New Delhi: The department of telecommunications, or DoT, has sought recommendations from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on whether to allow mobile virtual network operators, or MVNOs, such as Virgin Mobile, to offer phone services in India by buying airtime in bulk from an Indian telecom company and reselling it to mobile phone subscribers under their brand.
“The department sought views from Trai... and we will get back to the government within two months...,” confirmed a Trai official who didn’t want to be named.
An MVNO is a company that provides a branded telecom service without owning any of the infrastructure, instead partnering with others that have such infrastructure.
Upwardly mobile: Sir Richard Branson in New Delhi. (Photo: Madhu Kapparath/ Mint)
“We have asked Trai to provide its thoughts on whether there is any need for allowing such services in India, and if yes, then what should be an appropriate time to allow the entry of such companies,” said a senior DoT official who also didn’t want to be named.
Indian phone firms, such as Bharti Airtel Ltd, had questioned the Indian entry of Virgin Mobile, which partnered with Tata Teleservices Ltd.
“We are open to allowing MVNOs in the country and will take a call soon,” Siddhartha Behura, secretary, DoT, had told reporters on the sidelines of a conference here earlier this month.
“The Tata-Virgin service can proceed for a commercial launch in the meanwhile; we have only asked them to clarify certain objections raised by other operators.”
British billionaire Richard Branson, who launched Virgin Mobile in India earlier this month, said his company would target the country’s young and affluent mobile users and offer phone services in 1,000 Indian cities by December.
Tata Teleservices and Virgin Mobile maintain that their alliance in India is only a brand-franchisee agreement, a view that the Cellular Operators Association of India or Coai, which represents mobile phone firms in India, is not buying.
India in pact to protect workers in Malaysia
New Delhi: The Union cabinet on Thursday gave its approval for signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between India and Malaysia on employment of workers in the two countries. The MoU provides for the welfare of all categories of workers under all laws of the host country. The agreement will also facilitate more employees to work in each others’ country. At present, Indian workers number 1,37,000 out of 200,000 foreign workers in Malaysia. The cabinet also gave its approval for the funding of 15 polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV) flights at an estimated cost of Rs1,518 crore and approved a central scheme to assist victims of terrorist violence. The committee for economic affairs has fixed the statutory minimum price for sugarcane at Rs81.18 per quintal.
Ireland’s CRH to enter India with MHIL buy
Dublin: Irish building materials group CRH Plc. will enter the Indian market after agreeing to buy 50% of cement maker My Home Industries Ltd (MHIL) for €290 million (Rs1,841 crore).
Dublin-based CRH, which has used acquisitions to grow into one of the world’s six biggest suppliers to the construction industry, said on Thursday that it expected the deal to be completed in the second quarter of 2008.
“CRH and the existing owners will jointly manage MHIL and both parties will have equal board and management representation,” it said.
MHIL’s operations consist of three cement plants at Mellacheruvu village in Andhra Pradesh and a grinding plant under construction near Vishakapatnam.
World Bank will push India into exporting rice
Dhaka: The World Bank would lobby India for the export of 400,000 tonnes of rice to Bangladesh to help it cope with the shortfall there. “We hope to go to New Delhi to take up the case of rice export with the Indian government,” World Bank managing director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said on Wednesday.
Food ministry officials said an impasse was expected to end shortly as New Delhi had decided to export rice at the previously fixed rate. Hundreds of rice-laden lorries remained stranded at the land port of Benapole as customs were yet to receive instructions.
Rs2,300 cr high-speed corridor for Chennai
Chennai: The Tamil Nadu government plans to implement a Rs2,300 crore project to ease traffic congestion on important thoroughfares in Chennai, where over 3 million vehicles ply.
A circular high-speed transportation corridor will be constructed on the banks of the Adyar river, Buckingham Canal, Cooum river and Mambalam canal and would be connected to the Chennai bypass road, state finance minister K. Anbazhagan said while presenting the state budget.
The 120 km corridor will be partly built by the National Highway Authority of India.
At $27 bn, India tops list for remittances in 2007
Washington: India received $27 billion (Rs1.09 trillion) in remittances, beating China and Mexico to become the top country for such inflows, the World Bank has said in its latest report.
The top five recipients of remittances in 2007 were India ($27 billion), China ($25.7 billion), Mexico ($25 billion), the Philippines ($17 billion), and France ($12.5 billion), according to the report titled ‘Migration and Remittances Factbook 2008’.
“In many developing countries, remittances provide a life line for the poor. They are often an essential source of foreign exchange and a stabilising force for the economy in turbulent times,” said Dilip Ratha, senior economist with the World Bank, and co-author of the report.
Rich countries are still the main source of remittances with the US leading the pack.
“The US is by far the largest, with $42 billion in recorded outward flows in 2006. Saudi Arabia ranks as the second largest, followed by Switzerland and Germany,” the factbook added.
The US was also the top immigration country in 2005, with 38.4 million immigrants, followed by the Russian Federation (12.1 million), and Germany (10.1 million).
Khattar gets founder’s award from JD Power
Mumbai:JD Power and Associates has conferred the founder’s award to Jagdish Khattar, former managing director of Maruti Suzuki India Ltd,for his services to automotive consumers in India. Under him, Maruti’s revenue from vehicle sales rose from Rs93 billlion in 1999 to Rs173 billion in March 2007.
The company’s market share for passenger cars went up from 47% to 55% in the same period. Accepting the award, Khattar said, “My thoughts were first to my people in Marurti for their tireless efforts which has brought me to many such occasions.”
GMR signs pact to expand Istanbul airport
Ankara: A consortium led by infrastructure company GMR Group, which built a new airport in Hyderabad, on Thursday signed an agreement with the Turkish government to expand an airport in Istanbul.
The consortium will be developing facilities for trebling the passenger capacity at the Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SGAI) in Istanbul with an investment of €250 million (Rs1,587.5 crore), a company release said.
“This project will increase the international exposure of the GMR Group... It will also serve as the ideal reference for entering into other European countries,” GMR international division chief executive officer Ranjit Murugason said.
Water policy to focus on long-term strategy
New Delhi: The country’s water resources policy in the near future will see irrigation, finance and water management being brought together, as the government tries to create a long-term strategy for both irrigation and water shortages.
The 2008 Budget had seen the creation of an Irrigation and Water Resources Finance Corporation with a corpus fund of Rs100 crore. The corporation, to be set up over this year, was announced for the setting up of and overseeing of major and minor irrigation projects. Union water resources minister Saifuddin Soz, speaking at a meeting of experts and policymakers on World Water Day on Thursday however implied that the corporation was being seen in a larger role.
The Centre’s new line of thinking is that integrating irrigation, water and sanitation policies would be a more scientific way to deal with projected water shortages in the future, say experts.
Surplus rail land reserve price fixed at Rs675 cr
New Delhi: The railway’s commercial development plan for surplus land is set to go under hammer in the second week of April. Sarai Rohilla in New Delhi, one of the 10 sites selected for commercial development in the first phase on a public-private partnership basis, will be handed over to a private developer on 11 April.
Eight bidders are in the race for getting about 25 acres in Sarai Rohilla, where the reserve price has been fixed at Rs675 crore for the bidding.
Besides the reserve price, the developer has to renovate 750 railway quarters near the site as part of the development agreement.
The 10 sites are located in New Delhi, Kanpur, Gwalior, Vizag, Kolkata, and Bangalore. The next bidding will be for Nirala Nagar land in Kanpur.
Paswan: reclassify steel as essential commodity
New Delhi: Peeved at steel producers repeatedly hiking prices, steel minister Ram Vilas Paswan has asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to re-classify the alloy as an essential commodity, withdrawing the duty entitlement pass book (DEPB) scheme benefits to them and constituting a regulator for the sector.
“In the three-month period since December 2007, steel prices have risen by 20 and 24%...possibilities of setting up a regulatory mechanism for steel and its inputs and re-classifying steel as an essential commodity may be considered by the government,” Paswan said in a letter to the Prime Minister.
Suggesting a series of fiscal measures against the steel producers for hiking prices despite repeated appeals, Paswan said the government should withdraw export incentives offered to them through the DEPB scheme, which if withdrawn, would hit the balance sheets of major producers by about Rs600 crore. The DEPB scheme for the steel makers is slated to end this month. The steel makers currently enjoy DEPB benefits of 5% in galvanised products, 4% in billets, 6% in TMT bars and 4% in hot rolled coils.
New Hyderabad airport to open on 23 March
Hyderabad/New Delhi: The Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (RGIA) at Shamshabad in Hyderabad, developed by GMR Hyderabad International Airport Ltd (GHIAL) would begin operations on 23 March, a week after the originally envisaged date of 16 March.
After the airport was inaugurated by Sonia Gandhi, the chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance last Friday, the ministry of civil aviation had announced operations were delayed owing to some operational reasons.
On Thursday, GHIAL announced it had received a notification from the ministry on commencing operations. The ministry had also told GHIAL that it can levy a user development fee (UDF) of upto Rs1,000 on international passengers with all taxes included but that domestic passengers should not pay UDF.
Besides, the operator has also been asked to bring in a third ground handling partner and reduce the charges “at a level being sought by Bangalore International Airport Ltd.”, a senior civil aviation official who did not wished to be quoted said.
-C.R. Sukumar/Tarun Shukla
India net liabilities at $69 bn in Sept 2007
Mumbai: India’s net external liabilities were $69 billion (Rs2.79 trillion) at the end of September 2007, down from $80 billion a quarter earlier, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) data showed. The assets of Asia’s third biggest economy stood at $302 billion, with reserve assets of $247 billion and direct investments of $35 billion accounting for the bulk, RBI said in a report on its website. Liabilities stood at $371 billion at end-September, with portfolio investments and direct investments amounting to $202 billion, over 54% of total liabilities.
The share of non-debt liabilities to total external liabilities increased to 49% at end-September 2007 from 47.6% at end-June due to inflows under portfolio and direct investments, the central bank said.
Five SEZ proposals get formal go-ahead
New Delhi: The Board of Approval (BoA) for special economic zones (SEZs) has granted formal approval to five SEZ proposals and in-principle nod to another SEZ. Chaired by commerce secretary G.K. Pillai, the meeting considered nine proposals in all.
Among the proposals cleared is the IT/ITeS SEZ in Kerala by Smart City (Kochi) Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. Other approvals went to IT/ITeS SEZs by Brigade Enterprises Pvt. Ltd (in Karnataka), Wellgrow Buildcon Pvt. Ltd. (in Haryana), Sunwise Properties Pvt. Ltd (in Haryana) and a Biotech SEZ in Andhra Pradesh by Vivo Bio Tech Ltd. The in-principle approval was given to engineering SEZ in Maharashtra.
Coal India will invest Rs1,500 cr in washeries
Kolkata: To ensure supply of washed coal to customers, state-owned Coal India Ltd would make a capital expenditure of Rs1,500 crore to set up 28 washeries in its subsidiaries in the 11th Plan. “CIL has decided to set up 28 washeries in the first phase which together will have a capacity of 97 million tonnes. It would require an investment of Rs 1,500 crore,” chairman Partha S. Bhattacharyya said.