Need to Know | Tata, Mittal, Nooyi among world’s 25 biz power heads

Need to Know | Tata, Mittal, Nooyi among world’s 25 biz power heads

New York: Top corporate leader Ratan Tata has been named by global business magazine ‘Fortune’ as one of the top 25 most powerful business heads, along with steel tycoon L.N. Mittal and PepsiCo Inc.’s Indra Nooyi. ‘Fortune’ ranking closely follows a list by another global business publication ‘Forbes’, released earlier this month, that named India’s richie-rich led by Mittal and Ambanis, but there was no mention of Ratan Tata.

In the ‘Fortune’ list released on Tuesday, Tata has been named the world’s 23rd most powerful person in business, ahead of CEOs of international media and entertainment giant Walt Disney Co and French luxury goods major LVMH.

Nooyi, who was named at the top of a separate ‘Fortune’ list of world’s most powerful business women for the second year in a row last month, has been ranked at 22nd in the latest list, topped by Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs.

Mittal is ranked top among the three people of Indian origin. Ranked at 14th position in the list, Mittal’s name figures ahead of CEOs of international giants such as JPMorgan Chase, Hewlett-Packard, Boeing, BHP Billiton, Blackstone and Mexican business tycoon Carlos Slim.

“Some are empire builders. Others are hired guns. But if they truly have world-class oomph, they’re on Fortune’s subjective—yet really quite accurate—list of the most powerful businesspeople in the world," the magazine said in its cover story of the latest issue.

The only resident Indian on the list, ‘Fortune’ said: “As head of one of India’s most venerated family businesses, Tata, 69, has unique stature. The Tata group, ... includes India’s largest software house, one of its most prestigious hotel chains (the Taj), and sprawling steel-making operations as well as leading players in consulting, wireless, and cable services."

“Since taking over in 1991, Tata has made numerous big-ticket deals. But his heart is set on a project closer to home: creating a $2,500 car that middle-class Indians can buy," the publication noted.

DLF to acquire stake in luxury resorts chain

New Delhi: The country’s largest property developer DLF Ltd will partner with Adrian Zecha, founder and chairman of the Singapore-based Aman Resorts, to acquire a controlling stake in the super luxury resorts and spa chain.

The deal is estimated to be Rs1,560 crore, which includes Rs585 crore of debt, the company said in a statement. Overseas Hotels Ltd, a subsidiary of DLF Ltd, is making the investment. “With the financial backing of DLF, Aman Resorts will now have the resources to significantly scale up its development plans," Zecha said in a statement.

Aman Resorts is one of the world’s leading hospitality and lifestyle business chains and currently owns and operates 22 luxury hotels in 12 countries. DLF is India’s largest real estate developer by market value and is in the business of developing residential, commercial and hotel properties and infrastructure projects.

DLF had developed in excess of 224 million sq. ft as on 31 March and 738 million sq. ft. of planned projects. The company has presence across 32 cities. DLF is in the process of building more than 25,000 rooms in more than 40 cities across India. It is looking at developing business hotels, serviced apartments and luxury hotels.

The company has existing partnership with leading international hotel chains such as Hilton Hotels Corporation and Four Season Hotels and Resorts for developing hotel properties in India.

On Tuesday, DLF’s shares closed at Rs897.95 each , up 0.68% on the Bombay Stock Exchange.

Brown’s govt ‘in crisis’ over funding breach

London: Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s government is “in crisis" after the ruling Labour Party’s general secretary resigned following a breach of UK funding rules, the opposition Conservative Party said.

Peter Watt quit on Monday after Labour confirmed it received almost £400,000 (Rs3.3 crore) from property developer David Abrahams through three intermediaries. UK laws require the donations to be disclosed.

“Everything Gordon Brown promised about his premiership, competence, honesty and change, has been blown away in the last few weeks," George Osborne, a Conservative member of Parliament who speaks on finance, said in a statement. “Brown’s government is now officially in crisis." This is a further blow to Labour’s credibility after criticism of the government’s loss of private data collected by tax authorities, the rescue of Northern Rock Plc. and funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.Bloomberg

India may ease overseas borrowing rules

New Delhi: India is considering a proposal to ease overseas borrowing rules for companies building roads, ports and utilities as five-year high interest rates may impact their projects and slow the pace of economic growth.

“The government is examining the proposal of having a more liberal external commercial borrowing regime especially for infrastructure," minister of state for finance Pawan Kumar Bansal said in a written reply in Parliament on Monday.

“If the prime lending rates are very high, then naturally the interest rates on loans for riskier, long gestation infrastructure projects would be much higher," Bansal said. “This may indeed affect the viability of infrastructure projects." Bloomberg

Cement prices seen stable in near term

New Delhi: Cement prices in India have remained stable for the past few months and are expected to be “reasonable" in the near future, helped by capacity expansion and imports, an industry ministry official said on Tuesday.

“Cement prices have been stable for quite some time," Ajay Shankar, a secretary at the industry ministry said.

“Cement industry is undergoing rapid expansion. With new plants coming on stream and liberal import regime, we hope the situation will be reasonable," he added.

India faces a shortage in cement as hectic construction activity in the rapidly growing economy boosted demand by 10%, while domestic supply increased at a sluggish pace of 4.9% until September. During 2005-06, cement prices surged 50% from a year earlier. Reuters

GAIL India wins rights to market PMT fields gas

New Delhi: Largest gas transmission and marketing firm in the country GAIL (India) Ltd has won the rights to market the gas jointly produced by Reliance Industries Ltd, British Gas and Oil and Natural Gas Corp. from the Panna-Mukta-Tapti (PMT) fields, a move that will raise revenues of the company by more than Rs5,000 crore.

The petroleum and natural gas ministry, after three meetings with GAIL and the PMT consortium, decided to nominate for life the state-run firm to market the gas, sources said.

GAIL delivers about 5 million cu. m per day of gas from the fields lying in western offshore and is not entitled to marketing margin.

The government has now allowed the company to charge a marketing margin of $0.12 per mBtu on the entire output of about 17mscmd from April 2008.

The sources said GAIL will get the entire PMT output at $5.7 per mBtu. PTI

ICICI Bank carries out Rs1,930 cr securitization

Mumbai: Leading private sector lender ICICI Bank has carried out the largest rated securitization transaction for Rs1,929.9 crore—a process that involves converting the bank’s car loans into tradeable securities.

The securities, called Pass Through Certificates, are backed by the ICICI Bank’s new and used car loan receivables and have been issued by Indian Retail ABS Trust under the bank’s securitization programme.

Credit rating agency Crisil Ltd has assigned a high investment grade rating (AAA) to these securities. The bank would assign the loan pool to the trust and will receive a purchase consideration equal to the pool’s principal outstanding.

“Including the credit opinions assigned to the liquidity and second loss facilities, the rated amount of Rs1,929.9 crore is the largest in any securitization transaction in India," a Crisil statement said. PTI

Bombardier sees big biz in emerging markets

Mumbai: The world’s third largest maker of civil aircraft Bombardier Inc., expects greater demand for its business jets from markets such as Russia, China and India, a senior company official said on Tuesday.

The overall market for business jets was strong, with steady growth in western Europe, said Murray Sutherland, a regional marketing executive for business aircraft at Bombardier.

“And we are seeing a significant rise in orders from eastern Europe, Russia and South Africa, besides China and India," he said at a news conference to launch the Challenger 605 jet.

The Canadian firm gets about 60% of its revenue from international markets outside the US.

Bombardier, also the world’s top train maker, has an engineering centre in Hyderabad, and is also looking at mass transit projects and sourcing components. Bombardier’s aerospace unit, which manufactures Learjets, CRJ (Canadair Regional Jets) that seat up to 145 passengers, and turboprop aircraft, has not yet seen demand hurt by a credit crunch in financial markets or record oil prices, Sutherland said.

“The business is so international it makes us fairly immune to problems that are specific to some countries," he said.

“But it would be foolish of us to disregard high oil prices or a possible downturn in the US economy."

Bombardier received a net 186 orders in the first half of its fiscal year, as against 100 in the same period last year, he said. Reuters

Nirma to buy US-based soda ash producer

Mumbai:Soaps and detergents maker, Nirma Ltd, said on Tuesday it would buy US-based soda ash producer, Searles Valley Minerals Operations Inc. and Searles Valley Minerals Inc. Reuters

Suven gets European patent for 2 compounds

Mumbai: Pharmaceutical company Suven Life Sciences Ltd on Tuesday said the European Patent Office (EPO) has granted patents to two of its therapeutic agents which are used in the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders (a type of neurological disease marked by the loss of nerve cells).

The EPO granted the patents for the compounds, which are being developed as therapeutic agents and are useful in the treatment of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson and Schizophrenia.

The two patents—1523486 and 1581538—are valid until June 2022, Suven Life Sciences said in a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange. At present, Suven has three European patents.

The company said Suven has already filed its first investigational new drug application with the Drug Controller General of India to conduct the clinical phase-I study. PTI

Amar Babu named MD of Lenovo India

New Delhi: The world’s third largest personal computer (PC) maker Lenovo Group Ltd, on Tuesday appointed R.K. Amar Babu as the managing director of Lenovo India.

Babu will be responsible for the overall business and growth of Lenovo in India.

Babu’s appointment comes nearly three months after the departure of Neeraj Sharma, Lenovo’s country head in India. Sharma had quit in the wake of exits by a string of key company executives. Staff Writer

GMR Infra to acquire 80% in Nepal’s Himtal

Mumbai: Infrastructure company GMR Infrastructure Ltd, said on Tuesday its unit has entered into an agreement to purchase 80% stake in Nepal’s Himtal Hydro Power Co. Pvt. Ltd.

Himtal has the licence for undertaking a feasibility study and environmental impact assessment study for setting up a 250MW hydro power project in Nepal, GMR said in a statement. Reuters

Kiran Bedi applies for voluntary retirement

New Delhi: India’s first woman police officer, seen as a symbol of empowerment in a male-dominated society, said on Tuesday she was quitting, months after a junior male colleague was chosen ahead of her for a top job.

Kiran Bedi, known as a tough, no-nonsense officer who speaks her mind, said she had applied for voluntary retirement two years ahead of schedule, to pursue academic and social interests.

Her decision came after she was bypassed for the role of Delhi’s Police chief, one of India’s most prestigious police posts.

At the time Bedi lashed out at the government, saying she may have been overlooked because as a woman she did not have “booze friends", arguing appointments were being made on how good officers were at “networking". Reuters

CSC, SWAN projects delayed by a year

New Delhi: The common service centres (CSCs) and the statewide area networks (SWANs) providing e-governance services and connectivity to citizens under the National E-Governance Plan, are set to be delayed by a year and be operational only by 2009.

The delay comes even as SWANs in Haryana, Tamil Nadu and Jharkhand are ready for launch.

Around 100,000 CSCs to reach across 600,000 villages were approved at a cost of Rs5,742 crore over four years, of which the Union government is estimated to contribute Rs856 crore, the state governments Rs793 crore and the balance to be pooled in by private sector.

CSCs, or computer kiosks, form the front end for the delivery of government, private and social sector services including telemedicine, education and entertainment facilities to rural citizens.

SWANs are largely government-to-government services providing connectivity and Intranet between offices and ministries.

The cost of implementing the SWAN project is Rs3,334 crore. Regina Anthony

Raja gets support on new spectrum allocation

New Delhi: Union communications and IT minister A. Raja, who has been facing a lot of flak from GSM-based mobile firms on new spectrum allocation norms, on Tuesday received support from an unlikely quarter—the former head of GSM lobby and fellow MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar.

Once a strong advocate of auctioning spectrum, Chandrasekhar extended his support to the policy of allocating spectrum to all on an equitable basis.

In a letter to Raja, he said that having entered into contracts with a large number of licensees by accepting fees from them, it might be impractical now to introduce auctions for these licensees and applicants.

“I will agree with your view that introducing auctions at this stage may lead to a breach of contract by the department of telecom (DoT) and consequential litigations, both of which are not desirable outcomes," he said.

Meanwhile, with GSM-based firms and rival CDMA players sticking to their stand on spectrum norms, Raja said he might meet operators individually to resolve the imbroglio. PTI

ARC suggests plans for better self-governance

New Delhi: The Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) has recommended wide-ranging measures for effective self-governance of local bodies and proposed an ombudsman for checking corruption while power is devolved to such bodies.

The commission, headed by Veerappa Moily, in its sixth report submitted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the growth of the three-tier governance has been “uneven, halting and slow" despite constitutional amendments.

The 422-page report termed zila parishad as a “colonial legacy" and said it should be replaced with “district council" representing both urban and rural areas, with district collector functioning as its chief secretary.

“This will ensure convergence of planning and developmental activities for rural and urban areas," Moily said on Tuesday.

The report laid stress on clear delineation of functions of various spheres of government for effective devolution of functions and powers. PTI

PFRDA clears way for investing pension funds

New Delhi: The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) has cleared the decks for investing up to 15% of the retirement money of new Central and state government employees in stock markets by appointing SBI, UTI Mutual Fund and LIC as fund managers.

“We have signed an agreement with National Securities Depository Ltd, appointing it as central record keeping agency (CRA) for the New Pension Scheme (NPS) for all Central government employees recruited since 1 January 2004," PFRDA chairman D. Swarup said on Tuesday.

All the 19 states, which agreed for the interim arrangement, are also expected to join the NPS shortly, he said, adding that the fund managers would also offer an option to employees to invest 100% of their pension funds in government securities with assured returns.

The three Left-ruled states of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura have declined to join NPS. PTI