SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
B U S I N E S S

Exporters warn of 10 m job losses by March
New Delhi, January 6
Despite the two stimulus packages, the woes of Indian exporters do not seem to have been addressed by the government. According to the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO), 10 million people will be laid off by March-end this year.

No truth in merger talks: Satyam
New Delhi, January 6
Amid talks of possible suitors lining up for beleaguered Satyam Computers ahead of its board meeting on January 10, the Hyderabad-based company today said there is no truth in these reports.

Porsche takes over VW
Frankfurt, January 6
The German luxury sports car maker Porsche has taken over Volkswagen, the biggest European carmaker, by purchasing more than 50 per cent of its shares.

Oil companies’ staff on strike from today
Mumbai, January 6
Nearly 55,000 officers of 14 PSU oil companies have decided to strike work indefinitely from January 7 to seek higher wages, Association of Scientific & Technical Officer's, vice-president, P K Sharma told reporters here today.



EARLIER STORIES



Stir may cause fuel shortage in region
Chandigarh, January 6
Petrol pump outlets across the region are resisting building their fuel stocks because of apprehension of a fuel price cut. This, even as thousands of employees of public sector oil companies, under the aegis of Oil Sector Officers Association, are going on strike from tomorrow.

Toyota to suspend output for 11 days
Tokyo, January 6
Toyota Motor Corp. said today it would suspend production at all of its domestic plants for 11 days between February and March in response to a slump in sales. "We will suspend the operation of 12 Toyota factories in Japan for 11 more days," a Toyota spokesman said.

To stem panic, Steve Jobs reveals his mystery illness
After a year of concerns about his gaunt appearance, months of rumours about his declining health and a flurry of speculation a week ago that he may insist he remains firmly at the helm of the consumer gadget giant, Apple's Steve Jobs is suffering a "hormone imbalance".

RCom moves TDSAT against DoT
Refusal of GSM spectrum in six states
New Delhi, January 6
Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communications (RCom) has moved telecom tribunal TDSAT against the government over non-allotment of GSM start-up spectrum in six states, where a subsidiary of the company was already offering GSM services.

A Marks & Spencer retail outlet is pictured in Liverpool, northwest England, on Tuesday. Clothing-to-food retailer Marks & Spencer is set to axe more than 1,000 jobs, the Times newspaper reported on Tuesday, bringing further gloom to the British high street as it struggles under the weight of the downturn.
A Marks & Spencer retail outlet is pictured in Liverpool, northwest England, on Tuesday. Clothing-to-food retailer Marks & Spencer is set to axe more than 1,000 jobs, the Times newspaper reported on Tuesday, bringing further gloom to the British high street as it struggles under the weight of the downturn. — AFP

Taro rejects Sun’s proposal to up offer price
New Delhi, January 6
Sun Pharmaceutical Industries today accused the Board of Taro Pharmaceutical Industries of trying to 'sidestep' real issues as the two companies continue to lock horns over their failed merger deal.

Airtel to start services in Lanka
New Delhi, January 6
Country’s largest private telecom operator, Bharti Airtel will launch its services in Sri Lanka later this week simultaneously rolling out 2G and the third generation 3G services.

Oil falls in Asia
Singapore: World oil prices fell in Asian trade on Tuesday after rising sharply the previous day amid an intensification of Israel's conflict with Hamas, analysts said. New York's main contract, light sweet crude for February delivery, was down 16 cents to $48.65 a barrel, after rising $2.47 to $48.81 a barrel at the close of trading on Monday on the New York Mercantile Exchange.— AFP







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Exporters warn of 10 m job losses by March
Bhagyashree Pande
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 6
Despite the two stimulus packages, the woes of Indian exporters do not seem to have been addressed by the government. According to the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO), 10 million people will be laid off by March-end this year.

“We will barely be able to touch exports of $170 billion this year against the target of $200 billion, and in next year, we will barely be able to touch a figure of $160 billion,” said FIEO president A Sakthivel.

Exports fall 1.6 pc in December

New Delhi: Exports fell for the third straight month, posting a negative growth of 1.6 per cent in December 2008 as demand from key markets continued to remain sluggish. Revenue from exports during the month under review stood at $11.2 billion from $11.3 billion in the year-ago period, an official said on the condition of anonymity.— PTI

 The country's gross domestic product, and employ 150 million people may see loss of jobs and fall in growth targets.

The fact that Indian exporters are facing slowdown in demand from the West is known. However, what is adding to the woes are issues like high interest rates, high freight charges, financial institutions’ tough stance, and above all meagre attention from the government.

India’s exports are becoming uncompetitive because input costs like labour, power, cost of capital, transport, shipping freight is much higher when compared to the same goods produced in China, and in textiles sector in Bangladesh and Pakistan.

“Despite the dwindling demand, whatever little opportunity we have is lost on account of cheaper goods from competing countries, though it is a fact that Indian goods are of high quality, but in the given situation, international buyers are interested in cost competitive goods,” explained Sakhtivel.

The exporters are working on a wafer thin margin of 2.5- 3 per cent profit in most cases, he says.

What the exporters want from the government is bringing down of interest rates from the present 9.5 per cent by 2 percentage points, to match the South Asian competitors at less than 5 per cent. In addition to this, exporters want post-shipment credit for 270 days as against 180 days at present because the foreign buyers are delaying payments. At present, banks start charging penal rates if the payment is not made within 180 days, irrespective of whether importer has made a payment or not.

The country's exports, which posted a robust 30.9 per cent growth rate 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.

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No truth in merger talks: Satyam

New Delhi, January 6
Amid talks of possible suitors lining up for beleaguered Satyam Computers ahead of its board meeting on January 10, the Hyderabad-based company today said there is no truth in these reports.

"There is no truth to the reports that have appeared in the media," a Satyam spokesperson said here.

Media reports said that three IT companies, HCL Tech, Tech Mahindra and Cognizant, are in the fray for Satyam.

While a HCL spokesperson said the company does not comment on speculation, Tech Mahindra officials termed the reports as baseless. A Cognizant spokesperson said it, too, does not comment on speculation.

As for HCL, analysts feel the company is busy on the Axon acquisition completion and it does not have much cash on books and it has a $500 million debt taken for Axon.

Nasdaq-listed Cognizant had earlier acquired 'marketRx' for $135 million — a deal that had given it access to 75 customers, including all top 20 pharma companies in the US and four of the top five biotechnology firms.

Satyam has been at the centre of intense takeover speculation ever since it aborted a deal to acquire two infrastructure companies promoted by the family of its chairman Ramaling Raju last month, which led to investor dissent.

The company later said its promoters have pledged all their shares with institutional lenders, who may now be selling the shares in the market. — PTI

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Porsche takes over VW

Frankfurt, January 6
The German luxury sports car maker Porsche has taken over Volkswagen, the biggest European carmaker, by purchasing more than 50 per cent of its shares.

Porsche said in a brief statement that by buying new VW shares, it "will thus increase its participation to 50.76 per cent "of the group's capital, compared with 42 per cent before.

As a result, Porsche is now obliged by Swedish law to make an offer for outstanding shares in the heavy truck maker Scania, in which VW is the dominant shareholder.

But the German sports car company will offer a minimum price for Scania shares, and has no "strategic interest" in the company, the statement said.

Porsche had initially planned to acquire more than 50 per cent of VW's stock last year but was forced to delay the operation after the value of the shares soared amid frantic stock market speculation.

At one point, they traded for more than $1,350 per share, making VW briefly the biggest company in the world by stock market valuation.

On Monday, VW shares closed at 254.74 euros, close to the range Porsche had set for itself of between 200-250 euros.

Porsche, which makes the 911 sports car and Cayenne sports utility vehicle, plans to raise its stake in VW to more than 75 per cent this year, which would give it total control over the group. — AFP

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Oil companies’ staff on strike from today

Mumbai, January 6
Nearly 55,000 officers of 14 PSU oil companies have decided to strike work indefinitely from January 7 to seek higher wages, Association of Scientific & Technical Officer's, vice-president, P K Sharma told reporters here today.

The officers of 14 PSUs, including ONGC, BPCL, HPCL, GAIL, OIL, Balmer and Lawrie and Cochin Refineriy have agreed to participate in the said strike.

"All offshore activities will stop operations from 6 am on Wednesday and colling of refineries will start from today evening itself," Sharma said.

We are not going to produce any oil and gas as well as there will be no supply of aviation turbine fuel (ATF) from tomorrow onwards, he said, adding that the loss was estimated at Rs 2,000 crore per day due to this strike.

Oil Sector Officers' Association (OSOA) said that it has resorted to this move after exhausting all channels.— PTI

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Stir may cause fuel shortage in region
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 6
Petrol pump outlets across the region are resisting building their fuel stocks because of apprehension of a fuel price cut. This, even as thousands of employees of public sector oil companies, under the aegis of Oil Sector Officers Association, are going on strike from tomorrow.

Though retail outlets of all three oil marketing companies — Indian Oil Corporation, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation and Bharat Petroleum — have stocks for three days, there could be a fuel shortage if the strike by officers of the three PSUs continues for more than two days. As a result, the oil marketing companies and the Food and Civil Supplies Departments of Punjab and Haryana have asked petrol pumps to keep their inventories high.

However, with the global prices of crude oil now hovering around $ 40 a barrel, a price cut in petrol and diesel is imminent. Petrol pump dealers have been resisting building stocks on the apprehension that the fuel price cut could be announced any day now, and they would have to sell this built-up inventory at a lower price and incur losses.

A petrol pump owner in Patiala, requesting anonymity, said what was holding them back from building stocks for any exigency was the inability of the public sector oil marketing companies from introducing IT-enabled inventory freeze in case of change in fuel prices. “Private oil companies have a technology of freezing inventory when the prices change. This ensures that the dealer does not suffer any loss in case of fuel price cut,” he said.

Meanwhile, officials in the three oil marketing companies informed TNS that they have been releasing 15-20 per cent more fuel to the retail outlets in Punjab and Haryana during this month. “We will be supplying fuel and dispatching supplies till late in the night today. We had released supplies even on Sunday to ensure that there is no shortage during the strike period,” said a senior official of IOC, adding that their outlets have stocks for six days.

These companies have also deputed senior officials at all crucial supply locations in the region. If the strike continues, these officials can dispatch supplies to the retail outlets.

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Toyota to suspend output for 11 days

Tokyo, January 6
Toyota Motor Corp. said today it would suspend production at all of its domestic plants for 11 days between February and March in response to a slump in sales. "We will suspend the operation of 12 Toyota factories in Japan for 11 more days," a Toyota spokesman said.

Japan's top automaker is already idling its domestic plants for three days in January to cope with rapidly worsening demand. The latest output cuts came after the Japanese auto giant last month forecast its first-ever annual operating loss, blaming "an unprecedented crisis" in the global auto industry. — AFP

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To stem panic, Steve Jobs reveals his mystery illness
Stephen Foley in New York

After a year of concerns about his gaunt appearance, months of rumours about his declining health and a flurry of speculation a week ago that he may insist he remains firmly at the helm of the consumer gadget giant, Apple's Steve Jobs is suffering a "hormone imbalance".

He said this in a letter to the Apple faithful gathering at the annual Macworld conference in San Francisco yesterday.

That was causing him to lose weight, he said, but he had already begun treatment.

The statement was designed to stem a growing panic over Apple's future, with everyone from shareholders to faithful customers fearful that the company would lose its edge without the leadership of Jobs. He returned from exile a decade ago and restored Apple's fortunes with the launch of the iPod, a new range of must-have Macintosh laptops, and finally the iPhone.

"I've decided to share something very personal with the Apple community so that we can all relax and enjoy the show," he told Macworld attendees. "As many of you know, I have been losing weight throughout 2008. The reason has been a mystery to me and my doctors. A few weeks ago, I decided that getting to the root cause of this and reversing it needed to become my number one priority. Fortunately, after further testing, my doctors think they have found the cause — a hormone imbalance that has been "robbing" me of the proteins my body needs to be healthy. The remedy for this nutritional problem is relatively simple and straightforward."

The statement comes after a long line of seemingly contradictory statements from Apple's public relations team, and two weeks after the company said Jobs would not be giving the keynote address at the Macworld conference n an annual institution, where the turtle-necked guru usually strides on to stage to announce the latest world-changing Apple device.

Jobs' medical history includes a struggle with a rare, treatable pancreatic cancer in 2004, and there were rumours last summer that the cancer had returned.

By arrangement with The Independent

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RCom moves TDSAT against DoT
Refusal of GSM spectrum in six states

New Delhi, January 6
Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communications (RCom) has moved telecom tribunal TDSAT against the government over non-allotment of GSM start-up spectrum in six states, where a subsidiary of the company was already offering GSM services.

RCom has alleged that despite giving in-principle approval for six circles — Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Kolkata and West Bengal — on October 18, 2007, the Department of Telecom withdrew the approval after a gap of over one year.

The company further contended that DoT had accepted the payment of Rs 112.56 crore towards entry fee for the spectrum for these six circles.

The government informed the company on December 24, 2008, of withdrawing "arbitrarily and without any rationale" the in-principle-approval granted to it, RCom said.

Last month, DoT had returned Rs 112.56 crore to RCom saying it was a mistake to accept the money from the operator as RCom was already in possession of GSM spectrum there and there was no question of duplicating it.

While applying for the spectrum, RCom had informed the DoT that its subsidiary, Reliance Telecom Ltd, was already operating GSM services under UAS licence given to it.

RCom submitted in the petition that at the time of giving in-principle-approval, DoT was aware of its subsidiary company Reliance Telecom and still accepted the payment after calculating the entry fee for the said six circles.

RCom further submitted that as the government had accepted licence fee for those circles, then they are under an obligation to amend the UAS Licences and allocate the start-up spectrum to it in those circles.

It also submitted that DoT had stated them on October 18, 2007, in clear terms that their UAS Licences would be amended on deposit of requisite fee and the spectrum for cross technology would be granted to the operator who first makes the payment. — PTI

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Taro rejects Sun’s proposal to up offer price

New Delhi, January 6
Sun Pharmaceutical Industries today accused the Board of Taro Pharmaceutical Industries of trying to 'sidestep' real issues as the two companies continue to lock horns over their failed merger deal.

The Israeli firm rejected Sun's proposal to increase the offer price to bring an end to their dispute, and it called for a shareholders' referendum.

"It is very obvious that by suggesting a referendum, the Taro Board is helping the Levitt/Moros families (the current promoters of Taro) to sidestep the Option Agreement," the Sun Pharma spokesperson told PTI.

Under the Option Agreement, signed at the same time as the original Merger Agreement, these families are bound to sell their shares to Sun Pharma, irrespective of the outcome of the shareholders' vote on the merger proposal, the Mumbai-based firm said.

Meanwhile, Taro has also turned down the two proposals sent by Sun Pharma.

"Our Board has asked me to inform you that it did not view the two options set forth in your proposal as constructive or even 'in the ballpark,'" Taro chairman Barrie Levitt said in a letter to Sun Pharma managing director Dilip Shanghvi.

Both the merger proposals of Sun, as well as its tender offer alternative, involved prices that are much less than the $10.25 per share price that Sun paid for Brandes' eight per cent minority interest in Taro in February 2008, and which "you proposed to pay in your revised merger proposal last May", the letter said. — PTI

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Airtel to start services in Lanka
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 6
Country’s largest private telecom operator, Bharti Airtel will launch its services in Sri Lanka later this week simultaneously rolling out 2G and the third generation 3G services.

According to reports, the company will roll out the services on January 12 and has made an announcement in this regard with advertisements in local newspapers. It would become Sri Lanka’s fifth telecom operator.

Airtel is investing $200 million in the Sri Lankan operations and outsoured IT operations to IBM while Huawei is rolling out networks. Bharti Telesoft, a part of the Bharti group, will offer value-added services. The company bagged licence for Sri Lanka in early 2007, but had been facing a stiff resistance from the local operators, leading to a delay in the launch of the services.

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Oil falls in Asia

Singapore: World oil prices fell in Asian trade on Tuesday after rising sharply the previous day amid an intensification of Israel's conflict with Hamas, analysts said. New York's main contract, light sweet crude for February delivery, was down 16 cents to $48.65 a barrel, after rising $2.47 to $48.81 a barrel at the close of trading on Monday on the New York Mercantile Exchange.— AFP

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BRIEFLY


This file photo shows a view of gas storage units at Berlin gas distributor GASAG's facilities in south Berlin. The European Union slammed cuts in natural gas supplies to Europe as "completely unacceptable" demanding that the flow of Russian gas to the bloc through Ukraine be "restored immediately"
This file photo shows a view of gas storage units at Berlin gas distributor GASAG's facilities in south Berlin. The European Union slammed cuts in natural gas supplies to Europe as "completely unacceptable" demanding that the flow of Russian gas to the bloc through Ukraine be "restored immediately". — AFP

L&T bags Rs 1,100-cr projects
in Q3
Mumbai
: Engineering major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) on Tuesday said its buildings and factories arm has bagged orders worth Rs 1,100 crore during the third quarter of the current fiscal. The buildings and factories operating company, which is a part of L&T's construction division, has bagged orders aggregating around Rs 1,100 crore in the third quarter of FY' 09, L&T said in a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange.— PTI

RCom launches GSM services in Rajasthan
Jaipur
: Reliance Communications (RCom), the only telecom service provider to offer nationwide GSM and CDMA services to date, on Tuesday launched GSM services in Rajasthan. The service would be available in over 1,450 towns and 10,000 villages in the state. The company also launched a customer experience programme (CEP) for customers choosing GSM services.— PTI

New BlackBerry phone
New Delhi
: Bharti Airtel on Tuesday launched BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8220 smartphone in association with Research In Motion (RIM). The new phone would be available all over the country at Airtel authorised channels at a price of Rs 21,990.— TNS

ZTE Corporation
New Delhi:
ZTE Corporation, a telecommunications equipment provider, is now the preferred NGN voice vendor of major carriers in India, including BSNL, MTNL, Tata Teleservices. According to a report entitled Carrier Nextgen Networks in India, a telecom consulting firm, India has so far deployed Next Generation Networks (NGN) creating a capacity of over 14.9 million class 4 lines and 4.1 million class 5 lines. — TNS

Virgin Mobile tie-up
Mumbai:
Youth-focussed mobile service provider Virgin Mobile has tied up with MySpace for providing social networking services. Under the agreement, MySpace would provide its social networking services on Virgin Mobile's WAP-enabled phones, a press release said here on Tuesday.— PTI

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