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Nod to Indian-AI merger
Approved amalgamation to have a new name
New Delhi, February 21
The empowered Group of Ministers (eGoM) today paved the way for creating the country’s largest airline by clearing the merger of the two public sector airlines, country’s flag bearer Air-India (A-I) and Indian.

Changi joins Tatas for airports’ revamp bid
New Delhi, February 21
Singapore’s Changi Airports International (CAI) today announced a strategic alliance with the Tata Group to pursue airport projects in the Indian subcontinent and vie for the modernisation works of airports at Chennai and Kolkata.

  • Intelligent terminals planned

BT set to dial India
New Delhi, February 21
BT Telecom India has been granted international long distance and national long distance licenses by the Department of Telecommunications to offer data and managed services to corporate customers directly.

Hutchison’s pact with Vodafone
New Delhi, February 21
Hutchison Telecom International Ltd (HTIL) said today it has entered into a three-year non-compete agreement with UK mobile phone giant Vodafone as part of the $11.08-billion deal.

FM to meet industrialists on March 1
New Delhi, February 21
For the first time, union finance minister P Chidambaram will have a direct interface with industrialists, a day after the presentation of the union Budget 2007-08.


Executive Director of Manikchand Janhavi Dhariwal poses with the new Oxyrich bottled water in New Delhi
Executive Director of Manikchand Janhavi Dhariwal poses with the new Oxyrich bottled water in New Delhi on Wednesday. The company claims the product has higher oxygen content of 300 per cent. The group is keen on expansion and has identified two national brands for possible acquisition. — Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal

 
Refinery’s revival
Mittal rekindles hope for jobless
Bathinda, February 21
Media reports of billionaire NRI Lakshmi Mittal picking up 49 per cent stake in Guru Gobind Singh Refinery has rekindled hopes of the revival of this prestigious project that has been hanging fire for the past 10 years.
A view of the site of Guru Gobind Singh Refinery, which only has this main gate to suggest its presence for the past 10 years. — Tribune photo by Kulbir Beera
A view of the site of Guru Gobind Singh Refinery, which only has this main gate to suggest its presence for the past 10 years

Editorial: Back on track

Chairman and CEO of Mittal Steel Lakshmi Mittal presents the annual results of the company in Luxembourg Chairman and CEO of Mittal Steel Lakshmi Mittal presents the annual results of the company in Luxembourg on Wednesday. Arcelor SA and Mittal Steel Co NV, currently combining to form the world’s largest steelmaker, reported a fourth quarter profit of $2.37 billion without providing comparative figures. Mittal Steel, ordered by the US Justice Department to sell a plant in Maryland, is expected to draw bids for the facility from big companies in China, Russia and India, the Wall Street Journal reported. — Reuters

eSys to log in Baddi
New Delhi, February 21
Having acquired Singapore-based IT distribution and computer maker eSys Technologies, Chennai-based Teledata Informatics today said the latter will set up a PC manufacturing unit in Himachal Pradesh at Rs 250 crore.

Vice-President (Marketing), Ford India, Scott McCormack, poses at the launch of Ford Fiesta’s 1.4 litre petrol ZXI version in Chennai
Vice-President (Marketing), Ford India, Scott McCormack, poses at the launch of Ford Fiesta’s 1.4 litre petrol ZXI version in Chennai on Wednesday. The car is priced at Rs 6.30 lakh. — PTI 

BPCL to sell stake to Shell
New Delhi, February 21
Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) today said it would sell its 49 per cent shareholding in Bharat Shell Ltd (BSL) to Shell.

Wal-Mart team coming today
New Delhi, February 21
Global retail leader Wal-Mart has said it would increase focus on emerging markets like India, even as a high-profile team led by the company vice-president Michael Duke is set to visit the subcontinent nation tomorrow.

Amartex mulls Rs 5,000-cr investment
Chandigarh, February 21
Amartex Industries proposes to set up a manufacturing facility in China, and is in the process of setting up two projects in Punjab, with an investment of Rs 5,000 crore.

 

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Nod to Indian-AI merger
Approved amalgamation to have a new name
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 21
The empowered Group of Ministers (eGoM) today paved the way for creating the country’s largest airline by clearing the merger of the two public sector airlines, country’s flag bearer Air-India (A-I) and Indian.

Briefing the media after the eGoM meeting here today, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said that the Cabinet approval for the merger would come before March 31 this year with the entire process of the merger taking almost two years.

The two public sector airlines, after the merger, would have a new name and would have a synergised working.

Sources said that while the initial merger would be in place in the next six months, but the new entity would have to go through various processes of merger before the new entity was finally in place.

The new airline will have a fleet strength of 111 aircraft by 2010 and employee strength of about 33,000.

Jet Airways would be the second largest airline operator in the country-both domestic and international.

“The issue will now go to the Cabinet. We expect to receive Cabinet approval by March 31 this year,” civil aviation minister Praful Patel told reporters after the meeting of the eGoM, headed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, here.

Sources said the Cabinet note for the merger would be put up in the next two weeks.

The merged entity would be among the top 30 airlines in the world and among the top 10 in Asia, said Patel. The name of the merged airline has not been decided.

As per the blueprint, the operations of the merged entity will be divided into six special business units (SBUs) each handling a specified domain of work.

These would be — engineering, cargo, jetshop, maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), ground handling and low cost carriers (LCCs). Each SBU will be headed by a dedicated chief executive officer (CEO).

The merger would involve a one-time cost of about Rs 200 crore but is estimated to yield cumulative annual benefits of about Rs 600 crore.

Patel allayed fears of employees about job security and other related issues.

“No employee needs to be worried about job loss, transfers or redeployment. There was no reason for them to be concerned about their employment conditions, salaries or seniority and they would remain as employees of the company, which will be a public sector undertaking,” he said.

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Changi joins Tatas for airports’ revamp bid

New Delhi, February 21
Singapore’s Changi Airports International (CAI) today announced a strategic alliance with the Tata Group to pursue airport projects in the Indian subcontinent and vie for the modernisation works of airports at Chennai and Kolkata.

The two sides have signed a MoU “to invest in, develop and manage Indian airports,” a CAI spokesperson said from Singapore.

Following the MoU, the two groups would set up a joint venture company, in which Tatas would hold 51 per cent stake and CAI 49 per cent.

Confirming this here, CAI vice-president (India) Ng Tim Peng told PTI: “We are partnering with the Tatas to get the contracts for modernisation work in Kolkata and Chennai airports” and added that “we are open to other partners with the right skills and expertise joining us in this venture.”

Though no final decision has yet been taken by the Centre on the course of modernising these two metro airports, the West Bengal government has opined that Kolkata airport should be developed by the Airports Authority of India (AAI), while Tamil Nadu government favours the public-private partnership route.

This is the second time the Tatas are entering the aviation sector in the recent past. Earlier, the Indian conglomerate had tied up with the Singapore Airline to bid for flag carrier Air-India when it was proposed to be privatised, but the process failed to take off.

“At present, we are concentrating on Kolkata and Chennai (airports modernisation),” Peng said in reply to questions, but added that the joint venture firm planned to bid for the development of 35 non-metro airports as well.

Under the MoU, the venture firm would bid for the investments and operations of Chennai and Kolkata airports under the airport modernisation programmes started two years ago. The spokesperson said the programmes for these two airports were expected to be announced later this year.

“The scope of the venture will also extend to investments in other airports including regional airports as well as airports which have already been privatised,” she said.

Peng refused to divulge the quantum of investments to be made by the Tata-Changi joint venture in these airports. — PTI

Intelligent terminals planned

As the roadmap for modernisation of Kolkata and Chennai airports nears completion, top Civil Aviation Ministry officials today said new terminals coming up at major airports across the country would be “intelligent” and IT-enabled.

“We are awaiting a report from the Tamil Nadu government regarding land acquisition. We are likely to get the report within the next two to three weeks.

“As soon as we get the report, we will move the Union Cabinet on modernisation of Kolkata and Chennai airports,” Civil Aviation Secretary Ashok Chawla told reporters after inaugurating the Inter Airport India exhibition here.

He said the West Bengal government has already made it clear that the Kolkata airport would be modernised by the Airports Authority of India (AAI).

Earlier, addressing the inaugural session of the exhibition, AAI chief K. Ramalingam said major Indian airports in future would have “intelligent terminals” fitted with sensors to operate various facilities — from lighting and air-conditioning to an IT-enabled building management system.

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BT set to dial India

New Delhi, February 21
BT Telecom India has been granted international long distance and national long distance licenses by the Department of Telecommunications to offer data and managed services to corporate customers directly.

“We plan to start the services by next six weeks and our focus will be foreign multinationals software and BPO houses, banks and financial services sector, who have multi-sites geographically and those Indian companies who have global operations, BT India MD C.S. Rao said while speaking to the PTI.

“The license gives us the flexibility to offer the all Internet Protocol services directly to corporates in this category who needs high quality bandwidth provisioning.”

These licenses enable BTs joint venture company, BT Telecom India Pvt Ltd, to offer services for the first time directly to multi-site corporate customers in India. BT plans to provide corporate customers, who have sites in India, with virtual private network-based (VPN) services using technologies, a BT statement said.

Minister of Communication and IT Dayandihi Maran has said: “To further promote investment into India and enhance business opportunities for Indian companies operating overseas, India must have the best and latest infrastructure.

“These licenses will allow BT to bring its 21 CN services to India’s IT and ITeS sector and increasing their competitiveness through connectivity, availability, quality and responsiveness on a global scale.

Andy Green, CEO, BT Global Services, said: “This is fantastic news, allowing BT to establish and manage our own operations in India. It’s also great news for our multinational customers doing business in India and our customers wanting to access a BT-managed network, which is connected to BT’s comprehensive global network across Asia Pacific, Europe and North America.” The company announced strong growth plans for its Indian operations in September 2006, predicting that its revenues from India will be $250 million by 2009 and that it is looking to increase its Indian employee strength by hiring an additional 6,000 people within the next two years.

In February BT signed an agreement for the acquisition of i2i Enterprise Pvt Ltd, a Mumbai-based enterprise services company specialising in Internet protocol (IP) communications services for major Indian and global multinational companies.

BT also plans to add additional resources to support its already substantial capabilities in outsourcing and systems integration services. — PTI

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Hutchison’s pact with Vodafone

New Delhi, February 21
Hutchison Telecom International Ltd (HTIL) said today it has entered into a three-year non-compete agreement with UK mobile phone giant Vodafone as part of the $11.08-billion deal.

HTIL board of directors, in a letter to shareholders, said the company has entered into a three-year agreement with Vodafone, pursuant to which the Hong Kong-based firm would not carry on any business in competition to Hutch-Essar in the country.

HTIL cannot enter any business in India, establishment of telecom services or related infrastructure facilities or equipment, it said.

Under the agreement, HTIL cannot offer jobs to any key employees of Hutch-Essar within six months of completion of the sale.

The sale is expected to be completed by either April 2 or the sixth business day after the last conditions have been satisfied for the deal, whichever is later, the letter said.

Meanwhile, HTIL will convene an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) of the shareholders on March 9 to vote on sale of its controlling stake in Hutch-Essar to Vodafone. — PTI

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FM to meet industrialists on March 1
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 21
For the first time, union finance minister P Chidambaram will have a direct interface with industrialists, a day after the presentation of the union Budget 2007-08.

A meeting between the finance minister and the representatives of the three prominent chambers, Ficci, Assocham and CII has been scheduled on March 1, in which Mr Chidambaram would have a feedback of the industrialists on the Finance Bill.

During the meeting, the finance minister is expected not only to get direct feedback on the Budget 2007-08, but also cease the opportunity to give clarifications on the Budget or take note of any demands emanating from the industry for rollback or amends, sources said.

The sources also pointed out that this meeting would help Mr Chidambaram to prepare himself even better to face the possible onslaught of the opposition parties during the debate on the Finance Bill in Parliament.

The chambers are upbeat about the meeting and have begun the process of identifying the industrialists, who will represent them in the meeting, besides the presidents and secretary-generals.

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Refinery’s revival
Mittal rekindles hope for jobless
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 21
Media reports of billionaire NRI Lakshmi Mittal picking up 49 per cent stake in Guru Gobind Singh Refinery has rekindled hopes of the revival of this prestigious project that has been hanging fire for the past 10 years.

The project had witnessed many ups and downs in the last decade and its nadir came in October 2004, when the HPCL threatened to shift the refinery to Rajasthan. The then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee laid its foundation stone on November 13, 1998, when SAD supremo Parkash Singh Badal was at the helm of affairs in Punjab.

However, it took the powers that be one-and-a-half-year to kick off its construction work. By the time the work on captive canal and link road between NH-64 and the project site, spread over 2,000 acres of land, got completed, the Congress came to power in the state. Before the suspension of the work, about Rs 300 crore were spent to raise basic infrastructure at the project site. The Congress regime raised strong objections to the previous sales tax exemption clause, which, as per initial estimates, would have cost the state a whopping Rs 15,000 crore over 15 years.

Frustrated over the delay in clearance of the financial package, the HPCL threatened on October 14, 2004, to shift the refinery out of Punjab, if the state government failed to fulfil its promise of extending sales tax exemption and other concessions.

The project was finally revived in early 2005 and it was re-launched amidst much fanfare on August 12, 2005. However, it received another jolt when British oil giant BP pulled out of the joint venture with HPCL for building nine million tonne refinery on March 23 last year.

Finally, it seems that the HPCL's search for a strategic partner has come to an end with Mittal's entry in Rs 16,700-crore project.

Meanwhile, all along these years, the issue became a political football with the SAD and the Congress dubbing the project as their landmark achievement. Ironically, the site merely saw construction of concrete structures and development of green belt during this period.

In fact, so fed up are people with promises of politicians on the issue that now they only have one thing to say: "We are genuinely not interested in their claims. Instead of vying for the project's credit, they should work unitedly to turn it into a reality." The project, they say, will give a much-needed fillip to the industrial sector in Punjab, especially in the aftermath of fiscal concessions extended to its neighbouring states, apart from generating thousands of job opportunities for the state's youth.

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eSys to log in Baddi

New Delhi, February 21
Having acquired Singapore-based IT distribution and computer maker eSys Technologies, Chennai-based Teledata Informatics today said the latter will set up a PC manufacturing unit in Himachal Pradesh at Rs 250 crore.

eSys is mulling shutting down its unit here and relocating to the proposed plant.

“The company might shut down the Delhi plant and shift the entire manufacturing capabilities to the new centre,” eSys group CMD Vikas Goel, who will takeover as the new CEO of Teledata Technologies, said. — PTI

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BPCL to sell stake to Shell

New Delhi, February 21
Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) today said it would sell its 49 per cent shareholding in Bharat Shell Ltd (BSL) to Shell.

“This is a great opportunity for enhanced growth in Shell’s lubricants businesses in this emerging and dynamic market. Shell and Pennzoil branded lubricants are both established in the Indian market and we intend to continue to maintain and invest in both brands in the country,” Shell Companies (India) Chairman Vikram Singh Mehta said.

A joint venture company with Shell Overseas Investments, BSL will require the time for final approval of the agreement which is a matter for the regulatory and government authorities, a statement said.

Shell, a chemicals major will have its third technology hub in Bangalore, focusing on cutting edge technology in energy by 2010, a top official said.

“We will have a research and development campus spread over 40 acres of land, hopefully by 2010. This will be Shell’s third technology centre besides the ones in the Netherlands and Houston,” President Shell Technology India Bob Firth said.

This will be the first R & D centre for energy business in Asia, Deepka Mukarji, Country Head Corporate & External Affairs, Shell Companies in India said.

Currently located at a leased facility here, the 200-strong Shell Technology India which began operations in 2006 hopes to ramp up its strength to 500 by the end of this year and to 1,000 in the next five years, he said.

“We are looking at students from IITs and also professionals with 10-15 years of experience and even NRIs.” — Agencies

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Wal-Mart team coming today

New Delhi, February 21
Global retail leader Wal-Mart has said it would increase focus on emerging markets like India, even as a high-profile team led by the company vice-president Michael Duke is set to visit the subcontinent nation tomorrow.

According to sources, Duke, vice- president (international) of Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc, is expected to arrive in the national capital tomorrow and meet top government officials to discuss the firm's business plans in India.

His visit comes on the heels of its Indian partner Bharti announcing a $2.5 billion retail expansion. Wal-Mart, however, will be partnering Bharti only at the back-end of the retail operations, for which a joint venture has been envisaged.

India does not allow FDI in multi- brand retail, but permits 100 per cent FDI in cash-and-carry and 51 per cent in single brand retail. — PTI

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Amartex mulls Rs 5,000-cr investment
JV in China also on cards
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 21
Amartex Industries proposes to set up a manufacturing facility in China, and is in the process of setting up two projects in Punjab, with an investment of Rs 5,000 crore.

Addressing mediapersons here today, company’s managing director Arun Grover said talks were in progress with some Chinese companies for setting up a garment plant in a joint venture. He said the company was also in the process of setting up a textile park and food-processing unit in Punjab.

Talking about the company’s proposed projects in Punjab, he said the company was in the process of acquiring land. He said the projects would be set up on about 100 acres of land. The projects would come up between Zirakpur-Ambala and Rajpura-Ludhiana.

He said the company was undertaking an expansion plan with a capital outlay of Rs 180 crore, which would be financed through an IPO to be launched in May this year.

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BRIEFLY

Hike in PLRs
Mumbai, February 21
The Centurion Bank of Punjab has said it will increase the prime lending rate (PLR) by 100 basis points to 14.50 per cent per annum with effect from March 1. Meanwhile, the Oriental Bank of Commerce (OBC) also announced to increase in its BPLR by 75 basis points to 12.50 per cent with effect from February 23.— PTI

Syschem plan
Mumbai, February 21
Syschem India Ltd today said it has embarked upon an expansion spree involving an investment of $12-15 million over the next two years. The company, which recently announced its plans to enter the pharma business with its own active pharmaceutical ingredients, said the expansion is being made to facilitate its smooth entry into the new sector.— PTI

SKF India net up
New Delhi, February 21
SKF India Ltd is considering to set up a new plant in Uttarakhand to manufacture bearings. Meanwhile, the company today posted a whopping 209.5 increase in its net profit for Q4 ended December 31, 2006, at Rs 31.73 crore as against Rs 10.25 crore during the corresponding period last year. — UNI

Cafe Coffee Day
Kolkata, February 21
India's largest retail coffee chain Cafe Coffee Day has earmarked Rs 30 crore investment for setting up 100 outlets across the country and 10 abroad, a company official said today. Inaugurating the company's 400th outlet here, Director of Cafe Coffee Day Naresh Malhotra said another 100 outlets would be opened across India by September.— PTI

DuPont centre
Bangalore, February 21
US-based products and services company, DuPont today said it would open a knowledge centre in Hyderabad with an investment of $50 million and accommodate 500 R&D professionals in the first phase. Executive Director of DuPont India Shankar Krishnan said the centre was expected to be operational next year.— PTI

RINL plan
Visakhapatnam, February 21
Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd (RINL) plans to pick up 15 per cent stake in the special purpose vehicle to be floated jointly by five PSUs for acquisition of coal mines abroad, RINL CMD Y Siva Sagar Rao said. — PTI

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