SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
B U S I N E S S

Another cut in fuel prices likely
New Delhi, February 24
The third stimulus package announced today is not an end to the goodies for the common man. The UPA government is likely to announce a cut in petrol and diesel prices, most likely before the weekend, a bit ahead of the sounding of the poll bugle.

Hindujas eye 51%
New Delhi, February 24
The Hinduja Group, one of the interested parties in acquiring a stake in Satyam Computer, today said it would prefer taking 51 per cent in the IT major.

Suitor likely in 3 weeks
Mumbai, February 24
Satyam Computer Services is likely to complete bidding process to rope in a strategic investor in the next three weeks and complete restatement of accounts by end-March, a top source said.

S&P cuts India outlook to negative
Hong Kong, February 24
Standard & Poor's (S&P) cut its outlook on India's long-term sovereign credit rating to negative from stable on Tuesday, citing an ''unsustainable'' deterioration in the country's fiscal position.


Baldev Garg
Baldev Garg, who has been elected vice-chairman of Northern India Regional Council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India for 2009-10.

EARLIER STORIES

10 SEZs approved
February 24, 2009
BSNL launches 3G services
February 23, 2009
Satyam to invite takeover bids
February 22, 2009
PM’s panel pegs growth at 7.1 pc in FY ’09-10
February 21, 2009
Satyam gets nod for sale process
February 20, 2009
Satyam seeks CLB nod
February 19, 2009
3G auction in next fiscal
February 18, 2009


An employee of the Korea Exchange Bank counts one hundred dollar notes at the bank's headquarters in Seoul on Tuesday.
An employee of the Korea Exchange Bank counts one hundred dollar notes at the bank's headquarters in Seoul on Tuesday. Asian shares fell on Tuesday, with Japan's Nikkei flirting with a 26-year low, as concerns grew about the global financial system, while emerging currencies such as the South Korean won extended their recent sell-off. — Reuters

Crop insurance scheme extended to 4 Haryana dists 
Chandigarh, February 24
The Agriculture Insurance Company of India (AICI) will be extending the scope of weather-based crop insurance scheme to four districts in Haryana, and also introduce this for tomato crop in Himachal Pradesh.

Slowdown hits industry in J&K
Jammu, February 24
Thousands of artisans who live on the small-scale industry of shawls & carpet-weaving and handicraft- making are under the immense pressure owing to the current economic crisis. Not only the artisans, but the shopkeepers who take stock from these artisans, are also bearing the brunt. In totality, this small industry is struggling hard to survive the downturn.

An Indonesian man takes out money from an ATM in Jakarta on Tuesday.
An Indonesian man takes out money from an ATM in Jakarta on Tuesday. The Central Statistics Agency in its report said that Indonesia's economy grew 6.1 per cent in 2008, slowing from 6.3 per cent in 2007 and falling short slightly of the government's 6.2 per cent target. — AFP 

Hewlett-Packard to trim salaries
Bangalore, February 24
Employees of computer giant Hewlett-Packard (HP) in Bangalore are expecting a salary cut in the wake of a communication from the company’s California-based CEO Mark Hurd.While announcing the first quarter results for 2009, Hurd sent an e-mail to the HP employees, including the employees in India, which said in view of the economic downturn, the CEO had decided to impose a cut of 20 per cent in his basic salary.

Gold glitters at Rs 15,785
New Delhi, February 24
Gold prices today bounced back in the national capital and gained Rs 185 at Rs 15,785 per 10 gram on emergence of buying by stockists amid reports of a firming global trend. Marketmen said trading sentiment turned bullish on reports that the precious metal in the global markets moved up from $984 to $990 an ounce.






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Another cut in fuel prices likely
Bhagyashree Pande
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 24
The third stimulus package announced today is not an end to the goodies for the common man. The UPA government is likely to announce a cut in petrol and diesel prices, most likely before the weekend, a bit ahead of the sounding of the poll bugle.

According to sources in the Oil Ministry, petrol prices will be cut by Rs 2-3 per litre and diesel may be cheaper by Rs 4 per litre. The reasons for the cuts being the international prices of crude have turned bearish and are touching new lows, giving the government more elbow room for a cut.

Domestically, a sharp cut in diesel prices will result in bringing down transportation costs, which can help movement of goods. The sharp fall in factory output can be propped up by a cheaper transport fuel, say sources. Another reason being that diesel is used by industries as a power-generating fuel as well. Thermal power plants and most captive power plants use diesel to generate electricity, so a cut will help trim costs of the industry. However, cooking gas and kerosene will not see any further rollback.

The cut in excise duty announced by the Finance Minister will help in giving a relief to the sagging industrial production, as also a cut in service tax will help get more consumption in the gloomy season.

Economists say that the outlook in India is likely to be gloomier because of the series of bad news announced in the US in the past 3-4 days. The US has said that its $787-billion bailout package may still fail banks and insurers, who will start announcing annual results and an even gloomier forecast for the calendar year 2009.

However, back home, industry association CII said that the announcements would provide the much-needed fiscal boost for slowing industry and economy. “The tax cuts announced today and earlier in the stimulus packages will go a long way in stimulating consumption demand,” said Chandrajit Banerjee, Director-General, CII.

The industry association has also said that repo and reverse repo rates could be reduced by 50 basis points together with a similar reduction in the CRR.

Harsh Pati Singhania, president, Ficci, said these cuts would result in greater demand generation through the year, and help infrastructure companies and housing developers.

Exporters’ body FIEO said the reduction in service tax would add to export competitiveness by about 0.25 per cent.

According to PHDCCI, there is a need for aligning service tax and excise duty so that it is in tune with the ultimate goal of moving towards Goods and Services Tax (GST).

On Tuesday, the crude oil slumped to $38 per barrel. Analysts say that the crude will touch a level lower than $30 per barrel. Many market participants expect that OPEC, the source of more than a third of global oil supply, will decide on another supply cut at a meeting in March as demand falls.

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Satyam Saga
Hindujas eye 51%

New Delhi, February 24
The Hinduja Group, one of the interested parties in acquiring a stake in Satyam Computer, today said it would prefer taking 51 per cent in the IT major.

"It will be preferred if somebody can get 51 per cent. Suppose the open offer does not come to 20 per cent, then it will be less than 51 per cent. Also, till the time proper restated account is available or crystallisation of liability is happened, no bidder can really put a value on that company," Hinduja Group CFO Prabal Banerjee told PTI.

Last week, the board of Satyam approved the stake sale process as directed by the Company Law Board and said it would release the process of the sale after getting due approvals.

Earlier, another suitor Spice Group's chairman B K Modi had said that his company would be interested in Satyam only if the entire 51 per cent stake is offered through the preferential route.

L&T, the 12 per cent stakeholder in Satyam has already said it needs to know the details of the stake sale process before commenting. — PTI 

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Suitor likely in 3 weeks

Mumbai, February 24
Satyam Computer Services is likely to complete bidding process to rope in a strategic investor in the next three weeks and complete restatement of accounts by end-March, a top source said.

"In the next three weeks, we will have a very clear picture about the strategic investor. We expect to conclude the bidding process in three weeks from now," the source closely connected with the development told PTI here today.

The IT major also expects to complete the restatement of its fudged accounts by March 31, which would considerably help quicken the bidding process, the source said.

Satyam's next board meeting is to be held this Thursday in Hyderabad.

"Earlier we were expecting the process (restating of accounts) to be completed in 8-9 weeks. The auditors are working day and night and we expect this task to be accomplished by March 31," the source said.

The board, however, has not decided on the quantum of stake to be divested to the strategic investor. This would be decided after evaluating the bidders on various parameters, the source said. — PTI 

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S&P cuts India outlook to negative

Hong Kong, February 24
Standard & Poor's (S&P) cut its outlook on India's long-term sovereign credit rating to negative from stable on Tuesday, citing an ''unsustainable'' deterioration in the country's fiscal position.

''The outlook revision reflects our view that India's fiscal position has deteriorated to a level that is unsustainable in the medium term,'' said S&P in the statement.

S&P will retain its BBB-minus long-term sovereign rating for India and its A-3 short-term rating.

S&P said it expects the general government deficit, which includes off-budget items such as oil and fertiliser bonds, to increase to 11.4 per cent in the fiscal year ending in March, up from 5.7 per cent in the previous fiscal year.

The ratings agency said it expects a fiscal deficit of 11.1 per cent in the fiscal year ended in March 2010.

S&P cited debt relief for farmers and the first pay hike for government employees in 11 years, along with broader factors such as the weakening global economy, as reasons for the worsening finances in the country.

The ratings agency called India's weak fiscal position ''the single-largest negative factor for the sovereign ratings.'' Fitch last week also called the country's fiscal position its main concern for India. It currently has BBB-minus ratings, with a negative outlook on the local currency rating and a stable outlook on the foreign currency. Moody's has an equivalent Baa3 rating with a stable outlook. — Reuters

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Crop insurance scheme extended to 4 Haryana dists 
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 24
The Agriculture Insurance Company of India (AICI) will be extending the scope of weather-based crop insurance scheme to four districts in Haryana, and also introduce this for tomato crop in Himachal Pradesh.

Officials in AICI informed TNS that they have extended the scheme for weather-based crop insurance for barley in Sirsa, Hisar and Fatehabad, and for tomato, potato and onion crop in Karnal. Last year, the scheme was introduced in Gurgaon and Mewat districts, but this year, this will not be extended to Mewat.

As many as 672 acres of land in Gurgaon was covered under this scheme and a premium of Rs 3.86 lakh was collected while a claim of Rs 25.39 lakh was paid. In Mewat, the scheme was introduced on 57.52 acres with a premium collection of Rs 1.55 lakh and a claim settlement of Rs 43,000.

Weather-based crop insurance has been piloted in the country since kharif 2003 season. Incidentally, while Punjab had launched a pilot project for introducing weather-based insurance for paddy in Kalanaur in Gurdaspur last year, they have discontinued this scheme in the state this year.

After the tomato farmers in the Himachal Pradesh suffered huge losses last year on account of wagaries of weather, the state government agreed to launch it this year. Talking to TNS here today, Ashok Yadav, regional manager, Agriculture Insurance Company of India (AICI), said the weather-based crop insurance will first be launched for tomato farmers in the district of Solan.

The total sum insured under this scheme is Rs 1 lakh per hectare, with an annual premium of Rs 13,482 per hectare. The farmer will, however, have to pay just 50 per cent of the premium and the rest will be paid by the Himachal government and the Central government on a 50:50 basis. Since the nursery sowing of the tomato crop in Himachal has just begun, the introduction of the weather-based insurance scheme will help a number of farmers. The crop will be transplanted in March and the risk period will be between March 10-July 31.

Yadav also informed TNS that the Himachal government was actively considering to extend this scheme for the apple and mango crop in the state. “The modalities are being worked out and the scheme could be launched next year,” he said. 

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Slowdown hits industry in J&K
Seema Sharma
Tribune News Service

Jammu, February 24
Thousands of artisans who live on the small-scale industry of shawls & carpet-weaving and handicraft- making are under the immense pressure owing to the current economic crisis. Not only the artisans, but the shopkeepers who take stock from these artisans, are also bearing the brunt. In totality, this small industry is struggling hard to survive the downturn.

Kishen Bhatt, an artisan says, “I come in Jammu in the winter months, and sell my shawls to the buyers, including the shopkeepers, who are my clients for years. But this year, many of them refused to buy my material, as they said that their previous stock, too, has not been cleared while others complained of being short of money. I am at a loss as to how I will make both ends meet in such a grim situation.”Baldev Khullar, president of Business Association of Raghunath Bazar rues, “The markets are not having enough buyers. People have tightened their purse strings in today’s scenario. They are more inclined to saving. The stocks are lying in shops for months together.”

To corroborate the fact, Kishen Bhatt, handicraft seller in Raghunath Bazar, says, “Big brands have started wooing buyers by offering them good discount or lucrative schemes such as one item free with one product, but we small shopkeepers cannot afford to do so to sell our products. We simply do not have any other means to survive.”

Tejwant Singh Arin, president of Small Scale Industry has no hope in near future for things to brighten up.

He says, “Now, when the government has started importing the raw and ready-made material to make good money from tax benefits, that too even in this time of crisis, then how can the artisans and small- scale businessmen can prosper in this state.”

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Hewlett-Packard to trim salaries
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, February 24
Employees of computer giant Hewlett-Packard (HP) in Bangalore are expecting a salary cut in the wake of a communication from the company’s California-based CEO Mark Hurd.

While announcing the first quarter results for 2009, Hurd sent an e-mail to the HP employees, including the employees in India, which said in view of the economic downturn, the CEO had decided to impose a cut of 20 per cent in his basic salary.

“My basic pay will be reduced by 20 per cent. The basic pay of executive council members will be reduced by 15 per cent. The basic pay of other executives will be reduced by 10 per cent. The basic pay of all other exempt employees will be reduced by 5 per cent. For non-exempt employees, basic pay will be reduced by 2.5 per cent”, Hurd wrote. “Follow-up communications will detail the timing and the plans in your location”, added Hurd in his communication dated February 18.

The “follow up communications” that would “detail the timing and plans” in various “locations” has not arrived here as yet but the employees are fearing the worse. It was earlier made clear to them by their local bosses that yearly increments, if at all offered, would be in a low scale and would not match the hefty raises given in the previous years.

Disclosing that the company was doing poorly in its product business segment, the mainstay of HP, Hurd wrote, “you are supposed to reduce headcount on par with declining revenue”.

The CEO wrote that though he was opposed to large-scale job cuts, “there are pockets where restructuring needs to happen, and areas where actions will be taken as part of our ongoing workforce optimisation process”.

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Gold glitters at Rs 15,785

New Delhi, February 24
Gold prices today bounced back in the national capital and gained Rs 185 at Rs 15,785 per 10 gram on emergence of buying by stockists amid reports of a firming global trend.

Marketmen said trading sentiment turned bullish on reports that the precious metal in the global markets moved up from $984 to $990 an ounce.

Investors were seen pulling out money from equity markets to park funds in bullion, considering it to be a safe haven during such financial crisis, they said. Besides, the US MSCI fell 2.3 per cent to 74.51, the lowest close since August, 2003, also influenced trading sentiments, marketmen said.

Gold in Asia rose to $990.78 an ounce after dropping as much as 0.7 per cent to $984.53. Standard gold and ornaments rose by Rs 185 each at Rs 15,785 and Rs 15,635 per 10 gram, respectively. Sovereign was unchanged at Rs 12,400 per piece of eight gram.— PTI

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BRIEFLY

MRF declares lockout at Puducherry plant
Mumbai:
Tyre maker MRF on Tuesday said it has declared a shut down at its Puducherry plant "on account of labour unrest in the factory." "The management has declared lockout at the company's manufacturing plant situated at Puducherry with effect from second shift of February 22 on account of labour unrest in the factory," MRF said in a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange.— PTI

LIC ups stake in GAIL
Mumbai:
Life Insurance Corporation of India has hiked its stake to 9.98 per cent in state-run GAIL through open-market transaction as well as bonus allotment. In a disclosure on the BSE, GAIL said LIC has purchased over 5.92 crore shares representing two per cent stake in the company between March 21, 2007, and February 13 this year.— PTI

3i India buyout
Mumbai:
Leading private equity player 3i Group on Tuesday said it has acquired a minority stake in Krishnapatanam Port Company (KPCL) for $161 million. The investment has been done from the $1.2-billion 3i India infrastructure fund, which is managed by 3i's global infrastructure investment team, a release said.— PTI

Tata Power stake in Tata Comm
Mumbai:
Tata Power has hiked its stake to 2.48 per cent in telecom major Tata Communications through off-market transaction. In a disclosure to the BSE, Tata Communications said Tata Power has purchased 45 lakh shares representing 1.58 per cent stake in the company. Before the purchase, Tata Power had 0.90 per cent stake in the company, while now it has over 70 lakh shares representing 2.48 per cent stake in the Tata Communications.— PTI

Rel Money launches mobile trading
Mumbai
:Anil Ambani group company Reliance Money on Tuesday introduced trading in both equities and commodities across all mobile platforms, independent of device and operators. The company launched its mobile trading platform — the first-of-its-kind by any Indian company — which would offer equities and commodity trading services to its investors across all telecom operators.— PTI

L&T bags Rs 1,438-cr projects
Mumbai
:Engineering major Larsen & Toubro on Tuesday said it has bagged three orders worth Rs 1,438 crore from different agencies for power infrastructure-related works. In a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange, L&T said it has secured a Rs 800-crore order from Al Ain Distribution Co for the construction of seven electrical substations and overhead transmission line in Abu Dhabi. Further, it has also bagged a Rs 330- crore order from Abudhabi Distribution Company for augmentation and expansion of a 33-kV power transmission network in the gulf country. Back home, L&T secured another power project worth Rs 308-crore from West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company for a rural electrification project in the state.— PTI

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