Frankfurt: Chris Bangle, one of the most well-known and controversial people in the auto industry, is leaving premium car maker BMW AG after heading up its design department since October 1992.
“Bangle’s plan to pursue his own design-related endeavours beyond the auto industry marks the start of a new phase in his life while maintaining strong ties with the BMW Group,” the company said in a statement.
The 52-year-old American, who was the object of multiple online petitions calling for his sacking, first grabbed headlines in 2002 with his redesign of the 7 Series sedan.
The vehicle was voted one of the 50 worst cars of all times by ‘Time’ magazine, along with such other infamous models as the 2001 Pontiac Aztek and the 1998 Fiat Multipla.
Adrian van Hooydonk, 44, responsible for BMW Automobile Design, will replace Bangle as head of group design.
Ashok Leyland sales down 73% in January
New Delhi: India’s second biggest bus and truck maker, Ashok Leyland Ltd, on Wednesday reported a 73.17% decline in commercial vehicles sales in January.
Its commercial vehicles sales in January fell to 2,444 units from 9,112 units in the same month a year ago. Domestic sales declined to 2,026 units from 8,477 units earlier, down by 76.10%, the company said in a statement.
Ashok Leyland’s exports in January fell 34.17% to 418 units from 635 units in the year-ago period.
Boeing looks at more India defence deals
New Delhi: US aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co. is looking to bid for defence projects worth up to $31 billion (Rs1.5 trillion) over the next 10 years in India, as strategic ties between the two countries deepen.
“It is a $31 billion market for us to bid in the defence sector and rising,” Vivek Lall, India country head of Boeing’s Integrated Defense Systems (IDS), said on Wednesday.
Boeing has also submitted a bid for six medium-range naval warfare aircraft contract, weeks after it signed a $2.1 billion contract for eight P-8I warfare aircraft.
Boeing plans to make inroads into the South Asian defence market and has already submitted a bid for a contract to supply India with 126 multi-role fighter jets, potentially worth more than $10 billion.
Maytas proposes to get managerial help
New Delhi: Maytas Infra Ltd. controlled by the family of arrested Satyam Computer Services Ltd founder B. Ramalinga Raju, said it plans to form a panel including stakeholders and outside experts for managerial assistance. Maytas has started talks with its lenders to form a task force to provide managerial assistance and improve communication to correct any perception bias, the company said in a statement to the Bombay Stock Exchange on Wednesday. Maytas Infra has fallen by its daily limit since Ramalinga Raju said he’d tried to merge the family’s software and property groups to cover up a $1 billion (Rs4,880 crore) accounting fraud.
‘Reuters’ poll pegs inflation at 5.21%
Mumbai: India’s annual inflation rate should have fallen in late January as prices of food items eased after rising for two consecutive weeks, a ‘Reuters’ poll showed on Wednesday.
The median forecast of 15 analysts was for a 5.21% rise in the Wholesale Price Index in the 12 months to 24 January, compared with 5.64% in the previous week.
It would be the slowest annual rise since 9 February last year when inflation was at 4.98%.
Inflation had fallen to an 11-month low of 5.24% on 3 January, but it rose in the next two weeks following an eight-day nationwide truckers’ strike that pushed up food prices.
“The lagged impact of the truckers’ strike would have been worn off by now,” said Saugata Bhattacharya, economist at Axis Bank Ltd, adding prices of some manufactured items had also dropped.
Seven analysts, however, said inflation would not have eased as much as expected.
RBI may need to cap bond yields: StanChart
Mumbai: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) may need to step up its market buying of government bonds to head off a sharp spike in yields towards 7% as a result of expected heavy debt issuance in the next few months.
RBI has cut its benchmark interest rate by a total of 3.5 percentage points to 5.5% in the past four months to counter the impact on the economy of the global financial crisis.
A rise in market yields would be counter productive. But concerns about the government’s rising borrowing and spending plans aimed at countering the slowdown are already driving market yields sharply higher, which may force the central bank to act.
“There are tools in the central bank’s artillery which can be used to ease pressure on yields, which have backed up to levels seen before January’s rate cuts,” said Arvind Sampath, head of rates trading at Standard Chartered Bank, who expects yields to rise by another 50 basis points.
ONGC to reconsider Rajasthan refinery plan
Barmer: More than a year after scrapping the Rajasthan refinery project, state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd (ONGC) will reexamine the feasibility of setting up a 15 million-tonne refinery in the desert district adjoining India-Pakistan border.
Rajasthan’s chief minister Ashok Gehlot demanded a refinery project in the state that will provide direct and indirect employment to 100,000 people.
Originally proposed in 2004-05, the project was declared economically unviable after the previous Vasundhara Raje government in Rajasthan did not agree to give fiscal incentive such as interest-free loans and sales tax exemption for the project.
“Whatever (fiscal) concession you need, we will offer,” Gehlot said at a stone cutting function here for laying a pipeline to transport Cairn India Ltd’s Rajasthan crude.
“We had a meeting yesterday (Tuesday) and petroleum minister Murli Deora and ONGC chairman R.S. Sharma have assured that they will reexamine possibility of the refinery,” he said.
Reliance Power plea on Anpara dismissed
New Delhi: In a setback to Reliance Power Ltd, the Appellate Tribunal For Electricity has dismissed a petition challenging capacity expansion of the Anpara project awarded to its rival Lanco Infratech Ltd, in which the Uttar Pradesh government had allowed expansion after the bidding was over.
Dismissing the petition of Reliance Power, the tribunal observed that since Lanco had already invested approximately Rs1,000 crore in the project, there was no reason to interfere.
The tribunal said it would be detrimental to the interest of Lanco if at this stage the contract was cancelled, that too without any valid reason.
In 2006, Reliance Power had lost the 1,000MW Anpara project to Lanco. Later, as a policy decision, the state government decided to increase the capacity of the plant by 20% to 1,200MW.
Private firms may be allowed in nuke power
New Delhi: The Centre may introduce legislation to amend the Atomic Energy Act and allow private companies to invest in nuclear power after general elections due by May.
The basic framework for the amendment is ready, Prithviraj Chavan, a minister in the prime minister’s office, said in New Delhi on Wednesday. But it doesn’t make sense to introduce it in the house as it’s a very short session.
Parliament is scheduled to convene on 12 February for a two- week session for the last time before its term ends in May. The government will present a temporary budget for the year starting 1 April during the session. Currently, state-run Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd is the monopoly operator, generating 4,120MW, or less than 3% of installed capacity.
Essar Projects wins Rs1,000 cr project
Mumbai: Essar Projects Ltd, has bagged a Rs1,000 crore project, to be completed by May 2011. It won Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd’s Neelam Heera project through its subsidiary Essar Offshore Subsea Ltd. The project involves modification and revamping works on various offshore platforms installation of new equipment.
Cuban who censored Beatles dead
Havana: The man who banned the Beatles from the communist-run island’s radio and television stations has died, state television said on Tuesday.
Jorge “Papito” Serguera, who at the time was president of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television, pulled Beatles music from the airwaves in the 1970s even though he later admitted he enjoyed listening to it in private.
Serguera, who was 76 when he died, was viewed as an architect of a general cultural crackdown that dampened dissent and marginalized many for their beliefs or sexuality.
“There were national leaders who were against, not them (the Beatles), but the so-called modern music... There was incredible pressure,” he told Ernesto Juan Castellanos, author of ‘John Lennon in Havana with a little help from my friend’.
Supreme Court rejects Scotch body’s plea
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a petition by the Scotch Whisky Association seeking a review of a judgment that allowed Khoday India Ltd to use the words Scot and Scotch in its products.
“We have gone through the review petition and the connected papers”, said the bench headed by justice Satya Brata Sinha. “No ground has been made out to review our order. The review petition is dismissed.”
The UK-based association sought a review of the 27 May judgment, saying it was confusing, and called for Indian whisky makers, including Khoday, to be restrained from using the terms.
The apex court had allowed Khoday India, the seller of the Peter Scot brand of whisky in the country, to use the term in its last judgment. The Indian liquor manufacturer does not infringe the Intellectual Property Rights Act, a bench of judges Sinha and Lokeshwar Singh Panta said in that judgment.
The Scotch Whisky Association advocate had submitted that only those companies that produce whisky in Scotland can use the terms to sell their brands. Khoday, which also sells Hercules rum and Constantino brandy, had challenged the November 2007 decision of the Madras high court which restrained Indian companies from using Scot or Scotch. The court had also ordered the removal of the Peter Scot trademark by the Registrar of Trademarks.
Suzlon allowed to issue depository receipts
Mumbai: The world’s fifth-largest wind turbine maker, Suzlon Energy Ltd, has got Indian regulatory approval to raise up to Rs1,800 crore ($370 million) through depository share offer overseas, a company spokesman said on Wednesday.
India’s Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) had approved the company’s proposal in place of a rights issue that Suzlon had scrapped in October, he said.
The spokesman said the company was yet to decide on whether to go for American or global depository receipts.
“As of now neither are any plans firmed up nor any timeline firmed up on the subject of raising funds through foreign currency,” the spokesman said.
Suzlon has been evaluating funding options to raise its controlling stake in German subsidiary REpower, after it agreed in January to a revised payment schedule to buy a 22.4% from Portugal’s Martifer.
India issues $4.5 bn oil bonds to three refiners
Mumbai: India issued $4.5 billion worth of 6.90% 2026 oil bonds to three refiners for retailing fuel below global prices in the current financial year ending March, the central bank said on Wednesday.
Indian Oil Corp. received bonds worth Rs11,940 crore, Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd got Rs5320 crore and Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd got Rs4,680 crore of bonds, the central bank said in a statement. These special bonds will be transferable and eligible for repo transactions but will not be treated as mandatory bond investments held by banks, it said.
PTC India to raise up to Rs1,200 cr through QIPs
Mumbai: The country’s top power trading firm PTC India Ltd on Wednesday said that it will raise funds up to Rs 1,200 crore through qualified institutional placement (QIP).
In a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), the company said that shareholders and the board have approved raising of funds up to Rs1,200 crore through QIPs. The company would raise Rs 400 crore through non-convertible debentures and Rs800 by issuing warrants. Qualified institutional placements are viable route of raising money for companies.
Harley-Davidson soars on Buffett investment
New York: Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Inc. on Tuesday announced the sale of $600 million of debt, including half to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., causing shares of the largest US motorcycle maker to rise as much as 22.6%.
Berkshire and money manager Davis Selected Advisers LP, the largest Harley shareholder, each bought $300 million of senior unsecured notes carrying an annual interest rate of 15%, roughly twice the yield of a typical investment-grade corporate bond. The notes mature in 2014.
The sale provides Harley with more cash after losses at its financing arm led to a 58% decline in fourth-quarter profit. Harley is also cutting 1,100 jobs, or more than 12% of its workforce, over two years.
Gateway Distriparks buys out Vizag arm
Mumbai: On Wednesday, Gateway Distriparks Ltd said it has acquired the remaining 26% stake in its Visakhapatanam unit for Rs4,680 crore, making the unit its wholly owned subsidiary. Gateway Distriparks has acquired 117 million shares in Gateway East India Pvt. Ltd from other shareholders, it said.
Vajpayee stable, to stay in hospital for 3-4 days
New Delhi: The condition of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was admitted to All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on Tuesday night following respiratory infection and fever, was stable on Wednesday. He will be kept under observation in the hospital for the next three to four days.
“His general medical condition is stable. And he spent a restful night. He is now better and his chest congestion is less,” AIIMS superintendent D.K. Sharma said. “He will be under observation for the next three to four days,” he said.
He clarified that the 84-year-old BJP leader is not in intensive care unit but admitted in a room adjoining the ICU for security reasons.
EPF board to meet soon, may fix rate for FY09
New Delhi: The board of trustees of the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) will meet sometime this month to fix the interest rate for its flagship scheme EPF for FY09, an official said on Wednesday.
“Board will meet sometime this month. The interest rate we may possibly decide,” said Sudha Pillai, a secretary at the labour ministry and a member of the EPFO board.
Earlier, labour minister Oscar Fernandes said EPFO, which offered 8.5% interest to its 4 million subscribers at the end of the 2007-08 fiscal year, has no plans to revise the rate as of now.
‘Indian developers may find 2009 more difficult’
Mumbai: Indian developers will find this year more challenging than 2008 as demand for new homes and offices remains muted with economic growth slowing, Fitch Ratings said in a report released on Tuesday.
Debt levels for real estate companies are likely to increase as cash-flow sources and payments from customers almost dry up, Fitch said. Property companies face substantial debt redemptions as they largely financed land purchases and construction over the past three years with short- and medium-term debt, it said.
The nation’s benchmark realty index plunged 83% last year as a six-year rally in home prices and the rise in borrowing costs to a seven-year high by July deterred new buyers. The central bank has cut its key rate by 350 basis points since October to help the economy, which is estimated to slow to 7% in the year to 31 March, the weakest pace since 2003.
With significant debt maturities scheduled during the year, the availability of funding sources remains the key for all developers, Sandeep Mulik, an analyst at Fitch in Mumbai, said in the report dated 3 February. Successful refinancing of existing debt will be the key for all developers, along with extension of maturity profiles.
Tax receipts slow, govt hopes to meet target
New Delhi: India’s April-January direct tax receipts were up by a slower than expected 12.5% on-year, an official said on Wednesday, as the global turmoil and sluggish domestic demand trimmed corporate profits.
The data has fuelled speculation of higher borrowing by a cash-strapped government that has pledged to spend an extra Rs1.47 trillion in FY09 and foregone revenues by cutting factory gate duties by 4 percentage points in December.
Indian firms, which anticipate slower profit growth, have paid 22% less advance tax to the government during the December quarter, compared with the year-ago figures.
“The direct tax collection touched Rs2.47 trillion as on 1 February, growing by 12.5%,” said S.S.N. Moorthy, chairman of Central Board of Direct Taxes. Direct tax receipts which were up 39% until the June quarter, began to slow as the global crisis started pinching Indian companies.
Last year, India set a target of 20% growth in corporate tax receipts to Rs2.26 trillion and a 14% rise in income tax collections to Rs1.39 trillion for FY09. The target for total receipts was Rs3.65 trillion.
Engineering exporters seek booster package
Mumbai: With engineering exports likely to post a double-digit negative growth in the third quarter this fiscal, the Engineering Export Promotion Council (EEPC) is busy meeting top government officials seeking its help to boost exports.
“The global financial crisis has hit our engineering exports hard with order-books drying up. While this fiscal should be alright, things could worsen after April,” EEPC chairman Aman Chadha said here.
The council has requested that the sector be brought under the Interest Subvention Scheme in its meetings with officials including Union commerce minister Kamal Nath and Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
“The April-September period witnessed a robust 43% growth in exports but it dipped sharply in December at just 0.8%,” Chadha said.
For November-December, EEPC data paints a gloomy picture with exports sliding into the red zone at about 10%.
‘China may move WTO over India import ban’
Beijing: China will likely ask the World Trade Organization (WTO) if an Indian ban on imports of its toys violates the trade body’s rules, state media reported Wednesday, in a rare move by Beijing.
The case, affecting a quarter-of-a-billion dollars’ worth of toys, is a sign that China will use WTO rules more often to fight new trade barriers as the global credit crisis makes nations more protectionist, the China Daily said.
It cited anonymous sources as saying the case would probably be brought before the WTO, while quoting legal experts reflecting China’s apparent attitude to the ban.
“The ban cannot hold water. The Indian side (would be) doomed to lose... if the Chinese government appealed to the WTO Dispute Settlement Body,” said Fu Donghui, of Albright Law Firm, according to the paper.
India banned toys coming from China on 23 January in an apparent bid to shield domestic manufacturers from cheap imports, saying the restrictions would be in force for six months.
According to the Mumbai-based All India Toy Manufacturers Association, Chinese products make up more than half the Indian retail toy market, which was estimated to be over Rs2,500 crore in 2007. China may take similar step against an EU decision to impose tariffs as high as 85% on imports of screws from China, the China Daily said.
In December, China protested over US anti-dumping and countervailing duties imposed on four Chinese-made product categories including steel pipes and off-road tyres.