SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
B U S I N E S S

Govt to wait for CAG report in Centaur case
New Delhi, August 18
Finance Minister P Chidambaram today promised to take steps to address “some of the discomforting aspects” related to the disinvestment of the Centaur Hotel in Mumbai by the previous NDA government after receipt of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

RBI finds evidence against SICB directors
Mumbai, August 18
The Reserve Bank of India has recommended that the board members of the troubled South Indian Cooperative Bank (SICB) be sacked. It has made this recommendation following investigations that indicate that it were some loans made to its directors against prescribed norms that forced the bank into near-bankruptcy, according to sources.

SAD seeks relook in steel sops
New Delhi, August 18
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today assured a SAD MPs’ delegation that the government would re-look at the sops being offered to steel exporters.

Punjab to boost private input in agro sector
Moga, August 18
The Punjab Agro Industries Corporation (PAIC) has taken the initiative to facilitate private investment of over Rs 1,000 crore in agro-processing sector within the next two to three years and many of these are to have full export potential.

Better infrastructure in HP sought
Solan, August 18
Stressing on the need for extending more cooperation between the Himachal Pradesh government and the industry, the Additional Chief Secretary For Industries, Ms Renu Sahni Dhar, said it was mandatory to develop quality infrastructure in the state.

States, Centre differ on Vat date for drugs
New Delhi, August 18
The state governments today rejected the suggestion of the Centre to cut taxes and advance the date of implementation of Vat regime for medicines. But they have agreed on a proposed drug price monitoring system.


Actress Soha Ali Khan at the launch of a new brand of watch collection crafted in 18 carat gold, in Mumbai on Wednesday.
Actress Soha Ali Khan at the launch of a new brand of watch collection crafted in 18 carat gold, in Mumbai on Wednesday. — PTI

EARLIER STORIES

 
A model displays the world’s lightest helicopter, Micro Flying Robot II, in Tokyo on Wednesday.
A model displays the world’s lightest helicopter, Micro Flying Robot II, in Tokyo on Wednesday. The flying robot, which is 85 mm in height, has 136 mm of rotor diameter and weighs 8.6 grams has been produced by Seiko Epson. The flying robot is also equipped with microactuators and a CMOS camera — AFP

Coke, Pepsi to cost Re 1 more
New Delhi, August 18
The two arch cola rivals, Coke and Pepsi, were today on the same side in making soft drinks costlier by Re 1 after increasing the prices on 200 and 300 ml bottles, two years after slashing prices to push volumes.

Alliance Air to fly low cost
New Delhi, August 18
Seeing the apparent success of the low cost, no-frills Air Deccan airlines, which has all its flights overbooked for at least the next four months, the Civil Aviation Ministry has decided to convert Alliance Air, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Indian Airlines (IA) into the same type of airline.

  • Jet says no

Farm-out for OVL in Sudan oil blocks
New Delhi, August 18
Oil major ONGC Videsh Ltd today got post-facto approval for farming out up to 3 per cent stakes in its two prized oil blocks in Sudan to the African nation’s state owned oil company.

Decision on airports soon
New Delhi, August 18
The Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) on privatisation and modernisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports is expected to meet shortly to finalise recommendations based on the evaluation of expressions of interest (EOI) from 10 bidders.

Cyber cafés at 51 rly stations soon
New Delhi, August 18
Encouraged by the success of the first cyber café at New Delhi railway station, the RailTel, a public sector undertaking under the Railways Ministry, is installing cyber café at 51 railway stations during the current financial year 2004-2005.


Video
Chinese tea manufacturing ritual revived in Sri Lanka with white tea.
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Govt to wait for CAG report in Centaur case
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 18
Finance Minister P Chidambaram today promised to take steps to address “some of the discomforting aspects” related to the disinvestment of the Centaur Hotel in Mumbai by the previous NDA government after receipt of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

His assurance came at the end of a debate on the controversial sale of the government-owned hotel into which the Congress and Left parties sought an enquiry by the CBI and CVC.

“I will wait for the CAG report and whatever steps in the matter based on the report are to be taken to address some of the discomforting aspects will be done,” Mr Chidambaram said replying to a calling attention motion on the issue.

The Centaur Hotel was disinvested when BJP Rajya Sabha Member Arun Shourie was the Disinvestment Minister.

Mr Chidambaram questioned the decision of the NDA government to go ahead with the strategic sale of Centaur Hotel, Juhu beach, despite only one bidder being left in the fray.

Mr Chidambaram said though he was not against the privatisation as such, the NDA government in its zeal to disinvest overlooked some of the “discomforting” aspects of the transaction.

The minister said the government could have called for fresh bids as only one bidder remained in the fray for acquiring the controlling stakes in the hotel.

Mr Chidambaram said the previous government had shown “generosity” in allowing extensions for successful bidder Ajit Kelkar and it should have instead invoked the bank guarantee when he was not able to pay up the required amount. Out of the 20 bidders, three were ineligible and 16 of them withdrew leaving only one in the race, he said.

Earlier, former Disinvestment minister Arun Shourie said since the bidder had offered a much higher amount of Rs 153 crore, which was above the reserve price of Rs 101.6 crore, the sale was offered to him.

Mr Chidambaram admitted any one person could not be held responsible, as the decision was a collective one.

The minister said his answer to whether there should be an enquiry on the issue is that he was in agreement that a probe should be held.Top

 

RBI finds evidence against SICB directors
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, August 18
The Reserve Bank of India has recommended that the board members of the troubled South Indian Cooperative Bank (SICB) be sacked. It has made this recommendation following investigations that indicate that it were some loans made to its directors against prescribed norms that forced the bank into near-bankruptcy, according to sources.

RBI officials who scrutinised SICB’s books say a single loan of Rs 27 crore turning bad forced the bank to go into red. The loan was advanced on the recommendations of board members belonging to the Congress, according to sources. The name of the entity that obtained the loan is being kept confidential. The bank’s net worth and capital adequacy ratio turned negative.

Meanwhile, the Maharashtra State Cooperatives Commissioner has appointed Deputy Registrar Mahindra Kalyankar as the Administrator of the South Indian Cooperative Bank.

Officials say that the Administrator will take about two years to turn the bank around. Depositors may have to wait that long to withdraw their funds.Top

 

SAD seeks relook in steel sops
R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 18
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today assured a SAD MPs’ delegation that the government would re-look at the sops being offered to steel exporters.

The delegation of SAD MPs was led by Mr Sukhbir Badal. They wanted the government to withdraw the incentives being given to steel exporters.

They also urged the government to lower the central excise duty on steel raised in the Budget as it was affecting the interests of domestic engineering and manufacturing units, especially small-scale units in Punjab.

In a memorandum, they said the steep hike in the prices of steel during the past one year had adversely affected the health of the engineering industry in the state.

The five major steel manufacturers in the country have attributed the hike to the liberalised exports made by them to China at the cost of the domestic industry.

They also urged the government to restrict the export of steel to China and other countries. They said only surplus stocks should be allowed to be exported and domestic supply at reasonable rates should be the priority.

They said there was a shortage of steel in the domestic market, which was resulting in a hike in the prices of this precious metal, while exports were taking place unabated.

Pointing out that the government had imposed a 30 per cent cess on export of coke from China, the memorandum suggested that a similar cess should be imposed to safeguard the domestic industry and users.

They said Punjab, because of its geographical location, had to procure its raw material from other states that increases the overhead expenses and urged the government to provide a special economic package for the state for the growth of industrial sector in the state.

The memorandum also urged the government to declare Ludhiana as a special economic zone and all benefits of SEZ be provided to this city. Top

 

Punjab to boost private input in agro sector

Moga, August 18
The Punjab Agro Industries Corporation (PAIC) has taken the initiative to facilitate private investment of over Rs 1,000 crore in agro-processing sector within the next two to three years and many of these are to have full export potential.

The Chairpersons of Punjab Agro Industries Corporation and Punjab Export Corporation, Mr Jasbir Singh and Mr Labh Singh Ahluwalia, respectively, while stating this at a joint press conference here today said that these projects include paper manufacturing plant, oil seeds processing plant, integrated milk processing plant of 3,25,000 litres per day capacity, integrated cane processing project to produce cane juice and rice-processing project.

Besides these, an integrated potato-processing unit is to be set up that will process 20,000 tonnes of potatoes per annum.

Both chairpersons further stated that these projects when commissioned would not only provide remunerative prices to the growers but also uplift the socio-economic status of the rural people. Nearly one million acres of land will shift from the wheat-paddy rotation to high-value low-volume crop production because of these units, they stated. — UNITop

 

Better infrastructure in HP sought
Our Correspondent

Solan, August 18
Stressing on the need for extending more cooperation between the Himachal Pradesh government and the industry, the Additional Chief Secretary For Industries, Ms Renu Sahni Dhar, said it was mandatory to develop quality infrastructure in the state, especially because it was attracting big industrial houses after the announcement of new industrial package.

Addressing an interactive session organised by the CII at Baddi today, Ms Sahni urged the CII to bring such issues of concern to the notice of the government in the two districts of Solan and Siramur, which attracted maximum investment. While commenting on the long-pending demand of the industrialists of the region to construct a link road between Baddi and Chandigarh, she said the matter would be taken up with the Punjab government.

Endorsing the concern of the industry for better infrastructure development in the region the Director (Industries), Mr B.S.Nainta, said the government was undertaking appropriating planning in the matter. He informed that as many as 367 new industries had been registered and an amount of Rs 5,367 crore had been invested in the state after the special incentive package in HP.

The CII raised a number of issues of prime concern in the region, including linking Chandigarh- Baddi, Baddi- Parwanoo and upgradation of Kala Amb- Saketi-Poanta Sahib road link to facilitate the industry and also stressed for widening and proper maintenance of internal roads in the region.

A rail link across Chandigarh-Pinjore-Barotiwala-Baddi-Nalagarh-Dhabota-Ropar was also suggested for better transportation. Issues like housing, sewage and drainage also figured prominently.Top

 

States, Centre differ on Vat date for drugs
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 18
The state governments today rejected the suggestion of the Centre to cut taxes and advance the date of implementation of Vat regime for medicines. But they have agreed on a proposed drug price monitoring system to bridge the gap between high retail rates and much lower manufacturing cost.

In a Centre-state conference held here today, it was decided to bring those drugs, which have an annual turnover between Rs 1 crore and Rs 4 crore, under a monitoring mechanism to control prices.

“So far we control and fix prices of only those drugs, which have an annual turnover of over Rs 4 crore but now it is proposed to monitor the rates of those which come under the Rs 1 to Rs 4 crore category,” Chemicals Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said after the conference.

He said this would not mean these drugs would be fully controlled or their prices would-be fixed by the government and only their rates will be monitored. He ensured that 80 per cent of the pharmaceutical would be covered.

Mr Paswan said the issue of advancing the date for reducing sales tax on drugs to four from eight per cent under the proposed Vat regime due for implementation from April next could only be taken up by the concerned HPC (High Powered Committee).

However, states felt there was a large scope to reduce the drug prices even without tinkering with taxes in view of the huge margins enjoyed by the traders, he said.

There was a general consensus that the manufacturing cost should also be mentioned on the medicines to arrive at the trade margins. Top

 

Coke, Pepsi to cost Re 1 more

New Delhi, August 18
The two arch cola rivals, Coke and Pepsi, were today on the same side in making soft drinks costlier by Re 1 after increasing the prices on 200 and 300 ml bottles, two years after slashing prices to push volumes. The 200 ml bottle of either Coke or Pepsi will now cost Rs 6 while the 300 ml bottle of the soft drinks of the two companies will be priced at Rs 7.

Both Coca Cola India and PepsiCo Holding had been toying with the idea to jack up prices for the last 2 to 3 months as lower price strategy seemed unviable. Both were hit hard in value terms even as volumes soared.

“Though we have increased prices by Re 1, it is not across the country. The price increase has been effected region-wise,” Coca Cola India President and CEO Sanjiv Gupta told reporters.

In the case of Pepsi, the revised price would be applicable in the South, Mumbai and Delhi while in other parts of the country, the price would remain the same, Pepsi officials said. — PTITop

 

Alliance Air to fly low cost
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 18
Seeing the apparent success of the low cost, no-frills Air Deccan airlines, which has all its flights overbooked for at least the next four months, the Civil Aviation Ministry has decided to convert Alliance Air, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Indian Airlines (IA) into the same type of airline.

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said here today that while converting Alliance Air to a low cost, no-frills airline, the concentration would also be on replacing its aging fleet by early next year.

The minister admitted that the recent competition had forced this decision and said, “in the light of emerging competition after many airlines decided to launch no-frill services with A-320 type of aircraft on the trunk routes, we are left with no option, but to convert Alliance Air into a low-cost carrier. It is purely a commercial move”.

After inaugurating a marketing summit here, he pointed out that IA has invited the tender for leasing 11 A-319s to replace Alliance Air’s aging fleet of 11 Boeing 737s. “New aircraft are likely to be acquired by 2005, either in a phased manner or all at one go. But it will depend on the agreement with the leasing firms.”

IA tightened its belt only after Air Deccan firmed up its plans to introduce services on the trunk route deploying A-320s. Next in the race is Vijay Mallya-promoted Kingfisher Airlines, which is expected to commence operations in the beginning of 2005 with a fleet of A-320s.

Jet says no

Private sector airline Jet Airways has no immediate plans to start the low-cost or no-frills service in the country like some other airlines.

Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the airlines Peter Luethi has said Jet Airlines was a full service airline and will remain with that model. But it will push its apex fare schemes to attract passengers.

Under its new monsoon apex scheme, the Delhi-Mumbai one-way economy class ticket on Jet is available for Rs 2,500 as against Rs 3,450 earlier. On the Delhi-Kolkata sector, the ticket can now be bought for Rs 3,000 as against Rs 3,450 earlier.

The Delhi-Hyderabad ticket is priced at Rs 3,000 (Rs 4,120 earlier) while the Delhi-Bangalore and Delhi-Chennai tickets are now available for Rs 3,500 each as against Rs 4,790 and Rs 3,835 respectively earlier.

The airline has also announced special point-to-point fares, return excursion fares and innovative Rs 1,999 one-way promotional fare on the Delhi-Lucknow route. In addition, the airline is also offering companion free tickets to full fare return economy ticket buyers on the Delhi-Patna route.Top

 

Farm-out for OVL in Sudan oil blocks
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 18
Oil major ONGC Videsh Ltd today got post-facto approval for farming out up to 3 per cent stakes in its two prized oil blocks in Sudan to the African nation’s state owned oil company.

“The CCEA gave post-facto approval for OVL giving Sudapet 2 per cent stake in Block 5A and 1 per cent interest in Block 5B,” Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar told reporters after the CCEA meeting last evening.

OVL had bought Austrian company OMV’s 26.125 per cent stake in Block 5A and 24.5 per cent interest in Block 5B for 136 million dollars. Sudanese national oil firm Sudapet will get OVL’s share free of cost and the Indian firm will appropriate the farm-out stake from the price it paid to OMV.

While India is already getting 3.2 million tonnes of crude oil per annum for its 25 per cent share in Greater Nile Oil Project, Blocks 5A and 5B are estimated to give it an additional 2.5 million tonnes.

After the farm-out, the return on investment from Block 5A would be in the range of 11.52-16.15 per cent and from Block 5B 12.41-17.06 per cent. In Block 5A, Petronas of Malaysia has 68.875 per cent stake, while Sudapet has 5 per cent. In Block 5B, Petronas has 41 per cent stake, while Swedish firm Lundin Petroleum AB has 24.5 and Sudapet 10 per cent.Top

 

Decision on airports soon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 18
The Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) on privatisation and modernisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports is expected to meet shortly to finalise recommendations based on the evaluation of expressions of interest (EOI) from 10 bidders.

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said here today that the IMG was evaluating the EOI of 10 private consortiums that had been submitted recently.

It would meet in a couple of days to finalise its recommendations, which then would be sent to the empowered Group of Ministers (e-GoM) for their ratification, he said on the sidelines of a CII-organised marketing summit here.

After shortlisting, the list of bidders would be put up for consideration by the e-GoM, headed by Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee. Top

 

Cyber cafés at 51 rly stations soon

New Delhi, August 18
Encouraged by the success of the first cyber café at New Delhi railway station, the RailTel, a public sector undertaking under the Railways Ministry, is installing cyber café at 51 railway stations during the current financial year 2004-2005.

The cyber café at New Delhi station was commissioned on June 27, 2003. It had since been a tremendous success, an official release said here today. The café forms part of the passenger amenities for rail users who want facilities of Internet connectivity.

RailTel, set up in September 2000, has been entrusted with improving all-round modernisation of optic fibre based telecommunication network on the Indian Railways to make rail services more efficient and safer. — UNITop

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BRIEFLY

Tie-up
Chandigarh, August 18
Pos Malaysia Berhad and Western Union Financial Services, Inc., yesterday announced their strategic relationship in Malaysia. This relationship will help Pos Malaysia Berhad customers in Malaysia to send and receive money worldwide. Western Union, in cooperation with major institutions worldwide, offers an electronic money transfer service with a network of over 170,000 locations in more than 190 countries and territories. — TNS

Gold convention
Mumbai, August 18
India’s prospects as an emerging world market for gold and the innovative investment opportunities will be explored at a gold convention to be held on August 20 and 21 in Mumbai — the country’s bullion hub. — UNI

WTTC
New Delhi, August 18
The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has decided to convene its 5th Global Travel and Tourism Summit to be held in April next year in Delhi. Several countries had entered a competitive bid to host the summit and the WTTC Executive Committee convened a special meeting earlier this week, to decide the winning destination, WTTC said in a statement here. — UNI

Exports rise
New Delhi, August 18
Exports from India clocked a growth of 25.57 per cent reaching a level of $ 21,931.1 million during the period April to July 2004 as against $ 17,265.8 million of exports registered during the corresponding period of the last year. — TNS

Swarovski
Chandigarh, August 18
Swarovski has heralded the autumn/winter season with "Out of Africa". The African-style design of the fashion collection combines cut crystal with typical natural materials such as buffalo horn, mother-of pearl, dark woods and leather. The trend colour green plays a central role, as do accessories in giraffe-skin patterns, interpreted in sparkling crystal mesh or natural-looking fur prints. — TNS
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