SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
B U S I N E S S

PSEB shortens cuts on industry
Patiala, August 4
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) today gave a relief to the state industry by reducing the weekly day off from two days to one day per week. Besides this, the peak load restrictions on medium- and large-scale consumers have been reduced from four to two hours everyday.

HDFC raises fixed loan rates
Mumbai, August 4
The Housing Development and Finance Corporation (HDFC), India’s largest housing finance company, has raised interest rates on fixed rate home loans by .25 per cent. The increase comes amidst reports that all banks are set to raise interest rates after years of offering cheap credit.

LPG connections being released
Oil companies not to be merged
New Delhi, August 4
The government has no proposal to merge HPCL, BPCL with ONGC and neither have the oil companies stopped the release of LPG connections, said Petroleum Secretary S.C. Tripathi here today.

Niko strikes gas
New Delhi, August 4
Canadian-firm Niko Resources Ltd today announced a major gas discovery in the D-6 block in the Krishna-Godavari basin and another gas discovery in the NEC-25 block off the Orissa coast.

Antique vendor Venkateshan Perumal, 28, polishes old gramophones at his roadside stall in Chennai on Wednesday Antique vendor Venkateshan Perumal, 28, polishes old gramophones at his roadside stall in Chennai on Wednesday. The gramophones, which are nearly 100 years old, were made by the Gramophone Company of India and sell at a price of Rs 3000 ($ 64.5) each. — AFP


Music maestro Hariharan unveils Apple Computers’ iPod mini, the smallest portable music player, in New Delhi on Tuesday.
Music maestro Hariharan unveils Apple Computers’ iPod mini, the smallest portable music player, in New Delhi on Tuesday. — PTI


EARLIER STORIES

 

Mergers if shareholders say yes: IDBI
Mumbai, August 4
The Industrial Development Bank of India (IDBI) Ltd will not agree to any consolidation and merger proposal in the foreseeable future if it hurts the interests of the IDBI shareholders.

GTB board to meet on Aug 9
Hyderabad, August 4
In a sudden move, beleaguered Global Trust Bank (GTB) today announced the postponement of its crucial board meeting to August 9 ahead of its slated amalgamation with the public sector Oriental Bank of Commerce.

Fiat launches Petra, plans rejig
Bangalore, August 4
After writing off losses of Rs 1,300 crore in its Indian subsidiary, Italian auto-maker Fiat is preparing a blueprint to rejig its business in the country, officials said today.

Fiat India commercial director Ravi Bharadwaj poses with the newly-launched Petra car at a resort in Dodballapur, near Bangalore, on Wednesday. Petra, the latest diesel car from the Italian automaker Fiat’s Indian subsidiary, is available in two variants with a 1910 cc engine and is priced Rs 5,72,541 upwards ($12,447). — AFP photo
Fiat India commercial director Ravi Bharadwaj poses with the newly-launched Petra car at a resort in Dodballapur


TELECOM SNIPPETS
Adding Spice to handset market

Chandigarh, August 4
Spice Telecom, today entered the cellular handsets business by launching its first dual band GSM handset model — Spice Q 515. The new handset, priced at Rs 2,290, will be available to the cellular subscribers in Punjab during the first phase of the launch. Addressing mediapersons, Chief Operating Officer of the company, Mr Navin Kaul, said as a part of the introductory offer, special offers was being made available on both pre-paid and post-paid connections to those acquiring the branded handset.

Models launch Spice Q515 mobile handset in Chandigarh on Wednesday. — A Tribune photograph

Models launch Spice Q515 mobile handset in Chandigarh on Wednesday

Motorola goes musical
Bangalore, August 4
Motorola is in the process of implementing a programme to augment its service network in India for mobile phones, which will be completed by the end of this quarter. “That is a commitment I am making,” Mr Percy Batlivala, General Manager (South West Asia) Personal Communication Sector, said here today on the occasion of the launch of Motorola E308 ‘music phone.’
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PSEB shortens cuts on industry
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 4
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) today gave a relief to the state industry by reducing the weekly day off from two days to one day per week. Besides this, the peak load restrictions on medium- and large-scale consumers have been reduced from four to two hours everyday.

Board Chairman Y. S. Ratra, while addressing a press conference here, said power cuts had been reduced in both the urban and rural areas. He said power cuts in urban industrial feeders had been reduced from seven hours to three hours and that power cuts in the important cities of the state had been reduced from four to two hours per day. Similarly, the power cut on rural domestic supply has been decreased from 10 hours to six hours.

Mr Ratra said to give eight-hour regular power supply to the agricultural sector, the board had purchased power worth Rs 926 crore from April to July this year while last year the it had spent only Rs 617 crore on the same head. He said the board was purchasing power worth Rs 15 crore daily and facing a loss of Rs 5 crore by imposing cuts on the agriculture sector.

The Chairman said the board would demand a subsidy of Rs 200 crore against the power supplied to the agricultural sector besides the duties and interests. He said the operational profit of Rs 180 crore which had been achieved at the end of the last financial year had been wiped out due to the large-scale power purchases.

The board was making efforts to generate more power in the state for which Phase II of the Lehra Mohabbat project was being completed.

He said besides this the Shahpur Kandi project of 167-MW and a gas-based power plant of 1000-MW proposed to be built at Doraha was in the pipeline.

Mr Ratra said a meeting was being held with the Gas Authority of India Limited for the purpose next week.

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HDFC raises fixed loan rates
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, August 4
The Housing Development and Finance Corporation (HDFC), India’s largest housing finance company, has raised interest rates on fixed rate home loans by .25 per cent. The increase comes amidst reports that all banks are set to raise interest rates after years of offering cheap credit.

The loans will be offered to customers in a band of 7.5 per cent to 8.5 per cent depending on the duration of the loan. The HDFC has, however, kept its floating loan rates and prime lending rates steady. Analysts say interest rates are likely to rise by 1 per cent during the current fiscal.

While the monthly instalments paid by borrowers may remain constant, bankers say that they will have to continue paying instalments for longer periods as the interest component of their loans occupy a larger portion.

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LPG connections being released
Oil companies not to be merged
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 4
The government has no proposal to merge HPCL, BPCL with ONGC and neither have the oil companies stopped the release of LPG connections, said Petroleum Secretary S.C. Tripathi here today.

Denying the reports regarding the merger, he claimed, “There is no proposal or move to merge oil companies. We are not considering it as of now.” Tripathi’s comment came in view of a news report that the Ministry of Petroleum was preparing a blueprint for creating two vertically integrated oil companies by merging Hindustan Petroleum (HPCL) and Bharat Petroleum (BPCL) with ONGC and Oil India Ltd with Indian Oil Corporation (IOC).

“There are lot of ideas mooted by the different stakeholders, merchant bankers, consultants and various other parties keep mooting various ideas,” Tripathi said without detailing if anyone floated such an idea.

Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar also in a statement issued here today clarified that the oil companies had not stopped releasing the LPG connections as reported by some news agencies.

He said, “While the oil industry has cited the recent steep hike in steel prices and has sought a hike in the LPG customers’ security deposit from Rs 650 to Rs 1000 per cylinder, this has not stood in the way of their releasing new LPG connections. The request of the oil companies is under consideration of the ministry.”

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Niko strikes gas

New Delhi, August 4
Canadian-firm Niko Resources Ltd today announced a major gas discovery in the D-6 block in the Krishna-Godavari basin and another gas discovery in the NEC-25 block off the Orissa coast.

Reliance Industries, the operator of the D-6 block in the Krishna-Godavari basin, has estimated that the M-1 exploration well has approximately 155 metres of net pay, making it one of the thickest net pay gas sections encountered to date in the block, the company said in statement.

At the A2 well in NEC 25 block, RIL estimates the potential net gas pay to be 40 metres, it added.

The M-1 exploration well flowed 23.7 mmcf per day from a 6 metre interval at a depth of 2,750 metres.

In the D-6 block, the M-1 exploration discovery well was drilled approximately 19 km SSE of the Dhirubhai field in 1,327 metres of water to a total depth of 2,942 metres.

M-1 is the 11th consecutive successful well drilled in the 1.9 million acre D-6 block. All drilling to date has occurred in the first 1800 km2 3D seismic programme that covers less than 20 per cent of the block. — UNI

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Mergers if shareholders say yes: IDBI

Mumbai, August 4
The Industrial Development Bank of India (IDBI) Ltd will not agree to any consolidation and merger proposal in the foreseeable future if it hurts the interests of the IDBI shareholders.

“We will not do anything that will hurt the IDBI shareholders,” declared IDBI Chairman Meleveetil Damodaran when he was asked about the reported move of merging IFCI and IIBI with IDBI Limited.

“I will not allow anything that leaves a dent on the IDBI book,” he said and observed that if at all anything comes, “It would be on my terms.”

Mr Damodaran, who is pioneering the revival mode of two largest Indian institutions UTI and IDBI from their bad days, said IDBI would be the second largest banking institution in India following the proposed merger of IDBI Bank, its private banking subsidiary, with it during the current year.

While the IDBI will be converted into a full-fledged wholesale commercial bank on October 1, the entire merger process of IDBI Bank would be completed by the end of the current financial year.

Mr Damodaran said under the merged entity, there would be at least two special business units (SBUs) or more to take care of the conflicting areas such as high skill-sets of IDBI bank officers and work culture differences between the old and new structure of the institution.

On general terms, Mr Damodaran said, if there was an economic rationale to go for consolidation or amalgamation, the issue could be applicable to merger initiative of any institution.

But on IFCI merger with IDBI, he said, the reports were more impressive in appearance than well-researched study materials.

On the Government’s move to set up a Stressed Assets Company with a capitalisation of Rs 9,000 crore, Mr Damodaran said, it was not a grant to IDBI. In fact, it would help the IDBI to transfer its bad and doubtful assets worth Rs 9,000 crore to this special vehicle for recovery in future. — UNI

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GTB board to meet on Aug 9

Hyderabad, August 4
In a sudden move, beleaguered Global Trust Bank (GTB) today announced the postponement of its crucial board meeting to August 9 ahead of its slated amalgamation with the public sector Oriental Bank of Commerce.

The Secunderabad-headquartered private sector GTB, had on July 28, announced the board meting scheduled for August 4, 2004, would consider inter-alia the audited financial results of the bank, for the year ended March 31, 2004.

However, late this afternoon, the GTB issued a statement here that the scheduled board meeting had been postponed. — UNI

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Fiat launches Petra, plans rejig

Bangalore, August 4
After writing off losses of Rs 1,300 crore in its Indian subsidiary, Italian auto-maker Fiat is preparing a blueprint to rejig its business in the country, officials said today.

Fiat India Director Commercial Ravi Bharadwaj told reporters here that the Italian parent, which had faced financial problems in recent years, was preparing a blueprint for a new strategy in India.

“The blueprint is being prepared for Fiat India, but there is no timeframe set when it would be implemented,” he said, after launching Fiat Petra that marks the company’s foray into the diesel “C” segment which is estimated to grow double the industry average.

“The Indian operations is being restructured and accumulated losses of Rs 1,300 crore had been written off last fiscal (2003 calendar year),” Mr Bharadwaj said.

He said Fiat, which entered India in 1997, has invested Rs 2,000 crore in its plant in Kurla and Ranjangaon in Maharashtra. Fiat India exported components valued at € 7 million last year and aims to export the same value this year.

Fiat India recorded revenue of Rs 450 crore last year, and aims to achieve revenue of Rs 450 crore in 2004.

Petra, powered by a 1.9 litre engine with electronically-controlled injection system, is priced at Rs 5.72 lakh and Rs 6.08 lakh in two models in Bangalore. — PTI

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TELECOM SNIPPETS
Adding Spice to handset market
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 4
Spice Telecom, today entered the cellular handsets business by launching its first dual band GSM handset model — Spice Q 515. The new handset, priced at Rs 2,290, will be available to the cellular subscribers in Punjab during the first phase of the launch.

Addressing mediapersons, Chief Operating Officer of the company, Mr Navin Kaul, said as a part of the introductory offer, special offers was being made available on both pre-paid and post-paid connections to those acquiring the branded handset. Going by the response, some more models will be introduced in the market a little later.

In the post-paid, a subscriber gets free monthly talk time worth Rs 100 for 6 months and free monthly SMS pack worth Rs 100 for 6 months, in the pre-paid, the subscriber gets a free connection worth Rs 250 (including the stored value of Rs 50), and free monthly talk time worth Rs 75 for 6 months, along with the handsets in both cases.

India has emerged as the second-largest market after China for mobile handsets, with the handset market having grown at 568 per cent during the last financial year, with a turn over of Rs 8,344 for 2003-2004.

“There is enough room for expansion in the market as the handset market which stands at 16.9 million units in the country today is likely to touch 63 million by 2007. Reduction in prices and custom duty rates will further propel the cellular growth in the state.

Eyeing 60 per cent volumes of the total market, the new compact-sized entrant with colour display panel is targeted at the youth, including the first time entrants to the mobile category.

He said the company was also in the process of introducing a pre-paid connection at an MRP (maximum retail price) of Rs 99, thereby reducing entry cost to the mobile category.

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Motorola goes musical
Sridhar K. Chari
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, August 4
Motorola is in the process of implementing a programme to augment its service network in India for mobile phones, which will be completed by the end of this quarter.

“That is a commitment I am making,” Mr Percy Batlivala, General Manager (South West Asia) Personal Communication Sector, said here today on the occasion of the launch of Motorola E308 ‘music phone.’

He agreed that service was currently widely perceived deficient. “The programme covers training, availability of spares and the like and this problem will no longer be there,” he said. Fifteen cities were currently engaged in the programme.

He declined to give a figure for Motorola’s mobile phone market share in the country, currently dominated by players like Nokia.

Mr Vijay Ramanathan, Product Manager, Personal Communication Sector, said that the E308, priced at Rs 15,995, offers surround sound capability from two 22 KHz speakers, and can play ‘CD-quality’ MP3 music. It also possesses other top-end features like a VGA camera with 4X zoom and flash, ability to play MPEG 4 videos.

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BRIEFLY


A tower at the Basra South oil refinery in the southern Iraq city of Basra flares as it cooks off natural gas in this file photograph.
A tower at the Basra South oil refinery in the southern Iraq city of Basra flares as it cooks off natural gas in this file photograph. US oil prices struck a fresh record high above $ 44 a barrel on Wednesday, on continuing concerns that any hiccup in the tightly stretched supply chain could lead to a major disruption in global crude flows. US crude struck $44.28 a barrel, 13 cents up from Tuesday’s settlement and the highest since oil futures were launched on the New York Mercantile Exchange in 1983. — Reuters

FDI proposals
New Delhi, August 4
The Government today cleared a proposal of BMW Holding AG of Germany to acquire 100 per cent stake in Birla Home Finance with an additional FDI inflow of Rs 50 crore. This is one of the 42 proposals worth Rs 408.22 crore, cleared by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on the recommendations of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board. — UNI

ICICI Prud
Hyderabad, August 4
Encouraged by the excellent response to its unit-linked products, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance, a leading private life insurance company, has launched two new products — LifeTime II and Premier Life. While LifeTime II is a more cost efficient but less flexible form of the earlier flagship product, Premier Life is a limited premium paying policy offering flexibility. — UNI

Iffco ex-MD
New Delhi, August 4
Padma Shri Paul Pothen, doyen of Indian fertiliser industry and founding Managing Director of Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Ltd (Iffco), passed away yesterday at Kochi in Kerala after protracted illness. Mr Pothen, 88, is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter. — UNI

Fake Viagra
New York, August 4
Pfizer Inc., the world’s biggest drugmaker, said today it is taking legal action against dozens of online pharmacies which it alleges are selling counterfeit versions of the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra. The company also said it has launched an advertising campaign to educate the public about what it calls illegitimate Websites. — Reuters

Power plant
Phagwara August 4
Local industrialists and exporters have been given a positive assurance by Deputy Speaker Lok Sabha Charanjit Singh Atwal for setting up a power plant near river Sutlej for tiding over the power crisis afflicting Punjab. This was claimed here today in a press note by Mr Paramjit Singh Sethi, president, Northern India Exporters Federation. — OC

Max New York
Chandigarh, August 4
Max New York Life, a life insurance private company, today launched its operations in Amritsar. With this, the company now has 40 offices and representatives in 28 cities across India. The office is situated on Mall Road. The company’s other Punjab offices are in Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Patiala, Bathinda and Sangrur, besides one in Chandigarh. — TNS

TV18
Chandigarh, August 4
Television Eighteen India Ltd. (TV18) has posted a net profit of Rs 62.09 million for the quarter ended June 30, 2004 as against Rs 21.34 million in the same quarter a year earlier. At Rs169.42 million, revenues are up 92 per cent from Rs 88 million in the corresponding quarter last year. — TNS

SKF Bearings
Chandigarh, August 4
SKF Bearing India Limited, one of the India’s technology and solutions provider of bearings, has undergone a change of name and is now known as SKF India Limited. — TNS

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