SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
B U S I N E S S

Tata purchases NatSteel for Rs 1,313 crore
Mumbai, August 16
The Tata Iron and Steel Company Ltd (Tisco) has purchased Singapore’s NatSteel Ltd, the city state’s lone steel mill, according to a press statement. The acquisition will cost Tata Steel Rs 1,313 crore ($ 286.12 million).

Tata Steel Managing Director B. Muthuraman in Singapore is seen on a screen projection during a videoconference link-up with the Indian media Tata Steel Managing Director B. Muthuraman in Singapore is seen on a screen projection during a videoconference link-up with the Indian media in Mumbai on Monday. — AFP photo

Govt moots cut in petro duties
New Delhi, August 16
The government is likely to cut down duties on petrol and diesel to minimise the spurt in oil prices which have touched an all-time high of $ 47 per barrel.

Bill for common commodity classification
New Delhi, August 16
Finance Minister P. Chidambaram today introduced in the Lok Sabha the Central Excise Tariff (Amendment) Bill, 2004. The Bill will enable common commodity classification.





EARLIER STORIES

 

Immediate hike in IA fares ruled out
Sunil Arora, Chairman of Indian Airlines
New Delhi, August 16
The Indian Airlines today said it would not hike its fares immediately although there was a hike in fuel costs. Chairman of IA Sunil Arora told the media here that the corporation would wait for a few months before revising the airfares.

Jet links Patna with Delhi
Patna, August 16
Jet Airways today linked Patna and Delhi by a daily evening flight. The inaugural flight with airline’s CEO Wolfgang Prock-Schauer on board was received at the Patna airport by Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi.

Benjamin K.Y. Ng, MD, Sun Wah Hi-Tech Holdings Chinese firm scouts city’s IT park
Chandigarh, August 16
India and China can dominate the world IT scene if the two countries come together to cooperate in the field of computer hardware and software. "India is a world power in software while China is strong in hardware," pointed out Mr Benjamin K.Y. Ng.

Panel for unorganised sector planned
New Delhi, August 16
The government has announced its intention to set up a national commission to examine the problems facing enterprises in the unorganised informal sector, the Lok Sabha was informed today. The proposed commission would be asked to make appropriate recommendations to provide technical, marketing and credit support to these enterprises, Labour Minister Mr Sis Ram Ola said in a written reply.

Kamal Nath Farmers’ interests to be protected at WTO: Nath
New Delhi, August 16
Union Commerce Minister Kamal Nath today assured Parliament that the interests of India’s farmers would be protected in a globally administered multi-lateral trading apparatus under the aegis of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

GTB share a ‘junk’ paper for 12 years
New Delhi, August 16
In a bad news for shareholders of Global Trust Bank (GTB), its acquirer Oriental Bank of Commerce (OBC) today said equity-holders will not get any value for their holdings now and can expect some relief only after 12 years if the troubled bank is left with any surplus value.

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Tata purchases NatSteel for Rs 1,313 crore
Tribune News Service and PTI

Mumbai, August 16
The Tata Iron and Steel Company Ltd (Tisco) has purchased Singapore’s NatSteel Ltd, the city state’s lone steel mill, according to a press statement.

The acquisition will cost Tata Steel Rs 1,313 crore ($ 286.12 million). A part of the deal will include a 26 per cent stake owned by NatSteel in Southern Steel Berhad, the 1.3-million tonne steel-maker in Malaysia, Mr B Muthuraman, Managing Director, Tata Steel said while addressing reporters via videoconference from Singapore.

The transaction will be complete within the next few months.

Thanks to NatSteel, Tatas will have manufacturing facilities in seven Asian countries, including Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, China, Philippines and Australia.

NatSteel has a capacity of two million tonne per annum of rebars, wire rods and strands. The company’s turnover in 2003 was Rs 3,800 crore and a profit before tax of Rs 127 crore.

The Singapore-based company is to spin off its entire steel business into a wholly-owned subsidiary, NatSteel Asia Pte Ltd (NatSteel Asia). Subsequently Tata Steel would acquire the company, Mr Muthuraman said.

NatSteel President OO Soon Hee would continue to head the new company and the new board would be constituted only after the acquisition is completed, Mr Muthuraman said.

Tata Steel is open to further acquisitions both in India and abroad, he said.

The Tata group company intends to make semi-finished steel products at the acquired company’s manufacturing locations in the Asian region.

“These will later be shipped to the markets and the final product would be made at these locations,” he said, adding “this method is cheaper than shipping the whole finished products to the specific markets.”

Mr Soon Hee said: “With this transaction, NatSteel Asia will be well positioned to weather volatilities in steel industry, thanks to Tata Steel’s larger and extensive resources.”

Standard Chartered Bank’s Corporate Advisory Group was the financial advisor to Tata Steel on the transaction, while Baker & McKenzie and AZB & Partners were the legal advisors, along with Deloitte & Touche Singapore, who were the accountants.

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Govt moots cut in petro duties
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 16
The government is likely to cut down duties on petrol and diesel to minimise the spurt in oil prices which have touched an all-time high of $ 47 per barrel.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today began discussions with Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar to look for ways to offset the effect of sharply rising international oil prices.

The sources said one of the measures likely to be discussed is cutting duties to minimise the spurt in oil prices.

Petrol and diesel prices have already been raised twice as an after-effect of the rally in crude oil prices. A third hike was postponed yesterday pending measures that the government plans to take to tackle the skyrocketing crude prices.

With inflation surging over 7.5 per cent for two consecutive weeks, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had two rounds of meeting with Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar as part of efforts to evolve fiscal measures to check price level.

In the morning, the PM met Mr Chidambaram and Mr Aiyar in Parliament for half an hour followed by an hour-long meeting at Prime Minister’s office in the evening, official sources said.
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Bill for common commodity classification
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 16
Finance Minister P. Chidambaram today introduced in the Lok Sabha the Central Excise Tariff (Amendment) Bill, 2004. The Bill will enable common commodity classification.

The Bill does not have any revenue implications and will only expand the existing six-digit classification to eight digits.

The new classification system is expected to eliminate the differences in classification by different agencies and departments and is also expected to facilitate smoother transaction in international trade.

The new classification system is also expected to further entrench the electronic data processing system.
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Immediate hike in IA fares ruled out
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 16
The Indian Airlines today said it would not hike its fares immediately although there was a hike in fuel costs.

Chairman of IA Sunil Arora told the media here that the corporation would wait for a few months before revising the airfares. This would happen if the fuel prices continued to rise, he said.

“The price of Aircraft Turbine Fuel (ATF) reached a four-year high this August at Rs 27,000 per kilolitre, but we would like to wait and watch for sometime unless there is another spiral in the fuel prices,” he said when asked about the possibility of tariff hike.

He pointed out that fuel prices would also be crucial for the IA’s financial position this fiscal but pointed out that the corporation was looking at making net profits if the buoyancy in air travel continued.

The IA improved its financial health last fiscal and posted an operating profit of Rs 13 crore and reduced its net losses to Rs 45 crore. The carrier’s net loss was at Rs 197 crore in 2002-03.

Meanwhile, IA today also launched a new co-brand card with American Express (AmEx) with no pre-set spending limit.

Billed as the Green Card, the product offers 15 per cent savings on all economy class on flights aboard IA and its subsidiary Alliance Air (AA). It also comes with 10 per cent savings on all business class fares and 5 per cent savings on apex and super-apex fares.

The card would be globally valid and is targeted at rapidly emerging and large segment of young, successful and affluent people who travel frequently. “The initiative is a part of our efforts to provide value addition to customers,” Mr Arora said while launching the card.

Those earning Rs 3 lakh annually can apply and the fee is Rs 3,750. A host of insurance covers come with the card automatically.
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Jet links Patna with Delhi

Patna, August 16
Jet Airways today linked Patna and Delhi by a daily evening flight. The inaugural flight with airline’s CEO Wolfgang Prock-Schauer on board was received at the Patna airport by Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi.

Patna is 44th destination on the airline’s route network. The Boeing 737-700 flight will depart from Delhi at 7.25 pm and arrive in Patna at 8.55 pm. It will depart from Patna at 9.30 pm and arrive in Delhi at 11 pm. The 122-seater flight will enable both business and leisure passengers arriving by Jet Airways’ evening flights into Delhi from Bangalore, Mumbai, Jammu, Srinagar and Chennai to connect onwards to Patna.

Together with Varanasi in the neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, Patna is considered the gateway to the famed Buddhist circuit. The one-way fare on the Delhi-Patna sector will be Rs 5,555 for the economy class and Rs 8,500 for the business class.

Passengers can also avail of the 15, 21 and 30-days apex fares at Rs 4,850, Rs 4,510 and Rs 4,340.

Under the new monsoon apex scheme, the airline is also offering companion free tickets to full fare return economy ticket buyers on the Delhi-Patna route. “A person can book these tickets, go by the morning flight and come back in the evening. There are no pre-conditions on minimum stay at any destination.” Passengers buying a return economy class ticket at Rs 11,110 for this sector are allowed to take their companion free of charge,” an official said. — UNI
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Chinese firm scouts city’s IT park
A. S. Prashar
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 16
India and China can dominate the world IT scene if the two countries come together to cooperate in the field of computer hardware and software.

"India is a world power in software while China is strong in hardware," pointed out Mr Benjamin K.Y. Ng, Managing Director of the Hong Kong-based Sun Wah Hi-Tech Holdings Limited, in an interview with TNS here today. "Therefore, why should the two countries not come together to pursue a goal which makes a sound economic sense?"

Mr Benjamin Ng, who is also secretary-general of the China-India Software Association, was in town to look at the possibility of setting up a hardware manufacturing plant at Chandigarh's IT park in Kishangarh. "I had heard so much about Chandigarh's IT park. I am quite impressed by the infrastructure available in the city. We would very much like to do business here". Accompanied by Mr Piyush Bahl, Executive Director & CEO, India China Alliance Centre, he had a meeting with the UT Home Secretary, Mr R. S. Gujral, here today to discuss the issue.

He noted that India and China were in the process of putting their political problems behind them. It would be in keeping with this trend for the two countries to cooperate in the field of trade, business, commerce and industry. Trade between India and China today stood at $ 10 billion. It was slated to go up to $ 30 billion by 2010. That would amount to 22 per cent of India's world trade.

Some Indian IT companies have already set up business in China. These include Infosys, Aptech, NIIT, Satyam and TCS. But the real business potential between the two countries lay in joint ventures with Chinese software and hardware companies. The Chinese city of Shenzhen, which is just one hour's drive from Hong Kong, has emerged as the hub of the Chinese electronics and hardware industry.

Mr Bahl said China was currently going through an "India fever" on the business front. It was keen on expanding trade relations with India and India must take full advantage of it. "This 'India fever' will not last forever. Two Chinese have already started operating in India and both of them are doing quite well. This has not gone unnoticed in China. Hence, their keenness to do business here".

This is where bodies like India China Alliance Centre (ICAC) which aims at providing a platform for enhancing Sino-Indian trade, investment and cultural cooperation, come in. ICAC is located at Noida, near New Delhi, and at Weifang (near Qingdao), Shandong Province, China.
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Panel for unorganised sector planned
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 16
The government has announced its intention to set up a national commission to examine the problems facing enterprises in the unorganised informal sector, the Lok Sabha was informed today.

The proposed commission would be asked to make appropriate recommendations to provide technical, marketing and credit support to these enterprises, Labour Minister Mr Sis Ram Ola said in a written reply.

He informed the members that the government has launched the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Scheme, 2004 on pilot basis in 50 districts for unorganised sector workers, including women workers. The benefits under the scheme are old-age pension, personal accidental insurance and medical insurance cover, he said.

Mr Ola said in order to protect the minimum wages of the workers against inflation, the government had introduced Variable Dearness Allowance (VDA) in all scheduled employments in the central sphere.

As regards states, he said: “Most of the states and Union Territories have adopted VDA as a component of minimum wages,” adding that VDA in both spheres was revised on the basis of increase in Consumer Price Index (CPI) twice a year effective from April and October.

Mr Ola also disclosed that the government was targeting creation of five crore-employment opportunities during the 10th Plan period.
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Farmers’ interests to be protected at WTO: Nath
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 16
Union Commerce Minister Kamal Nath today assured Parliament that the interests of India’s farmers would be protected in a globally administered multi-lateral trading apparatus under the aegis of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Making a statement in both Houses of Parliament today, Mr Nath said the Framework Agreement “clearly stipulates that the negotiations will have to take into account the concerns of developing countries relating to rural development, food security and livelihood security”.

“Our approach to the negotiations will be dictated by our national interests, especially our concerns for the millions of farmers who are dependent for their livelihood on agriculture, as also our objective of stimulating economic activity through export of goods and services. We are determined to pursue our interests in this and other areas vigorously,” the minister said.

It has been agreed that all forms of exports subsidies would be eliminated by an end date and this was one of India’s major demands.

“This commitment in the Agreement is therefore a positive achievement”, he said.

At the same time, the flexibility available to developing countries like India to provide certain subsidies for export of agricultural products would continue to be available for an even longer period, beyond the elimination of export subsidies by developed countries.

On market access, the minister said the Agreement envisages that higher rates of tariff will face higher levels of cuts.

“Since the reduction required is from bound rates, which in the case of India are usually much higher than the applied rates, we have an adequate cushion of comfort”, he told Parliament.

Developed countries, which do not have this cushion, will have to effect real and deep cuts. “Thus market access of our products would increase,” he said.

The Framework Agreement also provides for use of a Special Safeguard Mechanism triggered by prices or quantity against a surge in imports that would safeguard domestic producers in developing countries.

In the area of industrial products and non-agricultural market access negotiations (NAMA), the minister said India’s concerns were mainly focussed on the twin issues of protection to sensitive items, and to the nature of the sectoral approach — whether voluntary or mandatory.

“The negotiation on a formula in this sector could lead to more market access for us in developed countries by bringing down peak tariffs and reducing tariff escalations,” he said.
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GTB share a ‘junk’ paper for 12 years

New Delhi, August 16
In a bad news for shareholders of Global Trust Bank (GTB), its acquirer Oriental Bank of Commerce (OBC) today said equity-holders will not get any value for their holdings now and can expect some relief only after 12 years if the troubled bank is left with any surplus value.

Amid trading in GTB counters, OBC sent a communiqué to the Finance Ministry and BSE, announcing that all realisable assets of GTB would be set aside in a separate ‘Asset Account’, which would be used to meet all outstanding liabilities of the Secunderabad-based bank.

If there is any surplus in this asset account, it would be distributed on a pro rata basis to ordinary shareholders of GTB after 12 years or an earlier date as it is specified by government or RBI.

The record date for the GTB-OBC merger has been set at August 31, 2004.

When contacted, OBC chairman B D Narang told PTI: “We will set aside any surplus (assets minus the liabilities) into a separate escrow account (asset account). The shareholders will get the amount on a pro rata basis after 12 years.” OBC has ruled out any share-swap soon after it proposed to take over GTB a few weeks ago.

Mr Narang said the GTB shares now amount to ‘junk’ paper and shareholders will not get any value out of it now.

The clarification comes in the wake of active trade at the GTB counters.

However, a section of investors were still active in buying GTB shares on the hope that they may get some relief once the merger takes place. — PTI
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BRIEFLY


Japanese IT venture AOS Technology employee Hiroko Iwai displays the company’s remote-controlled pet communication unit
Japanese IT venture AOS Technology employee Hiroko Iwai displays the company’s remote-controlled pet communication unit ‘iSeePet’, which enables to provide food to pets from the remote through the Internet or mobile phone, at the company’s headquarters in Tokyo on Monday. Owners can see their pets via an embedded CCD camera of the iSeePet, priced 60,000 yen ($ 545).
— AFP

BSNL stir threat
New Delhi, August 16
Employees of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) have threatened to go on an indefinite strike from August 23 demanding that pension be paid to telecom employees who have opted for the corporation. “The Finance Ministry is unilaterally throwing the burden on BSNL by asking it to pay full cost of pension of BSNL retirees and that of even those who retired before the formation of the corporation,” the General Secretary of National Federation of Telecom Employees — BSNL, Mr O P Gupta, said. — TNS

HDFC shares
Mumbai, August 16
Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC) today approved the sale of 2.75 crore equity shares in Intelenet Global Services Ltd to Barclays Bank Plc, UK for a consideration of Rs 164 crore. Informing the BSE, HDFC said the committee of Directors of the corporation, at its meeting held today approved the sale of 2.75 crore equity shares of Rs 10 each in Intelenet Global Services, representing 50 per cent of the share capital to Barclays Bank Plc. The sale, however, is subject to requisite regulatory and other approvals. — UNI

Hindustan Motors
New Delhi, August 16
India’s oldest surviving carmaker Hindustan Motors (HM) drove through July 2004 with 35 per cent growth in sales. Registering a significant increase in sales of its old warhorse Ambassador and the luxury sedan Lancer, Hindustan Motors today said it sold 1,141 units of Ambassador last month against 834 units a year ago, up 36.8 per cent. Lancer has also registered a 22 per cent rise in sales to 173 units in July 2004 from 150 units in the year-ago month. — UNI

PSUs’ revival
New Delhi, August 16
The government today made it clear that it would not close down the public sector and said it had already embarked upon an exercise to revive sick PSUs. Minister of Heavy Industries Santosh Mohan Deb told Rajya Sabha during question hour that efforts were also being made to pay the dues of the sick units within two months.
— UNI

Daewoo trucks
Kolkata, August 16
Tata Motors Limited, which had acquired the commercial vehicles division of Daewoo Commercial Vehicle Company Limited, would launch trucks manufactured by the South Korean company in the Indian market during the current financial year. Speaking at a news conference here today, head (Sales and Marketing) of Commercial Vehicles (CV) division of Tata Motors Prem Kumar Verma said the details were being worked out. — PTI
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