-items and garments. The total leather exports from India are estimated to cross Rs 10,000 crore this fiscal year as against Rs 8,200 crore exports achieved during 2002-03.

In North India, Delhi, Kanpur, Agra, Jalandhar and Srinagar in J&K are the major manufacturing centres for leather products. Footballs and tool bags are main export products from Punjab, besides jackets.

Mr E.V.K.S. Elangovan, Minister of State in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry admitted in the Lok Sabha last week that total leather exports from the country had stagnated over the years. In fact, total leather and leather products’ declined from $ 1963.55 million in 2000-01 to $ 1875.21 million in 2002-03.

Leather exporters claim the total industry exports could easily be increased to over Rs 20,000 crore in near future by “following suitable policies on the pattern of textile sector.” They lament that except for granting an excise exemption on footwear (up to Rs 250 value), Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has not announced any incentive for this sector.

On the other hand, they said, the textile sector has been granted exemptions worth Rs 4,000 crore in the Budget. The industry has demanded zero per cent custom duty on the machinery and plants to encourage modernisation of the industry, besides marketing support to enhance exports.

The Federation of Indian Export Organisations, claims that though India’s share was 11 per cent in total leather production in the world, yet its share in finished leather products market was merely 3.6 per cent. 
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No logic in mortgage clause, tractor makers tell banks

New Delhi, August 2
Tractor Manufacturers Association today asked commercial banks to do away with minimum land holding condition in their offer of loans for buying tractors.

“If you take a car loan, you are not required to mortgage your house, so why should farmers have to mortgage their land, in addition to hypothecating their tractor,” TMA president R.C. Jain said in a statement.

As per the existing norms, farmers need to have at least eight acres of land to take advantage of tractor finance and thereafter, the borrower is required to hypothecate the tractor and mortgage the land to the bank.

If banks remove the norm of land mortgage, the apex body argued, the tractor market will expand.

Removing the mortgage norm would complement the decision announced by the Finance Minister to eliminate excise duty on tractors, Mr Jain said.

In the face of the looming drought, TMA said, PSU banks could relax the land-holding norm at least in drought-hit areas as a first step.

The Association had met Nabard chairperson in this regard and would also be taking up the issue with others concerned. — PTI
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Auto Scene

Maruti drives on high-sales road

New Delhi, August 2
Domestic car market leader Maruti Udyog Ltd (MUL) today said its July vehicle sales grew 4 per cent to 43,419 units from 41,781 a year ago and total sales were 9.7 per cent higher than in the previous month.

Maruti, 54.2 per cent owned by Japan’s Suzuki Motor Corp, said it sold 40,175 vehicles in the domestic market in July and exported 3,244 units while sales in the first four months of this fiscal increased 14.6 per cent to 1,67,043 vehicles from the year-ago period.

The city-based carmaker said domestic sales of its Maruti 800 fell 41.7 per cent to 9,554 units.

Sales of India’s top-selling car Maruti 800 have been falling since April when MUL introduced a cut-price version of the Alto.

Total sales of its three compact cars—the Alto, Zen and Wagon R—jumped 67.1 per cent to 22,833 units while the combined sales of its Omni and Versa vans increased 1.3 per cent to 5,119 vehicles.

Maruti said sales of Baleno and Esteem sedans surged 84.6 per cent to 2,335 after it unveiled a new-look Esteem last month while those of the Gypsy and Vitara multi-utility vehicles more than doubled to 334 units.

TVS

TVS Motor Company Ltd today said it sold 52,958 motor cycles in July, down 7.5 per cent from 57,227 units a year ago.

TVS also sold 22,501 light scooters and 24,765 mopeds in July, up from 19,249 light scooters and 21,137 mopeds in the same month last year, India’s third largest motorcycle maker said in a statement.

Its total vehicle sales were up 2.67 per cent at 100,224 units compared with 97,613 last year.

Hero Honda

Hero Honda Motors Ltd sold a total of 2,05,654 bikes in July. The company crossed the 2-lakh mark for a record sixth time during the last 10 months. During the month, the company registered a sales growth of 44 per cent over the corresponding period last year. It was 1,43,141 units in July 2003. For the period, April - July 2004, the cumulative sale of the company stood at 8,14,777 units, translating into a growth of 35 per cent. The company had sold 6,01,930 units during the corresponding period last year. — TNS, Agencies
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BRIEFLY

Consumer price index rises
Shimla, August 2
The All-India Consumer Price Index for Industrial Workers (CPI-IW) on base 1982-100 for June this year has increased by four points to 512, according to the Labour Bureau here. The All-India Consumer Price Index Number for June last year had increased by three points. In 59 centres, an increase in indices was noticed between one and 16 points, in two centres they remained constant and in nine centres indices recorded a decline of one to 17 points when compared to previous month. — UNI

Ranbaxy Labs
New Delhi, August 2
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted approval to Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd and Dr Reddy’s Laboratories (DRL) to market fluconazole tablets, a generic version of Pfizer Inc’s anti-fungal treatment Diflucan. Besides Ranbaxy and DRL, 11 others also got FDA approval to introduce fluconazole, the FDA said in a statement. The city-based Ranbaxy also got approval for an oral suspension form of fluconazole, it added. — UNI

Bajaj Electricals
Chandigarh, August 2
Bajaj Electricals, one of the home appliances and lighting companies, has consolidated its position in the first quarter which ended on June 30. During the first quarter of the current year, the net/sales income from operations is higher by about 39 per cent at Rs 106.03 crore as against Rs 76. 37 crore in the corresponding period last year, resulting in a profit of Rs 70 lakh (including profit or sale of assets/development rights of Rs 2.63 crore). — TNS

Oriental profit
New Delhi, August 2
Oriental Insurance Company today announced a five-fold rise in its net profit to Rs 322 crore for the year 2003-04 compared to Rs 64 crore in the previous year, mainly due to a huge gain from equity investments. The net profit is at an all-time high of Rs 322.06 crore. — PTI

CBS in OBC
Chandigarh, August 2
Mr V.K. Kashyap, Deputy General Manager, Oriental Bank of Commerce, has informed that the bank has brought four more branches of Chandigarh under Core Banking Solutions (CBS) today. With this addition, out of seven local branches, five located at Sectors 17B, 17E, 34, 26 and 19D have come under CBS. — TNS

Musco
Chandigarh, August 2
The Board of Directors of Mahindra Ugine Steel Company Limited (Musco) today announced that the company’s net sales and other income from operations for Q1 for the current year was Rs 111.77 crore as against Rs 58.97 crore for the corresponding quarter last year, an increase of almost 90 per cent. The company has registered a net profit of Rs 6.72 crore. — TNS

Maxtor
Chandigarh, August 2
Maxtor Corporation, a hard disk drive provider, today unveiled the next evolution of its external storage hard drives — Maxtor One Touch TM in India. Maxtor’s new line of external hard drive incorporates the award-winning OneTouch button, Dantz RetrospectTM Express software and introduces a sleek new industrial design. — TNS

Titan
Chandigarh, August 2
Titan Industries Ltd today announced the launch of Flip, India’s first dual-faced watch with the dual functionality and styling. It allows the wearer to switch between international time zones and alternative lifestyles, be it formal or casual, with the mere ‘flip’ of the dial. — TNS
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