Over half of Bangalore residents using the existing airport believe shutting HAL Airport will adversely affect them and the government should keep the airport open even if it involves applying penalties, according to a survey by market research firm Feedback Consulting Services Pvt. Ltd. Conducted amongst 1148 people at the airport premises through the last week of February, the survey found one in five people sought closure of the airport, while four out of five wanted ways to keep it open. One in two were willing to pay the penalty involved in keeping it open to save time.
Failure to curb bird flu raising pandemic risk
Jakarta: Efforts to contain bird flu are failing in Indonesia, increasing the possibility that the virus may mutate into a deadlier form, the leading UN veterinary health body warned.
The H5N1 bird flu virus is entrenched in 31 of the country’s 33 provinces and will cause more human deaths, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a statement released late on Tuesday.
“I am deeply concerned that the high level of virus circulation in birds in the country could create conditions for the virus to mutate and to finally cause a human influenza pandemic,” FAO chief veterinary officer Joseph Domenech said. The H5N1 virus has killed 236 people in a dozen countries since it first appeared in Asia in 2003.
FAO’s warning comes amid a flurry of bird flu outbreaks across the region. Chinese officials announced earlier this week the H5N1 virus was responsible for killing birds in poultry markets in Guangzhou. India last week confirmed a fresh poultry outbreak near Kolkata. The country has been battling the virus since January, resulting in the death or slaughter of some 4 million birds.
IL&FS arm acquires Elsamex of Spain
Mumbai:Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Ltd (IL&FS) said on Wednesday its unit IL&FS Transportation Networks Ltd (ITNL) has acquired Elsamex SA of Spain, a road maintenance operation and management of road systems company, for €50 million (Rs317.5 crore).
Funds allowed to short sell from 21 April
Mumbai: India’s market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India or Sebi, said on Wednesday that it will allow short selling of shares by all institutional investors from 21 April.
It will also introduce a scheme for lending and borrowing securities from the same day, Sebi said. Currently, only individual retail investors are allowed to short sell, or sell shares that they do not hold but expect to buy later. Sebi had proposed the two measures in December.
New draft on expanding Security Council rejected
New York: A draft text on the expansion of the UN Security Council was rejected by most of the 50 countries who discussed the proposals, with India saying the paper did not have an “unambiguous” formulation for expansion of the group’s permanent membership. During a closed-door meeting here on Tuesday night, several developed and developing countries as also small island states said the proposals were unacceptable as a basis for jump-starting negotiations on the thorny issue as they did not include all viewpoints, diplomats said. India pointed out the paper does not have the core elements of the position of the Group of Four (G-4) comprising India, Japan, Germany and Brazil or have a “categorical and unambiguous” formulation on expanding the council, diplomats said.
Deccan Gold Mines to begin production in ’10
Mumbai:Deccan Gold Mines Ltd expects to start gold production by the end of 2010 and thinks the new mines policy is likely to help the company speed up its exploration activity, a company official said on Wednesday.
“There has been a lack of adequate exploration in India because of regulatory issues,” Sandeep Lakhwara, managing director of Deccan Gold said.
The mining policy approved last week could ease investment by foreign and domestic companies in the mining sector. Deccan Gold, along with its associate mining companies, is awaiting the government’s nod for 70 prospecting licences, 30 of which are for gold prospecting. It believes a target of 4 tonnes of gold production a year would be “feasible,” Lakhwara said.
Cairn will seek investors nod to raise Rs2,535 cr
Mumbai: On Wednesday, Cairn India Ltd said it will seek shareholders approval for raising Rs2,534.6 crore through preferential allotment of shares to companies, including Petronas of Malaysia, for funding its capital expenditure. The extraordinary general meeting would be held on 16 April to seek shareholders nod for the same, the company said in a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE). Earlier, the board of directors had approved the allotment of up to 11.30 crore shares at Rs224.30 apiece to Petronas International Corp. Ltd and Orient Global Tamarind Fund Pte. Ltd. Petronas has raised its stake in Cairn to 12.7% from the 9.93% it currently holds. Shares of Cairn closed at Rs222.40, up 1.09% on the BSE.
Aban Offshore wins rig deployment order
Mumbai: Global drilling services provider Aban Offshore Ltd on Wednesday said it has won an order for the deployment of a rig in West Asia for $300 million (Rs1,215 crore). The company has received a letter of intent for deploying the rig, Aban VIII for a 18 wells plus four optional wells programme, Aban Offshore informed the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE).
Shares of the firm closed at Rs3,145.40, down 2.76% on BSE.
$600 mn World Bank loan for Power Grid
Washington: The World Bank has approved a $600 million (Rs2,430 crore) loan to the state-run power transmission company, Power Grid Corp. of India, to strengthen its electricity transmission system. Announcing the loan backed by government guarantee, the bank said in a statement that the fourth power system development project (PSDP IV) would aim to reduce transmission losses and cut the cost of energy through further investments.
The project is part of the bank’s long term partnership with Power Grid, initiated when the firm was formed in 1989. The bank has made three direct loans to Power Grid since 1993. During this period, the company has nearly tripled its transmission network, its assets have grown more than eightfold to $ 7.3 billion and revenues have increased more than six times to over $ 1 billion, it said in a statement.
“India’s policy reforms in the power sector are beginning to pay off,” World Bank country director (India) Isabel Guerrero said.
Donkupar Roy sworn in as Meghalaya CM
Shillong: Donkupar Roy was on Wednesday sworn in as the chief minister of Meghalaya along with a six-member team after D.D. Lapang quit office after a 10-day stint due to lack of numbers.
Roy, who will head the Meghalaya Progressive Alliance government, and his cabinet colleagues were administered the oath of office by Governor S.S. Sidhu in the evening.
The six ministers are Conrad Sangma (NCP), Advisor Parong (HSPDP), Paul Lyngdoh (KHNAM), A.L. Hek (BJP) and Independents Donkupar Massar and Manas Chowdhury.
Five more ministers, whose names were not disclosed, would be sworn in on Thursday.
Dow Jones to distribute AFP news, AP loses out
New York:Dow Jones and Co. has said it has struck a deal with Agence France-Presse (AFP) to distribute news from the Paris-based agency through its Dow Jones Newswires unit, replacing a partnership with The Associated Press.
Dow Jones Newswires will also expand its global editorial staff as part of a broader investment in financial news, the company said. Last week Dow Jones acquired Betten Financial News, a Dutch financial news provider.
Under the agreement, Dow Jones Newswires, a real-time provider of financial and economic news, will distribute general-interest and political news from AFP. Dow Jones and AP had shared news stories, and in about 30 locations overseas reporters from both organizations shared office space, Dow Jones Newswires spokeswoman Diane Thieke said on Tuesday.
AP’s chief revenue officer Tom Brettingen said in a statement that AP did not believe it was being adequately compensated for the use of its news on Dow Jones Newswires.
Dow Jones is owned by News Corp., which publishes ‘The Wall Street Journal’. WSJ has an exclusive content partnership in India with ‘Mint’.
Infrastructure sectors grew 4.2% in January
New Delhi: Poor performance in almost all core areas of the infrastructure sector, including crude oil, power, cement and coal has led to a steep fall in six core infrastructure industries to 4.2% in January, against 8.3% in the corresponding period last year.
During April-January 2007-08, the growth rate of these industries declined to 5.5% against 8.9% in the year-ago period.
According to data released on Wednesday, crude oil production registered a negative growth of 0.2% in January, compared with 4.7% last year.
Growth in coal production also declined to 4. 8% against 9.9%.
Meanwhile, the electricity sector witnessed a growth of 3.3% in January, against 8.3% and cement sector registered a growth of 5.2% compared with 7.2%.
Aptech to unlock value in Chinese venture
Mumbai: Learning solutions firm Aptech Ltd along with its Chinese partner will float a joint venture company in which the domestic firm will hold a 22% stake, a move that it said aims to benefit shareholders.
The board believes that Aptech and its shareholders will benefit from the transactions as contemplated by the framework agreement that was outlined by its Chinese JV partner, Aptech said in a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE). As per the agreement, Aptech along with its Chinese partner would have full alignment of equity interest in a holding company to be incorporated outside China. Upon completion of transactions, Aptech would receive 22% of the outstanding shares in the holding company and, in exchange, the holding company would receive the 50% equity interest in the China JV that Aptech presently owns.
“The 22% outstanding shares of the holding company as of the transaction completion date will represent a better equity value than the 50% equity interest in the China JV that Aptech presently owns,” it added.
Aptech had a 50:50 JV in China since 1999. Shares of Aptech closed Rs167.30, down 4.02% on Bombay Stock Exchange.
L&T may seek to convert $200 mn debt to rupee
Mumbai: India’s biggest engineering company Larsen and Toubro Ltd (L&T) may seek to convert as much as $200 million (Rs810 crore) of its debt into rupees to negate currency risk.
L&T, which repaid $200 million of yen loans by borrowing in dollars in September, is seeking to lower its foreign exchange exposure after one of its subsidiaries incurred commodity hedging losses, Yeshwant Deosthalee, chief financial officer of the company said.
The rupee is Asia’s second worst performing currency against the dollar this year after posting its biggest rally in more than three decades in 2007, making it harder for exporters and companies with overseas sales to make accurate forecasts.
“We are trying to come out of dollars and see whether we can get a good rate and lock in rupees,” Deosthalee said in a phone interview.
The rupee closed 40.42/43 per dollar, up from the previous close of 40.51/52 on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve cut its main lending rate by three-quarters of a percentage point in a bid to prop up the faltering US economy and restore faith in the financial system.
L&T rose Rs75.05, or 2.72%, to close at Rs2,839 on the Bombay Stock Exchange.
Tata outlook raised on bridge loan repayment
Mumbai: India’s largest steel maker Tata Steel Ltd had its outlook raised by Moody’s Investors Service after the company repaid $3.1 billion (Rs 12,555 crore) of bridge loans used to fund its takeover of UK’s Corus Group Plc. Moody’s raised its outlook on the company’s debt rating to “stable” from “negative,” it said on Wednesday in a statement.
Sarabjit’s execution stayed till 30 April
New Delhi: Indian national Sarabjit Singh, on death row in Pakistan, on Wednesday got a reprieve as his execution was stayed till 30 April.
Giving this information in the Lok Sabha, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee said, “Government of India is continuing its efforts to save the life of Sarabjit Singh.”
Mukherjee said the Indian high commission in Islamabad has been informed by the Pakistan foreign office that President Pervez Musharraf has stayed the execution of Sarabjit Singh by a month, till 30 April.
Sarabjit, who has been accused of involvement in bomb blasts, was to be hanged on 1 April.