SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS

B U S I N E S S

Vodafone to invest $2 b in India
Low tariffs, cheaper handsets on the cards

New Delhi, February 14
World’s largest telecom operator, Vodafone, today unveiled its India plan by promising to invest $2 billion over the next couple of years, expand ‘Hutch’ network to rural areas, bring down tariffs, introduce low-cost handsets and become the number one player in the country.

Chief Executive of Vodafone Arun Sarin at a press conference in New Delhi on Wednesday. — Reuters
Chief Executive of Vodafone Arun Sarin at a press conference in New Delhi

ONGC, Italy’s Eni swap interests in oil, gas blocks 
Mumbai, February 14
The ONGC today signed two parallel agreements with Italian company Eni for the swap of participating interests in exploration blocks located in India and Congo Brazzaville. The first agreement envisages Eni acquiring a 34 per cent participating interest in the deepwater block MN-DWN-2002/1, located in the Indian eastern offshore, with acreage of around 10,000 sq km and water depth going in excess of 2,000 meters, said the ONGC.














 

Tata, Fiat to make pick-up vehicle
To invest $80 million in overseas project
Mumbai, February 14
Tata Motors and Fiat will expand their strategic co-operation with the start of an industrial project outside India envisaging a planned investment of around $80 million.





Mr Luca Di Montezemolo (left), President, Fiat and Ferrari; and Mr Ratan Tata, Chairman, Tata Group, at the signing of a business agreement in Mumbai on Wednesday. — PTI 
Mr Luca Di Montezemolo (left), President, Fiat and Ferrari; and Mr Ratan Tata, Chairman, Tata Group, at the signing of a business agreement in Mumbai

Reliance, British Gas take GAIL to court 
New Delhi, February 14
Reliance Industries and British Gas have initiated legal proceedings against state-run GAIL (India) to recover about $150 million for gas supplied during June, 2004, to March 31, 2005.

India top reformer in South Asia: World Bank
New Delhi, February 14
The World Bank has commended India for creating an investment climate conducive to growth, saying that doing business became easier in 2005-2006 with Hyderabad having the most business-friendly regulations.
A Sharp employee introduces the industry's first Blu-ray disc player "BD-HP1", which has a hybrid recording function that works with its Aquos LCD TV iLink connection to allow recording of high-definition programmess on Blu-ray disk,
A Sharp employee introduces the industry's first Blu-ray disc player "BD-HP1", which has a hybrid recording function that works with its Aquos LCD TV iLink connection to allow recording of high-definition programmess on Blu-ray disk, 
in Tokyo on Wednesday. Sharp will put it on the market on March 20. — AFP

Assocham against treating alcoholic drinks as food items
New Delhi, February 14
Assocham has opposed the government decision to bring “alcoholic drinks” as part of food items as unfair since it will help the Centre further regulate alcohol manufactures under the Food Safety & Standard Act, 2006.

BoB, Pioneer Investments ink JV
Mumbai, February 14
Bank of Baroda (BoB) and Pioneer Global Asset Management have signed an MoU with an aim of entering into a joint venture (JV) in asset management in the country.

Deutsche Borse bags 5 pc in BSE for Rs 189 cr 
Mumbai, February 14
Leading European exchange operator, Deutsche Borse Group has picked up a 5 per cent stake in the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) for Rs 189 crore.

PNB, Bank of India up PLR
New Delhi, February 14
Loans across the board from the country's second largest bank, PNB will become expensive from tomorrow as it will hike benchmark prime lending rate (PLR) by 0.50 per cent to 12.25 per cent following RBI's move to tighten money supply to contain high inflation.

PNB opens market services branch
New Delhi, February 14
Punjab National Bank (PNB) today opened its first capital market services branch in the national Capital. Inaugurating the branch, PNB Chairman and Managing Director S.C. Gupta noted that the economy was growing around 9 per cent and during April-December, 2006, the total money raised in the primary capital market amounted to Rs 94,580 crore of which 85 per cent was raised through domestic floatation.

Alcatel-Lucent wins mega ITI contract
Bangalore, February 14
Alcatel-Lucent today announced a major contract with Bangalore-headquartered ITI, India's largest telecom equipment manufacturing company, for supply and installation of two million GSM lines to BSNL.

 

Top



 





 

Vodafone to invest $2 b in India
Low tariffs, cheaper handsets on the cards
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 14
World’s largest telecom operator, Vodafone, today unveiled its India plan by promising to invest $2 billion over the next couple of years, expand ‘Hutch’ network to rural areas, bring down tariffs, introduce low-cost handsets and become the number one player in the country.

"We are in India for a very long time. We will be number one here," Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin told reporters here on his first visit after successfully bidding the Hutch-Essar for $11.1 billion.

He said the company intends a target of 100 million customers. It ended 2006 with 23.3 million users. Bharti Airtel has over 33 million users.

"We will try to get more rural areas covered with this investment. The money will be invested in infrastructure and various operations and for expansion of teledensity and reach to customers," the India-born CEO said.

He said customers can look forward to cheaper call rates, better handsets and value-added services like banking and money transfer once it enters the country.

While stating that he expects to close the deal precisely by April, he added that the company would retain the Hutch brand for some time and that customers would be consulted before changing the brand.

Vodafone's proposed purchase of a 67 per cent stake from Hong Kong's Hutchison Telecommunications International Ltd. for $11.1 billion must be completed within a year, he said

He said the British company would bring in funds for all the incremental investments, while ruling out initial public offer to raise funds from the market.

“If Essar doesn't accept the offer, Vodafone will welcome the company as a partner,” Sarin reiterated.

“Our desire to partner with Essar is sincere and deep and we will. You'll have to give us more than 24 hours to perfect a partnership that might last a lifetime,” he said, adding that Essar doesn't have a right of first refusal on the Hutchison stake.

Foreign firms are not allowed to hold more than 74 per cent of an Indian telecom company. Vodafone had stated that if Essar sold its holdings, the local partners would raise their combined stake to 26 percent.

Sarin also said the current head of Hutchison Essar would be retained. "Asim Ghosh is a very good CEO and very good leader. He founded the firm. We are very happy with him. He will continue in that role," he said.

Though Vodafone will continue to hold 4.4 per cent indirect stake in Bharti Airtel, with which it would also be sharing network, he said the relationship would be as close as that of a competitor.

Bharti Group Chairman Sunil Mittal had yesterday said in Barcelona that Airtel was determined to retain its numero uno position, while stating that Hutch can be number two.

The little pug that made Hutch's television advertisement one of the most successful campaigns will get to stay despite Vodafone taking control of the mobile firm.

The dog will (continue to) appear (in advertisements), was Vodafone CEO (emerging markets) Paul Donovan's emphatic reply when asked if the familiar face of Hutch will fade away.

Top

 

ONGC, Italy’s Eni swap interests in oil, gas blocks 

Mumbai, February 14
The ONGC today signed two parallel agreements with Italian company Eni for the swap of participating interests in exploration blocks located in India and Congo Brazzaville.

The first agreement envisages Eni acquiring a 34 per cent participating interest in the deepwater block MN-DWN-2002/1, located in the Indian eastern offshore, with acreage of around 10,000 sq km and water depth going in excess of 2,000 meters, said the ONGC. This block lies in an area with high exploration potential.

The ONGC had recently confirmed the discovery of commercial reserves of gas in Mahanadi, off the coast of Orissa. This agreement would provide the company with a collaborative partnership to meet technological challenges in the area.

Eni will apply, in this new partnership, the exploration experience and leading edge technology it has developed from its other international deepwater operations.

The agreement also foresees the potential for a Joint Operationship between Eni and ONGC in the development phase. With this agreement, Eni reinforces its presence in India and its collaboration with the ONGC.

Through the second agreement, ONGC Videsh Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of the ONGC, has acquired from Eni a 20 per cent participating interest in the MTPN exploration block, operated by Eni, located in the deepwater offshore of Congo Brazzaville, and area where Eni has a long-lasting presence. The block is situated in known petroliferous lower Congo Basin where substantial discoveries have already been made. Eni has already discovered oil and gas in this block. Eni at present is operating the block with Exxon Mobil as the other partner. — UNI

Top

 

Tata, Fiat to make pick-up vehicle
To invest $80 million in overseas project

Mumbai, February 14
Tata Motors and Fiat will expand their strategic co-operation with the start of an industrial project outside India envisaging a planned investment of around $80 million.

Tata Motors said this was a further significant step towards an integrated strategy of targeting specific markets and segments. The agreement, which calls for a Tata licence to build a pick-up vehicle bearing the Fiat name plate at the Fiat Group Automobiles' plant in Cordoba, Argentina, follows a feasibility study started in July, 2006. The first vehicles will roll off the Cordoba assembly lines during 2008.

With the production of the pick-up model, the Fiat complex in Cordoba will retake the integral activity of all its productive units, to a great extent reinitiated with the manufacture of Fiat engines and gearboxes and the recent agreement to produce gearboxes for PSA Peugeot-Citroen.

The pick-up, based on the new generation Tata pick-up truck, will be sold in South and Central America and select European markets through Fiat Automobiles' distribution and importer network. The Fiat pick- up, powered by an FPT engine, will be styled and positioned differently from the Tata pick-up. It will be available in the following versions: 4x4, 4x2, double and single cab and powered by a JTD diesel 2.3 litres, 134 PS Euro IV engine, manufactured in Fiat Powertrain Technology's facility in Sete Lagoas, Brazil.

Meanwhile, Tata Motors has announced the signing of an MoU with Iveco, a company of the Fiat Group, to analyse the feasibility of cooperation across markets in the area of commercial vehicles. — UNI 

Top

 

M&M-Carraro Tech pact

Mahindra and Mahindra has signed a letter of intent (LoI) with Carraro Technologies India for sharing technology for manufacture of tractors.

As per the agreement, Mahindra and Mahindra farm equipment sector will use the 'Carraro 345' agricultural transmission technology in their new tractor range called "475 Deluxe". — PTI

Top

 

Reliance, British Gas take GAIL to court 

New Delhi, February 14
Reliance Industries and British Gas have initiated legal proceedings against state-run GAIL (India) to recover about $150 million for gas supplied during June, 2004, to March 31, 2005.

Reliance and BG, who along with the ONGC are joint operators of the Panna-Mukta and Tapti oil and gas fields, have filed for arbitration, saying that GAIL under-paid them for 11 million standard cubic metres per day of gas supplied from the fields off the west coast, industry sources said.

The sources said the consortia claimed they were forced to supply gas from the fields at a discount after GAIL said its customers were unable to pay the market prices and stopped supplies to power stations.

While GAIL paid $3.11 per million British thermal unit, the joint operators billed $4.6-5.1 per mBtu citing a complex formula mentioned in the production-sharing contract (PSC) for the Panna/Mukta and Tapti fields.

BG and Reliance had appointed former Chief Justice of India S.P. Bharucha, the sources said, adding that GAIL had appointed former Chief Justice of India Ramesh Chandra Lahoti for the dispute.

In November, 2004, the government allowed BG-Reliance-ONGC to sell gas directly to customers rather than to GAIL.

The joint venture partners revised the price of gas to $5.6 per mBtu and wanted to sell directly to customers bypassing GAIL but upon government intervention sold 11 mmscmd gas to GAIL at $3.11 per mBtu till March, 2005.

GAIL increased payments to $3.86 per mBtu from April,2005, to March, 2006, for 6 mmscmd and agreed to pay $4.75 per mBtu for 5 mmscmd from March, 2006, until March, 2008. — PTI

Top

 

India top reformer in South Asia: World Bank

New Delhi, February 14
The World Bank has commended India for creating an investment climate conducive to growth, saying that doing business became easier in 2005-2006 with Hyderabad having the most business-friendly regulations.

In a new regional report released by the World Bank and its private sector arm IFC titled 'Doing Business in South Asia 2007', Mumbai has been listed at the 11th place in India, ahead of Kolkata, in terms of easier business regulations.

The report covers eight countries in the World Bank's South Asia region and examines 12 major cities in India, six in Pakistan and four in Bangladesh.

Within India, Hyderabad has the most business-friendly regulations.

Typically, large urban centres such as Mumbai and Kolkata have a high volume of business, so regulatory and administrative bottlenecks create serious congestion.

Karachi is at the top in Pakistan, while Dhaka ranks best in Bangladesh.

Reforms in India and Pakistan have helped reduce the time, cost and hassle for businesses to comply with legal and administrative requirements.

The report, however, says other South Asian economies improved business regulations in 2005-2006. But the region ranked last in the pace of global reforms.

The World Bank report compares business regulations in the region with 175 economies around the world. The top-ranked countries are the Maldives (53) and Pakistan (74), followed by Bangladesh (88), Sri Lanka (89), Nepal (100),India (134), Bhutan (138), and Afghanistan (162).

'Doing Business in South Asia 2007' is the third report in a series of South Asia regional reports based on the methodology of the annual global Doing Business Report. 'Doing Business' tracks a set of regulatory indicators related to business start-up, operation, trade, payment of taxes, and closure by measuring the time and cost associated with various government requirements.

It does not track variables such as macroeconomic policy, quality of infrastructure, currency volatility, investor perceptions, or crime rates.

According to the report, entrepreneurs in South Asia face large regulatory obstacles to doing business. For example, it takes 18 months of salary, on average in the region, to dismiss a redundant worker.— UNI

Top

 

Assocham against treating alcoholic drinks as food items
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 14
Assocham has opposed the government decision to bring “alcoholic drinks” as part of food items as unfair since it will help the Centre further regulate alcohol manufactures under the Food Safety & Standard Act, 2006.

In a representation to the Ministry of Food Processing & Industry, Assocham Secretary-General D.S. Rawat regretted that in spite of recommendations made by Indian industry that alcoholic drinks should not be part of definition of food since it was mandatory to label them as “injurious to health”, its suggestions had gone unheeded.

Assocham sought review of this decision, arguing that the alcoholic manufactures would be heavily regulated affecting their manufacturing, processing, distribution and sale .

The decision, he said, was against the spirit of the Constitution as liquor industry was regulated by the state and the Centre. Can the Centre regulate manufacture, storage and distribution of liquor when the Constitution provides for distribution of powers between the union and the states? asked Mr. Rawat.

Assocham reasoned that even the Supreme Court held that the states had the exclusive power to grant licences for manufacture of beer, wine and similar other intoxicating liquors under Entry 8 of the States List and provisions of the Industries (Development and Regulation) Act could not restrict this power and, therefore, the decision to make “alcoholic drinks” as part of food was totally unjustified. 

Top

 

BoB, Pioneer Investments ink JV

Mumbai, February 14
Bank of Baroda (BoB) and Pioneer Global Asset Management have signed an MoU with an aim of entering into a joint venture (JV) in asset management in the country.

The bank CMD, Dr Anil Khandelwal, said that ''Pioneer has a longstanding investment experience and an investment process, which is recognised for its quality and ability to deliver consistent results. With the strength of a global player and its successful experience in working with large banking networks, we will leverage on our joint expertise in building a leading asset management platform in the country.''

Mr Dario Friegerio, CEO of Pioneer Investments, said the Bank of Baroda, with its widespread position both in India and overseas, ''will bring us the possibility of expanding our presence in one of the most rapidly growing markets, where we see strong long term growth potential both for our retail and institutional business''.
 — UNI 

Top

 

Deutsche Borse bags 5 pc in BSE for Rs 189 cr 

Mumbai, February 14
Leading European exchange operator, Deutsche Borse Group has picked up a 5 per cent stake in the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) for Rs 189 crore.

Both the entities entered into a definitive agreement for the purpose here today. The 5 per cent equity dilution to Deutsche Borse will comprise of a fresh issue of 3,63,157 shares at Rs 5,200 per share, which takes the overall valuation of the BSE to $910 million.

Deutsche Borse posted a revenue of $2 billion in FY 05 and a profit before tax of $900 million.

Mr Rajnikant Patel, Managing Director and CEO of the BSE, said the bourse was open to tie-ups with other stock exchanges as well.

He said the new stakeholder would not have a representation on the BSE Board which will continue to be comprised of the same 12 members as of now.

As per the agreement signed, both the entities will also explore ways of strengthening their collective competencies across a broad spectrum of business areas. — PTI

Top

 

PNB, Bank of India up PLR

New Delhi, February 14
Loans across the board from the country's second largest bank, PNB will become expensive from tomorrow as it will hike benchmark prime lending rate (PLR) by 0.50 per cent to 12.25 per cent following RBI's move to tighten money supply to contain high inflation.

"In view of the rising cost of funds and increased provisioning requirements, Punjab National Bank increases its BPLR by 50 basis points from 11.75 per cent to protect its net interest margin and to watch shareholders' interest," the city-based bank said in a statement here.

The move will have across the board impact, PNB Executive Director K Raghuraman said.

Meanwhile, the Bank of India also raised its prime lending rate today by 0.5 per cent citing the hike in CRR by the RBI, but the rate increase would not affect home loan customers.

"The PLR has been hiked from 12 to 12.5 per cent and will come into effect from tomorrow," Bank of India Executive Director K R Kamath said here.

He said the bank had not increased its pricing on other loans, including home loans. — PTI 

Top

 

PNB opens market services branch
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 14
Punjab National Bank (PNB) today opened its first capital market services branch in the national Capital. Inaugurating the branch, PNB Chairman and Managing Director S.C. Gupta noted that the economy was growing around 9 per cent and during April-December, 2006, the total money raised in the primary capital market amounted to Rs 94,580 crore of which 85 per cent was raised through domestic floatation.

This branch shall provide the entire gamut of merchant banking services to the corporates.

Top

 

Alcatel-Lucent wins mega ITI contract

Bangalore, February 14
Alcatel-Lucent today announced a major contract with Bangalore-headquartered ITI, India's largest telecom equipment manufacturing company, for supply and installation of two million GSM lines to BSNL.

Based on the Alcatel-Lucent GSM/EDGE technology, the multi-million Euro contract covers the expansion of BSNL's mobile network in western India, enabling the operator to provide more widely available mobile communications services.

Mr Pritam Singh, CMD, ITI, said: "ITI has been the leading face of GSM/EDGE base station manufacturing in India and with Alcatel-Lucent, is building the most sophisticated GSM/EDGE mobile network in India.”

Mr Olivier Picard, President of Alcatel-Lucent's Europe and South activities, said: "The long-term collaboration between Alcatel-Lucent and ITI will enable BSNL to rollout mobile networks rapidly and enable them to provide high-quality communications services their customers are looking for." — PTI

Top

 
BRIEFLY

Record NTPC dividend
New Delhi, February 14
NTPC has paid the highest dividend of Rs 1978.92 crore in its history for the current fiscal. The company has paid an interim dividend of 24 per cent for 2006-07. NTPC's Chairman and Managing Director T. Shankaralingam presented a cheque for Rs 1,771.11 crore as the share of the Indian Government to Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, the PSU said in a statement. In the current fiscal, NTPC has registered a 20.6 per cent growth in its profit after tax at Rs 5,130 crore for the nine-month period ended December, 2006, as compared to Rs 4,253 crore in the corresponding period last year. — PTI

Norway Co buys MTR Foods
Bangalore, February 14
Norway's Orkla Group has acquired Bangalore-based processed vegetarian food products major MTR Foods, in a $100 million deal, officials said. "The deal is through. The enterprise value of the deal is $100 million," an official of MTR Foods, one among the top-five processed food manufacturers in India, said here. MTR Foods makes products, including ready meals, ready mixes, spices and condiments. The core businesses of Orkla, one of the largest listed companies in Norway, are branded consumer goods, speciality materials and financial investments. — PTI

UBI scheme
Kolkata, February 14
The United Bank of India (UBI) today launched the United Royal Term Deposit offering an attractive interest of 9.15 per cent per annum for three years with annualised yield of 10.39 per cent. UBI said the salient features of the new scheme are Rs 25,000 as minimum deposit, 0.50 per cent higher interest for senior citizens, availability of nomination facility, no lock-in period, free accident insurance up to Rs 1.25 lakh, zero balance savings bank account and free ATM and credit cards. The offer is open up to April 30.— UNI

New HPCL chief
New Delhi, February 14
Mr Arun Balakrishnan will be the new Chairman and Managing Director of Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd. He will replace Mr Mahesh B. Lal, who is retiring on March 31. 
— PTI 

Alcatel-Lucent wins ITI contract
Bangalore, February 14
Alcatel-Lucent today announced a major contract with Bangalore-headquartered ITI, India's largest telecom equipment manufacturing company, for supply and installation of two million GSM lines to BSNL. Based on the Alcatel-Lucent GSM/EDGE technology, the multi-million Euro contract covers the expansion of BSNL's mobile network in western India, enabling the operator to provide more widely available mobile communications services. — PTI

Top

 


HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |