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B U S I N E S S

Package for tiny sector declared
New Delhi, March 2
The government today announced a promotional package for micro and small enterprises (MSEs) promising to raise the corpus of the Credit Guarantee Fund to Rs 2,500 crore in the next five years.

Gas Find
ONGC asked to do viability tests
New Delhi, March 2
Upstream oil regulator DGH said today ONGC has made a natural gas discovery off the Andhra coast, but wanted the state-run firm to conduct fresh tests to ascertain its commerciality.

JSPL to invest $2.1 b in Bolivia
New Delhi, March 2
Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) said today it would invest $2.1 billion (about Rs 9,500 crore) to set up steel plants in Bolivia for which it had reached an agreement with the Latin American nation.

No registration, no services to BPOs: DoT
New Delhi, March 2
In a bid to clamp down on ‘illegal’ use of Internet telephony, the Department of Telecom (DoT) has directed Internet service providers (ISPs) to stop providing service to all call centres and business process outsourcings (BPOs) not registered with the department.

FIPB rings HTIL, Bharti over Vodafone deal
New Delhi, March 2
The Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) is understood to have asked Hong Kong's Hutchison Telecom International Ltd (HTIL) for details about the 15 per cent stake held by minority shareholders Ashim Ghosh and Analjit Singh in its Indian mobile venture Hutch-Essar.

RPG Group to buy Fujitsu’s stake in Zensar
Mumbai, March 2
Zensar Technologies said today one of its main promoters Japan's technology services major Fujitsu Group was going to sell its entire 29.17 per cent stake to Indian promoter Goenka's RPG Group.


A Chinese model shows off a designer wedding dress at a show in Beijing on Friday. Modern Chinese couples spend 1,000 times more than their parents' generation on lavish weddings and other expenses linked to starting a family.
A Chinese model shows off a designer wedding dress at a show in Beijing on Friday. Modern Chinese couples spend 1,000 times more than their parents' generation on lavish weddings and other expenses linked to starting a family. — AFP

EARLIER STORIES

 

Himachal set to grow at 9.3 pc 
Shimla, March 2
Doing exceptionally well on the economic front, Himachal Pradesh is on way to achieving a growth rate of 9.3 percent, higher than the growth of 9.2 at the national level, during the current financial year.

HFC comes out of red, earns Rs 10.58-cr profit
Chandigarh, March 2
Debt swapping — from high-cost loans to low-cost loans for refinancing; going in for secured financing; and, aggressive marketing strategies have helped in the complete financial turnaround of Haryana Financial Corporation (HFC).

Bayer to axe 6,100 jobs after Schering takeover
Leverkusen (Germany), March 2
Bayer, a German chemicals and pharmaceuticals giant, said today that it planned to slash 6,100 jobs worldwide as part of the integration of newly acquired drug- maker Schering. "The integration of Schering with the pharmaceuticals division of Bayer will result in annual savings of 700 million euros ($920 million) each year from 2009," Bayer said.

India’s exports up by 32.22 pc
New Delhi, March 2
India’s cumulative value of exports for the period April 2006 to January 2007 stood at $99 billion (Rs 4,51,167.67 crore) as against $74.9 billion during the same period last year, indicating a growth of 32.22 per cent.

Maruti to launch new sedan
New Delhi, March 2
Having phased out its only luxury segment sedan Baleno recently, Maruti and its parent company, Suzuki Motor Company, would showcase its new offering , SX4 sedan, at the Geneva Motor show next week. Reports suggested that the SX4 sedan had nothing in common with Baleno.

Honda cars set to cost more
New Delhi, March 2
Car lovers who swear by the Honda badge will have to pay up to Rs 45,000 more, as Honda Siel Cars India Ltd is set to start charging the central sales tax on its models since the tax holiday it enjoys in UP is ending this month.

M&M unveils Bolero SUV
Mumbai, March 2
M&M has launched the new Bolero, the second generation of India's most-popular sports-utility vehicle (SUV), with a price tag of Rs 4.58 lakh.

Essar eyes 20 pc in Libyan oilfield
New Delhi, March 2
Essar Group is in talks to buy a 20 per cent stake in an oil and gas field in Libya, a senior company official said today.

In video 
No plans to trim retail fuel prices: Oil Min
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Package for tiny sector declared

New Delhi, March 2
The government today announced a promotional package for micro and small enterprises (MSEs) promising to raise the corpus of the Credit Guarantee Fund to Rs 2,500 crore in the next five years.

The eligible loan limit under the scheme will be hiked to Rs 50 lakh and the credit guarantee cover from 75 per cent to 80 per cent for micro enterprises for loans up to Rs 5 lakh, minister of small scale industries & agro and rural industries Mahabir Prasad informed the Rajya Sabha today.

As much as 80 per cent guarantee cover would be provided to MSEs operated or owned by women, the minister said in a statement he tabled at the fag-end of the day.

The fund would continue to be managed by the Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Small Industries (CGTSI) — which will be renamed Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises.

The minister also announced that the government would soon enact legislation on limited liability partnerships covering micro, small and medium enterprises to facilitate infusion of equity and venture capital funding in these enterprises.

The Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) will strengthen its credit operations for micro enterprises and cover five million additional beneficiaries over five years beginning 2006-07. The government will provide grant to SIDBI to augment the bank’s Portfolio Risk Fund for this purpose.

SIDBI’s direct lending operations would be expanded by increasing the number of branches from 56 to 100 in two years to cater to the credit needs of more clusters of MSEs.

For comprehensive and speedier development of such MSE-clusters, the existing guidelines of the small industries cluster development programme — to be renamed the micro and small enterprises cluster development programme — would be reviewed. The ceiling on project cost would be raised to Rs 10 crore.

Four training-cum-product development centres for agro and food processing industries would be set up at identified existing Small Industries Service Institutes.

Vertical Shaft Brick Kiln technology would be promoted for adoption by MSEs engaged in manufacturing bricks to make them energy efficient and eco-friendly. For this, a one-time capital subsidy — limited to 30 per cent of the cost or Rs 2 lakh, whichever is less — would be provided to micro and small brick manufacturing enterprises.

A technology mission will be established to assist micro, small and medium enterprises in technology upgradation, energy conservation and pollution mitigation, the minister said. — UNI

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Gas Find
ONGC asked to do viability tests

New Delhi, March 2
Upstream oil regulator DGH said today ONGC has made a natural gas discovery off the Andhra coast, but wanted the state-run firm to conduct fresh tests to ascertain its commerciality.

"There is no doubt gas has been discovered but since the discovery well was abandoned without conventional testing, this being the third such abandonment in the block, we wanted to be doubly sure before making any announcement. We want them to do fresh tests," Director-General of Hydrocarbons V.K. Sibal told reporters here.

A dispute had arisen between DGH and ONGC on the discovery in well UD-1 in Krishna Godavari basin deepsea block KG-DWN-98/2 after Sibal earlier said he disallowed the find.

ONGC, on the other hand, stuck to its guns, saying its assessment of over 14 trillion cubic feet of in-place reserves was based on MDT test, which is done globally to check discoveries, conducted in presence of DGH representative.

Meanwhile, the government today signed production-sharing agreements with winners of the 52 oil and gas blocks auctioned under the sixth round of New Exploration Licensing Policy.

ONGC signed production-sharing contracts (PSCs) for 24 blocks — 12 deep sea, two shallow water offshore and 10 onland.

Reliance Industries signed PSC for seven prime deepsea blocks, while Santos of Australia inked the pact for two deepsea blocks. — PTI

BG India to invest $1 b

BG India said today it would invest $1 billion in the country to strengthen its upstream business over the next five years.

The investment will be made through BG Exploration and Production India Ltd. ''Part of the investment will go on city gas distribution networks in India,'' BG India Managing Director William Adomson told reporters on the sidelines of a conference. — UNI

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JSPL to invest $2.1 b in Bolivia

New Delhi, March 2
Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) said today it would invest $2.1 billion (about Rs 9,500 crore) to set up steel plants in Bolivia for which it had reached an agreement with the Latin American nation.

"We have reached an agreement with the Bolivian government to set up a six-million tonne sponge iron plant, 10-million tonne pellet plant and 1.7-million tonne steel plant at an investment of $2.1 billion in the country," JSPL director, finance, Sushil Maroo said.

El Mutun is one of the world's biggest iron-ore mines with proven reserves of 40 billion tonnes of medium- grade quality ore.

Jindal, who won the bid in June last year, would be allowed to exploit 50 per cent of the El Mutun reserves. The company would also set up the supporting infrastructure for the proposed projects, including a 450-MW power plant.

The Bolivian government has agreed to sell natural gas to JSPL at $3.91 per million BTUs (British thermal units) for steel making which would account for 70 per cent of the total power requirements of the projects.

The agreement with Bolivia was help up earlier as Jindal wanted subsidised price on fuel and better tax conditions.

In June, 2006, JSPL emerged as the only company, which met the qualifying criteria set by the Bolivian government to exploit 50 per cent of the El Mutun reserves. This was followed by negotiations with the government on various clauses.

The project would allow Bolivia to develop a steel industry and the proposed investment was the single largest in Bolivian history.

The mines are located in the south-east of Bolivia about 50 km from the Brazilian border.

JSPL is a part of the Rs 20,000 crore Jindal group and has a turnover of Rs 3,000 crore having wide business interests in steel production, mining, power generation and coal and diamond exploration. — PTI

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No registration, no services to BPOs: DoT
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 2
In a bid to clamp down on ‘illegal’ use of Internet telephony, the Department of Telecom (DoT) has directed Internet service providers (ISPs) to stop providing service to all call centres and business process outsourcings (BPOs) not registered with the department.

While TRAI has not yet completed the consultative process on review of Internet services, the DoT has sought to pre-empt TRAI’s recommendations by sending out the directive.

The business process industry association of India (BPIAI), which is an affiliated association of the CII, has strongly opposed this decision and has sought a rational way out, a statement said.

This move would directly affect an estimated 2,000 smaller call centres across the country, and might force their closure, putting about 50,000 persons out of job, mostly in smaller towns.

The association has proposed that all unregistered call centres running voice operations be allowed up to 90 days for filing registration applications with the telecom department.

The DoT, in turn, must accept or reject registrations within a time-bound period of 30 days.

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FIPB rings HTIL, Bharti over Vodafone deal

New Delhi, March 2
The Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) is understood to have asked Hong Kong's Hutchison Telecom International Ltd (HTIL) for details about the 15 per cent stake held by minority shareholders Ashim Ghosh and Analjit Singh in its Indian mobile venture Hutch-Essar.

FIPB has also sought details from Bharti Airtel regarding Vodafone's stake in the company, sources close to the development said.

Vodafone and Bharti had last month announced an agreement under which Bharti agreed to buy back 5.6 per cent direct stake from Vodafone for $1.6 billion on deferred payment basis, while the UK mobile giant would be retaining the balance indirect equity in the group.

The FIPB move comes on the heels of the British giant approaching the Board late last month for approval to acquire controlling stake in Hutch-Essar from HTIL as well as for its investment plans for telecom business in the country.

Vodafone, which has agreed to acquire HTIL's stake in Hutch-Essar for $11.1 billion in cash and about $2 billion in debt assumptions, needs FIPB clearance under the government guidelines. The deal is subject to FIPB approval for Vodafone's exit from Bharti as well as acquisition of HTIL's stake in HEL. — PTI

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RPG Group to buy Fujitsu’s stake in Zensar

Mumbai, March 2
Zensar Technologies said today one of its main promoters Japan's technology services major Fujitsu Group was going to sell its entire 29.17 per cent stake to Indian promoter Goenka's RPG Group.

The stake would be purchased by Jubilee Investment and Industries — part of the RPG group.

Zensar Technologies said the RPG Group and Fujitsu, each of which holds 69.14 lakh equity shares, signed a share-purchase agreement yesterday.

At yesterday's closing price of the Zensar scrip at Rs 238.10, the RPG Group could buy out its Japanese partner's stake for an estimated Rs 164.64 crore.

The Fujitsu Group held its stake in Zensar through two firms, Fujitsu Services (26.25 per cent) and Fujitsu Services Holdings (2.93 per cent).

With the acquisition of the stake, the RPG Group would hold over a 58 per cent stake, having full management control in Zensar Technologies. — PTI

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Himachal set to grow at 9.3 pc 
Tribune News Service

Shimla, March 2
Doing exceptionally well on the economic front, Himachal Pradesh is on way to achieving a growth rate of 9.3 percent, higher than the growth of 9.2 at the national level, during the current financial year.

The economic review for the year presented by chief minister Virbhadra Singh in the Vidhan Sabha today painted a rosy picture of the state’s economy. It attained growth rate of 8.5 per cent in 2005-06 against a target of 8.2 per cent. The gross state domestic product on current prices increased to Rs 25,435 crore in 2005-06 from Rs 23,024 crore in the previous year. As per advanced estimates, it was likely to reach Rs 28,298 crore during the current year.

The per capita income, which touched Rs 33,805 in 2005-06, was likely to increase to Rs 36,783 during the current year, 26 per cent higher than the national per capita income. While the consumer price index for the state increased by 5 per cent during April to November 2006 as against 5.3 per cent at the national level.

The secondary sector, comprising manufacturing, construction and electricity and water supply, registered a growth of 14.1 per cent last year, which was higher than the national growth. However, the primary sector, which included agriculture and allied services, witnessed a growth of only 2.6 per cent mainly on account of unfavourable weather conditions.

The foodgrain production decreased from 14.88 lakh tonne in 2004-05 to 12.73 lakh tonne last year. The agriculture sector provides employment to 69 per cent of total workers of the state and generates 20 per cent of the gross state domestic product.

During the past four years, 8,500 new industrial units with an investment of over Rs 22,000 crore and a potential to provide employment to three lakh persons had been approved.

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HFC comes out of red, earns Rs 10.58-cr profit
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 2
Debt swapping — from high-cost loans to low-cost loans for refinancing; going in for secured financing; and, aggressive marketing strategies have helped in the complete financial turnaround of Haryana Financial Corporation (HFC).

Till two years ago, HFC was running into losses because of bad debts. But this year, the corporation has managed to earn a profit of Rs 10.58 crore. The non-performing assets (NPA) have also been reduced significantly (from Rs 249.95 crore in 2004-05 to Rs 194 crore now). The corporation is hoping that by the end of this financial year, the NPAs would be further reduced to Rs 170 crore. HFC has so far been able to recover outstanding dues to the tune of Rs 214.09 crore during the past two years.

The corporation has also shown a quantum jump in the total advances extended to the industry in Haryana. As against just Rs 24 crore extended as loans in year 2004-05, HFC has extended advances to the tune of Rs 170 crore this year.

Senior officials of the corporation informed TNS that the main reasons for the turnaround has been the debt-swapping of high-cost loans with low-cost loans. With this, the cost of borrowings from SIDBI and various public sector banks have been reduced from 12 per cent to 8.91 per cent. “This has been possible with the premature payment of high-cost borrowings to the tune of Rs 168 crore in the last two years. Besides debt-swapping, we have also made this premature payment through our internal accruals and loans from HUDA,” said the official.

The asset base of HFC has also been re-built through secured financing by the corporation. HFC is now advancing loans only to units set up in the industrial estates of HSIIDC and HUDA, where over evaluation of property is not possible. 

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Bayer to axe 6,100 jobs after Schering takeover

Leverkusen (Germany), March 2
Bayer, a German chemicals and pharmaceuticals giant, said today that it planned to slash 6,100 jobs worldwide as part of the integration of newly acquired drug- maker Schering. "The integration of Schering with the pharmaceuticals division of Bayer will result in annual savings of 700 million euros ($920 million) each year from 2009," Bayer said.

"Adjustments to personnel requirements and the consolidation of processes and systems will each contribute about half to the targeted global synergy effects." About 3,150 jobs were on the line in Europe, of which 1,500 would come in Germany alone.

A further 1,000 jobs would be axed in the US, 750 in the Asia-Pacific region and Japan, and 1,200 jobs in Latin America and Canada, Bayer said. In terms of division, 1,400 jobs would be axed in Bayer's R and D activities, 1,850 in production and 2,850 in administration, the company continued. — AFP

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India’s exports up by 32.22 pc
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 2
India’s cumulative value of exports for the period April 2006 to January 2007 stood at $99 billion (Rs 4,51,167.67 crore) as against $74.9 billion during the same period last year, indicating a growth of 32.22 per cent.

The cumulative value of imports during April 2006 to January 2007 was $1,49,725.99 million.

The trade deficit for April-January 2007 was estimated at $50,588.55 million, which was higher than the deficit of $33,824.77 million during April-January, 2006.

According to figures of directorate-general of commercial intelligence and statistics, exports during the month of January 2007 were valued at $9,648.36 million as compared to $8,457.72 million in January, 2006.

Imports during the month of January, 2007 were valued at $15,430.06 million as compared to $11,367.68 million in Janaury 2006.

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Maruti to launch new sedan
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 2
Having phased out its only luxury segment sedan Baleno recently, Maruti and its parent company, Suzuki Motor Company, would showcase its new offering , SX4 sedan, at the Geneva Motor show next week. Reports suggested that the SX4 sedan had nothing in common with Baleno.

The SX4 sedan is expected to be launched in India in the next three months to take on other manufacturers like Hyundai, Honda and General Motors.

This would be Suzuki’s second world car after Swift, which would be made available to the Indian consumer almost simultaneously after its global launch. It would be unveiled at the high-profile global auto show that gets under way at Geneva from March 8.

Although Maruti officials were tightlipped about the expected price of the new luxury model reports suggested that the SX4 would be Suzuki’s showpiece as it transforms from a global compact car giant to a complete car maker across segments.

MUL officials said here that their focus for the success of SX4 would be markets in North India, specially Punjab Haryana and Chandigarh. After the success of Swift and the new Zen, the SX4 sedan would be another bold step forward by MUL.

The new sedan is expected to be built at Maruti’s new manufacturing facility at Manesar. It will be offered in the A3 segment, which currently accounts for 15 per cent of the Indian passenger car market.

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Honda cars set to cost more

New Delhi, March 2
Car lovers who swear by the Honda badge will have to pay up to Rs 45,000 more, as Honda Siel Cars India Ltd is set to start charging the central sales tax on its models since the tax holiday it enjoys in UP is ending this month.

"Since inception, we have been exempted from the 4 per cent central sales tax in UP related to the amount of investments we make in the state. That is coming to an end," HSCI senior general manager Jnaneswar Sen said.

He said once the holiday was over the company would start charging the tax from its customers, thereby increasing the prices of its sedans — City, Civic and Accord.

"With the announcement in the Budget that CST will be reduced to 3 per cent effective April 1, we will be charging that amount to the customers," he said.

This will mean that 'City', which is priced at Rs 6.75 lakh, can be costlier by Rs 20,250. 'Civic', priced at Rs 10.88 lakh, would be dearer by about Rs 32,644 and 'Accord', which is tagged at Rs 14.92 lakh, may cost Rs 44,760 more.

He, however, said the company had not fixed the exact amount and the timeframe for the price hike. — PTI

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M&M unveils Bolero SUV

Mumbai, March 2
M&M has launched the new Bolero, the second generation of India's most-popular sports-utility vehicle (SUV), with a price tag of Rs 4.58 lakh.

Announcing this, a M&M release here today said the new Bolero has been styled with a wide array of interior and exterior features that appeal to the younger generation of car lovers. The new Bolero sports a host of new features and aesthetics that match the lifestyle aspirations of buyers too.

With this, the company has reinforced its leadership further in the SUV segment and the Bolero's success in the market is attributed to the company's commitment to customer centricity. — UNI

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Essar eyes 20 pc in Libyan oilfield

New Delhi, March 2
Essar Group is in talks to buy a 20 per cent stake in an oil and gas field in Libya, a senior company official said today.

"We are talking to Phoenix Libya (a subsidiary of Phoenix AG) for a minimum of 20 per cent stake with rights to increase it to 50 per cent," the company's exploration head S.R. Agrawal said.

Essar is scouting for upstream opportunities in 12 countries in the West Asia, Central Asia, South-East Asia and Africa. — PTI

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BRIEFLY

Respite to UPA; inflation slips
New Delhi, March 2
The UPA Government had some respite today with inflation moderating to 6.05 per cent during the week ended February 17 as against 6.63 per cent for the previous week. The dip in the annual rate of inflation was due to a fall in the prices of fuel, food items and manufacturing goods. Though the inflation has dipped a bit, it was still way above the 5.5 per cent target level set by the RBI for this fiscal. The inflation rate, calculated on a point-to-point basis, stood at 6.63 per cent last week as compared to 4.13 per cent during the corresponding week last year. — TNS

IDBI scheme
Mumbai, March 2
The IDBI today launched a new high-yield 360-day term deposit scheme under the 'IDBI Suvidha Plus Fixed Deposit (ISPFD)' banner - at an interest rate of 9 per cent. The bank has decided to increase the interest rate offered on the 800-day FD scheme by 50 basis points to 9.5 per cent a year. Senior citizens will continue to enjoy a .5 per cent higher interest rate in all three ISPFD schemes. A minimum deposit of Rs 10,000 will be accepted in ISPFD scheme. — UNI

RIL dividend
Mumbai, March 2
Reliance Industries Ltd said today its Board of Directors would meet on March 10 to consider paying an interim dividend to shareholders. The company has fixed March 22 as the record date for the payment of an interim dividend, RIL said. — PTI

IOL Broadband
New Delhi, March 2
IOL Broadband Ltd is set to offer three main channel bouquets available in India — Star, OneAlliance (including Sony) and the Zee Turner bouquet — totaling to over 60 premium pay IPTV channels along with 90 free-to-air channels. — UNI

ATF prices up
New Delhi, March 2
Oil firms have raised aviation turbine fuel (jet fuel) prices cent, the second increase in three months. Prices in Mumbai increased Rs 635.44 per kilolitre to Rs 35,714.43 per kl, an Indian Oil Corp official said. — PTI

Nod to Suzlon
Mumbai, March 2
In a boost to its plans to acquire REpower, Suzlon Energy today said German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority has approved its offer document to acquire the German firm. The offer for acquisition has been made at a price of euro 126 per share. — PTI

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