New York: Probable Republican presidential nominee John McCain has strongly backed the stalled India-US civilian nuclear deal saying it would strengthen ties between the two countries.
“I support the US-India civil nuclear accord as a means of strengthening our relationship with the world’s largest democracy, and further involving India in the fight against proliferation,” McCain said in a speech at the University of Denver, Colorado, on Tuesday.
McCain’s remarks assume importance as doubts remain whether the landmark deal, which is facing opposition in India from the government’s Left allies and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, could come through during the Bush administration’s tenure.
The Republican nominee also said the US should work closely with India and Pakistan to enhance the security of nuclear stockpiles.
“We should engage actively with both India and Pakistan to improve the security of nuclear stockpiles and weapon material and construct a secure global nuclear order that eliminates the likelihood of proliferation and the possibility of nuclear conflict,” McCain said.
London mayor may shut 6 overseas offices
London: London mayor Boris Johnson has begun a review into whether to shut the city’s six overseas offices in a new move to distance himself from predecessor Ken Livingstone. The offices in India, China and Brussels, along with a consultant in Moscow, cost $2.8 million (Rs12.01 crore) a year and were opened by Livingstone to encourage trade and tourism.
Johnson, a Conservative party member of British Parliament, defeated Livingstone, a two-term Labour mayor, in a 1 May election. Johnson has spent the last four weeks assembling his City Hall management team and scrapping Livingstone projects such as a Venezuelan oil agreement and a promotional newspaper. The city will review whether the overseas offices offer value.
Livingstone opened the city’s offices in Mumbai and Delhi during a trip to India last year and spoke about the need to establish closer links with the world’s fastest-growing economies. He planned to travel this year to China, where the city has offices in Beijing and Shanghai.
Power bourse to come up in 3-4 months: official
Mumbai: The power bourse being set up as a joint venture between the National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange Ltd (NCDEX) and National Stock Exchange (NSE) is expected to be operational in three to four months, a top official said on Wednesday.
“Our power bourse will go live in three-four months,” Unupom Kausik, chief business officer of NCDEX, said.
He said the power bourse proposal received in-principle approval from the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission on Tuesday.
NCDEX and NSE had earlier planned a power bourse with NTPC Ltd, India’s top power producer, but parted ways in February as NTPC was unwilling to allow NSE a bigger role in the management of the project.
Another power exchange, the Indian Energy Exchange, which is being jointly set up by Financial Technologies (India) Ltd and PTC India Ltd, is likely to go live in a couple of months.
Reliance Money moves into Hong Kong market
Hong Kong: Anil Ambani’s retail-broking unit, Reliance Money Ltd, on Wednesday entered Hong Kong’s $400 billion (Rs17 trillion) fund-management market in partnership with a local broker.
The company, a division of Mumbai-based Reliance Capital Ltd, aims to manage investments in the South Asian nation for institutional investors and expatriate Indians living in Hong Kong and China, chief executive Sudip Bandyopadhyay said.
Reliance Money is targeting a bigger share of the record $19.5 billion invested in India last year by overseas funds, more than double the funds invested in the previous year. About 70% of funds sent to India by institutional investors goes through Hong Kong, Bandyopadhyay said on Wednesday.
In Hong Kong and China, Reliance aims to sell broking and wealth management services to expatriates with at least $50,000 through its alliance with Hong Kong-based Goldride Securities Ltd, Bandyopadhyay said. Goldride will also assist in transactions for resident Indians seeking to invest in Hong Kong and China, he added.
Reliance Money plans to set up an outlet in London within a few months, and also in Singapore, the chief executive said.
Pakistan stock index plunges to 9-month low
Karachi: Pakistan’s benchmark stock index plunged to its lowest in nearly nine months on Wednesday amid concern about the country’s wobbling economy and government. The key 100-share index at the Karachi Stock Exchange fell 567.28 points, or 4.6%, to 12,254.97. That’s its lowest close since early September.
“The combination of political and economic factors led to today’s fall of the market,” said Muzzamil Aslam, an economist at Karachi-based KASB Securities. Aslam said rumours of president Pervez Musharraf’s resignation also contributed to Wednesday’s slump. Presidential spokesman Rashid Qureshi told Dawn News television that the rumours were “absolute nonsense”.
The main coalition parties are at odds over how to confront Musharraf, the former army strongman whose political allies were routed in February parliamentary elections. One major party is calling loudly for his impeachment. Aslam said investors feared that Musharraf’s departure would “further deepen the political crisis”.
End tax on steel-product exports, says Jindal
Hong Kong/Mumbai: A leading steel maker in India on Wednesday called for the abolition of duties levied on overseas sales of the alloy.
The government notified taxes on 10 May on shipments of products including hot-rolled, cold-rolled and galvanized steel to bolster domestic supplies and cool inflation.
“The Indian government is trying to do its own bit to see prices are kept artificially low. In that line the government imposed tax on steel to increase availability of steel for mass consumption,” Sajjan Jindal, vice-chairman and managing director of JSW Steel Ltd, India’s third biggest producer of the metal, said.
“But in the bargain they have miscalculated and taxed even those products that are used to make goods like automobiles. This type of steel is used by the rich and not by the poor or the lower middle-class families,” he said. “We are having a dialogue with the government to correct the anomaly. We hope that over the next two weeks there will be a correction in the rates,” Jindal added.
Priority to fertilizer units in gas supply
New Delhi: The government will ensure fertilizer companies are given priority in the supply of natural gas, Union minister for chemicals and fertilizers Ram Vilas Paswan said. The decision was taken on Wednesday, Paswan told reporters in New Delhi.
Antony for tech transfer focus in defence deals
Berlin: With a new defence procurement policy likely to be announced ahead of its September schedule, the government on Wednesday made it clear to international defence manufacturers that it would proceed only with those firms who were prepared to transfer technology and make their Indian counterparts partners in production.
“The era of procurement is over and the time for transfer of technology and co-production has come,” Union defence minister A.K. Antony said on the sidelines of the ongoing Berlin Air Show, in which India is a partner country.
Antony said that over a period of time, India had emerged as a technological hub and its capabilities were known to the global companies.
“We are also developing in the defence sectors and seeing this, India has become the first choice as the partner country in this year’s air show here,” he said.
The minister said total transparency would be maintained in all defence contracts and information would be made available to the people via the defence ministry’s website.
Partial win for Ranbaxy in Australia Lipitor case
New Delhi: Indian drug maker Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd tasted partial victory in its patent litigation against the world’s biggest dug maker, Pfizer Inc., when an Australian court ruled in favour of the Indian firm in a case relating to cholesterol lowering drug Lipitor.
But the court also ruled that a proposed Ranbaxy generic product under a different patent infringed Pfizer’s basic Lipitor patent.
The Australian federal court in Victoria had ruled that one of Pfizer’s patent was invalid for in-utility, false suggestion and misrepresentation in obtaining the grant of Australian patent 628198, Ranbaxy said in statement.
“We are pleased with this decision as it advances the entry of Ranbaxy’s generic atorvastatin in Australia to 18 May 2012 ,” Ranbaxy’s senior vice-president (global intellectual property) Jay Desmukh said.
The court, however, upheld Pfizer’s appeal on the exclusivity of its basic patent covering atorvastatin, the active ingredient in Lipitor. It found that a proposed Ranbaxy generic would infringe Pfizer’s basic Lipitor patent (number 601,981). The ruling, the culmination of a lawsuit filed in 2005 by Ranbaxy, preserves Lipitor’s patent coverage in Australia through May 2012. Ranbaxy can appeal the decision. Pfizer said in a statement it will “continue to vigorously defend against challenges to its intellectual property”.
Finance ministry denies report on tax levy
New Delhi: The finance ministry on Wednesday termed as “totally baseless” reports about new tax proposals to help ease mounting losses at state oil firms due to soaring crude prices.
Some newspapers had reported on Wednesday that the ministry had proposed a new cess or levy on income and corporate tax to compensate it for losses due to any duty reduction on crude oil and motor fuels. ‘Mint’, too, ran a ‘PTI’ story.
“The reports are largely speculative and in particular, reports about certain new tax proposals are totally baseless,” the finance ministry said in a statement.
“Ministry of finance points out that nobody from the ministry had briefed the media.”
GSPC plans new LNG terminal at Mundra
New Delhi: India’s Gujarat State Petroleum Corp. Ltd (GSPC) plans to build a five million tonnes per annum liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal at the Mundra port by 2013, a top company official said on Wednesday.
“To begin with it will have a capacity of 5 million tonnes, and will go up to 20 million tonnes,” managing director D.J. Pandian told ‘Reuters’ in a telephone interview from Gujarat. India, Asia’s third largest oil consumer, is encouraging use of natural gas to control its oil import bill and rein in inflation but there is not enough supply to satisfy rising demand.
State-owned GSPC has hired an international consultant to prepare detailed feasibility report of the project, Pandian said.
“The report will be ready in four to six months from now, then only we can work out the costing and finalise the capacity,” he said.
GSPC would hold a 50% in the project while India’s Adani group has agreed to buy 25%, he said.
“We are talking to Essar for remaining stake. HPCL has also approached us for buying 25%. Let’s see, if Essar, HPCL don’t join us then we will go for IPO,” Pandian said.
Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd, or HPCL, is a state-run refining and retailing firm.
Gas demand in India, currently around 179 million standard cubic metres a day (mscmd), is far short of the supply of about 95 mscmd. Supply is expected to double by 2009 after new gas fields, including those of Reliance Industries Ltd. , start production.
India’s Petronet LNG Ltd. plans to double its capacity to 10 million tonnes of LNG, while Britain’s BG Group Plc. plans to import LNG in India this year, adding to domestic supplies, but Pandian said the demand was rising.
Analysts say there is enormous potential for using compressed natural gas in vehicles once availability increases, while power and fertilizer units would also switch to natural gas.
Goldman Sachs estimates the share of natural gas in India’s coal-dominated energy basket will double to 18% by 2015 and stabilize at 20% by 2025.
Pandian said LNG was not easily available currently, but by the time the firm’s terminal is set up, enough gas would be there in the market.
Set up teams to respond to disasters, states told
New Delhi: With the monsoon knocking at the door, the disaster management wing of India’s home ministry asked states on Wednesday to set up their own specialist teams to respond to disasters. The ministry also asked them to set up search and rescue teams, which would service not only the state concerned but also other states during a crisis. Shantanu Consul, secretary of border management in the ministry, told an annual conference of disaster management officials, that the teams would be provided specialised training as well as necessary equipment to meet exigencies.
New index shows low consumer satisfaction
Mumbai: Indians have low employment expectations, according to a barometer launched by knowledge services firm Boston Analytics here on Wednesday. The index also shows low consumer satisfaction.
The Boston Analytics Consumer Sentiment Index for India is a monthly barometer of consumers’ changing expectations from the macro-economy, household financial conditions and consumption, Boston Analytics director Sam Thomas told a press conference.
The study for the index started in January. One look at the barometer from January to April showed that the employment sentiment is low, he said. But there are no specific reasons for the low sentiment. “We don’t ask our respondents why they are feeling low.”
The country’s consumer satisfaction index is also low. Citing the US example, Thomas said a low consumer satisfaction is usually followed by a slowdown. So far, the firm has collected data from the four metros by speaking to 3,057 people. By the end of this year, Boston Analytics plans to include many more cities in their list and interview 14,000 people, Thomas said.
EU backs India’s stand on greenhouse gases
New Delhi: The European Commission has backed India’s stand on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, saying it is not apt to ask the Asian country to adhere to Kyoto Protocol targets.
“The EU and India have more in common in their positions on climate change than one might imagine. We are clear that we do not believe Kyoto-style targets should be asked of India in the immediate post-2012 period,” a European Commission release, posted on its website, quoted its President Jose Manuel Durao Barroso as saying. Under Kyoto Protocol, a number of developing countries, including India and China, are not required to limit their greenhouse emissions.