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PMO for transparent oil pricing system
India seeks Saudi help to rein in global oil prices

New Delhi, January 17
India today asked Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, to rein in volatility in the international oil market and help stabilise oil prices at levels sustainable by developing economies.

Wipro reports 41 pc jump in net profit at Rs 765 cr
Bangalore, January 17
Fending off pressures stemming from wage hikes and rupee depreciation, software major Wipro today reported a robust 41 per cent jump in its net profit at Rs 765 crore for the third quarter ending December 31,2006.

Mr Azim Premji, Chairman, Wipro, announces the third-quarter results in Bangalore on Wednesday. — AFP photo

Mittal to take 49 pc in Bathinda refinery
New Delhi, January 17
India-born billionaire Lakshmi N Mittal may take 49 per cent stake in Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd's (HPCL) under-construction $3-billion refinery at Bathinda.

Centre favours dual pricing for cooking gas
New Delhi, January 17
The government said today it favoured dual pricing for domestic cooking gas.

Double-digit growth achievable: Pranab
New Delhi, January 17
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said today it was perfectly logical for India to aspire for a double-digit growth in the economy in view of the strong foundation of macro-economic fundamentals and the accelerating growth in recent years.

A model shows off Panasonic's new CF-R6 notebook PC at a press preview in Tokyo on Wednesday. The "Let's Note CF-R6", equipped with Intel centrino duo mobile technology, a heavy duty body and a water proof keyboard, will be put on the Japanese market from January 30 with other T5, W5, Y5 series Let's Note PCs. A model shows off Panasonic's new CF-R6 notebook PC at a press preview in Tokyo on Wednesday. The "Let's Note CF-R6", equipped with Intel centrino duo mobile technology, a heavy duty body and a water proof keyboard, will be put on the Japanese market from January 30 with other T5, W5, Y5 series Let's Note PCs. — AFP


A model presents an outfit by Indonesian designer Ali Chrisma at the "International Fashion Designers Show" in Hong Kong on Wednesday.
A model presents an outfit by Indonesian designer Ali Chrisma at the "International Fashion Designers Show" in Hong Kong on Wednesday. The event was held in conjunction with Hong Kong Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2007. — AFP 

EARLIER STORIES

 
Volkswagen AG's former personnel chief Peter Hartz arrives for his trial at a court in Braunschweig, Germany, on Wednesday. Hartz goes on trial in a corruption case.
Volkswagen AG's former personnel chief Peter Hartz arrives for his trial at a court in Braunschweig, Germany, on Wednesday. Hartz goes on trial in a corruption case. The case rests on accusations that key labour officials at the company, including a current member of the German parliament, were showered with illegally financed perks, including trips and prostitutes. — AP/PTI 

Shell to bid for CBM blocks
New Delhi, January 17
World's third largest oil and gas firm Shell said today it was interested in coal-bed methane (CBM) exploitation in India and will participate in the next bidding process for the blocks.

Kamal Nath defends bilateral trade pacts
WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy thinks otherwise
Bangalore, January 17
WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy today announced he had come to India after receiving positive signals from the US and the European Union aimed at breaking the impasse on multilateral trade agreement talks and the WTO was trying to see whether India could get what it wants to ensure that the Doha Round of negotiations was successful.

Tractor makers diversify into SUVs, engine oils
Sale of tractors declines in Punjab, Haryana by 25 pc
Chandigarh, January 17
The stagnant growth in tractor industry for the past eight years has forced many tractor manufacturers to diversify into either tractor fuels or into the four-wheeler segment.

New pharma policy soon
Changes in the FMC Act on the anvil
New Delhi, January 17
The UPA government is considering a new pharma policy, meeting the demands of industry and consumers, and plans to give more teeth to the forward market commission (FMC) in the Budget to strengthen the regulatory mechanism in the futures commodity trading, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Prithviraj Chavan said today.

Hutch: Orascom spanner in alternate plan
New Delhi, January 17 
Claiming it has a 'Right of First Refusal' in Hutchison Telecom, Egypt's Orascom today said it wanted to increase its share in the Hong Kong-based company, a development that could put a spanner in the alternate plan reportedly being considered by suitors of Hutch-Essar.

AI-Indian merger: Patel meets employees
New Delhi, January 17
With high expectations on the merger of Air-India (AI) and Indian within 10 weeks, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel today held a series of meetings with employees' representatives in an effort to quell their lingering fears.

Star to buy 20 pc in MBPL
New Delhi, January 17
Bullish on the private FM radio business, Rupert Murdoch's Star group will pick up 20 per cent equity in radio company Music Broadcast Pvt Ltd (MBPL).

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PMO for transparent oil pricing system
India seeks Saudi help to rein in global oil prices
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 17
India today asked Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, to rein in volatility in the international oil market and help stabilise oil prices at levels sustainable by developing economies.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi that high oil prices had hurt import-dependent economies like India and the oil producers' cartel OPEC should do much more to rein in volatility, official sources said.

India depends on imports for 73 per cent of its oil requirements. The international crude prices touched a record $76 per barrel last year and is now around $52 .

Before Mr Al-Naimi and other Oil Ministers attending the petrotech conference here called on the Prime Minister, Petroleum Minister Murli Deora, at a bilateral meeting, told the world's most influential Oil Minister that volitality was hurting developing nations.

Mr Deora expressed the hope that the oil prices would fall below $50 per barrel.

The Saudi Oil Minister, however, said the market determined the oil prices. “We do not want to see volatility in the market (but) the prices are determined by the market. There is no reason for an emergency meeting of OPEC. The fundamentals are significantly healthier than they were at the time of the Doha meeting in October," he said.

"The market doesn't need to panic at all and there is need to protect the interests of both producers and consumers. The market is in a healthy condition and moving in the right direction," he added.

The Prime Minister’s Office today called for a shift to a transparent oil pricing system, where the regulator fixes the cross- subsidies on petroleum products.

Mr Prithiviraj Chavan, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, said the pricing of petroleum products should cease to be a political decision and the regulator should step in to fix cross-subsidies in a transparent manner.

The Minister also announced that the government had accorded the highest priority to energy conservation and efficiency and was seriously considering the merger of the Petroleum Conservation & Research Association (PCRA) and the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) to optimise the potential in this area.

Meanwhile, Yemen has invited the ONGC to build a 100,000 barrels per day refinery on its Arabian sea coast but the Indian state-run firm has said that participation in the $1-billion project would be after allotment of an oilfield in return.

"We have plans to build 100,000 barrels per day refineries at Hardamout and the southeastern region of Al-Mukalla. We have invited the ONGC to participate in one of them," Yemen Oil Minister Khalid Mahfoudh Bahah said here.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia will invest $600 million in India's growing sectors like energy, mining, real estate and IT. The oil-rich kingdom will invest the amount in the coming years with the help of corporations from both countries.

''We will invest about $600 million in India for the industrial projects like mining, energy, real estate, knowledge-based processes,'' said Saudi business delegation to India co-Chairman Abdul Rahman Al-Rabiah here. 

Saudi Aramco offered stake in 3 refineries

India today offered Saudi Aramco a stake in three upcoming refineries at Bina, Bathinda and Paradip.

At a meeting between Petroleum Minister Murli Deora and his Saudi counterpart Ali Al-Niami, Saudi Aramco also invited Indian companies to invest in a refinery in the oil-rich kingdom.

While BPCL is building the Bina refinery in Madhya Pradesh, HPCL is putting up a refinery at Bathinda in Punjab. The IOC is setting up a refinery at Paradip in Orissa. — PTI 

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Wipro reports 41 pc jump in net profit at Rs 765 cr

Bangalore, January 17
Fending off pressures stemming from wage hikes and rupee depreciation, software major Wipro today reported a robust 41 per cent jump in its net profit at Rs 765 crore for the third quarter ending December 31,2006.

The Bangalore-headquartered New York Stock Exchange- listed firm said its revenues shot up to Rs 3,979 crore, a 45 per cent rise over the corresponding quarter of last fiscal.

Wipro's global IT services and products earned revenues of Rs 2,876 crore, a 35 per cent rise year on year, India's third largest software exporter said.

"We have had another satisfying quarter. Our global IT business delivered good volume growth primarily driven by robust performance of our energy and utilities vertical, technology infrastructure services and enterprise application services," Wipro Chairman Azim Premji said.

Looking ahead for the quarter ending March, 2007, Mr Premji said the company expected revenues around $685 million from its global IT services and products business.

During the quarter ended December 2006, its revenue from global IT services and products was $640.5 million.

Lupin posts Rs 56-cr net profit

Pharma major Lupin has posted a net profit of Rs 56.03 crore for the quarter ended December 31, 2006, as compared to Rs 44.19 crore for the quarter ended December 31, 2005.

The total income (net of excise) has increased from Rs 436.51 crore for the quarter ended December 31, 2005, to Rs 511.20 crore for the quarter ended December 31, 2006.

As per the consolidated results, the group has posted a net profit after minority interest of Rs 62.02 crore for the quarter ended December 31, 2006. The total Income (net of excise) is Rs 515.32 crore for the quarter ended December 31, 2006.

Meanwhile, Lupin will set up a 100 per cent subsidiary in the Netherlands for routing all overseas investments to be made by the company.

A Lupin statement said the Board of Directors had approved the formation of a 100 per cent subsidiary in the Netherlands by making an initial investment of up to Euro 20,000.

NIIT Q3 PAT up 92 pc

NIIT Technologies has posted Rs 34.6 crore in profit after tax for the third quarter ended December 31, up 92 per cent on a year-on-year basis.

The IT company posted Rs 231.5 crore in revenues at the end of the third quarter, which is around 47 per cent more than the revenues in the year-ago period.

NIIT also said that it had posted an operating profit of Rs 49.1 crore in the latest quarter, registering a 61 per cent jump on the year-on-year basis figures. The company also witnessed a record order intake of $56 million for the latest quarter. — Agencies

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Mittal to take 49 pc in Bathinda refinery

New Delhi, January 17
India-born billionaire Lakshmi N Mittal may take 49 per cent stake in Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd's (HPCL) under-construction $3-billion refinery at Bathinda.

State-run Oil India Ltd (OIL) is likely to get 15 per cent equity stake, leaving HPCL with 36 per cent.

"Mittal Investments and HPCL are close to signing a joint venture agreement for jointly building the nine million tonnes a year Bathinda refinery by 2011," an industry source said.

As per the broad understanding reached between the two firms, Mittal will hold 49 per cent stake in the Guru Gobind Singh Refinery Ltd, the company implementing the project. HPCL will also hold 49 per cent stake if OIL, which is doing due diligence of the project, does not join the refinery project.

In case OIL does not join, the remaining 2 per cent stake would be offered to financial institutions, he said.

"Initially, discussions centred around HPCL-Mittal-OIL holding stake in the project and offering the rest through an initial public offering closer to commissioning of refinery in 2011. Now, the equity pattern has undergone a change. The IPO may be considered at a later date," the source said.

Officials of both Mittal Investments and HPCL could not be immediately reached for comments. The source said the Mittals might extend the partnership with HPCL to include participation in the expansion of 7.5 million tonnes a year Vizag refinery in Andhra Pradesh and joint pursuit of oil assets abroad.

Mittal is the latest of a series of potential joint venture partners HPCL has had for the Bathinda refinery. BP Plc of the UK walked out of the project in March 2006. Earlier, Saudi Aramco of Saudi Arabia had exited the project in 1998.

HPCL-Mittal combine would also lay a 1,100-km crude oil pipeline from Mundra port in Gujarat to Bathinda and build a crude oil terminal and associated facilities at an estimated cost of $600 million.

The source said once a joint venture agreement was signed, Mittal Investments would be required to deposit $100 million in an escrow account. The amount could be withdrawn only if the government did not approve of the joint venture. — PTI

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Centre favours dual pricing for cooking gas

New Delhi, January 17
The government said today it favoured dual pricing for domestic cooking gas.

"There can be a system wherein Rs 150 subsidy per cylinder can be fixed and the overall price be floated in respect to international prices," Prithviraj Chavan, Minister of State for the Prime Minister's Office said on the sidelines of 'Petrotech 2007' summit.

"The present subsidy of 150 per cylinder should not be availed by the affluent class," he said, adding that "the subsidy needs to be better targeted." — PTI

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Double-digit growth achievable: Pranab
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 17
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said today it was perfectly logical for India to aspire for a double-digit growth in the economy in view of the strong foundation of macro-economic fundamentals and the accelerating growth in recent years.

He said it was “an achievable target and realisable goal”. The minister made this remark while speaking on “March towards 10 per cent growth” at the 86th annual function of Assocham here.

Mr Mukherjee said while the government was excited about the prospects of high growth and prosperity, it was conscious that the benefits of this growth should flow to all sections of the population.

Mr Mukherjee assured that his ministry and the network of Indian embassies around the world would facilitate and promote India’s economic and commercial interests abroad.

“I take this opportunity to invite the Indian business to work in partnership with our economic diplomacy in achieving our common economic goals,” the minister said.

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Shell to bid for CBM blocks

New Delhi, January 17
World's third largest oil and gas firm Shell said today it was interested in coal-bed methane (CBM) exploitation in India and will participate in the next bidding process for the blocks.

''We did not bid in CBM-III, but are looking to participate in the next phase. We are very much interested in CMB Blocks in India,'' Shell Companies Chairman Vikram Singh Mehta told reporters on the sidelines of a conference here.

The government offered and alloted 10 blocks under CBM-III rounds in 2006.

The Anglo-Dutch company is also in '' active'' talks with ONGC for joint coal gasification programmes. It had signed a MoU with ONGC for wide-ranging cooperation in hydrocarbons value chain in January last year.

In the retail space, Shell has a licence to open 2,000 outlets across India, of which 21 are operational.

''The company is committed to build due presence in the areas where it operates. Every outlet (operational) has exceeded our expectations in terms of revenues and customer response,'' the Chairman said.

Mr Mehta also reiterated that the company would not sell its Hazira plant but was open to partnerships for value addition to the project. — UNI

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Kamal Nath defends bilateral trade pacts
WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy thinks otherwise
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, January 17
WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy today announced he had come to India after receiving positive signals from the US and the European Union aimed at breaking the impasse on multilateral trade agreement talks and the WTO was trying to see whether India could get what it wants to ensure that the Doha Round of negotiations was successful.

Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath, however, made it clear that there was no question of the country compromising on the issue of market access in agricultural products which, he said, would impinge on the livelihood of farmers. He went on to say that the country subscribed to the need of having multilateral trade agreements but underscored the country's right to continue with bilateral trade agreements also.

Both speakers openly aired their conflicting points of views during "Partnership Summit-2007" organised by the CII here and later also talked to the media separately.

Speaking to newsmen later in the evening Mr Lamy said the next week would be crucial as an informal ministerial meeting was scheduled in Davos which, he hoped, would lead to "political decisions".

The WTO Director-General said: "Everybody has defensive interests but we have to move in the interest of international trade". He said he understood Indian farmers could not compete currently with US and European Union farmers who enjoyed subsidies and that finding a "right balance" was important. "We are working on this issue", he added.

Earlier, speaking at the summit, Mr Lamy spoke out against bilateral agreements being made between WTO members, saying that these were, in fact, preferential trade agreements which contradicted the non-discrimination principal, the cornerstone of the WTO. Mr Lamy said the WTO recognised the right of its members to enter into bilateral agreements but that these agreements must respect standards agreed upon multilaterally.

Mr Kamal Nath, however, said bilateral agreements were part of the new synergy which had resulted in a mass of economic activity shifting to Asia. He said bilateral agreements would help global trade and that even the US had bilateral agreements with countries, including Jordan. "Regional trade agreements should not be an impediment to talks", he added.

The Commerce Minister also disclosed that he had sought the assistance of the British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown to persuade the US to make a "forward movement" so that the stalled talks could be re-started. 

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Tractor makers diversify into SUVs, engine oils
Sale of tractors declines in Punjab, Haryana by 25 pc
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 17
The stagnant growth in tractor industry for the past eight years has forced many tractor manufacturers to diversify into either tractor fuels or into the four-wheeler segment.

Close on the heels of diversification by Eicher into the tractor fuel segment, Escorts Agri Machinery Group yesterday launched Suraksha brand of engine and gear oils for tractor engines. Mahindra and Mahindra and Sonalika - the other major tractor manufacturers - have already diversified into the four-wheeler segment with their sports utility vehicles (SUVs).

Now, HMT, too, is planning to launch an SUV model. Mr P Sharan, Executive Director, HMT, Pinjore, informed TNS that the prototype of SUV model is ready and has been successfully tested. “We are looking for a technical tieup and investment to launch the SUV model,” he said.

On the other hand, Punjab Tractors Limited ( PTL) will launch its brand of engine oils next month. Mr A.M. Sawhney, Director, Marketing, PTL, said they have tied up with Veedol and will launch their own brand of engine oils - Swaraj Veedol Genuine Oil - in the first week of February. “This oil will be available through our 500 dealerships and through our service stations. We will later enter into the gear oil segment as well,” he added.

It may be noted that sale of tractors in the traditional markets of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh has gone down by over 25 per cent in the past eight years. Though the agriculture credit inflow has increased over the years, it has led to its misuse for buying other lifestyle goods, instead of agriculture implements.

Though sales growth has reached a saturation point in these states, tractor sales have increased in the southern states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. “As a result, tractor sales have not plummeted, but marginally increased as we find new growth areas in the domestic market,” said Mr Y.V. Anand Kumar, Head, Customer Service and Parts, Escorts.

However, sources said inspite of stagnant growth, future is not all that bleak for the tractor industry in the country. Most of the tractor manufacturers are retaining their profit margins by exporting to the USA, East European countries and some African countries like Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Mali and Zimbabwe. While Mahindra and Mahindra, Tafe and Escorts have already set up their offices in the USA, Sonalika and PTL are in the process of doing so.

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New pharma policy soon
Changes in the FMC Act on the anvil
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 17
The UPA government is considering a new pharma policy, meeting the demands of industry and consumers, and plans to give more teeth to the forward market commission (FMC) in the Budget to strengthen the regulatory mechanism in the futures commodity trading, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Prithviraj Chavan said today.

The new mining and pharmaceutical policy will remove all necessary irritants and distortions as regards to exports of iron ore as also pricing of pharma to strike a balance to adequately safeguard the interests of domestic businesses for their growth and larger market size, he said addressing the concluding session of Assocham’s 86th AGM here.

Mr Chavan also announced that a new policy framework is in the offing to put in place a regulatory mechanism for commodities market with bringing about new changes in new FMC Act to ensure that commodity prices are fixed within the country rather than in the UK and other countries.

The minister also said the government was bargaining hard to address some of the essential issues, arising out of signing of FTAs, PTAs and other regional and bilateral agreements.

He clarified that the issue of iron ore exports was being re-looked at in view of submission of Huda Committee report and a firm decision is shortly expected in favour of indigenous industry to enable them undertake their capacity expansion particularly in steel sector.

On pharma pricing, he allayed the apprehensions of Indian industry that the new pharmaceutical policy of government would adequately take care of pricing issue of essential drugs to enable masses have an easy access to them and at the same time safeguard the genuine business interests of domestic pharma.

Mr Chavan, however, did not specified a particular time frame by when the new Mining and Pharmaceutical Policy would be put in place.

Meanwhile, Mr Venugopal Nandlal Dhoot, CMD, Videocon Group, today took over as the new President of the Assocham for 2007-08.

Alembic Q3 PAT up

Mumbai, January 17
Pharmaceutical company Alembic Limited has posted a 5 per cent increase in profit after tax at Rs 25.10 crore for the quarter ended December 31, 2006, as against Rs 23.91 crore in the corresponding period last year.

The company's revenue increased 8 per cent to Rs 191.33 crore for the third quarter ended December 31, 2006, as against Rs 177.11 crore in the same quarter a year ago, Alembic Ltd Chairman and Managing Director Chirayu Amin said. — PTI

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Hutch: Orascom spanner in alternate plan

New Delhi, January 17 
Claiming it has a 'Right of First Refusal' in Hutchison Telecom, Egypt's Orascom today said it wanted to increase its share in the Hong Kong-based company, a development that could put a spanner in the alternate plan reportedly being considered by suitors of Hutch-Essar.

Vodafone and Reliance Communications, are reportedly contemplating picking up stake in Hutchison Telecom International Ltd instead of buying HTIL's stake in the Indian mobile venture. This plan is apparently being considered to avoid Essar's RoFR in Hutch Essar Ltd.

"Orascom has a RoFR in HTIL and it holds a 19.3 per cent stake (in the company)," Orascom Chairman Naguib Sawiris said. 

With Orascom's RoFR powers in its agreement with HTIL, the situation would merely repeat itself and any bidder for Hutch-Essar would have to face opposition from the existing stakeholders—whether Orascom or Essar—since both are interested in raising their own stake in the respective firms, sources close to the developments said. — PTI

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AI-Indian merger: Patel meets employees

New Delhi, January 17
With high expectations on the merger of Air-India (AI) and Indian within 10 weeks, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel today held a series of meetings with employees' representatives in an effort to quell their lingering fears.

Two days ago, a Group of Ministers (GoM) had asked him to take up the issue of integration of employees in a cautious manner to avoid an unwanted situation and to ensure that their interests are protected.

While AI has 16,000 employees, Indian has about 17,000. The Air Corporations Employees' Union (ACEU), representing 13,000 employees of Indian, said it has no objection to the merger plan but issues like wage revision, career progression, pension benefits and parity in deployment must be addressed carefully. — UNI

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Star to buy 20 pc in MBPL

New Delhi, January 17
Bullish on the private FM radio business, Rupert Murdoch's Star group will pick up 20 per cent equity in radio company Music Broadcast Pvt Ltd (MBPL).

"Star has decided to enter the fast-growing FM radio business in India and will be picking up a 20 per cent stake in MBPL from India Value Fund (IVF)," a senior company official said here. The official said the two companies had "technically approved" the deal "and now Star would be seeking government nod" to make the investments.

MBPL, which runs its radio service under the brand 'Radio City', is operational in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Chennai and Jaipur. — PTI

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BRIEFLY

Scorpio, Bolero to cost more
Mumbai, January 17
Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) today announced a hike in the prices of Scorpio and Bolero. While the price hike in the case of Scorpio is expected to be between Rs 3,000 and Rs 13,000 across the range, including CRDe variants, in the case of Bolero, the hike will range from Rs 5,600 to Rs 6,500 across all variants, said M&M. The new prices would be applicable from the last week of this month. — UNI

L&T forms JV
Mumbai, January 17
Larsen & Toubro Limited (L&T) has signed a joint venture with the A.A. Turki Contracting & Trading Corporation (ATCO) of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The new venture, 'Larsen & Toubro ATCO (Saudia) LLC', will be registered as a local company in that country, said L&T. It would focus on electro-mechanical construction for the hydrocarbon and power sector construction. — UNI

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