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Fertilizer secretary slams six states

Fertilizer secretary slams six states

New Delhi: Fertilizer secretary J.S. Sarma on Thursday blamed six states—Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat—for poor distribution of fertilizer and failure to check hoarding.

Early this month, these states had complained of fertilizer shortage.

“According to our data, there is no shortage of fertilizers in any of the states. If farmers still complain of shortage then it has to be due to hoarding and inefficient planning for the distribution of the fertilizers from the district level. Both these problems can be resolved only by the concerned states," Sarma said.

“States such as Punjab, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh that follow detailed plans in order to ensure the availability of fertilizers have not complained of shortages," he added.


BOC India shares rise the most in 13 years

Mumbai:BOC India Ltd, a unit of Europe’s second largest maker of industrial gases, rose the most in more than 13 years in Mumbai trading after its founder offered to pay 21% more for shares held by other investors.

BOC gained 20%, the most since 5 May 1995, to Rs196.45. The stock was the best performer on the BSE500 Index, which tracks the Bombay Stock Exchange’s 500 biggest companies.

The Indian unit of the UK’s BOC Group Plc. raised the open-offer price to Rs200 a share, from an initial price of Rs165, according to an advertisement posted Thursday in the Financial Express newspaper by Deutsche Bank AG, which is managing the transaction. The offer is open until 30 June.

BOC Group, which supplies oxygen, nitrogen and other gases to customers such as steel makers and computer-chip suppliers, was acquired by Munich-based Linde Group, the world’s second largest maker of industrial gases, in 2006. (Bloomberg)


Commodity exchange to launch platinum futures

Mumbai: The Multi Commodity Exchange of India Ltd (MCX) is set to launch platinum futures from Friday, Joseph Massey, chief executive of the exchange said.

The exchange, which leads in bullion and base metals trade in India, has recently received approval to launch platinum futures from the commodity markets regulator. (Reuters)


Icra subsidiary buys software services firm

Mumbai: Credit ratings firm Icra Ltd said on Thursday it has bought 100% stake in software services firm, Axiom Technologies Pvt. Ltd, for an undisclosed sum.

The acquisition was made through Icra Techno Analytics Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary, it said in a statement. (Reuters)


NTPC gets Rs10,000 cr loan from PFC

New Delhi:Power Finance Corp. Ltd has sanctioned a loan of Rs10,000 crore to the country’s largest power producer NTPC Ltd for various projects to be completed in the current 11th Plan.

According to officials, a memorandum of understanding on this is likely to be signed in the next one week between the two firms and the money would be disbursed in instalments.

NTPC seeks to generate 50,000MW by 2012 and has lined up more than Rs13,200 crore capital expenditure in the current financial year. The loan from PFC would be partly utilized for projects being undertaken in 2008-09. (PTI)


Moser Baer plans to raise $300 million

London: Optical storage device maker Moser Baer India Ltd plans to raise $300 million (Rs1,287 crore) for its solar unit, after raising $150 million through a private placement, a top official said on Thursday.

“We closed the $150 million deal on a private placement. We’re now raising $300 million. That will also be a private placement," Deepak Puri, managing director of Moser Baer said on the sidelines of a conference. In May, the company’s unit, Moser Baer Solar Plc., received board approval to raise $150 million. (Reuters)


Sebi allows listing pvt placement of debt

Mumbai: India’s stock market regulator has allowed listing of debt instruments issued on a private placement basis.

This will be subject to compliance with listing provisions, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), said in a statement late on Thursday.

Indian companies have raised Rs43,041 crore through private placement of debt instruments in the first four months of 2008, data from the stock market regulator showed.

Sebi also said debt issues have to be rated by at least two credit rating agencies and the ratings must include reference to the said pool and strength of cash flows, originator profile, payment structure, risks and concerns for investors. (Reuters)


Niraj Cements lists below issue price

Mumbai: Engineering and construction firm Niraj Cements and Structurals on Thursday got listed at a discount of 2.63% over its issue price of Rs190 on the Bombay Stock Exchange.

The scrip opened at Rs185, touched an intra-day high of Rs190 and a low of Rs169.70, before closing at Rs190.15. The company listed more than 1.03 crore shares on the bourse.

The company had raised about Rs61.45 crore from its initial public offer, which got subscribed 1.74 times. The company had fixed its issue price at the upper end of its price band. (PTI )


CPM leader warns govt against SBI mergers

Thiruvananthapuram: The deputy leader of Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, in the Lok Sabha, P. Karunakaran, has cautioned the Centre against the move to merge State Bank of India (SBI) and its associate banks without taking the Parliament into confidence. In a letter to finance minister, P. Chidambaram, Karunakaran said the Banking Regulation Act was clear that the associate banks could not be merged with SBI without amendments to the Act.

He said the views expressed by SBI chairman O.P. Bhat in recent interviews to media that the bank had the legal competence to go ahead with the merger was contrary to facts. (PTI)


Padma Ravichander is new Mercer India MD

New Delhi: Leading consultancy firm Mercer Llc. on Thursday named Padma Ravichander as its new managing director for India. Ravichander joins Mercer from Perot Systems Corp., a leading IT services company, where she served as president and managing director for India and Asia Pacific, a statement said. Mercer, which began operations in India 12 years ago, offers consulting, investment and outsourcing services. “This appointment marks yet another step to augment our increasing focus in Asia," Guo Xin, Mercer’s deputy head of Asia Pacific said in the statement. (Staff Writer)


Win for Muslim nations on religious debates

Geneva: Muslim countries have won a battle to prevent Islam from being criticized during debates by the UN Human Rights Council.

Religions deserve special protection because any debate about faith is bound to be “very complex, very sensitive and very intense," council president Doru-Romulus Costea said on Thursday.

Only religious scholars should be allowed to discuss matters of faith, he told journalists in Geneva.

While Costea’s ban applies to all religions, it was prompted by Muslim countries complaining about references to Islam.

Costea issued his “presidential ruling" on Monday during the eighth meeting of the council’s 47 members, which do not include the US. The ruling will not affect findings by the council’s experts, just its chamber debates.

On Monday Egypt, Pakistan and Iran angrily protested attempts by a humanist group to link Islam to human rights abuses such as female genital mutilation and so-called honour killings of women.

The interventions sparked a heated debate, which threatened to sour the mood of the meeting ahead of important votes on the future of the council’s work. (AP)


Leela Venture profit up 19% to Rs150 crore

Panaji: Hotel Leela Venture Ltd has posted a profit after tax of Rs149.98 crore for the year ended 31 March, a 19% rise over the previous year.

“This indicates a growth of 19% over the previous years’ profit after tax of Rs126.24 crore," said Leela Venture vice- chairman and managing director Vivek Nair.

The company has reported an income from operations of Rs514.55 crore against Rs415.56 crore in the previous year, reflecting a 24% growth for the financial year ended 31 March. The Ebidta, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, for the financial year stood at Rs230.95 crore, a rise of 21% over Rs190.39 crore last year. (PTI)


PowerGrid net rises 18% to Rs1,448 crore

Mumbai: Transmission utility Power Grid Corp. of India Ltd posted profit after tax of Rs1,448.47 crore for the year ended 31 March, a 17.82% increase over its corresponding year-ago period.

The company had reported a net profit of Rs1,229.37 crore for the year ended 31 March 2007. The total income also increased to Rs5,081.53 crore for the year ended 31 March from Rs4,097.15 crore the previous year. (PTI)


Bata to open 250 new stores in three years

Kolkata: Footwear maker Bata India Ltd plans to expand presence by opening 250 new stores over three years, a top official said on Thursday.

It also plans to modernise about 100 existing stores in 2008, chairman P.M. Sinha said, on the sidelines of its shareholders meet.

He did not disclose the size of the company’s investment for the stores, but said typical cost for interiors and merchandise for each store would be around Rs0.15-2 crore.

Bata currently runs 1,200 outlets in different parts of the country both on owned and franchised model.

“Investments will also depend on rentals of the area where the store is located," he said, adding the stores may also be franchised out.

“We will focus on new areas like sales of specialised footwear for defence personnel and factory workers."

The company also expects its township project in 262 acres of surplus land at its plant site in the eastern state of West Bengal to be ready by 2012-13.

“We are in advanced stage of discussions with an international hotel chain for a hotel in the township," he said. In 2007, the firm’s revenues rose 12.6% to Rs867 crore following redesigning of shoes and retail chains. (Reuters)


Direct tax collections target revised

New Delhi: A day after reporting a 71% growth in direct tax collections for the first two months of this fiscal, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) on Thursday said budget estimates under this head have been revised upwards by about Rs30,000 crore to Rs3.95 trillion for 2008-09.

“We are hopeful of achieving this higher figure, too. Yesterday (Wednesday), we reported a robust growth of around 71% (for direct tax collections)," CBDT chairman R.S. Mathoda said.

The original budget estimates for direct tax collections stood at about Rs3.65 trillion. The revised figures were over 25% higher than the direct tax collections of about Rs3.14 trillion last fiscal.

Upbeat over the 36% growth in direct tax collections last fiscal, finance minister P. Chidambaram had earlier this month asked CBDT to revise upwards the budget estimates under this head for the current fiscal. (PTI )


TDSAT dismisses plea against Sun TV

New Delhi: Broadcast regulator Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has disposed of a petition filed by Royal Cable Vision (RCV), a multi-system operator (MSO) owned by the family of M.K. Azhagiri, son of Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi, seeking transmission of Sun TV channels.

The Sun TV Network, which offers a bouquet of 20 regional language channels, is promoted by Kalanidhi Maran, a grandnephew of Karunanidhi. RCV approached TDSAT requesting it to direct Sun TV Network to supply decoders for the Sun channels.

While rejecting the petition, TDSAT observed that RCV had not sought decoders from Sun TV in the proper format as per the Interconnection Regulation, 2004.

“It is clear the petitioner failed to make a request for supply of decoders and activation ... This petition is accordingly premature and is disposed of as such," said TDSAT chairman Arun Kumar.

However, TDSAT directed RCV to approach Sun TV “as per rules which respondent (Sun TV) will consider in accordance with the rules". (PTI)


MTN shareholders meet did not discuss Reliance

New Delhi: South African phone company MTN Group Ltd said its annual shareholders meeting concluded Thursday without any formal discussion of its merger talks with India’s Reliance Communications Ltd.

At the meeting, MTN shareholders did approve a motion to sell shares equivalent to as much as 10% of the company’s current share capital, if needed, for acquisitions. The previously scheduled meeting’s agenda didn’t include the talks with Reliance, but MTN’s board began meeting again after the shareholders dispersed.

The merger talks between MTN and Reliance Communications, headed by Anil Ambani, have been complicated by Reliance Industries Ltd, led by his estranged brother Mukesh Ambani, staking a claim to right of first refusal to purchase a controlling stake in the Indian phone firm.

Reliance Communications has accused Reliance Industries of attempting to disrupt the merger talks and threatened to seek the intervention of Indian courts.

On Thursday, shares of Reliance Communications closed at Rs526.30, down 0.31%, on the Bombay Stock Exchange. (R. Jaikrishna & Bloomberg)


German company’s patent filing for HIV drug rejected

Knocking down the first patent request for an HIV/AIDS drug in the country, the New Delhi patents office has rejected German Boehringer Ingelheim’s application for a paediatric form of the anti-AIDS drug, nevirapine. The patent office’s decision was based on hearings of pre-grant oppositions filed by health NGOs such as Indian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS and Positive Women’s Network in May 2006.

Boehringer’s patent application covered a syrup of nevirapine sold under the brand name Viramune internationally. This syrup is prescribed for children with HIV.

The decision was the first handed down on 13 petitions pending with Indian patents offices filed by civil society groups against HIV-related applications. “So this decision will set an important precedent for the others that are still pending," said a statement by Lawyers Collective, a law firm that represented the NGOs.

About a dozen copycat versions of Viramune have already been launched in India by local drug makers including Cipla Ltd and Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. The application was rejected on the ground that the molecule was patented globally before 1995, which disqualifies the drug from getting a patent right in India.

Responding to the decision, K.K. Abraham, president of the Indian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, said, “For many of us living with HIV/AIDS, low-cost generic antiretrovirals offer hope of continuing treatment. With patents interfering with our lives, we have no choice but to oppose them. The patent order sets an important precedent ..."

Though Boehringer had filed the patent application in 1998 in India, it has still not launched the drug. Company officials could not be contacted for comment on the development. (C.H. Unnikrishnan )

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