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Economy to revive within 6-7 months: PM
New Delhi, March 24
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said it would take another 10 to 15 years to free India of abject poverty and make the “aam aadmi” a “khaas aadmi”.

India’s views on dealing with current crisis are being heard by the global community. G-20 leaders will be meeting in London in the first week of April to take stock of economic crisis and how best the situation can be dealt with

India’s views on dealing with current crisis are being heard by the global community. G-20 leaders will be meeting in London in the first week of April to take stock of economic crisis and how best the situation can be dealt with

No cut in licence fee for telecom firms
New Delhi, March 24
The government has decided not to slash licence fee for telecom operators with large network presence following opposition from the Finance Ministry.

AIG to return $50 million bonus to US govt
Washington, March 24
Top executives of struggling insurance giant American International Group (AIG) have agreed to return $50 million taken as bonus as the company faces sharp criticism from taxpayers and federal officials on these payments.

Big guns in race for Dabhol’s LNG terminal
New Delhi, March 24
Essar Group, GVK Power and Infrastructure and BG Group are among the firms that want to hire the Dabhol power plant’s LNG import terminal after it gets commissioned next month.

Satyam defers joining dates of 9K freshers
New Delhi, March 24
Citing global economic slowdown as one of the reasons, Satyam Computer has deferred the joining dates of 9,000 freshers to whom the company had issued offer letters.



Actor-model Mugdha Godse and model Carol Gracious at the launch of two channels of Germany's Deutsche Welle in Mumbai on Tuesday.
Actor-model Mugdha Godse and model Carol Gracious at the launch of two channels of Germany's Deutsche Welle in Mumbai on Tuesday. — PTI

EARLIER STORIES



Nano Corner
Tata Motors to set up permanent facility at Pantnagar
Dehra Dun, March 24
Tata Motors has agreed to set up a permanent unit for manufacturing the Nano at Pantnagar in Uttarakhand, a top official of the state government said today.

Infosys offer to under-worked staff
New York, March 24
Left without as much work for all its employees, Infosys is offering some of them an option to work with a non-profit organisation (NGO) for a year and get paid half their salary by the IT major, its co-founder Nandan Nilekani has said.


BOAT TO NOWHERE: A Cambodian man rows a boat loaded with morning glory at a field in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. Cambodia's economy will shrink by 0.5 per cent this year, the International Monetary Fund said, lowering its earlier prediction as the country is hit by the global financial crisis
BOAT TO NOWHERE: A Cambodian man rows a boat loaded with morning glory at a field in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. Cambodia's economy will shrink by 0.5 per cent this year, the International Monetary Fund said, lowering its earlier prediction as the country is hit by the global financial crisis. — AFP

HDFC cuts lending rates
Mumbai, March 24
Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC) today slashed its lending rates by 0.5 per cent effective from tomorrow. With this reduction, HDFC’s retail prime lending rate (RPLR) stands at 14 per cent. The lender has lowered its RPLR by one per cent since December last year.

GAIL plans to invest Rs 1,000 cr in CNG stations
New Delhi, March 24
State gas utility GAIL India today said it planned to invest Rs 1,000 crore in setting up 2,000 CNG dispensing stations on major national highways to create a CNG Quadrilateral.

Surya Pharma forays into health care retail
Chandigarh, March 24
Surya Pharmaceuticals is on an expansion spree. The pharma company, which is one of the largest exporters of menthol derivatives, will be launching its retail venture and also start exports to highly regulated markets like USA, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

 





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Economy to revive within 6-7 months: PM
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 24
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said it would take another 10 to 15 years to free India of abject poverty and make the “aam aadmi” a “khaas aadmi”. However, as far as the present-day economic situation was concerned, he was confident that the country’s economy would revive in a major way within six to seven months as by then the stimulus packages would have work their way through the system.

“After China, India is the second fastest growing economy. I am confident that because of the stimulus that our government has announced in the next six to seven months the revival of the Indian economy should take place in big way,” Singh said after releasing the manifesto the manifesto of the Congress.

The government announced stimulus packages in December and January, cutting excise duty by four per cent, increasing public expenditure and giving more leeway to infrastructure finance company IIFCL to raise tax-free bonds. Later, the Finance Minister announced a further two per cent cut in excise duty and also service tax, among other stimulus measures.

The Prime minister said India’s views on dealing with current crisis were being heard by the global community, including major powers. He said G-20 leaders would be meeting in London in the first week of April to take stock of global economic crisis and how best the situation could be dealt with.

The Prime Minister also said the inflation had declined sharply due to a fall in energy prices but food prices had not fallen as the government sought to increase incomes in rural areas. Farmers had never given such increases in terms of procurement prices as in the last five years of the government, he said, adding that since farmers were well looked after, there was demand in rural areas for housing, giving a boost to sectors like cement and steel despite recession.

In its manifesto, the Congress said remained firmly committed to maintaining high growth with low inflation, particularly in relation to prices of essential agricultural and industrial commodities.

To review economy with industry leaders on March 28

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will meet industry leaders on March 28 and review the economic situation amid India Inc urging the government to seek poll panel waiver for key infrastructure projects.

Heads of the apex business chambers — FICCI, Assocham and CII and other industry leaders — have been invited by the Prime Minister, who is likely to seek their suggestions for restoring the 9 per cent growth momentum witnessed in the past four years, corporate sources said.

The worst recession in many developed countries in the last several decades has not left untouched the economies of the developing countries as well.

With Lok Sabha polls due in April, the government is constrained by the Election Commission's code of conduct to implement projects involving expenditure from the exchequer.

The industry on the other hand has been pressing for continuation of the government schemes, as announced in the interim budget last month. — PTI

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No cut in licence fee for telecom firms
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 24
The government has decided not to slash licence fee for telecom operators with large network presence following opposition from the Finance Ministry.

In a move that will hit the big players in the industry, the licence fee cut has been kept in abeyance. The DoT was planning to cut the licence fee by up to a third from April 1.

The Communications Ministry will also soon notify all telcos that the “licence fee cut has been kept in abeyance”. In the event of a fee cut, the telecom players together would have been able to pocket as much as Rs 2,000 crore.

The decision would hit Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications, Vodafone Essar and BSNL the most as their networks cover all census towns and large villages in several states.

The DoT had, last year, announced that the proportion of the revenues telecom operators pay as licence fee to the government would be cut by two per cent of their total revenues if they were able to bring out that their services are available in 95 per cent of the residential areas in a state or a telecom circle.

At present, telecom operators pay six per cent, eight per cent and 10 per cent (based on the ranking of their circles) of their annual gross revenues (AGR) as licence fee. These would have come down to four per cent, six per cent and eight per cent of AGR if the decision had been implemented from April 1, 2009, giving major relief to the telecom operators.

Apparently, the decision has also been kept in abeyance with the next round of general elections round the corner. The DoT, it seems, would wait for the new government to take a final decision and then notify the same.

The DoT could also not secure Cabinet approval to reduce the percentage of total revenues telcos share with the government before the model code of conduct for elections came into play, they added.

Interestingly, the licence fee cut would not have impacted the exchequer as the DoT had planned to reduce telcos’ contribution to the Universal Service Obligation Fund for rural telephony, which is paid out of their licence fee, and which is flushed with funds.

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AIG to return $50 million bonus to US govt

Washington, March 24
Top executives of struggling insurance giant American International Group (AIG) have agreed to return $50 million taken as bonus as the company faces sharp criticism from taxpayers and federal officials on these payments.

“We have been working our way down the list beginning with the recipients who received the largest bonuses. So far, 9 of the top 10 bonus recipients have agreed to give the bonuses back,” New York Attorney General Andrew Cumo said.

Cumo further added: “Of the top 20 (bonus recipients), 15 have agreed to return the bonuses and of the $165 million pool, we calculate that employees have agreed to return approximately $50 million”.

The US insurance giant paid a whopping $165 million as bonus to its executives even as the Federal government had pumped in about $170 billion into the company.

Satisfied with this move by AIG bosses, Cumo said: “I would like to say this to the individuals who have given the money back - You have done the right thing. You have done what this country now needs and demands.”

“We are living in a new era of corporate and individual responsibility. I thank you for setting an example for the rest of the company.”

The bonus payment by AIG had drawn flak from the White House for using the government’s bailout funds to pay bonuses to its top executives with President Barack Obama vowing to pursue a legal avenue to block these payments.

Earlier last week, the troubled insurance giant's chairman and chief executive Edward Liddy had asked its employees to return at least half the bonuses paid to them recently, after facing sharp criticism from taxpayers and federal officials against the payments.

“We will work to ensure the highest level of employee participation in this effort in the days ahead. And we will keep Congress and the American people informed of our progress,” Liddy had said. — PTI

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Big guns in race for Dabhol’s LNG terminal

New Delhi, March 24
Essar Group, GVK Power and Infrastructure and BG Group are among the firms that want to hire the Dabhol power plant’s LNG import terminal after it gets commissioned next month.

The 5-million-tonne-a-year liquefied natural gas (LNG) import facility is likely to be commissioned in mid-April, said RK Goel, chairman, Ratnagiri Gas and Power Pvt Ltd (RGPPL), the owner of the Dabhol power plant and LNG terminal.

Dabhol currently produces 600 MW of electricity using the LNG that Petronet LNG Ltd imports from Qatar. Petronet supplies will run till September and the government has already allocated natural gas from Reliance Industries' eastern offshore KG-D6 fields to fire the nation's largest gas-based power plant.

“Consultants have told us that the LNG terminal can operate at only 20 per cent of the capacity in the absence of a breakwater at Dabhol. But I feel we may be able to operate at 40 per cent at least,” he told reporters here today.

As fuel for the power plant has already been tied up, RGPPL is looking at leasing out the LNG terminal on a tolling basis.

“We have floated an expression of interest seeking bids from companies who wish to take capacity in (the) Dabhol terminal on tolling basis. The interests are under submission,” Goel said, adding Essar, GVK, BG, Mahanagar Gas Ltd and some oil-marketing companies had shown interest till now.

“By mid-April, we would have all the bids in place and should be able to arrive at the appropriate tolling charge. We will decide on giving capacity thereafter,” Goel said. — PTI

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Satyam defers joining dates of 9K freshers

New Delhi, March 24
Citing global economic slowdown as one of the reasons, Satyam Computer has deferred the joining dates of 9,000 freshers to whom the company had issued offer letters.

“The joining dates of around 9,000 students of the 2007-2008 batch, who were given the offer letters during December 2007 to June 2008, have been deferred,” a company spokesperson said.

Satyam HR head SV Krishnan in an email to all the freshers has said the decision was made after careful and extensive deliberations and only after all other practical options were exhausted.

“The scenario (slowdown), combined with the continuing volatility in the business environment, necessitates that we optimise available resources internally and critically reexamine additional requirements (for new-hires) on an ongoing, quarterly basis. While unfortunate, it has also been unavoidable. Added to this was an unprecedented set of events in the organisation, over the past few weeks, which has been most unfortunate,” Krishnan said. — PTI

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Nano Corner
Tata Motors to set up permanent facility at Pantnagar

Dehra Dun, March 24
Tata Motors has agreed to set up a permanent unit for manufacturing the Nano at Pantnagar in Uttarakhand, a top official of the state government said today.

“On the request of the state government, Tata Motors has agreed to convert its interim Nano arrangement into permanent one at Pantnagar,” Principal Secretary (Industries) PC Sharma said.

Through the sale of Nano car and other commercial vehicles, which are being manufactured at Pantnagar by Tata Motors, the state government would earn a revenue of Rs 200 crore through value added tax, the official said. Tata Motors has also launched a distribution company — Tata Motors Distribution Companies Ltd — at Pantnagar industrial area to sell the Nano, he said.

When contacted, a Tata Motors spokesperson said the company had launched the distribution company for the sale of Nano as well as other auto brands.

Tata Motors was given more than 100 acres of prime land by the state government at Pantnagar for setting up its manufacturing facility. Last year, the company got 20 acres of land from the state government for the distribution company as well as 45 acres of additional land for the expansion purpose at Pantnagar. — PTI 

Makes big splash in US media

Washington, March 24
The launch of India’s small car Tata Nano made big news in the US with top publications from Time magazine to the New York Times giving the story a big splash. “After a series of setbacks, Tata Motors announces that its much-anticipated Nano is ready,” said the CNN listing its story “World’s cheapest car ... again” as “Today’s top video”.

In an article titled “The world's cheapest car debuts in India”, Time magazine related the story of “a six-year quest by Tata Motors, India's largest automaker, to develop a car for the common man costing less than Rs.100, 000 (about $2,000), roughly the same price as a motorcycle.”

The New York Times in its “Wheels - The nuts and bolts of whatever moves you” column said: “Nano has been nicknamed The People’s Car because its starting price will make it accessible to more Indians than any other new car on the market.” The Washington Post carried a news agency story noting the Tata Motors Nano will hit Indian roads in July and, with demand set to far outstrip supply. — IANS

Will it stall or storm: Canadian daily

Toronto, March 24
With the launch of Nano making headlines across the world, a major Canadian daily asked Monday: Will the world's cheapest car stall or storm?

The National Post said though Tata Motors was first setting its sights first on the millions of motorcycle and scooter riders in its home country, the company aims much higher to capture some global market by 2011. It said Nano could turn out to be a potentially revolutionary product at a time of unprecedented financial upheaval worldwide.

But at the same, the newspaper said, the low-cost car could also be a looming environmental catastrophe, with its sheer numbers increasing noise and air pollution. The newspaper said Nano came cheap because it is build from cheap labour and it is bare bones.

“The car has just one windshield wiper, tubeless tires, and none of the safety features like airbags and antilock brakes standard in other models. It has a 623-cc, 2-cylinder engine that cranks out about 30 horsepower,” the newspaper said. Toronto Star said it remained to be seen whether Nano revolutionises the global auto industry. Automakers will be watching closely to see how consumers respond to the car, the paper said. — IANS

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Infosys offer to under-worked staff

New York, March 24
Left without as much work for all its employees, Infosys is offering some of them an option to work with a non-profit organisation (NGO) for a year and get paid half their salary by the IT major, its co-founder Nandan Nilekani has said.

“We've also launched a program where an employee can go work with an NGO for a year and we'll pay him half the salary for the duration,” Nilekani told US publication Forbes in an interview published online.

Asked if Infosys was still hiring in the gloomy economic scenario, Nilekani who is also Infosys co-chairman said: “Very selectively”. “In our industry, campus recruitment happens very early. Students who will be graduating and joining us this summer, we offered them jobs last March. So we have 18,000 offers out and we will be honouring those.”

“We won't have as much work for all our employees right now, so we’re encouraging them to contribute to projects on open source and do more innovative work,” he said.

Responding to a query on whether there are new opportunities for Infosys in the current crisis, Nilekani said the firm was doing more business-driven projects, such as “redesigning the supply chain of a company”.

“We’re also entering new sectors like pharmaceuticals, natural resources and media, and new geographies like emerging markets,” he noted.

Pointing out that 88 per cent of Infosys' revenues come from the US and Europe, Nilekani said the economic crisis has impacted everyone.

“You can see it reflected in our guidance for this year. We expect an 11 to 12 per cent increase in revenues, and while it’s still in double digits, it's a lot lesser than what we've had in the past few years,” he added. — PTI

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HDFC cuts lending rates

Mumbai, March 24
Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC) today slashed its lending rates by 0.5 per cent effective from tomorrow. With this reduction, HDFC’s retail prime lending rate (RPLR) stands at 14 per cent. The lender has lowered its RPLR by one per cent since December last year.

“We are now seeing a reduction in the costs on a portfolio level and as in the past HDFC has ensured that the reduction in cost is passed on to existing customers by way of a reduction in RPLR,” HDFC joint managing director Renu Sud Karnad said.

The benefit of reduction in RPLR will accrue to all existing floating rate customers over the period of next three months based on their respective reset dates, HDFC said. The home loan lender has seen its costs coming down owing to improved operational efficiency and good quality portfolio, it added. — PTI 

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GAIL plans to invest Rs 1,000 cr in CNG stations

New Delhi, March 24
State gas utility GAIL India today said it planned to invest Rs 1,000 crore in setting up 2,000 CNG dispensing stations on major national highways to create a CNG Quadrilateral.

“GAIL is in a position to set up 2,000 CNG outlets on highways in the next three years,” company chairman and managing director UD Choubey told reporters on sidelines of a conference here.

The CNG Quadrilateral would need 14 million standard cubic metres of natural gas per day, he said. Now, 400 CNG stations in the country sell 3.7 mmscmd of gas to automobiles.

“GAIL Gas (a wholly owned subsidiary of GAIL) is prepared to invest Rs 100 crore in setting up CNG stations in cities along our gas pipeline network,” he said.

In first part of the CNG Quadrilateral, five CNG stations would be set up on the Delhi-Mathura-Agra highway at Rs 49 crore in the next 3-4 months.

Compressed natural gas or CNG was 53 per cent cheaper than petrol and 38 per cent cheaper than diesel.

GAIL, he said, was seeking all of the 5-mmscmd gas from the initial output from Reliance Industries’ eastern offshore KG-D6 fields for selling CNG to automobiles and piped natural gas to households for cooking purpose.

It wants to use this gas in Delhi and Mumbai among other cities. — PTI

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Surya Pharma forays into health care retail
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 24
Surya Pharmaceuticals is on an expansion spree. The pharma company, which is one of the largest exporters of menthol derivatives, will be launching its retail venture and also start exports to highly regulated markets like USA, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

The company is also looking to acquire a pharma retail chain in India for its retail biz and another Germany-based pharma distribution platform for distribution of their drugs across Europe. The company has set aside Rs 100 crore for these acquisitions.

Talking to TNS here today, Rajiv Goyal, chairman and managing director of Surya Pharmaceuticals, said the retail arm of the group - Surya Healthcare - will be setting up the first 10 stores, under the brand name ‘Viva’ in the national capital region (NCR) in April.

The CMD said the retail stores would be company-owned company-operated. “The Rs 40,000 crore pharma retail market is highly unorganised. With only three per cent of the market being in the organised sector, we are hoping that the retail biz would help us achieve a turnover of RS 800 crore in the next three years,” he said.

Goyal said they had upgraded their facilities at Banur and Baddi and set up a green field project at Jammu with an investment of Rs 60 crore. These facilities are being readied to get USFDA approvals, which the company hopes to get by the year end. 

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BRIEFLY

ICICI Bank to raise Rs 1,200 cr
MUMBAI
: ICICI Bank on Tuesday said it planned to raise Rs 1,200 crore through the issue of upper tier-II bonds. The bonds carry a coupon rate of 9.95 per cent and have a tenure of 15 years with a call option after 10 years, an ICICI Bank spokesperson said here. The issue has a green shoe option of Rs 300-crore.

Fortis ties up with Chitkara
NEW DELHI
: Fortis Healthcare on Tuesday announced a tie-up with Himachal Pradesh-based private education chain Chitkara University to start four new courses in the field of medical education. “With this tie-up, we will start three under-graduate and one post-graduate courses in the field of medical education,” Fortis Healthcare president (medical strategy & quality) Narottam Puri said.

Pacnet raises stake in Indian JV
NEW DELHI:
Telecommunications firm Pacnet has increased stake in its Indian joint venture Pacific Internet India to 74 per cent, even as it will apply for international long-distance and national long-distance licence next week to roll out network in the country. “As part of our strategy to aggressively grow our operations in India, we have raised our stake in our India joint venture Pacific Internet India (PII) from 55 per cent to 74 per cent,” Pacnet CEO Bill Barney said here.

Rupee falls by 25 paise
MUMBAI
: In tandem with local equity markets amid month-end dollar demand, the Indian rupee washed off its initial gains and ended lower by 25 paise to 50.70/71 against the greenback. In fairly active trade at the Interbank Foreign Exchange (Forex) market, the local unit opened higher at 50.34/35 per dollar from its previous close of 50.45/46 a dollar. Later, it moved in a range of 50.22 and 50.75 before concluding the day at 50.70/71.

NPCIL, GEH ink pact
MUMBAI
: The Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) have signed an MoU for starting discussion on techno-commercial aspects of advanced boiling reactor here recently. The agreement was the first milestone in engagement of NPCIL and GEH for preparing the contract and related details of setting up of advanced boiling water reactor in India. The NPCIL was also similarly engaged with Westinghouse Electric Company, USA, for setting up of AP-1000 reactors in the country, according to an official release here on Tuesday.

Source: Agencies

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