SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
B U S I N E S S

Restore EPF rate, says House panel
New Delhi, August 19
A parliamentary standing committee today urged the government to restore 9.5 per cent interest rate to EPF till final decision is taken. Stating that the lowering of the interest rate was affecting nearly four crore subscribers, the Standing Committee on Labour in its first report said the government while taking a final decision in the matter, should safeguard the interests of the subscriber.

Oil price hike shears plastic units
Chandigarh, August 19
The upward trend and frequent fluctuations in the prices of crude oil, which crossed $ 47 a barrel-mark today, besides making the common man reel under its impact has sheared the Indian plastics industry. The main reason for this is that the plastic raw material (dana) is naphtha-based, a derivative of crude oil.

L&T on expansion spree
Mumbai, August 19
Larsen & Toubro Limited (L&T) today added further thrust to its IT and related business with a slew of initiatives, including the laying of the foundation for a Software Park in Bangalore, a Technology Centre in Chennai, followed by the inauguration of a state-of-the-art e-Engineering Centre in the capital of Tamil Nadu. Chairman & Managing Director of Larsen & Tourbo A.M. Naik congratulates Mr U.V Rao
Chairman & Managing Director of Larsen & Tourbo A.M. Naik (left) congratulates Mr U.V Rao (right), a former Chairman & Managing Director of the company, after the foundation laying ceremony of proposed Rs 150 crore software development park in Bangalore on Thursday. — PTI photo

DD plans 40 free DTH channels
New Delhi, August 19
The cable viewers in the country can soon expect a major bonanza from the UPA government. The state-run Doordarshan will soon launch Direct-to-Home free broadcasting service, providing 40 channels in the beginning across the country, said Information and Broadcasting Minister Jaipal Reddy in the Lok Sabha today.


Australian fast bowler Bret Lee is seen in this file photograph
Australian fast bowler Bret Lee is seen in this file photograph. New Balance, a sports brand, has tied up with Lee to launch a new range of NB Autumn Winter 2004 Footwear and Apparels.

EARLIER STORIES

 
Google, the world’s largest search engine, says it has sold 19.6 million shares at $85 a piece in its long-awaited initial public offering
Google, the world’s largest search engine, says it has sold 19.6 million shares at $85 a piece in its long-awaited initial public offering, raising $1.67 billion (£920 million) for the company. — Reuters

Spice to produce PCs
in Baddi
Chandigarh, August 19
Spice Net, a provider of end-to-end solutions and high-quality IT hardware products for enterprises, is to expand its operations in Punjab and the neighbouring state of Himachal Pradesh. The company today launched its manufacturing facility at Baddi in Himachal Pradesh for manufacture of PCs and passbook printers. Addressing mediapersons here today, Mr Dilip Modi, Chairman, Spice Net, said they have pioneered the concept of passbook printing in the Indian banking industry

Draft rules on export of taxable services
New Delhi, August 19
The Centre has come out with draft rules with regard to the export of services to fulfil a requirement proposed in the Finance Bill. As per the draft rules, any service provided in relation to the export of goods shall be treated as export and specified services pertaining to immoveable property are to be treated as export, if the said immoveable property is located outside India.

Security deposit hike for LPG cylinders soon
New Delhi, August 19
The government is expected to increase the security deposit for LPG cylinders from Rs 650 to Rs 900 per cylinder following the hike in procurement cost of cylinders due to spiralling steel prices.

Conveyor belt to Bangladesh
Mumbai, August 19
Phoenix Yule Ltd, the single largest exporter of conveyor belts, plans to install a 34-km long conveyor belt system between Meghalaya and Bangladesh.

Graphic: 4TH Advance Estimates of Oilseeds Production During 2003-2004

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Restore EPF rate, says House panel
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 19
A parliamentary standing committee today urged the government to restore 9.5 per cent interest rate to EPF till final decision is taken.

Stating that the lowering of the interest rate was affecting nearly four crore subscribers, the Standing Committee on Labour in its first report said the government while taking a final decision in the matter, should safeguard the interests of the subscriber. “Till such time, the status quo in the rate of interest may be maintained,” it said.

The 18-member committee, headed by CPI MP P. K. Vasudevan Nair, also said that on important issues concerning workers, the decision should always be taken by “consensus”.

The interim rate of interest of 8.5 per cent for this fiscal can, however, be enhanced depending on the EPF Organisation’s (EPFO) recovery of arrears, it said.

The committee also took note of the fact that the Central Board of Trustees of the EPFO recommended 9.5 per cent interest rate for 2003-04 but “the same has not yet been ratified by the Finance Ministry.”

The Centre has so far not notified the EPF rate for two years — 2002-03 and 2003-04.

The notification will be issued only after the ratification of the 9.5 per cent interest rate for 2002-03 and 2003-04 by the Finance Ministry.

The Central Board of Trustees (CBT) of the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) had recommended 9.5 per cent interest rate for 2002-03 in April 2002. At a meeting in May 2003, the CBT recommended a composite rate of interest at 9.5 per cent (including golden jubilee bonus interest of 0.5 per cent).

The accounts of EPF subscribers have already been credited with 9.5 per cent interest rate for 2002-03 but the interest for 2003-04 is yet to be credited as accounts are settled in September.

For 2003-04, the government has paid the rate at 9.5 per cent only for those, who have retired or died. For all others, the interest rate will be paid after the notification.

The rate of interest to the EPF subscribers, paid at the rate of 12 per cent since 1989-90, was reduced from July 2000 to 11 per cent. 

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Oil price hike shears plastic units
Peeyush Agnihotri
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 19
The upward trend and frequent fluctuations in the prices of crude oil, which crossed $ 47 a barrel-mark today, besides making the common man reel under its impact has sheared the Indian plastics industry. The main reason for this is that the plastic raw material (dana) is naphtha-based, a derivative of crude oil.

In the past one year there has been a significant rise in the prices of raw material and allied polymers. While polystyrene has shown a price hike of 58 per cent, LDPE (low density poly ethylene) prices have risen by more than 50 per cent, touching Rs 77,400 and Rs 63,350 per tonne, respectively. Import prices too have risen by more than $300 per tonne within a span of six months. HDPE, PVC, LLDPE and polypropylene, too, have shown the same upward trend.

The Indian plastic industry, 75 per cent of which is small scale, thus, is in a tizzy. Repercussions are being witnessed and a few players have left the trade, citing ‘economic non-viability.’

“It’s a double whammy for the industry,” says Mr Suresh Atre, President, All-India Plastic Manufacturers Association. “While on one hand, the crude oil prices have risen, on the other import duties are high,” he adds. Mr Atre has shot off a representation to the Finance Minister on behalf of the industry, alleging that national polymer manufacturers are more concerned about exporting what they make rather than selling it within the country.

He says that as per the WTO norms, the government has to bring the peak customs duty on polymer imports to 10 per cent by 2005. “So why not do it at the earliest,” he says.

Mr Girish Mehta, a local polymer vendor, says that there are just three or four major players in the plastic raw material sector. “The hike in crude oil prices coupled with monopolistic trade is taking its toll. Many industrial units have put up their shutters in the region because of this sudden rise in dana prices,” he says.

Mr Sanjeev Duggal, a polymer consignment agent, says that many cracker units have also shut down. “This too is instrumental in jacking up the prices,” he says. Cracker units are those that convert crude oil derivatives to plastic raw material.

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L&T on expansion spree
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, August 19
Larsen & Toubro Limited (L&T) today added further thrust to its IT and related business with a slew of initiatives, including the laying of the foundation for a Software Park in Bangalore, a Technology Centre in Chennai, followed by the inauguration of a state-of-the-art e-Engineering Centre in the capital of Tamil Nadu.

Speaking on the occasion in Bangalore, Mr A.M. Naik, Chairman & Managing Director of L&T said: “The proposed centre would mark up the capability to offer high-value services to the expanding customer base and will reinforce the company’s presence in two of India’s IT hubs — Bangalore and Chennai.”

L&T Infotech would leverage the parent company’s strengths in information technology, manufacturing and construction, embedded systems as well as e-Engineering expertise in providing focused solutions to clients. Mr Naik said with international companies looking towards India for expertise in CAD/ CAM/ CAE, the company would be in a position to deliver benchmark quality products at low cost by using the latest software tools.

The company also plans to hire 1800 persons over the next 18 months to reach a total strength of 5,000 professionals. Speaking to reporters after laying the foundation stone for a new software park the CMD said: “We have an employee strength of 3,200 and within 18 months we plan to touch 5,000 persons.”

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DD plans 40 free DTH channels
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 19
The cable viewers in the country can soon expect a major bonanza from the UPA government. The state-run Doordarshan will soon launch Direct-to-Home (DTH) free broadcasting service, providing 40 channels in the beginning across the country, said Information and Broadcasting Minister Jaipal Reddy in the Lok Sabha today.

He announced that government would soon come up with a policy to check the rising cable tariff, and increasing telecast of pornographic stuff by some TV channels.

Regarding the free DTH channels, he said, “the DTH will be a common man’s or poor man’s services charging no monthly subscription as is being done by cable operators. Doordarshan will broadcast its 30 free-to-air channels and 10 channels of private broadcasters under the DTH project.”

Replying to a spate of questions on cable operators’ strike and related issues, Mr Reddy said the government had already approved KU band transmission project of Doordarshan involving an investment of Rs 164 crore.

Mr Reddy, however, made it clear that cable network service and DTH can co-exist as they are two different modes of delivery of content.

He said the government was alive to the fact that some private channels were broadcasting soft pornography as part of their commercial strategy and steps are being taken to curb this practice. 

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Spice to produce PCs in Baddi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 19
Spice Net, a provider of end-to-end solutions and high-quality IT hardware products for enterprises, is to expand its operations in Punjab and the neighbouring state of Himachal Pradesh. The company today launched its manufacturing facility at Baddi in Himachal Pradesh for manufacture of PCs and passbook printers.

Addressing mediapersons here today, Mr Dilip Modi, Chairman, Spice Net, said they have pioneered the concept of passbook printing in the Indian banking industry and claim a market share of 80 per cent. With the new plant becoming operational by September end, Spice Net expects to generate additional production of 40,000 PCs and 15,000 passbook printers per annum.

Mr Modi said the company had invested over Rs 3 crore in setting up its facility in Himachal Pradesh- spread over an area of 3 acres. This extention of its already existing facility in Rampur in UP will help increase its production capacity and extend benefits to many other consumers, besides banks by way of reduced lead-time and increased price competitiveness.

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Draft rules on export of taxable services
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 19
The Centre has come out with draft rules with regard to the export of services to fulfil a requirement proposed in the Finance Bill.

As per the draft rules, any service provided in relation to the export of goods shall be treated as export and specified services pertaining to immoveable property are to be treated as export, if the said immoveable property is located outside India.

In case of specified services, which involve a physical activity, if the service is performed outside India it shall be treated as export. To avoid disputes and for the sake of simplicity, even if such a service is partly performed outside India, it shall be treated as export of service.

Other services rendered to an industrial or commercial user, located outside India shall be treated as export unless it has any establishment or office in India.

Services rendered to non-industrial or non-commercial users would be treated as export, if the recipient were located outside India at the time service is received.

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Security deposit hike for LPG cylinders soon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 19
The government is expected to increase the security deposit for LPG cylinders from Rs 650 to Rs 900 per cylinder following the hike in procurement cost of cylinders due to spiralling steel prices.

“The PSU oil marketing companies have approached the government for increase in security deposit for LPG cylinders due to hike in procurement cost of cylinders in view of increase in steel prices. The matter is under consideration of the government,” Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar told Lok Sabha in a written reply.

To another question, he said, PSU oil-marketing companies have plans to set up seven new LPG bottling plants in various states during 2004-05.

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Conveyor belt to Bangladesh

Mumbai, August 19
Phoenix Yule Ltd, the single largest exporter of conveyor belts, plans to install a 34-km long conveyor belt system between Meghalaya and Bangladesh.

Phoenix Yule Ltd said here today in a statement that the company will execute the project along with its parent CBS of Germany.

Phoenix said the belt will link Surma Cement, a 1.2-million tonnes plant being set up by cement major Lafarge in a joint venture with Cemento Milnos in Sylhet with Kurmi limestone deposits of Meghalaya. — UNI

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BRIEFLY

Oil import bill
New Delhi, August 19
India’s net oil import bill is likely to jump to $ 25 billion this fiscal from $ 16.8 billion in 2003-04, on the back of spurt in international oil prices. “Crude oil imports this fiscal are inching towards 100 million tonnes. We have already seen $10 per barrel increase in international crude prices from average import cost of $28.22 a barrel in the previous year,” a senior official said. — TNS

Ircon contract
New Delhi, August 19
Ircon International Limited, a public sector undertaking under the Railway Ministry, has signed a $ 31.3 million highway contract with the Ethiopian Road Authority for the construction and upgradation of the Dera-Mechara Road Upgrading Project. The contract was signed by Ircon Managing Director B S Kapur and Ethiopian Road Authority General Manager Zaida Wolde Gebriei. — UNI

Reliance Info
Chandigarh/New Delhi, August 19
Reliance Infocomm has launched a feature-rich colour handset carrying a price tag of Rs 4,999. The new LG 5130 being launched by the company has features such as speakerphone and a Hindi interface to facilitate SMS in the national language. — TNS

Star stake
Mumbai, August 19
Global media major Star group is to pick up 25.1 per cent strategic stake in television content company Balaji Telefilms Ltd (BTL) for over Rs 120 crore. “BTL is already one of the large content provider to Star group channels and our investment is strategic in nature,” a senior Star group official said today. — PTI

Maxima
Chandigarh, August 19
Maxima, an Indian watch brand, has come up with a promotional scheme as a value addition for its customers. From tomorrow till September 15, the company will give an additional 6 months warranty on every watch. — TNS

Sah Petro
Mumbai, August 19
Sah Petroleums Ltd, a producer of a wide range of special industrial lubricants, is entering the capital market with an initial public offering of 90,80,000 equity shares of Rs 5 each for cash at a premium of Rs 30 per share aggregating to Rs 31.78-crore. — UNI

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