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FM asks bankers to review interest rates
New Delhi, October 5
Concerned over high lending costs impacting key sectors such as automobiles, the government today asked bankers to have a re-look at their interest rates in order to stimulate growth.
SBI chairman O.P. Bhatt (left) and ICICI chairman K.V. Kamath talk to media after meeting finance minister P. Chidambaram in New Delhi SBI chairman O.P. Bhatt (left) and ICICI chairman K.V. Kamath talk to media after meeting finance minister P. Chidambaram in New Delhi on Friday. — Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal

Decison on oil bonds next week
New Delhi, October 5

With the international crude oil prices moving north, putting pressure on the oil-marketing companies, the Union Cabinet is expected to finalise the issuance of oil bonds of about Rs 24,000 crore to partly cushion off the losses.

SBI public offer in Nov-Jan
New Delhi, October 5
The State Bank of India is planning to raise capital through public offer of shares in the market and is awaiting the nod of the Finance Ministry to meet additional capital requirements for business growth and statutory requirement.







EARLIER STORIES

 
Brand ambassador of Titan Raga, Rani Mukherjee, at the launch of ‘Raga Crystals’, a new collection of watches for women, in Mumbai
Brand ambassador of Titan Raga, Rani Mukherjee, at the launch of ‘Raga Crystals’, a new collection of watches for women, in Mumbai on Thursday. — PTI

Cut taxes on telecom services, says World Bank
New Delhi, October 5
The World Bank has asked the government to cut a slew of duties, including entertainment tax on broadband Internet connections in some states, on telecom services.

Six core sectors grow 9 pc in Aug
New Delhi, October 5
A buoyant performance by cement, coal and electricity sectors pushed up the overall growth in the six core infrastructure industries to 9 per cent in August 2007 as compared to 6.6 per cent in the same month a year ago.

PowerGrid to pump in up to Rs 2,000 cr in telecom biz
Mumbai, October 5
PowerGrid Corporation of India will invest up to Rs 2,000 crore to boost its existing telecom network in the next two years, chairman and managing director R.P. Singh said today. "We will be investing Rs 1,000 crore to 2,000 crore in telecom business in the next one to two years," he said after the company's listing on the National Stock Exchange here.

Oil blocks’ bidding under NELP-7 in Nov
New Delhi, October 5
India will announce the auctioning of 80-85 oil and gas blocks for exploration and production in the seventh licensing round under New Exploration Licensing Policy in the first week of November. "NELP-VII will be launched in the week beginning October 29," a government source said.

Onion prices ease, ministry to decide exports
New Delhi, October 5
As onion prices began to ease following restrictions on its export, the government today said overseas sale of the edible bulb would be allowed on a case-by-case basis. “Onion can be exported through licences and the quantum of the licence would be decided by the food ministry,” commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath told reporters here.

Health norms for IT sector soon
New Delhi, October 5
The government would bring out new health guidelines for the IT industry in view of the high incidence of heart attacks, diabetes, obesity, psoriasis and other health problems, among young professionals in this field, Health Minister Anbumoni Ramadoss said today.

Gogoi woos investors in NY
Guwahati, October 5
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today claimed that his trip to New York to woo investors was successful in arousing interests in several business houses there for investment in Assam. He said the North-East Investment Conclave in New York was arranged by the union ministry of DONER to market investment potential in the region.

Jet to buy 20 Boeing planes
Mumbai, October 5
Private carrier Jet Airways has signed an agreement to buy 20 Boeing 737-800 aircraft from the US-based company, with an option to buy 10 more, to augment its fleet. The aircraft are scheduled to be delivered between October 2012 and December 2014 subject to regulatory approvals, the company said in a filing to BSE.

Forex reserves up by $11.8 b
Mumbai, October 5
The country's foreign exchange reserves shot up by a whopping $11.871 billion to $247.762 billion for the week ended September 28, the Reserve Bank said today. The forex reserves had increased by $3.704 billion at $235.891 billion for the week ended September 21.

BoI may dilute 5 pc govt equity
New Delhi, October 5
State-run lender Bank of India today said it may bring a public issue to raise fresh equity and dilute 5 per cent of the government equity. The government holds 69.4 per cent in the bank at present.

Telecom panel meets over licensing norms
New Delhi, October 5
Telecom Commission, the policy making wing of the Department of Telecom, met today to discuss regulator TRAI's recommendations on licensing reforms, including pricing for the additonal mobile (2G) spectrum.





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FM asks bankers to review interest rates

New Delhi, October 5
Concerned over high lending costs impacting key sectors such as automobiles, the government today asked bankers to have a re-look at their interest rates in order to stimulate growth.

Emerging from a meeting called by finance minister P Chidambaram with bankers and representatives of automobiles, auto components and paper industry, Maruti Suzuki India managing director Jagdish Khattar told reporters that the minister had taken up the issue of high interest rates.

"He (Chidambaram) asked bankers to have a re-look at interest rates in order to stimulate demand. Costs of auto industry have increased and everybody understands there is a problem and it has to be rectified," Khattar said.

Tata Motors managing director Ravi Kant also said the auto industry raised the issue of high interest rates that has resulted in declining sales during the meeting.

Admitting that the rising interest rates was a matter of concern, Punjab National Bank chairman and managing director K.C. Chakrabarty said the finance minister had asked bankers to create positive sentiments.

SBI chairman O P Bhatt, however, said interest rates are likely to remain stable at least till the mid-term review of monetary policy by the RBI on October 30.

BILT chairman Gautam Thapar said the paper industry has also sought a decrease in interest rates.

The automobile industry has been going through one of the toughest years with demand slowing down as interest rates kept increasing.

While admitting that banks' cost of borrowing has also increased, Khattar said the solution to the slowdown in demand of the auto industry was with the bankers.

"We ourselves have been doing whatever we can to keep sales going. In fact, this year our marketing expense will be 50 per cent more than last year," he said.

The bankers were, however, of the opinion that only interest rates were not to sole solution to the problem.

"Interest rate is not the only solution. We can look at various mechanisms, such as delivery in order to create positive sentiments," Chakrabarty said.

ICICI Bank CEO and managing director K V Kamath said banks had their own problems which needed to be addressed.

"Deposit rates have not come down," he said, adding bankers need to find ways to stimulate overall demand after considering their own problems. — PTI

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Decison on oil bonds next week
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 5
With the international crude oil prices moving north, putting pressure on the oil-marketing companies (OMC), the Union Cabinet is expected to finalise the issuance of oil bonds of about Rs 24,000 crore to partly cushion off the losses. The bonds are likely to be released in two phases of Rs 12,000 crore each to the OMCs.

A senior petroleum ministry official said oil bonds of Rs 24,000 crore were expected to be cleared by the Cabinet next week.

The Cabinet would review the fuel prices next week, the official added.

Indian Oil Corporation chairman S Behuria said, “A decision on the oil price hike is likely to be taken by the Cabinet next week.”

Talking to reporters on the sidelines of an energy summit, he said, “The industry is losing about Rs 185 crore per day on petrol, diesel, LPG and kerosene. Our losses should be in the range of Rs 90-100 crore per day.”

However, petroleum ministry official said due to political compulsions, the Manmohan government was unlikely to hike the prices of petrol and diesel at this juncture.

The total revenue loss incurred by the oil-marketing companies for the current financial year is likely to be Rs 64,000 crore, of which the ONGC would wear around Rs 20,000 crore.

The rest of the burden would be borne by GAIL India and Oil India, the official added.

GAIL moots CNG corridor

GAIL India Ltd today mooted creation of a CNG-corridor across the country to cut carbon emissions and save Rs 60,000 crore in oil bill.

“India has a 8,000-km cross-country pipeline network, and city gas distribution projects supplying CNG to automobiles can be created in cities falling on the pipelines,” GAIL chairman and managing director U D Choubey said at the India Energy Summit here.

The city gas networks in Delhi and Mumbai could be replicated in a number of cities to save Rs 60,000 crore in fuel bill, he said. The use of environmental-friendly CNG in automobiles would also cut carbon emissions contributing to Green House gases.

India spent Rs 180,000 crore on oil imports in 2006-07 and 75 per cent of 135 million tons oil consumed is by transport sector.

Choubey stressed on the need for a legislation mandating use of CNG in all automobiles as was done in the transport sector in Delhi.

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SBI public offer in Nov-Jan

New Delhi, October 5
The State Bank of India is planning to raise capital through public offer of shares in the market and is awaiting the nod of the Finance Ministry to meet additional capital requirements for business growth and statutory requirement.

“We are under discussion with the Finance Ministry and awaiting clearance from them. Once we get clearance, capital would be raised within 90 days,” SBI chairman OP Bhatt said today.

The bank is expected to raise around Rs 10,000 crore either through follow on public offer or rights issue.

The government’s stake would be diluted if the bank brings out a public offer but will remain unchanged in case of rights issue.

Admitting that credit growth of the bank was marginally lower than the target of 23-24 per cent till September end, he said, “Once the sanctioned loans are disbursed, it is expected to go up. We are hopeful to achieve up to 25 per cent credit growth this fiscal.” — PTI

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Cut taxes on telecom services, says World Bank

New Delhi, October 5
The World Bank has asked the government to cut a slew of duties, including entertainment tax on broadband Internet connections in some states, on telecom services.

"The government impose various fees, levies and taxes on telecom services, which include annual licence fees of 6-12 per cent, spectrum charges of 25 per cent and service taxes of 8-12 per cent. For an industry growing so quickly, these taxes and fees should be reduced," the World Bank said in a report.

The bank said in a high-volume business, lower taxes create a win-win situation for everyone. The government also imposes 8 per cent tax on Internet service providers and reducing or waiving this tax would lower the cost of broadband access, the report said.

The World Bank in its report on 'Unleashing India's Innovation' said many Indian states levy a 30 per cent entertainment tax on broadband subscriptions.

"The central government should encourage state governments to waive this tax," it said. The report made out a case for expediting allocation of spectrum for wireless broadband to waive this tax," it said.

It said freeing up more radio spectrum for operators of voice and data services would reduce their roll-out costs in the rural areas.

The World Bank report suggested the subsidies be targeted for rural mobile and broadband services.

The government should also reduce the domestic roaming tariffs besides promoting infrastructure sharing and facilitate access to land and building space at low cost, it said. — PTI

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Six core sectors grow 9 pc in Aug

New Delhi, October 5
A buoyant performance by cement, coal and electricity sectors pushed up the overall growth in the six core infrastructure industries to 9 per cent in August 2007 as compared to 6.6 per cent in the same month a year ago.

Cement sector led the performance chart for August, recording a robust growth of 16.2 per cent in August from a mere 2.9 per cent in the same month last year.

Coal and electricity, with 8.7 per cent growth each, were the other sectors, which contributed to the improvement in the key infrastructure industries, which have a weightage of 26.68 per cent in the overall Index for industrial production. Coal production improved from 0.6 per cent while electricity moved from 4.1 per cent in August 2006.

However, there was a decline in growth of crude petroleum to 6.4 per cent from 12 per cent and petroleum refinery products to 8.2 per cent from 12.1 per cent. Steel output was marginally down by one percentage point to 8.5 per cent.

As against improvement in August, there was a decline in growth of the six sectors during the April-August period of 2007-08 to 6.6 per cent from 8.3 per cent in the corresponding period of the previous fiscal.

"As infrastructure industries contribute significantly to the IIP, the overall industrial production numbers, to be released in a week's time are likely to show better performance," an analyst working with a chamber said.

On a sequential basis, the sectors have shown improvement since June this year when the growth rate was 3.8 per cent, which moved up to 6.8 per cent in July and to 9 per cent in August. — PTI

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PowerGrid to pump in up to Rs 2,000 cr in telecom biz

Mumbai, October 5
PowerGrid Corporation of India (PGCIL) will invest up to Rs 2,000 crore to boost its existing telecom network in the next two years, chairman and managing director R.P. Singh said today.

"We will be investing Rs 1,000 crore to 2,000 crore in telecom business in the next one to two years," he said after the company's listing on the National Stock Exchange here.

PGCIL's telecom network, which extends to 60 cities, will be doubled and the government-owned firm will soon foray into the business of retailing its network for entertainment ventures like movies.

"Besides renting out our network capacity, we can use the network in entertainment sector and we are in talks with a Mumbai-based media company," Singh said.

The company expects to earn a profit of Rs 130-135 crore from the telecom business and Rs 200 crore from consultancy business in 2007-08, he said.

Lists at Rs 85 on BSE

Meanwhile, PGCIL today got listed at Rs 85 at the Bombay Stock Exchange with a premium of 63.46 per cent over its issue price of Rs 52.

Within minutes of listing, the scrip of the country's biggest transmission utility touched a high of Rs 100 and as many as 28.86 lakh shares changed hands at the BSE.

At the National Stock Exchange, the scrip got listed at Rs 89.80, touched a high of Rs 99.90 and over 8.36 crore shares were traded.

The scrip, however, parted with some initial gains and was trading at Rs 95.25 at BSE and at Rs 99.80 at NSE. — PTI

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Oil blocks’ bidding under NELP-7 in Nov

New Delhi, October 5
India will announce the auctioning of 80-85 oil and gas blocks for exploration and production in the seventh licensing round under New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) in the first week of November.

"NELP-VII will be launched in the week beginning October 29," a government source said.

Oil regulator Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) has carved out 80-85 blocks to be offered for bidding under NELP-VII. The total acreage of the blocks on offer is about 0.4 million sq km. Offshore blocks on both east and west coast would be offered, in addition to a few on-land blocks.

NELP-VII had been postponed several times. It was originally due in March-April, but the controversy over pricing of gas forced the government to defer it on fear of investors' backlash.

Although the government had promised marketing freedom and market price for oil and gas found by companies investing in NELP rounds, there were attempts to regulate price of gas to be produced by Reliance Industries from its NELP-I block, KG-D6. — PTI

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Onion prices ease, ministry to decide exports

New Delhi, October 5
As onion prices began to ease following restrictions on its export, the government today said overseas sale of the edible bulb would be allowed on a case-by-case basis.

“Onion can be exported through licences and the quantum of the licence would be decided by the food ministry,” commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath told reporters here.

The ministry had said in a statement yesterday that exports of onion, which was hitherto canalised through the designated public sector agencies, would be restricted immediately.

“Accordingly, a notification has been issued by the government providing that the exports of onion shall herein after be restricted and permissible only under an export license through designated canalising agencies,” it had said.

Onion exports during the first half of this fiscal has fallen by 37 per cent to 3.84 lakh tonne compared to 6.05 lakh tonne a year ago, according to Nashik-based National Horticulture Research Development Foundation.

Meanwhile, onion prices eased by Rs 2-3 a kg in wholesale markets in the national capital. The edible bulb sold for about Rs 19 a kg in the wholesale market, but its benefit was yet to reach the common man.

“The wholesale prices today fell to Rs 16-19 per kg from Rs 18-22 yesterday. The rates are expected to come down to Rs 10-12 per kg in a week,” a wholesale trader Sher Singh at Azadpur Mandi said. — PTI

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Health norms for IT sector soon

New Delhi, October 5
The government would bring out new health guidelines for the IT industry in view of the high incidence of heart attacks, diabetes, obesity, psoriasis and other health problems, among young professionals in this field, Health Minister Anbumoni Ramadoss said today.

Dr Ramadoss said that as IT was the flagship industry for the country, he and Environmental Minister A Raja would meet soon to formulate these comprehensive guidelines to prevent lifestyle diseases among these highly trained and skilled professionals young professionals.

“These guidelines will not be separate health policy for BPOs, but health care guidelines for IT industry as a whole as it was the flagship industry for the country,” the Health Minister clarified.

He said the government had decided to bring these guidelines as it has come to light that youngsters in the age group of 20 to 25 years working in BPOs and IT sector due to night and shift duty were suffering from heart attacks, hypertension, obesity, HIV and other diseases. There was a need to create awareness among them as well as the industry owners as these problems were solvable, he said.

Dr Ramadoss also called for creating awareness against use of junk food and tobacco by youngsters.

He also asked the Indian Council of Medical Research, which was today converted into the Department of Health Research, to conduct a study on the long term negative impact of mobile use by youth. — UNI

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Gogoi woos investors in NY
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, October 5
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today claimed that his trip to New York to woo investors was successful in arousing interests in several business houses there for investment in Assam.

He said the North-East Investment Conclave in New York was arranged by the union ministry of DONER to market investment potential in the region.

“At least eight companies in the US have showed interests in investing in different sectors, including aircraft maintenance, bio-diesel, hydrocarbon exploration, and adventure tourism and airline service in Assam. These companies have assured me to send their representatives to the state by next March to make a study of the potential as well as law and order situation in the state,” Gogoi said.

He said all those who had met me during one-to-one meeting on the sideline of the New York conclave, raised questions about the prevailing law and order situation in the state and my response was that they should better come themselves to assess the ground situation.

He informed that a company called BroadStreet Capital-Private Equity Group proposed to set up a hub in Guwahati for aircraft maintenance.

Bravia Capital Partners Inc is interested in starting a regional airline in the North-East with Guwahati as its operation base while one NRI businessman Bharat Barry Sehgal is interested in profitable exploration of hydrocarbon deposits by developing joint venture with international companies.

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Jet to buy 20 Boeing planes

Mumbai, October 5
Private carrier Jet Airways has signed an agreement to buy 20 Boeing 737-800 aircraft from the US-based company, with an option to buy 10 more, to augment its fleet.

The aircraft are scheduled to be delivered between October 2012 and December 2014 subject to regulatory approvals, the company said in a filing to BSE.

The agreement is aimed at maintaining and expanding its international and domestic operations using B737 NG aircraft, it said.

The company, under the purchase agreement, has also taken the option of acquiring an additional 10 Boeing 737-800 series aircraft, it said.

These 10 aircraft are scheduled to be delivered between August 2013 and February 2015, it said.

The last of the 10 B737NG aircraft, previously ordered by the company are scheduled to be delivered on October 11, 2007. — PTI

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Forex reserves up by $11.8 b

Mumbai, October 5
The country's foreign exchange reserves shot up by a whopping $11.871 billion to $247.762 billion for the week ended September 28, the Reserve Bank said today.

The forex reserves had increased by $3.704 billion at $235.891 billion for the week ended September 21.

Foreign currency assets increased by $11.383 billion to stand at $239.955 billion as against $228.572 billion a week before.

During the week, gold reserves also increased by $486 million to $7.367 billion, while special drawing rights (SDRs) remained static at $2 million. — PTI

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BoI may dilute 5 pc govt equity

New Delhi, October 5
State-run lender Bank of India today said it may bring a public issue to raise fresh equity and dilute 5 per cent of the government equity. The government holds 69.4 per cent in the bank at present.

The country's sixth largest bank in terms of assets is also expecting up to 24 per cent loan growth in the current fiscal.

"We should be on target (on loan growth). We are expecting a 23-24 per cent growth in financial year 2007-08," BoI chairman and managing director TS Narayanasami said here. — PTI

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Telecom panel meets over licensing norms

New Delhi, October 5
Telecom Commission, the policy making wing of the Department of Telecom, met today to discuss regulator TRAI's recommendations on licensing reforms, including pricing for the additonal mobile (2G) spectrum.

Official sources said the Commission examined all proposals and the draft policy made by the DoT's internal committee. There was consensus among the Commission members on the decisions of the draft prepared by the internal committee.

The Commission will again meet on Monday to have further discussions on the same.

The Telecom Commission's decision is not final unless approved by the communications and IT minister, they said. — PTI

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BRIEFLY

Inflation up at 3.42 pc
New Delhi, October 5
Inflation for the first time in six weeks rose to 3.42 per cent for the week ended September 22, compared to 3.23 per cent in the previous week, pushed by the rise in prices of steel, chemicals and other manufactured products. — TNS

Star account
Chandigarh, October 5
The State Bank of Patiala has launched Star Saving Bank account, offering a bouquet of special concessions with maintenance of quarterly average balance of Rs 50,000. The account holder will get a free ATM-cum-debit card, internet banking facility, immediate credit of outstation cheques up to Rs 20,000 and remittances/collections. The account holders will also get free group accident insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh. — TNS

BoB foray
Mumbai, October 5
Italian company Pioneer Investments and public sector Bank of Baroda has formed a joint venture company called Baroda Pioneer Asset Management Company, with the former picking up 51 per cent stake in the mutual fund venture for an undisclosed sum, BoB CMD Anil Khandelwal said here. — PTI

REC IPO
New Delhi, October 5
State-owned Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) today said it will launch an initial public offering (IPO) by December end. The company will dilute 20 per cent of its total equity through the IPO and use the proceeds for funding its various programmes, company’s CMD said. — UNI

World Bank MD
Washington, October 5
Former Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was named to a high-level post at the World Bank under president Robert Zoellick, the bank said today. She will become a World Bank managing director along with Graeme Wheeler of New Zealand and Juan Jose Daboub of El Salvador. — AP

RCom plan
Chandigarh, October 5
Reliance Communications (RCom) has announced ‘Regional Calling Plan NJ 400’ for all new and existing post-paid mobile subscribers in Haryana. Subscribers can make calls to any mobile in Delhi NCR, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh for as low as 50 paise per minute. The subscriber will also get free talk time of Rs 400. — TNS

Osram plan
Sonepat , October 5
Osram, a leading lighting manufacturer, will double its production capacity within next three years by building a second plant at Kundli in Haryana with investment of euro 15-20 million. This was disclosed by global president and CEO of Osram yesterday after the ground-breaking ceremony of the plant here. — OC

i-flex buyout
Mumbai, October 5
Software services provider i-flex Solutions Ltd today announced it will acquire 100 per cent stake in Canada-based Castek Software Inc. The board at its meeting held today took the decision and the transaction is expected to close by March 2008, i-flex said in a communique to the BSE. — PTI

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