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Nilekani quits Infosys 
Appointed national ID project chief
New Delhi/Bangalore, June 25
The government today appointed Nandan Nilekani, co-chairman of software giant Infosys, as the chairperson of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), constituted to provide national identity cards to Indian citizens.

Project ‘big catalyst’ for IT biz
New Delhi, June 25
The government plan to provide unique identification numbers to all Indian citizens could be a "big catalyst" for the IT business which for some time has seen a decline in big ticket projects.

No renegotiation on wage cuts: AI union
Mumbai, June 25
Hardening their stand, Air India unions today said they were not willing to renegotiate on the proposed wage cut by the management.



EARLIER STORIES



In this file photo, Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown speaks with operations manager Andy Wood (L) during his visit to the Corus Steel plant in Corby, England. Corus announced the loss of a further 2,000 jobs at plants in northern England on Thursday. — Reuters
In this file photo, Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown speaks with operations manager Andy Wood (L) during his visit to the Corus Steel plant in Corby, England. Corus announced the loss of a further 2,000 jobs at plants in northern England on Thursday. — Reuters
This undated handout photograph from the Hindustan Construction Company shows an aerial view of the soon-to-be inaugurated Bandra Worli Sea Link in Mumbai. The eight-lane 5.6 km-long Bandra Worli Sea Link, India’s first bridge to be constructed in open sea conditions with a 4.7 km, twin, 4-lane independent carriageway, will link the city of Mumbai with its western suburbs. — AFP
This undated handout photograph from the Hindustan Construction Company shows an aerial view of the soon-to-be inaugurated Bandra Worli Sea Link in Mumbai. The eight-lane 5.6 km-long Bandra Worli Sea Link, India’s first bridge to be constructed in open sea conditions with a 4.7 km, twin, 4-lane independent carriageway, will link the city of Mumbai with its western suburbs. — AFP

Neyveli Lignite Corp
TN parties oppose divestment
Chennai, June 25
Major opposition parties in Tamil Nadu has come out against Centre's proposal for 10 per cent disinvestment of shares in the Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC), alleging that it was a first step towards privatisation of the organisation, functioning profitably.

India home to 25% of highest-paid expats 
New Delhi, June 25
Asian countries are home to some of the wealthiest expatriates in the world and about 25 per cent of the highest-paid foreign assignees' prefer to live in India, a report has said. According to the 2009 Expat Explorer Survey by HSBC Bank International, the highest-paid expats in the world prefer living in Asia, while their lowest-paid counterparts go for Australia and Western Europe.

Inflation up marginally
New Delhi, June 25
Driven by higher prices of food items like pulses, cereals, milk, and fruit and vegetables, inflation rose marginally to minus 1.14 per cent against (-)1.61 per cent in the previous week.The wholesale price index stood at 11.80 per cent during the corresponding week a year ago.

SBI to expand in US, UK
New Delhi, June 25
Enthused by a massive 54 per cent growth rate in its international loan book, the country's largest lender, State Bank of India, is planning to strengthen its presence in countries, including the US and the UK, which have strong India links.

Indian oil majors to pump in $5 b in Iran 
New Delhi, June 25
ONGC Videsh Ltd and its partners Indian Oil Corp and Oil India Ltd have proposed an investment of about $5 billion in bringing to production a massive gas field they discovered in offshore Iran, in the next 3-4 years. "OVL has submitted a development plan to the Iranian authorities. The investment proposed is around $5 billion," a source in know of the development said.

Gas to RNRL
RIL weighing options after HC order 
New Delhi, June 25
More than a week after the Bombay High Court asked it to supply gas to Anil Ambani Group firm RNRL at prices lower than the government-approved rates, Reliance Industries today said it was still evaluating options for future course of action.

Economic contraction slowing, says Fed Reserve
Washington, June 25
Hinting at signs of recovery, the US Federal Reserve has said the pace of economic contraction is slowing down and financial market conditions have improved in recent months.

 

 





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Nilekani quits Infosys 
Appointed national ID project chief
Tribune News Service

New Delhi/Bangalore, June 25
The government today appointed Nandan Nilekani, co-chairman of software giant Infosys, as the chairperson of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), constituted to provide national identity cards to Indian citizens.

The decision to appoint Nilekani as the chairperson of the UIDAI was taken by the Union Cabinet, which met here today under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Addressing mediapersons following the meeting, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said, Nilekani has been given the rank and status of a cabinet minister.

Reports emerging from Bangalore said Nilekani has stepped down as a director from the Infosys board. "This is a project of national importance. This is something which he (Nilekani) would like to take up," said Infosys chief executive and managing director S. Gopalakrishnan. The Infosys board has accepted Nilekani’s resignation effective from July 9.

UIDAI is an entity under the Planning Commission. Under the UIDAI programme, unique identification cards would be provided to all Indian citizens by 2011. In the beginning, the cards will be assigned to all voters by building on current electoral roll data. "It will work in coordination with the National Population Register of the Home Ministry through the Registrar General of the Census, in accordance with the Indian Citizenship Act," the government said here.

It not only address security related issues but is also aimed at establishing citizenship, reducing identity related frauds and also prevent leakages in different government schemes.

According to government officials, the ID card will help citizens avail basic government services like driving licences, passports and voter identity cards.

Meanwhile, in Bangalore Infosys said, "The board of directors accepted Nilekani's resignation, which will be effective from July 9. The board placed on record its deep sense of appreciation for the services rendered by Nilekani as a co-founder, chief operating officer, chief executive and managing director and co-chairman". "We are glad that an extraordinary individual like Nandan has got an opportunity to add value to India through this position," Infosys chairman and chief mentor N R Narayana Murthy said. "As a company that has always put the interest of society ahead of itself, Infosys will accept his absence with a sense of duty to a larger cause, but with deep sadness at the departure of one of its most illustrious sons. We, the Infoscions, wish him the best in his new assignment," he said.

Nilekani, 53, an alumnus of the Bombay IIT, has served as a director on the company’s board since its inception in 1981. Between March 2002 and June 2007, he was CEO and managing director. Thereafter, he was re-designated as the co-chairman of the board of directors.

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Project ‘big catalyst’ for IT biz

New Delhi, June 25
The government plan to provide unique identification numbers to all Indian citizens could be a "big catalyst" for the IT business which for some time has seen a decline in big ticket projects.

Industry analysts feel that all major domestic players like TCS, Infosys, Wipro and Mahindra Satyam are likely to bid for this ambitious project which could be valued around $2 billion.

"The project would act as a big catalyst. The Unique ID project will overlay many underlying projects, creating huge efficiencies for the country leading to enhanced governance and reduced costs," Som MIttal, president of IT industry body Nasscom, said.

And once implemented, it would open up new markets. "The domestic IT market is still hugely untapped," Mittal said. However, most of the IT majors when contacted by PTI, preferred not to comment on whether they would bid for the project.

TCS, which is already working on the government's mega e-passport project, refused to comment.

Infosys, whose former co-chairman Nandan Nilekani is going to head the project, also did not say whether they are going to participate in this project.

So did the newly rebranded Mahindra Satyam.

Cognizant, however, said it would take a call once the government comes out with a tender. Although the exact project size has not been revealed by the government, industry players say it could not be less than $2 billion.

The total value of all e-governance projects currently stands at $10 billion.

Industry experts said the project would need both big and small players for its execution.

"It is very unlikely that a single company would be given the chance to implement the project. The government is likely to form a consortium of small and large players with each state having a representation," Ganesh Natarajan, managing director of Zensar Technologies, said. — PTI 

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No renegotiation on wage cuts: AI union

Mumbai, June 25
Hardening their stand, Air India unions today said they were not willing to renegotiate on the proposed wage cut by the management.

"We have told the management that we will not renegotiate on their proposal for a pay cut to NACIL employees," a National Aviation Company of India union leader told PTI here.

The unions have also demanded a relook by the management into the company's new aircraft acquisition policy as it has substantially contributed to the air carrier's present financial turmoil, he said. NACIL is the holding company of the state-run airline and was formed after the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines.

"The management on its part apprised us of the present situation in the company. We feel the employees are not responsible for the liquidity crunch in the company, which the management is talking about," he said.

"We have also told the management that it should reduce the number of executive directors in the company and also recall all those executive directors posted abroad," he added. — PTI 

Air India panel for turnaround

A day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offered to put government's entire weight behind the cash-strapped Air India, the flagship carrier on Thursday said it has set up a committee with representatives from both the management and unions to turnaround the airline's operations.

"We have set up a committee comprising representatives of the management and unions to turnaround the airline," AI spokesperson, Jitendra Bhargava, said.

The committee would identify the key areas of cost-savings for the airline and will give a presentation of this to the management on July 3, he said. This committee will be in addition to the nine joint committees, which have been set up by Air India to look into the various issues relating to the national air carrier. 

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Neyveli Lignite Corp
TN parties oppose divestment
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Chennai, June 25
Major opposition parties in Tamil Nadu has come out against Centre's proposal for 10 per cent disinvestment of shares in the Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC), alleging that it was a first step towards privatisation of the organisation, functioning profitably.

Expressing shock over the Centre's announcement of 10 per cent disinvestment in 10 companies, including NLC, AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa announced a protest demonstration to be held tomorrow opposing the move. The UPA government had made this announcement a few weeks after winning the Lok Sabha elections.

Jayalalithaa said the NLC had yielded a profit of Rs 821 crore last year and there was no need to disinvest the shares of a public sector company running profitably. Describing the move to disinvest 10 per cent shares as "anti-worker", she said the move was not acceptable, since NLC was functioning as the backbone of industries in the state.

The PMK, which has a powerful union in the NLC, too, had opposed the move and the party founder Dr S Ramadoss would lead a fast at Neyveli tomorrow. Condemning the move, MDMK leader Vaiko said the Centre should withdraw the move for the welfare of more than 20,000 regular workers in the NLC and to develop the company into a more successful venture.

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India home to 25% of highest-paid expats 

New Delhi, June 25
Asian countries are home to some of the wealthiest expatriates in the world and about 25 per cent of the highest-paid foreign assignees' prefer to live in India, a report has said. According to the 2009 Expat Explorer Survey by HSBC Bank International, the highest-paid expats in the world prefer living in Asia, while their lowest-paid counterparts go for Australia and Western Europe.

The highest proportion of expats earning more than $250,000 are in Hong Kong (27 per cent), Japan (26 per cent) and India (25 per cent) compared with a global average of 16 per cent.

Further, about 30 per cent of high-salaried expats live in Russia and 25 per cent in Switzerland, it added.

The survey revealed that Asian countries were among the cheapest for accommodation, with expats in India, Malaysia and China finding accommodation much cheaper than they did living in their countries of origin.

About 43 per cent of the expats surveyed find accommodation cheaper in India and allocating much less of their income towards accommodation, compared with expats globally, it said.

The report said the lowest-paid expats live in Australia and Belgium, with the majority (63 per cent and 61 per cent versus 35 per cent overall) of expats earning under $100,000. In addition to commanding high salaries, expats in Asia further recession-proofed themselves by scaling back on the luxuries.

The survey found that 54 per cent expats in Japan , Thailand (51 per cent) and Hong Kong (49 per cent) scaled down their spending on luxury items, such as holidays and leisure activities.

Interestingly, many expats are able to take advantage of their move to another country in order to increase the amount of money they save, the survey said.

Over two-thirds of expats reported that they are saving and investing more since they moved away from their home country. And the figure rises to 80 per cent when looking at the highest-paid expats, while only 14 per cent said they were saving less than when they were resident in their countries of origin.

About 63 per cent of expats worldwide agreed that the credit crunch had changed their attitude to spending.

The most affected expats are based in Russia, US and Japan with over 70 per cent of expats from these countries saying the credit crunch had changed their attitudes to spending and saving.— PTI 

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Inflation up marginally
Tribune News service

New Delhi, June 25
Driven by higher prices of food items like pulses, cereals, milk, and fruit and vegetables, inflation rose marginally to minus 1.14 per cent against (-)1.61 per cent in the previous week.The wholesale price index stood at 11.80 per cent during the corresponding week a year ago.

Inflation may accelerate if insufficient monsoon this year reduces farm output and pushes up prices. “If rains are bad in July and August as well, then we should be prepared to see a spike in inflation,” say economists.

The RBI will review the monetary policy on July 28. Consumer prices remained firm and jumped to 10.21 per cent in May from a year earlier, after rising 9.09 per cent in April.

The high oil prices were factoring in to keep the inflation high. Aviation fuel surged by 12 per cent, light diesel oil rose by 10 per cent and furnace oil by 3 per cent. During the week, tea became expensive by 2 per cent and arhar by 1 per cent.

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SBI to expand in US, UK

New Delhi, June 25
Enthused by a massive 54 per cent growth rate in its international loan book, the country's largest lender, State Bank of India, is planning to strengthen its presence in countries, including the US and the UK, which have strong India links.

"Initiatives (are) under way to strengthen business in countries 
with a strong India linkage like the USA, UK and UAE," a senior SBI official said. — PTI

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Indian oil majors to pump in $5 b in Iran 

New Delhi, June 25
ONGC Videsh Ltd and its partners Indian Oil Corp and Oil India Ltd have proposed an investment of about $5 billion in bringing to production a massive gas field they discovered in offshore Iran, in the next 3-4 years. "OVL has submitted a development plan to the Iranian authorities. The investment proposed is around $5 billion," a source in know of the development said.

Iran had in September 2008 approved the commerciality of the discovery in the Farsi block. The discovery, which was subsequently named Farzad gas field, may hold inplace reserves of up to 21.68 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), of which recoverable reserves may be 12.8 Tcf.

The Indian firm want to liquefy the gas and ship it to India in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

The source said Iran has so far not responded to the development plan which was submitted this month.

OVL and IOC have 40 per cent stake each in the 3,500 sq km Farsi offshore block that was awarded to the consortium in 2002. OIL has the remaining 20 per cent. The three firms had also found oil on the block and in November 2008 submitted commerciality report of the discovery.

Iran has not yet approved the commerciality of the oil find, which may hold reserves of up to one billion barrel.

If the consortia gets the developmental rights, they will be paid a 15 per cent rate of return over and above the investments they make.

Iran's state-owned National Iranian Oil Co (NIOC) is the owner of the oil and gas found in the country. Iranian law does not allow foreign firms ownership of oil and gas and they get a fixed fee for their effort in discovering hydrocarbons and bringing them to production.

Under the Iranian rules, the project promoters are not allowed to take oil or gas out of the country. OVL had to fund all exploration operations that would be reimbursed only after ascertaining commerciality.— PTI

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Gas to RNRL
RIL weighing options after HC order 

New Delhi, June 25
More than a week after the Bombay High Court asked it to supply gas to Anil Ambani Group firm RNRL at prices lower than the government-approved rates, Reliance Industries today said it was still evaluating options for future course of action.

RIL president and CEO (oil and gas) PMS Prasad, who met Petroleum Ministry officials to discuss under capacity production from the company's KG basin fields, said: "We have time till July 15 to decide... we are still evaluating our options." He refused to discuss anything further saying: "I am off the press. I cannot comment anything." The Bombay High Court on June 15 ruled that RIL should honour its commitment in the family split agreement to supply gas to RNRL. The terms, as per the MoU which split the Dhirubhai Ambani empire in 2005, were to be based on RIL's bid for NTPC tender.

The price in NTPC tender was $2.34 per million British thermal unit, 44 per cent lower than government approved rates of $4.20 per mmBtu.

The Bombay High Court on June 15 gave the two companies a month's time to work out firm gas volumes, price, timelines and other commercial details for sourcing the fuel from Krishna-Godavari basin fields.

Pressed for a reply on if RIL would approach Supreme Court against the court order, Prasad said: "I do not know."

When asked if the Ambani brothers had met their mother for a settlement, he said: "I can't say. And why should my boss (Mukesh Ambani) tell me this! I'm just a professional (working for the company)." Prasad also refused comments on Anil Ambani Group firm RNRL writing to RIL two letters seeking talks to suggest a way forward to firm up an agreement.

But RIL responded to one letter only, saying it is still studying the implication of the judgment.

Prasad said RIL can produce 37 million standard cubic metres of gas per day from KG-D6 but was producing only 28 mmscmd as some power and fertiliser companies are not taking their allotted quantities. — PTI 

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Economic contraction slowing, says Fed Reserve

Washington, June 25
Hinting at signs of recovery, the US Federal Reserve has said the pace of economic contraction is slowing down and financial market conditions have improved in recent months.

"...the pace of economic contraction is slowing. Conditions in financial markets have generally improved in recent months," the Fed said in a statement.

The central bank also left the benchmark rates unchanged in the range of 0 to 0.25 per cent. The Federal Open Market Committee, which decides on the key rates, has retained the same near zero and said economic conditions warrant "exceptionally low levels" of federal funds for a longer period.

Noting that the Fed would employ all available tools to promote economic recovery and to ensure price stability, the statement said, "the Committee will maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 per cent (0.25 per cent) and continues to anticipate that economic conditions are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate for an extended period". — PTI 

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BRIEFLY

Novartis ups stake in Indian arm
Mumbai: Swiss drug maker Novartis AG has hiked its stake to 76.42 per cent in its Indian subsidiary Novartis India pursuant to the completion of open offer. Novartis India in a filing to the BSE said the promoters have acquired 8,147,365 shares, or 25.49 per cent stake, in the company at a price of Rs 450 a piece, aggregating to over Rs 366.63 crore. In March, the Swiss parent had made an open offer for an additional 39 per cent stake in its Indian unit.— PTI
A girl presents a creation by label Miss Blumarine in Florence, Italy, on Thursday during the “Pitti Immagine Bimbo” fashion fair. The 69th children’s fashion show, taking place from June 25 to June 27, showcases the spring/summer collection of 2010. — AFP
A girl presents a creation by label Miss Blumarine in Florence, Italy, on Thursday during the “Pitti Immagine Bimbo” fashion fair. The 69th children’s fashion show, taking place from June 25 to June 27, showcases the spring/summer collection of 2010. — AFP

Areva bags Rs 1,200-cr power project
Mumbai: Areva T&D India, an arm of French power equipment maker Areva, on Thursday said it has bagged an order worth about Rs 1,200 crore from domestic steel major Jindal Steel & Power Ltd (JSPL) for a power project. The company has been awarded this contract for a 400/220 kV substation and power transformers for the steel maker's green field integrated steel project at Angul in Orissa, Areva T&D India said in a filing to the BSE.— PTI

Ansal Properties net dips 81%
Mumbai:
Ansal Properties & Infrastructure on Thursday reported a decline of 81.24 per cent in its consolidated net profit at Rs 32.54 crore for the year ended March 2009, over the previous year. Total sales of the company declined to Rs 740.97 crore for the year ended March 2009, from Rs 996.68 crore in the same period last year. The board of directors has proposed a dividend of 50 paise a piece for the year ended March 2009.— PTI

IDBI cuts BPLR by 0.25 pc
Mumbai:
After SBI cut its benchmark prime lending rate by 0.50 per cent on Wednesday, another lender, IDBI Bank, on Thursday cut its BPLR by 0.25 per cent. With this, the bank's BPLR stands at 12.75 per cent from 13 per cent earlier. The reduced rate will come into effect from July 1, a release here stated.— PTI

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