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No question of cap on SEZs: Nath
GoM to review land issues on Jan 22

New Delhi, January 19
With protests in various parts of the country forcing the government to halt fresh approvals for special economic zones (SEZs), the Empowered Group of Ministers will decide next week on how to go ahead with the process while addressing the contentious issue of land acquisition.

Editorial: SEZs on hold

WTO chief meets PM, pleads for concessions
New Delhi, January 19
WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy today met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and sought concessions from India to revive the stalled Doha Round of negotiations.
In video (56k)


The WTO Director-General, Mr Pascal Lamy, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi on Friday. — PTI photo

The WTO Director-General, Mr Pascal Lamy, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi

CPM to oppose hike in insurance FDI limit
New Delhi, January 19
The CPM today expressed opposition to the government’s proposal to raise the FDI cap in the insurance sector to 49 per cent from the present 26 per cent, saying the UPA Government had not consulted it on the issue.

India blames Pak  for SAARC’s under-performance
Islamabad, January 19
Holding Pakistan responsible for SAARC's "underperformance", India has said the bloc was nowhere near achieving its potential due to Islamabad's reluctance to extend the benefits of the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement to New Delhi.

Cement prices hit the roof
Chandigarh, January 19
The sharp rise in prices of cement over the past one year and the severe shortage of Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC) has hit the infrastructure sector and real estate sector hard. In the past one year, the prices of cement have gone up by Rs 50 per bag.


 

 

A Russian two-colour gold- mounted Faberge nephrite clock is displayed at Christie's auction house in central London
A Russian two-colour gold- mounted Faberge nephrite clock is displayed at Christie's auction house in central London on Friday. The clock, with an estimated value of £150,000, forms part of the collection owned by former Greek monarch King George 1. — AFP photo. 

 
A JVC employee displays a new digital camcorder "Baby movie GR-D750", equipped with a 680,000-pixel CCD and a 2.3 - 78.2mm/F2.0-4.7 zoom lens, which is the world's highest magnifying power with a x34 optical zoom in Tokyo
A JVC employee displays a new digital camcorder "Baby movie GR-D750", equipped with a 680,000-pixel CCD and a 2.3 - 78.2mm/F2.0-4.7 zoom lens, which is the world's highest magnifying power with a x34 optical zoom in Tokyo on Friday. The camcorder is now on sale here at a price of $380. — AFP photo

Haryana to allot land to Japanese Cos
New Delhi, January 19
The Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (HSIIDC) is considering land requirements of automotive components manufacturing units from Japan, which are planning to set up their facilities in India.

ONGC inks pact with Russian Co
New Delhi, January 19
The ONGC has signed an agreement with Russian oilfield service provider TGT for sourcing technology to increase production from its matured and ageing oil and gas fields.

Pantaloon in JV with US firm
New Delhi, January 19
Pantaloon Retail India, a Future Group firm, said today it had entered into a joint venture with US-based leading office products company Staples Inc.

Malaysia’s Astro eyes Indian  DTH market
Kuala Lumpur, January 19
Malaysian pay TV operator Astro All Asia Networks plc, owned by the country’s richest man Ananda Krishnan, is eyeing entry into the Indian direct-to-home (DTH) satellite television market through an alliance with Kalanidhi Maran-promoted Sun TV group.

Tata Motors drives into Pak
New Delhi, January 19
Tata Motors today announced its entry into Pakistan through its subsidiary, Tata Daewoo Commercial Vehicle Co, with the commissioning of a new truck and bus assembly unit in Karachi. The company said its South Korean venture TDCV had entered into a technical assistance pact with Afzal Motors (Pvt) Ltd of Pakistan to assemble trucks and buses.

Corus: Tatas may bid 600 pence a share
London/Mumbai, January 19
Shares of Corus Group Plc, surged by 1.12 per cent today on reports that Tata Steel may revise its takeover offer, but stocks of the Indian company fell 1.67 per cent. While Corus shares gained 1.12 per cent or 6 pence in intra-day trade on the London Stock Exchange, Tata Steel shares closed Rs 7.95 down at Rs 467.60 on the Bombay Stock Exchange.

Arcelor sells Polish mill
Brussels, January 19
Arcelor Mittal today announced the sale of its Polish steel mill Huta Bankowa to Alchemia SA, another Polish steel company.

Reduction in roaming charges welcome: Maran
New Delhi, January 19
Internet, like television or newspapers, should have more local content for better penetration and adoption by the masses, Communications and Information Technology Minister Dayanidhi Maran said here.

Gold loses Rs 55
Mumbai, January 19
The gold and silver prices fell on weak global advices with the white metal dropping by Rs 155 per kg and gold by Rs 55 per 10 gm on lack of fresh demand on the Bombay Bullion Exchange today.

Corporate Results
Dabur India Q3 net up 24 pc at Rs 71.73 cr 

New Delhi, January 19
Dabur India today reported a 24 per cent increase in its net profit during the third quarter ended December 31 at Rs 71.73 crore as against Rs 57.97 crore in the same quarter a year ago.

 

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No question of cap on SEZs: Nath 
GoM to review land issues on Jan 22

New Delhi, January 19
With protests in various parts of the country forcing the government to halt fresh approvals for special economic zones (SEZs), the Empowered Group of Ministers will decide next week on how to go ahead with the process while addressing the contentious issue of land acquisition.

"The Empowered GoM will discuss what to do with the proposals where land acquisition is not an issue and where it is an issue," Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath said.

He, however, said there was no proposal before the EGoM's scheduled meeting on January 22 to limit the number of SEZs that can be approved in a particular sector.

"It was decided (in the previous meeting of EGoM) that the issue of sector-wise caps on SEZs would be examined after 100 SEZs are notified and we are far from that," he said.

So far, 62 SEZs have been notified. In total, the Board of Approval for SEZs has given final clearances to 237 projects and in-principle nod to another 160. More than half of these zones are in the IT sector.

Since October, no new SEZs have been given approval. The BoA has postponed its meeting twice this month.

The EGoM on SEZs is meeting on Monday after a gap of five months as scheduled. At its meeting in August, it had removed the limit on number of SEZs from 150. It had also decided to review the situation in next five months or when 75 SEZs become operational, whichever was earlier.

Mr Nath said land acquisition was not an SEZ issue as state governments also acquire land for other projects and it was for them so see whether their laws in this regard need to change. — PTI

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WTO chief meets PM, pleads for concessions
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 19
WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy today met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and sought concessions from India to revive the stalled Doha Round of negotiations.

Expressing New Delhi’s keeness for the start of global trade negotiations, Union Commerce Minister Kamal Nath said India was ready to negotiate commerce but “not on livelihood security.”

According to official sources, Mr Lamy wanted the major players at WTO, including India and Brazil, to go an extra mile for conclusion of the round.

Mr Lamy asked India not to be overly concerned over agriculture subsidies and the livelihood security of farmers. He asked New Delhi to take its “offensive interests” in agriculture forward and collaborate with the US, the EU and Brazil to kickstart the stalled Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations.

Mr Kamal Nath said India was willing to negotiate and put forward reasonable proposals for restarting the Doha round of negotiations as soon as the developed countries provide the right leadership in making the Doha negotiations a truly development round.

Addressing a seminar organised by the CII, he said the aim of the Doha round was to identify and correct the structural flaws in global trade.

While India is willing to make concessions in industrial goods, it has remained steadfast in protecting its vulnerable agriculture sector.

Dwelling on India’s position at length, Mr Lamy, addressing industry leaders at Ficci, said India has interests that cut across the entire spectrum of topics in the Doha agenda and if it were to balance its positions well, it will not prevent it (India) to protect the livelihood security of farmers precisely because the current round is a developmental round.

He said the greater challenge lay in reforming the land system, provision and delivery of credit, availability of water and logistics.

Acknowledging that reduction of trade-distorting agriculture subsidies by the US and EU was imperative to address the concerns of the developing countries, Lamy said while the EU was “biting the bullet” on subsidies, the US had still to decide on the subsidies reform programme. 

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CPM to oppose hike in insurance FDI limit
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 19
The CPM today expressed opposition to the government’s proposal to raise the FDI cap in the insurance sector to 49 per cent from the present 26 per cent, saying the UPA Government had not consulted it on the issue.

“I don’t know what they are planning to do now. We have only heard they are bringing some legislation... There was no consultation because we have told them we don’t agree with it,” said CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat.

Mr Karat sought to know as to why the financial sector was being thrown open to foreign capital in such a big way.

“We don’t want the financial sectors to be taken over by foreign finance capital,” he said.

Although Mr Chidambaram has promised UK Chancellor of Exchequer Gordon Brown, who is the Labour Prime Minister-in-waiting, that a Bill to increase the FDI cap in insurance would be introduced in the Budget session of Parliament next month, the UPA Government could face stiff opposition from the Left parties and the Samajwadi Party.

At least 100 MPs, who give outside support to the Manmohan Singh Government - which includes the Left and the Samajwadi Party — are sure to block its passage.

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India blames Pak  for SAARC’s under-performance

Islamabad, January 19
Holding Pakistan responsible for SAARC's "underperformance", India has said the bloc was nowhere near achieving its potential due to Islamabad's reluctance to extend the benefits of the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement to New Delhi.

"The reason why SAARC has not met its full potential precisely because hesitation from Pakistan in granting to India the sort of regime that (is due) under SAARC," Indian High Commissioner Satyabrata Pal told reporters at the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) yesterday.

Without directly referring to Pakistan's reluctance to grant the most-favoured nation (MFN) status to India, Mr Pal said the failure to extend SAFTA benefits by Pakistan to India is a "case in point" why SAARC has not achieved its potential.

Because of the restriction across the board, the SAARC was unable to fulfil its potential. "It is nowhere close to fulfil its potential," he said adding that this was the reason why SAARC has "underperformed" compared to other regional blocs.

Pakistan has declined to implement SAFTA in toto to India, linking it to the resolution of political problems like Kashmir. While Pakistan traded with a list of negative items with other members of SAARC, it continued to trade with India with a 'positive' list of 1077 items. The next SAARC meeting of Commerce Ministers was expected to take up the issue.

Mr Pal said India and Pakistan should look to cooperate in areas like public health even while trying to resolve political differences. — PTI

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Cement prices hit the roof
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 19
The sharp rise in prices of cement over the past one year and the severe shortage of Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC) has hit the infrastructure sector and real estate sector hard. In the past one year, the prices of cement have gone up by Rs 50 per bag.

Sources in the cement industry informed TNS that as against a price of Rs 170 per bag (50 kg) of cement in January 2006, it is now selling at Rs 215-Rs 220 per bag. The cement manufacturers attribute the price rise to the cut in coal linkage received from the government, hike in transportation charges.

However, it is believed that the price hike has been orchestrated by the three top players in the cement industry, who together have a 60 per cent market share. The small groups have to follow what these three major manufacturers decide about the prices.

It is learnt that there is an acute shortage of the OPC used by contractors for government and defence construction works (mainly bridges, dams and some government buildings). Since the cement industry has been facing a shortage of natural minerals, there has been a shift from the OPC to the pozzolana portland cement (PPC). The production of OPC has been reduced by the manufacturers, leading to its shortage, by almost 90 per cent in the market, sources said. As a result, OPC, which was available for Rs 180 per bag last year, is now available for Rs 225-230 a bag (50 kg).

However, many builders are of the opinion that the shortage of OPC has been deliberately created, even when the government agencies still insist on the usage of OPC for all construction work. They allege that because of this shortage, several government projects, construction of infrastructure like bridges etc across the country have been delayed. OPC is prepared by mixing fly ash generated by thermal plants.

The cement manufacturers insist that the price hike has been mainly caused by the nine tonne restriction on load allowed to be carried by trucks. “Since cement is a big volume business, the restrictions on load allowed in a truck have led to a sharp rise in transportation costs. Also, the government has cut the coal linkage to the cement industry and we are forced to buy expensive coal from the open market,” said a top official of Gujarat Ambuja.

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Haryana to allot land to Japanese Cos
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 19
The Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (HSIIDC) is considering land requirements of automotive components manufacturing units from Japan, which are planning to set up their facilities in India.

Mr Rajeev Arora, Managing Director, HSIIDC, said all companies would be allotted suitable land in the areas of their preferences. He said a delegation from Mitsui & Company and Posco met him here and discussed their projects for approval, a release said today.

Mr Arora said Mitsui & Co. India in collaboration with Prime Polymer Co. is planning to set up manufacturing facility in Haryana and requested HSIIDC for 10 acres of land in the Growth Centre, Bawal.

The company proposes to have an investment of $50 million (Rs 220 crore) for the manufacture of poly propylene compounds for automotive industries.

He said the company would be the vendor to Honda Motors and Maruti Suzuki and this would be an import substitution for the products, which Mitsui Chemicals Singapore is supplying.

He said Posco, Korea, is also planning to set up a steel processing unit namely M/s POSS-BLPC at Bawal on 15 acres of land with an investment of $23.8 million (Rs 105 crore). 

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ONGC inks pact with Russian Co

New Delhi, January 19
The ONGC has signed an agreement with Russian oilfield service provider TGT for sourcing technology to increase production from its matured and ageing oil and gas fields.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by ONGC Director (Exploration) D. K. Pande and TGT Managing Director Roustam Khamitov on the sidelines of the Petrotech conference.

"The agreement aims to put the ageing fields back on production and also arrest decline from matured fields with TGT's state-of-the art enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and improved oil recovery (IOR) technology. The technology, as assured, would enhance oil production from old and ageing fields and tight reservoirs," Mr Pande said.

One of the oilfields in Cauvery, Krishna Godavari or Cambay basins would be chosen to do a pilot project this year. — PTI 

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Pantaloon in JV with US firm

New Delhi, January 19
Pantaloon Retail India, a Future Group firm, said today it had entered into a joint venture with US-based leading office products company Staples Inc.

The JV also includes Pantaloon’s new wholly owned office products business unit.

The agreement establishes a platform for Staples to enter the $10 billion office products market in India and allows Pantaloon Retail to benefit from the industry expertise and sourcing network of the world’s largest office products company, said Pantaloon Retail Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Kishore Biyani.

As Staples expands globally, India represents a great opportunity for the company, Staples Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ron Sargent said.

Future Office, which recently acquired B-to-B online office products company Officedge, will launch operations in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Pune, Ahmedabad and Chandigarh.— UNI

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Malaysia’s Astro eyes Indian  DTH market

Kuala Lumpur, January 19
Malaysian pay TV operator Astro All Asia Networks plc, owned by the country’s richest man Ananda Krishnan, is eyeing entry into the Indian direct-to-home (DTH) satellite television market through an alliance with Kalanidhi Maran-promoted Sun TV group.

Astro said in a regulatory filing with Malaysian stock exchange Bursa Malaysia that Sun Direct TV Pvt Ltd had applied to the relevant Indian authorities which would allow it to invest in the company. However, the company said that no agreement had been reached so far with any party in this regard.

There have been reports in the Malaysian and foreign media about Malaysia-based South Asia Entertainment Holding Ltd (SAEHL) picking up a 20 per cent stake in Sun Direct TV, which holds a DTH TV licence in India.

SAEHL is a wholly owned subsidiary of Astro Overseas Ltd, which, in turn, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Astro. — PTI

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Tata Motors drives into Pak

New Delhi, January 19
Tata Motors today announced its entry into Pakistan through its subsidiary, Tata Daewoo Commercial Vehicle Co, with the commissioning of a new truck and bus assembly unit in Karachi. The company said its South Korean venture TDCV had entered into a technical assistance pact with Afzal Motors (Pvt) Ltd of Pakistan to assemble trucks and buses.

The plant has a capacity to produce 3,000 vehicles a year and would assemble heavy-duty trucks of TDCV and buses from the Daewoo Bus Company, South Korea. Afzal Motors had already begun sourcing knocked-down sets of TDCV trucks, it said. — PTI

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Corus: Tatas may bid 600 pence a share

London/Mumbai, January 19
Shares of Corus Group Plc, surged by 1.12 per cent today on reports that Tata Steel may revise its takeover offer, but stocks of the Indian company fell 1.67 per cent. While Corus shares gained 1.12 per cent or 6 pence in intra-day trade on the London Stock Exchange, Tata Steel shares closed Rs 7.95 down at Rs 467.60 on the Bombay Stock Exchange.

Reports in the Indian media said today that Tata Steel might revise its takeover offer to up to 600 pence a share, valuing Corus at over $11 billion. Brazil's CSN has currently put a top bid of 515 pence a share.

Last month, the UK Takeover Panel gave the two competitors time until January 30 to revise their bids. — PTI

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Arcelor sells Polish mill

Brussels, January 19
Arcelor Mittal today announced the sale of its Polish steel mill Huta Bankowa to Alchemia SA, another Polish steel company.

Arcelor Mittal was forced into the sale as part of the commitments it made to the European Union anti-trust authorities to get approval for the merger between Mittal Steel NV and Arcelor SA. Apart from the rolling mill, Huta Bankowa also has a forged ring department and a service centre. It had a $104.7 million turnover in 2005. — AP

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Reduction in roaming charges welcome: Maran

New Delhi, January 19
Internet, like television or newspapers, should have more local content for better penetration and adoption by the masses, Communications and Information Technology Minister Dayanidhi Maran said here.

“If we look at the case of television in India, the real adoption and penetration came only when the content became local,” Mr Maran said yesterday at the inauguration of the India Digital Summit, 2007, organised by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and the CII.

“Internet being an interactive medium gives us great opportunity to find out what the customer wants,” he said. “We will soon launch internationalised domain names (IDN) in the Indian languages, including Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam and others.

On the issue of reduction in roaming rates for mobile telephony, he said: “I am anxiously waiting for the roaming charges to come down.” — IANS

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Gold loses Rs 55

Mumbai, January 19
The gold and silver prices fell on weak global advices with the white metal dropping by Rs 155 per kg and gold by Rs 55 per 10 gm on lack of fresh demand on the Bombay Bullion Exchange today.

Silver fineness opened low at Rs 19,215 per kg on thin buying support and slightly improved and closed at Rs 19,260 with a loss of Rs 155 from yesterday’s closing. 
— UNI

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Corporate Results
Dabur India Q3 net up 24 pc at Rs 71.73 cr 

New Delhi, January 19
Dabur India today reported a 24 per cent increase in its net profit during the third quarter ended December 31 at Rs 71.73 crore as against Rs 57.97 crore in the same quarter a year ago.

The company's total turnover in the quarter stood at 508.7 crore compared to Rs 404.84 crore in the corresponding quarter of previous fiscal, up 25.7 per cent.

Dabur India CEO Sunil Duggal said the company's consolidated net profit in the quarter rose 22.08 per cent at Rs 79.27 crore while the consolidated turnover in the quarter stood at Rs 617.59 crore, up 14.92 per cent.

Satyam profit dips 30 pc

Software major Satyam Computer Services has posted a 30.37 per cent decline in profit after tax at Rs 343.30 crore for the quarter ended December 31, as compared to Rs 493.08 crore for the same quarter last year.

The total income increased 5.67 per cent to Rs 1,604.60 crore during October-December 2006-07 from Rs 1,518.49 crore for the corresponding quarter a year ago, Satyam said.

The group posted a profit after tax and share of loss in associate company and minority interest at Rs 337.23 crore for the third quarter this fiscal .

Marico PAT up 30 pc

FMCG major Marico Ltd has posted a 30 per cent increase in profit after tax (PAT) at Rs 28.4 crore for the third quarter ended December 31, 2006 (Q3FY-07) as against Rs 21.9 crore in the similar quarter of previous fiscal.

The Board also declared an interim dividend of 17 per cent on its enhanced equity share capital of Rs 60.9 crore.

i-Flex Solutions

Financial software provider I-Flex Solutions has reported a 57 per cent rise in net profit to Rs 91.05 crore for the quarter ended December 31, 2006, compared to Rs 57.95 crore in the year-ago period.

Revenues grew 33 per cent to Rs 395.56 crore as against Rs 297.47 crore in the quarter ended Decmber 31, 2005, i-flex said.

Ballarpur Industries

Ballarpur Industries Ltd (BILT) said its net profit after tax rose to Rs 62.15 crore for the quarter ended December 31, whereas the same stood at Rs 47.40 crore in the year-ago period. The total income (net of excise) of BILT is Rs 553.09 crore for the quarter under review, whereas it was Rs 438.35 crore in the year-ago quarter, Ballarpur Industries said.

Dena Bank Q3 net down

Dena Bank today posted a net profit of Rs 70.53 crore for the quarter ended December 31, 2006, as compared to Rs 83.18 crore for the quarter ended December 31, 2005, showing a decline of 15.21 per cent.

The bank Chairman and Managing Director G. L. Gairola attributed the decline in the Q3 net profit owing to higher provisions.

Further, he said the total income had increased from Rs 602.27 crore for the quarter ended December 31, 2005, to Rs 693.46 crore for the quarter ended December 31, 2006.

Jet net profit drops

Jet Airways India Ltd has posted a net profit of Rs 40.04 crore for the quarter ended December 31, 2006 as compared to Rs 61.01 crore for the quarter ended December 31, 2005. Announcing the results, the company said its total income has increased from Rs 1499.03 crore for the quarter ended December 31, 2005 to Rs 2030.04 crore for the quarter ended December 31, 2006.

Indo Rama Synthetics

Indo Rama Synthetics has reported a 34.34 per cent decline in profit after tax at Rs 3.04 crore for the third quarter this fiscal. In comparison, the company had posted a net profit of Rs 4.63 crore during October-December, 2005-06. — Agencies 

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BRIEFLY

CBoP raises interest rates
New Delhi, January 19
The Centurion Bank of Punjab has raised fixed deposit rates from today. The bank would now offer 8.5 per cent interest per annum on normal residents term deposits held for a period of 1-5 years or above for an amount less than Rs 15 lakh. CBoP has also revised its interest rates on senior citizen term deposits to 9 per cent per annum for a period of 1-5 years or above irrespective of the deposit amount. — PTI

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