SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
B U S I N E S S

Rs 800 crore for exporters released
New Delhi, January 5
The government today released Rs 800 crore to be paid to exporters as duty drawback and refund of central sales tax giving them a major relief in the face of credit crunch due to the global meltdown.

Govt to focus on IIFCL refinance, says Montek
New Delhi, January 5
The government will focus on utilisation of refinance facility extended to IIFCL to provide Rs 75,000 crore for the infrastructure sector projects with a view to arrest economic slowdown, Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said today.

Tata Tele, Quippo merge tower business
Tata Teleservices’ managing director Anil Kumar Sardana (L) shakes hand with Sunil Kanoria, vice-chairman of Quippo Infrastructure Equipment Ltd., during the signing of agreement in New Delhi. Hemant Kanoria, chairman and managing director of Srei Infrastructure Finance, is also seen in the photograph.To launch GSM services soon
New Delhi, January 5
Close on the heels of Reliance Communications launching its GSM services, leading to another price war in the sector, country’s second largest CDMA mobile operator, Tata Teleservices, today said they would shortly be launching services on the popular GSM platform.
Tata Teleservices’ managing director Anil Kumar Sardana (L) shakes hand with Sunil Kanoria, vice-chairman of Quippo Infrastructure Equipment Ltd., during the signing of agreement in New Delhi on Monday. Hemant Kanoria, chairman and managing director of Srei Infrastructure Finance, is also seen in the photograph. Tribune photo: Manas Ranjan Bhui




EARLIER STORIES



Visitors look at games at the Toys and Games Fair in Hong Kong on Monday. Asia's largest toy fair opened with 2,000 exhibitors from 37 countries.
Visitors look at games at the Toys and Games Fair in Hong Kong on Monday. Asia's largest toy fair opened with 2,000 exhibitors from 37 countries. — AFP

GSM Services
RCom claims 1 lakh subscribers on day one
Mumbai, January 5
Reliance Communciations (RCom) today claimed that it has logged over one lakh subscribers for its GSM services on day one of its launch in Mumbai.An RCoM spokesperson confirmed the development saying ''The high volume sales can be attributed to the company's aggressive strategy.'' 

Growth may fall to 5 pc, says Lord Paul
London, January 5
Warning that India's economic growth may slide to about five per cent, leading NRI entrepreneur Lord Swraj Paul, however, affirmed his commitment to investing in India saying he had no doubt it would turn into a major "manufacturing power-house." "My view is that we may see 5-5.5 per cent economic growth. 

Draft of Punjab’s industrial policy by Jan 15
Chandigarh, January 5
The draft of the much-delayed industrial policy of Punjab will be ready and put up before the Punjab Cabinet for its final approval, by January 15. The policy will offer tax sops to investors and provide land at reasonable rates from the land bank created by the state government.

Onion prices zoom in M’rashtra
Mumbai, January 5
The country is in the throes of yet another onion crisis as prices are zooming following severe crop failure in the major producing region of Maharashtra.

KF starts Mumbai to London flight
Mumbai, January 5
Kingfisher Airlines today launched its direct flight to London from Mumbai. The Airbus 330-200 flight has been configured into two classes — Kingfisher First and Kingfisher Class — with 28 and 169 passengers, respectively.







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Rs 800 crore for exporters released

New Delhi, January 5
The government today released Rs 800 crore to be paid to exporters as duty drawback and refund of central sales tax giving them a major relief in the face of credit crunch due to the global meltdown.

Simultaneously, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) also started putting the stimulus package into operation for exporters by hiking the duty refund rates and restoring them to the level before November 5, 2008, when the reimbursement was cut.

A sum of Rs 600 crore was dispatched to the regional authorities of the DGFT for clearing payment of the terminal excise duty and duty drawback under the deemed export scheme, official sources said.

Another Rs 200 crore were sent to the Development Commissioners of the special economic zones for the payment towards the Central Sales Tax in respect of supplies made to 100 per cent export-oriented units.

As promised in the second stimulus package unveiled on January 2, 2009, the DGFT notified extension of the popular Duty Entitlement Pass Book scheme for refund of taxes to exporters, till December, 2009.

The government had cut the tax refund rates for exporters in November after rupee appreciated fast to give higher realisations. However, with the worsening of the global markets, mainly the US and Europe, exports have started contracting putting lakhs of jobs at risk.

Concerned over the plight of exporters and the employment stakes in the sector, the government in the second stimulus package announced restoration of the DEPB benefits taken away in November last year.

Exporters fear job losses

Expressing disappointment over the second stimulus package, exporters today warned of "huge" job losses and missing the export target of $200 billion for the current fiscal unless the government provides them further sops.

The Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) said there was no "serious consideration" for the exporters in the measures announced by the government last week to stimulate the Indian economy, reeling under the impact of global meltdown.

It has asked the government to increase drawback rates for tax refunds and additional two per cent interest subsidy.

The government, in the stimulus package, had provided for an interest subvention of two per cent up to March this fiscal subject to minimum rate of interest of seven per cent.

"Unless the government considers the demands favourably, there will be huge job losses across the country and we will be nowhere near touching export target of $200 billion," FIEO president A Sakthivel said. However, he did not elaborate on the quantum of the job losses feared.

The country's exports, which posted a robust 30.9 per cent growth in the first half of fiscal, contracted by 12.1 per cent in October, for the first time in the past five years. The negative trend continued in November, when exports fell to $11.5 billion, from $12.7 billion. — PTI 

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Govt to focus on IIFCL refinance, says Montek

New Delhi, January 5
The government will focus on utilisation of refinance facility extended to IIFCL to provide Rs 75,000 crore for the infrastructure sector projects with a view to arrest economic slowdown, Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said today.

"I am particularly looking at implementing the IIFCL refinancing. We should implement that and announce the details as quickly as possible," he told PTI after meeting India Infrastructure Finance Company (IIFCL) chairman S S Kohli and Finance Ministry officials.

IIFCL is expected to leverage Rs 30,000 crore it has been allowed to raise from tax-free bonds and provide about Rs 75,000 crore to projects in the infrastructure sector.

The refinance facility granted to IIFCL, Ahluwalia said, "is a very important instrument for getting investment in Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects." "To fund additional projects of about Rs 75,000 crore at competitive rates over the next 18 months, IIFCL is being enabled to access in tranches an additional Rs 30,000 crore by way of tax-free bonds," he had said while announcing the second stimulus package on Friday.

About any additional measure for monetary reforms by the government, he said, "Right thing to do now is to wait and see. We are concentrating not on the monetary side but there is a lot to be done on implementing components of the stimulus package.

"We are trying very hard — the clarity, pace of work going to be done etc should be made much clear. I am particularly looking at implementing the IIFCL refinancing," he said.

The second stimulus package came within a month of the first one, which reduced excise duty by 4 per cent and promised to raise public expenditure by Rs 20,000 crore for projects, especially in the core sector. — PTI

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Tata Tele, Quippo merge tower business
To launch GSM services soon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 5
Close on the heels of Reliance Communications launching its GSM services, leading to another price war in the sector, country’s second largest CDMA mobile operator, Tata Teleservices, today said they would shortly be launching services on the popular GSM platform.

While announcing the merger of its infrastructure entity with Quippo Telecom, Tata Teleservices managing director Anil Sardana told reporters at a news conference, "We will shortly announce our GSM launch. We have got spectrum in 13 circles (service areas) and rest we expect to add by month-end, baring one or two".

Tata Teleservices has 31 million wireless users by end-November, making it the sixth-largest service provider in India.

Tata Teleservices said it was merging its passive infrastructure business with Quippo Telecom to make the combined entity the largest independently managed tower company in the country with a valuation of Rs 13,000 crore.

Under the terms of the partnership, Tata Teleservices and Quippo Telecom will swap 51 per cent and 49 per cent stake, respectively.

Sardana said, “Consequent to the merger, the management rights in the tower arm of Tata Teleservices - Wireless-TT Info-Services (WTTIL), would move over to an independent management run by Quippo Telecom”.

The creation of the new tower company comes close on the heels of TTSL's transaction with Japanese giant NTT DoCoMo, to whom the company sold a 26 per cent stake for $2.7 billion in November last year.

As per the deal, Quippo Telecom would make an upfront cash payment of Rs 2,400 crore and would also transfer its passive telecom tower portfolio of 5,000 tower to WTTIL.

The combined entity would have over 18,000 towers and would thus become the largest independently managed tower company in the country ahead of others like Indus Towers, the three-way JV between Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar and Idea Cellular besides Bharti Infratel and Reliance Infratel.

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GSM Services
RCom claims 1 lakh subscribers on day one

Mumbai, January 5
Reliance Communciations (RCom) today claimed that it has logged over one lakh subscribers for its GSM services on day one of its launch in Mumbai.

An RCoM spokesperson confirmed the development saying ''The high volume sales can be attributed to the company's aggressive strategy.'' The company, which renewed a tariff war in the mobile telecom scene in the country, had launched a programme for its customers choosing Reliance Mobile GSM Services, which offered up to 100 per cent savings to sub-Rs 300 Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) mobile customers in the city at a one-time subscription charge (including GSM SIM) of Rs 25.

The customers will also get Rs 900 worth talktime on local calls and will be able to send SMS to any network that can be accrued by Reliance Mobile GSM customers in daily tranches of Rs 10 spread over 90 days. In addition, the customers can also make unlimited calls between 2300 hrs to 0600 hrs to any of the Reliance phones in Mumbai, Maharashtra and Goa — translating into 37,800 free on-Net call minutes. Customers can also use a variety of top-up cards to make calls and SMS's over and above the free talktime. — UNI\

Launches service in Punjab

Chandigarh: Reliance Communications (RCom), a part of Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, today launched its GSM services across 460 towns and 11,741 villages of Punjab. The company will be launching this service across 22 other telecom circles during this week.

Addressing mediapersons here today, Arvind Kumar, regional hub head — Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir circles, said they were targeting over 40 per cent of the market share by the end of this year. “We already have a 10 per cent market share through our CDMA users. There will be no cross migration, but we will increase our market share to at least 40 per cent,” he said.

Kumar said the company had invested heavily into creating infrastructure, by adding 600 new sites, in addition to the existing 1,600 sites. He said the company has launched a Customer Experience Programme (CEP) for a particular segment of its customers at a one-time subscription charge of Rs 25 (including GSM SIM). — TNS

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Growth may fall to 5 pc, says Lord Paul

London, January 5
Warning that India's economic growth may slide to about five per cent, leading NRI entrepreneur Lord Swraj Paul, however, affirmed his commitment to investing in India saying he had no doubt it would turn into a major "manufacturing power-house." "My view is that we may see 5-5.5 per cent economic growth. I think it will go down further because India at this moment in the manufacturing industry is not very different from the experience you had in Britain and the US," Lord Paul said in an interview on BBC's Hard Talk programme.

Asked how low the economic growth could touch, he said: "I don't think anybody knows because unless the confidence comes back, we don't know how low it can go.

"And that confidence is not coming back. Because I don't think India or the UK or US have seen the bottom yet and you can only hope for improvement when you are convinced that you have almost touched the bottom."

Asked whether his decision to invest in India was a wrong judgement, Lord Paul vehemently denied and said: "I still have no doubt that we would be able to turn India into a manufacturing power-house." On whether investment in India would be affected in the short to medium- term, especially after the Mumbai terror attack, Lord Paul, who is the founder of multinational company Caparo, said: "It is bound to.

"But I don't think it is going to be as bad as people think because lot of people, including foreign investors, are of my view that this waking up of the government is going to come only by the anger of the people and not because of some foreign investors".

On whether 2009 would be a difficult year for India, Lord Paul said, "Without any questions in my mind. There is no doubt about it. There is a lot of awakening to be done if India wants to call it self a country which is on the march." — PTI

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Draft of Punjab’s industrial policy by Jan 15
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 5
The draft of the much-delayed industrial policy of Punjab will be ready and put up before the Punjab Cabinet for its final approval, by January 15. The policy will offer tax sops to investors and provide land at reasonable rates from the land bank created by the state government.

A meeting of the core group, comprising officials of various state government departments, was held under the chairmanship of chief secretary, Ramesh Inder Singh, last week, to work out on what concessions can be given to the industry. A report on tax sops and other concessions being given by 14 other states was also presented, so that Punjab could work out and offer the best possible deal to industrial investors.

Official sources informed TNS that after prolonged discussions with officials of industries, housing, environment, power and excise and taxation departments, the draft paper will be discussed with industry representatives of CII and PHDCCI during this week.

The focus of the new policy will be on attracting investment in manufacturing and services sectors, rather than in the real estate sector. The policy will also promote synergy between agriculture and industry for growth in textiles and agro-processing. The state also hopes to rejuvenate the small-scale sector in auto components, garments and leather besides attracting investments in largescale sector (automotives, textile and food processing).

On the cards will be the creation of state-sponsored special economic zones (SEZs), to attract new investments in the industrial sector; creation of industrial clusters and exploiting the central schemes like food technology parks, textile technology parks et al; besides exploiting the rich agriculture base of the state to promote agro-processing, dairy and food processing sector. The new industrial policy would also dwell on the cluster approach. There is already a demand for a cluster in Mandi Gobindgarh (for steel) and in Ludhiana and Dera Bassi (for textile industry).

It is also proposed to reform the tax structure to make it more industry-friendly.

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Onion prices zoom in M’rashtra
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, January 5
The country is in the throes of yet another onion crisis as prices are zooming following severe crop failure in the major producing region of Maharashtra.

Retail price of the bulb hit Rs 23 per kg in Mumbai over the weekend even though the main onion marketing centre at Lasalgaon near Nashik is barely a few hours away. Wholesale prices have hit Rs 1,200 per quintal and would continue rising till February, according to sources in the onion trade. Just two months ago, onion prices were around Rs 550 per quintal.

"Stocks of last year's onion crop have been exhausted and heavy rains have severely damaged the summer crop," says C.B. Holkar, vice-chairman, National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (Nafed). According to him, the winter crop will hit the market only from mid-March this year.

Onion output from Maharashtra is expected to be lower by as much as 30 per cent for the kharif season. However, prices are expected to fall sharply later in the year as farmers are said to be increasing the acreage for onions.

Meanwhile, the central government has raised the minimum export price of onion by $50 a tonne to $380-385 this month to curb exports. This is the second increase in the MEP in two months after the $25 increase in December.

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KF starts Mumbai to London flight
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, January 5
Kingfisher Airlines today launched its direct flight to London from Mumbai. The Airbus 330-200 flight has been configured into two classes — Kingfisher First and Kingfisher Class — with 28 and 169 passengers, respectively.

The inaugural flight, IT 007, left this afternoon. Passengers on board included CEOs of the top 10 travel agencies from Delhi and Mumbai, the airlines said.

The return flight from London, IT 008, has been scheduled to leave at 2030 hrs and arrive at the Mumbai airport at 1100 hrs the following day.

The airline had launched flights on the Bangalore-London route in September last year. Flights to Hong Kong and Singapore from Mumbai and to Colombo from Bangalore and Chennai are to be launched later this month.

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BRIEFLY


A shopper walks past a Waterford Wedgwood shop in central London on Monday. Waterford Wedgwood, the Irish maker of china and glassware, found itself close to bankruptcy on Monday after failing to find a buyer amid a global economic slowdown, placing at risk thousands of jobs.
A shopper walks past a Waterford Wedgwood shop in central London on Monday. Waterford Wedgwood, the Irish maker of china and glassware, found itself close to bankruptcy on Monday after failing to find a buyer amid a global economic slowdown, placing at risk thousands of jobs. — AFP

ICICI Bank, BSNL in pact for bill payments
Mumbai:
ICICI Bank on Monday said it has entered into an agreement with BSNL Cell One to enable the latter's customers to pay their bills through the bank's website. Customers would be able to pay from their bank accounts or credit cards, view online electronic summary of their bills and get email alerts before the due date, the bank said in a release.— PTI

ICICI Pru launches health saver plan
Mumbai:
ICICI Prudential Life Insurance on Monday launched Health Saver to help consumers meet their current healthcare expenses and also invest for the future needs. Company's senior vice-president and head health insurance Binay Agarwala said the product was the only health savings product that offers tax benefits under Section 80 D on the entire premium paid. — UNI

Oil rises above $47
Singapore:
Oil prices rose to above $47 a barrel on Monday in Asia as a ground offensive by Israeli troops against Hamas militants in Gaza heightened tensions in the oil-rich Middle-East. Light, sweet crude for February delivery rose 83 cents to $47.17 a barrel, after earlier jumping to as high as $48.66, in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange by midday in Singapore. — AP

BGR Energy raises Rs 2,105 cr
New Delhi:
Equipment supplier BGR Energy on Monday said it has raised Rs 2,105 crore of loan for its working capital requirements from a consortium of five banks, led by public sector giant State Bank of India. The amount is expected to be used for providing working capital for the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract it has bagged for 600 mega-watt Mettur thermal power project in Tamil Nadu.— PTI

Dabur to open new stores
New Delhi:
FMCG major Dabur India is back on its retail expansion track with scaled-down store sizes after curtailing its growth due to high estate prices. The company has scaled down the size of the stores to 700-1,200 sq ft from its originally planned size of 1,500-6,000 sq ft, besides removing its pharmacy section. "The store sizes have now been reduced to between 700 sq feet and 1,200 sq feet, nearly half of the originally planned sizes of between 1,500 sq feet and 6,000 sq feet," a company spokesperson said. — PTI

Alok Inds to raise Rs 450 cr
Mumbai:
Textile firm Alok Industries on Monday said it would raise Rs 450 crore through issues of rights. In a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange, Alok Industries informed that the board of directors has approved to increase in the size of the proposed rights issue to Rs 450 crore from Rs 300 crore. Last year in October, the board had approved a rights issue of equity shares or convertible instruments, up to Rs 300 crore.— PTI

IVRCL bags Rs 260-cr orders
Mumbai:
IVRCL Infrastructures & Projects on Monday said it has bagged orders worth Rs 260.46 from Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation, Indian Oil Corporation and Karnataka Water Supply Board for construction-related work. Buildings, industrial structure and water divisions of the company has bagged the said four orders, the Hyderabad-based company said in a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange.— PTI

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