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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
B U S I N E S S

Banks fear rise in NPAs
Mumbai, April 8
Bankers today expressed fears that non-performing assets (NPAs) are likely to go up and credit growth may moderate in 2009-10 in the face of the global financial meltdown.

India-made steel targeted in Illinois
Washington/New Delhi, April 8
Within a week of the US joining the G-20 declaration to "name and shame" the countries resorting to protectionism, hundreds of steel workers in the US protested the use of India-made steel for an oil pipeline project in Illinois, the home state of President Barack Obama.

Reliance Gas
EGoM meeting likely today
Allocation to power plants
New Delhi, April 8
An Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) is likely to meet tomorrow to decide on allocation of natural gas from Reliance Industries' eastern offshore KG-D6 fields to various power plants. "The Election Commission has given a go-ahead to hold the EGoM meeting at 1300 hrs on April 9," a top official said.

Bookings for Nano begin today
New Delhi, April 8
Having sold a large number of application forms in the past few days, Tata Motors is now all set to accept the forms for booking of the world's cheapest car, the 624-cc jelly-bean shaped Nano, from tomorrow.

Auto sales marginally up in 2008-09
New Delhi, April 8
The sales of passenger cars in the domestic market increased marginally in March to 1,29,358 from 1,28,098 units in the same month last year.


A model poses with a HTC Touch Diamond2 mobile phone at its launch in Taipei on Wednesday. The phone features a 3.2-inch display screen and “push internet”, a custom set function that pre-downloads websites for faster access while surfing.
A model poses with a HTC Touch Diamond2 mobile phone at its launch in Taipei on Wednesday. The phone features a 3.2-inch display screen and “push internet”, a custom set function that pre-downloads websites for faster access while surfing. — Reuters

EARLIER STORIES




Hidehiko Tanaka, managing director, Nikon India Pvt Limited, flanked by model, launches company's ‘Coolpix’ summer collection in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Hidehiko Tanaka, managing director, Nikon India Pvt Limited, flanked by model, launches company's ‘Coolpix’ summer collection in New Delhi on Wednesday. Tribune photo: Manas Ranjan Bhui

Rs 2,450-cr loan for JLR
London, April 8
Tata Group-owned Jaguar Land Rover will receive 366 million euros (about Rs 2,450 crore) from the European Investment Bank for making fuel efficient cars with low carbon emissions. The EIB approved 866 million euro loans to EU carmakers, including Nissan and Jaguar, for developing cleaner cars yesterday.

StanChart eyes RBS’ Asian biz
New Delhi, April 8
UK-based Standard Chartarted Bank has expressed interest in taking over the Asian business of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), which is selling retail and commercial assets in the region, including Indian operations.

Excise collection down 40% in northern region
Chandigarh, April 8
Hit by double whammy of duty cuts and financial meltdown, the excise duty collection has fallen drastically in the northern region. The excise duty collection in Punjab, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir has gone down by almost 40 per cent per cent in 2008-09.

Sensex may regain 21,000 level
New Delhi, April 8
The Indian stock market has been termed as a potential "baby bull" as the Sensex may continue to advance over next 15 years and is likely to breach its all-time high level of 21,000 during the period, a report says.

Satyam board meet today
Mumbai, April 8
Board members of Satyam Computer will meet here tomorrow to take forward the process of selling 51 per cent stake in the company through bidding.

 





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Banks fear rise in NPAs

Mumbai, April 8
Bankers today expressed fears that non-performing assets (NPAs) are likely to go up and credit growth may moderate in 2009-10 in the face of the global financial meltdown.

"If there is a sharper downturn, it can further impact the asset quality ... Banks are looking (at) a lower rate of loan growth this year," Indian Banks Association chairman T S Narayanasami told reporters after a meeting of bankers with RBI Governor D Subbarao ahead of annual monetary policy.

Bankers also informed the apex bank that it would be difficult to bring down lending rates unless the retail and bulk deposit rates decline.

"(The) cost of deposits (is) still high. This will have to come down first. Then only (will) the lending rates ease," said Narayanasami, who also heads Bank of India.

State-owned banks are likely to consider a 0.5-0.75 percentage point reduction in deposit rates in a period of 2-3 weeks, which is likely to be followed by a 0.5 per cent reduction in lending rates, he said. "With the RBI slashing its key rates, banks have sufficient liquidity now," he said.

On government borrowing, Narayanasami said, "(The) RBI manages it (the government borrowing programme) in an extremely efficient way."

During the meeting, banks also expressed concern over the five per cent provisioning mandated by the apex bank on the restructured accounts, IBA chief executive K Ramakrishnan said.

"Banks felt that this additional provisioning will be a burden and will impact their profitability," Ramakrishnan said.

Banks also told RBI that they expect the credit growth to moderate to 18-20 per cent in the current fiscal, below a 25-30 per cent growth recorded in the last financial year.

"They expect the loan portfolio to grow at 18-20 per cent in 2009-10," Ramakrishnan said.

Among the bankers who attended the meeting, were Punjab National Bank CMD K C Chakrabarty, Canara Bank CMD A C Mahajan, Standard Chartered India Chief Neeraj Swaroop, Union Bank of India CMD M V Nair and IDBI Bank CMD Yogesh Aggarwal. — PTI 

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India-made steel targeted in Illinois

Washington/New Delhi, April 8
Within a week of the US joining the G-20 declaration to "name and shame" the countries resorting to protectionism, hundreds of steel workers in the US protested the use of India-made steel for an oil pipeline project in Illinois, the home state of President Barack Obama.

Nearly 1,000 protesters joined a rally organised by the United Steel Workers yesterday demanding the 'Buy American' policy for the US ventures, including the 2,000-mile Canada-US oil pipeline project.

While voices have been raised against the Chinese products in the US in the recent past, this is possibly the first time that a 'Made in India' brand has been targeted.

Protesters carried banners of 'Buy American' and 'Rebuild American Manufacturing' at the rally, held in the backdrop of a huge pile of steel pipes with 'Made in India' marks.

The protesters called for an end to the public policy, which they said has led to the dismantling of the industrial base of the American economy and the loss of millions of jobs.

The steelworkers are putting pressure on Obama to follow the 'Buy American' policy under which federal aid to corporates is conditional upon use of local products.

The G-20, of which the US is a leading member, adopted a declaration in London on April 2 that denounced protectionism. British Prime Minister Gordan Brown had said the countries resorting to protectionism will be "named and shamed". — PTI 

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Reliance Gas
EGoM meeting likely today
Allocation to power plants

New Delhi, April 8
An Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) is likely to meet tomorrow to decide on allocation of natural gas from Reliance Industries' eastern offshore KG-D6 fields to various power plants. "The Election Commission has given a go-ahead to hold the EGoM meeting at 1300 hrs on April 9," a top official said.

EGoM headed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee would decide which power plant will get how much of KG-D6 gas and when.

Currently, gas-based power plants face a deficit of about 36 million cubic meters per day, while only 18 mmcmd out of KG-D6's initial 40 mmcmd output has been allocated to them.

The meeting was originally scheduled for last month itself but had to be postponed after a senior MP complained to the EC that the ministers' panel was going to allocate the gas to power plants in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, giving the ruling Congress party in the two states an advantage for making an election promise of giving free power to farmers.

"The EC has been briefed of the necessity of holding the EGoM meeting and it has agreed for the same," he said.

The EGoM meeting has been necessitated with the beginning of natural gas production from the KG-D6 fields. Production is slated for a quickly ramp up to 20 million cubic meters per day by next month, creating surplus beyond the about 15 mmcmd allocation made to 15 urea making plants.

The official, however, said no announcement was likely to be made as the model code of conduct for the general elections was in place.

As per the gas utilisation policy, fertiliser plants have been given top priority in allocation of the KG-D6 gas. After meeting the entire fuel deficit at urea units, up to 3 mmcmd gas is to be given to LPG extraction plants. Thereafter, up to 18 mmcmd gas would go to power firms and another 5 mmcmd to city gas projects for retailing CNG to automobiles and piped cooking gas to households. — PTI 

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Bookings for Nano begin today
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 8
Having sold a large number of application forms in the past few days, Tata Motors is now all set to accept the forms for booking of the world's cheapest car, the 624-cc jelly-bean shaped Nano, from tomorrow.

While forms have been available for the past few days and would be on sale over the next few days, this would, however, be the first time that any automobile company in India would be charging such a steep booking fee.

In an apparent effort to attract only the genuine buyers and keep the speculators and dealers, who can black market the vehicle, at bay Tata Motors would be charging an upfront payment of around Rs 95,000 or Rs 2,999, if the customers wish to seek finance, which again would be processed simultaneously.

The application form has been priced at Rs 300 each. Tata Motors would be looking at accepting just about a 100,000 bookings for Nano initially in the first phase and would be supplying it from its Pant Nagar plant, which has a capacity of 50,000 units annually.

This arrangement would be till such time the Nano plant comes up at Sanand in Gujarat, where the capacity would be much higher.

However, paying the money upfront or getting Nano financed would not ensure a delivery for the customer. A lottery will decide the lucky ones who will drive out the Nano.

The names of the winners from the draw of lots would be announced 60 days after the bookings close on April 25 and the first Nano would be out of showroom from July.

Tata group chairman Ratan Tata had promised to deliver at Rs 100,000 ($2,000), which made it the most awaited car around the world.

The result of a Rs 20-billion investment, and five years of research and development by a 500-member team, which even fetched them 34 patents. Nano, according to available figures, has already attracted sales of over 60,000 application forms.

Tata Motors has also put on offer online bookings for the Nano, the first such option in India. An online application will cost Rs 200.

Along with the provision to retail co-branded Nano merchandise such as watches, T-shirts and phones on the Internet, the dedicated website for the "people's car" has a section to apply online, with a secure payments gateway.

Tatas have also tied up with 15 national banks such as Bank of Baroda, Punjab National Bank, Bank of India and Dena Bank to facilitate the easy disbursement of loans for its vehicles. 

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Auto sales marginally up in 2008-09
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 8
The sales of passenger cars in the domestic market increased marginally in March to 1,29,358 from 1,28,098 units in the same month last year.

According to figures released by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), motorcycle sales in the country during the month was up by 2.98 per cent at 5,22,000 units as against 5,06,884 units in the corresponding period a year ago.

Dubbing the sales of the scooters with that of the motorcycles meant that total sales of two-wheelers in March jumped by 3.65 per cent at 6,54,017 units compared to 6,30,976 units in the same month last year.

Commercial vehicle sales during the month, however, dipped by 26.22 per cent to 41,881 units from 56,768 units for the year-ago period, SIAM said.

As a result, the total sales of all vehicles in March jumped by 1.09 per cent at 8,93,934 units as against 8,84,313 units in the same month last year.

In the financial year 2008-09, the domestic passenger car sales rose by 1.31 per cent to 12,19,473 units from 12,03,733 units in the April-March period of the earlier fiscal.

Motorcycle sales in the country during the year were up by 1.16 per cent at 58,35,145 units as against 57,68,342 units in 2007-08, SIAM said.

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Rs 2,450-cr loan for JLR

London, April 8
Tata Group-owned Jaguar Land Rover will receive 366 million euros (about Rs 2,450 crore) from the European Investment Bank for making fuel efficient cars with low carbon emissions. The EIB approved 866 million euro loans to EU carmakers, including Nissan and Jaguar, for developing cleaner cars yesterday.

Jaguar Land Rover and Nissan, which was forced to lay off 1,200 staff at its Sunderland plant earlier this year, will not be able to get the cash until the loan is guaranteed by the government. A spokesperson for Jaguar Land Rover said talks on this were progressing and anticipated that it "could happen quickly". Japanese carmaker Nissan will get 400 million euros.

The loans have been awarded to help finance development of more fuel-efficient cars but come as a much-needed boost for the industry as sales tumble in the recession.

According to Ratan Tata, chairman of Jaguar Land Rover's parent company Tata Motors, Jaguar Land Rover needs £500 million in further state support if it is to avoid closing sites and cutting jobs.— PTI 

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StanChart eyes RBS’ Asian biz

New Delhi, April 8
UK-based Standard Chartarted Bank has expressed interest in taking over the Asian business of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), which is selling retail and commercial assets in the region, including Indian operations.

"We are still a bidder ... these things take time," Standard Chartered Bank Asia CEO Jaspal Bindra told reporters on the sidelines launch of 'India Consortium Project' today. The bank had first shown interest in RBS' Asian business in the first week of April, he said.

"They (RBS) are running the process we are only one of the several people looking at it," he added.

RBS, which is reeling under the financial turmoil, has appointed Morgan Stanley to help the company in selling its retail and commercial banking assets in Asia, including India.

"As a result of the strategic review, RBS has announced its intention to consider options, including a potential sale of its retail and commercial business in Asia Pacific. This includes the retail and commercial business in India, an official spokesperson of the UK-based bank had said. — PTI 

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Excise collection down 40% in northern region
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 8
Hit by double whammy of duty cuts and financial meltdown, the excise duty collection has fallen drastically in the northern region. The excise duty collection in Punjab, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir has gone down by almost 40 per cent per cent in 2008-09.

Officials in the Chandigarh zone of Central Excise and Customs informed TNS that the central excise collection had come down to Rs 914.68 crore in year 2008-09, as compared to Rs 1,528.96 crore in 2007-08. Officials said they had set a target of collecting Rs 1,745 crore in 2008-09 from this region, but because of the slowdown in economic activity and the excise duty cuts of almost 100 per cent in the past one year, the excise collection has fallen drastically.

Official sources informed TNS that the deficit was rampant in all four commissionerates of the department in Chandigarh zone. The highest deficit of 87 per cent has been witnessed in the Jammu and Kashmir commissionerate, where the collection has fallen from Rs 139.79 crore in 2007-08 to Rs 19.36 crore in 2008-09. The deficit in Jalandhar zone is 59 per cent (from Rs 187.01 crore to Rs 76.76 crore), followed by 35 per cent deficit in Ludhiana (from Rs 465.34 crore to Rs 305.73 crore). The Chandigarh office has seen a deficit of 31 per cent in excise duty collection - from Rs 736.82 crore to Rs 512.83 crore.

It may be noted that this slowdown in indirect tax collection has been witnessed across the country. Due to the economic slowdown, the government had brought down the target for collection of central excise, customs and service tax from Rs 3.2 lakh crore to Rs 2.8 lakh crore, almost Rs 40 lakh crore less than what was originally planned for the financial year 2008-09. In fact, according to the Central Board of Excise and Customs, the government has borne a revenue loss of over Rs 40,000 crore from post-Budget duty cuts. This loss includes the across the board eight per cent excise duty cuts announced by the Centre to boost the sagging economy over the past one year. As a result, the excise duty payable is now eight per cent as against 16 per cent last year.

The only solace has been an increase in the service tax and the customs duty in this region. Though the central excise and customs department is yet to calculate the figures, officials said that service tax collection has shown a 20 per cent jump, while the customs duty collection in this region is showing signs of a 12 per cent increase in 2008-09 over the previous year.

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Sensex may regain 21,000 level

New Delhi, April 8
The Indian stock market has been termed as a potential "baby bull" as the Sensex may continue to advance over next 15 years and is likely to breach its all-time high level of 21,000 during the period, a report says.

At a time when developed markets across the world are in a bearish phase, a technical research report by US-based Elliot Wave International has termed India, Taiwan and New Zealand as potential "baby bulls", while stock markets in Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Australia are going to be under the "bear" grip, the report stated.

The report has analysed that recent sharp reversal rally in Indian market, post the October 2008 lows, points at regaining earlier high levels.

It added that if the rally continues in the same proportion as between 2003 and 2008, "the Sensex may continue advancing for 15 years before reaching the end of wave".

"The potential baby bulls completed only three waves down from their respective highs, which makes them strong candidates to rally back to at least near their all-time highs — if not beyond," the report stated.

Sensex had touched all-time high of 21,206.77 points on January 10, 2008, since then it plunged even below 8,000.

The report stated that Sensex would now embark on third wave which could see the index witnessing a multi-month rally, although share prices may come down for short periods.

"The decline since the 2008 high can be counted as three waves. A three-wave decline opens possibility of a rally back to near the 2008 highs. But there is reason to set our sights even higher," the research firm said in its Asia-Pacific Financial Forecast report.

The report said each high and low in the stock market is calculated on the basis of waves. The highs achieved by the Indian bourses between 2003 to January 2008 forms the first wave, while the bear market, till it saw the October lows, formed the second wave.

Since 2003, when the Sensex was quoting around 5,800 levels and had seen lows to the extent of 2,904.44 points, it had been on an upswing and reached the 21,000 level from where it started coming down to below 8,000 levels.

So far this year, Sensex had regained 9.20 per cent to 10,534.87 points. Elaborating further, the report said, "the Sensex declined in three waves to the October low, where it retraced approximately 50 per cent of its 2003-2008 rally on a percentage basis. The index has also just broken out of its downward trend channel. — PTI 

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Satyam board meet today

Mumbai, April 8
Board members of Satyam Computer will meet here tomorrow to take forward the process of selling 51 per cent stake in the company through bidding.

"The board is meeting here informally tomorrow. This will be to take an update of the bidding process and continue the evaluation of bidders," a source close to the development told PTI here today.

The board is understood to have completed due diligence on interested parties who have evinced an interest in the IT major. A decision on the winner is expected to be announced on April 13. The potential bidders include engineering major, Larsen and Toubro, Tech Mahindra and private equity firm, W L Ross, amongst others.

L&T, which owns a 12.04 per cent stake in Satyam is being considered as the front-runner to buy the company. The winning bidder can acquire an upto 31 per cent stake in the company and an additional 20 per cent through an open offer. — PTI

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BRIEFLY

Airtel offers call rate from US to India at 1 cent/min
Chandigarh
: Bharti Airtel on Wednesday launched the calling rate of 1 cent a minute on its online calling card service (www.airtelcallhome.com). This will enable NRIs in the US to call friends and family back in India at the most competitive rates in the market. It has also launched a host of exciting new features for the US consumers, including auto recharge, free SMS from the web and audio conferencing facilities. — TNS

Mercedes-Benz unveils special edition of E-Class
Mumbai
: Mercedes-Benz India on Wednesday launched its special edition E-Class vehicle specifically tailored for the Indian market. "The Special Edition E-Class will be a collector's item — a luxurious, powerful and exclusive Mercedes-Benz with an even more sporty and aggressive styling," Mercedes-Benz India CEO Wilfried Aulbur said. — PTI

CPI-IW static
CHANDIGARH:
All India Consumer Price Index Number for Industrial Workers (CPI-IW) on base 2001=100 for the month of February, 2009, remained stationary at 148 points. During the month, the index recorded a decrease of 3 points each in Mundakayam and Quilon, 2 each in Jamshedpur, Ernakulam, Labac-Silchar and Chennai and 1 point each in 25 centres. The index recorded maximum increase of 5 points in Chhindwara, 3 each in Guntur, Asansol and Mysore, 1 point in 12 centres, while in the remaining 72 centres the index remained stationary. — TNS

NTPC net up 5.56 pc
New Delhi
: State-owned NTPC on Wednesday said its profit after tax in the financial year ended March 31, 2009, grew 5.56 per cent to Rs 7,827.4 crore compared to the same period the previous year. Net sales of the company rose to Rs 42,182.4 crore in FY'09 from Rs 36,946.2 crore a year ago. — PTI

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