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Audi to make A6 in India
Slashes price up to Rs 2.1 lakh
New Delhi, November 8
German luxury car manufacturer Audi has slashed the price of its A6 range by up to Rs 2.10 lakh and will start marketing a locally assembled sedan in India by December.

30 lakh IT refunds issued till Oct
New Delhi, November 8
The Income Tax Department has already issued over 30 lakh refunds in the first 7 months of this fiscal involving a total amount of Rs 18,448 crore.

Cabinet okays coal SPV
New Delhi, November 8
In a major decision, the government today gave green signal to a special purpose vehicle (SPV) formed by leading steel and mineral PSUs in the country to acquire stakes in overseas coal mines to meet their growing production needs.


Rs 1,228-crore Mumbai port project also cleared

Big jolt to SEZ developers in Maharashtra
Mumbai, November 8
Promoters of special economic zones (SEZs) in Maharashtra have received a major jolt to their plans after union agriculture minister and president of the Nationalist Congress Party Sharad Pawar virtually ordered the state government not to acquire land from farmers for setting up SEZs.



EARLIER STORIES

 

A Japanese woman gazes at a $2.6 million sweet castle Ruby monument, sugar made castle decorated with 133 pieces totalling 92-carat rubies and platinum chains and foils at Tokyo's Takashimaya department store on Thursday.
A Japanese woman gazes at a $2.6 million sweet castle Ruby monument, sugar made castle decorated with 133 pieces totalling 92-carat rubies and platinum chains and foils at Tokyo's Takashimaya department store on Thursday. — AFP

Mittal eyes 50 pc in HPCL’s arm
New Delhi, November 8 
Steel baron Lakshmi N Mittal is eyeing to buy half of Hindustan Petroleum Corp's exploration arm Prize Petroleum for about Rs 200 crore. Mittal, which made rapid advances in oil sphere this year first with a 49 per cent stake in HPCL's Bathinda refinery and then partnering the state-run firm for a separate refinery on the east coast.

Minister slams Sunil Mittal for outcry against BSNL
New Delhi, November 8 
Airtel chief Sunil Mittal's remarks against BSNL and MTNL have evoked sharp reaction from the government, with minister of state for commerce Jairam Ramesh slamming the telecom czar for castigating the PSUs, which were subjected to "aggressive lobbying" from private competitors.

Resolve pricing issue with Pak, Iran asks India 
New Delhi, November 8 
Iran today said the $7-billion Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline would be operational soon after India resolves the pricing mechanism issue with Pakistan.

Mega brands sell ‘sweet’ alternatives
New Delhi, November 8
Processed food industry is seeing a great business potential during Diwali and is placing products in attractive festival gift packs to woo customers during this time of the year. More so, this year business is only helped by soaring sweets prices.According to trade estimates, the industry is targeting a market size of Rs 450 to Rs 500 crore during Diwali to sell products like biscuits, chocolates, fruit juices and carbonated drinks among other items.

Inflation at 2.97 pc
New Delhi, November 8
For the first time in more than five years, the headline inflation rate dipped below 3 per cent to 2.97 per cent for the week ended October 27, thanks to fall in the prices of some of food articles. Inflation in the previous week was 3.02 per cent and 5.35 per cent in the corresponding week a year ago.

 

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Audi to make A6 in India
Slashes price up to Rs 2.1 lakh

New Delhi, November 8
German luxury car manufacturer Audi has slashed the price of its A6 range by up to Rs 2.10 lakh and will start marketing a locally assembled sedan in India by December.

The company, which will also be launching the new A4 sedan in India next year, is planning to start local production of the vehicle by end of 2008 at group company Skoda's Aurangabad plant as it aims to sell about 3,000 units across its portfolio in the country by 2010.

"With the start of local production we are trying to give our customer the best. Our initial capacity is about 300-400 units of A6 in the next 12 months and if necessary it could be increased depending on demand," Audi India managing director Benoit Tiers told PTI.

The company is also passing on the benefit of locally assembling the sedan to customers with price of the whole Audi A6 range being reduced between Rs 1.40 lakh up to Rs 2.10 lakh depending on the engine. Audi A6 will now cost between Rs 38.90-45 lakh (ex-showroom Mumbai, inclusive of VAT).

He said Audi plans to launch the A4 sedan in India next year, which will be assembled here by the year-end.

The company said A6 sedan will available to order at the exclusive Audi dealerships in Delhi, Gurgaon, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chandigarh and the first A6 models will be delivered to customers in December 2007. — PTI 

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30 lakh IT refunds issued till Oct
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 8
The Income Tax Department has already issued over 30 lakh refunds in the first 7 months of this fiscal involving a total amount of Rs 18,448 crore.

Refund payouts in non-corporate personal income tax (PIT) category are ahead by 47.16 percent (Rs 6,135 crore against Rs 4,169 crore) as compared to the first seven months of last fiscal, an official statement said here today.

During this year, over 11 lakh electronic returns have already been received. More such returns are expected by November 15, 2007, up to which the last date for filing of mandatory electronic returns stands extended. During fiscal 2006-07, 3,44,343 electronic returns were filed by various categories of taxpayers.

Out of these, 2,38,204 electronic returns have already been processed by the department and refunds amounting Rs 7,816.89 crore in such cases have already been issued up to November 7, 2007. The remaining 1,06,139 electronic returns will be processed by November 30.

Refunds of over Rs 14,000 crore pertaining to large corporate cases have also been processed. Out of these, refunds of over Rs 5,400 crore have been issued and the remaining refunds will also be issued by November 30.

The Refund Banker Scheme — launched in Delhi and Patna towards the end of last fiscal and extended subsequently to Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai — has helped increase the pace of refunds. It will now be extended to the entire country for the non-corporate PIT category of taxpayers in order to facilitate quick and correct issue of refunds.

Taxpayers are advised to furnish their bank details and ECS number in their tax returns so that their refunds can be credited to their bank account electronically. 

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Reliance Power emerges lowest bidder

New Delhi, November 8
Anil Ambani group firm Reliance Power is believed to have emerged as the lowest bidder for the 4,000 MW Krishnapatnam ultra mega power project in Andhra Pradesh that will need an investment of over Rs 16,000 crore.

Reliance Power bid Rs 2.33 per unit as the levelised tariff for 25 years, while engineering firm Larsen & Toubro is understood to have quoted Rs 2.70 per unit. Vedanta Group firm Sterlite has quoted a slightly higher tariff, sources said.

The financial bids were opened by the government's nodal agency Power Finance Corporation today. Reliance, L&T and Sterlite were the only three firms in the fray. Reliance had earlier this year won the Sasan ultra mega power plant in Madhya Pradesh. While the Sasan project would be run on domestic coal, the Krishnapatnam project is to be operated on imported coal. — PTI 

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Ranbaxy settles patent row with Astellas



New Delhi, November 8
Pharmaceutical major Ranbaxy Laboratories today said it has reached an agreement with Astellas Boehringer Ingelheim in a patent case over Flomax (R) (tamsulosin capsules) used in treatment of benign enlargement of prostate.

As a result of the agreement, Ranbaxy will be able to enter the US market on March 2, 2010, eight weeks prior to the expiry of the pediatric exclusivity, which is likely to be granted to the innovator company, it said in a statement.

During this period of pediatric exclusivity, Ranbaxy will be the only generic manufacturer to commercialise the product in the US market, it added.

Ranbaxy said Astellas had agreed to stipulate a remand of the pending Federal Circuit appeal and subsequent vacatur of the District Court decision in regards to Flomax (R) (tamsulosin capsules). The case between Ranbaxy and Astellas Boehringer has been dismissed without prejudice, it added. — PTI

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Cabinet okays coal SPV
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 8
In a major decision, the government today gave green signal to a special purpose vehicle (SPV) formed by leading steel and mineral PSUs in the country to acquire stakes in overseas coal mines to meet their growing production needs.

A decision to this effect was taken by the union cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here, union finance minister P Chidambaram told newspersons here.

The proposed SPV will have an authorised capital base of Rs 10,000 crore and a paid-up capital of Rs 3,500 crore, Chidambaram said adding the SPV will have the freedom accorded to a ‘Navratna’ company and would be able to take decision on its own on matters entailing an investment of Rs 1,500 crore.

Any investment over it would have to be referred to the Committee of Secretaries and thereafter the cabinet's approval would be sought, the minister said.

The Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd (RINL), Coal India Ltd (CIL), National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) and NTPC have joined hands to acquire coal properties abroad, especially in Australia and Canada, to meet their growing needs.

While SAIL and CIL have decided to pump in Rs 1,000 crore each in the proposed SPV, the other three PSUs will invest Rs 500 crore each.

The SPV will have three-tier decision making bodies. It will have an apex committee comprising the chiefs of the participating companies, besides a steering committee comprising functional directors of these companies.

In the proposed SPV, there will be a joint business development group comprising select officers who would carry out due diligence on investment opportunities in overseas coal mines, steel ministry sources said.

Rs 1,228-crore Mumbai port project also cleared

The government today approved the development of Offshore Container Terminal (OCT) at Mumbai port with an estimated investment of Rs 1,228 crore.

"The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved the development of offshore container terminal on build, operate and transfer (BOT) basis at Mumbai port, under licence agreement to be entered into by Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) with the BOT operator," finance minister P Chidambaram told reporters after the CCEA meeting.

MbPT would enter into a licence agreement with a consortium of Gammon India, Gammon Infrastructure and Dragados SPL, Spain.

The total cost of the OCT project is estimated at Rs 1,228 crore, he said. The investment by the BOT operator would be Rs 862 crore and the investment by Port to carry out works under their scope would be Rs 366.39 crore.

The capacity addition due to implementation of this project would be Rs 9.6 million tonnes per annum. The project would enable the port to handle large size container vessels, which will save precious foreign exchange.— PTI

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Pawar asks state govt not to acquire farmers’ land
Big jolt to SEZ developers in Maharashtra
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, November 8
Promoters of special economic zones (SEZs) in Maharashtra have received a major jolt to their plans after union agriculture minister and president of the Nationalist Congress Party Sharad Pawar virtually ordered the state government not to acquire land from farmers for setting up SEZs.

The Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation, which was acquiring 5,000 acres of land for a multi-project SEZ by the Videocon group of companies at Wagholi-Kesnand at Pawar's Baramati constituency, has now stopped the land acquisition process, state government sources say.

Pawar's order came at a farmer's conference recently where he was nearly gheraoed by farmers opposed to the land acquisition process.

The Maratha strongman promised that no land acquisition would be undertaken and companies interested in obtaining agriculture land would have to purchase the same from the land owners.

Pawar further promised that the Maharashtra government would denotify the land to be acquired for the SEZ. He hoped that the process initiated in Maharashtra would be adopted all over the country.

Earlier, the Maharashtra government had decided not to acquire land for the giant SEZ proposed by Reliance group of companies outside Mumbai. However, with officials still undertaking land surveys there is apprehension that the land acquisition process was going about in a clandestine manner.

Farmers living in proposed Navi Mumbai and Maha Mumbai SEZs of Reliance Industries are still holding agitations. Pawar is on record saying farmers should be allowed to follow the Magarpatta model of developing their land.

The minister felt that farmers should pool their land and develop projects in partnership with companies.

In all, 120 of the 450 SEZs proposed by the union ministry of commerce were to come up in Maharashtra. However, most of them were single project SEZs in sectors like IT and would not be affected since they do not require huge tracts of land.

Among the promoters of the proposed multi-product SEZs includes Mahindra and Mahindra, Bharat Forge and India Bulls which require more than 1,000 hectares of land.

Encouraged by the success of farmers at Wagholi, villagers affected by the proposed Maha Mumbai SEZ of Reliance have also stepped up protests to get the land acquisition process denotified. Activists of the Anti-Maha Mumbai Action Committee said in a statement here that protests would be intensified so that the land to be acquired for the Reliance SEZ is denotified at the earliest.

The activists have received the support of the BJP, which is now demanding that concessions extended to the farmers of Wagholi be extended to others as well. "The same yardstick should be applied all over Maharashtra. Decisions should not be taken only on the basis of narrow considerations like somebody's constituency," BJP leader Vinod Tawade said.

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Mittal eyes 50 pc in HPCL’s arm

New Delhi, November 8
Steel baron Lakshmi N Mittal is eyeing to buy half of Hindustan Petroleum Corp's exploration arm Prize Petroleum for about Rs 200 crore.

Mittal, which made rapid advances in oil sphere this year first with a 49 per cent stake in HPCL's Bathinda refinery and then partnering the state-run firm for a separate refinery on the east coast, is in talks with financial institutions to buy out their 50 per cent stake in Prize Petroleum, sources close to the development said.

The steel baron is looking for a medium-sized firm, mostly entrenched in E&P. "He has had looked at a few firms but nothing is finalised just now," they said.

Besides Mittal, Essar Oil, Jaiprakash Associates and L&T are other firms interested in buying a 50 per cent stake in Prize Petroleum. HPCL holds the balance 50 per cent in Prize.

Prize operates Cluster-7 field of Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) and won two exploration blocks in fourth and sixth round of auction under New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP). The company plans to produce about 50,000 barrels of oil per day from Cluster-7 fields and believes its NELP-VI block in Madhya Pradesh holds three trillion cubic feet of gas reserves.

Prize has 15 per cent in NELP-VI onland block CB-ONN-2002/3 in the Cambay basin where other partners are GSPC (55 per cent), Jubilant Enpro (20 per cent) and GeoGlobal (10 per cent). — PTI 

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Minister slams Sunil Mittal for outcry against BSNL 

New Delhi, November 8
Airtel chief Sunil Mittal's remarks against BSNL and MTNL have evoked sharp reaction from the government, with minister of state for commerce Jairam Ramesh slamming the telecom czar for castigating the PSUs, which were subjected to "aggressive lobbying" from private competitors.

"Public Service Enterprises have to face many constraints in their operations not the least being aggressive lobby by the competitors to stymie their expansion," Ramesh said in a letter to Mittal expressing deep disappointment at the entrepreneur's views on BSNL and MTNL.

Mittal had objected to allocation of spectrum to the PSUs, especially BSNL that does not fulfil subscriber-based criteria as prescribed in the current policy.

"I was anguished at your comments on BSNL and MTNL. I am well aware that there are differing opinions on the best way of allocating spectrum. You (Mittal) have a point of view which you have expressed forcefully. But what pained me is the manner in which you have castigated BSNL particularly," the minister said.

BSNL has been facing many hurdles to expand its operations in the mobile telephony and was reduced with virtually nil capacity to offer any new connection and has been losing its market share to private competitors.

Ramesh also pointed out that PSUs have done far better in meeting social obligations compared to private players and singled out BSNL for appreciation for the role it played.

Mittal, in his letter to the Department of Telecom, had called BSNL and MTNL as 'most inefficient' and had asked DoT to withdraw a large part of spectrum from MTNL to guide the industry in efficient spectrum use.

"Surely, the experts within the Department should have helped BSNL and MTNL, the government owned operators, to be the most spectrum efficient and be role models and not the other way round as most inefficient operators having the largest amount of spectrum with a lower subscriber base," he had said.

However, both BSNL and MTNL had hit back at Mittal, saying they have been allotted spectrum as per the existing policy. — PTI

Spectrum Row

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Resolve pricing issue with Pak, Iran asks India 

New Delhi, November 8
Iran today said the $7-billion Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline would be operational soon after India resolves the pricing mechanism issue with Pakistan.

Iranian interior minister Mostafa Pour Mohammadi also hoped that the LNG project with India would be finalised soon, saying it was good if India met its energy requirements from Iran.

India has already sought a bilateral meeting with Pakistan to resolve differences over transit fees that India needs to pay to Pakistan for the gas through the pipeline.

India is reportedly willing to pay about $0.60 per MMBtu as transportation and transit fee to Pakistan for the gas delivered at its border. Pakistan wants a better price. Nearly 750 km of the 2,775 km IPI pipeline would pass through Pakistan.

The Iranian minister, who held discussions with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee here today, said the civilian nuclear agreement between India and the United States was India's internal matter and India would do whatever was best in its national interest.

On India's vote against Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he said India was only trying to take an independent foreign policy decision in line with its national interest. The Iranian minister is scheduled to meet home minister Shivraj Patil and national security adviser MK Narayanan. He also called for security cooperation between India and Iran saying the two countries should talk about it. — UNI

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Mega brands sell ‘sweet’ alternatives

New Delhi, November 8
Processed food industry is seeing a great business potential during Diwali and is placing products in attractive festival gift packs to woo customers during this time of the year.

More so, this year business is only helped by soaring sweets prices.

According to trade estimates, the industry is targeting a market size of Rs 450 to Rs 500 crore during Diwali to sell products like biscuits, chocolates, fruit juices and carbonated drinks among other items.

Leading names like PepsiCo, Cadbury, Britannia and Priyagold all have come up with attractive gift packs of their range of products aimed at Diwali.

Surya Foods and Agro, which manufactures biscuits under the Priyagold brand, is targeting four-fold jump in its sale at Rs 15 crore this year on Diwali.

"This is the second year in running when we are offering some attractive gift packages of our products including biscuits, juices and carbonated drinks," Priyagold's Director Sekhar Agarwal said.

He said the products are being offered in the range of Rs 50-200 per pack keeping customers' affordability in mind.

While sweets have been the biggest money-spinner traditionally in terms of Diwali sales, their prices have gone up by up to 25 per cent since last Diwali due to a sharp rise in the prices of milk and milk-products.

Besides the increased prices of sweets, the manufacturers and sellers of snacks and dry-fruits are also betting on the brand value of their products as well as a change from the traditional practice of gifting plain sweets.

Companies like PepsiCo, which has a snack brand Kurkure, are already marketing their products as an alternate to sweets on Diwali with special promotions marked for festivities.

"We want that every one should be able to purchase the packet so the prices have been kept at as low as Rs 50," Priyagold's Agarwal said, adding the offer would continue till Bhaiya Duj, a Hindu festival held two days after Diwali.

Britannia has also come out with some Diwali packs, which are being sold at retail chains like Big Bazaar at a discount.

Britannia organised an event in Kolkata to promote its products during Diwali, sources said.

Pepsi's Kurkure has also hit retail stores in attractive gift packs to encash the Diwali fervour.

Cadbury, which is the early entrant to tap the Diwali market, has introduced 'dark chocolate' besides existing portfolio this year. It is offering Dark Chocolates and milk chocolates in different flavours at Rs 200-525 per pack.

The company also launched new advertising campaign featuring Amitabh Bachchan last month to promote Cadbury's 'Celebrations' range for Diwali. — PTI

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Inflation at 2.97 pc

New Delhi, November 8
For the first time in more than five years, the headline inflation rate dipped below 3 per cent to 2.97 per cent for the week ended October 27, thanks to fall in the prices of some of food articles. Inflation in the previous week was 3.02 per cent and 5.35 per cent in the corresponding week a year ago.

The Inflation rate of 2.97 per cent is below the Reserve Bank of India’s new medium term target of 3 per cent.— TNS

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BRIEFLY

Omaxe buyout 
Mumbai, November 8 
Continuing to expand its business , both through organic and inorganic routes, the real estate developer Omaxe Ltd today said it has acquired a Delhi-based S N Realtors for Rs 45 crore. By takeover of S N Realtors, Omaxe has acquired over 11 acres of land in Faridabad on which the company plans to develop a residential project with a further investment of Rs 100 crore.— PTI

Balmer Lawrie 
Kolkata, November 8 
Diversified PSU Balmer Lawrie & Co. Ltd has set aside Rs 300 crore for organic and inorganic growth as per the strategic plan prepared by the firm for 2012. The company’s managing director S K Mukerjee said the company was looking for inorganic growth in the business divisions of construction chemicals, leather chemicals, tourism and logistics.— PTI

Hyundai centre
Hyderabad, November 6
Hyundai Motor Corporation is setting up its research and development (R&D) centre in Hyderabad, the first such facility in India and fifth in its global operations. Coming up on a 15-acre land at Madhapur with an investment of $40 million, the R&D centre would be ready to commence operations by the end of 2009, the managing director of Hyundai Motor India M M Woo said here.— TNS

Cognizant Tech
Chennai, November 8
Cognizant Technology Solutions Corporation has announced its financial results for the three and nine months ended September 30, 2007. The quarterly revenue increased to $558.8 million, up 48 per cent from the year-ago quarter while the revenue for nine months increased to $1.54 billion, up 54 per cent from the year-ago period.—TNS

FHRAI chief
New Delhi, November 8
Dinesh Khanna, executive director, Eastern International Hotels, has taken over as the new president of the Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI). — TNS

Spice mail
Chandigarh, November 8
Spice Telecom has launched Spice Mail service, which offers the convenience of e-mail on regular mobile phones. The service is available in two versions — enterprise edition and internet edition. — TNS

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