SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
B U S I N E S S

Exports decline 21.7% in Feb
New Delhi, April 1
India’s exports fell by 21.7 per cent in February, the lowest in 13 years, to $11.91 billion, owing to a continued lack of demand for goods in the West — most of which is battling recession. According to government data released on Wednesday, the country’s imports, too, declined by 23.3 per cent to $16.82 billion in February.

Obama, Brown underscore coordinated actions
London, April 1
Ahead of the G-20 summit, US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown today underlined the need for coordinated global actions and rejection of protectionism to overcome the unprecedented economic crisis.

Radio — Politicians’ new advertising medium
Chandigarh, April 1
Next time you tune in to your favourite FM channel, forget about the latest chartbusters and be ready to hear the “Jai Ho” campaign of the Congress or the “Mazboot Neta Nirnayak Sarkaar” campaign of the BJP.





EARLIER STORIES



Samsung India CEO Jung Soo Shin and Bollywood actress Genelia D’Souza at the launch of Samsung ultra touch mobile phone in New Delhi
Samsung India CEO Jung Soo Shin and Bollywood actress Genelia D’Souza at the launch of Samsung ultra touch mobile phone in New Delhi on Wednesday. The phone is priced at Rs 27,500. Tribune photo: Mukesh Aggarwal

Maruti to phase out M800
New Delhi, April 1
Maruti 800 — the small car that revolutionised personal transport in modern India — will take a bow starting next year and be phased out by 2016, when the country is expected to embrace new emission norms, Maruti Suzuki India said today.

Govt orders special audit of telcos
New Delhi, April 1
Not satisfied with the response given by country’s largest private telecom operator Bharti Airtel over it passing off the mobile revenues as those from long-distance services, the government today ordered a special audit of the company’s accounts.

Samsung to partner BSNL for 3G services
New Delhi, April 1
Korean electronics major, Samsung, will be partnering the two state-run telecom majors BSNL and MTNL to provide high-end handsets for their 3G services and is looking at up to 45 per cent of its total sales being generated from multimedia and touchscreen phones.

KG Gas
RIL to generate $28b revenue for govt
New Delhi, April 1
Reliance Industries is just hours away from transforming India's energy landscape when it starts natural gas production from its Krishna Godavari basin fields.

Paonta Unit
Ranbaxy, Daiichi to meet USFDA
New Delhi, April 1
Representatives of Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd and its Japanese parent Daiichi Sankyo will jointly meet officials of the US Food and Drug Administration to sort out issues relating to the Indian firm's manufacturing facility at Paonta Sahib.

Banking transaction tax withdrawn
New Delhi, April 1
Taxpayers will not have to pay levy on withdrawal of cash from banks with the government withdrawing the Banking Cash Transaction Tax (BCTT) from today.





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Exports decline 21.7% in Feb
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 1
India’s exports fell by 21.7 per cent in February, the lowest in 13 years, to $11.91 billion, owing to a continued lack of demand for goods in the West — most of which is battling recession.

According to government data released on Wednesday, the country’s imports, too, declined by 23.3 per cent to $16.82 billion in February. The trade deficit narrowed to $4.9 billion in the month under review from $6.1 billion in January due to a sharp fall in imports.

Oil imports fell 47.5 per cent during the month from a year earlier to $4.05 billion.

Exports during April to February, the first 11 months of 2008/09, were up 7.3 per cent at $156.6 billion from a year earlier, while the trade deficit during the period rose to $115.1 billion from $82.2 billion a year ago. Imports between April and February went up by 19.1 per cent to $271.68 billion.

Reacting on the figures, Federation of Indian Export Organizations (FIEO) president A Sakthivel said the data was along the expected lines in view of contraction in global demand. He hoped that the new government would take requisite measures expeditiously — both fiscal and non fiscal — to help the export sector.

He, however, said the coming financial year should be good for exports with improvement in overseas markets. He emphasised that Indian exporters should remain in the market, at whatsoever cost, so that they reap the dividends once the recovery process starts which seems to be just round the corner.

"We expect that the total exports in 2008-09 would touch $167-168 billion. In 2009-10, we expect the exports growth rate would be 5 per cent and would touch $175 billion against the target of $200 billion," he added.

PTI adds: Even in rupee terms, both exports and imports showed contraction during the month. Exports dipped 3 per cent to Rs 58,685 crore from Rs 60,476 crore in February 2007, while imports shrunk by 4.9 per cent to Rs 82,872 crore.

The WTO has said the world trade is likely to shrink by 9 per cent in 2009. The Planning Commission, in a report, has said India's export growth could be as low as 3 per cent in 2009-10.

Crisil Principal economist D K Joshi said, "The impact of the global slowdown is now really kicking in. In FY'10 India's export scenario would be pretty bad." For the April-February 2008-09 period, the country's exports grew marginally by 7.3 per cent to $156.59 billion, while in April-January it was over 13 per cent. Imports were 19.1 per cent up at $271.68 billion from $228.08 billion a year ago.

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Obama, Brown underscore coordinated actions

London, April 1
Ahead of the G-20 summit, US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown today underlined the need for coordinated global actions and rejection of protectionism to overcome the unprecedented economic crisis. Addressing a joint press conference here, Obama and Brown said the emerging markets and developing countries needed to be supported continuously.

"We have to reject protectionism and accelerate our efforts to support emerging markets," Obama said. India has been making strong pitch to the industrialised nations to avoid protectionism in the trade of goods and services.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is to have his first meeting with Obama here tomorrow, said it was important and necessary for the G-20 Summit to take "credible decisions" to help reverse the current slowdown and instil a confidence in the global economy.

While warning that 2009 would be a "difficult" year, Obama expressed confidence that the crisis would be overcome in some time as governments have learnt their "lessons" and taken some "bold" and "fast" decisions.

Echoing Obama's views, Brown also said protectionism has to be rejected and continued flow of funds ensured.

Tendency by the US and some other developed countries to resort to protectionist policies in the wake of economic crisis has been a matter of concern for India, which has emphasised that this was no remedy for the problem.

Responding to criticism that the US was the trigger for the global meltdown, Obama said while "some may be to blame, everybody is responsible" to tackle the crisis.

"We can meet the challenge together," the US President said while asking all nations to stand together and work in a coordinated manner to deal with the crisis which was the worst since World War II. Pinning hopes on the outcome of the G-20 Summit tomorrow that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would also be attending, Obama said, "We will clear the global system".

Brown observed, "we are within a few hours of agreeing to a global plan for economic recovery and reform." — PTI

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Radio — Politicians’ new advertising medium
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 1
Next time you tune in to your favourite FM channel, forget about the latest chartbusters and be ready to hear the “Jai Ho” campaign of the Congress or the “Mazboot Neta Nirnayak Sarkaar” campaign of the BJP.

The political juggernaut seems to have taken over your favourite source of entertainment while you are on the go. With the wide reach of radio, political parties seem to have now discovered the cheapest and localised medium of advertising. Though no estimates have yet been made on how much of poll spend (estimated at an astounding Rs 10,000 crore) would be used for advertising on radio, trade analysts believe that radio’s share could be around 10 per cent.

Talking to TNS here today, Siddharth Bhardwaj, regional director - North, Big 92.7 FM, said they had already seen the wide reach of political advertising on radio during the recently held Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir. “Since we are the only players in FM space in J&K, we saw our advertising revenue increase three-fold as a result of political advertising by political parties as well as candidates. This was the first time that advertising on radio was allowed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Most contestants had opted for one-month high decibel radio campaign. Since we allow eight minutes of advertising space in an hour, advertisers got good exposure through radio,” he said.

Bhardwaj added that Parliamentary election was again a big opportunity for FM players. “We are hoping that a sizeable advertising spend would be reserved for the radio, considering radio’s reach to over 1 crore people in North India and 19 crore listeners across the country,” he said.

Experts felt that the regional language channels like Mantra and Dhamaal in Hisar, Haryana, and national level FM radio channels which use the local dialect, may bag more political advertisements. They said that a channel could air almost four political ads per hour.

Agreed Richa Sharma, regional head, My FM, “We, too, are working out on campaigns for the BJP and Congress in Punjab through our radio channel. We will also be eyeing candidates, especially in Ludhiana, Amritsar and Jalandhar”. Sharma also said they were planning several programmes for the masses, which are focused on increasing awareness about the responsibility and the right to vote.

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Maruti to phase out M800

New Delhi, April 1
Maruti 800 — the small car that revolutionised personal transport in modern India — will take a bow starting next year and be phased out by 2016, when the country is expected to embrace new emission norms, Maruti Suzuki India said today.

Along with the M800, MSI will also be phasing out its second oldest model, the utility van Omni. In the initial phase, the two models will be done away with in 11 cities from next year, where the Bharat Stage-IV emission norms (which is equivalent to Euro-IV norms) will become applicable.

"Once Euro-IV emission norms is applied across the country, which is likely to happen around 2015-16, then M800 and Omni may not be a saleable product. We will have to eventually phase (them) out then," MSI chairman R C Bhargava told PTI.

The company would not upgrade the engines of these two models to meet better emission standards, he said while also ruling out their replacements.

"We regularly introduce new models in the market, but at present there is no plan to bring out substitutes for these two cars," he added.

Bhargava said sales of M800 and Omni would stop next year in 11 cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore, where Euro-IV emission norms would come into effect.

Launched in 1983, the M800 has sold over 27 lakh units in its 25 years of existence and was the highest selling car for the company till recently when the Alto was introduced. — PTI

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Govt orders special audit of telcos
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 1
Not satisfied with the response given by country’s largest private telecom operator Bharti Airtel over it passing off the mobile revenues as those from long-distance services, the government today ordered a special audit of the company’s accounts.

Besides Airtel, three other private telecom operators have also come under scanner of the finance wing of the Department of Telecom (DoT). They are Vodafone, Idea Cellular and Tata Teleservices.

The other three have also come under special audit for similar allegations.

Following the orders for this probe, the majority of the big private telecom operators in the country have come under the scanner for a special audit of their accounts. The government had earlier ordered special audit of the Reliance Communications’ (RCom) accounts.

Earlier, the finance wing of the Department of Telecom (DoT) had rejected the explanation offered by Bharti Airtel over its passing off the mobile revenues as those from long-distance services (carrying STD and ISD calls).

The telcos make attempts to pass off mobile revenues as those from long-distance services (carrying STD and ISD calls) in a bid to to save on the levies they have to pay to the government.

TRAI has been probing the share of STD and ISD earnings in telecom companies’ total revenue.

While the regulator has not established if the significant increase in national long-distance revenues of some telcos is because of actual increase in the minutes of traffic or a case of passing off revenues from other services, it had asked the DoT to examine the matter further.

The issue is of importance as long-distance service providers pay six per cent of their annual revenues to the government, and mobile service providers pay up to 14 per cent of their annual revenues, depending on their area of operation.

Earlier in the year, DoT had appointed a special auditor to examine the books of RCom after TRAI had said the telco was “passing off” its income from non-voice services under its Internet Service Provider (ISP) licence where it does not have to share revenues with the government.

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Samsung to partner BSNL for 3G services
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 1
Korean electronics major, Samsung, will be partnering the two state-run telecom majors BSNL and MTNL to provide high-end handsets for their 3G services and is looking at up to 45 per cent of its total sales being generated from multimedia and touchscreen phones.

Samsung India Electronics president and CEO Jung Soo Shin said here today, "We have partnered BSNL and MTNL to promote 3G services in India. We are currently giving a special bundling offer for BSNL consumers on our select handsets for 3G services". He also said Samsung was providing handsets to MTNL to offer 3G services in Delhi.

"Samsung already has four touchscreen phones available in the Indian market, all of these are 3G- enabled," Shin said.

Samsung Telecom Division country head Sunil Dutt said, "We are looking at touchscreen and multimedia phone portfolio to contribute 40-45 per cent of our total sales by the end of the year".

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KG Gas
RIL to generate $28b revenue for govt

New Delhi, April 1
Reliance Industries is just hours away from transforming India's energy landscape when it starts natural gas production from its Krishna Godavari basin fields.

Gas from the prolific KG-D6 block will not just help boost power supply from idle electricity generators starved of fuel and produce cheaper urea for agriculture, it will give the government $28 billion (Rs 1,40,000 crore) in profit share and royalty over the life of the field.

"Reliance is doing last minute checks and gas (from KG-D6 block) can start flowing as early as tomorrow," a source close to the development said.

The $8.835-billion (Rs 44,175 crore) project will double domestic natural gas production when the field hits peak output of 80 million cubic meters per day in 2010. It will wipe out fuel deficit at urea making fertiliser plants and meet half of the 36 mmcmd gas shortfall in power plants. Reliance will produce enough gas to meet about a third of the UK demand, the source said.

The gas output which will start at 10 mmcmd and rise by same volume every month to reach 40 mmcmd by July-end. "Our endeavour is to quickly ramp it up to peak 80 mmcmd. We are targeting the peak out by year end (2009 calendar year)," company's head of oil and gas business P M S Prasad had stated last week. If achieved by 2009-end, the peak output will come a year earlier than previously planned.

Of the 18 wells drilled in the Phase-I of the project, six would be put on production initially and the remaining would be hooked up one by one. — PTI

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Paonta Unit
Ranbaxy, Daiichi to meet USFDA

New Delhi, April 1
Representatives of Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd and its Japanese parent Daiichi Sankyo will jointly meet officials of the US Food and Drug Administration to sort out issues relating to the Indian firm's manufacturing facility at Paonta Sahib.

"Officials from Ranbaxy and Daiichi Sankyo will have a joint meeting with the USFDA this month," Daiichi Sankyo spokesperson told PTI over telephone from Tokyo.

He, however, declined to give the exact date of the meet saying, "It is not fixed yet when the meeting would take place." The USFDA had halted review of the Paonta Sahib unit and also banned import of products manufactured at the factory.

When asked about the issues of meeting, the spokesperson said: "We have to clarify the concerns of FDA."

On February 25, FDA had invoked 'Application Integrity Policy' (AIP) against the company while alleging Ranbaxy of falsifying data and test results. — PTI

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Banking transaction tax withdrawn

New Delhi, April 1
Taxpayers will not have to pay levy on withdrawal of cash from banks with the government withdrawing the Banking Cash Transaction Tax (BCTT) from today.

The government had introduced 0.1 per cent BCTT in 2005 on cash withdrawals of more than Rs 50,000 (individuals) and Rs 1,00,000 for others in a single day from non-savings bank account maintained with any scheduled bank.

The tax has been withdrawn from April 1 following an announcement made by the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram in his budget speech for 2008-09, sources said.

In his Budget speech, Chidamabram had said, "The BCTT has served a very useful purpose in enlarging the information system of the Income Tax Department. Since the information is also being gathered through other instruments introduced in the past few years, I propose to withdraw this tax with effect from April 1, 2009." The levy was introduced in 2005 to track unaccounted money and trace its source and destination. — PTI

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BRIEFLY

Fire at RIL refinery
New Delhi:
A fire broke out on Wednesday at Reliance Industries' newly commissioned export-oriented oil refinery at Jamnagar in Gujarat, but there were no casualties as the fire was put out swiftly. The fire broke out at the coker unit of the 580,000 barrels per day refinery of Reliance Petroleum, a unit of RIL that was commissioned in December 2008. — PTI

Piramal Healthcare
Mumbai:
Piramal Healthcare on Wednesday said it would discontinue operations at its facility in Huddersfield, UK. "We are discontinuing operations in Huddersfield so that we could shift the operations from there to our other facilities," Piramal chairman Ajay Piramal said at a conference call. By doing this, Piramal Healthcare will save a considerable amount of money and the company will stop duplicating operations, he said. — PTI

PNB cuts NR deposit rates
New Delhi:
Punjab National Bank on Wednesday reduced interest rates on non-resident (NR) deposits across various tenures. The rate of interest on dollar deposits have been lowered to 2.97 per cent for maturity of one year to less than two years, the interest rate on pound deposits has been revised to 3.07 per cent from 3.12 per cent for the same maturity period, effective Wednesday. — PTI

L&T bags Rs 1,245-cr order
Mumbai:
Larsen & Toubro on Wednesday said it has received a contract worth Rs 1,245 crore for construction-related works at the Punatsangchhu Hydroelectric project in Bhutan. The project is being set up by the Punatsangchhu-I Hydroelectric Project Authority, which has been constituted through an agreement between the Government of India and Bhutan. — PTI

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