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PM for listing of public sector units
New Delhi, March 8

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today favoured listing of more public sector companies (PSEs) on the stock exchanges as a means to professionalise their boards and said the government was working towards limiting its role in their everyday functioning.
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Explore emerging markets: Nath
New Delhi, March 8
Commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath has asked all export promotion councils (EPCs) and related agencies to prepare country-specific export strategies in order to tap the growing trade potential of emerging markets.

‘Boost supplies to tame inflation’
New Delhi, March 8
Finance minister P Chidamabram today asked the corporate sector to appoint CEOs and CFOs to better take care of its corporate social responsibility towards the vulnerable section of society and avoid seeking fiscal concessions to help India maintain its current bullish growth momentum for inclusive growth.

Indian market ‘resilient but risky’
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

On the heels of fluctuating global financial markets, an investment firm says investors are right to be enthusiastic about India, but are missing a critical set of issues that can derail their investments.

IOC to spend Rs 25,000 cr on 15 MT refinery
New Delhi, March 8
The Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) plans to invest about Rs 25,000 crore for setting up a new 15 million tonnes refinery and petrochemicals complex at Ennore in Tamil Nadu to maintain its position as the country’s largest refiner.


Hrithik to endorse Acer brandAcer today announced that Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan would endorse its brand and its products. Managing director of Acer India W S Mukund said: "Brand association with Hrithik will give us a better mindshare among the young and first-time users."
Acer today announced that Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan would endorse its brand and its products. Managing director of Acer India W S Mukund said: "Brand association with Hrithik will give us a better mindshare among the young and first-time users." — PTI

EARLIER STORIES

 
Bollywood actor Aamir Khan posses at a promotional event for a watch company in Mumbai on Thursday.
Bollywood actor Aamir Khan posses at a promotional event for a watch company in Mumbai on Thursday. — Reuters

HDFC ups PLR by 0.75 pc
Mumbai, March 8
Home loan lending major HDFC Ltd has raised its prime lending rate by 0.75 per cent to 13.5 per cent.

Corporate governance norms for CPSEs okayed
New Delhi, March 8
The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, today gave its approval to the guidelines on corporate governance for Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs), parliamentary affairs minister P R Dasmunshi told newspersons here.

Caparo signs MoU for auto parts unit in TN
Chennai, March 8
Caparo Vehicle Products India Private Limited, owned by the Caparo group headed by Lord Swraj Paul, today signed an MoU with the Tamil Nadu government for setting up a Rs 300 -crore vehicle parts manufacturing facility at Oragadam, 30 km from here.

Tatas to hive off cell tower business
Mumbai, March 8
Tata Teleservices will hive off its cellular tower business in three months while earmarking Rs 3,500 crore for expanding services in more towns across the country.

Japan's Ritsumeikan University researchers unveil a prototype model of the micro medical robot, measuring 1cm in diameter, 2cm in length and weighing only 5gm, which enables it to stay and move inside a human body to remove or treat the affected part, in Kusatsu, near Kyoto, on Thursday.
Japan's Ritsumeikan University researchers unveil a prototype model of the micro medical robot, measuring 1cm in diameter, 2cm in length and weighing only 5gm, which enables it to stay and move inside a human body to remove or treat the affected part, in Kusatsu, near Kyoto, on Thursday. — AFP

SAIL dividend
New Delhi, March 8
SAIL has paid an interim dividend of Rs 567.15 crore to the government. The company announced an interim dividend at the rate of 16 per cent on the paid-up equity amounting to Rs 660.86 crore. The dividend cheque was presented to Steel Minister Ram Vilas Paswan by SAIL chairman S.K. Roongta here. — PTI

Transition to GST will be smooth 
New Delhi, March 8
Revenue secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar said today that the transition to goods and service tax (GST) by 2010 wuold not pose a serious problem as at present the effective excise duty rate was 10.5 per cent.

The combined incidence of central excise and service tax at present was around 22 per cent and to bring it down to 20 per cent would not be a problem, he said.Seaking at a post-Budget meeting, organised by the PHDCCI here, he said the Finance Ministry in consultation with states would come out with a clear roadmap for the implementation of GST.


An employee of Japan's jeweller Ginza Tanaka displays a life-sized samurai's helmet made of pure gold in Tokyo on Wednesday. The jeweller produced the 20kg 'gold helmet' ahead of Children's Day on May 5, a tradtional festival to celebrate boys' growth traditionally, and will sell it at a price of 100 million yen.
An employee of Japan's jeweller Ginza Tanaka displays a life-sized samurai's helmet made of pure gold in Tokyo on Wednesday. The jeweller produced the 20kg 'gold helmet' ahead of Children's Day on May 5, a tradtional festival to celebrate boys' growth traditionally, and will sell it at a price of 100 million yen. — AFP

BSNL drags TRAI to court
New Delhi, March 8
BSNL today challenged telecom regulator TRAI's new interconnection regulations in the tribunal TDSAT, saying that the reduction in charges would lead to a loss of about Rs 100 crore every year to the company.

OVL signs pact to operate in Libya
New Delhi, March 8
ONGC's overseas arm ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) said today it has signed an exploration and production-sharing agreement (EPSA) with National Oil Corporation of Libya for four oil blocks in the Mediterranean Sea.

ISD tariffs to dip 10-15 pc
New Delhi, March 8
The rift between state-owned telecom services provider BSNL and TRAI over reducing access deficit charge (ADC) is likely to benefit consumers with the international long-distance (ILD) call tariffs set to dip 10-15 per cent from April.

 

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PM for listing of public sector units

New Delhi, March 8
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today favoured listing of more public sector companies (PSEs) on the stock exchanges as a means to professionalise their boards and said the government was working towards limiting its role in their everyday functioning.

"It may be useful for more public enterprises to be listed on the stock exchange as this would enhance professionalism of the board of directors and empower independent directors," Singh said at the conference of chief executives of PSEs here today.

He said the induction of independent directors on the board of PSEs would ensure greater efficiency and effectiveness in decision-making.

At present 44 of the total 239 central public enterprises are listed on Indian stock exchanges, MTNL is listed on New York Stock Exchange while GAIL and SAIL are listed on the London Stock Exchange.

He said public sector must learn from the private sectors and seize opportunities for mergers, acquisitions, amalgamations, takeovers and creating joint ventures.

Singh said joint ventures and public-private partnerships could help the public sector benefit from the private sector's competitive advantages.

Earlier, speaking at the meeting organised by SCOPE and the Department of Public Enterprises, minister of heavy industries and public enterprises Sontosh Mohan Dev said so far proposals for revival of 25 PSEs had been approved with a cash infusion of about Rs 2,000 crore and non-cash financial sacrifices of Rs 5,700 crore.

The Prime Minister hoped that the Board for Reconstruction of Public Sector Enterprises (BRPSE) would come forward with time-bound programmes for revival of more PSEs.

Prime Minister also favoured a similar mechanism at the state-level for revival of sick companies.

Earlier, Prime Minister gave away SCOPE Excellence Awards.

In individual category, the CMD of PowerGrid R P Singh bagged SCOPE Excellence Award for 2005-06, while Indian Oil Corporation got the award in institutional category.

The MoU awards for excellence were given to NTPC, Power Grid, Hindustan Aeronautics, NBCC, NBCFDC, Export Credit Guarantee Corporation of India and Concor.

NDC meeting on inflation

Expressing concern over runaway inflation, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today announced that the Centre would soon convene a meeting of the National Development Council (NDC) to devise strategies in consultation with states to check agricultural stagnation and inflationary trends.— UNI

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Explore emerging markets: Nath
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 8
Commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath has asked all export promotion councils (EPCs) and related agencies to prepare country-specific export strategies in order to tap the growing trade potential of emerging markets.

Presiding over the fourth meeting of the Board of Trade here last night, Nath emphasised, in particular, the need to look at Africa and the Caribbean countries, CIS, including the Russian Federation, and some of the East Asian countries, which had been witnessing an economic surge.

“If we do not occupy the space now, somebody else will”, the minister said , urging the exporters to make all-out efforts to penetrate non-traditional markets.

He said trade facilitation measures would receive the highest priority as a means of reducing the transaction cost in order to enhance the global competitiveness of Indian exports. Procedural irritants facing exporters would be removed.

Mr Ramu Deora of FICCI reiterated the suggestion made by him during a meeting with the Prime Minister that all duty exemption schemes, including DEPB, should continue but a parallel new scheme of taking direct credit of basic customs duty at factory premises such as CENVAT should also be introduced.

Mr G.K. Gupta of FIEO said all existing schemes in the current five-year foreign trade policy should be allowed to run their course and be reviewed, if necessary, only after 2009 so as to ensure stability of duty neutralisation schemes.

The FICCI president called for greater focus on labour-intensive sectors and pecifically on electronic hardware as a sector with a high employment potential.

Exporters were critical of the imposition of services tax and MAT as it eroded the competitiveness of their exports and urged the commerce minister to take up the issue with the finance minister.

Representing the textile sector, the AEPC wanted special country focus and product focus for more categories of textiles in order to diversify India’s apparel exports. In this context, it was mentioned that 70 per cent of India’s garment exports were limited to six categories whereas China’s exports covered 101 categories. Similarly, 80 per cent of India’s apparel exports were going to only three destinations ( USA, EU and West Asia) while China was exporting to 23 countries.

TEXPROCIL proposed the setting up of a Rs 100-crore textiles and apparel fund to enable exporters to penetrate fve focus markets, including China, Japan and Korea.

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‘Boost supplies to tame inflation’
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 8
Finance minister P Chidamabram today asked the corporate sector to appoint CEOs and CFOs to better take care of its corporate social responsibility towards the vulnerable section of society and avoid seeking fiscal concessions to help India maintain its current bullish growth momentum for inclusive growth.

Addressing Assocham’s interactive session on post-budget issues here, Chidambaram said corporate India needed to take care of that half India, which has no access to water, taps, community toilets, electricity, sanitation, education and health, instead of insisting on repeated tax concessions as the effective corporate tax is not beyond 21 per cent.

He argued that if agriculture sector grows with uplift of India’s social sector, the corporate’s turnover would more than double with proportionate increase in its profitability and the growth projections would move upwardly.

The finance minister indicated that issues like FBT, service tax, double taxation on cement and dividend distribution tax could be addressed through a composite dialogue between the finance ministry officials and industry’s representatives, but the challenge before the government and the corporate is to make rural India and its populace part of inclusive growth to help it share gains of current growth, which for next couple of years would be 9 per cent and even above.

He promised that grey areas and procedural hassles would be addressed to give adequate relief to corporate world for their growth expansion through consultative process.

Referring to inflation, the finance minister held that it was a collective concern but advised businessmen to create adequate supplies for essential commodities and necessary inputs and raw material to respond to the growing demand for consumption to ensure that not only the inflation is tamed, but manufacturing and services grow with the required pace for the growth momentum.

He assured Indian industry that settlement commissions would be tightened to dispose off corporate taxation disputes within a year’s time against the current practice, in which corporate disputes take 5 years to be disposed off in these institutions.

In his welcome address, Assocham president Venugopal N. Dhoot urged the government to review additional imposition of dividend distribution tax, arguing that it would lead to double taxation and also advised to quickly address the concern of Indian businesses, particularly for takeover, mergers & acquisitions.

Referring to inflation, the finance minister held that it was a collective concern but advised businessmen to create adequate supplies for essential commodities and necessary inputs and raw material to respond to the growing demand for consumption to ensure that not only the inflation is tamed, but manufacturing and services grow with the required pace for the growth momentum.

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Indian market ‘resilient but risky’
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

On the heels of fluctuating global financial markets, an investment firm says investors are right to be enthusiastic about India, but are missing a critical set of issues that can derail their investments.

The Hudson Fairfax Group, an investment firm focused on India, says the Indian market has proven resilient during a week of global upheaval — but risks remain.

The firm sponsors and promotes India-related investments.

The newly released national budget and a series of important state elections may affect Indian markets and underscore how important it is for investors to understand and take into account the impact of political developments, the group says.

"It's a mistake to look only at company and sector performance and to think of India as just another emerging market, as many investors and institutions do," said Armeane Choksi, chairman and managing partner of Hudson Fairfax Group.

He said political actions driven by local events could derail the stability of the national government, creating serious risks to the financial markets.

"Investors need to have a handle on the interplay of politics, culture, the Indian economy and the Indian capital markets," Choksi said.

Hudson Fairfax CEO and managing partner Manish Thakur said, "Economic liberalisation will not be rolled back — but it could be slowed significantly if the ruling Congress feels threatened and decides to make populist concessions. Regional and caste politics are major factors in India, and, in combination with the pressures of inflation and the historical and current realities of coalition government, can move markets.

There is no substitute for insight into the specifics of Indian politics." The group notes investors hoped the proposed budget would reduce uncertainty, but in fact it has done the opposite. "Market sentiment suggests that tariffs were not lowered enough, the infrastructure provisions may not produce desired results, and there is an increased tax burden on the private sector," Choksi said, adding, "There is a sense that this was a missed opportunity to enhance private sector performance."

The analysts noted that the poor showing of the ruling Congress-led coalition in two out of three state elections this year will embolden populist and communist parties to demand concessions that could slow economic liberalisation.

Furthermore, the Congress is expected to do poorly in Uttar Pradesh. If that happens, additional populist concessions could follow — and a withdrawal of communist support might threaten the ruling coalition. Any or all of these developments could, in turn, affect economic expansion.

But despite the risks, the group notes there are positives to the Indian market that many investors overlook: India is a democracy that enjoys the rule of law, and it has no history of military coups or other forms of uncertainty that threaten other emerging markets.

A strong equity culture, driven by the 100-year old Bombay Stock Exchange, and a strong private sector comprising an increasing number of entrepreneurial companies, add up to compelling investment opportunities.

"The Indian market is an excellent investment opportunity, but an exceptionally complex one as well," said Choksi.

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IOC to spend Rs 25,000 cr on 15 MT refinery

New Delhi, March 8
The Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) plans to invest about Rs 25,000 crore for setting up a new 15 million tonnes refinery and petrochemicals complex at Ennore in Tamil Nadu to maintain its position as the country’s largest refiner.

The IOC plans to build the 15 MT refinery at Ennore, mainly catering to the export market, four years after it commissions its east coast Paradip refinery in Orissa, a senior official said.

"The 15 MT Paradip refinery is scheduled for commissioning in 2011 and our Ennore refinery will come up sometime in 2015-16," he said.

The refinery-cum-petrochemicals complex would be set up in joint venture with Chennai Petroleum Corp Ltd, an IOC arm.

Besides the refinery, the IOC wants to set up a naphtha cracker and aromatics complex at Ennore to utilise the products from the refinery.

Petroleum minister Murli Deora met Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi in Chennai yesterday to seek 3,500-4,000 acres of land for the refinery. — PTI

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HDFC ups PLR by 0.75 pc

Mumbai, March 8
Home loan lending major HDFC Ltd has raised its prime lending rate by 0.75 per cent to 13.5 per cent.

The floating rates for existing and new borrowers have been raised by 0.75 per cent, while the fixed rates have been hiked by 1 per cent to 12 per cent from 11 per cent with effect from March 1, an HDFC Ltd spokesperson said here.

HDFC has seen its cost of funds rise following the increase in rates by banks. It has also raised its deposit rates under the privilege scheme where it offers 9.55 per cent on 30-month deposits to senior citizens.

For other individuals, the rate of return is 9.3 per cent. Unlike other lenders, HDFC's rates vary according to loan size and not the tenure of the loan. Loans below Rs 5 lakh carry an interest rate of 10.5 per cent while loans above Rs 10 lakh carry 10.25 per cent rate of interest. — PTI

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Corporate governance norms for CPSEs okayed
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 8
The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, today gave its approval to the guidelines on corporate governance for Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs), parliamentary affairs minister P R Dasmunshi told newspersons here.

As per the guidelines, the board of directors of the company shall have an optimum combination of executive and non-executive directors with not less than 50 percent of the board of directors comprising non-executive directors.

The number of independent directors would depend on whether the chairman is executive or non-executive. In case of a non-executive chairman, at least one-third of board should comprise of independent directors and in case of an executive chairman, at least half of board should comprise of independent directors.

For the purpose of this clause, the expression ‘independent directors’ means directors, who apart from receiving director’s remuneration, do not have any other material pecuniary relationship or transactions with the company, its promoters, its management or its subsidiaries, which in judgement of the board may affect independence of judgement of the director.

Except in the case of government companies, institutional directors on the boards of companies should be considered as independent directors whether the institution is an investing institution or a lending institution.

The guidelines also lay down that all pecuniary relationship or transactions of the non-executive directors vis-à-vis the company should be disclosed in the annual report. The proposed guidelines will be applicable to listed as well as unlisted CPSEs. It lays down specific items to be included in the code of conduct and ethics for board of directors and senior management of CPSEs.

Meanwhile, the CCEA also approved a policy resolution for petroleum, chemicals and petrochemicals investment regions, aimed at attracting major investment, both domestic and foreign, in this sector. The resolution aims to promote investment in this sector and make the country an important hub for both domestic and international market, finance minister P Chidambaram told newspersons after the CCEA meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

He said this would attract major investment by creating investment regions, which would have excellent infrastructure and provide conducive environment for setting up integrated petroleum, chemical and petrochemical complex. It will reap the benefits of co-sitting networking and greater efficiency through use of common infrastructure and support services. 

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Caparo signs MoU for auto parts unit in TN
Tribune News Service

Chennai, March 8
Caparo Vehicle Products India Private Limited, owned by the Caparo group headed by Lord Swraj Paul, today signed an MoU with the Tamil Nadu government for setting up a Rs 300 -crore vehicle parts manufacturing facility at Oragadam, 30 km from here.

Caparo India is also keen on entering the aerospace sector in a big way.

Angad Paul, CEO of the Caparo group and son of Lord Swraj Paul, said: "We are focussing on the automotive sector, trying to attract aerospace customers by exporting to them. Our ultimate goal is to bring aeroplane manufacturers to India."

The project would provide direct employment to 850 persons and indirect employment to 1,150.

Composite materials and testing, fasteners, tubular products for automotive and aerospace and automotive braking systems would be manufactured at the facility.

He said the group wanted to concentrate more on aerospace and it had invested Rs 700 crore in the state so far but further investments might be added.

This is Caparo's second project in Tamil Nadu, the first being an auto components plant at Sriperumbudur at a cost of Rs 400 crore, which would commence production next month.

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Tatas to hive off cell tower business

Mumbai, March 8
Tata Teleservices will hive off its cellular tower business in three months while earmarking Rs 3,500 crore for expanding services in more towns across the country.

The company, which has invested Rs 1,000 crore in the tower business so far, is in talks with six companies to operate its towers, Tata Teleservices CEO Darryl Green said here today.

He said the company, which offers CDMA services, would invest Rs 3,500 crore in 2007-08 for rolling out services in more towns as it planned to add 100 million subscribers by 2011 from the present 15.5 million.

Market leader Bharti Airtel and Vodafone, the newest entrant in the Indian mobile space, too have targeted addition of 100 million subscribers each.

India is the world's fastest-growing mobile market with over seven million subscriber additions every month. — PTI 

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Transition to GST will be smooth 
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 8
Revenue secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar said today that the transition to goods and service tax (GST) by 2010 wuold not pose a serious problem as at present the effective excise duty rate was 10.5 per cent.

The combined incidence of central excise and service tax at present was around 22 per cent and to bring it down to 20 per cent would not be a problem, he said.

Seaking at a post-Budget meeting, organised by the PHDCCI here, he said the Finance Ministry in consultation with states would come out with a clear roadmap for the implementation of GST.

After the success of the VAT system, states would be keen to have GST in the country. The Finance Ministry had given the responsibility for implementation and designing of GST to the empowered committee of state fnance ministers, he said.

While speaking on the direct taxes he said that the dividends distribution tax should be viewed not as a corporate tax rate but as a surrogate tax which would have been otherwise applicable on recipient of dividends at a marginal tax rate of 30 per cent. Therefore, even the enhanced rate of 15 per cent was reasonable.

The government objective was to reform tax administration and try to eliminate interface between the assessing authority and the tax-payer. 

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BSNL drags TRAI to court

New Delhi, March 8
BSNL today challenged telecom regulator TRAI's new interconnection regulations in the tribunal TDSAT, saying that the reduction in charges would lead to a loss of about Rs 100 crore every year to the company.

A Bench of the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal, headed by Justice Arun Kumar, accepted the petition and issued notices to TRAI, directing it to file a reply in two weeks.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India by its Telecommunication Interconnection (Port Charges) Amendment Regulation on February 2, 2007, had reduced port connectivity charges by 23-29 per cent.

According to BSNL, it would result in a loss of around Rs 100 crores annually. It argued that TRAI had acted without jurisdiction and issued the regulation in disregard of the principles laid by the tribunal.

"The TRAI vide its impugned regulation is attempting to modify and substitute its regulation over the interconnect agreements entered into between BSNL and private operators so as to effect an impermissible gain for private operators and loss to BSNL," the state-run firm alleged in its petition.

BSNL also contended that while deciding the port charges, TRAI has not taken into consideration the cost of main equipments installed by it to provide interconnection.

A port is the place where two telecom operators interconnect with each other's network to provide connection for each other’s service. Since BSNL is the largest telecom operator in the country, most operators have to pay charges to it for interconnection. — PTI

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OVL signs pact to operate in Libya

New Delhi, March 8
ONGC's overseas arm ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) said today it has signed an exploration and production-sharing agreement (EPSA) with National Oil Corporation of Libya for four oil blocks in the Mediterranean Sea.

The agreement, signed at Tripoli, was part of the recently concluded third bid round, OVL said in a statement.

The Contract Area 43, which consists of the four blocks measuring a total area of 7,449 sq km, is located in Cyrenaica offshore in the Mediterranean Sea, while the block boundaries extend from coastline to the water depth of about 2,200 metre, the statement said.— PTI

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ISD tariffs to dip 10-15 pc

New Delhi, March 8
The rift between state-owned telecom services provider BSNL and TRAI over reducing access deficit charge (ADC) is likely to benefit consumers with the international long-distance (ILD) call tariffs set to dip 10-15 per cent from April.

Consumer organisations and private telecom service providers have been fighting with BSNL to reduce the ADC to one-third of its current level (Rs 3,335 crore) to between Rs 1,000-1,600 crore.

ADC cuts are usually announced in March every year. — UNI

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BRIEFLY

Re rebounds
Mumbai, March 8
The rupee rallied smartly today to end at Rs 44.3350/3450 a dollar, up 16.50 paise from the previous closing of Rs 44.49/50 following a rebound in equity markets coupled with heavy exporters' dollar sales. In volatile trade at the Interbank Foreign Exchange (forex) market, the Indian unit fluctuated in a range of Rs 44.3350 and Rs 44.5700 during the day after opening weak at Rs 44.54/56 but generally moved upwards after touching the day's low during early trade. — PTI

Tata arm buyouts
New Delhi, March 8
NatSteel Asia Pte Ltd (NSA), the Singapore-based subsidiary of Tata Steel, today said it has acquired two new steel-bar rolling plants in Vietnam for $41 million as part of strategy to expand in Asia-Pacific. NatSteel struck a conditional agreement with Vietnam Industrial Investments Ltd (VII) to acquire VII's a 100 per cent stake in Structure Steel Engineering Pte Ltd (SSE(S)) and majority 70 per cent in Vinausteel Ltd. — PTI

RPG plans
Gurgaon, March 8
The Goenka's-owned RPG Group will infuse Rs 2,500 crore-Rs 2,700 crore for setting up 4,000 retail outlets, including 1,000 Spencers stores, across the country by 2011. ''We will invest Rs 2,500- Rs 2,700 crore on our retail expansion plans within the next four-five years. This includes Rs 1,000 crore investment on Spencer's retail venture by 2009,'' RPG Enterprises Vice-Chairman Sanjiv Goenka said at the launch of eighth Spencer's hypermarket here. —UNI

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