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B U S I N E S S

Ruias not to exit Hutch
Mumbai, February 15
Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin today called on the Ruias, who own 33 per cent stake in Hutch, the mobile operator his company acquired last week.Mr Sarin's meeting with the Ruias comes amidst reports that Essar is unhappy with Vodafone and is likely to sue the European telecom giant in Indian courts.

Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin (left) along with Vice-Chairman of the Essar Group Ravi Ruia in Mumbai on Thursday. — AFP

Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin (left) along with Vice-Chairman of the Essar Group Ravi Ruia in Mumbai on Thursday.

Reliance, Spice, Hutch cut roaming charges
Mumbai, February 15
A day after Bharti Airtel announced reduction in its roaming charges, Reliance Communication announced a matching offer

$5 b infrastructure fund set up 
New Delhi, February 15
Infrastructure Development Finance Company (IDFC), Citigroup Inc., India Infrastructure Finance Company (IIFCL) and Blackstone Group Holdings today announced the launch of "The India Infrastructure Financing Initiative", a collaborative effort to deploy approximately $5 billion in capital for infrastructure projects in India.

 


A model displays an outfit by Spanish designers Victorio and Lucchino, as part of their Fall/Winter 2007 collection at the Madrid Fashion Week late on Wednesday.
A model displays an outfit by Spanish designers Victorio and Lucchino, as part of their Fall/Winter 2007 collection at the Madrid Fashion Week late on Wednesday. — AFP

 
Shareholder of Sennheiser ElectronicS GmbH and Co. K.G Karin Sennheiser (centre) presents a Sennheiser microphone to Sarod-playing brothers Ayaan Ali Bangash (left) and Amaan Ali Bangash (right) at the launch of Sennheiser Electronics India Private Limited in New Delhi on Thursday.
Shareholder of Sennheiser ElectronicS GmbH and Co. K.G Karin Sennheiser (centre) presents a Sennheiser microphone to Sarod-playing brothers Ayaan Ali Bangash (left) and Amaan Ali Bangash (right) at the launch of Sennheiser Electronics India Private Limited in New Delhi on Thursday. Sennheiser, a German electronic manufacturer of microphones, headphones and wireless transmission systems, announced the launch of its Indian entity today. Its products will be priced between Rs 900 and Rs 30,000.A Tribune photograph

Infrastructure sharing may be made mandatory
Barcelona, February 15
The government is likely to make mandatory the sharing of telecom infrastructure such as towers in Delhi and Mumbai, a move that would bring down the cost of setting up of towers and enable a faster roll-out of services in rural areas.

Bajaj zeroes in on Chakan for  four-wheeler plant
 New
Delhi, February 15
Bajaj Auto Ltd is close to setting up a new manufacturing plant at Chakan, near Pune, for its foray into the four-wheeler segment. It is also planning a production unit in Brazil for two-wheelers. "We are under negotiations to get land for our new plant.

HDFC to hike home loan rates by 0.5 pc
New Delhi, February 15
A key player in the home loan market, HDFC said today it would hike housing loan rates by another 0.50 per cent this month-end or early March.

Indian, CFM to set up MRO facility 
New Delhi, February 15
Public carrier Indian and CFM International have joined hands to set up a facility for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of CFM 56 engines in the country.

PHDCCI seeks installation of Tinxsys in Himachal
Shimla, February 15
The PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI) has urged the Himachal Government to install the Tax Information Exchange System (Tinxsys) by April 1, 2007, and accept only electronic filing thereafter.

Nabard moots credit of Rs 33,734 cr for Punjab
Chandigarh, February 15
The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) has proposed a credit estimate of Rs 33,734 crore under priority sector lendings in Punjab during 2007-08. 

 

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Ruias not to exit Hutch
Tribune News Service & PTI

Mumbai, February 15
Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin today called on the Ruias, who own 33 per cent stake in Hutch, the mobile operator his company acquired last week.

Mr Sarin's meeting with the Ruias comes amidst reports that Essar is unhappy with Vodafone and is likely to sue the European telecom giant in Indian courts.

Mr Sarin is pushing for a network- sharing deal with Bharti Airtel in a bid to lower operating costs for both mobile operators.

He insisted that there were only minor misunderstandings between Vodafone and the Ruias.

"The announcements were made that we have won the auction, and that was the time when we brought this MoU out. An MoU is simply an intent and we will convert this into an agreement in the coming months and the Ruias, who I very much hope will be our partners, will have the full chance to vet this agreement," he said yesterday.

Mr Sarin arrived this morning at the Ruias' bungalow accompanied by several senior executives. The Ruia brothers, Shashi and Ravi Ruia and senior executives were also present. The meeting lasted for nearly three hours.

The Ruias now say they will not exit the business and run it with Vodafone. "We are not going to exit the business. We will run it together," Essar Group Vice-Chairman Ravi Ruia told reporters after meeting Vodafone chief.

The Vodafone chief said he respected Ruias-promoted Essar as partner and "will take the business forward together."

The British telecom giant had also proposed to buyout Essar at the same terms given to Hutchison Telecom.

While ruling out paying a premium to Ruias for picking Essar's stake in the venture, Mr Sarin had said he would prefer if the Indian conglomerate continues as a partner.

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Deal was not fixed: Sarin

New Delhi, February 15
Dubbing as 'nonsense' any talk of its deal for majority stake in Hutch-Essar being fixed, Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin wondered if Hindujas had made a binding bid.

"We have gone through a competitive bidding process...till the end it was very close," he said shortly before leaving for Mumbai for his scheduled meeting with Ruias.

Asked if the deal between Vodafone and Hutchison was "fixed" even before the bids were called by Hutchison Telecom International Ltd, Mr Sarin said: "Nonsense... anybody talking about the bidding process being a facade is nonsense... we won through competitive route."

On reports that Hindujas' bid of $20 billion was not entertained while Vodafone's bid at an enterprise value of $18.8 billion was accepted, the Vodafone CEO said: "Ask Hindujas if they had put a binding bid... or ask Hutchison as to what happened.

"We were only participants and did not conduct the bidding process... and still if someone says it was pre-determined, I again say it is nonsense," he said. — PTI

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Reliance, Spice, Hutch cut roaming charges

Mumbai, February 15
A day after Bharti Airtel announced reduction in its roaming charges, Reliance Communication announced a matching offer

The local outgoing calls while roaming on mobile and on fixed will be Rs 1.40. The inter-circle outgoing calls while roaming on mobile and fixed have been reduced to Rs 2.40, Reliance Communications stated.

The incoming calls while roaming would be charged at Rs 1.75.

The reduction in rates follows telecom regulator TRAI's guidelines for lowering the roaming charges announced last month.

While the company completely removed post-paid roaming rentals, pre-paid customers would now be charged 44 per cent lower rates on roaming.

Reliance Communications President Personal Business S.P. Shukla said the company's roaming proposition was the best in the industry and with the new offer, it remained unique and superior.

ChandigarH: Meanwhile, Spice Telecom and Hutch also announced a cut in national roaming charges by 56 per cent. The slash in roaming rates is applicable to pre-paid as well as post-paid subscribers across all tariff plans. Both companies have also waived off the monthly roaming rental surcharge.

Mr Manmohan Nandwani, COO, Spice Telecom, said here today that subscribers would be charged a nominal Rs.1.40 for local outgoing roaming calls while outgoing STD calls would be charged at Rs 2.40 per minute. All incoming calls will cost Rs1.75 per minute. The earlier outgoing roaming rates vary from Rs 2.89 per minute to Rs 3.99 per minute.

Hutch today announced national roaming without monthly rentals. Hutch subscribers will now pay only Rs1.75 for incoming calls, which will now save costs between 54-56 per cent, depending on the roaming distance. Outgoing local calls will be Rs 1.40 per minute, while STD calls will cost Rs 2.40 per minute. There will be no change in cost for ISD rates and SMS or GPRS usage. — PTI, TNS

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$5 b infrastructure fund set up 
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 15
Infrastructure Development Finance Company (IDFC), Citigroup Inc., India Infrastructure Finance Company (IIFCL) and Blackstone Group Holdings today announced the launch of "The India Infrastructure Financing Initiative", a collaborative effort to deploy approximately $5 billion in capital for infrastructure projects in India.

The plan, first of its kind in India, is to deploy about $2 billion in equity capital and $3 billion in long-term debt financing with maturities exceeding 10 years.

The equity financing programme will be managed by IDFC and will invest in greenfield, brownfield and operating projects primarily in roads, power, airports, ports, and industrial and commercial infrastructure.

IDFC, Citi and Blackstone will together invest $250 million. The balance is expected to come from international investors as well as selected domestic institutional investors, including IIFCL.

The debt financing will be channelled through IIFCL in several tranches over the next three years for projects appraised by IDFC and also certain banks/financial intermediaries.

The agreement was signed by Dr Rajiv B. Lall from IDFC, Mr Sanjay Nayar from Citi, Mr S.S. Kohli from IIFCL, and Mr Robert L. Friedman from Blackstone.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, in whose presence the signing ceremony was conducted, said: “This initiative is an important milestone in our search for innovative solutions to meet the vast challenge of financing the development of India’s burgeoning infrastructure sector”.

Mr Deepak Parekh, Chairman IDFC, added “This initiative sets a new benchmark for collaboration between a domestic partner such as IDFC with deep domain knowledge in infrastructure, foreign financial institutions with wide reach into global financial markets and the Government of India to solve India’s infrastructure financing problems”. 

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Infrastructure sharing may be made mandatory

Barcelona, February 15
The government is likely to make mandatory the sharing of telecom infrastructure such as towers in Delhi and Mumbai, a move that would bring down the cost of setting up of towers and enable a faster roll-out of services in rural areas.

"The move is being aimed at enabling the operators to deploy network faster and also at the same time maintain the aesthetic beauty of the city. Operators have been facing a lot of problems in putting up towers with the local municipal authorities not allowing them to do so," Communications and IT Minister Dayanidhi Maran said on the sidelines of 3GSM summit here.

"We would start with Delhi, and if the results are positive in terms of faster roll out and lower cost, the sharing of infrastructure would be made mandatory throughout the country," he said.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has also initiated the consultation process to look into the matter.

The operators are sharing the infrastructure under the project Mobile Operators' Shared Towers (MOST).

COAI chief T.V. Ramachandran had earlier said 1,800 more cell sites were targeted for sharing by 2007.

Mr Maran had also earlier said that the shared sites would enable the operators to roll out their networks into the more populated semi-urban and rural areas, besides lowering the cost.

"With India providing the lowest mobile tariffs in the world, we need to look at the possible solutions to improve our cost-efficiencies and offer affordable services to consumers. These shared towers is the first step toward achieving our aim," Mr Maran said. — PTI

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Bajaj zeroes in on Chakan for four-wheeler plant 

New Delhi, February 15
Bajaj Auto Ltd is close to setting up a new manufacturing plant at Chakan, near Pune, for its foray into the four-wheeler segment. It is also planning a production unit in Brazil for two-wheelers. "We are under negotiations to get land for our new plant.

The plan is to set up a new goods carrier manufacturing facility in Chakan, Pune," Bajaj Auto Ltd Vice-Chairman Madhur Bajaj said.

He said the new goods-carrier would be of one tonne capacity on the lines of Tata Ace. "We are first getting into the four-wheeler goods carrier and then we will see if we can enter the passenger vehicle segment also," he added.

The company had been scouting for land for the new greenfield unit.

Earlier in the week, company Managing Director Rajiv Bajaj said the company was considering Maharashtra or Uttarakhand for the plant, which would have the capacity of about half a million vehicles.

BAL had envisaged housing a common platform for three and four wheelers at the greenfield plant to give it the scale of operations.

The four-wheeler from Bajaj is expected to hit the market in the next two years. Bajaj is also planning to set up a two-wheeler plant in Brazil. "Next on the radar is a manufacturing plant in Brazil," Mr Madhur Bajaj said. Mr Madhur Bajaj said the company was also establishing a two-wheeler manufacturing plant in Nigeria on which work had already begun. — PTI

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HDFC to hike home loan rates by 0.5 pc
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 15
A key player in the home loan market, HDFC said today it would hike housing loan rates by another 0.50 per cent this month-end or early March.

"After the CRR hike, our margins, presently at around 2 per cent, are under pressure and we will raise the interest rate to maintain that spread," HDFC Chairman Deepak Parekh said.

This would be the second time within a month that HDFC would be raising home loan rates. Earlier this month, it raised the rates by 0.5 per cent after the RBI announced a 0.25 per cent hike in overnight lending rate, repo, in its monetary review. ICICI Bank had also raised home and car loans by 1 per cent then.

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Indian, CFM to set up MRO facility 
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 15
Public carrier Indian and CFM International have joined hands to set up a facility for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of CFM 56 engines in the country.

Both companies signed an MoU today which envisages setting up the facility jointly to perform full spectrum of services, including engine disassembly and in-house repairing of components of CFM56-5B and CFM56-7B engines, according to a CFM release here.

These aircraft engines would be fitted into the 43 new aircraft ordered by Indian from Airbus Industrie.

Apart from servicing the engines of the public sector carrier, the MRO facility would also be offered to other Indian and foreign carriers.

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PHDCCI seeks installation of Tinxsys in Himachal
Tribune News Service

Shimla, February 15
The PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI) has urged the Himachal Government to install the Tax Information Exchange System (Tinxsys) by April 1, 2007, and accept only electronic filing thereafter.

In a pre-Budget memorandum to the state government, it stressed that the general rate of VAT should converge at not more than 8 per cent, leading to a harmonised progressive taxation system to generate higher revenues by encouraging compliance and widening the base of taxable commodities.

All forms should be integrated into one comprehensive form to facilitate self-declaration and self- assessment to help curb malpractices, reduce cost of compliance, strengthen enforcement of central sales tax (CST) provisions and also monitor inter-state sales after the CST is phased out.

For strengthening infrastructure, more funds be allocated to the Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh Development Authority (BBNDA) besides special funds be earmarked for industrial cluster development and industrial model parks. The state could also involve private investors for development of these clusters.

The chamber also said the government should take the matter with Union Minister of Railways for the speedy implementation of the Chandigarh-Pinjore-Barotiwala-Baddi-Nalagarh-Dhabota-Ropar rail link in the rail budget 2007-08.

It also suggested that agro/food parks should be set up to promote agro business, which had huge potential to transform the rural economy.

Special allocation be made for setting up pre-chilling plants in the fruit-growing areas, reefer vans for transporting (re-cooled and packed fruits to cold storages), horticultural research and pilot project for growing processable varieties of apples and opening up of ATIs (agriculture tech institutes) which would provide the much require skilled manpower at the grassroots.

The state Tourism Department should be provided enhanced budgetary support for promotion and marketing tourism. It also demanded that facilities should be provided at Gagal, Sundernagar and Paonta Sahib for landing of jet planes to put the state on the industrial map.

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Nabard moots credit of Rs 33,734 cr for Punjab
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 15
The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) has proposed a credit estimate of Rs 33,734 crore under priority sector lendings in Punjab during 2007-08. 
This was disclosed by the Chief General Manager, Nabard, Mr S.R. Aluru, at the state credit seminar for Haryana, organised here today. The Union Minister of State for Finance, Mr Pawan Bansal, was the chief guest on the occasion, and Dr K.G. Karmakar, Managing Director, Nabard, was the guest of honour. Mr Aluru said the projected credit estimate for the next fiscal was much higher than Rs 26,640 crore projected during 2006-07.
Of the Rs 33,734 crore projected, crop loan shares 54 per cent (Rs18,024 crore), followed by agricultural and allied sector term loan (capital formative investment credit) at 11 per cent (Rs 3,858 cr), non-farm sector at 14 per cent (Rs 4,794 crore) and other priority sector at 21 per cent (Rs 7,058 crore). 
Mr Bansal emphasised the need for initiating farm-related research. He said the Grameen Tatkal Scheme launched in Punjab would go a long way in helping the staggering economic growth of the state. Mr Aluru said given the fertility of land and asset position of farmers, the fact that Punjab farmers’ need for short-term (seasonal agricultural operations) would be very high is vindicated with crop loan sharing of a whopping 54 per cent.
The paper released today has focussed on the current concerns of the state on the agricultural front viz. deteriorating soil health, falling groundwater table and the need for crop diversification, agro-processing, and modernisation of agri-marketing infrastructure.
Issues of rural indebtedness, financial exclusion, particularly among the tenant farmers, oral lessees and sharecroppers, and tardiness in micro-finance take-off were also discussed. Further, to improve the credit absorption capacity of various sectors, Nabard will provide loan assistance to the state government for creation of enabling infrastructure under the Rural Infrastructure Development Fund.

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Markets closed today

Mumbai, February 15 
Trading in all major markets — the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), the National Stock Exchange (NSE), Forex, call money, along with spot sugar, metal, cotton and bullion — will remain closed tomorrow on account of 'Mahashivratri'. — UNI

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BRIEFLY

Tata Steel
Mumbai, February 15

Tata Steel said today its UK subsidiary had picked up over 71.36 lakh shares of Corus at 601.75 pence, less than the final bid price offered by the company for acquiring the Anglo-Dutch major. Tata Steel UK, the acquisition vehicle for the Corus deal, has purchased the shares representing a 0.8 per cent stake in Corus for £42.94 million. — PTI

TV Today stake
Mumbai, February 15
The Anil Ambani Group has increased its stake in TV Today Network to over 10 per cent by acquiring an additional 0.96 per cent stake for an estimated Rs 6.5 crore. Reliance Capital's subsidiary Sonata Investments on February 12 bought 5.57 lakhs shares, taking its shareholding in the media company to 10.27 per cent. — PTI

Nicholas Piramal
New Delhi, February 15
Drug firm Nicholas Piramal India Ltd is planning to invest about Rs 225 crore in the next two years for developing and manufacturing formulations in the UK and India. It has so far invested about Rs 225 crore in these countries in the past three years and plans a similar investment in 2007-09.— PTI

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