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B U S I N E S S

Inflation surges to 6.46 per cent
States told to impose stock limits, de-hoarding

New Delhi, March 16
Finance minister P Chidambaram today assured Parliament that the government will take further fiscal, monetary and supply side measures to moderate inflation even as he accused the opposition BJP of ridiculing the “Aam Admi” by ridiculing or ignoring the various programmes announced for the common man.

FDI Review
Govt to look at single cap for each sector

New Delhi, March 16
The government today said it was looking at having an uniform foreign direct investment (FDI) cap in different business segments within a sector as part of the review to streamline foreign investment regulations.

Punjab records 27.9 pc credit growth
Chandigarh, March 16
The total credit in Punjab has crossed Rs 50,000-crore mark, by reaching Rs 51,969 crore as on December 31, 2006. The year-on-year growth in credit flow in the state stood at 27.9 per cent.

Arcelor-Mittal-Posco in the offing?
Seoul, March 16
Arcelor-Mittal, the world’s biggest steelmaker, could be interested in making a hostile takeover of South Korean steelmaker Posco Co Ltd, The Korea Economic daily said today.






A model displays a creation by Mexican designer Thamara Cruz at the Mexico Fashion Week's "Little Black Dress" show in Mexico
A model displays a creation by Mexican designer Thamara Cruz at the Mexico Fashion Week's "Little Black Dress" show in Mexico city on Thursday. — AFP 




 

HCL revival package on cards
New Delhi, March 16
In a bid to bail out copper giant Hindustan Copper Limited (HCL) from its financial morass, the government is planning to restructure the company’s capital and waive interest on its loan, guarantee fee among others to adjust against HCL’s accumulated loss of Rs 723 crore.

Intel to launch PC for Rs 9,000
512 MB RAM and 2 GB storage, ‘Classmate’ has it all
Baramati (Maharashtra), March 16
Leading processor maker Intel will soon introduce “Classmate”, a portable computer for children priced between Rs 9,000-11,000, in India under its “World Ahead” programme, aimed at adding a billion new global computer users.

Time is precious so is this watch
New Delhi, March 16
With a watch that costs you more than a crore of rupees, you are sure to feel on the top of the world. Swiss luxury watchmaker Greubel Forsey has unveiled its timeless piece “Double Tourbillion 30 degrees” for the first time in India, which will be available to select customers at retail price of Rs 1.62-1.85 crore.

Banking Regulation Bill okayed
New Delhi, March 16
A Bill seeking to give more operational flexibility to the RBI in the conduct of monetary policy was passed in the Lok Sabha today.

Merck bid
Ranbaxy makes it to next round

New Delhi, March 16
Ranbaxy is understood to have emerged as the sole Indian pharma entity to have moved into the next round of bidding for the generic business of Merck, even as compatriot Cipla claimed to be very much in the race.

Maersk kicks off shipping services from Chennai 
Chennai, March 16
Maersk Line, the world's largest container shipping line, today kicked off its services from here to the US East coast with its mother vessel Maersk Dijibouti which will complete the journey in 28 days.

Nod to SBI for foreign currency deals in China
Beijing, March 16
The State Bank of India (SBI) today became the first Indian bank to get a licence for offering foreign currency services to Chinese customers.

Volatile market delays Maruti divestment
New Delhi, March 16
The government has decided to go slow on sale of its remaining shares in Maruti Udyog Limited and complete the process by next fiscal as stock markets remain uncertain.

 

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Inflation surges to 6.46 per cent
States told to impose stock limits, de-hoarding
S Satyanarayanan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 16
Finance minister P Chidambaram today assured Parliament that the government will take further fiscal, monetary and supply side measures to moderate inflation even as he accused the opposition BJP of ridiculing the “Aam Admi” by ridiculing or ignoring the various programmes announced for the common man.

As per the latest WPI released today, the inflation stood at 6.46 per cent for the week ending March 3 as against previous week’s 6.10 per cent.

Chidambaram, who took considerable time explaining the reasons for inflation and the steps initiated by the government, asked state governments to help in de-hoarding.

Five states have imposed limits on wheat and pulse stocks, he said, while urging other state governments to heed the advice of Prime Minister and impose stock limits and start de-hoarding operations.

Noting with serious concern abnormal increase in the price of commodities like cement, the finance minister gave a veiled threat to cement manufacturers saying, “Government is still hopeful that cement manufacturers will realise their responsibility and moderate prices.”

“Government cannot plead helplessness or remain passive when the price of a commodity such as cement rises abnormally and at a very fast rate,” he said adding government will help, if the cement manufacturers are facing difficulties in adding capacity or accessing coal or other raw-materials.

He asserted that agriculture is at the top of the priority list in budget 2007-08, and government will address critical issues affecting the sector like credit, water, seeds, fertiliser and power.

The UPA government has substantially increased minimum support price for wheat and paddy in the past three years, he said, adding the cabinet has yesterday taken some decision concerning wheat prices.

Referring to the recommendations of national farmers commission to lower interest rate on farm credit by removing inefficiencies of the delivery system, he said: we shall keep in mind this recommendation while finalising the national policy on farmers.

Besides, agriculture insurance corporation may also be asked to start a weather-based crop insurance scheme in two or three states as an alternative to NAIS, he said.

He said, the government will consider all facts and circumstances objectively, to take suitable decision on export duty on iron ore announced in the budget.

Pointing out that the government has raised revenue in a responsible manner and allocated funds in a responsive manner, he said all this has been done without departing from fiscal responsibility.

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FDI Review
Govt to look at single cap for each sector

New Delhi, March 16
The government today said it was looking at having an uniform foreign direct investment (FDI) cap in different business segments within a sector as part of the review to streamline foreign investment regulations.

The same FDI limit in different segments within a sector would reduce the complexity and result in caps going up in different business area in sectors like media and aviation.

"We will see that...," commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath said when asked whether the government plans to have a single FDI cap for an entire sector.

Nath said the status review of the FDI policy and regulations was in progress to see how they can be streamlined.

In the review, the government is also looking at liberalising FDI in sectors that could become big employment generators with foreign capital.

However, in view of the political opposition, especially in the retail sector, the government is extra-cautious.

"Based on our experience we will be seeing how liberal FDI policy can generate employment," he said. — PTI

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Punjab records 27.9 pc credit growth
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 16
The total credit in Punjab has crossed Rs 50,000-crore mark, by reaching Rs 51,969 crore as on December 31, 2006. The year-on-year growth in credit flow in the state stood at 27.9 per cent.

This was stated by K Raghuraman, executive director, Punjab National Bank, while addressing bankers at the 99th meeting of State Level Bankers’ Committee (SLBC) here today.

Raghuraman said the committee had decided to complete the process of 100 per cent financial inclusion in two districts of Gurdaspur and Mansa, which had been successfully implemented in all villages of these districts. In this process, the banks had opened 4,125 “no frill” accounts and issued credit facility under GCC scheme to 711 beneficiaries.

He further said the banks in the state had opened 1,17,189 “no frill” accounts and provided financial assistance to 4,964 beneficiaries under GCC scheme.

Raghuraman said 104 new branches of commercial banks were opened in the state during the review period, thus, raising the network to 2,851. He also said the aggregate deposits of the banks registered growth of 17.9 per cent (from Rs 70,294 crore to Rs 82,899 crore) as against all India deposit growth of 12.9 per cent.

The banker said the overall CD ratio increased from 57.8 per cent as on December 2005, to 62.7 per cent as on December 2006, which was above the national goal of 60 per cent.

The priority sector advances in the state showed a growth of 20.9 per cent and at the end of December 2006, priority sector advances were 56.7 per cent of net bank credit, against the national goal of 40 per cent. Agriculture advances increased from Rs 10,221 crore to Rs 13,108 crore showing a growth of 28.2 per cent.

Sanjay Kumar, director (industries), Punjab, who was the chief guest on the occasion, said in order to increase credit to SSI sector, banks should not insist upon collateral security.

Others present on the occasion included Praneet Mahal Suri, secretary, finance, V. Ramachandra Rao, chief general manager, RBI, S.R. Aluru, chief general manager, NABARD, I.D. Singh, general manager, PNB, Punjab (south zone). 

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Arcelor-Mittal-Posco in the offing?

 Seoul, March 16
Arcelor-Mittal, the world’s biggest steelmaker, could be interested in making a hostile takeover of South Korean steelmaker Posco Co Ltd, The Korea Economic daily said today.

Posco has a fragmented, foreign-dominated share ownership (60 per cent) and is seen as a prime target for a takeover in the wave of global consolidation that began last year when Mittal bought European steelmaker Arcelor to create Arcelor-Mittal.

Citing an unnamed Posco executive, the paper reported that a senior Arcelor-Mittal executive expressed interest in Posco’s M&A strategy when he visited Seoul last month to meet company chief executive Lee Ku-taek.

“That means that Arcelor-Mittal has put Posco on its M&A target list,” the executive told the newspaper.

“The top management is pondering how to react to a potential hostile takeover bid,” the paper quoted the source as saying.

Posco, the world’s third-largest steelmaker, has a fragmented, foreign dominated share ownership and is seen by some as a prime target for a takeover in the wave of global consolidation that began last year when Mittal bought Arcelor to create Arcelor-Mittal.

The South Korean company forged an alliance with Japan’s Nippon Steel, the world’s second largest steelmaker after Arcelor-Mittal, in 2000 to better position itself for a global realignment in the industry.

Its share price has risen sharply recently on speculation that the steelmaker, which is more than 60 per cent owned by foreign investors, may become a target for a takeover attempt by Arcelor Mittal. — Agencies

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Posco readies defences

Posco, meanwhile, said today it was stepping up its defences to thwart any hostile takeover attempt amid reports Arcelor-Mittal was looking at the company.

“The company will acquire more friendly shares for stable management,” a company official said, adding that shareholders counted as friendly to the management now controlled 40 per cent of the company. “This will help Posco thwart a possible takeover bid by foreign firms.”

In January, shareholders approved Posco’s proposal to ease rules on selling new shares to strategic partners following talks here between chairman Lee Ku-Taek and Arcelor Mittal senior executive Roland Junck.

Posco said there had been no discussion of a merger or acquisition with Arcelor Mittal. 

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HCL revival package on cards

New Delhi, March 16
In a bid to bail out copper giant Hindustan Copper Limited (HCL) from its financial morass, the government is planning to restructure the company’s capital and waive interest on its loan, guarantee fee among others to adjust against HCL’s accumulated loss of Rs 723 crore.

“The government is considering to waive 7.5 per cent non-cumulative redeemable preference share amounting to Rs 180.73 crore and adjust it against accumulated losses,” official sources said.

In order to fund the company’s expansion plans worth Rs 1,800 crore, the mines ministry’s restructuring plan for HCL envisaged only non-cash support of about Rs 637 crore, the sources said and pointed out that the government was also considering to waive the PSUs outstanding dues against externally aided projects amounting to Rs 8.29 crore.

“Restructuring of capital through reduction of face value of equity share from Rs 10 to Rs 5 amounting to Rs 382.21 crore and its adjustment against the accumulated losses is another measure being considered,” they said.

The plan also envisaged waiving guarantee fees of Rs 15 crore (payable over a period of five years) for government guarantee released during 2006-07 for raising bank loan worth Rs 150 crore, they said.

Besides, the government was also planning to convert non-plan loan amounting to Rs 50 crore into equity and waiving its loan of Rs 1.03 crore for 2005-06 and subsequent accrual in the future, the sources added. — PTI

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Intel to launch PC for Rs 9,000
512 MB RAM and 2 GB storage, ‘Classmate’ has it all

Baramati (Maharashtra), March 16
Leading processor maker Intel will soon introduce “Classmate”, a portable computer for children priced between Rs 9,000-11,000, in India under its “World Ahead” programme, aimed at adding a billion new global computer users.

The company will soon begin talks with PC manufacturers and the government to support commercial production of “Classmates” in India.

Two pilot projects with “Classmate” have been undertaken at Delhi Public School, Delhi, and Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti, Faridabad, a senior Intel official said here on the sidelines of the seventh Baramati Initiative on ICT on e-health.

“Classmate PCs are being piloted in 25 countries this year, including India, and are designed to be entry points in education,” Intel Corporation chief strategist Chris S Thomas said.

“The PCs do not have a disk drive and use flash drive but have all necessary software and hardware to enable learning and internet browsing,” Thomas said.

“Classmate” has 512 MB RAM and 2GB storage and operates on Windows XP, targeting an age group of 12-15 years.

It will also have three security features, parental control on Internet usage, monitoring of machine by teacher PCs in the classroom and the kill switch to disable the machine in case of theft.

Classmate’s manufacturing cost is $300-400 and Intel looks to manufacture it locally in the range of $200-300.

On affordability, Intel Corporation will work with the government to possibly provide tax sops to manufacturers to further push down the cost. — PTI

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Time is precious so is this watch

New Delhi, March 16
With a watch that costs you more than a crore of rupees, you are sure to feel on the top of the world.

Swiss luxury watchmaker Greubel Forsey has unveiled its timeless piece “Double Tourbillion 30 degrees” for the first time in India, which will be available to select customers at retail price of Rs 1.62-1.85 crore.

Greubel Forsey brand, named after its inventors Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey, produces only 25 watches a year for its special customers worldwide.

Double Tourbillion 30 degree will be available in India in three variants of gold, white, yellow and pink, with a price tag of Rs 1.62 crore while the user will have to bail out Rs 1.85 crore for the platinum model.

Finex Distribution MD Raouff Ansari said the watches would be available through their two showrooms in the country, one in Maurya Sheraton here and Taj Hotel, Mumbai. — UNI

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Banking Regulation Bill okayed
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 16
A Bill seeking to give more operational flexibility to the RBI in the conduct of monetary policy was passed in the Lok Sabha today.

The Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill, replacing an ordinance promulgated on January 23 this year, seeks to amend section 24 of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 to enable the RBI to specify the statutory liquidity ratio (SLR) without any floor limit.

In the context of developments in the banking and finance sector and soaring demand for credit, it was no longer necessary to continue the existing floor limit of 25 per cent in the statute itself, finance minister P Chidambaram said amid opposition uproar over farmers' killing in Nandigram in West Bengal.

He explained that the regulator needed to have flexibility in this regard for managing liquidity in the system.

"It is necessary that RBI as the regulator and the authority vested with powers to conduct monetary policy have the necessary flexibility regarding stipulation of holding of liquid instruments by banks," he said.

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Merck bid  
Ranbaxy makes it to next round

New Delhi, March 16
Ranbaxy is understood to have emerged as the sole Indian pharma entity to have moved into the next round of bidding for the generic business of Merck, even as compatriot Cipla claimed to be very much in the race.

Industry sources said Ranbaxy had joined the likes of Teva, Mylan and Actavis to the next round for acquiring the estimated $6 billion generics business of the German company. Cipla had teamed up with a group of private equity firms for the bid.

When contacted, Cipla joint managing director Amar Lulla declined to comment on the specifics, but asserted that the consortium was very much in the race.

However, confusion prevailed as sources in the know of the development said it was only Ranbaxy Laboratories from India, which had made it to the next round. — PTI

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Maersk kicks off shipping services from Chennai 
Arup Chanda
Tribune News Service

Chennai, March 16
Maersk Line, the world's largest container shipping line, today kicked off its services from here to the US East coast with its mother vessel Maersk Dijibouti which will complete the journey in 28 days.

Hans-Ole Madsen, Maersk CE South Asia, said the shipping line would operate a weekly service from here and it would be a direct service coverage providing southern India from and to USA direct link.

He said the Chennai port would be a transshipment hub for cargo from/to Visakhapatnam, Kolkata, Haldia and Chittagong in Bangladesh.

Maersk already provided seven services a week from Maharashtra and Gujarat but would increase its services from other ports in India in the future, he added.

The shipping line's global turnover is $40 billion and South Asia accounted for $2 billion. India's share in the turnover at present is 6 percent of the South Asia turnover.

Madeson said, "Since manufacturing and exports from India is on the rise and trade from India is booming, Maersk will increase its investments in ports in India. We already have two ports in Nava Shiva in Maharashtra and Pipawa in Gujarat. We are looking for more developments in India." Maersk has a fleet of more than 500 container vessels and 14,00,000 containers and introduction of this direct service to the USA from here was expected to bring about a substantial change in trade in south India, Madeson said.

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Nod to SBI for foreign currency deals in China

Beijing, March 16
The State Bank of India (SBI) today became the first Indian bank to get a licence for offering foreign currency services to Chinese customers.

“We have just received the second license from the Chinese authorities,” chief executive officer of SBI-Shanghai branch, T.C.A. Ranganathan said.

According to Chinese banking regulations, the SBI, Shanghai, could earlier offer banking services only to foreigners or foreign enterprises in foreign currency.

“We have reached yet another milestone in operations in the world’s fastest growing economy. This is a major milestone for us,” he said.

“Now we are in a position to offer a range of services to Chinese customers as well,” Ranganathan said, expressing full confidence in tapping the galloping bilateral trade and mutual investments between India and China.

The second licence will allow the bank to offer foreign currency loans, credit advise, project funding, letter of credit, foreign currency guarantees, he said. — PTI

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Volatile market delays Maruti divestment

New Delhi, March 16
The government has decided to go slow on sale of its remaining shares in Maruti Udyog Limited and complete the process by next fiscal as stock markets remain uncertain.

"The financial bids for the government's remaining 10.28 per cent shares in Maruti will be invited next year," sources said.

They, however, said the disinvestment process would be completed in the first half of 2007-08 itself.

Since the government announced the sale of its remaining equity in the country's largest carmaker, its shares have witnessed wild swings. When the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs gave its go-ahead to the sale on December 21, the company's shares were trading at Rs 926.

From the highs of Rs 979 a share during the trading session on January 4 this year, it fell to Rs 755 on March 7.

The sale was expected when the markets stabilise, the sources added.

According to officials, the response to the notice inviting expression of interest (EoI) for the 2,96,79,689 shares held by the government has been "comfortable". — PTI 

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BRIEFLY

Hyundai ups car prices
New Delhi, March 16
Hyundai Motor today increased prices of all its car models in range of Rs 362 to Rs 2,816. Post increase the company's flagship hatchback Santro would become costlier by Rs 362 to Rs 562. It's premium hatchback Getz would become costlier in a range of Rs 753-Rs 923 across different variants. Accent would be dearer by Rs 999 while the newly launched Verna would become expensive in a range of Rs 1,183 to Rs 1,420. — PTI

BILT plan
Sabah (Malaysia), March 16
Ballarpur Industries Ltd (BILT) plans to invest close to a billion dollars over the next 7-8 years to expand its newly acquired Malaysian firm Sabah Forests Industries Sdn Bhd (SFI), the South-East Asian country’s biggest integrated pulp and paper mill. “In the first phase, we would be investing about $100 million in the next two-and-a-half years. Overall, we would be investing about a billion dollars,” BILT chairman Gautam Thapar said. — PTI

Moser Baer
New Delhi, March 16
Moser Baer India has lined up 450 distributors to market its new home video Hindi titles at over one lakh outlets in the country. The company has launched 101 Hindi home video titles which will be made available at one lakh outlets, including kirana stores, stationery shops, telecom shops and regular audio and video outlets. — UNI

Food card
New Delhi, March 16
ICICI Bank in association with Subhiksha has launched “Food Card”, targeted as an alternate to meal allowances given to employees by companies. The pre-paid card will be accepted at all Subhiksha outlets and select restaurants. It is re-loadable on monthly basis. The card is first being launched in Delhi and would soon be available in other cities. — UNI

PNB function
Chandigarh, March 16
PNB has honoured its branches and employees for their best performance for work in Hindi. B.R. Chopra, general manager, PNB, Haryana zone, gave away the prizes at a function held here today. The winners branches include: Chappra Kathgarh (Chandigarh), Rewara (Karnal), Chang (Hissar), Mall Pura (Rohtak) abd Jakholi (Kurukshetra). Rajni Jain, Santosh Kumari, Ashok Verma and Kamlesh Manchanda were the individual winners. — TNS

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