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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
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GAIL, RIL ink pact for petrochemical project
New Delhi, December 4
Reliance Industries (RIL) and state-run gas firm GAIL India today joined hands to set up a multi-billion dollar petrochemical plant in gas-rich West Asia, Central Asia or Russia. “It will be a mega petrochemical plant with a capacity of 1.9-2 million tons,” GAIL chairman and managing director U D Choubey said from Mumbai after his firm signed an agreement with Reliance for exploring possibility of setting up the petrochemical complex.


Tata is emerging global giant.
(56k)

Mobile Number Portability
TRAI to set up committee
New Delhi, December 4
Kick starting the process to introduce mobile number portability, telecom regulator TRAI will soon set up a steering committee of operators, industry associations and telecom engineering centre.

Govt warns cement industry against cartalisation
New Delhi, December 4
The government today said it will take all necessary measures to ensure that there is no cartelisation in the cement industry, besides ensuring that prices of the building material are not “artificially jacked up”.


EARLIER STORIES

 
CEO and managing director of Japan’s Yamaha Motor company, Tomotaka Ishikawa poses on the Yamaha R1 motorcycle during its launch in New Delhi
CEO and managing director of Japan’s Yamaha Motor company, Tomotaka Ishikawa poses on the Yamaha R1 motorcycle during its launch in New Delhi on Tuesday. Yamaha rolled out two of its flagship models, the R1 and the MT01 super sports onto the Indian market at the cost of Rs 1,050,000 ($26,923). — AFP

Montek favours hike in petrol, diesel prices
Says economy to grow at 8.5 pc
New Delhi, December 4
With the crude price nearing $100 a barrel in the international market, deputy chairperson of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia favoured passing on the burden to the consumers saying sustained high petroleum prices impose a hidden cost on the economy.

IT, BPO sectors hit by Rupee appreciation
Hyderabad, December 4
India may not remain an attractive destination for IT outsourcing in future in view of the rupee appreciation against the US dollar. The Indian currency’s continued surge has raised fears about the long-term prospects of the export-oriented information technology and business process outsourcing sectors.

Lakshmi Mittal richest in South Africa too
London, December 4
India-born steel tycoon Lakshmi Niwas Mittal, recently named as the richest Indian in the world with a fortune of $51 billion, has also been rated as the wealthiest person in South Africa.

DLF, Prudential Finance in pact
New Delhi, December 4
The US-based Prudential Financial Inc and the DLF Group today announced formation of a joint venture for asset management in India. This agreement would allow PFI, one of the financial services leader with approximately $637 billion of assets under management, to expand its international investments business and marks its official entry into the Indian mutual fund market.

M&M launches Scorpio V-series
Chandigarh, December 4
Mahindra & Mahindra today launched the Scorpio V-series, a new line-up of the SUV packed with practical features. The new VLX edition is equipped with the powerful m Hawk engine and is priced at Rs 9.66 lakhs, ex-showroom Chandigarh.

Vivek Nayer, vice-president (marketing & sales), automotive sector, M&M, at the launch of the Scorpio VLX in Chandigarh. — A Tribune photograph

Vivek Nayer, vice-president (marketing & sales), automotive sector, M&M, at the launch of the Scorpio VLX in Chandigarh

SIDBI stops refinance to Haryana, Punjab, HP
Chandigarh, December 4
The Small Industries Development Bank of India (Sidbi) has stopped providing refinance facility to three financial corporations of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh due to their negative capital adequacy ratio.

Dabur aims at Rs 1,000 cr turnover
New Delhi, December 4
Dabur India today said it is targeting a turnover of Rs 1,000 crore over the next three years from its beauty and lifestyle Health and Beauty (H&B) Stores. “We are aiming a turnover at about Rs 1,000 crore by 2010 and set up around 160 H&B stores,” Dabur India CEO Peter Baker said.

An art deco emerald, diamond and rock crystal necklace, formerly belonging to Anita Delgado, fifth wife of Maharaja Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala, is displayed at Christie’s auction house in central London
An art deco emerald, diamond and rock crystal necklace, formerly belonging to Anita Delgado, fifth wife of Maharaja Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala, is displayed at Christie’s auction house in central London on Monday. The necklace is one of the eight jewel pieces, which belonged to Anita Delgado, are expected to fetch £ 200,000, (approx 281,366 euros/$412,809) at the ‘Magnificent Jewels’ auction at Christie’s on December 12 in London. — AFP

Nod to 16 FDI proposals
New Delhi, December 4
The government has approved 16 foreign direct investment proposals, including that of Russia telecom firm Sistema and Italian fashion retailer Dolce & Gobbana, envisaging a total inflow of Rs 647.48 crore.

General Motors ties up with IIT
Bangalore, December 4
General Motors today announced setting up a new collaborative research lab in partnership with the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, to carry out research in areas of electronics, controls and software.

Airtel awarded ‘best brand’
Chandigarh, December 4
Airtel has been recognised as the best brand and best mobile operator at the ‘World Communications Awards- 2007’. The awards were announced on November 28, 2007, in London.

OCM launches summer’08 collection
Amritsar, December 4
OCM India Ltd., a leading Indian manufacturing company of worsted wool fabrics, launched its Summer’08 collection on the occasion of Sales Conference in Amritsar here today.

SBI gives loans worth Rs 1.15 cr
Chamba, December 4
The State Bank of India has advanced loans to the tune of Rs 1.15 crore to 27 beneficiaries belonging self-help groups of Chamba district at a ‘loan disbursement mela’ organised by the bank here today.





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GAIL, RIL ink pact for petrochemical project

New Delhi, December 4
Reliance Industries (RIL) and state-run gas firm GAIL India today joined hands to set up a multi-billion dollar petrochemical plant in gas-rich West Asia, Central Asia or Russia.

“It will be a mega petrochemical plant with a capacity of 1.9-2 million tons,” GAIL chairman and managing director U D Choubey said from Mumbai after his firm signed an agreement with Reliance for exploring possibility of setting up the petrochemical complex.

Reliance, the nation’s largest petrochemical maker, and GAIL will jointly study opportunities in Russia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Algeria, Nigeria and former Soviet republics for the petrochemical complex, he said while indicating that the two firms were in all likelihood forge an equal partnership.

“We have formed a joint working group to select sites in three countries by March,” Choubey said. “We may also jointly take up integrated project involving production of feedstock and then converting it into value added products.” Natural gas or naphtha are likely to be the feedstock for the plant and the two companies, if allocated a gas field in the target countries, will look at jointly developing it and converting the gas into petrochemicals.

A memorandum of understanding was signed by RIL executive director Nikhil R Meswani and GAIL director (business development) A K Purwaha. The agreement was exchanged by Choubey and RIL chairman and managing director Mukesh Ambani.

Choubey said project details, cost, financing and equity will be decided once sites are selected and feasibility report commissioned.

The agreement with Reliance is part of GAIL’s strategy to expand its petrochemical business.

Reliance and GAIL already have an agreement for cooperation in the gas sector. The areas of joint cooperation identified include natural gas pipeline transmission and marketing, CBM gas opportunities, city gas distribution, maintenance services, exploration and production.

Under the MoU, Reliance and GAIL are discussing co-operation in the development of a gas grid and examining opportunities that may be available for optimal utilisation, sharing and inter-connectivity of their respective, existing and planned transmission and distribution networks.

The core teams of the two entities are already in discussions on pipeline projects, particularly interconnectivity in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Choubey has, over the past couple of months, initiated dialogues with companies in Russia, Qatar, Nigeria and Algeria for setting up of petrochemical plants. GAIL has opened dialogue with LukOil of Russia and Qatar Petroleum and these may be expanded to include Reliance Industries. “It is in line with our strategy to set up a petrochemical project overseas where feedstock is available,” Choubey said. — PTI

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Mobile Number Portability
TRAI to set up committee

New Delhi, December 4
Kick starting the process to introduce mobile number portability, telecom regulator TRAI will soon set up a steering committee of operators, industry associations and telecom engineering centre.

“The steering committee, under the aegis of TRAI, will address issues involved in the implementation of mobile number portability (MNP) with a special reference to the methodology, establishing a neutral third party for database management, level of centralisation of database in terms of national v/s regional set up, time frame of implementation and others,” TRAI said.

MNP enables the users to retain their telephone numbers when they change the service provider.

The committee would also discuss issues relating to time taken for porting a number and porting fees.

The government had announced earlier to introduce MNP in phase-I in the four metros - Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai - by the fourth quarter of 2008, TRAI said, adding that introduction of the system for ‘A’ circles would be reviewed in April, 2008.

Immediately after the announcement of the government decision, GSM-based mobile operators had opposed the move demanding that it should be implemented simultaneously across all services and circles.

According to TRAI, MNP requires the originating network to determine the correct destination for a given number and this would require a data base management having information of the networks and associated ported numbers.

Majority of the countries opt for a centralised database service managed by a neutral third party and the cost of database is to be borne by each operator depending on the strength of subscribers.

There has to be an arrangement for centralised clearing house preferably electronic approach for processing porting requests, TRAI said.

The other related issues are handset portability (GSM or CDMA), database update, SMS routing, routing of STD and ISD calls and national numbering plan modification.

“The roadmap to MNP requires cooperation of all the stakeholders,” the regulator said, adding that in order to chart out the roadmap for effective and smooth implementation of MNP and to deliberate on various relevant issue, it has been decided to set up a committee of all stakeholders.

GSM players surrender extra spectrum: Tata

Tatas today asked the government to seek surrender of excess spectrum lying with GSM operators, a line being aggressively pursued by Reliance Communications chief Anil Ambani.

With this, the top two CDMA players have joined forces against GSM operators to seek return of spectrum beyond the contractual amount of 6.2 Mhz. Rejecting a settlement package proposed by the Department of Telecom, Tata Teleservices managing director Anil Sardana said: “It is very dismaying that the proposal again talks about spectrum allocation which is 2:1 in favour of GSM. It is this very cause which has pushed CDMA players to move towards GSM as the frequency allocation to GSM has been very liberal.”

The GSM operators had also virtually rejected the proposal by DoT secretary, even as a PIL was filed in the Supreme Court seeking to ensure that decisions on spectrum allocation and use of dual technology were taken in a transparent manner. — PTI

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Govt warns cement industry against cartalisation
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 4
The government today said it will take all necessary measures to ensure that there is no cartelisation in the cement industry, besides ensuring that prices of the building material are not “artificially jacked up”.

“The government will not allow cartalisation (in the cement industry). The cement companies should know that the government is not helpless and it will intervene if there are any indications that the companies are resorting to cartelisation,” minister of state for industry Ashwani Kumar said on the sidelines of India Economic Summit here.

Noting that the prices of cement are high due to strong demand from the construction sector, Kumar said the government has held meetings with the cement companies for capacity addition and also directed the MMTC to import cement to ensure enough availability of the building material in the domestic market.

“The cement prices are a little high but they are a functioning of the demand and supply… While the cement companies are eligible to make their profits, it should not be at the cost of consumers,” he said.

Meanwhile, on exporters plight, the minister said the commerce ministry is keen on providing all possible sops and help to the export sector, especially textile, leather and handicrafts.

“We are worried about a large scale lay off in some of the labour-intensive export segments. If there is fall in exporters, then it will have cumulative impact on manufacturing industry, which would aggravate the situation… That is why we have taken up the issue with the ministry of finance and are keen that an holistic package is given to help them,” Kumar said.

Pointing out that fall in Indian exports is also due to slow down of economic growth in the USA, he stated: “We are happy to note that exports to European countries are increasing.”

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Montek favours hike in petrol, diesel prices
Says economy to grow at 8.5 pc

Tribune News Service

Montek Singh Ahluwalia
Montek Singh Ahluwalia

New Delhi, December 4
With the crude price nearing $100 a barrel in the international market, deputy chairperson of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia favoured passing on the burden to the consumers saying sustained high petroleum prices impose a hidden cost on the economy.

“We, in the Planning Commission, have looked into the problem and have arrived at the conclusion that high prices have to be passed on,” Ahluwalia said on the sidelines of the India Economic Summit here.

He said the high crude price, if not passed on to the consumers, would not only generate hidden deficits but would impact negatively on the current account. With the Congress-led UPA government deciding not to hike the retail prices of petrol and diesel, oil companies are expected to lose close to Rs 70,000 crore this fiscal year if the global crude price remain above $90 a barrel.

Worried over the growing subsidy bill, the Prime Minister has already set up a Group of Ministers (GoM) to go into the petroleum product pricing.

Last month, petroleum minister Murli Deora informed parliament that the retail prices of petroleum products have not been increased by the government despite high international prices under direction from UPA chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Meanwhile, the petroleum ministry has suggested to the finance ministry for appropriate reduction of duties on petroleum product to avoid increasing retail prices of petroleum products.

Asked whether the recent slowdown in the manufacturing sector would result in a lower GDP growth this fiscal, Ahluwalia said the economy grew by 8.9 per cent in the second quarter as compared to 9.3 per cent in the first quarter of the year. This was still way above the average 8.5 per cent projection for this fiscal by the Reserve Bank of India.

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IT, BPO sectors hit by Rupee appreciation
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, December 4
India may not remain an attractive destination for IT outsourcing in future in view of the rupee appreciation against the US dollar.

The Indian currency’s continued surge has raised fears about the long-term prospects of the export-oriented information technology and business process outsourcing sectors.

“The worry is that there is too much rupee appreciation in too short a time. The small and medium enterprises and BPOs are bearing the brunt,” the National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) president Kiran Karnik said here today.

Pointing out that the IT and BPO sectors in India were beginning to see an “opportunity loss” on account of rupee appreciation, he said a one per cent rise in the rupee value would affect their bottomline by 30 to 40 basis points.

Though the IT industry would be able to achieve the export growth target of 26-28 per cent this year, it is difficult to say whether the same growth pattern would continue five years down the line.

The rupee appreciation would adversely affect IT and BPO companies more than other sectors like textiles.

“Our input costs are increasing rapidly while our output price is stable,” he pointed out.

The medium and small IT and BPO companies have been hit hard by the rupee appreciation while bigger companies handled the situation extremely well, Karnik said and called for continuation of the Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) scheme for some more time.

“If the small companies are pained, the future growth of this industry is being sacrificed. Further, there is no expansion of STPI, which means they have to start paying taxes from 2009 onwards. It looks troublesome," Karnik said.

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Lakshmi Mittal richest in South Africa too

London, December 4
India-born steel tycoon Lakshmi Niwas Mittal, recently named as the richest Indian in the world with a fortune of $51 billion, has also been rated as the wealthiest person in South Africa.

Mittal has been named at the top for third consecutive year with a net worth of 27.3 billion rand ($4 billion) in the latest annual list of 100 richest in South Africa, compiled by the country’s weekly The Sunday Times. This is based on his shareholding in Mittal Steel SA and represents only the value of his investments in South Africa. Last month, Forbes had named him as the richest Indian in the world with a net worth of $51 billion. In March, he was named as the world’s fifth richest with a worth of $32 billion by Forbes.

Mittal, who is a resident of Europe, Russia and the UK and has an Indian passport as well, also holds the title of richest person in Britain.

According to The Sunday Times report, Mittal had 445.75 million shares in his company Mittal Steel SA as of March 31.

The publication, however, said Mittal may be the wealthiest in the country, but when comparing South Africa’s wealthiest by astrological signs, he is in the minority.

Mittal was born on September 12, 1950, making him a Virgo and there are just four persons of this sun sign in top 100. — PTI

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DLF, Prudential Finance in pact
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 4
The US-based Prudential Financial Inc (PFI) and the DLF Group today announced formation of a joint venture for asset management in India.

This agreement would allow PFI, one of the financial services leader with approximately $637 billion of assets under management, to expand its international investments business and marks its official entry into the Indian mutual fund market.

Under the terms of the agreement, which has been submitted for regulatory approval, PFI will be the majority shareholder in the JV with 61 per cent interest, while DLF will own the remaining 39 per cent.

The new company, named DLF Pramerica Asset Managers Private Limited, will be headquartered at Mumbai and would provide a broad array of mutual fund and investment products, including domestic and eventually international mutual funds to Indian retail and institutional clients.

“DLF’s brand offers tremendous credibility and recognition in the marketplace. We believe these attributes will contribute to the success of our new asset management joint venture,” he said when asked why PFI chose the Indian construction company, which does not have financial market experience.

“This is a very significant step for us to participate in the rapid growth of a relatively young Indian mutual fund market,” DLF Group vice-chairperson Rajiv Singh said.

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M&M launches Scorpio V-series
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 4
Mahindra & Mahindra today launched the Scorpio V-series, a new line-up of the SUV packed with practical features. The new VLX edition is equipped with the powerful m Hawk engine and is priced at Rs 9.66 lakhs, ex-showroom Chandigarh.

The new scorpio has attractive, consumer friendly features which include ‘music at your fingertips’. Also added is the feature of ‘thinking headlamps & wipers’. It is being also launched in two new colours turf green and java brown and in the initial stage would be available in six cities across the countary.

“With pathbreaking technology and user-friendly, modern features, Scorpio V-series is a clear validation of our customer-centric approach to business,” said Pawan Goenka, president (automotive sector), Mahindra & Mahindra.

“The high power density mHawk engine and updated transmission allows the vehicle to go from 0 to 60 kmph in 5.7 seconds with greater agility. This greener 2.2L state-of-the-art engine catapults the V-series into a new league altogether by meeting current and future stringent emissions standards,” said Vivek Nayer, VP (marketing & sales), automotive sector, M&M said.

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SIDBI stops refinance to Haryana, Punjab, HP

Chandigarh, December 4
The Small Industries Development Bank of India (Sidbi) has stopped providing refinance facility to three financial corporations of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh due to their negative capital adequacy ratio (CAR).

"Following the recent guidelines issued by the apex bank- the Reserve Bank of India- directing that no refinance should be provided to state financial corporations unless they improve their CAR, we have discontinued the refinance facility to Haryana Financial Corporation (HFC), Himachal Pradesh Financial Corporation (HPFC) and Punjab Financial Corporation (PFC)," a senior Sidbi official said.

The capital adequacy ratio is a measure of a bank's capital and is expressed as a percentage of the lender's risk weighted credit exposures. It is a critical barometer to check their financial soundness.

The CAR of PFC, HPFC and HFC for 2006 stood at -150.22 per cent, -30 per cent and -33.24 per cent respectively, the official said.

Sidbi provides refinance to state-level financial corporations against their loans granted to small scale industries for setting up their industrial projects.

The total outstanding amount of refinance towards HPFC, PFC and HFC are at Rs 83 crore, Rs 135 crore and Rs 168 crore respectively.

The NPA (non-performing assets) level of these three state financial corporations also indicates their dismal performance.

The NPA of HPFC, PFC and HFC worked out at 39 per cent, 95 per cent and 64 per cent respectively.

"Among these three financial corporations, the NPA level of PFC is quite high, indicating that the 95 per cent of loans are becoming unrecoverable," the official pointed out.

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Dabur aims at Rs 1,000 cr turnover
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 4
Dabur India today said it is targeting a turnover of Rs 1,000 crore over the next three years from its beauty and lifestyle Health and Beauty (H&B) Stores.

“We are aiming a turnover at about Rs 1,000 crore by 2010 and set up around 160 H&B stores,” Dabur India CEO Peter Baker said.

Initially the company is planning six retail outlets in Delhi and NCR by the end of January and by next financial year the number would go up to 50.

“The company would focus a great deal in Punjab and other north Indian states and would launch H&B stores in cities like Chandigarh, Panchkula, Amritsar and Ludhiana,” Baker said. The company’s market size is about Rs 25,000 crore and is now targeting customers in the age group of 16-45 years.

The company would be investing about Rs 140 crore for streamlining its operations by 2010. The lifestyle retail section of the H&B would be operating under the brand name of ‘New U’ and all the outlets would be company-owned, he added.

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Nod to 16 FDI proposals

New Delhi, December 4
The government has approved 16 foreign direct investment (FDI) proposals, including that of Russia telecom firm Sistema and Italian fashion retailer Dolce & Gobbana, envisaging a total inflow of Rs 647.48 crore.

Sistema Corporation plans to raise its stake up to 74 per cent in Shyam Telelink at an estimated investment of Rs 187 crore, an official statement said.

Finance minister P Chidambaram cleared the proposals on the recommendations of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), which met here on November 30.

A proposal of Italy-based Dolce & Gabbana and India’s bigger realty firm DLF for setting up a joint venture in single brand retailing of lifestyle products was also cleared.

The Italian firm will hold 51 per cent stake in the JV, which will sell fashion and lifestyle products under the brand name Dolce & Gabbana and DG Dolce & Gabbana.

Sistema, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange and controls Russia’s largest mobile operator, plans to acquire 51 per cent stake in Shyam Telelink in the near future. It may ramp up the shareholding to the maximum permissible limit of 74 per cent later, official sources said.

Chidambaram also approved German firm Continental AG's proposal amounting an inflow of Rs 55 crore to set up a new joint venture company to manufacture hydraulic brake systems for passenger cars and light-trucks. — PTI

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General Motors ties up with IIT

Bangalore, December 4
General Motors (GM) today announced setting up a new collaborative research lab (CRL) in partnership with the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, to carry out research in areas of electronics, controls and software. They also announced that a new educational curriculum would be jointly developed leading to a post-graduate degree in these fields.

GM has committed Rs 5 crore for research to be done in the next five years within the new lab, which will be co-managed by GM's Indian science lab and IIT Kharagpur, GM research and development in Warren, Michigan, executive director Alan Taub said.

The CRL will comprise 16 members drawn from interdisciplinary field with six core members. Research done at the lab will be shared within GM's research and development network, he said. — PTI

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Airtel awarded ‘best brand’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 4
Airtel has been recognised as the best brand and best mobile operator at the ‘World Communications Awards- 2007’. The awards were announced on November 28, 2007, in London.

Commenting on the best brand award, Gopal Vittal, director (marketing & communications), Airtel, said: “To be seen as one of the biggest, most iconic brands of India and serving over 53 million consumers is a matter of great humility to all of us at Airtel.”

Airtel was chosen as the best brand over some leading international brands such as iiNet Limited, Orange, StarHub Ltd, TEO LT, AB and The Egyptian Company for Mobile Services (Mobinil).

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OCM launches summer’08 collection

Amritsar, December 4
OCM India Ltd., a leading Indian manufacturing company of worsted wool fabrics, launched its Summer’08 collection on the occasion of Sales Conference in Amritsar here today . Showcasing the collection, Rajeev Surana, CEO, OCM India Ltd., said, “We are introducing more than 400 new designs in various colour variations for the domestic market. This new collection has been designed keeping in mind the choice and preferences of the young and vibrant Indian consumer.The new collection has various compositions of linen with polyester and wool as well as linen blended with polyester and viscose. — TNS

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SBI gives loans worth Rs 1.15 cr

Chamba, December 4
The State Bank of India (SBI) has advanced loans to the tune of Rs 1.15 crore to 27 beneficiaries belonging self-help groups of Chamba district at a ‘loan disbursement mela’ organised by the bank here today.

Presiding over the function, A.K.Garg, general manager, network-II of SBI, Chandigarh Circle, called upon the self-help groups to set up business activities and derive optimum benefits of the public financial assistance schemes launched by the bank. — TNS

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