Need to Know | Landmark set to bring top global coffee chain to India

Need to Know | Landmark set to bring top global coffee chain to India

New Delhi: After hypermarkets, lifestyle stores and home improvement outlets, Dubai-based Landmark Group is planning to bring a global coffee chain to India.

Landmark is in talks with two international coffee chains and is expected to seal a master-franchise agreement with one of them in the next two weeks, said Ravi Saxena, managing director of the company’s hotels, leisure and restaurants businesses in India. Saxena declined to name the two companies, but said they are among the world’s top five coffee retailers.

The company plans to open 500 coffee outlets of the global chain throughout India in the next 10 years and it plans to invest around Rs40 crore to open upto 90 coffee outlets in the first four years. The company hopes to roll out its first coffee outlet in Mumbai by February; this will be followed by a launch in New Delhi in June and Bangalore after that.

Saxena said India currently has about 1,200 coffee outlets, and that the number would increase to 2,500 in the next four years. He estimates the business done by these outlets at Rs500-600 crore. According to him, this number would triple in the next five years.

Given the high real estate rental cost in India, the company expects to break even only in the fifth year compared to global average gestation period of three years for coffee chains, he added. “Its not an easy business in India especially because of high rentals," Saxena said. “Rentals for prime places in India is exactly same as of high street in Manhattan," in the US, he said.

Overseas coffee brands ranging from Costa to Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf have opened or are in the process of opening outlets in India and compete aggressively with local chains such as Barista and Café Coffee Day.

Separately, Landmark has already started constructing its first two, four-star hotels in Bangalore and Indore that will be ready for business by the end of next year. The company plans to invest Rs325 crore to build about a dozen four-star hotels across several Indian cities.

Yahoo India R&D puts spotlight on tech platforms

Internet company Yahoo! Inc.’s research and development (R&D) centre in Bangalore, the largest outside its Sunnyvale, California headquarters, has started to fall in line with co-founder and CEO Jerry Yang’s renewed emphasis on technology.

The R&D centre’s 1,000-odd engineers are now focused on building technology platforms in alignment with the requirements of the company’s US-based R&D outfits. Yang took charge in June from Terry Semel, who saw Yahoo as a media company. “Since Jerry (Yang) took over, there has been a shift towards being a technology company," said Jawahar Malhotra, chief technology officer (CTO), Yahoo India R&D. By readying core technology platforms for various services, Yahoo wants to develop products that are low risk and can be taken to market faster. The company sees India playing a critical role in its global R&D operations and recently declared Yahoo India R&D as its hub for emerging markets.

Over the last 12 months, it has also strengthened the R&D leadership team here with three key appointments—Pranesh Anthapur moved from the company’s global headquarters to take over as COO, Sharad Sharma joined as CEO in June and Malhotra moved from Sunnyvale to take charge as CTO.

The Bangalore outfit will focus on building platforms specific to areas such as advertising and communities. OneSearch, Yahoo’s mobile search platform that was launched earlier this year, is another key focus area. The search tool, especially on SMS, is aimed at markets such as India, which has a large mobile user base.

Namitha Jagadeesh

NTPC enters JV to set up 1,320MW plant in UP

Lucknow: The country’s largest power generation company, NTPC Ltd, on Thursday entered into a joint venture (JV) agreement with Uttar Pradesh electricity utility to set up a 1,320MW plant in the state, which faces a peak hour shortage of up to 2,500MW a day.

NTPC and Uttar Pradesh Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam would form a JV company for the project, estimated to cost Rs7,200 crore.

The 2x660MW project, to be funded in debt-equity ratio of 70:30, would come up at Meja in Allahabad.

Both the companies would invest Rs1,080 crore each in the project, which would provide 75% (990MW) of the power produced to the state.

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati said the state seeks to add 10,000MW power in the 11th Plan. PTI

RBI to take steps to contain inflation

New Delhi: Concerned over rising oil and food prices in the global market, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Thursday said it would adopt all measures to maintain price stability in the country.

“RBI’s main objective remains price stability, financial stability and maintenance of high growth through adequate provision of credit. We will use all monetary instruments as and when necessary (to meet the objective)," its deputy governor Rakesh Mohan said.

Inflation stood at 3.11% for the week ended 3 November, compared with 2.97% a week ago, mainly due to rise in prices of food articles, petroleum products and manufactured items.

Mohan said the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN has predicted that food prices would be rising at a higher rate in the next 5-10 years than in the past. PTI

CBI opposes Ansal’s plea for release on probation

New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday strongly opposed the plea for release on probation of Uphaar cinema case convict and real estate baron Gopal Ansal on the grounds of his “contribution to the national economy", saying none of the convicts deserved mercy.

Gopal Ansal, who is the chairman of Ansal Buildwell Ltd, his brother Sushil Ansal, chairman of Ansal Properties and Infrastructure Ltd, and 10 others have been held guilty for the offence of causing death by a rash or negligent act, though not with a wilful intent.

The case relates to a fire in Uphaar cinema, owned by the Ansal brothers, that led to the death of 59 people in 1997.

Additional sessions judge Mamta Sehgal fixed the sentencing of the 12 convicts for 3pm on Friday.PTI

Alok Ind may turn NTC mills into garment units

Mumbai: Textile firm Alok Industries Ltd plans to convert two struggling state-run spinning mills into garment units as part of a plan to revive them.

The company, which on Wednesday said it has formed two joint ventures with National Textile Corp. (NTC) to revive a mill each in Mumbai and Aurangabad, hopes to set up garment units with a capacity of 500 machines, said an Alok official who declined to be named.

“We have submitted the plan. The joint venture firm’s board needs to take a decision," he said. “Spinning operations will be unviable due to high costs in Mumbai and strict pollution regulations do not allow processing."

NTC will own 51% and Alok the rest in the joint venture firm, the official said adding investment numbers would be arrived at shortly. The mills have about 500 workers each. REUTERS

Bill to amend payment of bonus introduced

New Delhi: The government on Thursday introduced a Bill in the Lok Sabha, which proposes to increase the number of employees entitled to receive bonuses and also raise the amount of bonus due to them.

The Payment of Bonus (Amendment) Bill, 2007, also, for the first time, includes workers hired by contractors.

The Bill proposes that workers with a salary of upto Rs10,000 per month be made eligible to receive bonus. Earlier, the limit was Rs3,500. It also recommends raising the calculation ceiling for bonuses from Rs2,500 to Rs3,500.

The government said the additional expenditure, to be made from the consolidated fund of India, would come to around Rs700 crore for Central public sector undertakings and some other government employees.Pragya Singh

Govt not to hike fuel prices, Deora says

New Delhi: Crude oil prices may have risen by almost 150% since the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) took office in May 2004, but the government has passed on only a fifth of the surge to consumers.

In comparison, crude oil prices surged 195% during the previous National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime that passed on one-fourth of the rise in petrol and more than half in diesel to consumers.

Official sources said the Indian basket of crude oil averaged $39.21 a barrel in 2004-05 and $71.68 per barrel this fiscal. But the 13 occasions when prices of petrol and diesel were revised during May 2005 and now, only 29% of the rise was passed on to consumers in petrol and 40% in diesel.

Petroleum minister Murli Deora told Parliament that the government, under instruction from UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, is not proposing any fuel price increase despite crude nearing $100 a barrel mark. PTI

MSPL plans Rs1,100 cr capacity expansion

Bangalore: Wind energy company, MSPL Ltd, will invest Rs1,100 crore to double production capacity to 400MW by 2010.

The Bellary, Karnataka-based firm, which is part of Baldota group, will set up wind energy generation plants or so- called wind farms, in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat.

The company presently produces around 192MW of power from wind farms in these states and is the largest producer of wind energy in the country, it said in a statement.

Since 2001, MSPL has invested Rs924 crore in wind energy projects, the statement said.STAFF WRITER

LIC sets up India’s first pension fund

Mumbai: Life Insurance Corp. of India (LIC) has been selected by the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority to sponsor a company for managing the pension funds of Central government employees.

LIC was selected on the condition that it would set up a separate company to manage the funds.

LIC has since sponsored LIC Pension Fund Ltd, which is the first company incorporated in India to manage pension funds under the new pension system. STAFF WRITER

Cordea Savills, Nichani group enter into JV

Bangalore:International property fund manager Cordea Savills is entering the Indian markets with a 50:50 joint venture with Nichani Group, a family business house.

The fund, with a size of $200 million (Rs788 crore), will primarily look for investment opportunities in residential complexes, special economic zones, hotels and spas in South India and Maharashtra .

The fund would be open to subscription only to unspecified categories of investors outside India.

Europe’s Cordea Savills manages assets worth $5.6 billion and invests either directly in a property or in investment vehicles or both.

“We plan to launch more property funds in India, which could either be region specific or segment specific, like in infrastructure," John Partridge, executive chairman of Cordea Savills said. Nichani Group has interests in film financing, information technology, real estate holdings and real estate funding.Deepti Chaudhary

Ficci pitches for cut in corporate tax, I-T

New Delhi: Industry chamber Ficci on Thursday called for reduction in corporate tax and personal income tax rate to 25%. It also asked the government to abolish dividend distribution tax and minimum alternative tax and introduce incentives for “sunrise industries’.

In a representation to revenue secretary P. V. Bhide, the chamber also asked for reduction in the excise duty rate from 16% to 12% in 2008-09 and later to 12%.

There is need for alignment of customs tariff with calibrated internal reforms and exemption to exploration and production activities from service tax, it said.

There is need for alignment of customs tariff with calibrated internal reforms and exemption to exploration and production activities from service tax, it said. PTI

CLB reserves order on HB Stockholdings plea

New Delhi: The Company Law Board (CLB) on Thursday reserved its order on a petition filed by Harish Bhasin’s HB Stockholdings Ltd, which had sought a stay on a resolution passed by sugar manufacturer DCM Shriram Industries Ltd’s board for allotment of preferential warrants to the promoters.

After hearing the arguments of the two sides for almost two hours, CLB chairman justice S. Balasubramanian reserved the order.

HB Stockholdings, which holds 12% stake in the company, had made an open offer to acquire additional stake in the company at Rs70 a share.

However, the existing promoters, whose holding is nearly 32.5%, passed a resolution through the board for allotment of preferential warrants in a price band of Rs48-52.PTI

CapitaLand sets up first India property fund

Singapore: South-East Asia’s largest real estate developer, CapitaLand Ltd, said it has established its first India private property fund with about $600 million (Rs2,364 crore) to invest.

CapitaLand holds 45% of the fund, while insurance companies, pension funds and other companies hold the rest, the company said in a statement on Thursday.

The fund will invest in shopping mall projects in India, it said. Bloomberg