New Delhi: Five months after her government ordered the closure of western-style food retail stores, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati has said she is not against corporate retailing and there was retail space for every one, “if planned well".

The chief minister was quoted by Hong Kong-based ‘CFO Asia’ magazine as saying three large areas had been identified in the state to shape them into special economic zones (SEZ) on the lines of a model adopted in China.

“Infrastructure development is also being done the Chinese way, with big projects as the driver. The private sector is a major focus area where private investments are encouraged in a big way," Mayawati said. “I welcome private investment in all sectors of the economy. Corporate retailing will not be stopped," she told the magazine.

Second thoughts: Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati.

When asked about her role in the closure of organized retail networks opened by companies such as Reliance Industries Ltd, she said, “I have not ordered their closure...There was a law and order problem with affected people taking to the streets after these retail outlets were opened. Many lost jobs at ‘kirana’ stores run by families."

Targeting the Centre’s economic policy, Mayawati said, “Centre’s economic reform programme is caged with large benefits intended for the capitalist coterie of this government. Unless there is moderation in this reform programme, there is every danger of losing the people’s support for economic restructuring and reforms...Economic dividends should be shared by everybody and exclude none." Doing business should be left to the entrepreneurs, and companies should adopt a policy of affirmative action as in the US, she said, adding, “my government will not be in the business of doing business. It should be left to entrepreneurs whose potential remains largely untapped due to unimaginative laws governing the economy." PTI

Daimler, Publicis FDI proposals cleared

New Delhi: The government has approved a proposal by German auto maker Daimler AG to set up a joint venture company for building bus bodies, a statement said on Monday. There was no mention in the statement of the size of the Daimler investment nor details of the local partner.

Earlier this month, Daimler’s trucks business said it had formed a joint venture with the Hero Group to make a range of trucks for the Indian market.

The government also cleared a proposal by the world’s fourth largest advertising group Publicis Groupe Holding BV to acquire an Indian public relations and advertising company.

Publicis had announced in October that it was buying Indian public relations firm Hanmer & Partners Communications. Reuters

Govt may allow trusts to invest in stock markets

New Delhi: The Union Cabinet on Monday proposed to amend the law on forming and running trusts by increasing their investment options.

The proposed changes in the Indian Trusts Act, which dates back to 1882, will “widen the scope of investment; one can look at debentures and preference shares," said a New Delhi-based corporate lawyer who did not wish to be identified.

The proposed amendment does away with an earlier clause in the Act that set limits on the investment options of trusts.

A government statement said the changes would “enable the government to notify a class of securities as eligible for investment by trusts". The amendment will be moved in Parliament in the next session. Staff Writer

Delhi govt to set up environment cess fund

New Delhi: The Delhi government has approved a proposal to levy a 25 paise cess on diesel in an effort to control air pollution due to vehicular emission. ‘Mint’ had reported on Delhi’s air quality on 21 December asking if air pollution had risen in the city. The government will set up an environment cess fund and is working out a financial package to encourage diesel-driven goods vehicles to shift to newer ones run on compressed natural gas.

The incentive could be in the form of a direct subsidy on the capital cost of the vehicle and reimbursement of amount equivalent to value added tax levied by the state, according to a statement from the chief minister’s office. A budget of Rs120 crore was sanctioned for the project in November, which is likely to be completed by mid-2009. PTI

Thaksin allies confident, talk economic reforms

Bangkok: Allies of ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra claimed on Monday they had enough support to form a coalition government, after falling short of a majority. The People Power Party (PPP), which has promised to bring Thaksin back from his self-imposed exile in Britain, looked set to win 232 of the 480 seats in Parliament, according to an unofficial count of all the ballots.

PPP secretary general Surapong Suebwonglee said they already had the support needed to form a government, but declined to name future partners. It also said it would abolish Thailand’s capital controls—if and when it forms a government. In December last year, the central bank implemented a one-year, 30% withholding requirement on many types of capital inflows to relieve speculative pressure on the baht.

Foreign investment in Thailand has suffered in the wake of the September 2006 coup that ousted Thaksin as prime minister. It has also been hurt by the central bank’s capital controls.

Surapong said the new government would also run an international investor roadshow to explain its economic policies. AP/AFP

Lanka may keep interest rate at Asia’s highest

Colombo: Sri Lanka’s central bank will probably keep its benchmark interest rate unchanged at the highest level in Asia in a bid to contain inflation without threatening economic growth.

Hiking rates: Central Bank of Sri Lanka governor Nivard Cabraal.

Central Bank of Sri Lanka governor Nivard Cabraal will leave the repurchase rate at 10.5% for a 10th straight meeting, according to nine of the 11 analysts surveyed by ‘Bloomberg’. Two economists expect a half point increase. The decision is due on 26 December in Colombo. The central bank forecasts the economy will next year expand between 7% and 7.5%, the fastest pace in 30 years, as the government spends money to rebuild the eastern region captured from Tamil Tiger rebels in July. “The central bank will look to fuel growth as much as possible," Geeth Balasuriya, an analyst at HNB Stockbrokers Pvt. Ltd said in Colombo. Bloomberg

Temasek raises stake in StanChart to 18%

Hong Kong: The biggest shareholder in Standard Chartered Plc., Temasek Holdings Pte, increased its stake in the UK bank by 1 percentage point to 18%, helping it to increase banking investments in its $100 billion (Rs3.95 trillion) portfolio.

The Singapore sovereign wealth fund has been raising its stake in Standard Chartered since it first bought a 12% holding more than a year ago. Temasek bought 12 million shares to lift its stake to 253.7 million shares, the bank said in a filing on 21 December. The additional shares are worth £220 million (Rs1,723 crore) at that day’s closing price of 1,835 pence. Set up in 1974 to run state assets, Temasek’s financial services investments now include India’s ICICI Bank and Bank of China, as well as a controlling stake in DBS Group Holdings Ltd. It may also invest $5 billion in Merrill Lynch and Co., ‘The Wall Street Journal’ reported last week, citing unidentified people.

“Most of Temasek’s investments in the banking sector are doing very well," Teng Ngiek Lian, who manages $3 billion of Asian stocks as chief executive officer of Target Asset Management in Singapore, said on Monday. “Standard Chartered is very well exposed to the emerging markets, which many view as very exciting."Bloomberg

Jain Irrigation to raise $75 mn via debt route

Mumbai:Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd plans to raise $75 million (Rs296.2 crore) through debt from a consortium led by International Finance Corp. and Lehman Brothers to fund expansion, a person familiar with the development said. The company plans to spend $95 million to expand its drip irrigation, pipes and food processing facility in over 18 months, company secretary A.V. Ghodgaonkar said on Monday. The remaining $20 million will come from internal accruals, he said. Reuters

Asia MotorWorks to sell 6,000 trucks this fiscal

Mumbai: Heavy commercial vehicles maker Asia MotorWorks Ltd aims to sell 6,000 trucks this fiscal and earn Rs500 crore in the process. The firm, which on Sunday launched its 4930 TR tractor-trailer, is also targeting to almost double its sales to 10,000 units next fiscal. Ammar Master

Bhutto and Sharif ally against Musharraf

Islamabad: Pakistan’s former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif are joining hands against the party backing President Pervez Musharraf in the 8 January national elections, as international calls for free and fair voting mount.

New partner: Former prime minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto.

Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML)-N has formed a committee to talk with Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party, so that some candidates from the two biggest opposition parties do not contest against each other, Raja Zafar-ul-Haq, the chairman of PML-N said on Monday.

“Candidates are cooperating with each other at the local level, especially in cases where they feel a vote split between the opposition will benefit the Musharraf-backed party," Haq said. “It’s not a formal election alliance." The US and human rights groups have joined opposition parties in demanding that Musharraf ensure the elections are free and fair, after he lifted emergency rule on 15 December. Bloomberg