Kolkata: West Bengal’s finance minister Asim Dasgupta announced his government would set up a retail chain with a capital outlay of Rs400 crore to take on private players in large format retail. In his budget statement for 2008-09, Dasgupta said West Bengal would contribute Rs100 crore to the equity capital of a corporation that would “procure and supply commodities at a fair price.”
The proposed corporation would borrow up to Rs300 crore and set up retail outlets across the state. “It is our answer to large format retail,” Dasgupta said addressing a press conference. “The aim is to eliminate middlemen, and make food grains available to the common man at fair price.”
The proposed corporation would source stuff through self-help groups. There are 734,000 self-help groups in West Bengal with a total membership of about seven million people. To empower them, Dasgupta also announced a Rs30 crore increase in plan outlay for the department that oversees self employment and self help groups. In 2008-09, it would receive Rs60 crore.
The proposed corporation will sell through its own retail outlets and to the public distribution system. But it will not sell to private players such as Reliance Fresh and Spencer’s, which are looking to source stuff from farmers directly.
Reliance Capital to offer quant fund in April
Mumbai:Reliance Capital Asset Management Ltd will convert its index fund into a quant fund with effect from 18 April, the firm said in a notice on Monday. Reliance Index Fund will give way to Reliance Quant Plus Fund that will invest at least 90% of the assets in an actively managed portfolio of 11 to 15 stocks from S&P CNX Nifty index on the basis of a mathematical model.
The model will shortlist stocks on the basis of stock price movement and financial/valuation aspects, the fund house said. Those not willing to accept changes can redeem units without paying any exit load from 18 March to 17 April, it added.
Kandha tribe sacrifices animals to stop mining
Bhubaneswar: An ancient Indian tribe opposed to an alumina refinery by Britain’s Vedanta Resources has sacrificed dozens of chickens and goats in the hope their gods will prevent the firm’s mining plans.
Vedanta wants to dig open-cast mines in the Niyamgiri hills in Orissa state to feed an alumina refinery it has already built in the area. It is spending $800 million (Rs3,264 crore) on the project. But the local Kandha tribe says the mine will destroy hills they consider sacred, force them from their homes and destroy their forest-dependent livelihoods. After protests, the Supreme Court barred Vedanta in November from mining bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills.
Signet Solar to invest Rs2,000 cr in panels
Bangalore: A US maker of solar cells, Signet Solar Inc., said it will invest Rs2,000 crore in a factory near Chennai to produce solar panels that could generate 300MW of electricity, the first of three it has planned in India over the next decade.
The technology and manufacturing knowhow will be transferred from Signet’s German operations. Signet Solar is setting its second unit after one in Germany, due to incentives for solar cell manufacturing in India and strong emerging demand for solar energy in the local market, it said in a statement.
Leading law firm inducts 10 more partners
Mumbai: Law firm Amarchand and Mangaldas and Suresh A. Shroff and Co. said it has inducted 10 new partners. With these inductions, the firm would have more than 430 legal professionals, including 40 partners. The firm said Akila Agarwal, V.P. Singh and Amit Kumar have been admitted as partners at its Delhi office, while Yash Ashar, Nivedita Rao, Santosh Janakiram and Amey Pathak have joined in Mumbai. Arjun Lall and Reeba Chacko have been inducted as partners in Bangalore, and Karthik Mahalingam is a partner at Amarchand Mangaldas’ Hyderabad office.
Tech Mahindra in service deal with UK phone firm
Mumbai: Indian software maker Tech Mahindra Ltd, partly owned by BT Group Plc., said it agreed to provide maintenance and support services to the UK’s largest phone company for $350 million (Rs1,428 crore). The Pune-based firm will provide the services over five years, Tech Mahindra said in a statement to the Bombay Stock Exchange.
Osian’s to sell 9% stake to private equity firm
New Delhi: The country’s leading archive and auction house Osian’s Connoisseurs of Art Pvt. Ltd on Monday said it has agreed to sell 9.4% stake to private equity (PE) firm Abraaj Capital Holdings Ltd for Rs80 crore. Abraaj Capital specialises in PE investment in West Asia, North Africa and South Asia. “Abraaj’s partnership will further facilitate the expansion of Osian’s while providing Abraaj with an ideal growth opportunity in the fast growing art and culture sphere,” Osian’s founder chairman and CEO, Neville Tuli, said in a statement. Vice-chairman and group CEO of Abraaj, Arif Masood Naqvi, will join Osian’s board, the statement said.
Unwanted callers face up to Rs20,000 fine
New Delhi: Taking a tough stand against the menace of unwanted calls on phones, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Monday said it will impose a fine of up to Rs20,000 on service providers for non-compliance of its directive regarding unsolicited tele-marketing calls and messages.
Trai has amended the Telecom Unsolicited Commercial Communications (UCC) (Amendment) Regulations, 2008, under which if any telecom service provider does not comply with provisions of the Regulations he would be fined up to Rs5,000 for the first instance and not more than Rs20,000 for every subsequent instance, Trai said in a statement.
It will also levy a tariff of Rs500 on the registered telemarketer for the first unsolicited call and Rs1,000 for the second or any subsequent unsolicited call. To discourage the registered telemarketers from sending UCC, the Telecommunication Tariff Order (TTO), 1999 is also being amended simultaneously by the TTO (47th Amendment).
This regulation would come into force from the date of its publication in the gazette notification, Trai said.
UK immigration law may hurt IT exports: Nath
London: Britain’s new points-based immigration system may become a “retrograde step” as it prevents India and other developing countries from exporting information technology (IT) systems and personnel to the country, commerce minister Kamal Nath said.
“The new regime can make it harder for software and other IT executives to travel back and forth between India and the UK, imperilling their ability to fulfil service contracts,” Nath told the ‘Financial Times’. “We are not asking for more permanent immigration... (but) people coming in for a month or so to integrate software systems,” he said.
He pointed out that software firms that could send executives or technical experts into the UK for short periods would be unable to service warranties or sell new systems that would require on-the-spot maintenance in the future.
Under the old immigration regime, there was special provision for the temporary movement of workers to fulfil commitments under international trade deals. Such liberalization is one of India’s demands in international trade talks, such as the bilateral deal it is negotiating with the European Union.
Cairn to raise $625 mn via private placement
Mumbai:Cairn India Ltd, a unit of UK explorer Cairn Energy Plc., said on Monday it plans to raise $625 million (Rs2,550 crore) via private placement of shares.
The firm’s board approved issuing 113 million shares or a 5.97% stake at Rs224.3 a share to Petronas International Corp. Ltd and Orient Global Tamarind Fund, it said in a statement.
The founder group’s shareholding in the firm will rise to 64.86%, it said. Cairn India shares lost 6.22% to close at Rs214.2 on the Bombay Stock Exchange.
India mobile users to reach 500 mn by 2010
Singapore: India, the world’s fastest growing mobile phone market, will double its number of subscribers to 500 million by 2010, said telecommunications secretary Siddhartha Behura.
The government plans to allow subscribers to retain their phone numbers when changing service providers from this year, Behura said at the India-Asia Investment Forum in Singapore on Monday.
Record subscriber additions are crowding the airwaves, prompting companies including Bharti Airtel Ltd to seek more spectrum. The airwaves are controlled by the country’s army, which is in talks with the government about allocating capacity.
India last year added 84 million mobile phone subscribers to end with 233.6 million, according to data from the regulator. The nation gained 8.77 million customers in January.
China authorizes coal exports of 31.8 mt in ’08
Shanghia: China, the world’s largest coal producer, authorized coal exports of 31.8 million tonnes (mt) this year in the “first batch” of approvals for shipments of the commodity. The country’s top economic planner, the Beijing-based National Development and Reform Commission, announced the quota on its website.
Chairman Jing Tianliang of China Coal Energy Co. Ltd, the country’s second largest coal miner, said last week the export quota for the fuel this year should exceed 53 mt. China cut the quota to 53 mt from last year’s 70 mt to increase domestic supplies, ‘Reuters’ said on 12 March, citing people it didn’t name.
Sebi says Reits to come after currency futures
Singapore: The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) said on Monday that it was looking at the introduction of real estate investment trusts (Reits), but this will come only after other financial market liberalization moves.
“We have received comments from market players. I would say that in the timetable, that will be later than the stock lending scheme and currency futures,” Sebi chairman C.B. Bhave told an investment conference in Singapore via teleconference.
Sebi in December released draft guidelines on setting up Reits in India, which would pave the way for wider participation by retail investors in the country’s booming real estate sector.
Cummins India predicts profit growth will slow
Mumbai: The local arm of the US diesel-engine maker, Cummins India Ltd, predicted profit will gain at a slower pace in the next financial year as raw material costs increase and the rupee climbs higher against the dollar.
Profit growth may slow to about 15% in the year starting 1 April from an estimated 20% this year, chairman Anant Talaulicar said. Cummins India may increase the prices of its diesel and natural gas engines to offset costs, he said, without mentioning a timeframe.
“Iron, steel, aluminium, copper, you name it, all have gone up,” Talulicar said in an interview in Mumbai on 14 March. “The strengthening of the rupee against the dollar has hurt our margin, no question about that.”
Cummins India, which earns about 30% of its revenue from overseas, plans to raise product prices and improve efficiencies, Talaulicar said. He declined to quantify the price increase.
ICICI Bank, insurance arm under MRTPC scan
New Delhi: The country’s biggest private sector lender ICICI Bank Ltd and its insurance arm ICICI Lombard General Insurance Co. Ltd have come under the scanner of the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission or MRTPC for imposing “unfair and unjust” conditions on insurance cover for its credit card customers.
Admitting a report of its investigative unit Director General of Investigations and Registration (DGIR), MRTPC has issued ‘notice of enquiry’ against the two companies.
The two firms have been asked to file their replies within four weeks. The notice was issued on 11 March. But an ICICI spokesperson denied the development. “ICICI Bank is yet to receive any notice and as when we get it, the bank would reply appropriately,” the spokesperson said.
In its report, DGIR said certain terms and conditions related to an insurance cover for its credit card customers were not conveyed to the customers while issuing the card and they were only mentioned in the ‘welcome kit booklet’ sent to them.