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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS

B U S I N E S S

Govt offers 57 oil & gas areas for exploration
Expects $3.5 b investment under licensing policy

New Delhi, December 13
As part of its endeavour to boost indigenous supplies and lower dependence on imported crude, the government today launched the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP-VII) and hoped to attract at least $ 3.5 billion of investment in exploration.

Emami opens first Indian auction house
New Delhi, December 13
With Indian art getting global recognition personal health care major Emami Group has now tied up with Chisel Crafts, the parent company of the Kolkata-based Aakriti Art Gallery, to set up India’s first permanent art auction house called the Emami Chisel Art.

RBI constitutes working group
Sick Micro Industries
New Delhi, December 13
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has constituted a working group on the rehabilitation of sick micro and small industries under the Chairmanship of the CMD of Punjab National Bank.

Fuel Pricing
GoM meeting postponed
New Delhi, December 13
There won’t be any hike in the retail prices of petrol and diesel for the time being as the Group of Ministers on fuel prices, headed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, which was to meet here tomorrow deciding to meet only after two weeks.




EARLIER STORIES

 


Japan’s electronics giant Sony employee Mariko Yamabe displays the world’s first battery-less digital camera ‘Twil N Take’, equipped with a 3-mega pixel CMOS camera unit and a dynamo on its round-shaped finder, which enables it to shoot 1 shot with a 40-second charge, in Tokyo on Thursday. Sony displayed environmental friendly products at the annual Eco Style Fair.
Japan’s electronics giant Sony employee Mariko Yamabe displays the world’s first battery-less digital camera ‘Twil N Take’, equipped with a 3-mega pixel CMOS camera unit and a dynamo on its round-shaped finder, which enables it to shoot 1 shot with a 40-second charge, in Tokyo on Thursday. Sony displayed environmental friendly products at the annual Eco Style Fair. — AFP

SBI, UTI MFs to manage post office insurance funds
New Delhi, December 13
The Union Cabinet today gave its approval for appointment of UTI and SBI Mutual Funds for operationalisation of the investment function of Post Office Life Insurance Fund and Rural Post Office Life Insurance Fund.

Maruti tops in design, performance
New Delhi, December 13
Car market leader Maruti Suzki led the new-vehicle design and performance in India by JD Power Asia Pacific with two of its models Zen Estillo, Swift and SX4 topping respective categories, while Mahindra-Renault, Chevrolet, Toyota and Honda also emerged as forerunners.

Air India joins Star Alliance
Beijing, December 13
Star Alliance, the 19-member global airline grouping, today voted to accept India’s national carrier Air India in the club that offers passengers a choice of over 17,000 daily flights across 160 countries.

Re rise to continue, says Amro chief
Mumbai, December 13
The Indian rupee, which has appreciated significantly vis-a-vis the US dollar in the last few months is expected to maintain the trend, a top banking industry official said.

Film actress Deepika Padukone poses with a Tissot MotoGP limited edition watch in New Delhi on Thursday. Tissot announced Deepika Padukone as their new brand ambassador.
Film actress Deepika Padukone poses with a Tissot MotoGP limited edition watch in New Delhi on Thursday. Tissot announced Deepika Padukone as their new brand ambassador. — A Tribune photograph

Vikram Pandit to focus on profitability, cost structure
New York, December 13
Vikram Pandit, the India-born banker who has been named CEO of Citigroup, will focus on increasing the profitability of the banking behemoth by ensuring right cost structure and optimal use of available capital.

Praj inks JV with Brazilian company
Mumbai, December 13
Biofuel technology provider Praj Industries has signed a joint venture with a Barzilian EPCM firm, Jarauga Equipmentos Industriais, which will provide end-to-end solutions for ethanol production from sugarcane juice.

Udyog Rattan Award for Punbus MD
New Delhi, December 13
PUNBUS MD Mandeep Singh was today awarded the ‘Udyog Rattan Award’ for outstanding performance in the field of industrial development of the country by the Institute of Economic Studies (IES), a research-oriented and awareness-promoting organisation.

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Govt offers 57 oil & gas areas for exploration
Expects $3.5 b investment under licensing policy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 13
As part of its endeavour to boost indigenous supplies and lower dependence on imported crude, the government today launched the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP-VII) and hoped to attract at least $ 3.5 billion of investment in exploration.

NELP-VII offers a record number of 57 blocks, two more than NELP -VI, which comprises 19 deepwater blocks, 9 shallow water blocks and 29 onland blocks. The 57 blocks cover a sedimentary area of about 1.71 lakh sq. km, comprising blocks in Gujarat-Saurashtra, Mumbai, Kerala-Konkan, Krishna-Godavari, Andaman Offshore, Assam-Arakan, Purnea, Bengal, Ganga, Satpura-Rewa, Vindhyan, Rajasthan, Cambay, Palar and Cauvery.

Launching the seventh round of NELP, Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora hoped that global companies like Chevron Corp, BP Plc and Exxon Mobil Corporation, which have superior technology to search for reserves in deep waters and remote regions, will bid this time.

“I don’t think there is any other country which has such a liberal bidding process... Companies like Chevron Corp, BP Plc and Exxon Mobil Corp. had not bid last time (NELP VI), but this time they won’t make that mistake,” Deora told newspersons while giving details about the bidding process.

He also expected Steel Baron Lakshmi N Mittal also to participate in collaboration with a domestic consortium.

Petroleum Secretary M S Srinivasan said the government expects companies to invest $ 3.5 billion in areas they secure in the NELP-VII auction. The previous six rounds had drawn cumulative investments worth $ 8 billion, he said.

After six rounds, the area under exploration has increased four times to 44 per cent of Indian Sedimentary Basin area from 11 per cent before implementing NELP. Hydrocarbon reserves accretion has already been more than 600 million metric tonne of oil equivalent.

As the exploration work progresses in NELP blocks, new oil and gas discoveries are pouring in. Under NELP, 49 oil and gas discoveries have already been made in 15 exploration blocks (five blocks in NELP I, four blocks each in NELP II and NELP III, and two in NELP IV), Srinivasan said.

He said in this latest auction, blocks have been divided into three categories - Type A, Type B, and Type S on the basis of geological perceptions, size of the blocks and tailor made bid evaluation criteria framed accordingly.

The government has set April 11, 2008 as the closing date for bids and thereafter it will evaluate the bids, make awards, finalise and sign the production sharing contracts within four months.

Promotional road shows for NELP-VII are planned at Mumbai, London, Houston, Calgary and Singapore beginning Janaury 8, 2008, Deora said.

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Emami opens first Indian auction house
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 13
With Indian art getting global recognition personal health care major Emami Group has now tied up with Chisel Crafts, the parent company of the Kolkata-based Aakriti Art Gallery, to set up India’s first permanent art auction house called the Emami Chisel Art.

The Emami Chisel Art would also be holding their first auction in February, the preview of which would be available in Delhi late next month. This auction will focus on modern and contemporary art.

The new venture plans to stage about four auctions every year. With the first one kicking off in February, there would be three more auctions in April, September and December every year.

Another important factor of this project is the setting up of an art banking division, which will be manned by a consultant to guide buyers through the process of parking funds in rare artworks. The works, in turn, will be put up at the auctions when they appreciate and are likely to draw healthy bids.

The size of the Indian art market, including the auction market, has been pegged at Rs 300 crore and is growing at 35-50 per cent annually.

The group hopes to generate sale proceeds of around Rs 10 crore from the first auction itself, says Vikram Bachhawat, Director, Emami Chisel Art

The auction house has kept December 15 as the cut-off date for accepting consignments from collectors, galleries and artists, the paintings, which will finally go under the hammer, will be picked by a panel of experts by the end of this month.

Some of the artists who will go under hammer include MF Husain, SH Raza, FN Souza, Bikash Bhattacharjee, Ganesh Pyne, Shyamal Datta Ray and B Prabha. Some of the younger names include Sekhar Roy, Manish Pushkale, Farhad Hussain, Chhatrapati Dutta and Samindranath Mazumdar.

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RBI constitutes working group
Sick Micro Industries
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 13
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has constituted a working group on the rehabilitation of sick micro and small industries under the Chairmanship of the CMD of Punjab National Bank.

Chairing the third meeting of the National Board of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises today, Minister for Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) Mahabir Prasad said the MSME had written to more than 40 MSME organisations to know about at least 100 such units that had became sick primarily due to credit-related problems. Outlining the performance of National Small Industries Corporation (NSIC), the minister said during the past three years NSIC had taken took certain steps to help the micro and small entrepreneurs in a big way.

A number of new schemes had been launched, including distribution of steel and copper, providing financial assistance in collaboration with banks and export credit insurance with the help of ECGC, helping new entrepreneurs through incubators, implementing performance and credit rating scheme.

Representatives of MSME associations and trade unions from all over the country and senior officials of various ministries from the central as well as the state governments participated in the day-long meeting.

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Fuel Pricing
GoM meeting postponed
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 13
There won’t be any hike in the retail prices of petrol and diesel for the time being as the Group of Ministers on fuel prices, headed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, which was to meet here tomorrow deciding to meet only after two weeks.

“The meeting (of GoM), earlier scheduled for December 14, has been postponed by a couple of weeks due to non-availability of some ministers,” Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora told newspersons here today.

The ministerial group is to look into pricing of some essential commodities, including petrol, diesel, domestic cooking gas and PDS kerosene.

Besides, Mukherjee the GoM includes Defence Minister A K Antony, Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister T R Baalu and Consumer Affairs Minister Sharad Pawar.

Unprecedented rise in crude prices in the international market has mounted pressure on the UPA government to go for either hike in retail prices of fuel or effect a cut on duties to save the fuel marketing companies like Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum from heavy losses.

These companies are projected to lose Rs 69,753 crore on sale of petrol, diesel, LPG and PDS kerosene as the government has not allowed them to raise prices in line with the price of imported crude.

Petrol is being sold at a loss of Rs 8.74 a litre, diesel at Rs 9.92 per litre, kerosene Rs 20.53 a litre and LPG at a loss of Rs 256.35 per cylinder.

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SBI, UTI MFs to manage post office insurance funds
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 13
The Union Cabinet today gave its approval for appointment of UTI and SBI Mutual Funds for operationalisation of the investment function of Post Office Life Insurance Fund (POLIF) and Rural Post Office Life Insurance Fund (RPOLIF).

This decision would help in managing POLIF and RPOLIF professionally in line with other Life Insurance Companies, Finance Minister P Chidambaram told newspersons.

It also approved constitution of the Investment Board as the apex body for the purpose of laying down the policy guidelines and investment strategy, which will set the framework for the day-to-day decisions of investment.

It also approved one post of CIO of the level of Additional Secretary, four posts of the level of Director/JAD and 11 posts for secretarial support.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) gave its nod for establishment of an integrated network of Trauma Centres along with Golden Quadrilaterals, North-South and East-West Corridors of the National Highways by upgrading the trauma care facilities in 140 identified State Government Hospitals.

Of this 20 State Government Hospitals will be upgraded to Level I Trauma Centres; 40 to Level II and 80 to Level III at a total cost of Rs 732.75 crore during the XIth Five Year Plan period, Chidambaram said.

Setting up of the integrated network of Trauma Centres will ensure that each accident victim on these corridors is able to get competent medical assistance within the shortest possible time thereby saving precious lives, he said.

The CCEA also approved implementation of Marketing Support and Services Scheme with a budget provisions of Rs 316.81 crore to ensure that handicrafts artisans get enhanced opportunities for access to domestic as well as international high end markets and various marketing channels.

The scheme, to be implemented in 11th Plan period would enable the artisan to achieve full time employment, get better returns on their products, besides creating new opportunities for productive employment in rural areas, he said.

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Maruti tops in design, performance

New Delhi, December 13
Car market leader Maruti Suzki led the new-vehicle design and performance in India by JD Power Asia Pacific with two of its models Zen Estillo, Swift and SX4 topping respective categories, while Mahindra-Renault, Chevrolet, Toyota and Honda also emerged as forerunners.

According to JD Power Asia’s 2007 India Automotic Performance, Execution and Layout StudySM (APEAL) has ranked Maruti Suzuki India’s Zen Estilo the highest in the compact segment for good performance in vehicle exterior, vehicle interior, seats, engine, transmission, visibility and driving safety, and fuel economy.

The company’s premium hatchback Swift lead the premium compact segment with a score of 787 out of 1,000 while its sedan SX4 was ranked the highest in the mid-size segment with a score of 835.

“Clearly, Maruti has been very successful in delighting its customers with the performance and design of its recently launched models, which is an area where Maruti has traditionally underperformed in the past,” said Mohit Arora, senior director at J.D. Power Asia.

Mahindra-Renault Logan (entry mid-size), Chevrolet Optra (premium mid-size), Toyota Innova (MUV/MPV) and Honda CR-V (SUV) ranked highest in their respective segments, according to the study.

The study provides an analysis of what excites and delights owners about their new vehicle’s performance and design during the initial 2-6 months of ownership.

It was redesigned in 2007 to meet changes in new technologies and features of vehicle models.

The study found new-vehicle design and performance in India averaged at 784 points in 2007. — PTI

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Air India joins Star Alliance

Beijing, December 13
Star Alliance, the 19-member global airline grouping, today voted to accept India’s national carrier Air India in the club that offers passengers a choice of over 17,000 daily flights across 160 countries.

“Air India is delighted in being invited to join Star Alliance... In addition, the recently announced fleet expansion of over 100 aircraft will help Air India serve the public better in terms of global reach and services,” Air India’s CMD V Thulasidas said. The decision to accept Air India into the grouping was taken by the Star Alliance Board that met here today.

Star Alliance Board Chairman Glenn Tilton said: “India has long been on the radar of Star Alliance... Having now come to an agreement with Air India makes us the first airline alliance to secure a member in India, which will enable our customers to receive more benefits when travelling to, from and within India in the future.” Thulasidas said that the Indian carrier would now be able to offer more value to passengers patronising member airlines of the alliance.

The specialised teams at Air India, Star Alliance and its member carriers will now be working on the integration process, which once completed, will make India’s flag carrier a part of the Star Alliance network. Star Alliance members include Singapore Airlines, US Airways, Swiss and Lufthansa. — PTI

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Re rise to continue, says Amro chief

Mumbai, December 13
The Indian rupee, which has appreciated significantly vis-a-vis the US dollar in the last few months is expected to maintain the trend, a top banking industry official said.

“I expect the rupee to appreciate vis-a-vis the dollar through 2008. However, the appreciation will be gradual and perhaps, not as rapid as it has been in the last few months,” ABN Amro Bank’s newly-appointed India chief Meera H Sanyal told PTI here today.

Sanyal recently took over the reins of the bank’s Indian operations following the departure of its former chief, Romesh Sobti to private sector lender, IndusInd Bank.

Currency hedging would henceforth assume an important role and corporates should focus on this aspect, Sanyal said.

Praising the Reserve Bank of India for having done an “excellent job” in maintaining macro-economic stability in the country, Sanyal said that she did not expect any further rate hikes.

On inflation, Sanyal said that indications are that it would remain well within the RBI’s comfort zone of below 5 per cent. However, she warned that if global oil prices rose further, then inflation could pose a problem. — PTI

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Vikram Pandit to focus on profitability, cost structure

Vikram Pandit New York, December 13
Vikram Pandit, the India-born banker who has been named CEO of Citigroup, will focus on increasing the profitability of the banking behemoth by ensuring right cost structure and optimal use of available capital.

In an interview with US magazine Businessweek after being elevated to the top Citi post, he said the right businesses would be positioned for the future in financial services.

Responding to a query about his limited exposure to retail banking and credit card businesses, which are among the weak spots of Citigroup, Pandit said he was committed to ensuring that each of those areas are run by the best people.

“The consumer operation is not a monolith... It’s a collection of great businesses... I’m committed to making sure every one of those areas has the best people running them. And I’m not saying we already don’t. I’m just saying that I’m committed to making sure that’s the case,” he pointed out.

Pandit, 50, was the chairman and chief executive of Citi’s Institutional Clients Group that includes markets and banking and alternative investments before becoming the CEO.

When asked by Businessweek whether he would consider splitting up the company, Pandit said he would not “get down to any options today, nor do I want to take any options off the table. What I’m saying is that this company has a lot of great businesses and is in a lot of the right areas to capture future trends.”

Replying to a query on Wall Street gripe that he does not have deep operational experience, Pandit pointed out such an experience is about different things such as understanding businesses, risk and motivating people. — PTI

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Praj inks JV with Brazilian company

Mumbai, December 13
Biofuel technology provider Praj Industries has signed a joint venture with a Barzilian EPCM firm, Jarauga Equipmentos Industriais, which will provide end-to-end solutions for ethanol production from sugarcane juice.

The Pune-based company will have the majority 54 per cent stake in the joint venture, while the remaining 46 per cent will be with Jarauga, a leading engineering, procurement, construction and manufacturing (EPCM) company, Praj Industries Chairman Pramod Chaudhari said.

Brazil is a pioneer in the application of ethanol as a transport fuel blend and with the rise of the crude oil price, it has further increased its use of ethanol by introducing flex fuel cars.

The joint venture will operate from Sao Paolo, where Praj has already an office, and will have a number of Brazilian nationals, including in the top management. Pramod Chaudhari will be the chairman in the joint venture. — PTI

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Udyog Rattan Award for Punbus MD

New Delhi, December 13
PUNBUS MD Mandeep Singh was today awarded the ‘Udyog Rattan Award’ for outstanding performance in the field of industrial development of the country by the Institute of Economic Studies (IES), a research-oriented and awareness-promoting organisation. The IES also presented “Excellence Award” to PUNBUS here. PUNBUS operates commercial vehicles on its own and manage, control and supervise, construct, develop and maintain bus stands in Punjab. — TNS

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BRIEFLY

Suzlon-PEDA MoU
Chandigarh, December 13
Suzlon Gujarat Wind Park Ltd has signed an MoU with state-owned Punjab Energy Development Agency (PEDA) to set up 100 MW wind energy projects in Punjab, involving an outlay of Rs 500 crore. “The projects of 50 MW each will be set up at Hoshiarpur and Muktsar districts in the state over an area of 250 acre,” Suzlon director Atul Shah said today after signing the agreement. — PTI

ONGC
Orissa, December 13
ONGC has discovered visible presence of natural gas in Kendrapara district in Orissa with exploration of its commercial viability likely to be taken up by the month-end, official sources said today. The Rs 70 crore drilling project is being taken up at Mantripada village after scientific studies confirmed visible concentration of methane gas from the samples drawn, according to ONGC officials who met district collector Kashinath Sahu. — PTI

RIL awarded
New Delhi, December 13
Reliance Industries Ltd has been felicitated with ‘Retailer of the year’ award at the Franchise Awards. Reliance Fresh, a unit of Reliance Industries Ltd, was awarded with ‘Food and Grocery Retailer of the year’ award during the awards function held here last evening. Reliance Retail Ltd’s Gurinder Kapoor was felicitated with ‘Retail Professional of the year’ award. — UNI

SAIL
New Delhi, December 13
Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) has won the Gold Trophy of the prestigious ‘SCOPE Award for Excellence and Outstanding Contributions to the Public Sector Management,’ for 2006-07. The award has been instituted by the Standing Conference of Public Enterprises (SCOPE), the apex body of public sector organisations to encourage the contribution of public enterprises in creating national wealth. — UNI

Jindal Steel
Raigarh, December 13
Jindal Steel and Power Limited (JSPL) has developed and rolled out HE 800 and HE 900, Asia’s largest and heaviest beams at its integrated steel plant here in Chhattisgarh. Executive Director P S Rana said the installed capacity of Rail and Universal beam mill (RUBM) was 0.75 million tonnes per annum. — UNI

PEC peas
New Delhi, December 13
State-owned trading firm PEC Ltd has invited bids for the sale of 3519.40 tons of American dried green peas in the domestic market. The bids would close on December 19 and the decision on the tender would be taken on December 24, the company said in a statement. The bidder should make an offer for a minimum quantity of 200 tons. — PTI

Finolex Cables
New Delhi, December 13
Finolex Cables Ltd (FCL) today said it has inked a joint venture agreement with Japanese firm J-Power Systems Corporation (JPSC) for complete turnkey solutions in extra high voltage (EHV) cable systems in the country and abroad. The JV-Finolex J-Power Systems Pvt Ltd-is expected to be established in January 2008 near Pune in Maharashtra for manufacture and sale of high voltage power cables up to 500 kV grade, FCL MD Deepak Chhabria said. — UNI

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