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Need to Know | Gugnani to head Reliance Cap global biz

Need to Know | Gugnani to head Reliance Cap global biz

Mumbai: Reliance Capital Ltd has appointed Vikrant Gugnani as chief executive of its international business arm, the firm said in a statement to the Bombay Stock Exchange on Tuesday.

Sundeep Sikka will take over Gugnani’s current role as head of the mutual fund unit of the financial services firm.

The change comes into effect from 1 January.



Fiat India postpones launch of Linea to Jan

Mumbai: The Indian unit of Italy’s Fiat SpA has deferred the launch of its mid-sized Linea sedan to January from December, the company said on Tuesday.

The company attributed the delay in launch to the attacks in Mumbai last month, in which at least 183 people were killed during a three-day siege in the country’s financial capital.

“We do not feel like celebrating the joy of Linea now," the company said in a statement.

Fiat India Automobiles Ltd started the production of the Linea in November and was to have launched it this month.



Bosch to expand biz operations in India

Chennai: The world’s leading manufacturer of automotive components and leader in industrial technology, Bosch Ltd on Tuesday announced that it would expand its business operations in India by opening more than 100 exclusive Bosch System Speciality Showrooms (BSS), a new concept in the power tools market, across the country in the next two years.

“The shortlisted authorized dealers would be investing from Rs5-30 lakh for the BSS exclusive outlets depending upon the showroom size," Bosch power tools division country head Vijay Pandey said.

Pandey said the company would authorize select dealers from their list to set up BSS. “We are in the process of selecting dealers from our list. The selection process is based on stringent rules and regulations, which will be imposed on them for setting up the showrooms, on par with international standards," he added.

However, the firm is temporarily shutting the manufacturing of starters and generators at its Naganathapura facility off Bangalore, to adjust production and avoid inventory build-up following slowing demand.

These hangars will be closed from 19 December to 31 December, the company said in a statement to the Bombay Stock Exchange.

—PTI & Staff Writer


Sinosteel’s India iron ore purchases decline

Mumbai: Sinosteel Corp., China’s second biggest iron ore trading company, said its imports from India declined by a third this year as stockpiles of the steel making material remained unsold because of waning demand.

Indian purchases by Sinosteel fell to 8 million tonnes (mt) from 12mt last year, Wang Hongsen, managing director at Sinosteel’s Indian unit, said on Tuesday in a telephone interview from New Delhi.

Globally, demand has come down sharply, said Wang, who expects demand to remain weak in the short term.

China, which consumes almost two-thirds of India’s iron ore exports, has 220mt of stocks, with 90mt at ports, 30mt with steel makers and 100mt held by traders, minister of industry and information Li Yizhong said on 12 December.



Colgate Palmolive buys 25 % stake in SS Oral

New Delhi: Consumer goods maker Colgate Palmolive India Ltd has bought a 25% stake in Hyderabad-based SS Oral Hygiene Products Pvt. Ltd for Rs77.7 lakh. Consequently, SS Oral would be merged with parent company.

“Colgate Palmolive has acquired the remaining 25% share capital from the local shareholders at an aggregate price of Rs77,70,000," the company said in a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange. “The board of directors considered and approved a scheme of amalgamation which provides for the merger."

Last year, the company had acquired 75 % stake in SS Oral Hygiene, a toothpaste manufacturer, for an undisclosed amount.

The entire equity share capital of SS Oral is held by Colgate Palmolive and therefore, upon the scheme becoming effective, the entire equity share capital of SS Oral will stand automatically cancelled and there will be no issue and allotment of shares pursuant to the scheme, according to the filing.

The scheme of amalgamation is, among other things, subject to the necessary approvals under the Companies Act, 1956, and the high court of Andhra Pradesh, it added. Colgate Palmolive manufactures and markets prominent brands for personal care and oral care.

—Staff Writer


States want additional Rs20,000 cr aid in FY09

New Delhi: Close on the heels of the stimulus package announced by the government, states have asked for an additional assistance of 20,000 crore from the Centre to boost infrastructure and social sectors, besides more freedom to borrow from the market.

“We are soon going to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is also the finance minister with these issues," chairman of empowered committee of state finance ministers Asim Dasgupta said after a meeting here on Tuesday.

Pointing out that the revenue of the states from value-added tax (VAT) fell 19.9% in November, he said, states would need additional resources to step up funding in basic infrastructure such as irrigation and social sectors.

He said that states’ VAT revenues, which were showing an increase of 24% till October, fell by about 20% in November.



Centre accepts 70% pay hike for teachers

New Delhi: In line with the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations for Central government employees, the Union government has accepted the G.K. Chadha Committee report recommending a 70% hike in pay scales of teachers.

Other recommendations in the report include a uniform retirement age of 65, opportunities for re-employment up to 70 years, flexibility to accommodate talent through incentives, and one-time grants for research for teachers in Central, state and deemed universities.

The recommendations, approved by cabinet on Monday, and which are being seen as a quantum jump for teachers’ pay and working conditions, has been revised from the original draft submitted to the human resource development ministry with the recommendations on evaluation of teachers omitted, an official related to the developments said. "The original draft was strict on non-performing teachers and suggested errant teachers be assessed by a selection committee and students every year. It also asked the teachers’ appraisal reports to be used as a reference at the time of promotions. However, the approved report doesn’t include these," the official said.

With the approval to the report, assistant professors have now been placed in the pay band of 5,600-39,100 entering at the academic grade pay of 6,000. Associate professors have been placed in the pay band of 37,400-67,000 with grade pay of ,000.

At the entry level, the recommendations aims to attract talented young people hoping to get into the teaching profession. Among other things, it includes advance increment, enhanced research grants and facilities for housing and research.

To address the issues of stagnation, the recommendations make way for an incumbent to move to the next pay band without any change in the grade pay after reaching the top of the scale in the existing pay band.

To boost research and consultancy projects, the panel also encourages teachers in universities and colleges to accept consultancy, directing projects, registering patents, R&D products and technology transfers.

—Pallavi Singh


India expects 10% power through atomic energy

New Delhi: India, Asia’s third biggest economy, expects nuclear power to generate as much as 10% of its electricity by 2030 to meet rising energy requirements.

India has the capacity to scale up its nuclear generation targets in a “dramatic manner" based on the reactors it plans to set up after completing negotiations with overseas suppliers, Shyam Saran, special envoy to the Prime Minister, said on Tuesday.

India aims to add 40,000MW of nuclear capacity by 2020 after a 30-year international ban on nuclear trade with it was lifted in September. Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd, the monopoly atomic energy generator, has said it plans to buy equipment from General Electric Co., Areva SA, Rosatom Corp. and Toshiba Corp.

“If we take the more optimistic scenario, then we estimate by 2030 we should have 60,000MW of nuclear energy generated electricity possibly in place," Saran said in New Delhi. “This will be 8% or maybe 10% of total energy requirements."

India needs nuclear technology and fuel to add electricity generating capacity and help cut peak power shortages that may widen to 18.1% in the year to March as demand outstrips supply.



India curbs LNG buying, switches to naphtha

Singapore: Indian buyers have brought Asia’s already-slow spot market for liquefied natural gas (LNG) to a virtual halt as they switch to naphtha, an alternative fuel that has tumbled in price in line with oil. And with India’s own gas supply set to rise sharply from next year and its LNG terminals looking to secure more longer-term contracts rather than spot material, LNG is not fighting an easy battle in India.

Aggressive Indian spot bids and expectations of rising demand from the growing economy helped boost Asian LNG prices to prices above $20 (Rs956 today) per million British thermal units (mBtu) earlier this year, a hefty premium over prices in other regions.

But following 36% demand growth from 2006 to 2007—which led India to overtake Taiwan as Asia’s third largest LNG buyer—its imports this year are expected to stagnate, according to consultants Waterborne.



Bhel to make nuclear equipment with partner

New Delhi: The country’s biggest power equipment maker, Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (Bhel) is seeking an overseas partner for its venture to help make conventional equipment for nuclear plants.

A decision on the partner will be taken by March, K. Ravi Kumar, chairman and managing director of Bhel, said in New Delhi on Tuesday.



ONGC loses at least Rs1,570 cr in gas sales

New Delhi: The country’s largest oil and gas producer, Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd (ONGC), lost at least Rs1,570 crore in revenues on sale of natural gas at a price lower than its cost of production during 2007-08.

ONGC produces more than 40% of total production of natural gas in the country. Of the 32.405 billion cu. m (bcm) of gas produced in 2007-08, 22.334 bcm was produced by ONGC.

“ONGC is having economic loss in gas business. In 2007-08 ONGC made (loss) of Rs1,570.76 crore from gas business," minister of state for petroleum and natural gas Dinsha Patel said in a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha here on Tuesday.



No shortage of domestic LPG, says government

New Delhi: The government on Tuesday said there is no overall shortage of domestic liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in the country and state-run companies are giving new gas connections “as soon as possible".

“Public sector oil marketing companies have not stopped release of new LPG connections. New LPG connections are made available as soon as possible and in any case, within a period of 60 days," minister of state for petroleum and natural gas Dinsha Patel said in a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha here.

At present, new LPG connections were available for “genuine" domestic customers and as on 1 November there were 103.7 million LPG customers in the country, Patel said.



India confirms new outbreak of bird flu

Kolkata: Authorities on Tuesday confirmed a fresh outbreak of bird flu after thousands of chickens were found dead even as the state struggled to bring the virus under control.

Laboratory tests have confirmed that the birds in West Bengal died of the infection, secretary of animal resources development department Dilip Chakraborty said. Culling would begin on Wednesday, the government said.

Health authorities in the state had to kill five million poultry to control the virus earlier this year when India battled its worst bird flu outbreak. The virus spread to 14 of the 19 districts. However, no human case was reported.



Hasan Ali case: ED seeks extension of custody

Mumbai: The enforcement directorate (ED), which deals with Foreign Exchange Management Act (Fema) violations, will move the Bombay high court on 18 December seeking an extension to the judicial custody of Pune stud-farm owner Hasan Ali Khan to probe his alleged involvement in laundering $8 billion (Rs33,920 crore).

Khan, who was arrested on Monday for allegedly holding three fake passports, has been remanded in custody till 19 December.

In April, a Mumbai court had declared Khan a proclaimed offender after he failed to turn up for hearing in the fake passport case.

A senior ED official, who did not want to be named, said the department has started interrogating Khan about his Swiss bank accounts and the transfer of $300 million to him through a Chase Manhattan Bank account in New York, from billionaire Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi.

—Khushboo Narayan


Suzlon revises schedule to raise REpower stake

Mumbai/Lisbon: Suzlon Energy Ltd, said on Tuesday it has agreed with Portugal’s Martifer SGPS SA to revise the payment schedule to increase its stake in Germany’s REpower Systems AG. Martifer is selling its 22.4% stake in Repower to Suzlon.

Under the revised terms, Suzlon will pay €65 million (about Rs425.75 crore) in December, €30 million in April and €175 million in May to increase its stake to 91% in the German firm, it said in a statement. There have been doubts about the timing of Suzlon’s purchase of REpower after the Indian turbine maker and Martifer said in November they were negotiating the schedule for the purchase, which is covered by an international bank guarantee.

Martifer said that until the final payment by Suzlon in May it would “benefit from the bank guarantee covering Suzlon’s obligations."



China, Merrill’s buy, is a sell at Citigroup

Kuala Lumpur: China’s stocks are a sell, Citigroup Inc. said, a week after Merrill Lynch and Co. Inc. picked Asia’s second worst performer of 2008 as its top emerging market prospect for next year.

China is among the two least favoured in Asia for 2009 on concern earnings will falter, Citigroup said on Tuesday. Merrill said on 10 December the nation’s stocks are cheap and the country will make up 80% of world growth. The country’s stock markets have probably bottomed, JPMorgan Chase and Co. said on 8 December.

China’s CSI 300 Index, the benchmark gauge of companies traded in Shanghai and Shenzhen, has tumbled 64% this year, halting a run that drove the measure up more than seven-fold over the previous two years. Citigroup’s report reflects a growing divide on whether government stimulus measures are enough to stem a slump in the world’s fourth largest economy and revive shares in 2009.



Plea to suspend tax on securities transaction

New Delhi: Faced with increased volatility and dwindling volumes on bourses, stock brokers are suggesting suspension of the securities transaction tax (STT), the collection for which has shrunk by more than 15% during the first eight months of the current fiscal year.

“The government should at least suspend securities transaction tax for a year. This will encourage market participants to take their position aggressively. The sentiment of the market will improve as the volume will increase," Bonanza Portfolio Ltd president research P.K. Agarwal said.

The STT, levied on share transactions at 0.125% of the total value, declined to Rs4,156 crore during April-November 2008, down 15.42% during the corresponding period last year, mainly on account of reduced capitalization in the India securities market.



Deccan Chronicle board approves buy-back

Mumbai: Deccan Chronicle Holdings Ltd on Tuesday surged as much as 16% on the bourses after its board approved the Rs180 crore share buy-back proposal. Its board has approved the buying back of 3.50 crore shares from the open market at Rs100 a piece, the firm said in a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE). Shares surged 16.02% to a high of Rs59.75. The buy-back price represents 14.29% of the paid up capital, it said. However, the promoter holding in the firm would not exceed 75% of the paid up capital post buy-back, it added. Deccan Chronicle Holdings closed at Rs55.40, up 7.57% on the BSE.



Citi sees India M&As led by restructuring

Mumbai: Citigroup sees the restructuring of struggling firms and inbound acquisitions leading Indian merger and acquisitions (M&A) deals in 2009 as slowing growth and tight credit temper overseas ambitions, a senior official said. Restructuring opportunities would include the sale of stakes or non-core operations and private placements as debt-laden companies try to raise capital, Sameer Nath, Citigroup’s head of M&A in India, said on Tuesday.

“We are observing an increased number of restructuring situations. In many of these situations, M&A could be a creative solution to help companies that are over-leveraged," he said.

Many real estate, retail, manufacturing and metals, and mining firms are ripe for restructuring, Nath said.



Praful Patel asks states to lower tax on ATF

New Delhi: The Centre has asked state governments to lower local tax on aviation turbine fuel (ATF) to reduce operating costs of airlines, civil aviation minister Praful Patel said on Tuesday.

Replying to supplementaries during question hour in Rajya Sabha, he said sales tax varies from 4-32% that has a cascading affect on fuel price.

Patel defended the government’s move to ask public sector oil companies to give grace time to private airlines Jet Airways and Kingfisher to clear fuel bills and repay amounts defaulted in instalments. “The measure taken is to support a sector...no incentive has to be given to any particular airline," he said adding, the government had not given any bailout package to the loss-making carriers.

Soaring of international crude oil prices to an all-time high of $147 (Rs7,026.6) per barrel also led to a steep rise in ATF prices, putting enormous burden on airlines which were also faced with negative passenger growth due to global economic slowdown. Patel hoped that airlines would cut fare now that ATF prices have fallen seven times in the past three months.



‘BJP’s fall in Rajasthan, Delhi a hit-wicket’

New Delhi: A day after India pulled off a sensational test victory over England, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani on Tuesday sought to describe political events in cricket parlance saying his party suffered a “hit wicket" in Rajasthan and Delhi where the Congress had no capable “bowlers" to strike.

“No bowler in Congress is capable of bowling out BJP. The possibility is only of a hit-wicket like it happened in some states in the assembly polls," Advani told a meeting of the BJP parliamentary party meeting here.

Advani, the party’s prime ministerial candidate, also asked leaders and cadres to focus on corruption under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime along with issues of terrorism and price rise in the run-up to Lok Sabha elections.

The senior leader said the BJP failure in Delhi was primarily due to “selection of wrong candidates" while it was “internal contradictions" in Rajasthan.

“Although terrorism and price rise would remain an issue, there is also a need to take to the people the issues of corruption under the UPA regime and more specifically the cash-for-vote scam," he said.

Touching upon the victory in Madhya Pradesh where the BJP was voted to power for the second time, Advani asked party leaders to take lessons from it.

Today’s meeting also gave a farewell to deputy leader in Lok Sabha V.K. Malhotra, who resigned from the Lower House, after being elected to Delhi assembly.

Six other party members of Parliament, who were elected to different assemblies, also put in their papers on Tuesday.



Select foreign courses may be recognized

New Delhi: Acknowledging the huge issue of manpower shortage in the medical sector, Union minister for health and family welfare Anbumani Ramadoss on Tuesday announced that the ministry was in the process of recognizing postgraduate degrees from English speaking countries such as the US, the UK, Canada and Australia, besides also doubling the PG pass-out number which currently stands at 12,000.

The move could create a larger pool of medical manpower for the health care industry that currently faces a huge crunch in availability of medical and para-medical staff. Ramadoss also highlighted that the ministry is working on bringing in parity in the courses of the Diplomate of National Board and Medical Council of India (MCI), changing the MCI regulations in terms of land requirement of 25 acres at two places within a distance of 15km.

Another policy initiative the ministry is mulling on is allowing private hospitals to tie up with district hospitals to start educational institutions.

—Staff Writer


Apr-Nov excise tax collections fall 1.5%

New Delhi: Revenue from excuse duties fell 1.5% in the eight months to November as an economic slowdown forced companies to cut production.

The excise duty collections in the period fell to Rs73,878 crore from a year ago, the finance ministry said in a release today. The collection of indirect taxes from customs and excise duties rose 5.3% in the first eight months of the fiscal year to Rs1.5 trillion, the ministry said. India raised Rs75,551 crore from customs duties in the eight-month period, 13% more than a year earlier. Revenue collections from customs and excise duties fell 8.3% in the month of November.



Thomas Cook sees bookings pick up by Jan

Mumbai: Thomas Cook India Ltd has seen a drop in bookings from foreign tourists following the recent Mumbai attacks, but expects demand to perk up ahead of the new year, a top official said on Tuesday.

“As an industry we have seen a 20-25% cancellations in inbound bookings; we (Thomas Cook) are a part of the industry," managing director Madhavan Menon said.

He declined to comment on the percentage of cancellations Thomas Cook India has witnessed, nor did he say which regions booked the most cancellations.

Inbound tourism contributes about 15% to the Indian travel services firm’s total revenues. “This is not the outbound season; where the terror attacks have impacted us is in the inbound season," he added. Thomas Cook, in which the UK’s Thomas Cook Group Plc. holds a 74.9% stake, is simultaneously expanding its domestic tourism business by adding new bases to its holiday packages.

Shares of Thomas Cook ended up 19.8% at Rs54.75 on the Bombay Stock Exchange. The broader market ended up 1.47% at 9,976.98 points.


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