Need to Know | Arcelor Mittal acquires Chinese steel wire firm

Need to Know | Arcelor Mittal acquires Chinese steel wire firm

London: The world’s biggest steel maker, ArcelorMittal, paid $26.6 million (Rs104.5 crore) for 90% stake of a Chinese producer of wire used in car tyres to increase sales to the second largest auto market.

“This acquisition is an important step for us in expanding in a major market," chief executive officer Lakshmi Mittal said on Monday in a statement distributed by Business Wire.

Closely held Rongcheng Chengshan Steelcord forecasts 2007 sales of $71 million, ArcelorMittal said.

Car sales in China, the largest market behind the US, rose 24% to 4.58 million units in the first nine months of this year, according to figures from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

Arcelor already has a stake in a Shanghai-based venture that supplies steel sheets to the auto industry. bloomberg

New Delhi: Airlines have not taken to the government’s idea of operating “red eye" or flights between midnight and dawn in the upcoming winter season, which will start this month and end in March.

The civil aviation ministry on Monday cleared the winter schedule for airlines, requesting them to add new flights at unearthly hours to spread-out congestion at peak hours.

In view of the pressure on slots during daytime, all airlines were advised to operate flights in the “red eye" period from 2300 hrs to 0500 hrs, the government said in a statement.

Those flights, said one airline executive familiar with the process who did not wish to be named, came up for discussions but the airlines did not see any commercial viability.

“As a matter of fact, the government did say you start operating and then we will announce the sops. But nobody was willing to bleed first and risk it," said a senior Kingfisher Airlines official who did not wish to be identified.

Winter and summer schedules are permission given bi-annually to airlines to fly on various slots across the country’s 81 airports.

The government said it has increased daily aircraft movement for Mumbai airport from 720 to 768 and from 780 to 820 for Delhi airport “wherever capacity was available", translating into more flights for airline operators for the winter season.

The average flights per hour expected at the airports will be 28 for Delhi and 25 for Mumbai for the upcoming season. At the same time, the airlines have been warned to maintain on time performance across all slots, else they could loose their slots in the next summer schedule, according to the statement.

Civil aviation minister Praful Patel had said last week that the airlines could face fines for delaying flights. Tarun Shukla

Bangkok: Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s ill-health may impair the 79-year-old monarch’s ability to provide stability as the South-East Asian nation prepares for an election on 23 December to restore democracy after a September 2006 coup.

Bhumibol has been in a Bangkok hospital since 13 October after suffering “weakness" on the right side of his body caused by insufficient blood flow to his brain. He has been treated for a blood clot, the official Thai news agency said.

“Where you have so much uncertainty as to how a return to democracy will unfold, the king plays a crucial role," said Steve Wilford, a senior analyst at Controls Risk Group Pte in Singapore. “Investors will be quite jittery." Bhumibol is revered as a symbol of continuity and stability in the nation of 65 million people, the scene of 18 military coups since his ascent to the throne in 1946. bloomberg

New Delhi: The Delhi government has decided to introduce 4,500 new CNG buses by March 2009 in an effort to improve the city’s public transport system.

The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting chaired by chief minister Sheila Dikshit on Monday.

“Around 1,000 standard CNG buses, another 1,000 semi-low floor CNG buses, 1,500 low floor CNG buses and 1,000 low floor AC CNG buses would be procured at an estimated cost of Rs1,796 crore," Dikshit said after the cabinet meeting.

The decision to introduce the new buses has come in the wake of the Delhi government’s plan to phase out private Blueline buses and replace them with government-owned vehicles. pti

Bangalore: Telecom product and services company, Sasken Communication Technologies Ltd, on Monday said fiscal second quarter profit rose 13.7% to Rs14.33 crore, as top customers increased outsourcing of research for mobile phones and wireless devices.

Sasken, based in Bangalore, earns majority of revenue by helping phone makers such as Nokia Corp. and Motorola Corp. in developing software for mobile and wireless products.

Sales rose to Rs143.23 crore, an annual increase of 22% in the July-September quarter.

“In spite of a rupee appreciation of 1.2% over the quarter, the operating margins in our services business has improved to 20%," said Rajiv C. Mody, chairman and chief executive officer of Sasken in a statement.

Sasken had reported profit of Rs12.59 crore on sales of Rs117.54 crore in the second quarter last year. STAFF WRITER

New Delhi: Fast food chain McDonald’s India plans to tap the country’s booming travel industry by setting up express outlets at key airports and railway stations across the country.

Last week, McDonald’s launched its first airport restaurant at New Delhi’s domestic terminal. “Having McDonald’s restaurants at airports has been a key strategy for growth internationally which we hope will work in India as well," said Vikram Bakshi, joint venture partner and managing director, McDonald’s India North and East. “Our initial focus will be to take McDonald’s to larger airports in other metros such as Mumbai and Kolkata," he added.

The fast food chain recently signed an agreement with the Indian Railways to set up an outlet at Old Delhi railway station that should be launched by the end of this year, Bakshi said.

“We have been growing at 35-40% per annum and we hope to double our turnover and triple our presence of 73 stores by the end of three to five years," he said. The company is currently working on a franchise programme and plans to launch its first franchise restaurant by 2009. priyanka mehra

Bhubaneswar: Five days after being held captive by anti-Posco activists, 11 workers, hired to construct a bridge at the proposed steel project site, were released near Paradip on Monday.

The president of the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), which took away the workers, Abhaya Sahu confirmed that the workers were set free unharmed after the conditions set by the PPSS were met and steps taken to prevent construction of the bridge. The workers had no link with Posco and were engaged by the rural development department to build the bridge. PTI

London: Gold prices on Monday surged to a 28-year high on brisk buying by funds and retailers, triggered by firming dollar and rising crude prices that has forced investors to bet on precious metal as a safe haven.

Gold hit a record level of $755.85 (Rs29,705) an ounce on continued US dollar weakness, growing inflation fears and geo-political tension in West Asia, traders said.

Demand from the Indian market, where the festival and marriage season started last weekend, pushed up the prices notably higher, said traders. PTI

Mumbai/Kolkata: State-run lender Uco Bank has posted a net profit of Rs132 crore for the July-September quarter, against a Rs100 crore profit in the same period a year ago.

“The conversion of some low-yielding assets to high-yielding ones led to increased profits," chairman and managing director, S.K. Goel said, adding that the bank recorded a good growth in other incomes also as it sold more third-party financial products.

The lender, which had earlier announced plans to raise Rs200 crore through sale of shares, plans to hit the market with the issue in the next 30-45 days, subject to necessary approvals, he said. “The proposal has been sent to the cabinet for approval," he said. reuters

Chennai: Indian Bank has recorded 37.61% increase in net profit at Rs459.62 crore for the half year ended 30 September, compared with Rs334 crore during the same period last fiscal.

Addressing a press meet, chairman and managing director M.S. Sundararajan said the bank has posted a growth of 27.78% in operating profit during the period, while net interest income grew by 10.79% and non-interest income by 75.69%.

“Overall business grew 22.24% from Rs70,316 crore during last year to Rs85,954 crore this year, while the total deposits rose to Rs53,747 crore from Rs44,124 crore, an increase of 21.81%," he said. pti

Mumbai: The nation’s seventh biggest bank by assets, Industrial Development Bank of India Ltd (IDBI), has reduced its floating interest rate on home loans by 0.5% to 10.5%.

The new rate will be applicable on fresh home loans disbursed between 12 October and 31 December, the bank said in a press release issued on Monday.

IDBI has also launched a special “buy now, pay later" scheme, wherein buyers of properties under construction can avail of a moratorium period of up to 18 months for payment of equated monthly instalments.

The lender has also decided to reduce its processing fee to Rs1,000 during this period. PTI

Mumbai: India’s third biggest state-run refiner Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd (BPCL), said the profit from processing oil into fuels may have dropped more than 50% in the July-September quarter because crude costs gained.

The company may have earned $3 (about Rs118) from processing each barrel of crude oil into fuels, compared with $7 in the previous quarter, said R.K. Singh, BPCL’s director for refineries.

The refining margin declined because some crude cargoes purchased in July were bought at higher prices, he said.

Bharat Petroleum’s margin is half of the $7.83 per barrel earned by Singapore refiners during the quarter, according to estimates by Merrill Lynch.

“I will be happy to get $4-5 a barrel for the entire year," Singh had said on 10 October. “The third quarter looks better," he said, referring to the three months ending 31 December. bloomberg

Pretoria: India’s second biggest bus and truck maker Ashok Leyland Ltd is planning a joint venture in South Africa to introduce products such as 4x4s and luxury buses in the country.

Under the arrangement, the South African partner will own a 49% stake in the new company, which will run assembly line plants in Durban and Centurion, near Pretoria, a local daily reported on Monday.

Quoting the Chennai-based company’s executive director of international operations Rajinder Malhan, Pretoria News said Ashok Leyland aims to sell 400 vehicles worth 40 million rand (Rs23.4 crore) in the first year. pti

New Delhi: Construction major Larsen & Toubro Ltd (L&T) has moved the Supreme Court challenging the levy of turnover tax on transfer of property jointly developed by a developer and the owner of the land.

A bench headed by justice S.H. Kapadia sought response from the Karnataka government on L&T’s plea challenging the state government’s authority to levy turnover tax on property developed and sold as apartments under the state law.

The Karnataka high court had dismissed the company’s petition, which challenged the demand notice issued by the sales tax authorities asking it to pay around Rs4.5 crore turnover tax on a project between 2000 and 2005. pti

New Delhi: India’s largest listed retailer Pantaloon Retail (India) Ltd expects in-house brands to contribute around Rs120 crore to its food division’s business in the current fiscal year as the company is launching one private label a week.

“We have a strong own-branding exercise," said Subham Ray, senior manager for private labels at Pantaloon. He said the revenue from private labels is expected to jump to Rs190 crore in the fiscal year 2009. “We would like to be in every category as we are looking at the entire basket of the consumer spend," Ray said.

The company currently has about 500 products in around 50 categories , ranging from food to personal care. Pantaloon doesn’t manufacture any of its own brands and it sources them from around 50 vendors, many of them small and medium enterprises.

Ray said private labels constitute about 6% of Pantaloon’s food division. Rasul Bailay