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Sensex’s biggest fall of year 

Mumbai, August 16
Fears of a global credit squeeze continued to haunt the domestic stock market today as the benchmark BSE Sensex plunged 642 points in its second-biggest fall ever on massive selling pressure triggered by concerns of spreading US subprime mortgage sector crisis.
Re cheaper  by 61 paise

A stock trader reacts as he watches his trading screen at a brokerage house in Mumbai on Wednesday
A stock trader reacts as he watches his trading screen at a brokerage house in Mumbai on Wednesday. — AFP photo

DLF seals Rs 1,675-cr deal 
New Delhi, August 16
In one of the largest real estate deals in the capital, realty major DLF today said it has reached an agreement to acquire 38 acres of land from DCM Shriram Consolidated Ltd (DSCL) and Lohias Group for Rs 1,675 crore in Delhi.

EGoM to decide gas pricing
EAC recommends market-determined price
New Delhi, August 16
An Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM), headed by external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee, will decide on pricing and utilisation of gas from new fields like Reliance Industries' KG-D6, based on inputs from a committee of secretaries (CoS) and Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council (EAC).


 

EARLIER STORIES

 
Qantas chief executive Geoff Dixon reacts to a question during a press conference in Sydney on Wednesday. Australian flag carrier Qantas said its annual net profit surged 50 percent to a record $719.4 million (Australian) as robust passenger demand offset higher fuel costs. Qantas also announced a billion dollar buy back about 10 percent of its shares, made possible by a cash position of $3.4 billion.
Qantas chief executive Geoff Dixon reacts to a question during a press conference in Sydney on Wednesday. Australian flag carrier Qantas said its annual net profit surged 50 percent to a record $719.4 million (Australian) as robust passenger demand offset higher fuel costs. Qantas also announced a billion dollar buy back about 10 percent of its shares, made possible by a cash position of $3.4 billion. — AFP photo

TRAI not to intervene in mobile tariff fixation
New Delhi, August 16
Telecom regulator TRAI today said it cannot regulate mobile tariffs, although it felt that a recent hike in call and SMS rates by some operators was not in the interest of consumers.

Food security mission gets CCEA nod 
New Delhi, August 16
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today gave its approval for launching a centrally-sponsored National Food Security Mission (NFSM).

New agriculture scheme okayed
New Delhi, August 16
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today gave its approval for a new additional central assistance scheme. The objectives of the scheme are: (i) To enhance public investment in agriculture and allied sectors; (ii) to incentivise states to draw up comprehensive state and district agriculture plans; and (iii) to help the states to achieve targeted agricultural growth rates.

India Post to acquire aircraft
New Delhi, August 16
State-run India Post is seeking to beat growing competition from private courier companies by acquiring its own aircraft that would carry mail by the end of this month.

Nokia helpline for replacing batteries
New Delhi, August 16
World's largest handsets manufacturer Nokia today announced a series of special services, including SMS, helpline and website to help its consumers expeditious identification of the ''BL-5C'' batteries and subsequent replacements, if required.

SEBI mulls code for financial advisers
Hyderabad, August 16
The SEBI plans to put in place soon a self-regulatory code for the financial advisers, who offer advice to the investors on the financial products and schemes.

Chairman of Birla Group of Companies B.K. Birla and his wife Sarala Birla take a walk in their garden at Birla Park in Kolkata on Thursday. Having drawn the blueprint to divide his over 7,000-crore business empire between his daughters and grandchildren, B.K. Birla has set about restructuring unlisted companies in the group.
Chairman of Birla Group of Companies B.K. Birla and his wife Sarala Birla take a walk in their garden at Birla Park in Kolkata on Thursday. Having drawn the blueprint to divide his over 7,000-crore business empire between his daughters and grandchildren, B.K. Birla has set about restructuring unlisted companies in the group. — PTI photo
 

Banks gear up against money laundering 
New Delhi, August 16
The cost of fighting money laundering has risen dramatically for banks across the world as they have become increasingly engaged in the struggle against criminality.

Crude import to touch 85 pc: Assocham
New Delhi, August 16
Domestic crude oil imports requirement may go up to about 85 per cent by 2012 from current level of 70 per cent in view of growing demand of energy with little resources at India’s disposal for harnessing its alternate sources.

No coin shortage: RBI
Mumbai, August 16
Close on the heels of the finance minister’s statement that the shortage of coins will be met within four to six weeks, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today denied any scarcity of coins in the country.

Andhra Bank eyes US, West Asia
Kolkata, August 16
Andhra Bank is planning a major expansion in its foreign business and working on a joint venture (JV) alliance for foraying into insurance sector.

 

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Sensex’s biggest fall of year 

SHOCK IN MUMBAI
A stock trader reacts as he watches his trading screen at a brokerage house in Mumbai, on Thursday.
A stock trader reacts as he watches his trading screen at a brokerage house in Mumbai, on Thursday. — AFP photo

Mumbai, August 16
Fears of a global credit squeeze continued to haunt the domestic stock market today as the benchmark BSE Sensex plunged 642 points in its second-biggest fall ever on massive selling pressure triggered by concerns of spreading US subprime mortgage sector crisis.

As soon as the market resumed trading after the Independence Day holiday, the Sensex fell 415.99 points as it mirrored the impact of a fresh global stocks meltdown.

Bourses worldwide crumbled for the second day in a row on selling triggered by the turmoil in US credit markets after two other American mortgage lenders seemed to be in trouble.

The Bombay Stock Exchange barometer fluctuated in a range of 14,584.92 and 14,345.03 before ending the day at 14,358.21, a net fall of 4.28 per cent from Tuesday's close.

Re cheaper  by 61 paise

The Indian rupee today crashed 1.5 per cent in its biggest one-day loss this fiscal against the US dollar as foreign funds continued to pull out from equities following the global turmoil caused by the US subprime crisis.

The rupee went on a downward spiral to a nearly four-month low of 41.36/37 against the greenback, cheaper by 61.50 paise from Tuesday's close of 40.745/ 40.755. In active trade at forex market, which opened today after the August 15 Independence Day holiday, the local currency resumed sharply lower at 41.02/04 a dollar. It later moved further down to the day's low of 41.3750 due to heavy dollar buying.— PTI

This is the biggest fall of the year and the second largest in the history of the stock exchange. This is also the third time this fiscal that the key index has fallen more than 600 points in a day.

The broader S&P CNX Nifty of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) nosedived by 191.60 points or 4.38 per cent to close at a two-month low of 4,178.60 from previous close of 4,370.20.

Market players said fresh selling onslaught was triggered by fears of a global credit crunch that led to consistent pull out by Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs). All indices, including sectoral and dollex, were down by 4.0-6.5 per cent.

Indices in Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea ended down by 2.0 to 7.0 per cent.

Fresh scare in global markets was set off by worries that Countrywide Financial, the largest US mortgage lender, could face backruptcy if liquidity worsened after Merrill Lynch downgraded its shares, reportedly disclosing this possibility.

Another mortgage real-estate investment trust Thornburg Mortgage reportedly announced it would stop making new loans and delayed a dividend payment after getting margin calls.

On the BSE, all 30 Sensex scrips registered sharp losses. Heavyweight counters like RIL, SBI, Grasim, ICICI Bank, ONGC, Bharti Airtel, HDFC, BHEL, Infosys Tech and L&T closed with losses.— PTI

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DLF seals Rs 1,675-cr deal 
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 16
In one of the largest real estate deals in the capital, realty major DLF today said it has reached an agreement to acquire 38 acres of land from DCM Shriram Consolidated Ltd (DSCL) and Lohias Group for Rs 1,675 crore in Delhi.

It is seen as the largest private sector real estate transaction with potential value creation in excess of Rs 12,000 crore.

DCM said the company’s board of directors has approved sale of 50 per cent rights, titles and interests in SBM Land Redevelopment Project.

As per the internal estimates of the company, this acquisition, coupled with the previous acquisitions of contiguous plots, will add Rs 4,000 crore to its Net Asset Value (NAV). It would also increase the NAV of the existing IT SEZ project by Rs 1,000 crore, thereby the total cumulative NAV would increase by Rs 5,000 crore, it said.

DLF Group company already owns 25 acres in an adjoining piece of land. Recently, it had also contracted to purchase another adjoining piece, measuring two acres, from Pure Drinks Ltd.

With this deal, the DLF owns around 66 acres in the area and plans to come out with an integrated township and IT SEZ.

“It has been on our mind for sometime to monetise this asset to support our growth plans. The sale of this project represents a well considered exit option,” Ajay and Vikram Shriram, chairman and vice-chairman of DCM, respectively, said in a joint statement.

The development would be nestled by a 121 acre city park, making it one of the most picturesque and environmentally friendly projects - involving rain water harvesting, water re-cycling and use of sewage water for landscape greenery. 

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EGoM to decide gas pricing
EAC recommends market-determined price

New Delhi, August 16
An Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM), headed by external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee, will decide on pricing and utilisation of gas from new fields like Reliance Industries' KG-D6, based on inputs from a committee of secretaries (CoS) and Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council (EAC).

Following Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's approval on August 6 for setting up the EGoM, the cabinet secretariat issued a notification for constitution of the 8-member body on August 13.

"The eGoM will be serviced by the petroleum ministry, who will place all relevant material, including the report of the CoS headed by cabinet secretary dated July 24 and the report of the chairman, EAC before the EGoM," the notification said.

Mukesh Ambani-led RIL, under the rights granted to it in the production sharing contract for KG Basin, had proposed a price of $4.33 per million British thermal unit (mBtu) to $4.58 per mBtu for gas from the D6 block.

But the rates were opposed by key consumers like power and fertiliser sectors in general and Mukesh's younger brother Anil in particular.

The CoS in its report upheld RIL's right to fix the gas price and said the sovereign commitment given in NELP cannot be altered.

EAC, on the other hand, has upheld RIL's pricing formula and said allocations made to priority sectors (like fertiliser and power) should only be at market determined price.

Separately, minister of state for petroleum and natural gas Dinsha Patel informed theLok Sabha that the EGoM would decide on issues related to gas pricing under the New Exploration and Licensing Policy (NELP), which gives companies the right to sell discovered oil and gas at market price.

Global energy majors BG and BP have urged the government to maintain the sanctity of production sharing contract (PSC), which allows operators to sell oil on international price parity basis and gas in the domestic market on arms length basis, he said in a written reply. — PTI 

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TRAI not to intervene in mobile tariff fixation

New Delhi, August 16
Telecom regulator TRAI today said it cannot regulate mobile tariffs, although it felt that a recent hike in call and SMS rates by some operators was not in the interest of consumers.

“Mobile tariffs fall under forbearance (whereby the operators have freedom to fix tariffs)... although the recent hike in tariffs of SMSs and local calls is not a consumer-friendly measure but there is no scope for intervention as long as there is forbearance,” TRAI chairman Nripendra Misra said.

Two leading GSM operators - Airtel and Hutch - hiked local call charges within their own networks to Rs 1.20 a minute from Re one and also SMS tariffs were raised to Rs 1.20 from Re one. Earlier this month, they had raised STD rates too.

“The tariffs in India are reasonably low than anywhere in the world,” he said, but also did not see rates rising after the hike by these two operators. “I would like the telecom companies to be more transparent.”

In rural India, the basic tariffs are decided by the government, while mobile tariffs are market driven. The operators are also required to inform the change in any tariff structure to the customers as well as to the regulator for the purpose of awareness and transparency.

In the recent case, the operators had published small advertisements in the newspapers but did not inform subscribers either through SMS or call. — PTI 

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India Post to acquire aircraft

New Delhi, August 16
State-run India Post is seeking to beat growing competition from private courier companies by acquiring its own aircraft that would carry mail by the end of this month.

"All these years, the Postal Department was considered to be a social service unit, but now we want to make it into a business unit. Our focus will be on the business clientele," said John Samuel, general manager, India Post.

The aircraft is being taken on wet lease from domestic carrier Indian.

"Having our own aircraft will help in having an image makeover and also to deliver consignment at the earliest possible and of course cut down the logistic cost," Samuel told IANS.

All details of the new operation have been worked out and it would be just be a matter of days before the first plane carrying mails and parcels will take off. The aircraft will bear the India Post logo, while the colour is still kept under wraps.

"It is a wet lease, where the freighter and the pilot will be from Indian airline. But only India Post cargo will be allowed. This is the first time Indian is operating a freighter. If all goes well we are most likely to begin our operations on August 29," he added. — IANS

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Food security mission gets CCEA nod 
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 16
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today gave its approval for launching a centrally-sponsored National Food Security Mission (NFSM).

The mission aims at increasing production of rice, wheat and pulses through a set of measures such as area expansion, productivity enhancement in selected districts; restoring soil fertility; creating employment opportunities; and enhancing farm level economy to restore the confidence of the farmers of the targeted districts.

In addition to the above, the CCEA also approved the revision in the existing norms governing ISOPOM (Integrated Scheme of Oilseeds, Pulses, Oil Palm and Maize) and distribution of quality seeds, addition of more implementing agencies and inclusion of new components.

The NFSM will have three components - (i) National Food Security Mission - rice; (ii) National Food Security Mission - wheat; and (iii) National Food Security Mission - pulses.

Total financial implications for the NFSM will be Rs 4,882.48 crore during the XI plan. Beneficiary farmers will contribute 50 per cent of cost of the activities/work to be taken up at their/individual farm holdings. Beneficiaries can choose to draw loans from the banks, in which case subsidy amount prescribed for a particular component for which the loan availed, will be released to the banks.

As many as 133 districts of 12 states (A.P., Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, M.P., Orissa, Tamil Nadu, U.P. and West Bengal) will be covered under NFSM-Rice; 138 districts of nine states (Punjab, Haryana, U.P., Bihar, Rajasthan, M.P., Gujarat, Maharashtra and West Bengal) will be covered under NFSM-Wheat; and 168 districts of 14 states (A.P., Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, M.P., Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Haryana, U.P. and West Bengal) under NFSM-Pulses. 

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New agriculture scheme okayed
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 16
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today gave its approval for a new additional central assistance scheme. The objectives of the scheme are: (i) To enhance public investment in agriculture and allied sectors; (ii) to incentivise states to draw up comprehensive state and district agriculture plans; and (iii) to help the states to achieve targeted agricultural growth rates. The scheme will enable them to draw up plans for their agriculture sector more comprehensively, taking agro-climatic conditions, natural resources, and technology into account, and by integrating livestock, poultry and fishery.

The outlay under the scheme would depend upon the amount provided in the budgets, over and above the base line percentage expenditure incurred by the state governments. The funds under the ACA would be provided as 100 per cent grant by the Centre. An outlay of Rs 1,500 crore for 2007-08, along with an allocation of Rs 25,000 crore for five years has been approved by the CCEA. It would result in quantifiable increases in agriculture and allied sector production, productivity and farm incomes and reduction in yield gaps.

Industrial Corridor Project outline

The union cabinet today approved ‘in principle’ four proposals in regard to Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) Project outline.

The proposals are: i) Development of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC); ii) coverage of investment regions and industrial areas in phase I of DMIC project; iii) Organisation structure, including setting up of an apex authority chaired by the union finance minister; and iv) formation of Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Development Corporation (DMICDC) for which the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion would initiate immediate action.

An MoU was signed between India and Japan during the visit of the Prime Minister to Japan in December last year for establishment of the DMIC Project. It is expected to develop industrial activity along the dedicated freight corridor.

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Nokia helpline for replacing batteries

New Delhi, August 16
World's largest handsets manufacturer Nokia today announced a series of special services, including SMS, helpline and website to help its consumers expeditious identification of the ''BL-5C'' batteries and subsequent replacements, if required.

Customers can call Nokia Care at 30303838 prefixed by the local STD code if dialing from a mobile number or 080 if dialing from a landline and can cross-check the serial number on his/her battery, Nokia India said in a statement.

They can even SMS BT (space) followed by 26 character battery identification number and send it to 5555 or customers can log on to www.nokia.co.in and enter the 26 character battery identification number.

In case the battery is covered under the product advisory, the consumer will be advised to replace the battery.

''A new free battery will be delivered at the doorstep by courier, in exchange of the old battery. For all other cases which are not covered under the product advisory, the consumer can safely continue to use the battery,'' the company said.— UNI

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SEBI mulls code for financial advisers

Hyderabad, August 16
The SEBI plans to put in place soon a self-regulatory code for the financial advisers, who offer advice to the investors on the financial products and schemes.

Taking note of the fact that a large number of financial consultants were involved in the investment advice business, SEBI chairman M Damodaran told newspersons here that the board was working on a ''self-regulatory'' code of conduct for investment advisers, giving advice to clients without any formal contract and not having discretion over and custody of client assets, not only in securities but also other products like insurance, commodities, pension and government products, including bonds, postal and company deposits.

He said SEBI wanted to facilitate formation of a self-regulatory organisation industry-wide, represented by all categories of financial advisers so that advice was rendered professionally for a consideration and with a sense of responsibility. — UNI

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Banks gear up against money laundering 
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 16
The cost of fighting money laundering has risen dramatically for banks across the world as they have become increasingly engaged in the struggle against criminality.

In addition, there is a marked shift in the attitude of senior management in India and Asia-Pacific region with increasing interest and involvement of senior management in anti-money laundering (AML).

However, the task is becoming more difficult due to the increasing complexity of the financial markets in which they operate, including greater exposure to sometimes unfamiliar emerging markets and the dramatic growth of alternative assets, according to a global study by KPMG Forensic.

KPMG’s study, among 224 banks from 55 countries, found that banks’ spending on AML systems and processes has risen by an average of 58 per cent over the last three years. Itr further points out that senior management are getting more involved in AML, with 71 per cent of banks saying directors at the highest level are actively involved in it.

Despite sophisticated monitoring technology being available, 97 per cent of banks say they are dependent on the vigilance of staff to monitor and identify suspicious activity, and about 34 per cent say they are not satisfied with the effectiveness of their transaction monitoring systems. Only about 18 per cent describe themselves as ‘very satisfied’, the study said.

Deepankar Sanwalka, head, Forensic Services, KPMG in India, said: “Though banks rely on vigilance staff to identify suspicious activity but in India and some other countries of ASPAC training is relatively unsophisticated, reflecting outdated legislation and lack of regulatory pressure.”

In India, although it is common for banks to provide training that meets the minimum regulatory requirements, the quality of some of the training-taking place in the region might need to improve to bring it up to international standards.

“With international banks bolstering their presence in emerging market economies and a low interest rate environment driving growth in alternative assets including hedge funds, private equity and commodity investments, the need for more stringent AML processes has grown. Banks will need to work extremely hard from here if they are to maintain any advantage in the war against money laundering and terrorist financing,” Sanwalka said.

With greater spending and training, the number of suspicious activity reports (SARs) being generated has also increased to about 70 per cent of banks.

Banks are also making greater efforts to identify politically exposed persons (PEPs) who could be the conduits for laundered money. 

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Crude import to touch 85 pc: Assocham
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 16
Domestic crude oil imports requirement may go up to about 85 per cent by 2012 from current level of 70 per cent in view of growing demand of energy with little resources at India’s disposal for harnessing its alternate sources.

The upward trend in crude import would be despite refining capacity in India and is poised to increase by 58 per cent to touch 235 million tonnes in the next five years from the present level of about 159 million tonnes, according to a paper on future imperatives of crude oil scenario, prepared by the Assocham.

The chamber is of the view that India’s dependence on crude oil will increase as domestic discoveries have not been taking place while our energy demand in future will multiply and rise to the level of 12-13 per cent compared to 7-8 per cent now.

Secondly, harnessing the alternate sources of energy, though available in abundance in India, is becoming a problem and that is why India’s dependence on crude oil import will go up until massive discoveries take place for extraction of crude oil.

“It is true that refining capacities will also register a manifold increase but for that we need a crude oil, which is a scarce commodity now and will continue to be so in future too,” said Assocham president Venugopal N. Dhoot.

However, the chamber is of the view that the higher crude oil imports will not impact the trade deficit adversely as most of the new capacities are aimed at exporting value added products. Hence, the import bill would be, to a great extent, offset by exports of petroleum products. 

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No coin shortage: RBI

Mumbai, August 16
Close on the heels of the finance minister’s statement that the shortage of coins will be met within four to six weeks, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today denied any scarcity of coins in the country.

The RBI’s denial has come in the backdrop of recent media reports and complaints from the public about the said shortage in certain states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, the North-East and Orissa. — UNI 

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Andhra Bank eyes US, West Asia

Kolkata, August 16
Andhra Bank is planning a major expansion in its foreign business and working on a joint venture (JV) alliance for foraying into insurance sector.

“We are currently present in Dubai and have drawn up a road map for a greater overseas presence in the USA and West Asia. A JV subsidiary in Malaysia is also underway with the Bank of Baroda and Punjab National Bank,” chairman and managing director K Ramakrishnan said here today.

“We have already applied with US regulators for a representative office in New Jersey. We also wish to expand in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar,” he added.

The bank will be able to tap the huge potential of Indians working in West Asia after opening offices in the Gulf nations.

Speaking about the insurance foray, Ramakrishnan said: “We want to enter the sector as both life and non-life insurance are lucrative. However, we will be do so by forming or joining an alliance. We are scouting for a foreign partner,” he added.

Asked about the fund raising plan during the year, Ramkrishnan said the bank expected to raise at least Rs 400 crore in tier-II capital.

“We have a headroom of Rs 3,000 crore in both upper and lower tier-II bonds. And, we will not have any problem for the next two years. But, we do not have scope in tier-I capital as government holding has reached 51 per cent,” he informed. — PTI

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BRIEFLY

Reliance stores
New Delhi, August 16
Reliance Retail, which has stores across formats like food, consumer electronics and hypermarket, will by December unveil exclusive outlets to retail products ranging from apparel to health and wellness and books to footwear. Beginning with the festive season, the company expects to open at least one store for each of these products by the year-end. 

IDBI Bank
Kolkata, August 16
IDBI Bank plans to raise Rs 300 crore in debt during the current financial year, chairman and managing director Yogesh Agarwal said today. The bank has no plans to raise funds through equity, he said. The current capital adequacy ratio of bank stood at more than 14 per cent, he said.

Sical Logistics
Mumbai, August 16
Sical Logistics today said it has bought Sical PortoFino, a cutter suction dredger, for $24.92 million (about Rs 102.46 crore) to foray into dredging business. “The acquisition of the cutter suction dredger will enable the company to tap the booming opportunity in the dredging market,” Sical chairman Ashwin Muthiah said. 

Goodyear plan
Cleveland, August 16
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co is considering building new tire factories in eastern Europe and Asia by using money from the recent sale of its engineered products business. Akron, Ohio-based Goodyear, on August 1 completed its sale of nearly all of engineered products for $1.48 billion to EPD Inc, part of Washington-based private equity firm The Carlyle Group.

SAIL pact
New Delhi, August 16
Korean steel giant Posco today entered into a strategic alliance with SAIL to cooperate in purchasing raw materials and sharing marketing network. As per the MoU, both steel companies would cooperate in information sharing and corporate strategy planning, sharing know-how in development of mines, joint usage of each other’s existing marketing and warehousing network and coordination in procuring raw materials such as coking coal and ferro alloys. 

Donear outlets
Bangalore, August 16
Donear Industries will enter retail sector by opening 200 retail outlets throughout the country, company CEO Debashish Poddar said. To begin with, three retail outlets would be opened on Deepawali in Mumbai and the remaining by 2008. 

Stake buyout
Mumbai, August 16
ICICI Venture and Indiavision together have picked up 16.46 per cent stake, valued at Rs 140 crore, in Tops Security Limited, the flagship and holding company of country's leading security solutions provider Topsgrup. 

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