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No immediate hike in oil prices: Deora
Murli DeoraSrinagar, June 18
The government today ruled out any immediate increase in petrol and diesel prices despite a spurt in international crude oil prices. “We have no plans to hike prices of petrol or petroleum products for the time being,” Murli Deora said here.

Murli Deora

CNG for J&K, ethanol-based fuel for HP
Petroleum and natural gas minister Murli Deora said today that the government was working to introduce CNG as fuel for commercial vehicles in Srinagar, but it could take up to two years as the availability of natural gas was not sufficient.

Blackstone to snap up Intelenet
Forays into BPO segment in India
Mumbai, June 18
After investing around a billion dollars in various Indian firms, leading global private equity (PE) investor Blackstone Group will acquire 100 per cent stake in BPO firm Intelenet, with backing from the Indian company's management team. HDFC and Barclays Bank today announced exit from their equal joint venture Intelenet Global Services.

Mumbai joins the financial hub league
Pips Hong Kong, Beijing; grabs 10th slot
Mumbai, June 18
Driven by high trading volumes for
equities, good presence of global banking and financial services firms, Mumbai has grabbed a place in the world’s top 10 financial flow hubs list, beating Hong Kong and Beijing.

FDI cap in PSU refineries may go up
New Delhi, June 18
A comprehensive proposal to review the foreign investment norms will soon be taken up by the Cabinet for approval, seeking to raise the investment cap to 49 per cent in commodity exchanges and PSU oil refineries.

5 firms line up Rs 2,000 cr for Maharashtra
Mumbai, June 18
Five major industry groups have signed MoUs to set up projects in Maharashtra entailing an investment of Rs 2,000 crore. The heads of these groups signed separate MoUs with the state government at a formal function here today.

Neha Dhupia poses with a handset at the launch of India's first Internet radio feature cellphone in Mumbai on Monday.
Neha Dhupia poses with a handset at the launch of India's first Internet radio feature cellphone in Mumbai on Monday. The "Cell Radio Links" from Tata Indicom, offers 41 global and local radio stations on a limited range of mobile phones for a subscription fee of Rs 25 for 15 days across its circles. — AFP photo

EARLIER STORIES

 
An employee walks out from between parked Tata commercial vehicles in Pune on Monday.
An employee walks out from between parked Tata commercial vehicles in Pune on Monday. Tata Motors launched two new ranges — Magic and Winger — in the commercial passenger vehicle segment. The vehicles will cost Rs 2.6 lakh and 4.7 lakh, respectively. — AFP photo

India, Canada set billion dollar trade target
New Delhi, June 18
A bilateral trade target of $10 billion annually in goods and $10 billion in services, set by the India-Canada CEOs roundtable at its first meeting in New Delhi last March, was reaffirmed by participants at the second meeting held in Montreal today.

Corporate News
Hyundai may hike car prices
New Delhi, June 18
Hyundai Motors India Ltd is mulling over increasing prices of its various models, including sedan Verna, Getz Prime and flagship model Santro, by next month.

Mobile signal jam alarms TRAI
New Delhi, June 18
As India adds over six million mobile subscribers a month, problems of interconnectivity within the service providers are becoming "alarming" with such enormous growth, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said Monday.

PPF account can be extended beyond 25 years
A clarification
PPF facility can be extended by an account holder every five years and even beyond 25 years.

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No immediate hike in oil prices: Deora

Srinagar, June 18
The government today ruled out any immediate increase in petrol and diesel prices despite a spurt in international crude oil prices.

“We have no plans to hike prices of petrol or petroleum products for the time being,” Union Petroleum Minister Murli Deora told reporters here.

Deora, who chaired a regional meeting of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, said reviewing prices of petroleum products was a continuous process.

Prices of petroleum products have not been reviewed since February. International crude prices have risen 10-12 per cent since mid-February when petrol prices were slashed by Rs 2 a litre and diesel by Re 1 per litre.

In response to a question, Deora said the government was yet to take a final decision on the quantum of oil bonds to be given to state-run oil marketing companies.

“This is under discussion... we are still to meet the finance minister. How much, we can’t say (but) we will try our best to get the maximum,” he added.

The government’s refusal to allow companies such as IndianOil Corp, BPCL and HPCL to raise prices is likely to cause a revenue loss of more than Rs 50,400 crore this year, according to industry estimates.

At least one-third of this projected on fuel sale will be borne by upstream firms like ONGC, while the government will also share part of the burden by way of compensating fuel retailers through issue of oil bonds. The rest will have to be split between the retailers and the consumers.

After talks between finance and oil ministries, the Cabinet will decide on the bonds to be issued to IOC, BPCL and HPCL as also the need for raising prices.

An Iranian delegation will visit India next month in a bid to finalise an agreement on the $7-billion pipeline to bring gas from the fuel-rich nation to India and Pakistan.

“Only two weeks back, the secretary (ministry of petroleum) was in Tehran and after one month, they (Iranian officials) would be coming to meet us,” Deora told reporters.

Discussions were on with Iran and Pakistan on prices and how the pipeline would be brought to India, he said, adding major issues have been sorted out while pending issues like transportation fees and alignment would be worked out soon.

The issue was also discussed with Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz during his visit to India recently, he said.

He, however, said no time frame could be set for such a massive project involving $7-8 billion investment.

Incidentally, the prices of oil traded close to a nine-month high in New York at $68.25 a barrel

As people residing in hill states of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand face difficulty in getting petroleum products, oil marketing firms have decided to increase the retail outlets of petrol, diesel and LPG.

Oil marketing companies have plans to set up 25 more retail outlets and 3 more LPG distributorships in Himachal Pradesh, 49 outlets and 24 distributorships in J&K and 22 outlets and 3 distributorships in Uttarakhand.

Oil marketing companies like IOC, BPC and HPC, under the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, have an extensive infrastructure in these states for the marketing and distribution of petroleum products.

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CNG for J&K, ethanol-based fuel for HP
Kumar Rakesh
Tribune News Service

Petroleum and natural gas minister Murli Deora said today that the government was working to introduce CNG as fuel for commercial vehicles in Srinagar, but it could take up to two years as the availability of natural gas was not sufficient.

Deora held a meeting with J&K Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Himachal Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and representatives of Uttarakhand, the CM of which could not attend the meeting, to take stock of petroleum and gas situation in these states.

Accompanied by top officials of his department, he said the oil and gas companies would build storage capacities in the interiors of J&K so that people did not face any crisis in winters when the state was often cut off by road from the rest of the country.

The decision came on the request of Azad at the meeting. The budget for the building of storage capacity, the Cabinet minister said was above Rs 90 crore the ministry had decided to spend in the state.

The ministry officials disclosed that despite the notion of backwardness attached to all three hilly states, the supply of LPG in their households was far ahead of the national average. The LPG covered, they said, 85 per cent of the population in J&K, while it was 90 and 97 per cent for Uttarakhand and Himachal, respectively. The national average is a paltry 45 per cent. The deep penetration in the hilly states had, they claimed, halted deforestation caused often for the sake of fuel.

The ministry also said it would introduce ethanol-blended petrol in Himachal from the first week of July after its maiden use in Uttarakhand. This petrol is not only environment-friendly, but also beneficial for farmers, who could make more money by processing sugarcane into ethanol.

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Blackstone to snap up Intelenet
Forays into BPO segment in India

Mumbai, June 18
After investing around a billion dollars in various Indian firms, leading global private equity (PE) investor Blackstone Group will acquire 100 per cent stake in BPO firm Intelenet, with backing from the Indian company's management team.

HDFC and Barclays Bank today announced exit from their equal joint venture Intelenet Global Services by selling stakes to SKR BPO Services, co-owned by Blackstone GVP Capital and Intelenet management, for an undisclosed amount.

However, industry sources pegged the figure at around $420 million (over Rs 1,700 crore).

The deal marks the US-based PE investor's first major investment in the country's booming business process outsourcing (BPO) space. Blackstone has already picked up significant stake in media (Ushodaya Enterprises), real estate (Chennai-based SSI) and pharma space (Emcure Pharmaceuticals).

Intelenet Global Services Pvt Ltd (IGSPL), with gross assets of $107 million, provides business processing services to local and international customers.

"Blackstone has a superb record in financing companies.

Its support in the buy-out is testimony to the strength of the Intelenet brand, the team and the potential of the global BPO industry," Intelenet Global Servies CEO Susir Kumar said.

Kumar added with the present management team continuing to be in charge of operations, it will represent a seamless change of ownership and the business as usual for all our stakeholders.

Intelenet, which has over 17,000 employees, services over 60 local and international clients from 18 delivery centres across India. KPMG was the adviser for this transaction.

Following the conclusion of the transaction, Intelenet will continue to provide services to Barclays in relation to certain processes currently offshored to India.

The BPO company has also agreed to assist Barclays in establishing a wholly-owned BPO in India, which will serve Barclays' incremental offshoring requirements going forward.

Meanwhile, in a related development, Sparsh BPO Services said it has been asked by the Board of Directors of SKR BPO Services to execute the share purchase agreement and purchase 6.84 crore equity shares (being 100 per cent of the voting capital) of IGSPL.

IGSPL holds 51 per cent of the voting capital of Sparsh BPO.

“Since the acquisition of the equity shares of IGSPL by SKR BPO Services results in an indirect acquisition of control of the company, which could also be regarded as an indirect acquisition of the shares, SKR BPO is to make an open offer to the public shareholders,” Sparsh BPO Services informed the BSE. — PTI

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Mumbai joins the financial hub league
Pips Hong Kong, Beijing; grabs 10th slot

Mumbai, June 18
Driven by high trading volumes for equities, good presence of global banking and financial services firms, Mumbai has grabbed a place in the world’s top 10 financial flow hubs list, beating Hong Kong and Beijing.

The city has been ranked 10th among the world’s biggest centres of commerce in terms of the financial flow volumes by a survey compiled by Mastercard Worldwide, which has taken into consideration the size of financial services network besides equity, bond, derivatives and commodity contract transactions.

The list, led by London and New York on the first two slots, include two other Asian cities- Tokyo at fifth and Seoul at sixth positions.

The other cities include Chicago, Frankfurt, Paris, Madrid and Milan.

“The Asia-Pacific, west Asia and Africa (APMEA) region boasts of three cities which got included in the premier league - Tokyo, Seoul and Mumbai- due to their high trading volumes in bonds and equities,” Mastercard Worldwide said in its first Worldwide Centres of Commerce Index study.

According to the study, the financial flow dimension is an integration of five indicators - financial services network, equity transactions, bond transactions, derivatives contracts traded and commodities contracts traded - all carrying equal weightage.

“These top-ranking centres of commerce conform to the network of global financial transactions and flow although more detailed analysis would show specialisation between the centres in areas such as bonds, derivatives and equity trading,” Mastercard said.

The study also ranked the world’s top cities in terms of their performance as overall centres of commerce in the global economy, where Mumbai was at 45th position, while London, New York and Tokyo stood at the top three positions.

China got represented by three cities in the top-50 list, with Hong Kong grabbing the fifth position, Shanghai at 32nd and Beijing at 46th position. However, Mumbai was the only Indian city on the list.

This index consisted of six dimensions — legal and political framework, economic stability, ease of doing business, financial flow, business centre and knowledge creation and information flow.

Mumbai, however, did not figure in the individual top-10 list on the five metrics other than financial flow. — PTI

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FDI cap in PSU refineries may go up

New Delhi, June 18
A comprehensive proposal to review the foreign investment norms will soon be taken up by the Cabinet for approval, seeking to raise the investment cap to 49 per cent in commodity exchanges and PSU oil refineries.

"The Department of Industrial Promotion and Policy is preparing a note in this regard, which will be soon sent to Cabinet for clearance," official sources told PTI.

The note is likely to peg foreign investment cap in commodity exchanges to 49 per cent with limit on FDI at 26 per cent and FIIs at 23 per cent, similar to the ceiling in stock exchanges, the sources said.

But an individual entity is likely to be allowed to pick only up to 5 per cent in commodity exchanges, they said.

This means foreign investors like New York Mercantile Stock Exchange will be allowed to buy up to 5 per cent stake in bourses like Multi Commodity Exchange and NCDEX.

The sources said those foreign investors which already have more than 5 per cent in commodity exchanges would be given some time to bring down stake to 5 per cent.

Goldman Sachs picked up 7 per cent equity in NCDEX for 23.1 million dollar from ICICI Bank in July last year.

They added once the government gave clearance to FDI limit in commodity exchanges, the Reserve Bank might issue guidelines for allowing foreign investors to pick up stake in the country's commodity exchanges.

In oil refinery sector, the Petroleum Ministry has already moved the Cabinet for allowing 49 per cent FDI in state-run Hindustan Petroleum's Bathinda refinery, where steel tycoon L.N. Mittal plans to buy the stake.
The sources said the two notes by DIPP and Petroleum Ministry could be merged to seek overall Cabinet permission for raising FDI limit in PSU oil refineries, so that Mittal's proposal could be cleared. — PTI

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5 firms line up Rs 2,000 cr for Maharashtra

Mumbai, June 18
Five major industry groups have signed MoUs to set up projects in Maharashtra entailing an investment of Rs 2,000 crore. The heads of these groups signed separate MoUs with the state government at a formal function here today.

Industries’ principal secretary V K Jairath signed the MoUs on behalf of the government.

The projects, that will come up in some of the industrially backward regions of the state, would manufacture viscose fibres, different grades of steel, high-end fabric, BOPP film and high-end technology products.

The biggest project that was announced was that of Modi Fibres, which in alliance with Lenzing Group of Austria, would produce 80,000 tonnes of viscose fibres at Patalganga for a total investment of Rs 750 crore.

Jabil, a global leader in electronic product solutions, has projected to invest $100 million. This Florida-based company is the third largest electronic manufacturing services provider in the world.

Sona Alloys, promoted by the Gujarat-based Jain group, will be setting up a greenfield integrated steel plant at Lonand with an investment of Rs 350 crore.

Ludhiana-based Oswal group will set up a unit in alliance with F M Hammerle of Austria at Kagal near Kolhapur to make shirt fabric. The company will invest Rs 295 crore in the plant with a capacity of 12 million metres of high-end shirting fabric.

Jindal Poly Films, which already has a plant at Nasik to make BOPP films, will be increasing its capacity from 45,000 tonnes to 1.80 lakh tonnes with an additional investment of Rs 125 crore. — PTI

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India, Canada set billion dollar trade target
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 18
A bilateral trade target of $10 billion annually in goods and $10 billion in services, set by the India-Canada CEOs roundtable at its first meeting in New Delhi last March, was reaffirmed by participants at the second meeting held in Montreal today.

Minister of commerce and industry Kamal Nath, who participated in the meeting along with Prime Minister of Quebec Jean Charest, told the CEOs that India and Canada must seize this opportunity to increase the two-way trade and investment flows.

The minister suggested that along side the target of $10 billion each annually, India and Canada should work to achieve $5 billion a year in bilateral investment flows by 2012.

He also expressed the hope that the completion of the Doha Round of WTO negotiations would go a long way in liberalising and enhancing trade and investment flows between the two countries.

“It is heartening that in the last few months, Indian investment in Canada has picked up substantially. Last February, Hindalco acquired Novelis for about $6 billion and the Essar Group acquired Algoma Steel for $1.7 billion in April. Last year, the Tata Group had acquired Teleglobe and the Birlas Minacs Worldwide, a BPO firm. This trend is likely to continue,” Nath said.

He also hoped that more Canadian companies would invest in India, to exploit the synergies that exist between the two sides.

Referring to the economic scenario in India, Nath informed the Canadian CEOs that the Indian economy had grown by 9 per cent and the aim was to take this growth to 10 per cent in the next couple of years.

“Growth of this magnitude would unleash demand of various kinds. We are now faced with the need for better infrastructure, particularly power, roads, energy, environmental technology and raw materials,” he said.

Earlier, Nath had bilateral meetings with Canadian minister of international trade David Emerson and the premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, besides bilateral interaction with the premier of Quebec, a press note said.

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Corporate News
Hyundai may hike car prices

New Delhi, June 18
Hyundai Motors India Ltd is mulling over increasing prices of its various models, including sedan Verna, Getz Prime and flagship model Santro, by next month.

According to sources, the company has more or less decided to hike the price of Verna, which was launched in September last year in both petrol and diesel version with introductory prices.

The company, however, is yet to finalise the quantum of the price hike, the sources added. When contacted, HMIL officials declined to comment.

Currently, Getz Prime is priced between Rs 3.89 lakh and Rs 4.21 lakh for the 1.1 litre engine variant, while the 1.3 litre starts at Rs 4.89 lakh up to Rs 5.24 lakh.

Navratna status

Power Finance Corporation (PFC) today announced that the Government of India has conferred the Navratna status on the company and a formal investiture ceremony in this regard is scheduled to be held in New Delhi on June 22.

The development will now allow higher operational freedom to the company's board of directors with regard to the extent of investment in joint ventures, incurring of capital expenditure, creation of below board level positions and investment in equity, the company added.

RBI website

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today announced that it has launched a multi-lingual site, in which users can get access to various information in 13 different languages. The site includes recent instructions of the RBI related to customer service, frequently asked questions (FAQs), bank lending rates, Banking Ombudsman scheme, Right to Information Act and links to commercial banks’ websites. The site can be accessed at ‘www.rbi.org.in/commonperson’, said a RBI statement.

UTI MF stake

UTI Asset Management Company will float an initial public offer (IPO) by March-end to help its sponsors, SBI, LIC, PNB and BoB, offload up to 50 per cent stake.The company chairman and managing director U K Sinha said the board of the company had recently approved the proposal to offload up to 50 per cent stake held by the four sponsors. The State Bank of India (SBI), The Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), Punjab National Bank (PNB) and The Bank of Baroda (BoB), individually hold 25 per cent stake each in the asset management firm.

Sinha said the UTI AMC would probably be the first domestic mutual fund in the country to go for an IPO, through which the four sponsors would make a partial exit. — Agencies

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Mobile signal jam alarms TRAI

New Delhi, June 18
As India adds over six million mobile subscribers a month, problems of interconnectivity within the service providers are becoming "alarming" with such enormous growth, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said Monday.

According to the regulator's directive in June 2005, interconnection between two operators should not cross 0.5 per cent.

"The degree of congestion between the operators is alarming. In a number of cities, the level of congestion between the networks of different operators is far more than this benchmark (of 0.5 percent)," TRAI said in a statement here.

When a subscriber of one service provider calls a subscriber of another service provider, the call gets routed through a point, called point of interconnectivity or POI.

The congestion is highest in Bihar, Assam, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, the northeast, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh (east), Orissa, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Jammu and Kashmir, where the congestion level goes as high as 40 per cent.

TRAI is also worried that huge jams in mobile networks have led to loss of calls, repeated attempts by callers leading to customer dissatisfaction and deterioration in the quality of service. — IANS

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PPF account can be extended beyond 25 years

A clarification

PPF facility can be extended by an account holder every five years and even beyond 25 years.

This was made clear by the Regional Director, National Savings Institute, Ministry of Finance, here today in response to queries.

A letter from the Regional Director said: “As per the existing provisions of the PPF scheme, the PPF account can be extended for a further block of five years on the expiry of 15 years or on the expiry of 20 years or on the expiry of 25 years and so on, from the end of the year in which the initial subscription was made. Hence the PPF account can be extended for any number of block of five years without any limit.”

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