SPECIAL COVERAGE
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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

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B U S I N E S S

Nothing to do with Ambani dispute; will protect gas: Govt
New Delhi, August 3
The legal battle of Anil Ambani-led Reliance Natural Resources Limited (RNRL) and elder brother Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) over the supply and pricing of gas from the fields off the Andhra Pradesh coast rocked the Lok Sabha today.

Anil blames Mukesh yet again
New Delhi: Anil Ambani today again blamed elder brother Mukesh Ambani-run RIL for delays in his group's proposed 7,800 MW gas-based Dadri power plant and alleged that RIL was deliberately keeping gas output down to keep prices high.

The Ambani saga
The Ambani saga over KG basin gas has caught the government and the powerful industrial house in a vortex where each one is trying to save face. The root cause of the dispute is the dishonouring of the contract by Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries to supply gas from the KG Basin field in Andhra Pradesh to Anil Ambanis proposed power plant in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh.



EARLIER STORIES



Gottfried Dutine, executive vice-president (L) and Murali Shivarman, CEO, Philips India, at the launch of modular switches for the first time in India as part of its strategic focus on emerging markets in New Delhi
Gottfried Dutine, executive vice-president (L) and Murali Shivarman, CEO, Philips India, at the launch of modular switches for the first time in India as part of its strategic focus on emerging markets in New Delhi on Monday. The switches are priced between Rs 90-150. Tribune photo: Mukesh Aggarwal

A new line of dolls called Moxie Girlz are shown in this picture. MGA is rolling out the new line as Mattel Inc plans to take over MGA's former marquee product, the saucy Bratz dolls, following a four-year legal struggle
A new line of dolls called Moxie Girlz are shown in this picture. MGA is rolling out the new line as Mattel Inc plans to take over MGA's former marquee product, the saucy Bratz dolls, following a four-year legal struggle. — AP/PTI

Bombay HC approves merger of RIL, RPL
Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Monday dismissed an appeal filed by two shareholders against the merger of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) and Reliance Petroleum Ltd (RPL). A Division Bench led by Justice Bilal Nazki today dismissed the appeal. The Bench also did not grant a stay on its own order.

Airtel-MTN extend talks period
Deal likely in September
New Delhi, August 3
Country’s largest telecom player Bharti Airtel and South African telecom giant MTN today announced their decision to extend the period of their talks for the merger of the two companies.

Exports decline by 27.7 pc, imports by 29.3 pc
New Delhi, August 3
Exports dropped to $12.81 billion in June from $17.73 billion in the same month last year, according to the government data released. Exports fell for the ninth month in a row in June, this time by 27.7 per cent, on account of the global downturn, while imports dropped by 29.3 per cent, reflecting slowdown in domestic consumption.

May revive later this year, says Moody’s
New Delhi: India's exports, declining since October 2008 due to the global economic crisis, is likely to revive later this year, but a "solid climb" is not expected until 2010, international rating agency Moody's said.

Sensex soars to a new high
Mumbai, August 3
Hectic buying after mid-session in auto, realty and metal counters pushed the benchmark Sensex near 16,000-level to close at a 14-month high of 15,924.23 and the Nifty above the 4,700-mark, despite exports remaining weak for the month of June as well.

For them, life virtually ends in 30s
Ludhiana, August 3
For thousands of labourers from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa, their life virtually ends in thirties. After spending the prime of their youth, starting to work from the age of sixteen and above, they are made to exit when they reach about 35 as they are shunted out as they are no longer able to carry heavy burden.

Winsome Tex enters hydropower generation
Chandigarh, August 3
Baddi-based Winsome Textile Industries, part of the Winsome group, has made a foray into hydropower generation in Himachal Pradesh. Construction has begun on a 2.5 MW micro hydel project, meant for captive consumption, at Khaniyara village in Kangra district bordering Dharamsala.

Tata Motors sales jump 18 pc in July
New Delhi, August 3
Automaker Tata Motors today reported a jump of 17.98 per cent in sales during July at 48,054 units compared with 40,729 units the comparable month last year. The homegrown firm's passenger vehicle sales in the domestic market grew by 17.33 per cent at 17,191 units in July against 14,652 units in the same month last year, the company said in a statement.

Production at Panna-Mukta oil fields comes to halt
New Delhi, August 3
The joint venture of British firm BG Group, Reliance Industries and Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) has stopped crude oil and natural gas production from the Panna-Mukta fields off the west coast, following a leakage in an under-sea facility.





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Nothing to do with Ambani dispute; will protect gas: Govt
Tribune News Service & PTI

New Delhi, August 3
The legal battle of Anil Ambani-led Reliance Natural Resources Limited (RNRL) and elder brother Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) over the supply and pricing of gas from the fields off the Andhra Pradesh coast rocked the Lok Sabha today.

The House was adjourned for nearly two hours on Monday when some members of the Samajwadi Party and the BJP alleged that Uttar Pradesh was not being given its due share of RIL Krishna-Godavari gas even after Petroleum Minister Murli Deora explained the government stand on the matter.

Asserting that it had no role in the Ambani family dispute, the government today declared in Parliament that it would do everything to protect its legal right to regulate usage of gas.

"We have nothing to do with the private dispute of two industries or industrialists. However, we have everything to do with protecting the interests of the government and public interest, this is our constitutional and legal obligation," Deora said.

Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar adjourned the house after loud protests by members of the Samajwadi Party, who alleged the government was discriminating against Uttar Pradesh over supplying gas to the Dadri power project of RNRL.

There has been no discrimination against Uttar Pradesh, Deora said in the statement, adding that the state-run power utility NTPC had been allocated 450,000 units of gas per day for its Dadri unit.

Anil Ambani group firm RNRL's Dadri power plant "is neither installed nor functional," he said, adding that it would be treated “on the same footing as other similar plants”. Not satisfied, SP members rushed to the well of the House creating a din, but Speaker Meira Kumar continued with the day's business that saw introduction of a few bills - the Companies Bill, Indian Trust (Amendment) Bill and Securities and Exchange Board of India (amendment) Bill - before the House was adjourned for lunch.

But she was subsequently forced to adjourn the House as Samajwadi Party members trooped into the well raising slogans against the government.

The minister added, gas to be produced from Reliance Industries KG-D6 fields has to be utilised in accordance with the gas utilisation policy approved by the government. Reliance is producing 35 million standard cubic meters per day (mmscmd) of gas from KG-D6 fields currently the output of which can go up to 80 mmscmd.

Deora’s statement is in response to the issue raised by Samajwadi Party members in Lok Sabha on July 29, a day after Anil accused the Oil Ministry of colluding with elder brother Mukesh Ambani-led RIL in its design to make super-normal profit of Rs 50,000 crore.

This statement is understood to have been vetted at a meeting called by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Friday that was also attended by Law Minister Veerapa Moily, government counsel Mohan Parasaran and top officials of the Ministries of Petroleum and Law.

SP members, led by party president Mulayam Singh Yadav, had demanded Deora's resignation accusing the Centre of stalling the 7,800-MW power plant, about 50 km from the Capital.

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Anil blames Mukesh yet again

New Delhi: Anil Ambani today again blamed elder brother Mukesh Ambani-run RIL for delays in his group's proposed 7,800 MW gas-based Dadri power plant and alleged that RIL was deliberately keeping gas output down to keep prices high.

Reacting to Petroleum Minister Murli Deora's assertion in Parliament that Anil Ambani group firm's proposed Dadri power plant would be considered for allocation of gas along with similar projects, he said: "Dadri is not operational due to RIL's malafide intentions." RIL, he said, had not given his group firm a bankable fuel supply contract.

He renewed his demand for public audit of RIL's KG-D6 field costs and immediate reduction in the gas transportation tariff charged by a Mukesh Ambani-owned firm that transports gas from east coast to the west. — PTI

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The Ambani saga

The Ambani saga over KG basin gas has caught the government and the powerful industrial house in a vortex where each one is trying to save face. The root cause of the dispute is the dishonouring of the contract by Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries to supply gas from the KG Basin field in Andhra Pradesh to Anil Ambanis proposed power plant in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh.

According to the judgement by the Mumbai High Court, the contract between the two brothers is valid and that the supply of gas should be carried out to the power plants agreed upon by the two brothers. However, the government has now got into action defending the supply of gas and stating that it is a national asset and no company has the right to enter into a contract unless it is agreed by the government. However, since the matter is in the Supreme Court and is hence sub judice. — TNS

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Bombay HC approves merger of RIL, RPL

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Monday dismissed an appeal filed by two shareholders against the merger of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) and Reliance Petroleum Ltd (RPL). A Division Bench led by Justice Bilal Nazki today dismissed the appeal. The Bench also did not grant a stay on its own order.

Earlier, a single judge of the high court had approved the merger, but Anup Sheth and Rasikbhai Mardia, minority shareholders of both RIL and RPL, had challenged it before a Division Bench. — PTI

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Airtel-MTN extend talks period
Deal likely in September
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 3
Country’s largest telecom player Bharti Airtel and South African telecom giant MTN today announced their decision to extend the period of their talks for the merger of the two companies.

With the original timeline for the merger talks having expired on July 31, Bharti Airtel today issued a statement that said both parties had agreed to extend the exclusivity period for talks till August 31. The two had started the talks on May 25.

The statement further said no decisions or agreement to acquire any shares or implement the transactions outlined above had been made by the boards of either company and the discussions may or may not lead to any transaction.

Bharti and MTN have been in talks over a $23-billion equity swap deal that would create the third-largest wireless group entity globally over the past few months.

With the extension of talks and due diligence underway the deal, if any, is expected to be closed not before mid-September. Incidentally, even the government had last week said the talks between the telecom giants leading to a full merger have not been finalised yet.

Bharti and MTN revived merger talks in May, a year after previous talks broke down over who would control a merged entity. A merger would create an emerging market giant with more than 200 million customers across India, Africa and West Asia.

The comment from the minister also clarified on the issue whether the deal would require any official clearance. Reports suggest that not only would it require a clearance in India but more importantly a similar clearance also from the competent authority in South Africa.

In India, the two sides will need a go-ahead from the Department of Telecom as well as the Foreign Investment Promotion Board.

The combined net worth of both companies will exceed the $60-billion mark. The proposed transaction between the largest mobile phone operators in India and Africa involves a complex structure through which both entities would pay cash and equity to each other for stakes in the two companies.

The formula will result in Airtel getting a 49 per cent stake in MTN and the South African telco a 36 per cent “economic interest” in Airtel.

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Exports decline by 27.7 pc, imports by 29.3 pc
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 3
Exports dropped to $12.81 billion in June from $17.73 billion in the same month last year, according to the government data released.

Exports fell for the ninth month in a row in June, this time by 27.7 per cent, on account of the global downturn, while imports dropped by 29.3 per cent, reflecting slowdown in domestic consumption.

As the country's total imports, largely influenced by a whopping decline of 50.6 per cent in oil imports, showed a faster pace of contraction than exports, the trade deficit was $6.16 billion in June 2009-10 from $9.12 billion in the same month last fiscal.

Federation of Indian Export Organisations director-general Ajay Sahai said the declining trend was likely to continue for some more months. The government should take short-term measures first and then come out with long-term policies after the global commerce shows improvement, he said.

The government is slated to unveil the foreign trade policy that spells out segments of priority in external trade and also gives incentives and disincentives.

Exports during April-June dipped by 31.3 per cent to $35.43 billion from the cumulative shipments of $51.54 billion in the first three months of 2008-09. Imports dipped to $18.97 billion in June from $26.85 billion over the year-ago period. Imports during the first quarter of 2009-10 dipped by 36.5 per cent to $50.92 billion from $80.18 billion.

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May revive later this year, says Moody’s

New Delhi: India's exports, declining since October 2008 due to the global economic crisis, is likely to revive later this year, but a "solid climb" is not expected until 2010, international rating agency Moody's said.

The imports may recover faster, thanks to a strong demand, it said.

"As global prospects are now improving, especially with the US economic contraction easing, India's exports may begin to recover later in the year," Moody's said in a statement.

However, it said, a "solid climb in exports is not expected until well into 2010" when major economies would be back on a firm footing. — PTI

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Sensex soars to a new high

Mumbai, August 3
Hectic buying after mid-session in auto, realty and metal counters pushed the benchmark Sensex near 16,000-level to close at a 14-month high of 15,924.23 and the Nifty above the 4,700-mark, despite exports remaining weak for the month of June as well.

Firm Asian cues, a strong European opening, higher US index futures, robust auto sales in the previous month, rising prices of metals on the London Metal Exchange and excellent first-quarter performance by major corporates helped the indices to complete three sessions of strong surge.

The BSE in late morning touched a low of 15,608.40. However, a sudden burst of buying after mid-session helped the Sensex to rebound to a high of 15,963.36 before ending at a 14-month high of 15,924.23. — PTI

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For them, life virtually ends in 30s
Shivani Bhakoo
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, August 3
For thousands of labourers from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa, their life virtually ends in thirties. After spending the prime of their youth, starting to work from the age of sixteen and above, they are made to exit when they reach about 35 as they are shunted out as they are no longer able to carry heavy burden.

These labourers, working in forging/steel/furnaces units, are "checked out" as they lose stamina to work for long hours. The workers are mostly afflicted with respiratory diseases like tuberculosis and asthma.

“As many as 15 years of work in a furnace or steel mill is enough to cripple our strength as we grow weak besides contracting many ailments,” said Ghulam Mustafa, a labourer in his mid-thirties. He has now found a job in a hosiery unit.

Instead of providing them better work facilities and healthcare, they are forced to switchover to other jobs. Even Labour Department officials hardly take note of their problems, said Ismail Khan, former president of the Handloom Workers’ Union, Punjab. “The workers are not given any facility that they should get. They resign to their fate as they are barely in a position to fight for their rights,” he said.

Comrade Ramesh Rattan, a senior trade union leader, said: “The industry, including hosiery, paper, iron, furnaces, forging, engineering goods and electroplating, is being recognised worldwide. Untiring efforts have been put by these industrial workers but their living conditions remain the same.”

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Winsome Tex enters hydropower generation
Sanjay Khurana
Tribune News Service

Ashish Bagrodia Chandigarh, August 3
Baddi-based Winsome Textile Industries, part of the Winsome group, has made a foray into hydropower generation in Himachal Pradesh. Construction has begun on a 2.5 MW micro hydel project, meant for captive consumption, at Khaniyara village in Kangra district bordering Dharamsala.

The company’s managing director, Ashish Bagrodia, told The Tribune today: “The firm has lined up Rs 143 crore for expansion in its three divisions - spinning, dyeing and power. While work in the first two units has been completed we plan to invest Rs 25 crore in the power division. Though our total requirement is 7.2 MW, the present capacity of the hydropower project is 2.5 MW.”

He said the plant is expected to be completed by Dec 2010 and will be operative the next month. The project will funded through internal accruals, with Rs 5 crore having been invested so far.

Asked about the impact of global slowdown on the textiles industry, Bagrodia, who is also president of the Northern India Textile Mills Association, said: “The last fiscal (2008-09) was a disaster for us but the industry has managed to turn around in Q1 of this year. We hope to do better as the economy improves.”

He said the company has obtained approval from banks for restructuring of its debt. “The cost of the expansion project has been hiked to Rs 143 crore from Rs 118 crore. The company has issued preferential warrants to promoters and some strategic investors to the tune of Rs 18 crore,” he added.

Winsome Textile posted a loss of Rs 13.5 crore on a turnover of Rs 173 crore in FY2008-09 against sales of Rs 156.67 crore in the previous year. However, in the first quarter ended June of this fiscal it netted a profit of Rs 9 lakh on sales of Rs 45 crore.

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Tata Motors sales jump 18 pc in July

New Delhi, August 3
Automaker Tata Motors today reported a jump of 17.98 per cent in sales during July at 48,054 units compared with 40,729 units the comparable month last year.

The homegrown firm's passenger vehicle sales in the domestic market grew by 17.33 per cent at 17,191 units in July against 14,652 units in the same month last year, the company said in a statement.

However, the company's exports in July plummeted by 33.58 per cent at 2,455 units compared with 3,696 units in the same month last year, it added.

Among individual cars, Tata Motors sold 2,475 units of its small car Nano since its launch on July 17 while Indica reported sales of 8,563 units, up 14 per cent over July 2008, Tata Motors said.

Indigo family, however, recorded sales of 3,499 units, a fall of 22 per cent over the same month last year. Sales of Sumo and Safari was flat at 2,638 units.

In the commercial vehicles segment, sales in July in the domestic market stood at 28,408 units, or up 26.93 per cent compared with 22,381 units in the same month last year.

Light commercial vehicle saw an increase of 44 per cent over the last year at 17,750 units while sales of medium and heavy commercial vehicle stood at 10,658 units, up 6 per cent compared with July, 2008.

Cumulative sales of passenger vehicles in the domestic market in the four months of this fiscal were down by 4.13 per cent at 63,028 units against 65,746 units in the year-ago period, Tata Motors said. — PTI

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Production at Panna-Mukta oil fields comes to halt

New Delhi, August 3
The joint venture of British firm BG Group, Reliance Industries and Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) has stopped crude oil and natural gas production from the Panna-Mukta fields off the west coast, following a leakage in an under-sea facility.

The field was producing 40,000 barrels of oil per day before July 25 when the leakage in the single buoy mooring (oil evacuation system) was detected and production was stopped, ONGC director (Offshore) Sudhir Vasudeva said. “The field is producing almost zero crude oil. Gas production has also been impacted," he said. The fields were shut completely from July 29.

"Repairs have been hampered by rough weather," he said declining to give a time frame for resumption of production. — PTI

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BRIEFLY


A handout photo of a rare, 5-carat pink diamond, which will be auctioned in Hong Kong this December by Christie's
A handout photo of a rare, 5-carat pink diamond, which will be auctioned in Hong Kong this December by Christie's. The price of the stone is expected to hover near world record prices. It is expected to fetch between $5-$7 million. — Reuters

Bank staff to strike on Aug 6-7
NEW DELHI:
Employees of state-run banks have decided to go ahead with their proposed strike on Thursday and Friday following failure of talks with the government over hike in wages and other demands. “Our talks were inconclusive. We are meeting again on Tuesday. But as of now we are going ahead with the strike based on the notice we served July 21,” said NS Virk, vice-president, All-India Bank Officers' Association. — IANS

NHPC IPO to hit market on Aug 7
AHMEDABAD:
National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) will raise Rs 6,000 crore from the initial public offer (IPO), which will hit the market on August 7. "Rs 4,000 crore will be used to finance the under construction projects of the company while Rs 2,000 will be given to the government of India," NHPC director (project) JK Sharma said here. For its IPO, NHPC has fixed the price band between Rs 30-36 per equity share. — PTI

Rolta declare 30 pc dividend
MUMBAI:
Software company Rolta India on Monday reported a consolidated net profit of Rs 76.22 crore for the fourth quarter ended June 30, a 50 per cent growth over the corresponding period a year-ago. The board has declared a dividend of 30 per cent at Rs 3 a piece on shares of face value of Rs 10 for the financial year ended June 30, 2009. — PTI

L&T bags Rs 5,300-cr projects from ONGC
MUMBAI:
Engineering firm Larsen & Toubro on Monday said it had bagged two orders worth Rs 5,300 crore from state-run Oil & Natural Gas Corporation for offshore hydrocarbon projects. “The company secured a turnkey order for the Mumbai High North process platform and living quarters project, with an additional order for supply of process gas compression modules to be installed in the same complex,” L&T said. — PTI

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