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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

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B U S I N E S S

TRAI cuts access deficit charges
Telecom tariffs set to fall significantly
New Delhi, March 21
Telecom tariffs, ISD calls in particular, are set to fall significantly with telecom regulator TRAI today announcing a cut of more than 37 per cent in access deficit charges (ADC), a levy paid by private players to BSNL for providing services in the rural areas.

RIL seeks special status for Jamnagar refinery
New Delhi, March 21
Mukesh Ambani-run Reliance Industries Ltd has sought government approval to turn its existing 33 million tons a year Jamnagar refinery in Gujarat into an export house, a status that would entitle the company duty free import of crude oil.

Idea inks deal with IBM
Mumbai, March 21
Idea Cellular has granted a 10-year contract worth $600-800 million to US technology major IBM to integrate and transform its business processes and IT infrastructure.

Tatas may shelve Bangladesh plan
New Delhi, March 21
Peeved at the delay in getting the approval of Bangladesh government, Tata group today hinted it may shelve plans to invest over $3 billion to set up power, steel and fertiliser projects in the country.

We will tackle power theft on war-footing, says PM
New Delhi, March 21
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has underlined the need to tackle power theft “truly on a war-footing” and said the government would work for a broad national consensus on power distribution and pricing reforms.

Huge potential in power sector: Shinde
New Delhi, March 21
Union power minister Sushil Kumar Shinde today invited energy service, equipment and appliance manufacturing companies from the SAARC region and the rest of the world to exploit the huge commercial opportunities being thrown up by India’s electricity sector.





A model displays a creation by Siddartha Tytler on the first day of the Wills India Fashion Week in New Delhi
A model displays a creation by Siddartha Tytler on the first day of the Wills India Fashion Week in New Delhi on Wednesday. — Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal


EARLIER STORIES

 
Norm W.K. Lo, vice-president (Asia Pacific), Research in Motion (RIM), displays a BlackBerry 8800 mobile phone at its launch in Mumbai.
Norm W.K. Lo, vice-president (Asia Pacific), Research in Motion (RIM), displays a BlackBerry 8800 mobile phone at its launch in Mumbai on Wednesday. The Blackberry 8800, the slimmest phone from the stable of the US phone maker, will be available in Indian market through Airtel and Hutch. — AFP

Centre fixes rehab onus on SEZ developer
New Delhi, March 21
With SEZs becoming a political hot potato after killings in Nandigram police firing, the Centre today announced changes in rules and made developers solely responsible for rehabilitation of displaced persons.

Pawar flays govt role in land acquisition
New Delhi, March 21
In the backdrop of violence at Nandigram, union agriculture minister and NCP supremo Sharad Pawar has said the government should not play any role in acquisition of farmland for industrial projects and let private companies directly deal with farmers.
Karsten Bogun, MD, Skoda India Ltd, at the launch of its third variant of “Laura Elegance” in Mumbai.
Karsten Bogun, MD, Skoda India Ltd, at the launch of its third variant of “Laura Elegance” in Mumbai on Wednesday. The car is priced at Rs 14.32 lakh (ex-showroom Mumbai). The company aims to sell 17,000 cars in India this year, up from 12,202 units in 2006. Bogun said the company would launch its small car “Fabia” later this year. — PTI

Liquidity squeeze to end soon: FM
New Delhi, March 21
Finance minister P Chidambaram has said the current liquidity tightening, which has pushed up call money rates to nine-year high yesterday, will ease in a few days as departments start spending money.

PSUs line up Rs 1,84,383 cr for next fiscal
New Delhi, March 21
Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) have lined up a whopping investment of Rs 1,84,383 crore in the next financial year, giving a shot in the arm to the growing Indian economy with the corporations like BSNL, ONGC, NTPC, Power Grid Corporation and Air-India, committing maximum of investment.

India to produce 175 MT steel by 2020: Paswan
New Delhi, March 21
Asserting that iron ore export should not be at the cost of domestic steel production, steel minister Ram Vilas Paswan said the country would produce 175 million tonnes (MT) of steel by 2020, making India the second largest steel producer in the world behind China.

 

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TRAI cuts access deficit charges
Telecom tariffs set to fall significantly
Tribune News Service

Telcos not amused

Meanwhile, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) expressed disappointment over the quantam of reduction in ADC.

“We are disappointed as we had expected the total ADC to come down to Rs 1600 crore,” COAI director-general T.V. Ramachandran said, adding the burden was 25 per cent higher for the current fiscal.

Ramachandran said the COAI had anticipated more benefits for domestic customers, which had not happened.

“It is a burden higher than expected,” he said, adding the association had pleaded for sparing domestic ILD customers from the levy.

New Delhi, March 21
Telecom tariffs, ISD calls in particular, are set to fall significantly with telecom regulator TRAI today announcing a cut of more than 37 per cent in access deficit charges (ADC), a levy paid by private players to BSNL for providing services in the rural areas.

The ADC levy for 2007-08 has been reduced to approximately Rs 2,000 crore from existing level of Rs 3,200 crore, TRAI said in a statement here.

In particular, international long distance (ISD) calls are likely to become cheaper as the levy on such calls has been completely removed from 80 paise being charged now. All private operators pay ADC to BSNL for carrying out social obligations like providing services in non-remunerative and rural areas.

The authority expects that the reduction in ADC would be fully passed on to the consumers by the service providers, TRAI said. The new regime would come into effect from April 1.

TRAI also reduced the levy on incoming ILD calls by 38 per cent to Re 1 from the Rs 1.60 per minute.

The ADC on percentage revenue share basis of the telecom operators has been reduced by 50 per cent.

Telecom operators would now have to pay 0.75 per cent of their adjusted gross revenues towards ADC from existing 1.50 per cent, TRAI said.

The levy would be charged on revenue of access providers generated from rural subscribers.

TRAI said ADC was a depleting regime and should be merged with universal service obligation fund, if considered necessary by the department of telecom.

ADC, which is for a limited period, is mainly to give time to telecom operators for rebalancing the tariff during a transition period.

The reduction in ADC would give greater flexibility to service providers for reducing the tariff and offer innovative packages to consumers, it said. The reduction in arbitrage in international incoming calls would give less incentive for ILD grey market, it added.

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RIL seeks special status for Jamnagar refinery

New Delhi, March 21
Mukesh Ambani-run Reliance Industries Ltd has sought government approval to turn its existing 33 million tons a year Jamnagar refinery in Gujarat into an export house, a status that would entitle the company duty free import of crude oil.

RIL has applied to the commerce ministry for grant of export-oriented unit (EOU) status for the refinery that has been in operation since July 1999, a highly placed government official said.

The company’s subsidiary Reliance Petroleum Ltd is already building an export-oriented 29 million tons a year refinery adjacent to the existing unit. The new refinery is scheduled to be completed in 2009.

The company plans to convert the refinery, which during its initial years of operation got tax rebates like income tax holiday and sales tax deferment, into an export house as it found selling petroleum products like petrol and diesel uneconomical due to the subsidy public sector firms receive from the government.

Indian Oil, Hindustan Petroleum and Bharat Petroleum have been able to keep fuel prices way below the cost as they got oil bonds and discounts from crude oil producers like ONGC to make up for the loss. Reliance and other private retailers like Essar Oil and Shell do not get such concessions.

Industry sources said EOU status would mean that RIL does not pay 5 per cent import duty on crude oil, resulting in lower cost of production of petrochemical feedstock naphtha, which is likely to find its way into Nova Chemicals of North America, RIL’s potential takeover target.

RIL will, however, continue to sell products from the Jamnagar refinery to its 1,367 retail outlets and liquefied petroleum gas to PSUs, the sources said, adding the company by virtue to the EOU status will get import parity price for LPG. — PTI

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Idea inks deal with IBM

Mumbai, March 21
Idea Cellular has granted a 10-year contract worth $600-800 million to US technology major IBM to integrate and transform its business processes and IT infrastructure.

The deal would help Idea meet the needs of its 14 million customers and future growth by supporting transformation of business critical processes, including billing, fraud management, e-billing and payment and customer care among others, Idea said.

It covers Idea’s existing operations and potential new additions, the company said, adding the agreement would help shore up its revenues and profits.

The partnership will also allow Idea to leverage opportunities from the convergence of voice, data, video and wireless technologies and add new revenue streams to provide a competitive edge, it said.

Besides, it would help Idea to empower its business with analytic tools for focused market segmentation and improve customer management to drive efficiency.

“We will harness IBM’s power to support Idea’s explosive growth with robust and best-in-class solutions,” Idea Managing Director Sanjeev Aga said.

All IT department employees of Idea would play a key role in the transformation, either as Idea employees or as IBM employees, he added. — PTI

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Tatas may shelve Bangladesh plan

New Delhi, March 21
Peeved at the delay in getting the approval of Bangladesh government, Tata group today hinted it may shelve plans to invest over $3 billion to set up power, steel and fertiliser projects in the country.

"While we may be interested in investments in Bangladesh, the more time it takes to come to an agreement or more delays happen, the more difficult it will be for us to invest in the country," Tata group's chief of Bangladesh operations Indranil Sengupta said.

"Any organisation has limited financial and human resources," he said, and warned the group was constantly looking for opportunities across the globe.

"As and when we keep committing to our resources to such opportunities, the resources becomes more limited," he said, citing the example of Tatas takeover of Anglo-Dutch steel company Corus Group Plc in a $12-billion deal. — PTI

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We will tackle power theft on war-footing, says PM

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hands over an award to REL executive vice-president A.N.Sethuraman in New Delhi.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hands over an award to REL executive vice-president A.N.Sethuraman in New Delhi on Wednesday.

New Delhi, March 21
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has underlined the need to tackle power theft “truly on a war-footing” and said the government would work for a broad national consensus on power distribution and pricing reforms.

“High transmission and distribution losses and constant theft of electricity are unacceptable propositions. These need to be tackled truly on a war-footing. I sincerely hope we can forge a broad national consensus on the challenges we face in this vital sector of our economy,” he said here after giving away national awards to the power utilities.

“We have not paid in the past adequate attention to this fact… Reforms in power distribution and pricing, therefore, are a vital aspect of the quest for energy security,” the Prime Minister said, adding he considered reforms in the distribution sector as vital for the commercial viability and sustainable development of the power sector.

Pointing that demand side management also has not received adequate attention in the past, he said: “We need to consciously plan and adopt energy efficient equipment, gadgets and lighting devices to save power”.

The Prime Minister said the demand for power had outstripped the supply and the shortages remained a constraint on the development and livelihood of people.

Reliance Energy bagged the gold and silver Awards for Dahanu thermal power station. The award wad handed over by the Prime Minister to A.N. Sethuraman, executive VP of Reliance Energy Ltd.

Seven power stations of NTPC bagged the prestigious national meritorious performance awards, NHPC bagged gold and silver awards for the 1000-MW Indira Sagar hydroelectric project.

While T Sankaralingam, CMD, received the awards on behalf of NTPC, S.K. Garg, CMD of NHPC received the awards on behalf of the company.

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Huge potential in power sector: Shinde
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 21
Union power minister Sushil Kumar Shinde today invited energy service, equipment and appliance manufacturing companies from the SAARC region and the rest of the world to exploit the huge commercial opportunities being thrown up by India’s electricity sector.

He was inaugurating the two-day conference on emerging investment opportunities in the South Asian power sector, organised jointly by FICCI, the South Asia Regional Initiative for Energy, USAID and the SAARC Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

Shinde said: “We need more than just one manufacturer for equipments such as turbines and boilers, especially for the units of the size of ultra mega power projects. We have, therefore, established a manufacturing arm of NTPC that will address the issue”.

Shinde said the government was laying emphasis on energy efficiency projects which could lead to a saving of 73 per cent of energy consumption.

The Bureau of Energy Efficiency, he said, had initiated several steps in the areas of energy conservation for the industry, domestic sector, commercial establishments and in agriculture.

The award of two ultra mega power projects of 4,000 MW each to private developers, Sasan (Madhya Pradesh) and Mundra (Gujarat) has set a new benchmark for electricity pricing in the country, he said, adding: “These projects will meet the power needs of a number of states through transmission of power on regional and national basis”.

The minister said in order to facilitate the development of the electricity market, the government had issued guidelines on development of merchant power plants.

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Centre fixes rehab onus on SEZ developer

New Delhi, March 21
With SEZs becoming a political hot potato after killings in Nandigram police firing, the Centre today announced changes in rules and made developers solely responsible for rehabilitation of displaced persons.

“The developer (of special economic zones) shall make adequate provision for rehabilitation of the displaced persons as per the relief and rehabilitation policy of the state government,” a commerce ministry notification said.

The sudden change in rules by the commerce ministry, the nodal agency for approving SEZs, has even preceded the finalisation of the rehabilitation policy being worked out by the ministry of rural development.

The announcement comes on a day when leaders of UPA as well as Left parties are meeting at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence.

Further, in a tightening measure to check speculation by real estate players, the validity for in-principle approval has been reduced from three years to one year.

However, the validity for formal approval remains three years because land possession is essential for getting the final nod from board of approval in the commerce ministry.

The developer will have to show it possesses irrevocable rights over land. — PTI

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Pawar flays govt role in land acquisition
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 21
In the backdrop of violence at Nandigram, union agriculture minister and NCP supremo Sharad Pawar has said the government should not play any role in acquisition of farmland for industrial projects and let private companies directly deal with farmers.

“My ministry would be happy if instead of government machinery to acquire land, we encourage dialogue directly from farmers and if farmers and entrepreneurs come to an understanding, then we have no objection,” Pawar said here today.

“We should avoid using government machinery for acquiring land,” he said.

Pawar said he was not against industry or industrial growth, but it must be ensured that the land to be acquired for such projects was not fertile irrigated land.

Meanwhile, minister of state for commerce and industry Ashwani Kumar said all outstanding concerns and issues pertaining to SEZs had been placed before the empowered group of ministers and were currently under consideration.

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Liquidity squeeze to end soon: FM

New Delhi, March 21
Finance minister P Chidambaram has said the current liquidity tightening, which has pushed up call money rates to nine-year high yesterday, will ease in a few days as departments start spending money.

Talking to reporters on the sidelines of the release of a report by UNESCAP here today, he attributed the present liquidity squeeze to advance tax payments.

“Liquidity (tightness) is mainly due to advance tax payments, it will be alright in a few days as the ministries, departments start spending money,” he said.

The government has collected around Rs 40,000 crore in advance tax payments in the last quarter of this fiscal ended March 15.

Liquidity squeeze pushed up call money rates to 60 per cent intra-day yesterday before they closed at 17 per cent. — PTI

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PSUs line up Rs 1,84,383 cr for next fiscal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 21
Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) have lined up a whopping investment of Rs 1,84,383 crore in the next financial year, giving a shot in the arm to the growing Indian economy with the corporations like BSNL, ONGC, NTPC, Power Grid Corporation and Air-India, committing maximum of investment.

According to Assocham Eco Pulse (AEP) study on ‘Plan investment of CPSEs in 2007-08’ released by its president Venugopal N. Dhoot, the maximum of the investments have been lined up in the sectors like petroleum and natural gas (Rs 38,902 crore), power (Rs 28,387.73 crore), telecom (Rs 25,471 crore), following the sectors like shipping (Rs 12,612 crore), civil aviation (Rs 12,192 crore) and steel (Rs 6,202 crore).

BSNL would be investing Rs 22,881 crore for improving its network, infrastructure along with the help of global vendors. ONGC would invest Rs 17,887 crore whereas Air-India has tied up Rs 6,337 crore for modernising its fleet. NTPC is on top of CPSEs in the power sector with the investment plan of Rs 12,792 crore whereas the Power Grid Corporation would be spending Rs 6,500 crore in the financial year 2007-08.

“Thanks to the economy growing at over 9 per cent, the plan investment by CPSEs would increase by Rs 42, 029 crore, sharing an increase of 33 per cent in 2007-08 compared to the previous year”, the Assocham chief said.

Total internal resources of the public sector enterprises have increased by an impressive 31 per cent in fiscal 2007-08 by Rs 22,798 crore. Where ONGC remained the largest holder of the internal funds of Rs. 16518 crore in 2006-07 also, Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited, would multiply its pool of funds by more than three-fold.

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India to produce 175 MT steel by 2020: Paswan
S. Satyanarayanan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 21
Asserting that iron ore export should not be at the cost of domestic steel production, steel minister Ram Vilas Paswan said the country would produce 175 million tonnes (MT) of steel by 2020, making India the second largest steel producer in the world behind China.

“Our steel policy envisages a production level of 110 MT by 2020, but we are likely to achieve a production of 175 MT by the same period,” Paswan said, asking the steel industry to gear up their production needs.

He was addressing a press conference after launching the nationwide steel promotion campaign organised by the Institute of Steel Development and Growth.

On the contentious issue of iron ore export, the minister said, “I am not against export of iron ore but the needs of the domestic utilities and their expansion plans would have to be factored in while allowing export of ore”.

Paswan, however, did not favour increasing the export duty on iron ore as proposed by in the budget.

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BoR deposit scheme

Chandigarh, March 21
The Bank of Rajasthan (BoR) has introduced special deposit scheme in which interest @ 10 per cent per annum would be paid for 15 months deposit. Senior citizens will get 10.25 per cent interest. The scheme is open up to March 31. — TNS

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BRIEFLY

OBC tie-up for online trading
New Delhi, March 21
The Oriental Bank of Commerce and IDBI Capital, a subsidiary of IDBI today signed an MoU to offer online trading to bank customers through a web portal. "The agreement will enable around 8.8 million bank customers across the country to invest and sell stocks at the BSE and the NSE through online trading, besides accessing expert advice about different stocks," OBC chairman and managing director K N Prithviraj told newspersons after signing the MoU. The bank has also plans to provide service of trading through mobile phones to its customers, he said. — TNS

VLCC outlet
New Delhi, March 21
VLCC said today it has opened its first weight management clinic in Abu Dhabi as a part of its Dh 100 million Gulf cooperation council (GCC)-wide expansion. “The new clinic is a part of VLCC’s expansion plan, aimed at servicing its growing client base in the region, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE” the company said, adding that it soon expected to make its foray into Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, taking the total number of VLCC centres in the West Asia to 28. — PTI

OSRAM
Chandigarh, March 21
OSRAM has become the world’s first lighting manufacturer to receive approval from the United Nations for clean development mechanism (CDM) for reducing CO2 emissions. This sustainable methodology based on the Kyoto Protocol will enable many millions of incandescent light bulbs to be directly replaced by energy-saving lamps over the next few years in developing and emerging countries mainly in Africa and Asia. — TNS

Centurion Bank
Chandigarh, March 21
Centurion Bank of Punjab has increased its branch network from 249 to 279 branches and 408 ATMs across 143 locations in this fiscal year. This was disclosed by managing director and CEO of the bank Shailendra Bhandari. All 23 new branches will provide the entire bouquet of products and services. — TNS

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