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IPI Pipeline
Iran invites Manmohan, Musharraf to sign pact

New Delhi, June 29
Despite stiff US opposition, Iran, Pakistan, and India are close to signing the $7-billion gas pipeline pact, with Tehran today inviting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to sign the documents. Union minister for petroleum and natural gas Murli Deora (2nd left) with Iran's special representative of ministry of oil, Ghanimi Fard and Pakistani secretary of ministry of petroleum and natural resources, Ahmad Waqar (2nd right) before a meeting in New Delhi
Union minister for petroleum and natural gas Murli Deora (2nd left) with Iran's special representative of ministry of oil, Ghanimi Fard and Pakistani secretary of ministry of petroleum and natural resources, Ahmad Waqar (2nd right) before a meeting in New Delhi on Friday. Petroleum secretary M.S. Srinivasan (right) is also seen. — Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal

Kesoram lines up  Rs 1,200 cr for expansion
Kolkata, June 29
B K Birla group company Kesoram Industries Ltd (KIL) had lined up investment plans totalling to Rs 1,200 crore to ramp up its cement and tyre manufacturing capacity through greenfield and brownfield expansion.

Inflation declines to 14-month low at 4.03 pc
New Delhi, June 29

The annual rate of inflation slowed to a 14-month low at 4.03 per cent for the week ended June 16 as prices of some food articles and cereals declined.

McDonalds to serve Indian dishes in West
New Delhi, June 29
Global fast-food chain, McDonalds, which entered India over a decade ago, plans to export dishes from its unique Indian menu to please the western palate, having tasted success in the Middle-East market.

BEL eyes buyouts in Europe
Bangalore, June 29
Defence PSU Bharat Electronics (BEL), which was accorded Navratna status last week giving it greater financial and operational autonomy, is planning to acquire technology companies overseas.


Tata Group's chairman Ratan Tata addresses shareholders at an AGM of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in Mumbai
Tata Group's chairman Ratan Tata addresses shareholders at an AGM of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in Mumbai on Friday. TCS is close to buying two firms in Latin America for about $50 million, Business Standard daily said on Friday, citing unnamed sources. — Reuters


 
Traditional decoration items hang for sale at a stall in Janpath Market in New Delhi
Traditional decoration items hang for sale at a stall in Janpath Market in New Delhi on Friday. India is the second fastest-growing travel and tourism economy in the world with its annualised growth projected at 8.8 per cent between 2005 and 2014 as per the forecast released by the WTTC covering 174 countries. — AFP

US withdraws sops on Indian jewellery import
Washington, June 29
Days after the collapse of G-4 talks on WTO, the US has withdrawn concessions given to imports on gold jewellery and brass lamps from India as well as auto parts from Brazil as part of a revision of trade sops given to developing countries.

Nath: Indo-US trade to double by 2009
Washington, June 29
Highlighting India's ''healthy'' trade relations with the United States, commerce minister Kamal Nath expressed hope that the bilateral trade would double to over $60 billion by 2009.

GMR Energy top contender for HP project
Shimla, June 29
GMR Energy has emerged as a top contender for the 180-MW Bijoli-Holi hydro-electric project on the Ravi in Chamba district. The Malana Power Company was the front runner for the 200-MW Bara Bhangal project on the Ravi and 140-MW Chango-Yangthang project on Spiti river.

RBI exits State Bank of India
New Delhi, June 29
In its biggest-ever cash purchase, the government today acquired entire RBI’s shareholding in the State Bank of India, consisting of 31,43,39,200 equity shares with face value of Rs 10/- each @ Rs 1130.35 per share. The cash purchase is worth Rs 35,531 crore.

Rao is IBA chief 
Mumbai, June 29
The Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) has selected Canara Bank CMD M B N Rao as its chairman for 2007-08. A K Khandelwal of Bank of Baroda and TS Narayanasami of Bank of India will be deputy chairmen of IBA along with Citibank NA CEO (India) Sanjay Nayar. VJ Carneiro, general manager and CEO, Citizen Credit Co-operative Bank, has been elected as honorary secretary. — PTI

RPG to invest Rs 1,000 cr in retail
Mumbai, June 29
RPG group chairman Harsh Goenka today announced that the group would invest Rs 1,000 crore on the expansion of its retail subsidiary ‘Spencer’s Retail’ and will access the capital market to raise further funds in next 12 months.

 

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IPI Pipeline
Iran invites Manmohan, Musharraf to sign pact
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 29
Despite stiff US opposition, Iran, Pakistan, and India are close to signing the $7-billion gas pipeline pact, with Tehran today inviting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to sign the documents.

“President Ahmdinejad has invited your Prime Minister and President of Pakistan so that we could have the documents signed,” special envoy of the Iranian oil minister Hajjatollah Ghanimifard told reporters here today.

He said the meeting could take place in July or August. He, however, said gas supplies would commence in 2011.

“All major elements have been thrashed out,” petroleum secretary M S Srinivasan said as he emerged from the talks with his Pakistani counterpart Ahmad Waqar and Ghanimifard.

India and Pakistan have agreed in-principle to calculate a transportation fee for Iranian gas to be supplied via the pipeline, but, they are yet to reach an agreement on the transit fee.

“I am glad we have reached an agreement to a great extent on all sides,” petroleum minister Murli Deora said.

“We are very close to resolving the entire thing. Next month, the ministers should be able to meet in Islamabad and then in Iran,” Srinivasan said.

The Iranian demand for revising the gas price every three years is yet to be resolved, Srinivasan said. Another issue being discussed is the transit fee that Pakistan will receive for allowing transit of the gas to India, said Waqar Ahmed.

According to Iranian formula, the gas would be priced at $4.93 per mBtu.

India will pay Pakistan the transport tariff it requested of $0.70-0.75 per mBtu, but the two countries are yet to agree on transit fees.

Iran said it has completed about 18 per cent of the work in its territory on building a pipeline that would carry natural gas to India and Pakistan and the income from gas sales will be used for general economic development of the country.

New Delhi says Islamabad can seek transit fee only for about 240-km portion of the gas pipeline that will be specifically required up to the Indian border. It argued that since about 795-km pipeline from the Pakistan-Iran border will also be utilised by Pakistan, there should be no transit fee for this segment.

The 2,600-km pipeline from Iran’s South Pars gas field will initially carry around 60 million standard cubic metres per day of gas, which would be split between India and Pakistan equally.

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Kesoram lines up  Rs 1,200 cr for expansion

Kolkata, June 29
B K Birla group company Kesoram Industries Ltd (KIL) had lined up investment plans totalling to Rs 1,200 crore to ramp up its cement and tyre manufacturing capacity through greenfield and brownfield expansion.

“We will invest Rs 700 crore in a new car radial tyres at Uttaranchal and Rs 500 crore to expand our cement production capacity,” KIL director S K Parik said today.

The investment will be made over the next two years and the company, he said, will fund the expansion through internal accruals and loan.

“Internal accruals will be to the tune of Rs 300-350 crore and rest will be funded by ICICI Bank and the SBI and the entire loan amount had been tied up,” Parik said.

The company would add 1.6 million tonne of cement capacity at Karnataka to take its consolidated capacity to five million tonne (clinker and cement combined). The greenfield car tyre unit will have a capacity to produce 320 metric tonne. KIL’s existing tyre capacity is 230 metric tonne. — PTI

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Inflation declines to 14-month low at 4.03 pc
S. Satyanarayanan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 29
The annual rate of inflation slowed to a 14-month low at 4.03 per cent for the week ended June 16 as prices of some food articles and cereals declined.

The inflation rate for the previous week was 4.28 per cent. The annual rate of inflation was 5.5 per cent during the corresponding period last year.

Analysts here point out that the decline in inflation to the short-term target level of 4 per cent set by the RBI would definitely ease pressure on the central bank to further strengthen monetary tightening policy.

However, they anticipate that the RBI would remain neutral and will not make any major change in the present monetary policy while announcing its quarterly policy in the end of July.

The RBI has raised benchmark rates nine times since October 2004 to damp consumer demand and would now wait for the fuller impact of the rise in interest rate on borrowings to check inflation.

After the inflation dipped to 4.28 per cent last week, finance minister P. Chidambaram had felt that “it was too early to come to a conclusion and we will have to monitor it (inflation) for five to six weeks.”

Earlier this week, in London, he maintained that the RBI tightening of the monetary policy and rupee appreciation had helped moderate inflation and more rate increase may not be needed if the trend continues.

The index for food articles declined by 0.3 per cent due to lower prices of fish-marine and maize (4 per cent each) and fruits and vegetables, urad and jowar (1 per cent each). However, the prices of bajra (3 per cent), masur (2 per cent) and poultry chicken, eggs and rice (1 per cent) moved up.

The index for food products declined by 0.4 per cent to 182.6 due to lower prices of imported edible oil (5 per cent), gur, sugar and Khandsari (2 per cent each) and rice bran oil and gingelly oil (1 per cent).

The index for non-food articles rose by 0.2 per cent to 206.0 due to higher prices of groundnut seed (3 per cent) and gingelly seed and rape and mustard seed (1 per cent each). 

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McDonalds to serve Indian dishes in West

New Delhi, June 29
Global fast-food chain, McDonalds, which entered India over a decade ago, plans to export dishes from its unique Indian menu to please the western palate, having tasted success in the Middle-East market.

The McAloo Tikki, a fried breaded potato and peas patty, is already very successful in the Middle-East market and “We are looking at other markets,” said Vikram Bakshi, head of Connaught Plaza Restaurants Pvt Ltd, the JV partner of McDonalds Corporation in north zone.

However, the taste of the dishes would be adapted to suit the western palate, he added.

Other Indian dishes in McDonalds menu here include Veg McCurry Pan, Pizza McPuff and Paneer Salsa Wrap.

The JV company would also look at ushering in the franchise model to speed up expansion. Part of this would be a Rs 400 crore investment already planned for spreading into the eastern market.

Bakshi said the JV would open 45 stores in the next one year, while admitting that they faced acute attrition problem which was about 83 per cent in the front-end of the restaurant and 5 to 6 per cent in the high-end. — PTI 

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BEL eyes buyouts in Europe

Bangalore, June 29
Defence PSU Bharat Electronics (BEL), which was accorded Navratna status last week giving it greater financial and operational autonomy, is planning to acquire technology companies overseas.

“We are looking at companies which can provide core technologies for our future growth,” chairman and managing director of the defence electronics firm V V R Sastry said.

BEL has identified 5 to 6 technology areas, including those related to phase array radars, for acquisition.

“We are looking at (acquiring) futuristic technologies where we feel that developing such technologies inside the company will take a longer time,” Sastry said.

He indicated that potential acquisition target is European firms, as “the USA is still not opened up and there are some restrictions.” — PTI 

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US withdraws sops on Indian jewellery import

Washington, June 29
Days after the collapse of G-4 talks on WTO, the US has withdrawn concessions given to imports on gold jewellery and brass lamps from India as well as auto parts from Brazil as part of a revision of trade sops given to developing countries.

The exporters of gold jewellery from India, the world's largest producer, would now have to pay an import duty of  4 per cent. 

The duty-free access was withdrawn under its annual review of Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) through a proclamation signed by US President George Bush yesterday.

The changes mean exporters of gold jewellery from India, the world's largest producer, would now have to pay an import duty of 4 per cent. The move will impact close to $1.8 billion of jewellery exports to the US, which accounts for one-third of the total shipment of $5.21 billion.

The decision would also affect exports of brass lamps, hitting the handicraft sector struggling under the impact of hike in rupee value.

The concessions were removed on imports that exceeded the new statutory threshold in 2006 established by US Congress, US Trade Representative Susan Schwab said in a statement. — PTI

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Nath: Indo-US trade to double by 2009

Washington, June 29
Highlighting India's ''healthy'' trade relations with the United States, commerce minister Kamal Nath expressed hope that the bilateral trade would double to over $60 billion by 2009.

''The United States is India's largest trading partner, accounting for 16.8 per cent of the country's exports and 6.3 per cent of its imports in 2005, he told a press conference here yesterday, after a series of meetings with the US officials.

The two countries were adding a new content to their trade, along with the its growing volume, he said.

India was committed to the success of multilateral Doha Round of WTO Negotiations, the commerce minister said.

''We want a strong multilateral trading system and are keen to push forward this process through whatever means necessary,'' he added.

In reply to a query, he denied the allegation that India had adopted an intransigent stance in the global trade talks and had, in the process, isolated itself.

When his attention was drawn to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's speech here on Wednesday, questioning the relevance of the Non-aligned Movement (NAM) of which India is a leading member, Nath said, ''I don't know how the connection with the NAM exists.''

In the context of the global trade talks, he accused the United States of trying to enrich its flourishing farm sector at the cost of millions of extremely poor farmers in India and other developing countries.

Nath called for the Bush administration to embrace poor countries' interests in the Doha Round.

The minister also met US Trade Representative Susan Schwab and commerce secretary Carlos Gutierrez.— UNI

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GMR Energy top contender for HP project
Tribune News Service

Shimla, June 29
GMR Energy has emerged as a top contender for the 180-MW Bijoli-Holi hydro-electric project on the Ravi in Chamba district. The Malana Power Company was the front runner for the 200-MW Bara Bhangal project on the Ravi and 140-MW Chango-Yangthang project on Spiti river.

According to sources in the state electricity department, the firm quoted the highest upfront premium of Rs 91 lakh per megawatt to outbid major players like Reliance Energy and Larsen & Toubro, Lanco, Jaypee and Torrent-Gammon consortium. The GMR Energy is already executing hydro-electric projects in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand. The Rs 1,000-crore project will be implemented over a period of six years.

The companies will give 12 per cent free power to the state for the first 15 years of operation, 18 per cent in the next 15 years and 30 per cent in the subsequent 10 years as per the power policy of the state.

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RBI exits State Bank of India
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 29
In its biggest-ever cash purchase, the government today acquired entire RBI’s shareholding in the State Bank of India, consisting of 31,43,39,200 equity shares with face value of Rs 10/- each @ Rs 1130.35 per share. The cash purchase is worth Rs 35,531 crore.

Though, SEBI (Substantial Acquisition of Shares and Takeovers) Regulations, 1997, known as Takeover Regulations, were not applicable in this transaction, for sake of greater transparency, the valuation of RBI stake in SBI was worked out as per the SEBI guidelines taking February 28, 2007, as the “reference date”.

February 28 is the day on which the decision of the government to acquire RBI stake in SBI was announced by finance minister P Chidambaram in his Budget speech. The government has also decided to acquire RBI’s shareholding in Nabard and NHB by June, 2008. 

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Rao is IBA chief 

Mumbai, June 29
The Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) has selected Canara Bank CMD M B N Rao as its chairman for 2007-08. A K Khandelwal of Bank of Baroda and TS Narayanasami of Bank of India will be deputy chairmen of IBA along with Citibank NA CEO (India) Sanjay Nayar. VJ Carneiro, general manager and CEO, Citizen Credit Co-operative Bank, has been elected as honorary secretary. — PTI

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RPG to invest Rs 1,000 cr in retail

Mumbai, June 29
RPG group chairman Harsh Goenka today announced that the group would invest Rs 1,000 crore on the expansion of its retail subsidiary ‘Spencer’s Retail’ and will access the capital market to raise further funds in next 12 months.

After re-launching Spencer’s hyper market here, Goenka said Spencer’s retail, which presently has 400 outlets comprising of Music World, Book, RPG Cellcom and Health across the country, further aimed at growing to 2,000 stores by 2009 and then taking it to 5,000 stores by 2011. — UNI 

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BRIEFLY

Suzlon Energy
New Delhi, June 29
Suzlon Energy Ltd today said it has received an additional 300 MW order from US-based PPM Energy for $300 million. The US utility company had earlier awarded a 400 MW order to Suzlon. The original agreement calls for delivery of 300 MW of turbine capacity in 2008 and 100 MW of capacity in 2009. — UNI

Lifestyle stores
New Delhi, June 29
Lifestyle International Ltd will open 36 stores in the country over the next three years with an investment of Rs 450 crore. Based on an in-depth understanding of consumer needs and preferences in India, the Lifestyle Store is built around five concepts, including fashion garments for men and women, health and beauty products, households and furnishings department, company’s executive director Kabir Lumba said. — UNI

Tata Tele
Kolkata, June 29
With the objective of increasing the subscriber base from 23 lakh to 41 lakh, Tata Teleservices is planning to invest Rs 436 crore in eastern India in the current fiscal. Speaking at a press conference here today, Tata Tele COO Abhijit Paul said: “The company has planned to open 654 new exclusive retail outlets in the region and adding 977 BTS towers.” — UNI

Airtel
Shimla, June 29
Airtel has achieved another landmark with the number of its subscribers crossing the six lakh mark in the hill state. According to the latest figures released by the Cellular Operators Association of India, Airtel had 6,05,140 customers as on May 31. Chief of operations R V S Bhullar said the last one lakh subscribers have been added in a record time of 60 days, enabling the company to retain its top position in the state. — TNS

Disney books
New Delhi, June 29
Illustrative books publisher Parragon will introduce popular titles for kids from the Walt Disney range in India to tap the growing pictorial content market here. “India has a huge market for illustrative books. Our current offering, coupled with Disney titles would help us in doubling our sales in the country to two lakh books a month,” Parragon Publishing (India) managing director Vineet Sharma said. — PTI

Fulcrum plan
Mumbai, June 29
Fulcrum Logic, a global software solutions provider, has announced its India expansion plans by making a phase-wise investment of $50 million. The company plans to strengthen its employee base in Mumbai and Pune facilities from 400 to 1,200 in the first phase and further to 4,500 in five years, the company said. — PTI

Tanishq outlets
Kolkata, June 29
In a bid to tap the burgeoning Rs 90,000 crore jewellery market in India, Tanishq will expand its retail outlets to 110 and set a growth target of 40 per cent in 2007-08. Speaking to mediapersons here today, Tanishq business manager (east) Dwaipayan Sen said: “We want to set up standalone stores and shops in the malls. Currently, we have 94 Tanishq stores in 66 towns.” — UNI

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