Need to Know | PK Gopalakrishnan to head MindTree India

Need to Know | PK Gopalakrishnan to head MindTree India

Bangalore: City-based global information technology (IT) and research and development (R&D) services company MindTree Ltd on Wednesday announced the appointment of P.K. Gopalakrishnan as senior vice-president and head of its India operations.

In this role, Gopalakrishnan would hold business responsibility for Indian enterprises, defence and government sectors across both IT services and R&D services businesses, the company said in a statement.

He would also help in building MindTree’s system integration capability, which the organization is strongly intent on acquiring along with its existing base of services.

Gopalakrishnan brings with him 23 years of experience in the industry. Prior to joining MindTree, he worked with Wipro Ltd, where he was responsible for the government and defence industry vertical in India, the statement said.



SBI MF appoints Navneet Munot as CIO

Mumbai: SBI Funds Management on Wednesday announced the appointment of Navneet Munot as its chief investment officer (CIO) with effect from 12 December.

In his earlier assignment, Munot was executive director with Morgan Stanley Investment Management, where he was also head, multi-strategy funds.

He has also worked as CIO, fixed income and hybrid funds, with Birla Sun Life AMC.



Honda Siel postpones production at Tapukara

New Delhi: Honda Siel Cars India Ltd said it would postpone plans to produce vehicles at its plant in Tapukara, Rajasthan, due to slowing car sales.

The capacity had originally been scheduled to be added in the fourth quarter of 2009, the company said in a release. No new date has been announced.

The company had planned to invest Rs1,000 crore at the plant out of which Rs600 crore has been spent in land acquisition, the press shop and the power train unit. For now, the Tapukara plant will supply components to Honda Siel’s plant in Greater Noida, a company spokesperson said.

—Samar Srivastava


AAI says Air India owes Rs739.5 crore

Mumbai: National air-carrier Air India “has to pay us Rs739.5 crore as landing and parking charges", an Airports Authority of India (AAI) official said on condition of anonymity.

The dues are till 31 October, the official said, adding that, “we have no security deposit of Air India with us against these dues unlike private air carriers". On Tuesday, civil aviation minister Praful Patel had informed Parliament that private carriers owe Rs362 crore as landing and parking fees to AAI.

While SpiceJet owes Rs15.76 crore against a security deposit of Rs30.50 crore, low-budget carrier IndiGo’s outstanding is Rs6 crore against Rs46.05 crore, the official said. The Wadia Group-promoted GoAir’s dues are Rs3.81 crore against Rs13 crore security money, he said. All business-class airline Paramount Airways has a higher outstanding compared with the guarantee money at Rs12.50 crore against Rs6.50 crore.



Poor demand: ACC shuts clinker plant for 15 days

Mumbai: Indian cement producer ACC Ltd said on Wednesday it had temporarily shut a 4,800 tonnes a day clinker kiln in northern India due to rising stocks and poor cement demand in the region.

ACC, the country’s single largest cement producer, said it had closed its Gagal-II kiln in Himachal Pradesh on 16 December and added it would remain shut for 15 days.

The kiln contributes 2.4 million tonnes (mt) a year to ACC’s total capacity of 22.41 mt.

“The poor demand scenario coupled with duty-free imports has resulted in the clinker stock at Gagal plant increasing from August onwards," ACC said in a statement.

Earlier this month, ACC cut cement prices by up to Rs5 per 50kg bag.

Ambuja Cements also cut prices by Rs4-6 a bag. Swiss cement maker Holcim holds about 46% stake in both firms.



Indian jewellers seek help to regain lost lustre

Mumbai: India’s gem and jewellery sector has appealed for urgent government help to prevent substantial job losses, as the knock-on effects of the global economic slowdown bites.

“The current economic situation has pushed the industry into a corner," said Vasant Mehta, chairman of the Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC), an umbrella group of about 5,000 exporters and manufacturers.

“We seek interim relief from the government to prevent the imminent crisis," he told a news conference late on Tuesday.

Gems and jewellery constitute up to 35% of India’s exports, with the US its largest market.

The industry has already cut back manufacturing by more than 25% and recently announced a moratorium on the purchase of rough diamonds for processing and production, GJEPC said.

Exports in the sector fell a little over 34% to $987 million (Rs4,668 crore) in November, down from $1.5 billion in the same period of 2007, according to provisional GJEPC figures.

“December is likely to show a similar (downward) trend," Mehta said.

At the manufacturing level, cut and polished diamond exports have fallen at least 20%, against the same period last year.



Zee Learn to have 300 schools in India

New Delhi: Zee Learn, a division of the Subhash Chandra-owned Etc Networks Ltd, has said it will expand its presence in the kindergarten to 12th grade, or K-12, schools in the country.

The company, which has six such schools at present, will take that to 300 schools with an investment of Rs350 crore in the next five years. It already runs play schools branded as Kidzee. “We have 623 Kidzee’s today. The job will be half finished if we do not get into schools," said Sumeet Mehta, chief executive of Zee Learn, at a press conference held on Wednesday.

Zee will either open its own schools or get into partnerships with school managements or trusts. It plans to have two brands: Mount Litera schools will open in metros and tier I cities, with an annual tuition fee range of Rs50,000 to Rs4 lakh depending on the curriculum they offer which will include IB, or International Baccalaureate. Litera Valley schools in tier II cities such as Ranchi will have an annual tuition fee of Rs15,000-50,000 depending on the city and will offer a CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education), ICSE (Indian Schools Certificate Examination) or IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) curriculum.

—Aparna Kalra


Manipal Education in JV with

New Delhi: The Manipal Education and Medical Group International India Pvt. Ltd, whose chairman also runs Manipal University, has tied up with, an online tutoring service in which it has a minority stake, to float a new venture called Manipal K-12 Education Pvt. Ltd. The venture will manage new and existing schools and will operate under the brand name Manipal Schools. It will also provide online lessons to schools.

TutorVista operates a hybrid model in the Indian market through Edurite Technologies, which it took over in November 2007. Edurite offers a combination of offline classes with online tools such as Web-based content and e-learning products.

Commenting on the partnership, Ranjan Pai, chief executive of Manipal Education and Medical Group, said, “We are happy to partner with through their Indian arm Edurite Technologies. They complement our profile in education. They are leaders in the field of technology-enabled tutoring in the global market and are a well-recognized player in the school education domain in India. The Manipal Schools will be a logical extension of our core strength in education."

—Aparna Kalra


Reliance defaults on oil delivery to CPCL

New Delhi: Reliance Industries Ltd has failed to deliver the second consignment of crude oil from its eastern offshore Krishna-Godavari basin D6 block to Chennai Petroleum Corp. Ltd (CPCL), as output from the field has been erratic.

Reliance was to deliver a consignment of about 60,000 tonnes of oil from its MA-1 field in the predominantly gas-rich block in the Bay of Bengal to CPCL on 23-24 November, but failed to meet the deadline, people familiar with the matter said.

Output from the field has been erratic with more than expected natural gas flowing out of the well along with crude oil. Production from the field varies on a daily basis, sometimes falling to as low as 8,000 barrels per day (bpd) and then suddenly rising to 12,000 bpd.

Reliance has not been able to accumulate the requisite quantity of oil to be sold to CPCL and so it defaulted on the delivery plans.

The field, which started crude oil production in September, last week suffered an equipment failure leading to the closure of the facility for three-four weeks.

It was not clear when the second consignment would be delivered.



Tata Power, IOC form JV for coal-based plant

New Delhi: Tata Power Co. Ltd and Indian Oil Corp. Ltd (IOC), the nation’s biggest refiner, formed a venture to set up a coal-based power plant in Orissa.

Tata Power will own 74% of the venture, the company said in a statement to the Bombay Stock Exchange on Wednesday. IOC will hold 26%, Tata Power said.

The plant will supply power to IOC’s refinery and petrochemicals unit in the state, according to the statement. The venture will operate after IOC approves the investment in the refinery complex.



IOC-Adani JV to pick stake in LNG terminal

New Delhi: A joint venture of state refiner Indian Oil Corp. Ltd (IOC) and Adani Energy is likely to take a 50% stake in a Rs4,000 crore liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal planned by the Gujarat State Petroleum Corp. Ltd (GSPC) at Mundra in Gujarat. IOC and Adani Energy earlier this month signed an agreement to set up a 50:50 joint venture company for gas distribution.

The joint venture company, which is likely to take shape by January, will set up city gas distribution projects in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh for supply of compressed natural gas (CNG) for automobiles and piped natural gas for domestic and industrial use, besides marketing LNG.

GSPC will hold the remaining 50% stake in the terminal that is planned for commissioning in 2012, a company official said.



’92 scam: StanChart to be taxed on interest paid

New Delhi: The spectre of Harshad Mehta has returned to haunt the Indian arm of Standard Chartered Bank, with a tribunal ruling that the interest it paid to its headquarters on an amount borrowed to make payments to the National Housing Bank (NHB), in the aftermath of the infamous stock scam of 1992, is taxable.

The case concerns UK-based Standard Chartered Bank, which had paid an interest of about Rs32 crore to its head office on the sum borrowed from its headquarters to pay to NHB in the assessment year 1996-97.

Standard Chartered had been asked by the Reserve Bank of India at the time of the notorious Harshad Mehta stock scam to pay about Rs506.54 crore to NHB, which it borrowed from its head office, and also paid an interest of Rs32 crore on the borrowed sum.

The Delhi bench of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal giving a ruling in the case said, “It (interest paid to Standard Chartered Bank’s head office) is not an expense in the hands of non-resident assessee and hence cannot be allowed."

The bank had shown the amount as an expense for itself. An amount shown as an expense by an entity is eventually deducted from the income of the company, and is thus not taxed.



IDBI aims to sell home finance unit by January

Mumbai: State-run IDBI Bank Ltd hopes to sell its home finance unit by mid-January, its deputy managing director said on Wednesday.

The bank has short-listed around seven buyers, O.V. Bundellu said without giving any other details.



Tata Capital to raise up to $500 mn through PE

Mumbai: Tata Capital, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tata Sons Ltd, plans to raise $350-500 million (Rs1,655.5- 2,365 crore) through the private equity route for deployment in mid-size companies, a company executive said on Wednesday.

“We are raising $350-500 million through private equity for deployment in mid-size companies. However, it would depend upon market conditions. We are looking at both domestic as well global markets to raise this fund," Tata Capital managing director Praveen P. Kadle said while unveiling the company’s brand identity here. The proceeds would be deployed in the manufacturing and services segments, mid-size companies and growth areas, he said.

Kadle said, “we are looking at various options like commercial paper, private placement and the ECB (external commercial borrowings) route for NBFCs (non-banking finance companies) to raise funds."



Financial Technologies files suit against NSE

Mumbai: Financial Technologies India Ltd, the promoter of the Multi Commodity Exchange of India Ltd (MCX), has filed a suit against the National Stock Exchange of India Ltd (NSE) for keeping it on a “watch list" and rejecting its application for providing a currency futures trading software without assigning any reason, a person familiar with the matter said. Financial Technologies filed the suit on 15 December at the Bombay high court.

Spokespersons of both Financial Technologies and NSE refused to comment. Financial Technologies provides brokers access to most product segments on the Bombay Stock Exchange Ltd, MCX and the National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange Ltd, besides NSE. MCX is the country’s largest commodity exchange with at least an 80% share of the business.

—Ravi Krishnan


TII cancels media awards due to slowdown

New Delhi: Transparency International India (TII), the Indian unit of the global anti-corruption group, said it was cancelling the annual media awards this year, because their sponsors were unable to support the initiative due to the economic downturn. The Rai Bahadur M.S. Oberoi Media Awards 2007 for excellence in exposing corruption has been sponsored by hospitality major The Oberoi Group since its inception in 2006. “Our current sponsors have expressed their inability to support the Media award this year due to the recent economic downturn," TII said in a statement.

TII chairman Admiral (retd) R.H. Tahiliani said they were informed recently of the Oberoi group’s inability to support the awards and subsequent efforts to find another sponsor did not succeed. He said the annual budget for the initiative this year would have been Rs14 lakh. “In a time like this, most groups are not willing to spend anything more than what is absolutely necessary. But, without a doubt, whenever we can find a sponsor, we will reinstitute the award," Tahiliani added.

—Staff Writer


No plan to sell stake in Nalco, says government

New Delhi: India has no plan to sell its stake in National Aluminium Co. Ltd (Nalco), junior finance minister S.S. Palanimanickam said in Parliament on Wednesday.

The government owns 87% of the firm, according to data available on ‘Bloomberg’. The government also doesn’t propose to infuse fresh equity into the firm, he said. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in July 2006 put on hold a government proposal to sell 10% stake each in Nalco and Neyveli Lignite Corp. after opposition from coalition allies.



6-monthly credit growth for housing, realty slows

New Delhi: Credit growth in India’s housing and real estate sectors posted a slowdown in the six months to September due to the global financial crisis, a minister said. There was a sharp deceleration in the half-yearly credit growth in the real estate and housing sector, junior finance minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said in Parliament on Wednesday, citing data from the central bank. This was partly on account of the liquidity crunch following the ongoing financial crisis, the minister said, without providing details.



Nycomed files lawsuit against Glenmark

Mumbai: Nycomed US has filed a patent infringement lawsuit in the US against Glenmark Generics Ltd, a unit of Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Ltd, the firm said in a statement on Wednesday.

The lawsuit was filed on 12 December against Glenmark for its fluticasone propionate skin lotion, which is the generic version of Nycomed’s Cutivate.

If Glenmark wins the patent challenge, it will win the right to market the product for 180 days after the patent expires, the firm said.



Lupin can sell version of Clarinex from July 2012

New Delhi: Lupin Ltd, the Indian maker of tuberculosis medicines, said it has settled all lawsuits that tried to block it from selling a generic version of Schering- Plough Corp.’s Clarinex allergy medicine.

The agreement allows Lupin to sell its version of the Clarinex medicine starting in July 2012, firm said in a statement to the Bombay Stock Exchange on Wednesday.

Clarinex, which first received US Food and Drug Administration approval in December 2001, is now available without a prescription.



Two more vessels seized even as world watches

Kuala Lumpur: Heavily armed Somali pirates have hijacked two more vessels in the African waters undeterred by a strong multi-nation flotilla of warships carrying out vigorous patrols and vigil.

A tugboat heading to Malaysia, a Turkish and a Chinese vessel were the latest victims of the pirates, who have seized more than 40 freighters this year, including a giant Saudi super tanker and a luxury cruise ship against ransom.

The seajackings took place even as China announced it was dispatching a naval task group to join an international effort by navies of more than a dozen countries to mount an aggressive sea-patrol of the Gulf of Aden.

The seizures came as the UN was discussing ways to fight the menace and has given a green signal to nations to carry out air and sea operations against the pirates. A senior official of the Vienna-based UN Office on Drugs and Crime Antonio Maria Costa has called for regional cooperation to tackle the situation. He added that the pirates had to be brought to justice.



India can reduce hunger with political will: WFP

New Delhi: India can make a significant contribution to the global fight against malnourishment and hunger if it shows political will and makes its food distribution system more effective, the United Nation’s (UN) World Food Programme (WFP) said.

India is home to more than 230 million undernourished people, more than any other country. While the proportion of malnourished has fallen, the absolute numbers are rising with the population. “So one thing I have been saying to India’s many political parties is that, when it comes to malnourished children, there should only be one party and it’s got to be led from the top," Josette Sheeran, WFP’s executive director,said.

Sheeran said India had made progress in food production and breaking the cycle of famines, but still needed to make its state-run public distribution system (PDS) more effective to deliver food to the poor and end malnourishment. Indian authorities acknowledge there is corruption and inefficiency in the PDS.



Cadila buys rest of stake in US venture Zydus

Mumbai: Cadila Healthcare Ltd on Wednesday said it has acquired the remaining 30% in its US joint venture company, Zydus Pharmaceuticals USA Inc. It did not disclose the terms of the deal. As a result, Zydus Pharmaceuticals has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cadila, it said in a statement to the Bombay Stock Exchange.

Cadila was holding 70% in the joint venture through an Irish subsidiary, it added.



Shiela takes oath as CM for third term in a row

New Delhi: Shiela Dikshit, who led the the Congress to victory, on Wednesday took oath as the chief minister of Delhi for the third consecutive term and inducted a woman in her cabinet, while retaining most of the ministers.

Dikshit, 71, was administered the oath of office and secrecy by Delhi Lt governor Tejinder Khanna at the Raj Niwas here on Wednesday afternoon in the presence of a large number of politicians, including the Bharatiya Janata Party legislature party leader V.K. Malhotra and state party chief Harshavardhan. The grand old party romped home with 43 seats in the 70-member Assembly, leaving BJP behind with 23 seats.



Sonia may unveil party strategy for polls today

New Delhi: Buoyed by the 3-2 victory over the Opposition Bharatiya Janata party, or BJP, in the recent Assembly elections, Congress president Sonia Gandhi is expected to unveil the party’s strategy for the Lok Sabha elections here on Thursday.

Gandhi will be addressing a general body meeting of the Congress parliamentary party, the first such interaction after the assembly elections.

The meeting takes place in the backdrop of introduction of two Bills in the Lok Sabha to fight terror and the attempts of the Congress to shrug off Opposition charges it was ‘soft’ on terror. Gandhi, who is also chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance, or UPA, has already announced the party would contest the Lok Sabha elections with its allies. Talks are on between Congress and the Mulayam Singh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party (SP) over seat-sharing in politically key Uttar Pradesh where Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party is posing a serious challenge to them.

SP has become the key outside supporter of the Congress-led coalition after Left parties withdrew support early this year on the issue of the Indo-US nuclear deal.



Parsvnath says no scope for further price cuts

New Delhi: Realtor Parsvnath Developers Ltd sees no further scope for lowering prices as they had already fallen 5-20% in some areas, chairman Pradeep Jain on Wednesday.

“There is no further scope to cut prices," Jain said after meeting the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission as part of a team of real estate developers.



Over 85,000 sick units in India, minister says

New Delhi: India has over 85,000 sick micro and small enterprises, with Uttar Pradesh at 16,280, accounting for the highest number of units, Mahabir Prasad, minister of micro, small and medium enterprises said.

“As per the data compiled by the Reserve Bank of India from the scheduled commercial banks, the number of sick MSEs in the country as in March 2008 is 85,187," Prasad said in a written reply to Lok Sabha.

West Bengal is at the second place with 11,660 sick units out of a total of 9.21 lakh units. Bihar is third with over six lakh units, out of which 8,137 are sick. There were no sick units in Mizoram, Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar, Prasad said.

As per official data, there were 1,28,46,365 MSEs in the country on March 31, 2007. On December 7, the government had announced several steps for the MSME sector including extending guarantee cover under Credit Guarantee Scheme on loans from 50 lakh to one crore.



Stem cell storage bank sets up India facility

Bangalore:Cryo-Save Group NV, Europe’s largest adult stem cell storage bank, announced its India operations on Wednesday with the setting up of a banking facility in Bangalore at a cost of €1.8 million (Rs12 crore). This is the fourth such facility of the group which operates in 37 countries.

Claiming to be the first company to provide fully automated processing, which allows 30% more stem cells to be harvested, Cryo-Save India will serve as the nodal point for the parent group’s Asia-Pacific market. Another differentiator, it says, is its dual-storage system, which allows a person to retrieve stem cells more than once.

Globally, about one million samples are stored in public and private stem cell banks but India, where cord blood banking took off just about four years ago, has nearly 20,000 samples stored in private banks. Cryo-Save India will charge Rs75,000 for collection, processing, and storage of cord blood stem cells for a 21-year period.

—Seema Singh