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Exporters get service tax reprieve
New Delhi, September 17
Exporters, who were losing their margins due to hardening of rupee against the dollar, got the much needed relief today with the government announcing that they would be exempted from tax on services rendered by ports, road transport and railway.

ADB ups India’s growth projection
Warns of inflation risks as well
New Delhi, September 17
A slowdown in industrial growth in July notwithstanding, Asian Development Bank (ADB) has raised projection for India's economic growth to 8.5 per cent during 2007-08 and 2008-09 from the earlier forecast of 8 and 8.3 per cent, respectively.

BHEL plans inorganic growth
New Delhi, September 17
Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) today said it is looking at mergers and acquisition to fuel inorganic growth and targets a turnover of Rs 45,000 crore by 2012, after achieving an all-time high turnover of Rs 18,739 crore and net profit of Rs 2415 crore during fiscal 2006-07.

Reliance, Airtel vie for Qatar licence
Dubai, September 17
Reliance Telecom and Airtel are among 12 companies in the fray for Qatar's second mobile licence as the deadline for submission of bids ended.



EARLIER STORIES

 
Ian Hession, regional sales manager of Bentley for West Asia, Africa and India (right) walks besides the newly launched luxury convertible Bentley Continental GTC in Mumbai on Monday.
Ian Hession, regional sales manager of Bentley for West Asia, Africa and India (right) walks besides the newly launched luxury convertible Bentley Continental GTC in Mumbai on Monday. Bentley launched two new convertible models, Azure and Continental GTC for Indian market priced at Rs 3.80 crore and 2.10 crore, respectively. — AFP photo

Karunanidhi assures top facilities
Chennai, September 17
With the influx of investments and boom in information and communication technology in Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi today assured the captains of the industry, at a CII meet, of proving world class class infra-structure to support it.

Fed move to impact gold prices
New Delhi, September 17
Gold buyers in India will be keenly watching the news from the United States, where the US central bank will take a call on interest rates tomorrow - an event billed as a major driver of the precious metal prices across the world going ahead.

Pune to tackle power shortage with CFL
Mumbai, September 17
The Maharashtra government has borrowed upon the ‘old lamps for new’ trick from the Arabian Nights to combat power shortages in the state.
A photo released by Sotheby’s Auction House in New York, shows a 13th century Tibetan gilt bronze of Maitreya, which is estimated to bring $3.5 million at an auction of Asian art in the coming week.
A photo released by Sotheby’s Auction House in New York, shows a 13th century Tibetan gilt bronze of Maitreya, which is estimated to bring $3.5 million at an auction of Asian art in the coming week. Asian art is under the spotlight at almost a dozen auctions in New York, with lots ranging from 19th century erotic scrolls to contemporary Chinese artworks due to go under the hammer. — AFP photo

Poor performance of broadband services
TRAI brings out new draft 

New Delhi, September 17
Dismayed by the poor penetration of broadband services, telecom regulator TRAI today brought out a new draft that recommends subsidising the service in remote and hilly areas.

India high on US trade index
New Delhi, September 17
Riding high on the growing trade relations between the USA and India, Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (IACC) today released the business confidence index, which reflects in numeric terms, the macro and micro economic activities between the two countries.

Koutons, CCCL to float public issues
Dehra Dun/Mumbai, September 17
Koutons Retail India and Consolidated Construction Consortium (CCCL) will hit the capital markets with their initial public offers tomorrow, aiming to raise a total of about Rs 335 crore from the public. By building a chain of 999 retail outlets across the country, Koutons Retail India Limited has outsmarted the competition consisting of 23 major players in the branded apparel segment.

Harsh verdict on Microsoft
EU court upholds 497 million euro fine in anti-trust case

Brussels/Luxembourg, September 17
Microsoft suffered a stunning defeat on Monday when a European Union (EU) court backed a European Commission ruling that the US software giant illegally abused market power to crush competitors. The European Union's second-highest court dismissed the company's appeal on all substantive points of the 2004 anti-trust ruling.

 

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Exporters get service tax reprieve
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 17
Exporters, who were losing their margins due to hardening of rupee against the dollar, got the much needed relief today with the government announcing that they would be exempted from tax on services rendered by ports, road transport and railway.

The government has issued a notification providing refund of service tax paid by exporters on four taxable services, which are not in the nature of input services but could be linked to export goods, a Finance Ministry statement said here.

The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) has issued the notification no. 40/2007-ST in this regard.

The government collects 12 per cent service tax along with 3 per cent education cess on services.

Exporters already get refund of service tax paid by them on input services used for exports. Drawback scheme also factors service tax paid on input services used for exporting goods.

In July, the Finance Ministry had provided a financial package of Rs 1,400 crore to exporters, especially to the textile, handloom, handicraft and other labour-intensive industries, to cushion the impact of rupee appreciation. The Indian unit has appreciated by over 8 per cent since January this year.

Although Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath had announced government's intention to exempt exporters from the service tax in the April supplement of annual Foreign Trade Policy, the finance ministry took about six months to issue a notification in this regard.

Exporters are already eligible for service tax exemption for some input services - like those of solicitors and chartered accountants - that are used for export.

While port, road transport and rail freight services were not found to be input services in the real sense, the finance ministry felt an exemption could be given since they can be linked to exports.

"The issue of extending refund of service tax paid on taxable services that are not input services but could be attributable to export goods was examined. The government held discussions with stakeholders and identified the above mentioned taxable services for which refund could be provided wherever use of the said taxable services could be linked to exports," said an official statement.

Meanwhile, exports by Indian micro, small and medium enterprises are estimated to have touched $50 billion in 2006-07, accounting for 40 per cent of the country's total merchandise exports, an official statement said here today.

There are 12.5 million MSMEs in the country providing employment to 30 million persons and contributing around 50 per cent of the country’s industrial production.

The major MSME export products include readymade garments, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, engineering goods, processed foods, leather products, and marine products.

Relief too little: FIEO

Reacting to the notification issued by Ministry of Finance on service tax after long deliberations, Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) president Ganesh Kumar Gupta said the notification hardly meet the bonafide demand of trade and industry for zero rating of exports.

While exports are subject to various kinds of service tax, the present notification only provide for refund of service tax on port services, services of transport of goods by road/rail from inland container depot to the ports of exports.

“Host of important services such as foreign sales commission, foreign travelling expenses, bank charges, professional fees, participation in trade fair abroad etc. are still not covered,” the FIEO president said regretting that bulk of the services used by exporters are kept outside the notification.

He also demanded that the notification should be made applicable from the date on which such services were brought under the service tax net. — TNS

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ADB ups India’s growth projection
Warns of inflation risks as well

New Delhi, September 17
A slowdown in industrial growth in July notwithstanding, Asian Development Bank (ADB) has raised projection for India's economic growth to 8.5 per cent during 2007-08 and 2008-09 from the earlier forecast of 8 and 8.3 per cent, respectively.

However, the Manila-based multilateral development bank warned of inflation risks mainly due to food prices and forecast that inflation would remain steady at 5 per cent in the two fiscals.

"Robust investment, buoyant industrial expansion and moderate agricultural growth will ensure that India's economy remains on a solid growth path in 2007 and 2008, Manila-based ADB said in its Asian Development Outlook, 2007.

Indian economy grew by 9.3 per cent during the first quarter of this fiscal and at a scorching pace of 9.4 per cent in 2006-07, highest in the last 18 years.

The report warned that inflation risks persist and any shock to food prices could stoke price pressure.

"While the Indian economy has moved to a higher growth trajectory, a major challenge for policymakers is to find ways to expand the market-based reforms so that the benefits flow to all sections of the population," ADB Chief Economist Ifzal Ali said in a statement.

The report said accelerating growth and the capacity bottlenecks have piled pressure on prices that are also feeling the heat from fast rising prices for imported foodstuffs. Indian consumers are still being shielded from the costs of oil in the international market.

The ADB report said the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), while ensuring that the credit and interest rate environment supports exports and investment demand, is successfully containing inflation pressures.

"Higher interest rates have not dampened business investment as a very buoyant long-term economic outlook has outstripped a cyclical rise in borrowing costs," Ali said.

Hike in interest rate, however, will discourage consumer spending, leading to moderation of demand for consumer durables and a slowdown in the pace of construction activities.

The report warned that shocks which may undermine fiscal or monetary discipline and adversely affect food or fuel prices pose risks to India's economic outlook.

A further appreciation of the rupee is also likely to hurt exports and profits of domestic companies in export- oriented sectors.

The ADB report also said developing Asian economies will register solid economic growth in 2007, driven by fast growth in China and India.

ADB has raised growth projection for China's economy to 11.2 per cent this year as well, up from an earlier estimate of 10 per cent. — PTI 

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BHEL plans inorganic growth
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 17
Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) today said it is looking at mergers and acquisition to fuel inorganic growth and targets a turnover of Rs 45,000 crore by 2012, after achieving an all-time high turnover of Rs 18,739 crore and net profit of Rs 2415 crore during fiscal 2006-07.

The company has drawn what it calls 'Strategic Plan 2012' to ensure sustainable profitable growth over the next five years with the objective of reaching a turnover level of Rs 45,000 crore, BHEL chairman and managing director A.K. Puri said at the shareholders meeting here.

''The merger and acquisition route will be pursued to avail inorganic growth opportunities to enlarge the company’s operations both in domestic as well as export markets,'' he said.

Outlining the company's future course, he said the growth planks for the next five years will be driven by capacity and capability enhancement that will leverage BHEL's efforts in its core area of power supported by industry, transmission, exports and spares and services businesses.

Riding on the robust demand, BHEL's turnover hit an all-time high of Rs 18,739 crore, registering a growth of 29 per cent, while net profit increased by 44 per cent to touch Rs 2,415 crore in 2006-07.

He also declared a final dividend of 60 per cent on the enhanced paid-up share capital consequent to 1:1 bonus issue.

The company paid the highest-ever dividend of nearly Rs 600 crore for 2006-07, which is 245 per cent of the paid-up capital pre-bonus, he said.

Puri said while the turnover and orders inflow doubled in three years, the profit before tax and net profit doubled in just two years.

He said BHEL secured the highest-ever orders worth Rs 35,643 crore in a single year, and with an order book position of Rs 55,000 crore, at the close of the financial year, the company expected to achieve robust growth in 2007-08 and beyond.

The company is well on its way to increasing its size of operations supported by phased manufacturing capacity expansion where a capacity of 10,000 MW per annum will be completed by December 2007 and 15,000 MW per annum by December 2009, he said.

Outlining the trends in the global and domestic economies, he said the global macroeconomic environment appears healthy with a growth rate of around 5 per cent in the last 3 years and may moderate somewhat during 2008.

Growth is expected to remain very strong among emerging markets and developing countries, he said, adding that these trends have been driving the global demand for capital goods.

On the export market, he said the company continued to expand its international footprint by entering new markets and building existing ones. 

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Reliance, Airtel vie for Qatar licence

Dubai, September 17
Reliance Telecom and Airtel are among 12 companies in the fray for Qatar's second mobile licence as the deadline for submission of bids ended.

Seventeen firms had originally applied for the licence but the figure has since come down to 12, with several big players in the mix.

The deadline, which ended yesterday after a two-week extension over the previous date of September 2, allowed the firms to finalise their bids, according to the country's telecom regulatory body, ictQATAR.

The 12 firms are Airtel, Reliance Telecom Verizon Argos, AT&T, Batelco, Digicel, Etisalat, Jordan Telecom, MTC (Kuwait), Orascom Telecom, Omantel-Belgacom, and Vodafone, Peninsula daily reported today.

The new entrant will have to construct its own network, as Qatar Telecom (Qtel) is assured of exclusive rights to its own networks.

According to experts, a new entrant into the country's mobile telephony sector can easily grab 15 to 20 per cent of the market share in its first year of operations, with the figures gradually rising in the ensuing years.

Although considered to be a small market, mobile phone penetration in Qatar is at way above 100 per cent with the figure growing daily.

Qatar also plans to award a fixed-line licence before year-end. — PTI 

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Karunanidhi assures top facilities
Tribune News Service

Chennai, September 17
With the influx of investments and boom in information and communication technology in Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi today assured the captains of the industry, at a CII meet, of proving world class class infra-structure to support it.

He said: “I am acutely conscious that the human resources of the state have to be further strengthened. On my initiative, the union government is setting up an Indian Institute of Information Technology for Design and Manufacturing near Chennai. I have also requested the centre to set up an additional IIT at Madurai, IISER at Tiruchirappalli and an IIM at Coimbatore.”

He urged the CII to enter into joint ventures with the state government for creating a model of inclusive development.

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Fed move to impact gold prices

New Delhi, September 17
Gold buyers in India will be keenly watching the news from the United States, where the US central bank will take a call on interest rates tomorrow - an event billed as a major driver of the precious metal prices across the world going ahead.

In the wake of subprime crisis in the US, the Federal Reserve is expected to cut benchmark interest rate, which, in turn, could put a downward pressure on the US dollar and in the process could make dollar-priced gold cheaper for those buying the precious metal in other currencies.

In global markets, gold has remained somewhat steady near $700 an ounce, while in India, it has already gained, factoring in the rate cut expectations. The spot price at NCDEX jumped to Rs 9,418 per 10 gram on Friday, from Rs 9,300 on Monday. Today, it was trading near Rs 9,370 level.

"Since the domestic gold prices are likely to take cues from the US data, gold investors can pitch into the bullion market to take leverage from the current gold prices (which is trading at $710.60 an ounce) before it skyrockets in the coming weeks," a metals analyst at Kotak Commodities Sahil Kapoor told PTI.

"Prospects for gold are buoyed by the combination of forecasts for dollar weakness and oil price strength. Gold prices are expected to increase, extending its rally to a fifth week, on speculation the dollar will decline further against the euro, boosting demand for the precious metal as an alternative investment," analysts of Karvy Comtrade said.

Gold prices have been trading near $700 level for last few weeks boosted by the dollar against major currencies.

The oil price, which reached a record high of $80.18 a barrel last week, has given further support. The expectations for a rate cut by the Fed at its monetary policy meeting tomorrow is being seen as part of its efforts to minimise the impact of housing slump and the associated credit squeeze on the economy. Any rate cut would be instrumental in determining the fate of dollar and gold, market analysts believe.

"Analysts and market specialists are expecting that there would be reduction in the US interest rates and it is likely that dollar would witness a downward pressure, making dollar-priced gold cheaper for investors in other currencies," experts said.

However, some analysts are cautioning the long-term gold investors from entering at the current level. "This is not the right time for long-term investors to pump their money into physical gold market and ETFs. Instead, they should try their luck in gold futures because gold prices are speculated to rise in the coming months which may even touch $742 level," Kotak Commodities' Kapoor said. — PTI

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Pune to tackle power shortage with CFL
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, September 17
The Maharashtra government has borrowed upon the ‘old lamps for new’ trick from the Arabian Nights to combat power shortages in the state.

The Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company (Mahavitaran) has decided to distribute free CFL lamps to its subscribers in Thane and Pune in exchange for their existing incandescent bulbs as an experimental measure.

“Customers would be required to bring in their old incandescent bulbs in working condition along with their electricity bills and they would be given CFL bulbs in exchange,” says Ajay Bhushan Pandey, MD, Mahavitaran. 

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Poor performance of broadband services
TRAI brings out new draft 

New Delhi, September 17
Dismayed by the poor penetration of broadband services, telecom regulator TRAI today brought out a new draft that recommends subsidising the service in remote and hilly areas.

Such subsidies could be accessed by broadband service providers after they are made eligible for support from the universal service obligation (USO) fund, to which telecom companies contribute a portion of their profits.

In the draft suggestions, it said USO funds be provided as subsidy for providing broadband services through satellite in remote and hilly areas, where back haul charges were initially up to 40 per cent.

The recommendation, on which TRAI has sought the industry’s response, is born out of the regulator’s concern over less-than-expected growth in broadband despite existence of a policy.

In all, India had 2.47 million broadband connections as of July, a far cry from the Department of Telecom’s target of 20 million broadband subscribers by 2010.

Earlier, TRAI had suggested opening up BSNL/MTNL’s last mile copper connections to private players to reach more customers. The proposal was rejected by DoT citing potential losses to the PSUs.

Last week, TRAI issued a regulation on unblocking the PSUs domestic leased circuit or local bandwidth network.

TRAI, in a statement, observed that even after taking various initiatives, the growth is slow and below than the expected level.

Further, to increase the competition to provide broadband in rural areas, at least two service providers seeking minimum subsidy should be identified, TRAI suggested.

Based on the feedback of stakeholders, draft recommendations would be finalised and sent to the government.

The authority felt an urgent need to identify various impediments affecting the growth of broadband and adopted measures to address all such impediments.

Accordingly, the regulator has suo-moto undertaken an in-house study and analysed various methodologies to provide broadband keeping in view the constraints and present regulatory framework.

It also felt that BSNL and MTNL should be encouraged to appoint franchisees for providing broadband services to supplement their efforts.

TRAI also said Indian manufacturers should be encouraged to produce more customer premise equipment, that is used to provide broadband using DSL technology.

The authority also said the government should expedite decision on its recommendations regarding mechanism and pricing of spectrum for 3G and broadband wireless access. — PTI 

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India high on US trade index

New Delhi, September 17
Riding high on the growing trade relations between the USA and India, Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (IACC) today released the business confidence index, which reflects in numeric terms, the macro and micro economic activities between the two countries.

The index named ‘IACC-IMaCS Indo-US Business Confidence Index (IIBCI)’ is a barometer of the prevailing economic activities (trade, investments, business, industry and services) measured in terms of Indo-US bilateral trade, FDI, FII investment in each country.

India has witnessed tremendous economic change with year-on-year real growth in excess of 7.5 per cent over last three years, the index says.

“Total exports are up by 20 per cent, while imports increased by 33 per cent during the financial year 2003-06,” the index said, adding that the manufacturing sector has witnessed a growth of more than 10 per cent over the last three years, while the same has increased by more than eight per cent in the services segment.

The study says trade in merchandise goods stood at $31.92 billion in 2006. “Imports from the USA stood at $10.9 billion, while exports were of the tune of $21 billion,” it said.

The services sector-IT, BPO, KPO and ITES would provide ample growth and investment opportunities, the index added.

“The business sentiment is governed by the overall economic indicators, investment climate, forward-looking expectations and perceptions of the stakeholders in the two countries,” IACC president Deepak Pahwa said. — UNI

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Koutons, CCCL to float public issues
Tribune News Service and PTI

Dehra Dun/Mumbai, September 17
Koutons Retail India and Consolidated Construction Consortium (CCCL) will hit the capital markets with their initial public offers tomorrow, aiming to raise a total of about Rs 335 crore from the public. By building a chain of 999 retail outlets across the country, Koutons Retail India Limited has outsmarted the competition consisting of 23 major players in the branded apparel segment.

Koutons plans to use the IPO proceeds to open more retail outlets and set up a manufacturing plant. Meanwhile, real estate developer CCCL is offering 37 lakh shares in the IPO at a price band of Rs 460-510 a share and could raise up to Rs 189 crore from the public issue.

The final IPO price would be determined through a 100 per cent book building process in both the issues. Both the IPOs would open for subscription tomorrow and end on September 21. 

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Harsh verdict on Microsoft
EU court upholds 497 million euro fine in anti-trust case

Brussels/Luxembourg, September 17
Microsoft suffered a stunning defeat on Monday when a European Union (EU) court backed a European Commission ruling that the US software giant illegally abused market power to crush competitors. The European Union's second-highest court dismissed the company's appeal on all substantive points of the 2004 anti-trust ruling.

The court said Microsoft, the world's largest software maker, was unjustified in tying new applications to its Windows operating system in a way that harmed consumer choice.

The verdict, which may be appealed only on points of law and not of fact, could force Microsoft to change its business practices.

It also gives EU Competition Commission Neelie Kroes a green light to pursue other anti-trust cases and complaints involving Microsoft, Intel, Qualcomm and Rambus, and to issue draft new anti-trust guidelines that were put on ice pending the ruling.

"Microsoft must now comply fully with its legal obligations to desist from engaging in anti-competitive conduct. The commission will do its utmost to ensure that Microsoft complies swiftly", Kroes said in a statement. The court upheld a record Euro 497 million ($689.9 million) fine imposed on the company as part of the original decision.

More importantly, it endorsed commission sanctions against Microsoft's tying together of software and refusal to give rival makers of office servers information to enable their products to work smoothly with Windows, used by 95 per cent of computers.

It annulled only the EU regulator's imposition of a Microsoft-funded independent trustee to monitor compliance.

"The Court of First Instance essentially upholds the commission's decision finding that Microsoft abused its dominant position," a court statement said.

Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith was downbeat in speaking to reporters at the courtroom, promising the company would obey the ruling in full. He said there was no decision yet on whether to appeal to the European Court of Justice.

Rivals welcomed the EU court decision as a signal that authorities do not intend to allow Microsoft to pursue anti-competitive practices with impunity.

The commission ordered the company to sell a version of Windows without the Windows Media Player application used for video and music, which few have bought, and to share information allowing rivals' office servers to work smoothly with Windows. Another winner was the Free Software Foundation, which makes free, open software for work group servers.

"Microsoft can consider itself above the law no longer," said Georg Greve, president of the FSF Europe. — Reuters

 

 
BRIEFLY
Managing director of Suzuki Motorcycles India Satya Sheel (left) and joint managing director of Suzuki Motorcycles India Katsumi Takata (right) pose with the newly unveiled Suzuki Access 125 scooter in New Delhi on Monday
Managing director of Suzuki Motorcycles India Satya Sheel (left) and joint managing director of Suzuki Motorcycles India Katsumi Takata (right) pose with the newly unveiled Suzuki Access 125 scooter in New Delhi on Monday. The company has not disclosed the price but said the scooter will be available in five colours. — AFP photo

Moser Baer
Chennai, September 17
Moser Baer would invest Rs 2,000 crore to set up the country’s first of its kind solar photo-voltaic fab facility at Oragadam on the outskirts of the city. Speaking at ‘Connect 2007’, India’s premier ICT event, here today, Moser Baer (India) managing director Deepak Puri said: “The company will be coming to Tamil Nadu in a big way and initially we will be investing about Rs 2,000 crore. This manufacturing facility will have all hi-tech and cutting edge lines. The investment, expected to generate employment to 4,000 people, will go up certainly.” The facility would produce photo-voltaic films. — UNI

Stake in TICL
Mumbai, September 17
Tata Sons Ltd would make an open offer to the shareholders of Tata Investment Corporation Ltd (TICL) for acquiring up to 28.39 per cent stake in the company. Tata Sons and other Tata companies hold 60.61 per cent of TICL’s equity capital and the open offer is proposed to be made by Tata Sons alone to acquire up to 28.39 per cent of the 39.39 per cent stake held by public shareholders. — PTI

Air India
Kulu, September 17
Air India would start its flights from Delhi to Kullu with its new 48-seat capacity aircraft ATR-42 from September 30, reservations for which have not yet started. The flight would leave Delhi at 10.30 a.m. and arrive Kulu at 11.40 a.m.. The full economy fare has been fixed as Rs 6590 plus taxes of Rs 1,325 making the gross fare as Rs 7,915. — TNS

Union Bank
Kozhikode, September 17
The Union Bank of India (UBI) will open a branch in Hong Kong by the end of the year. Talking to newspersons here today, UBI chairman and managing director M V Nair said the central banking authority of Hong Kong had granted approval to open a branch by November end or early December.— UNI

XCD 125
Chennai, September 17

Bajaj Auto Ltd (BAL) today announced the regional launch of its ambitious XCD 125, a 125 CC digital twin spark-swirl induction (DTS-Si) engine powered motorcycle, with a projected roll-out of at least 7,000 units in Chennai over the next two months. The bike is priced at Rs 41,000 ex-showroom. — PTI

Omnitech Info
Mumbai, September 17

Omnitech Infosolutions Ltd has entered into an agreement with Japanese firm Sanwell Company Ltd (SWL) for setting up a joint venture - Arham Technologies Company Ltd (ATCL) with a total investment of $1 million. — PTI

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