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Realty Bite: Unitech on asset sale spree
DLF to exit from five IT-ITeS notified SEZs

New Delhi, April 17
Hit hard by the downturn, country’s top realty firm, Unitech, is on selling spree of properties it had acquired in haste to increase its land bank . Unitech, which has a debt of Rs 8,900 crore, today sold Marriott Courtyard hotel in Gurgaon for Rs 231 crore. Besides, the company is looking for a suitable buyer for its 2.2 lakh sq ft office complex in Saket.

  Scrip surges 22 pc

Satyam’s independent directors clean: SFIO
New Delhi, April 17
Independent directors of Satyam were not involved in the multi-crore accounting fraud in the IT company and were kept in the dark by founder-chairman B Ramalinga Raju, the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) has concluded.

PM’s panel pegs growth at over 7 pc 
New Delhi, April 17
Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC) today said it expects the country's economy to grow at over seven per cent in the current fiscal as it has already started showing signs of recovery.

Govt defers roadshows for NELP-VIII 
New Delhi, April 17
Fearing investor backlash on ambiguity over tax holiday for natural gas, India today deferred roadshows for the largest-ever auction of oil and gas blocks and the new dates would be worked out after elections.

MTNL delays Mumbai launch
New Delhi, April 17
The public sector telecom operator, MTNL, has been forced to delay the launch of its 3G mobile services, Jadoo, in Mumbai as result of poor response it received from customers in Delhi.



A G-Wiz electric car made by the Reva Electric Car Company is pictured at the Goingreen car showroom in London. The G-Wiz is manufactured in Bangalore. British motorists could receive up to £5,000 if they buy an electric car under government proposals unveiled on Thursday. — AFP

EARLIER STORIES



Cross-LoC trade fails to pick up
Chandigarh, April 17
The cross-LoC trade between the two Kashmirs has failed to take off. Launched with much fanfare in October last year, mainly as a confidence-building measure (CBM) between India and Pakistan, the traders on the two sides have found the trade economically unviable.

Insecticides India to begin exports
Chandigarh, April 17
Insecticides India Ltd (IIL) will start exporting their insecticides, pesticides and herbicides to countries in South America, South-East Asia, Africa and Australia. The company will also be launching 10 new kinds of insecticides, pesticides and herbicides for the upcoming kharif season.

Indian investors most optimistic in Asia: ING
New Delhi, April 17
Indian investors have emerged as the most optimistic lot in Asia and along with their Chinese counterparts have driven an increase in the region's overall investor sentiment in the first quarter of this year, a latest survey says.

SpiceJet may pick stake in IndiGo
Mumbai, April 17
In a move that signals a fresh round of consolidation in the recession-hit aviation industry, budget carrier SpiceJet may pick 7.5 per cent stake in another low-cost airline IndiGo.







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Realty Bite: Unitech on asset sale spree
DLF to exit from five IT-ITeS notified SEZs
Bhagyashree Pande
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 17
Hit hard by the downturn, country’s top realty firm, Unitech, is on selling spree of properties it had acquired in haste to increase its land bank . Unitech, which has a debt of Rs 8,900 crore, today sold Marriott Courtyard hotel in Gurgaon for Rs 231 crore. Besides, the company is looking for a suitable buyer for its 2.2 lakh sq ft office complex in Saket.

Unitech also plans to sell four more hotels in Noida, Kolkata and Gurgaon within six months.

Meanwhile, DLF has approached the government for surrendering its five of the nine IT-ITeS notified special economic zones (SEZ). DLF had earlier surrendered its 40-acre IT SEZ in central Delhi. Its nine notified SEZs are located in various states - 10.61 hectares near Hyderabad, 10.12 hectares in Gandhinagar, 12.06 hectares and 10.73 hectares in Gurgaon, 10.24 hectares in Sonepat, 10.33 hectares in Pune, 10.23 hectares in Bhubaneswar, 13.29 hectares in Kanchipuram and 10.48 hectares in Kolkata.

Analysts say the two companies are not really making a profit from the sale of these properties, but only a marginal gain. Both companies had bought huge tracts of land to increase their land bank and developing these properties was not really important on their agenda. But now, even the developed properties by these companies are not being sold as buyers are waiting for the prices to cool further, the analysts say.

But there is a trouble for DLF, because as per the SEZ Act, the tax-free enclaves cannot be surrendered once they become operational. DLF, however, has not started work on the five SEZs that it wants to surrender.

Buyers with deep pockets are looking for better bargains and the real estate still remains expensive, add sources in the real estate business.

Earlier, DLF, and its promoter group company, DLF Assets (DAL), had together raised around Rs 1,100 crore as debt from HDFC Bank through lease rental discounting (LRD) of their properties.

Unitech, on the other hand, raised Rs 1,625 crore from selling new shares to qualified institutions to repay a part of its Rs 8,900 crore debt. Of this outstanding debt, the company had to repay Rs 2,500 crore in the fiscal that ended on March 2009.

Scrip surges 22 pc

Mumbai: Unitech on Friday surged nearly 22 per cent on the bourses amid the company raising $325 million (about Rs 1,567 crore) on institutional placement basis. Shares of Unitech closed at Rs 52.60, up 21.34 per cent on the Bombay Stock Exchange. The scrip opened firmly and then gained further momentum to witness an intra-day high of Rs 54.60, a jump of 25.95 per cent from its previous closing price. On the National Stock Exchange, the company's shares settled the day at Rs 52.70, up 21.99 per cent. During the trading, the scrip touched an intra-day high of 26.38 per cent to Rs 54.60. — PTI

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Satyam’s independent directors clean: SFIO

New Delhi, April 17
Independent directors of Satyam were not involved in the multi-crore accounting fraud in the IT company and were kept in the dark by founder-chairman B Ramalinga Raju, the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) has concluded.

The over 14,000-page report submitted to the government, marking the end of three month-long investigation, the probe agency of the Corporate Affairs Ministry said four independent directors of the company were questioned in connection with the scam.

Sources in the ministry said SFIO questioned Vinod Dham, Manglam Srinivasan, K G Palepu and T R Prasad and found that they had no knowledge about the falsification of accounts that happened allegedly at the behest of Raju, his brother and other top executives of the IT giant.

The SFIO also questioned the then whole-time director and senior executive Ram Mynampati but found no clear evidence linking him to the scam, sources said.

The government had, on January 11, ordered an SFIO probe into the scam soon after Raju admitted to a Rs 7,800-crore fraud at the company, wherein he disclosed that he had falsified profits for several years.

The role of independent directors had come under scanner in late December itself when Satyam said its board has unanimously approved a proposal to acquire two firms promoted by Raju's family — Maytas Infra and Maytas Properties.

Satyam had to abandon the deal after investors opposed it strongly and thereafter Raju disclosed that the company's profits were overstated and the Maytas deal would have allowed him to replace fictitious assets with real ones.

However, some of the independent directors later said that the approval for Maytas deal was not actually unanimous and it was subject to certain conditions. All independent directors had resigned later. — PTI

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PM’s panel pegs growth at over 7 pc 

New Delhi, April 17
Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC) today said it expects the country's economy to grow at over seven per cent in the current fiscal as it has already started showing signs of recovery.

"Seven per cent plus is what my 2009-10 overall forecast is...I think it has already started recovering in my own assessment," PMEAC chairman Suresh Tendulkar told on the sidelines of a conference on broadband here.

He further said it expects rebound in the economy after September as the worst was over.

"I have been maintaining that the worst is already over, (I expect) good recovery after September," Tendulkar added.

Asked if the contracting industrial production worried him, he said the revised industrial production numbers were higher than the provisional ones, so it did not bother him much.

Despite three stimulus packages announced by the government, the Indian economy grew by 5.3 per cent in the third quarter of the last fiscal, its lowest rate in over five years, against a whopping 8.9 per cent a year ago.

In the first nine months of last fiscal, the economy grew by 6.9 per cent. For whole of 2008-09, the advance estimates of Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) pegged the economic growth at 7.1 per cent, which seems a tough task in the wake of dismal industrial growth numbers. — PTI 

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Govt defers roadshows for NELP-VIII 

New Delhi, April 17
Fearing investor backlash on ambiguity over tax holiday for natural gas, India today deferred roadshows for the largest-ever auction of oil and gas blocks and the new dates would be worked out after elections.

The promotional roadshows for 70 oil and gas blocks offered for bidding under the eighth edition of New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) and 10 coal bed methane (CBM) areas were to begin on April 20 but the programme has been deferred.

"Concerns had been expressed by several potential bidders on lack of tax holidays for natural gas, similar to the ones given to crude oil production. We could not have got the issue sorted out just now because of elections. So we decided that let the issue be dealt by the new government," Petroleum Minister Murli Deora told PTI from Mumbai.

The Finance Ministry had in 2008-09 budget scrapped the seven-year tax holiday or exemption from payment of income tax on natural gas production. Though oil and gas naturally occurred together and a single well could be producing both, the incentive was restricted only for crude oil production.

The move drew flak from oil majors who kept away from the previous NELP-VII round that closed after the announcement.

The tax issue will have to be addressed after elections and a new schedule for roadshows and bid closing worked out thereafter, Deora said.

The government had launched NELP-VIII and CBM-IV on April 9 and bids were to close on August 10.

"We were faced with a scenario where we would have completed one phase of roadshows and results of the elections announced. So, we decided to defer the programme," Deora said.

The first roadshow was to be held in Mumbai on April 20, followed by similar events in Perth (April 27-28), London (May 4-5), Washington (May 11-12) and Calgary (May 14-15).

"The roadshows have been cancelled and new dates will be reworked after (the) elections," said V S Sibal, Director General of Directorate General of Hydrocarbons.

Oil Secretary R S Pandey said only roadshows have been deferred and the last date of bidding may not necessarily be shifted as there were enough time for bidders to decide. — PTI 

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MTNL delays Mumbai launch
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 17
The public sector telecom operator, MTNL, has been forced to delay the launch of its 3G mobile services, Jadoo, in Mumbai as result of poor response it received from customers in Delhi.

The MTNL is now planning the Jadoo launch in Mumbai in May.

The MTNL got a lukewarm response to its 3G services. State-owned MTNL and BSNL got a head start over the private telecom operators for launching the third generation 3G services in the country as the government decided to exempt them from the mandatory auction for the spectrum for the private operators.

However, with poor penetration to back the launch of the services, there has been a poor response in Delhi. The MTNL has now decided that it will get into aggressive marketing of its 3G services only after achieving satisfactory penetration.

Under the earlier plans, the Mumbai launch was scheduled for February.

"We will resort to aggressive marketing once we see good penetration of 3G services," Kuldip Singh, MTNL's director (technical), told reporters on the sidelines of a conference here.

Jadoo was launched in February in certain pockets in the national capital, with a capacity to support 150,000 subscribers. Compared to this, MTNL has only about 500 subscribers of its 3G network, Singh said.

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Cross-LoC trade fails to pick up
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 17
The cross-LoC trade between the two Kashmirs has failed to take off. Launched with much fanfare in October last year, mainly as a confidence-building measure (CBM) between India and Pakistan, the traders on the two sides have found the trade economically unviable.

With the same crops grown on both sides of the LoC (because of similar geographies) and truckloads of goods being whisked away by militants, not much trade has been effected between the two sides. According to the data available with The Tribune, just 149 truckloads of goods have been exported to Pakistan and 190 truckloads have been imported to India in the past six months.

While trade through Chakan Da Bagh on the Poonch-Rawlakote route has been quite dismal (with just 18 truckloads being exported and four truckloads being imported), the situation is slightly better for trade via Salamabad on the Srinagar-Muzzafarabad route. As many as 131 truckloads of fruits, vegetables, shawls, honey and carpets have been exported since October last through Salamabad and 186 truckloads of rice, dry fruits, spices, fruits, carpets, footwear, honey etc have been imported on this route.

Official sources in the Customs and Central Excise Department informed TNS that exports worth Rs 65.23 lakh were recorded through Salamabad, the value of goods being imported from Pakistan has not been mentioned by traders from Pakistan.

Similarly, goods worth Rs 14.91 lakh have been exported via Chakan Da Bagh. This is hardly any amount considering that the cross-LoC trade between two Punjabs via Wagah was over Rs 825 crore in the last financial year, including Rs 400 crore of exports.

Sources informed TNS that similar agriculture produce and handicrafts were available for trade at both sides, which meant that there was no market for these goods in either Kashmir or Pakistan- occupied Kashmir (PoK). “Also, a number of trucks laden with goods meant for PoK or Kashmir have been seized by Kashmiri militants. Thus, traders are wary of sending more goods,” informed a senior Customs official.

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Insecticides India to begin exports
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 17
Insecticides India Ltd (IIL) will start exporting their insecticides, pesticides and herbicides to countries in South America, South-East Asia, Africa and Australia. The company will also be launching 10 new kinds of insecticides, pesticides and herbicides for the upcoming kharif season.

This was stated by Rajesh Aggarwal, managing director of IIL, while addressing mediapersons here yesterday. “By starting exports to these countries, we hope to rake in an export turnover of Rs 20 crore this year. Besides exports, we will also be focusing on Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir in the domestic market. The Punjab market for insectides/pesticides is around Rs 550 crore and the Haryana market is estimated to be Rs 375 crore. We hope to increase our market share in these states to 10 per cent (from eight percent last fiscal),” he said.

He said the company had already set up a research and development farm for farmers at Bathinda, where farmers were being trained on the correct dosage and use of fertilisers. “A similar farm will be set up at Hisar so that farmers in Haryana, too, can be taught the right use of pesticides. We are also planning to set up a new research and development centre for introducing new pesticides at Gujarat this year,” he said.

Aggarwal said the company already has three facilities - two at Chopanki in Rajasthan and one at Samba near Jammu. “We are in the process of setting up a new plant at Udhampur. This plant will be commissioned by August this year,” he said. 

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Indian investors most optimistic in Asia: ING

New Delhi, April 17
Indian investors have emerged as the most optimistic lot in Asia and along with their Chinese counterparts have driven an increase in the region's overall investor sentiment in the first quarter of this year, a latest survey says.

The quarterly Investor Dashboard Sentiment survey by global financial services group ING shows a significant increase of 75 per cent in investor sentiment in India in the first three months of 2009 as compared to the fourth quarter last year.

"Despite a slowdown in global economies and volatility in international financial markets, the ING Investor Dashboard Sentiment Index for India reflects the highest level of investor optimism across Asia," the survey stated.

The India investor index has jumped 75 per cent to 133 in Q1 this year from 76 in fourth quarter of 2008.

The survey indicated that Indian investors were confident about the economy, backed by assurances from the business community and the government.

"Compared with its neighbours in Asia, India's growth of recent years has been driven predominantly by domestic consumption as well as domestic investment. This pattern and growth insulates economy from set backs felt in both global & regional economies," ING Investment Management India acting CEO Navin Suri said. — PTI 

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SpiceJet may pick stake in IndiGo

Mumbai, April 17
In a move that signals a fresh round of consolidation in the recession-hit aviation industry, budget carrier SpiceJet may pick 7.5 per cent stake in another low-cost airline IndiGo.

"SpiceJet is in talks with IndiGo to purchase 7.5 per cent equity in the airline," an industry source told PTI on condition of anonymity, but key officials of both SpiceJet and IndiGo refused to comment on what they called rumours and market speculation.

SpiceJet is also looking for a position on the IndiGo board, the source said, adding that "they are still discussing what the price should be". SpiceJet CEO Sanjay Aggarwal said, "We do not comment on such rumours and speculations". — PTI 

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BRIEFLY

Vodafone Essar raises Rs 10,000-cr loan
New Delhi:
Vodafone Essar, the telecom joint venture between UK-based mobile major Vodafone and Essar group, has raised a debt of about Rs 10,000 crore from SBI to fund network expansion plans, including for bidding for 3G licences when they will be auctioned. "We will use the loan for various business purposes," a spokesperson of Vodafone Essar said today.— PTI

SBI MF launches Gold Exchange Traded Scheme
Chandigarh:
SBI Funds, a joint venture between the State Bank of India and Societe General AMC (France), on Friday launched SBI Gold Exchange Traded Scheme, a passively managed open-ended mutual fund, which would invest in gold through investment in physical gold. The new fund offer would close on April 28. The minimum initial investment is Rs 5,000 and in multiples of Re 1 thereafter with no upper limit during the NFO period.— TNS

Google profit up
New York:
Google has reported a 9.2 per cent rise in quarterly net profit, but the Internet search giant said revenue declined for the first time ever in consecutive quarters. The California-based company reported a net profit for the first quarter of the year of $1.42 billion compared with $1.31 billion in the corresponding quarter last year.— AFP

PFC Q4 net up 32 pc
Mumbai:
State-run Power Finance Corporation on Friday said its net profit rose by 32.22 per cent to Rs 390.58 crore for the fourth quarter ended March 31, over the same period last year. — PTI

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