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SC posts Sethu case hearing to 29 April

SC posts Sethu case hearing to 29 April

New Delhi: The Union government on Tuesday remained inflexible in respect of filing any further response in the petitions challenging the controversial Ram Sethu saying that its affidavit filed before the Supreme Court was complete.

The controversial project involves dredging a channel through a walkway between India and Sri Lanka to reduce shipping times. The Union government had on 29 February filed an affidavit after the petitioners sought explanations on the existence of the controversial Ram Sethu, or Adam’s bridge, and its religious and ecological significance.

The apex court set the next date of hearing as 29 April.

Malathi Nayak

Cong distances itself from Arjun’s remarks

New Delhi: At a time when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is being isolated in Parliament and outside over soaring inflation, the Congress on Tuesday reaffirmed its faith in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s leadership and sought to scotch speculation over projecting Rahul Gandhi as the party’s prime ministerial candidate in the next Lok Sabha elections due in 2009.

“The Congress would like to put an end to all speculation, and states that it is not appropriate to spread political speculation in this way," Jayanti Natarajan, a party spokesperson said a day after human resources development minister Arjun Singh was believed to have mooted Gandhi’s name for prime minister. “Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi have always kept away from any environment of sycophancy," Natarajan said, adding “The UPA government, which includes the prime minister and his team, has done some great work over the last four years."

Ashish Sharma

Priyanka says met Rajiv murder conspirator

New Delhi: The daughter of assassinated former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi on Tuesday confirmed she had met one of the people behind her father’s murder.

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said meeting Nalini Sriharan at her prison helped her come to terms with the killing of her father by a suicide bomber in 1991.

“I would like to say it was a purely personal visit that I undertook completely on my own initiative," Vadra said in a rare statement to the media.

“I do not believe in anger, hatred and violence and I refuse to allow it any power over my life," she said. “Meeting with Nalini Sriharan was my way of coming to peace with the violence and loss that I have experienced," she added.

The meeting, which took place on 19 March in Tamil Nadu’s Vellore prison, came to light after ‘The Times of India ’ on Tuesday reported that a lawyer had sought details of it under the Right To Information Act.


Indraprastha Gas to double its spending

New Delhi:Indraprastha Gas Ltd, an Indian retailer of natural gas and fuels, plans to double spending on adding and upgrading outlets in the year ending March 2009, managing director Om Narayan said.

The company will invest Rs200 crore on new and existing outlets, Narayan said in New Delhi on Tuesday.

New Delhi-based Indraprastha plans to expand to 200 outlets by 2010 from 166 now. The company expects to supply 300,000 vehicles and a similar number of homes by 2010, Narayan said.

Indraprastha Gas is a venture between the country’s biggest gas distributor, GAIL India Ltd, and Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd, India’s third biggest state-run oil refiner.


Opec maintains 2008 estimate for oil demand

Vienna: The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on Tuesday left unchanged its 2008 estimate of growth in world oil demand, arguing that while high prices and slowing economies would brake demand in major industrialized countries, appetite for crude would remain robust elsewhere.

On a day when the price of New York crude oil surged to a new record high of $113.66 (Rs4,546) a barrel, Opec said price hikes reflected high volatility.

Such volatility, it said, was primarily due to “non-fundamental" factors such as financial market turmoil, the weaker dollar and a worsening outlook for the US economy.

“World oil demand is forecast to grow by 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2008 to average 86.97 million bpd, unchanged from last month," Opec said in its April monthly report.


Ubisoft buys Indian video game studio

Paris:Ubisoft Entertainment SA, Europe’s second largest video game maker, bought Gameloft’s games- development studio in India for an undisclosed amount to expand its workforce in Asia.

The studio in Pune has a team of 120 developers and testers who will initially focus on translating game titles to handheld consoles and on testing, Ubisoft said in a statement on Tuesday. The company plans to expand the studio to 200 developers within 12 months and 500 “in coming years."

Ubisoft, based in Montreuil-sous-Bois outside Paris, said in February it would open a Singapore development studio to expand its presence in Asia. The company said Pune graduates 80,000 engineers each year. “This acquisition will reinforce Ubisoft’s presence in Asia," said Christine Burgess-Quemard, executive director of the company’s studios, in a statement.


HCL Tech net profit up 3.3% in March quarter

New Delhi: Software services firm HCL Technologies Ltd on Tuesday reported a 3.3% rise in consolidated net profit for the quarter to March while revenue rose 23.3%, it said.

HCL Tech earned a profit of Rs343 crore in the quarter from Rs332 crore a year ago, while revenue rose to Rs1,945 crore from Rs1,577 crore.

Margin on earnings before interest, depreciation, taxes and amortisation fell to 22.3% from 23.3% a year ago.

It also signed deals worth $500 million (Rs2,000 crore) during the quarter, it said in a release. The company reported foreign exchange loss of Rs27.1 crore during the quarter compared to a gain of Rs41.8 crore in the year ago quarter.

Shares in the company closed up 6.78% to Rs245.80 on the Bombay Stock Exchange.


Zee Entertainment net profit up 34%

New Delhi: Broadcaster Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd said net profit rose 34.18% year-on-year to Rs79.46 crore for the quarter ended 31 March. During the corresponding period last fiscal, the firm had a net profit of Rs59.22 crore, it said in a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange.

Total income rose 57.62% to Rs341.34 crore compared with Rs216.56 crore in the year-ago period. Advertising revenue in the quarter rose by a third to Rs247 crore and subscription revenue grew 12% to Rs207 crore.

“We are confident of improving our viewership share further with higher investment in programming content, particularly in the afternoon band and weekend programmes," Punit Goenka, director, said in a statement.

News broadcaster Zee News Ltd (ZNL) said fourth quarter standalone revenues grew 59.7% year -on-year to Rs110.2 crore. The standalone operating profit for the quarter stood at Rs24.6 crore. The corresponding quarter last fiscal, showed a loss of Rs1.6 crore. Profit before tax for the quarter ended 31 March was Rs25 crore while net profit was Rs15.3 crore.

Staff Writer

Sebi board meets today to shorten IPO process

Mumbai: The country’s capital market regulator, Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), will hold its board meeting in Mumbai on Wednesday. According to a person close to the development, the agenda is to shorten the initial public offering (IPO) process time on the recommendations of Sebi’s Primary Market Advisory Committee .

The first board meeting was held in New Delhi on 5 March to set up an independent panel to oversee the ongoing proceedings by Sebi against National Securities Depository Ltd in the IPO scam. This is the second board meeting since C.B. Bhave took charge as Sebi chief, and the first after two Sebi whole time members V.K. Chopra and G. Ananthraman retired last month.

Khushboo Narayan

India’s rice output set to exceed 94mt

New Delhi: India’s rice production may exceed 94 million tonnes (mt) this year, beating a government forecast, agriculture secretary P.K. Mishra said.

India may harvest 93mt in the year ending 30 June, little changed from last year, the agriculture ministry had said in February.


Domestic airlines report 10% growth in Jan-Mar

New Delhi: Domestic airlines reported a growth of just 10% in the first quarter of this calendar year compared with the year-ago period, according to data released by Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), fuelling speculation that growth was slowing in the wake of a steep increase in airfares over increased jet fuel costs and industry consolidation.

In 2007 the airlines had reported a growth of 40.43% over 2006. Average flight occupancy, or load factor, for Air India’s domestic operations (erstwhile Indian Airlines) were the hardest hit— down 12% to 59.1% in March compared with the year-ago period, JetLite was down 9% to 67.9%, GoAir slipped by 7% to 70%, IndiGo was down 5% to 65% and Deccan fell by 3% to 69%.

Overall, Jet Airways (India) Ltd continued to be the largest airline group in the country with a 29.8% market share, followed by Kingfisher Airlines Ltd’s 29.1% and Air India’s 14.7%. Low-fare carriers SpiceJet and IndiGo cornered over 10% of the market each.

IndiGo doubled its market share to 10.3% in the first three months of 2008 against the year-ago period, while Kingfisher and SpiceJet showed an increase of 4% and 2%, respectively.

Tarun Shukla

Parsvnath mum on Casino venture

New Delhi:Parsvnath Developers Ltd declined to comment on a news report that the company is slated to sign a deal with France’s Groupe Casino for a retail venture in India. “I cannot comment on any deal until it is signed," Pradeep Jain, chairman of Parsvnath Developers, said, confirming the real estate firm is in talks with Casino. Jain also declined to comment on an article in ‘The Economic Times’, which had citing unnamed sources reported the companies are expected to sign a deal in the next “couple of weeks."

‘Mint’, citing two people close to the talks, had reported in November that Parsvnath is in talks with Casino to bring the French firm’s Geant Casino hypermarkets to India.

Staff Writer

India’s GDP forecast to grow 9.5% in FY09

Mumbai: India’s economy is expected to expand by 9.5% in the current 2008-09 fiscal year, driven by large capacity additions, a Mumbai-based think-tank said on Tuesday.

The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) said the slower growth in last fiscal was an aberration and expects growth to rebound this year. The government estimates 2007-08 growth at 8.7% from 9.6% in the previous year. “Our optimism stems from the fact that capex (capital expenditure) boom in India continues with more and more fresh investments getting announced quarter after quarter," CMIE said, in its monthly review.


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