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Spice may pull out of Satyam race
Alleges non-transparency in bidding process
New Delhi, March 25
B K Modi's Spice Group today said it might pull out of the bidding process to buy Satyam Computer, alleging lack of transparency from the board. "We feel there is no openness and transparency... The Satyam board is now talking about another shortlisting of bidders. We do not even know who are the bidders in the first short-listing... there is no e-auction also which was our main issue to maintain transparency," Spice Group chairman B K Modi told PTI.

Outstation cheques to be cleared in 48 hours
Chandigarh, March 25
Your outstation cheques sent for collection will no longer take days to be cleared. The RBI has introduced speed clearing of outstation cheques, which facilitates collection of cheques drawn on outstation core-banking-enabled branches of banks, if they have a net-worked branch locally.

Nano to revolutionise small car segment
New Delhi, March 25
When the Tata Group’s chairman Ratan Tata came up with the idea of empowering the common man with a vehicle to save himself and the family from scorching heat and incessant rains at Rs 1 lakh, other automakers considered it outrageous and something that was unachievable.





EARLIER STORIES



Workers from German firm Continental plant in Clairoix, northern France, demonstrate by burning tyres on Wednesday in Paris, to protest against the closure of their plant (1,120 workers) within one year
Workers from German firm Continental plant in Clairoix, northern France, demonstrate by burning tyres on Wednesday in Paris, to protest against the closure of their plant (1,120 workers) within one year. It is the biggest single closure announced so far in France since the global crisis took hold. — AFP

Google top brass keeps $1 salary in 2008
New York, March 25
Internet search giant Google Inc's top three executives — co-founders Larry Page, Sergey Brin and chief executive Eric Schmidt — have voluntarily taken only $1 in salaries last year.

Google search gets smarter
San Francisco, March 25
Google has rolled out two new improvements to its popular Internet search service which its engineers said will help guide users more effectively to the information they need.

White House seeks powers to shut firms like AIG
Washington, March 25
The Obama administration on Tuesday mounted a full-scale push for government authority to shut down troubled institutions like insurer AIG. US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, testifying before lawmakers still fuming about big bonuses for executives at bailout recipient AIG, called on Congress for new powers to take over big non-bank financial firms that run amok.

Go Air links Amritsar with Mumbai
New Delhi, March 25
Low-cost carrier GoAir and its contemporary SpiceJet are not in talks for a merger, GoAir chief executive Edgardo Badiali clarified on Wednesday, terming such reports as “speculation and rumours”.
Go Air CEO Edgardo Badiali (L) poses with general manager Carolina Bajaj at a press conference in New Delhi on Wednesday. Tribune photo: Mukesh Aggarwal
Go Air CEO Edgardo Badiali (L) poses with general manager Carolina Bajaj at a press conference in New Delhi

KG Gas
RIL reaches pact with fertiliser firms
New Delhi, March 25
Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) has reached agreement with fertiliser firms on sale of gas from its eastern offshore KG-D6 fields and is likely to sign the sales contracts on March 27.

No need for global currency: Obama
Washington, March 25 Faced with over $1 trillion fiscal deficit, US President Barack Obama has said Americans need to reduce expenditure and cut costs, or else India and China will outperform them.

Tata warns of job cuts at Jaguar
London, March 25
Indian conglomerate Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata has said job cuts will take place at Jaguar unless the British government guarantees loans worth millions of pounds to the car maker.

HSBC to slash 1,200 UK jobs
London, March 25
Global banking major HSBC is planning to trim its headcount by about 1,200 people in the UK, says a media report. "HSBC is cutting 1,200 British jobs in the bank's third attempt at slashing its costs in the continuing financial services downturn," The Times reported today.

BRPL to merge with IOC
New Delhi, March 25
State refiner Indian Oil Corp today said it has received the government approval for merger of Bongaigaon Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd (BRPL) with itself. IOC owns about 74 per cent in BRPL and the merger would be effective today, the company said in a statement to the Bombay Stock Exchange.





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Spice may pull out of Satyam race
Alleges non-transparency in bidding process

New Delhi, March 25
B K Modi's Spice Group today said it might pull out of the bidding process to buy Satyam Computer, alleging lack of transparency from the board.

"We feel there is no openness and transparency... The Satyam board is now talking about another shortlisting of bidders. We do not even know who are the bidders in the first short-listing... there is no e-auction also which was our main issue to maintain transparency," Spice Group chairman B K Modi told PTI.

When contacted, Satyam chairman Kiran Karnik said: "We cannot comment anything on the bidding process. The due diligence of Satyam has started and will be open till April 4, according to one of the shortlisted bidders. The financial bids are likely to be called by April 9.

Modi said e-auction would have been a better option as it would have done away with human intervention. But they have not done that.

He said the board of Spice would meet tonight to take a call on whether to go ahead or not. "We are not satisfied with these kinds of developments. We have asked the board to share the CBI investigation details with us and other legal problems that are now part of Satyam. But no information is coming forth." Satyam shares were down 3.11 per cent at Rs 40.50.

"We need to know who are the other shortlisted bidders in the process but they are not sharing that. With so much liabilities and no idea on the competitors and investigation progress, extent of fraud, no authentic financial statement, how do we proceed," Modi asked.

Besides Spice, engineering giant Larsen & Toubro and Tech Mahindra are among the potential suitors for Satyam, which is smarting form an accounting fraud perpetuated by its founder B Ramalinga Raju.

Raju had in January disclosed that he falsified profits over many years and fudged accounts to the tune of Rs 7,800 crore. He is in jail awaiting trial. CBI, which is probing the case, believes that the size of the scam is much bigger than what Raju disclosed.

Satyam's new government-appointed board has roped in KPMG and Deloitte to restate the accounts and the company has sought time till June 30 to report its October-December quarter earnings.

Shortlisted bidders would be given access to some data and financial information before submitting their offer.

"Our board will take a full view of the situation and other related problems that may crop up when the company goes ahead with the bidding process," Modi said.

Satyam hopes that by April 30 it would finalise who would buy a controlling 51 per cent stake in the company. Last week, US-based outsourcer iGate Corp said it would not pursue a bid following further analysis of Satyam. — PTI

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Outstation cheques to be cleared in 48 hours
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 25
Your outstation cheques sent for collection will no longer take days to be cleared. The RBI has introduced speed clearing of outstation cheques, which facilitates collection of cheques drawn on outstation core-banking-enabled branches of banks, if they have a net-worked branch locally.

The speed clearing of outstation cheques has been introduced in four clearing houses in the region — at Amritsar, Chandigarh, Jalandhar and Ludhiana. As of now, it takes anything between one week to three weeks to get outstation cheques cleared. With this, the time taken for clearing of outstation cheques will be reduced to 48 hours.

Outstation cheques are paid through two channels — on collection basis or through national clearing (inter-city clearing). This requires movement of cheques from the bank where the cheque is presented to the drawee branch (bank branch in another city where the cheque is payable).

This transfer of cheque elongates the realisation time for cheques.

The process of collection in outstraton cheques has been cumbersome and customers have often complained and sought some relief to ease the collection norms. As of now, in case outstation cheques are paid through collection basis, a person presents his outstation cheque to his local branch, which then sends it to a drawee branch in the city where the instrument is payable.

On receipt of the cheque from the drawee branch, the collecting branch (providing the collection service at the destination centre) presents it in local clearing to the drawee branch. Once the cheque is paid, the collecting branch remits the proceeds to the branch where the cheque is presented and the customer’s account is credited.

In case of national clearing, it takes around a week's time. National clearing is an arrangement under which the clearing houses managed by RBI provide inter-city cheque collection service to member banks of those clearing houses. But national clearing is available in only select 15 cities, but not in any city in the region.

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Nano to revolutionise small car segment
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 25
When the Tata Group’s chairman Ratan Tata came up with the idea of empowering the common man with a vehicle to save himself and the family from scorching heat and incessant rains at Rs 1 lakh, other automakers considered it outrageous and something that was unachievable.

Six years down the line, when Tata unveiled Nano at the Auto Expo 2008, he had his competitors scampering for shelter and to the design boards to come up with a vehicle which would in some way be vying for space with Nano, the next generation car which had taken the world by storm.

Now, with the official launch of probably the most awaited car of this century, Tata has finally set the ball rolling to make his group a truly global entity. Nano is being awaited with as much interest in Europe and other parts of the world, especially Saharan-Africa and East Africa and East Asia, which could turn out to be great markets for the Tatas.

Although Tata had come on the world auto map following the acquisition of Jaguar and Land Rover brands from Ford, but, it is the Nano which will make the group a pioneer the world over in providing with an affordable car.

With Nano, Tata has etched his name along with the other auto greats like Henry Ford who came out with the Ford Model T car developed a century ago and even then sold at $850.

While Nano, with its unimaginable price tag is expected to revolutionise the way people move on wheels, what is has already revolutionised is the approach of the other automobile manufacturers, not only in India but also around the world.

At least four global automakers — Nissan, Renault, Toyota and Honda — have since acknowledged the merit and scope of producing an ultra low-cost car. Besides, there will soon be offerings also from home-based M&M and Bajaj Auto.

While Mahindra’s small car will compete with the Nano with a price tag of Rs 1.3 lakh, Bajaj’s offering may take a few more years to join the race.

By breaking the cost barrier, Tata Motors has now made several other seemingly insurmountable engineering and design hurdles look more vulnerable. As a result, efforts would definitely be underway by other automotive companies to try and break barriers in the realms of performance, fuel consumption and emissions.

The success of Nano will also help India develop into a low-cost car-manufacturing hub in the world.

Interestingly, experts believe that Indian and other emerging markets will drive product development for the next 20 years or so, especially, given the current state of the US and European economies.

Experts point out that the shift from big car to small car is reminiscent of Ford’s Model T. By making the car affordable, Ford’s output shot up from 170,211 units to 501,462 units between 1911 and 1915, around which time Henry Ford considered further price reductions.

Would it happen in India! It’s watch and wait, but the consumer remains the king.

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Google top brass keeps $1 salary in 2008

New York, March 25
Internet search giant Google Inc's top three executives — co-founders Larry Page, Sergey Brin and chief executive Eric Schmidt — have voluntarily taken only $1 in salaries last year.

A latest filing by the company to the US regulator Securities and Exchange Commission stated, "Eric, Larry and Sergey have voluntarily elected to receive only nominal cash compensation. Their primary compensation continues to come from returns on their ownership stakes in Google." Consequently, the company's top executives — Schmidt, Page and Brin — do not receive any salary or plan-based bonus other than $1 per year, proxy statement filed by Google stated.

The filing added that as significant stockholders, the three executives' personal wealth is tied directly to sustained stock price appreciation and performance, which provides direct alignment with stockholder interests.

However, Schmidt has received $5,08,763 under the all other compensation category last year. Despite taking just $1 in salary, Schmidt's total compensation in 2008 rose by about $28,203 from last year's $480,561.

Page and Brin did not receive any bonus this year but had taken $1,723 each in bonuses last year, information available in the filing showed.

In 2004, Eric, Larry and Sergey requested that their salaries each be reduced to $1 per year. However, due to their strong leadership and Google's strong overall performance, Google offered each of them market-competitive salaries at the beginning of each year since 2005.

Due to their preferences not to receive salary compensation, Eric, Larry and Sergey each rejected these offers and continue to receive base salaries of $1, the filing added.

Meanwhile, the trio does not hold any stock options at present and all of their stock holdings are fully vested and have requested not to be considered for additional equity grants in 2007 and 2009.

Earlier this month, Google had paid over $6 million in bonuses to five of its top executives for 2008 as its fourth quarter revenues rose amid challenging global economic conditions. — PTI

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Google search gets smarter

San Francisco, March 25
Google has rolled out two new improvements to its popular Internet search service which its engineers said will help guide users more effectively to the information they need.

"Starting today, we're deploying a new technology that can better understand associations and concepts related to your search," Google's search quality team technical lead Ori Allon and snippets team engineer Ken Wilder wrote in a posting on the company's blog.

The technology can offer users more conceptually related search terms at the bottom of the search results page.

Another improvement is the addition of longer "snippets", or lines of text describing the search results.

Users making a complicated search query with more than three words will now get longer snippet, the engineers said. — Xinhua

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White House seeks powers to shut firms like AIG

Washington, March 25
The Obama administration on Tuesday mounted a full-scale push for government authority to shut down troubled institutions like insurer AIG.

US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, testifying before lawmakers still fuming about big bonuses for executives at bailout recipient AIG, called on Congress for new powers to take over big non-bank financial firms that run amok.

Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke strongly backed Geithner in testimony before the same committee, and President Barack Obama took the case public during a televised news conference on Tuesday evening.

"Keep in mind that it is precisely because of the lack of this authority that the AIG situation has gotten worse," Obama said. "We should've obtained it much earlier so that any institution that poses a systemic risk that could bring down the financial system, we can handle, and we can do it in an orderly fashion that quarantines it from other institutions."

When asked which agency should be given the authority to wind down major non-banks, Obama said the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp has a good model.

"If you look at how the FDIC has handled a situation like IndyBank for example, it actually does these kinds of resolutions effectively when it's got the tools to do it. We don't have the tools right now," Obama said. The FDIC has the power to resolve failed banks like IndyMac Bank, but does not have the power to wind down other types of financial firms. — Reuters

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Go Air links Amritsar with Mumbai
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 25
Low-cost carrier GoAir and its contemporary SpiceJet are not in talks for a merger, GoAir chief executive Edgardo Badiali clarified on Wednesday, terming such reports as “speculation and rumours”.

Aviation industry executives have been quoted as saying that there could be consolidation among bleeding carriers to find ways to cut costs and make profits. Last year, rivals Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines joined hands to cut costs by sharing codes and crew and joint management of fuel.

However, today Badiali said: “It's a small village, India and the aviation industry. Every time there is somebody who is talking to somebody, there is rumour of a merger or alliance”.

Meanwhile, the airline announced flights connecting Amritsar to Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. GoAir officials said that the airline intended strengthening its position in the Punjab by also connecting Chandigarh to Mumbai and Delhi via direct flights and to Goa via Delhi.

They said that the addition of Amritsar as a new station will make GoAir the only airline connecting Amritsar to Mumbai. The carrier promises that its fares will be low. The fare for the Chandigarh-Delhi and Amritsar-Delhi on an average will be Rs 450 plus fuel surcharge, officials added.

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KG Gas
RIL reaches pact with fertiliser firms

New Delhi, March 25
Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) has reached agreement with fertiliser firms on sale of gas from its eastern offshore KG-D6 fields and is likely to sign the sales contracts on March 27.

RIL has lowered the margin it would charge on selling the gas to $0.135 per million British thermal unit from the proposed $0.15 per mmBtu even though its proposed margin was lower than state-run GAIL India's $0.17 per mmBtu.

"The signing (of the Gas Sales and Purchase Agreement) has been scheduled on Friday afternoon," a government official said today.

KG-D6 will start producing gas by month-end and initial volumes would go to meet the fuel deficit at 15 urea making plants operated by 12 fertiliser companies. Over 15 million cubic meters per day of gas would go to fertiliser plants.

Though fertiliser firms were agreeable to paying the rupee equivalent of government set price of $4.20 per mmBtu as per the exchange rate on the day of payment, some others had objected to it saying an Empowered Group of Ministers had pegged the exchange rate at previous years average.

However, RIL stated that under all Production Sharing Contracts including that for KG-D6, all payments for royalty and profit petroleum are to be made to government at current exchange rate and so the exchange rate for payments to the government and those charged from buyers cannot be different.

An RIL spokesperson said the company had proposed rupee denominated price for KG-D6 gas but was turned down by the eGoM and price approved was in USD as envisaged in the Production Sharing Contracts (PSC). — PTI

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No need for global currency: Obama

Washington, March 25
Faced with over $1 trillion fiscal deficit, US President Barack Obama has said Americans need to reduce expenditure and cut costs, or else India and China will outperform them.

Pointing out that there are no easy solutions for the recession-hit US economy, Obama said at a White House press conference yesterday, "It will take many months and many different solutions to lead us out (of recession)... There are no quick fixes and there are no silver bullets".

Obama said his administration inherited a whopping fiscal deficit of $1.3 trillion from his predecessor. While it would take a long time to fix the structural deficit, US must bend the curve on these wide fiscal gaps, he added.

Otherwise, Obama warned, "... we will allow China or India or other countries to lap our young people in terms of their performance. We will settle on lower growth rates, and we will continue to contract both as an economy and our ability to provide a better life for our kids".

On China's concern over the value of the US dollar as a global currency, he said, "... the dollar is extra-ordinarily strong right now... because investors consider the United States the strongest economy in the world, with the most stable political system in the world.

"I don't believe that there is a need for global currency". On his expectations from the forthcoming meeting of the leaders of the 20 developed and developing countries in London, Obama said the US would not like a situation in which some nations make extraordinary efforts while others don't to lift the global economy from the financial morass. — PTI

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Tata warns of job cuts at Jaguar

London, March 25
Indian conglomerate Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata has said job cuts will take place at Jaguar unless the British government guarantees loans worth millions of pounds to the car maker.

In an interview to Sky News, Ratan Tata said, "Job cuts will be made unless the government can guarantee 500 million pounds in loans to the company".

Quoting Tata, the report published online said Jaguar was in need of urgent help or the company would face "devastating" results.

He said the firm needed a multi-million pound loan guarantee otherwise "its 15,000 UK workforce would be culled".

"If funds are not available a company will not be able to run... So layoffs will take place, redundancies will take place..., as has already happened in the UK," Ratan Tata told Sky News. — PTI

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HSBC to slash 1,200 UK jobs

London, March 25
Global banking major HSBC is planning to trim its headcount by about 1,200 people in the UK, says a media report.

"HSBC is cutting 1,200 British jobs in the bank's third attempt at slashing its costs in the continuing financial services downturn," The Times reported today.

The report published online said the redundancies, which are being announced to staff today, would affect all areas of the country, hitting employees in back office units that service HSBC's retail and small business customers. — PTI

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BRPL to merge with IOC

New Delhi, March 25
State refiner Indian Oil Corp today said it has received the government approval for merger of Bongaigaon Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd (BRPL) with itself.

IOC owns about 74 per cent in BRPL and the merger would be effective today, the company said in a statement to the Bombay Stock Exchange.

Shareholders of BRPL will get four shares of IOC for every 37 shares they held. — PTI

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BRIEFLY

Tata Comm sells 1 pc in TTSL for Rs 424 cr
New Delhi:
Tata Communications on Wednesday sold about one per cent of its stake in group company Tata Teleservices to Japanese major NTT DoCoMo to realise Rs 424 crore. Tata Communications (TC), formerly VSNL held a 14.43 per cent stake in group mobile services unit TTSL before NTT DoCoMo came into the picture. — PTI

Novartis to buy 39 pc more stake in Indian arm
Mumbai:
Swiss drug maker Novartis AG on Wednesday made an open offer to acquire an additional stake of 39 per cent in its Indian subsidiary for a total value of up to Rs 440 crore. The parent company would buy back the shares at a price of Rs 351 a piece, Novartis (India) said in a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange. — PTI

HSBC Global ups stake in Glenmark
Mumbai:
Drug maker Glenmark Pharmaceuticals on Wednesday said HSBC Global Investment Fund (Mauritius) has hiked its stake to 5.02 per cent in the company, after purchasing fresh equity through the open-market transaction. In a disclosure to the Bombay Stock Exchange, the pharma firm said that the fund house has purchased 2.18 lakh shares worth Rs 2.77 crore. — PTI

Tata Power sells partial stake in Tata Tele
New Delhi:
Tata Power on Wednesday sold part of its stake in group telecom company, Tata Teleservices, for Rs 316.72 crore. Tata Power, in a regulatory filing, said the company has received an amount Rs 316.72 crore pursuant to the sale of its partial holdings in Tata Teleservices Ltd. — PTI

Ford to hike Ikon prices
New Delhi:
Ford India will increase the price of its entry-level sedan Ikon by up to 1.5 per cent from April as it looks to offset rising component import bills due to rupee depreciation. "There will be an increase in the prices of Ikon by up to 1.5 per cent from the price we announced last November while launching a new version of the car," Ford India executive director Nigel Wark said. — PTI

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