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Cut transmission losses: Kalam
PSEB’s Lehra Mohabbat plant awarded Gold Shield
New Delhi, August 24
President A P J Kalam today said India can save more than Rs 76,000 crore worth of investment expenditure by reducing the transmission and distribution (T & D) losses in the power sector. The T & D losses that stand at 40-50 per cent can be brought down to 15 per cent, the standard achieved by the developed countries.
President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam presents a Gold Shield to a representative of the Gandhinagar thermal power station at a function in New Delhi on Tuesday
President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam presents a Gold Shield to a representative of the Gandhinagar thermal power station at a function in New Delhi on Tuesday.
— PTI photo

Hard fiscal reforms needed, says Kelkar
New Delhi, August 24
Mr Vijay Kelkar, who headed the committee on tax reforms, today warned that higher economic growth and FDI flow could not be achieved without hard fiscal reforms. “If we want to compete in a global economy, fiscal reforms has to take place.




EARLIER STORIES

 
Axalto smart cards Marketing Communications Manager Joyce Lau displays a smart card at a Press conference in Bangalore on Tuesday
Axalto smart cards Marketing Communications (Asia) Manager Joyce Lau displays a smart card at a Press conference in Bangalore on Tuesday. The Singapore-based company announced its plans to launch new products in the mobile telephony segment and microprocessor-enabled smart card security solutions for the Indian market. — AFP

Gestetner, Ricoh to merge
New Delhi, August 24
Gestetner India Limited and Ricoh India Limited will be merged into a single entity. This was announced here today by the Managing Directors of the two companies, Mr K. Swetharanyan and Mr N. Maitra, respectively.

Indian cars to whiz down Pak roads, if dealers have way
Islamabad, August 24
Improving bilateral ties may soon see Indian cars whizzing down Pakistani roads if Islamabad accedes to a request from automobile dealers here.

Birla-Lodha case hearing today
Kolkata, August 24
Mr Rajendra S. Lodha’s petition seeking dismissal of the caveats of four Birla family members and Birla’s petition seeking probate of the “concurrent and mutual” wills of Priyamavada and M.P. Birla would come up for hearing at Kalyan Jyoti Sengupta’s court tomorrow.

Airtel slashes pre-paid tariff by 60 pc
Chandigarh, August 24
Airtel today slashed pre-paid tariffs on Airtel-to-Airtel calls by more than half to Re 1 per minute. It also reduced the rate for STD calls on its own network to Rs 2 per minute, a reduction of more than 30 per cent. This rate is even lower than the STD calls made from a fixed line phone.                                Sachin Tendulkar is the brand ambassador of Airtel.
Sachin Tendulkar is the brand ambassador of Airtel

BankMuscat invests in Centurion’s rights issue
Dubai, August 24
Oman’s largest bank BankMuscat today picked up 75 million shares worth Rs 30 crore in Centurion Bank’s rights issue on the first day itself.
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Cut transmission losses: Kalam
PSEB’s Lehra Mohabbat plant awarded Gold Shield
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 24
President A P J Kalam today said India can save more than Rs 76,000 crore worth of investment expenditure by reducing the transmission and distribution (T & D) losses in the power sector. The T & D losses that stand at 40-50 per cent can be brought down to 15 per cent, the standard achieved by the developed countries.

“The Power Ministry should reduce the T & D losses from the existing 31,000 MW in respect of thermal plants in a phased manner within the next three years. We should allocate sufficient funds for introducing innovative systems for increasing the transmission efficiency in the power grid and minimise the unaccounted power through audit and metering,” the President said while giving away the awards for the best performance to the thermal power plants.

“The cost of reducing T&D losses will only be a small percentage of the cost of generating 19,000 MW of power, currently lost in excessive T&D,” the President said while asking the Power Ministry and Central Electricity Authority to ensure that losses are reduced to 12,000 MW in thermal plants from the current 31,000 MW.

With regards to minimise the cost of producing electricity through thermal technology, he asked the Power Ministry to work in close coordination with the Ministries of Coal and Railways.

He said there was a need for a Cabinet directive to follow a consortium approach among various ministries including Urban Development, Surface Transport, Agriculture and Environment to work towards the generation of cost-effective quality power.

Referring to the limited stocks of coals, the President appealed to the Power Ministry to find alternative fuels for thermal plants. He suggested to set up a 500 MW thermal plant designed to use either bio diesel or solar energy, exclusively, during the 10th plan period

Earlier, Union Power Minister P.M. Sayeed said the government was targeting 1 lakh MW power generation within the next 10 years to achieve a per capita energy consumption of 1000 KW by 2012.

Among others, Lehra Mohabbat thermal plant of the Punjab State Electricity Board was awarded a Gold Shield for achieving a power load factor of 91.6 per cent in 2003-04.

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Hard fiscal reforms needed, says Kelkar

New Delhi, August 24
Mr Vijay Kelkar, who headed the committee on tax reforms, today warned that higher economic growth and FDI flow could not be achieved without hard fiscal reforms.

“If we want to compete in a global economy, fiscal reforms has to take place. We have no choice... Growth can be much higher than expected with reforms,” Finance Minister’s advisor Kelkar said here today.

In the first ever debate on implementing the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, he said fiscal reforms would also lead to growth in investment including FDI.

“FDI is deterred in India because of the taxes,” Mr Kelkar said, referring to China that attracted large investments after fiscal reforms.

Tax reforms would also enable the manufacturing sector to expand, he said disfavouring exemptions provided to companies for setting up units in backward regions.

Citing global experience, Mr Kelkar said fiscal reforms have led to increase in Tax: GDP ratio in 51 countries, including US and China, in the last 15 years. In India also, the Tax: GDP ratio would go up by 0.5 per cent after reforms, he added.

Mr Kelkar committee had suggested sweeping reforms including hiking Income Tax exemption limit to Rs 1 lakh, cut in corporate tax rate to 30 per cent, 3-tier customs duty structure and a single goods & service tax of 20 per cent.

It had also prescribed removal of tax exemptions and simplification of procedures to revamp tax system, as part of efforts to wipe out Revenue Deficit and lower Fiscal Deficit to less than 3.0 per cent of GDP by 2009.

Terming the FRBM committee’s recommendations as ‘revenue-led reforms,’ Mr Kelkar said the projections were ‘modest’ and the actual tax revenues would be much more.

Admitting that the panel had not stressed on curtailing government spending to a great extent, he said ‘in the back of our mind, we had the Common Minimum Programme, which rules out any sharp compression in expenditure.’ Asked whether factors like spurt in international fuel prices, monsoon failures, rise in inflation and the duty cuts thereafter were taken into account in the report’s projection on fiscal deficit, Mr Kelkar said “such cyclical events have been factored in the report.” “The capital expenditure can be adjusted to curtail the deficit,” he added. — PTI

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Gestetner, Ricoh to merge
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 24
Gestetner India Limited and Ricoh India Limited will be merged into a single entity. This was announced here today by the Managing Directors of the two companies, Mr K. Swetharanyan and Mr N. Maitra, respectively.

The feasibility of the merger was approved by their respective Boards of Directors with a view to maximising operational efficiencies and leveraging the combined entity’s resources in marketing, distribution and service to attain a leadership position in India.

The two companies have been operating in India with a combined revenue of Rs 150 crore and a market share of 22 per cent in the digital multi-functional products.

The merged entity aims to attain the leadership position in the market by 2008 and hopes to double its revenue within three years.

The valuers appointed for determining the share swap ratio on merger have recommended a ration of 1:6, i.e. six shares of Ricoh, for one share held in Gestetner on the record date.

The companies will approach the High Courts of Bombay and Kolkata for seeking a judicial sanction of the merger.

The feasibility study of the merger of both the companies was carried out by the financial adviser Ernst & Young.

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Indian cars to whiz down Pak roads,
if dealers have way
Muhammad Najeeb

Islamabad, August 24
Improving bilateral ties may soon see Indian cars whizzing down Pakistani roads if Islamabad accedes to a request from automobile dealers here.

“We believe that importing cars from India would be beneficial to our market to meet the demand for new cars,” maintained Abdul Rashid Kathia, secretary-general of the Pakistan Car Dealers Association.

There’s been no response so far from the government, which has asked local manufacturers to increase production or the import of used cars might be permitted.

Some 100,000 cars were produced in Pakistan during 2003-04, but the growing demand, egged on by easy financing schemes, has outstripped supply despite an almost 100 per cent growth in the automobile industry.

This has prompted manufacturers to jack up prices but officials warn the move could backfire.

“It may result in opening the gates for the import of second hand cars,” commerce ministry spokesman Fahim Qureshi told IANS.

He said already there was under tremendous pressure from the public to allow import of used and reconditioned cars into Pakistan.

The budget for 2004-05 slashed by 50 per cent the import duty on cars below 1,000 cc but this has had little impact on the demand-supply position.

“This did not serve the purpose as there is no price difference between locally produced and imported cars, said Kathia. This year alone, manufacturers have jacked up prices between Rs 20,000 and Rs 64,000.

For instance, the price of a Toyota 2.0 CD diesel has gone up from Rs 1.196 million to Rs 1.209 million — an increase of Rs.20,000 per unit.

Similarly, the price of a Toyota Corolla XLI has increased by Rs 10,000.

Kathia was of the view that equivalent cars manufactured in India cost 30 percent less. “I think we can meet the demand if the import of Indian cars is allowed. Indian manufacturers would offer us competitive prices,” Kathia contended. — IANS

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Airtel slashes pre-paid tariff by 60 pc
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 24
Airtel today slashed pre-paid tariffs on Airtel-to-Airtel calls by more than half to Re 1 per minute. It also reduced the rate for STD calls on its own network to Rs 2 per minute, a reduction of more than 30 per cent. This rate is even lower than the STD calls made from a fixed line phone.

Further, local calls to fixed line and to any other mobile phone have been reduced by up to 25 per cent.

Airtel has also introduced a simplified uniform rate for STD calls to any fixed line phone in the country. A call made to any fixed line phone would now be charged at Rs.3.25 minute, irrespective of the distance.

Announcing the new tariffs, Mr Vinod Sawhny, CEO & Director-Mobility, Bharti Mobile Ltd, said would be applicable to both new and existing customers on payment of a nominal one-time Plan Entry charge of Rs 50.

Customers would also get Rs 50 of AirTel-to-AirTel SMS free as a Plan welcome benefit.

As a special introductory offer, this charge is being waived for new customers till September 30.

Bharti Tele-Ventures is one of India’s leading private sector provider of telecommunications services with an aggregate of 8.73 million customers as of end of July ‘04, consisting of over 8 million mobile customers.

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Birla-Lodha case hearing today

Kolkata, August 24
Mr Rajendra S. Lodha’s petition seeking dismissal of the caveats of four Birla family members and Birla’s petition seeking probate of the “concurrent and mutual” wills of Priyamavada and M.P. Birla would come up for hearing at Kalyan Jyoti Sengupta’s court tomorrow.

While Mr Lodha, the auditor of the M.P. Birla group companies, is seeking the probate of the “purported” 1999 will of Late Priyamvada Birla bequeathing the Rs 5,000 crore assets to him, the Birlas have sought the probate of the will prepared in 1982 against which Mr Lodha has filed a caveat.

According to sources at the court, both cases would be heard by Justice Sengupta after Justice S.K. Mukherjee refused to hear them on personal grounds.

Meanwhile, both Mr Lodha and Birlas have filed their affidavits as directed by Justice Sengupta on July 28. — UNI

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BankMuscat invests in Centurion’s rights issue

Dubai, August 24
Oman’s largest bank BankMuscat today picked up 75 million shares worth Rs 30 crore in Centurion Bank’s rights issue on the first day itself.

The foreign bank, which has 33 per cent holding in the Centurion Bank, bought the shares at Rs 4 per share soon after the Rs 90.8 crore rights issue opened today.

“We are glad to confirm that we have fully exercised our rights option on the opening day of the Centurion Bank’s rights issue,” BankMuscat Chief Executive Abdul Razak Ali Issa said in a statement here.

Mr Ali said the funds have already been transferred to the Mumbai-based bank.

He had earlier said the decision to fully subscribe to the rights issue was in keeping with its long-term commitment to India. “The bank has shown excellent progress over the past year and with the RBI recently granting it permission to further expand, we are confident that the bank is on a positive growth path,” Mr Ali had said.

BankMuscat had recently opened credit lines worth Rs 188 crore ($40 million) to assist the Centurion Bank in its inter-bank and trade finance business.

The foreign bank had also recently signed MoU with the Centurion Bank to jointly explore opportunities in the fast growing NRI business segment. — PTI

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BRIEFLY

IDBI Bank
New Delhi, August 24
IDBI Bank has announced an incentive for those who wish to open an account with the bank’s Ludhiana branch. The scheme, named Freedom Offer, is valid for those who wish to open a new savings account with the bank until August 31, 2004. It entitles the customers with no minimum deposits and a waiver in AQB (average quarterly balance) charges for the rest of the calendar year. Meanwhile, the bank’s branch in Ludhiana is moving on to a new location in Feroze Gandhi market, a press note stated. — TNS

Hooters in India
New York, August 24
After MacDonalds and Pizza Hut it is the turn of US-based restaurant chain ‘Hooters of America’ to open outlets in major Indian cities. Hooters is a strong and exiting brand name that has a very unique place in the industry offering a “perfect atmosphere to have fun, relax with friends and enjoy great food,” Managing Director Sunil Bedi said without identifying cities where the restaurants would be opened. — PTI

Nelco Ltd
Mumbai, August 24
Nelco Ltd, a Tata group company, is planning to double its authorised capital base to Rs 50 crore through equity and preference shares. The board at its meeting yesterday passed a resolution to increase the size of authorised capital to Rs 50 crore from Rs 25 crore, the company informed the National Stock Exchange today. — PTI

Bullion
Mumbai, August 24
Gold and silver prices crashed by Rs 40 per 10 gm and Rs 140 per kg, respectively, from their last finish for the second consecutive day today and closed lower at Rs 6, 255 per 10 gm and Rs10, 895 per kg mainly on weak advice from global markets, traders at Bombay Bullion Association said here. — UNI

L & T contract
Mumbai, August 24
The Heavy Engineering Division of Larsen & Toubro Ltd today announced it has won third successive contract worth Rs 187-crore from China for the supply of critical coal gasification equipment. This order from the Shenhua group is for the world’s first coal liquifaction plant built on a commercial scale, said an official press release issued by L&T here. — UNI

S&P ratings
Singapore, August 24
Rating agency Standard & Poor’s today revised the outlooks on its long-term foreign currency ratings on the State Bank of India (SBI) and ICICI Bank Ltd to positive from stable. It revised SBI’s foreign currency BB/Positive/B, local currency BB+/Stable/B, and ICICI’s foreign currency BB/Positive/B. — UNI
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