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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS

B U S I N E S S

Holcim offers to buy 20 pc in
Ambuja Cements
Mumbai, August 23
Swiss cement-maker Holcim has made an open offer to buy 20 per cent in Ambuja Cements for over Rs 4,720 crore, pursuant to the acquisition of a 3.9 per cent stake in the domestic firm.
Swiss group Holcim, the world’s second-largest cement maker, on Thursday reported a 162.7-per cent surge in first-half net profit to 2.9 billion Swiss francs (1.8 billion euros).
Swiss group Holcim, the world’s second-largest cement maker, on Thursday reported a 162.7-per cent surge in first-half net profit to 2.9 billion Swiss francs (1.8 billion euros).— AFP photo

Battery Crisis
Nokia holds Matsushita responsible
New Delhi, August 23
Facing wrath from customers over faulty batteries, Nokia today held Japanese battery maker Matsushita responsible for supplying the component and said it will take action after investigating the issue.

Standard Chartered buys 49 pc in
UTI Securities

Mumbai, August 23
Asia-focused bank Standard Chartered said today it had acquired a 49 per cent stake in Indian broker UTI Securities Ltd for about $36 million.



EARLIER STORIES

 

Rising Rupee
Hospitality industry plans single tariff
Taj Group to charge in Rs from Sept
New Delhi, August 23
Looking to cash in on the rising rupee against the US dollar, the hospitality industry in India is mulling toward shifting to a single tariff system based on the domestic currency.

China launches toy checks, as US issues more recalls
Beijing, August 23
Toy makers will face tougher quality checks in a southern Chinese province where thousands of unsafe goods were manufactured, state media reported today, as the US has recalled more children’s products because of lead paint hazards.
Toxic Chinese toothpaste in Saudi Arabia

South Korean models display Nikon's new digital cameras, the "D3" and the "D300", for their public debut for the first time in Seoul on Thursday.
South Korean models display Nikon's new digital cameras, the "D3" and the "D300", for their public debut for the first time in Seoul on Thursday. The Japanese company will release the new cameras around the world in November. The D3 boasts a CMOS image sensor measuring 36.0 (H) x 23.9 (V) mms, with a 12.1 effective megapixel image size,
shooting nine frames per second. — AFP photo

REC to raise Rs 1,200 cr through IPO
New Delhi, August 23
State-run power sector lending institution Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) has filed a Draft Red Herring Prospectus with market regulator SEBI for its initial public offer through which it expects to raise up to Rs 1,200 crore.

IOC to pump in Rs 1,480 crore for pipeline expansion
New Delhi, August 23
State-run refiner IndianOil Corp (IOC) plans to invest about Rs 1,480 crore on expansion of pipelines carrying crude oil and petroleum products.

Cairn gets nod for Rajasthan pipeline
New Delhi, August 23
The government has approved Cairn India’s proposal to lay a pipeline from Barmer district of Rajasthan to Gujarat coast for transporting crude oil it had discovered in the desert state.

HCL bags Rs 500-cr BSNL contract
New Delhi, August 23
HCL Infosystems Ltd today said it has received Rs 500-crore order from Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) for call data recorder (CDR) services in its south and
eastern circles.

R-Cap buyout
Mumbai, August 23
Anil Ambani group's Reliance Capital (R-Cap) has acquired a 26 per cent stake in Victory Transformer & Switchgear Ltd (VTSL), a Hyderabad-based fully integrated transformer manufacturing company, for Rs 75 crore.

Japan to bring Rs 90,000-cr investment
Kolkata, August 23
A red carpet welcome was accorded to the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who, accompanied by his wife Akle Abe and a 180-member trade delegation, arrived in the city today.

Global tender for wheat import floated
New Delhi, August 23
The government today floated a global tender for the import of unspecified quantity of wheat between October and December, both in shipments and containers.

Govt to protect public sector character of PSU banks
New Delhi, August 23
The government today said it would safeguard public sector character of nationalised banks even as steps had been taken to strengthen corporate governance in them.

Emaar MGF to build five-star hotel in Dehra Dun
Dehra Dun, August 23
Emaar MGF has signed an agreement with the government of Uttarakhand for designing, constructing and operating/ managing the first branded five-star hotel and convention centre in the state at Dehradun.

Idea service in HP
Shimla, August 23
Idea Cellular has launched its services in Una district of Himachal Pradesh. This is the eighth district to be covered which will help the company to extend its footprint over a large area of the state.

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Holcim offers to buy 20 pc in Ambuja Cements

Mumbai, August 23
Swiss cement-maker Holcim has made an open offer to buy 20 per cent in Ambuja Cements for over Rs 4,720 crore, pursuant to the acquisition of a 3.9 per cent stake in the domestic firm.

At present Holcim Mauritius has 32.3 per cent stake in Ambuja Cements and after the acquisition of additional 3.9 per cent stake, the Swiss firm is obliged to make an open offer.

With the purchase of this block of shares, Holcim has exceeded the acquisition limit of 5 per cent in a fiscal year as prescribed by takeover norms of the country and was required to make the open offer.

Holcim Mauritius has made the open offer to shareholders of Ambuja Cements for acquiring over 30.65 crore shares, representing a 20 per cent stake in the company at Rs 154 per share, the domestic cement maker said in a filing on Bombay Stock Exchange.

The proposed price of the open offer, which would conclude by the end of this November, represents a premium of around 20 per cent over the average price of the scrip on National Stock Exchange in the last two weeks.

Shares of the company were trading at Rs 135.95, up 4.42 per cent, in the morning session on NSE. On the BSE, the scrip was at Rs 136.15, up 4.33 per cent.

Ambuja Cements said a letter of agreement had been entered into by its four promoters - Narottam S Sekhsaria, Radha Madhav Investments Ltd (RMIL), RKBK Fiscal Services and Holderind Investments for sale of a 3.9 per cent stake to Holcim Mauritius. — PTI

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Battery Crisis
Nokia holds Matsushita responsible

New Delhi, August 23
Facing wrath from customers over faulty batteries, Nokia today held Japanese battery maker Matsushita responsible for supplying the component and said it will take action after investigating the issue.

“We are investigating into it. But of course they are responsible to us,” Nokia’s worldwide CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo said when asked whether Nokia was planning to pass on the cost of replaced batteries, estimated at 46 million globally, to the Japanese company.

The world’s biggest mobile phone maker, which last week issued a product advisory for replacement of faulty batteries, has till date received about six million calls from Indian subscribers, of which about 4.6 per cent (over 300,000) cases qualified for replacement.

Asked whether Nokia would severe ties with Japanese firm, the Nokia chief refused to make any statement and said, “We are still investigating the matter.

To invest $ 100m in India

India has emerged as the second largest handsets and network equipment market after China for telecom giant Nokia, which has manufactured 60 million mobile phones at its Chennai facility in just 18 months.

India moved ahead of markets like the UK and the US in the first half of this fiscal based on sales of handsets and network business, but the company did not disclose the numbers.

“In 2004, Nokia had employed 450 people in India but today we have over 9,000 in India... total outlets in India currently stands at 95,000 out of which 50,000 are selling exclusive Nokia brand phones,” Nokia Worldwide CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, who is on a India visit, told reporters here.

Nokia’s network division, which has merged with Siemens, is also ramping up its capacity in Chennai at an investment of over 100 million dollars in the next three years, Kallasvuo, who is also the chairman of Nokia-Siemens Networks, said.

Initially, the existing manufacturing unit was catering to the domestic market, but currently about half of the production was exported to about 58 countries, he said.

On the controversial BSNL tender issue, where Nokia had emerged as the second lowest bidder quoting $ 167 per line compared to $ 107 by Ericsson, he said: “We have not received Advance Purchase Order from BSNL so we can not comment at this moment.” — PTI

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Standard Chartered buys 49 pc in UTI Securities

Mumbai, August 23
Asia-focused bank Standard Chartered said today it had acquired a 49 per cent stake in Indian broker UTI Securities Ltd for about $36 million.

Under the agreement with Securities Trading Corporation of India Ltd, Standard Chartered has options to raise its stake to 75 per cent in 2008 and, if both partners agree, to 100 percent by 2010, company officials said in Mumbai.

“This investment is ground-breaking for the group as it signals entry into securities broking and I am glad it commences with India,” Jaspal Bindra, a director with Standard Chartered, said in a statement.

The head of the Standard Chartered’s Indian operations, Neeraj Swaroop, said UTI Securities would be re-branded to reflect the new shareholding pattern.

He said the brokerage was likely to grow rapidly as he saw a bright outlook for equity markets in the expanding economy.

UTI Securities offers broking, wealth management and investment banking services across 60 cities in India. Officials at UTI Securities said Standard Chartered would help it bring new clients, particularly foreign institutional investors. — Reuters

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Rising Rupee
Hospitality industry plans single tariff
Taj Group to charge in Rs from Sept

New Delhi, August 23
Looking to cash in on the rising rupee against the US dollar, the hospitality industry in India is mulling toward shifting to a single tariff system based on the domestic currency.

Taking the lead in the shift is the Taj Group of Hotels, which will be charging only on rupee terms across all its properties in India starting this September.

“Since rupee is doing well and the dollar is fluctuating, we have decided to move to a single tariff system wherein we will be charging only on rupee terms,” Indian Hotels co senior vice-president sales and marketing Ajoy K Mishra told PTI on the sidelines of a hoteliers conclave here.

Traditionally, the hospitality industry in India follows a dual tariff system based on rupee, meant for the local market, and a dollar tariff for international customers.

Another hospitality major ITC Group is also thinking on similar lines to move to a rupee tariff.

The Indian unit has risen more than 10 per cent against the greenback and is trading around Rs 40.8 as against nearly Rs 46 a year ago.

With the rupee rising, hotel companies lose revenue from international customers when they pay in dollars.

“If the industry is going towards single tariff system, then ITC may also do away with the dual system,” ITC Hotels vice-president and GM Maurya Dipak Haksar said. — PTI

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China launches toy checks, as US issues
more recalls

Toxic Chinese toothpaste in
Saudi Arabia

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia has removed from shop shelves seven brands of Chinese toothpaste found to have a poisonous chemical in them, the government said today.

A statement on the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s website said tests had shown traces of diethylene glycol, used in coolants and solvents but too toxic for food and medicine.

It said officials have been ordered to remove the toothpaste from shops and destroy the samples, and asked consumers to inform the ministry of any products found on sale.

All Chinese toothpastes must now undergo tests before going on the market in Saudi Arabia, which has a population of over 24 million, the statement said.

Beijing, August 23
Toy makers will face tougher quality checks in a southern Chinese province where thousands of unsafe goods were manufactured, state media reported today, as the US has recalled more children’s products because of lead paint hazards.

Toys are the latest in the long list of Chinese exports that have come under intense scrutiny in recent months because of safety concerns.

Toxic chemicals have been found in products ranging from toothpaste to seafood and pet food ingredients.

Makers of toys for export in Guangdong province will have to undergo “quality licensing” as part of a new inspection system launched this week, the state-run China Daily reported.

“We will keep a closer watch on not only finished products but also on potentially dangerous chemicals and paints,” an unnamed official with the Guangdong Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau was quoted as saying.

Yesterday, the US announced recalls of tens of thousands of Chinese-made children’s products because of lead hazards. Childhood exposure to lead can cause learning problems, reduced intelligence, hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder.

The products included about 250,000 spiral-bound SpongeBob SquarePants address books and journals, as well as 66,000 spinning tops and about 4,700 pails painted with Thomas & Friends, Curious George, circus scenes or solid
colors. — Agencies

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REC to raise Rs 1,200 cr through IPO

New Delhi, August 23
State-run power sector lending institution Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) has filed a Draft Red Herring Prospectus with market regulator SEBI for its initial public offer through which it expects to raise up to Rs 1,200 crore.

The company has filed a DRHP with SEBI for the maiden public issue, in which about 15.6 crore shares would be offered, an REC spokesperson said.

These shares constitute 20 per cent of the existing equity capital of REC, he added.

REC would issue the shares at a price to be decided through the book-building process and the scrip would be listed on Bombay Stock Exchange and National Stock Exchange.

Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd has also filed its red herring prospectus with the market regulator for an initial public offer to raise an estimated Rs 3,500 crore.

Last year, the CCEA had approved the proposal for IPOs of PFC, Power Grid Corporation and REC. — PTI

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IOC to pump in Rs 1,480 crore for
pipeline expansion

New Delhi, August 23
State-run refiner IndianOil Corp (IOC) plans to invest about Rs 1,480 crore on expansion of pipelines carrying crude oil and petroleum products.

"IOC plans to increase pipeline capacity from 61.718 million tons to 75.480 million tons by March 31, 2008," minister of state for petroleum and natural gas Dinsha Patel said in a written reply to a question in Lok Sabha here.

The company will invest Rs 1,178 crore in the 11 million tonne Paradip-Haldia crude oil pipeline and Rs 224.69 crore in the 2 million tonne Koyali-Ratlam pipeline for transport of petroleum products.

It will invest another Rs 48.58 crore in aviation turbine fuel (ATF) pipeline from Chennai refinery to Air Force Station in Chennai city and Rs 28.61 crore in augmentation of Bongaingaon-Siliguri section of the Guwahati-Siliguri pipeline.

To a separate query, Patel said IOC had not put on hold its proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal at Ennore in Tamil Nadu.

"IOC is in the process of pursuing with various prospective LNG suppliers for long-term supply of LNG," he said.

The company, he said in another reply, was in the process of identifying suitable land clusters for developing Jatropha plantation in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Oil from Jatropha is to be doped in diesel to reduce the nation's oil import dependence. — PTI

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Cairn gets nod for Rajasthan pipeline

New Delhi, August 23
The government has approved Cairn India’s proposal to lay a pipeline from Barmer district of Rajasthan to Gujarat coast for transporting crude oil it had discovered in the desert state.

Petroleum Minister Murli Deora had yesterday signed the papers permitting Cairn to acquire land rights for laying the 582-km pipeline from Barmer to Salaya, official sources said.

Deora’s approval for Right of Use of the pipeline paves way for the project at an expenditure of $ 700 million, to be included as part of Rajasthan field development cost, which Cairn is entitled to recover before sharing profits with the government.

Almost simultaneously to the pipeline’s inclusion in the field development plan would come the approval for selling the crude oil to multiple refiners instead of previously approved scheme, in which entire 1,50,000 barrels per day (7.5 million tons) output was to be supplied to Mangalore Refinery.

“Deora’s role in the Rajasthan project ceases to exit once the RoU application was approved. Now, it is for Petroleum Ministry officials to issue notifications and give the remaining approvals at the earliest so that plans for starting production from Rajasthan fields by first half of 2009 are not impacted,” a source said.

The pipeline, which was necessitated after Mangalore Refinery - the official offtaker of Rajasthan crude — said it could take only 1.2 million tons of crude, will take minimum 18 months to complete.

The rest of the crude will be shipped from a Gujarat port to refiners on east and west coasts.

Cairn, sources said, faced a tight implementation schedule as the pipeline approval came after considerable delay. — PTI

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HCL bags Rs 500-cr BSNL contract

New Delhi, August 23
HCL Infosystems Ltd today said it has received Rs 500-crore order from Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) for call data recorder (CDR) services in its south and eastern circles.

''We have received a Rs 500 crore system integration order from the BSNL to be executed over the next 18 months,'' HCL Infosystems Ltd chairman and CEO Ajai Chowdhry told reporters here.

The tender includes billing services for all services of the BSNL in the southern and eastern circles and HCL will support the entire system for seven years.

The company said a huge potential exists in the e-governance sector as the government will soon roll out projects worth Rs 23,000 crore.

''We are ready to enter this segment as the sector has tremendous growth potential,'' Chowdhry said.

The sector is also poised for more actions as the government will roll out the 3G or WiMax policies, he added.

The government is also contemplating setting up state wide area network (SWAN), which is another area HCL is looking to enter. — UNI

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R-Cap buyout

Mumbai, August 23
Anil Ambani group's Reliance Capital (R-Cap) has acquired a 26 per cent stake in Victory Transformer & Switchgear Ltd (VTSL), a Hyderabad-based fully integrated transformer manufacturing company, for Rs 75 crore.

Reliance Cap is understood to have made the investment through its private
equity arm.

VTSL supplies transformers to State Electricity Boards across India and to major
EPC contractors. — PTI

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Japan to bring Rs 90,000-cr investment
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, August 23
A red carpet welcome was accorded to the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who, accompanied by his wife Akle Abe and a 180-member trade delegation, arrived in the city today.

The Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was personally present at the airport to receive him. It was Abe's first visit to Kolkata.

Abe attended various meetings and functions. But he did not talk about politics, nor about the Indo-US nuclear deal.

To the Chief Minister, Abe's visit had an added attraction since Japan would be bringing in investment proposals worth over Rs 90,000 crore in the country, and of which Bengal would claim a lion's share.

During meeting with Chief Minister, proposals of 2,800-km Delhi-Mumbai-Kolkata freight corridor, the east and west metro railways (Howrah to Salt Lake) and several other investments schemes relating to IT industry, infrastructural improvement and chemical hub development were also discussed.

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Global tender for wheat import floated
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 23
The government today floated a global tender for the import of unspecified quantity of wheat between October and December, both in shipments and containers.

The State Trading Corporation (STC) has floated the tender on behalf of the government. The tender will close on August 29 and on the same day, bids will also be opened.

In it, suppliers have been asked to indicate the maximum quantity they wish to offer each month in vessel and container loads for delivery at eight specified ports.

It added that wheat arriving at Mundra port could be sent in parcel sizes of 25,000-75,000 tonnes. At Kakinada, Kandla, Chennai, Vishakapatnam, Kochi, Mumbai and Tuticorin the shipment size is limited to 50,000 tonnes.

It was also stated that in case of delivery by containers, the sellers should specify the maximum quantity and number of containers and the arrival period at each port.

This is the third tender being floated by the STC this year. The government has gone ahead with its import plan despite criticism that it purchased the wheat at higher price in the last round.

The STC had floated two previous tenders for wheat this year on behalf of the government to shore up stocks.

It scrapped the first after it found price offers too high, but bought 511,000 tonnes against a second tender for one million tonnes.

As of July 1 this year, the buffer stock stood at around 130 lakh tons against the buffer norm of 171 lakh tons. Wheat output is estimated at 748.9 lakh tons for the 2006-07 season as per the fourth advance estimate.

Meanwhile, union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar has indicated that the government would substantially increase the minimum support price for wheat next year.

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Govt to protect public sector character of PSU banks
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 23
The government today said it would safeguard public sector character of nationalised banks even as steps had been taken to strengthen corporate governance in them.

Replying to a debate on State Bank of India (Amendment) Bill, 2007, in the Rajya Sabha, minister of state for finance Pawan Kumar Bansal said there was distinction in ownership and management of these banks. He said management was in the hands of boards who take the decisions.

The House later passed the Bill which provides for transfer of Reserve Bank of India's shareholding in the State Bank of India to the Central Government. The Bill had earlier been passed by the Lok Sabha.

The minister, who sought to give reply to all queries raised by the members, said the government wanted every household in the country to have a no-frills account. He said banks were tying up with panchayats and post offices to take banking to the doorstep of people. "The banking system should touch lives of all people," he said.

The minister said UPA government had doubled the credit to agriculture. Bansal said banks might be outsourcing some activities such as collection of forms, but core activities such as management function and credit appraisals should not be outsourced.

Opposing any harassment in recovery of loans, he said aggrieved people can take protection of law.

The Bill replaces an ordinance which was promulgated in June this year to facilitate transfer of shares from RBI to Central Government before June 30, 2007, which was the last day of closure of of the annual account of RBI.

The Narasimham Committee-II on Banking Sector Reforms had suggested that regulator should not be the owner of a bank as it was inconsistent with the principles of effective supervision. The RBI had accepted the recommendations.

The government had approved the proposal for transfer of RBI's shareholding in SBI to the Central Government in February.

The transfer of shareholding involved the entire equity held by the RBI which was 31,43,39,200 shares comprising 59.73 per cent of the total equity shares.

A sum of Rs 40,000 crore had been provided for this purpose in the current
year's budget.

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Emaar MGF to build five-star hotel in Dehra Dun
Tribune News Service

Dehra Dun, August 23
Emaar MGF has signed an agreement with the government of Uttarakhand for designing, constructing and operating/ managing the first branded five-star hotel and convention centre in the state at Dehradun.

The five-star hotel property and the convention centre is part of an integrated facility comprising retail and entertainment space spread across 10 acres of land and has been planned with an investment of Rs 200 crore over 2 years.

Emaar MGF has tied up with InterContinental Hotels Group, Singapore for the management of the hotel and convention centre.

The international standard up-market hotel comprising 200 guest rooms will be managed under the 'Holiday Inn' brand.

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Idea service in HP
Tribune News Service

Shimla, August 23
Idea Cellular has launched its services in Una district of Himachal Pradesh. This is the eighth district to be covered which will help the company to extend its footprint over a large area of the state.

Idea services were already available in all major towns in the districts of Shimla, Solan, Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Kangra, Kullu and Mandi.

The company’s circle head, Himachal and Haryana, Peter Cherian said the aim was to make services available in the entire state.

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BRIEFLY

DMRC contract
Mumbai, August 23
ITD Cementation India today said its promoter, Italian-Thai Development Public Company, has bagged a Rs 893-crore construction contract from Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC). DMRC has awarded a letter of acceptance to the company
for this project, covering over 5 km of underground metro construction, which
would be carried out with advanced tunnel boring machines, it said in a filing to the BSE. — PTI

DSP Merrill
New Delhi, August 23
DSP Merrill Lynch today said it will actively strengthen its presence in the country and expand its product portfolio, while touching an asset base of $20 billion by 2009. ''The economic growth and a spur in the number of high net worth customers will drive the asset base of the company. Currently, we manage about $6.5 billion of assets in the country,'' company's managing director Pradeep Dokania told reporters here today.— UNI

Selecto plan
New Delhi, August 23
Selecto Systems Pvt Ltd, which is developing an IT SEZ Haryana Technology Park (HTP) in NCR, is looking at a fresh raising of $500 million to fund its future infrastructure projects. Located 3 km from Delhi on NH2 in Haryana, HTP is a notified SEZ promoted by Selecto Systems Pvt Ltd and technically assisted by Paharpur Business Centre and Software Technology Incubator Park (PBC-STIP).— PTI

Carrier pact
New Delhi, August 23
Carrier Airconditioning and Refrigeration today signed a memorandum of understanding with Haryana Technology Park to provide 3,000 tonnes of energy-efficient air-conditioning equipment. ''Soon all our products will be energy-compliant and we are phasing out the non-compliant ones. Over 90 per cent of the products are already in the league,'' said Carrier India managing director Zubin Irani. — UNI

LIC schemes
Chandigarh, August 23
LIC of India today launched two UTI-linked endowment plans — profit plus and fortune plus. According to Mahendra Kumar, senior divisional manager, Chandigarh division, the profit plus plan is available to individuals up to 65 years of age with minimum annual premium of Rs 10,000 and single premium of Rs 20, 000 with no upper limit. The fortune plus plan is available to individuals between 12 to 60 years for minimum annual premium of Rs 10,000 with no upper limit. Single premium is not allowed in this plan. — TNS

Optima Services
Karnal, August 23
Optima Risk Management Services, an insurance brokering consultancy, has opened its offices at Sonepat, Panipat and Karnal. After extensive research, Optima has concluded that people in tier 2-3 cities are heavily under-insured and therefore it has embarked on a concerted strategy to set up operations in these cities. The company’s offerings include corporate and retail advisory services. — TNS

L&T bags order
Mumbai, August 23
Larsen & Toubro has bagged an over $70-million order from the Netherlands-based shipping firm, RollDock BV, for construction of two vessels. The ships would be built at the existing shipyard which is a part of the company's engineering complex at Hazira in Surat and would be delivered by May 2010. — PTI

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