China Construction Bank to buy into Ritz Carlton

China Construction Bank to buy into Ritz Carlton

Hong Kong: China Construction Bank Corp., the world’s second-largest bank by market value, agreed to buy 40% of Hong Kong’s Ritz Carlton Hotel for HK$1.37 billion (about 691.68 crore).

China Construction will buy the stake from Lai Sun Development Co., a Hong Kong developer, and three independent shareholders, Lai Sun said in a press release on Thursday. Lai Sun will own 60% of the hotel after the transaction and will receive about HK$567 million from the sale, the statement said.

The companies will invest HK$800 million to redevelop the hotel, located in Central, the city’s main business district, into a prime office building, it said.

Hong Kong’s four-year economic expansion has made the city’s prime office space the world’s second-most expensive, behind central London. The Ritz Carlton will close down by January- end, said the statement. Bloomberg

Court rules GE’s water treatment patent invalid

Washington: The water-treatment division of General Electric Co. (GE) lost a bid to revive a patent lawsuit againstSiemens AG’s rival unit over technology for extracting clean water from dirty ponds or wastewater. A federal appeals court in Washington on Wednesday invalidated a patent owned by Zenon Environmental Inc., which GE bought last year for $655 million (Rs2,574 crore). Siemens’ Water Applications & Systems unit argued the patent was too similar to earlier inventions.

The dispute is over technology used for wastewater treatment, water reclamation and drinking water. A submerged membrane filters waterand blocks pathogens, parasites, inorganic particles and other impurities.

GE said it will abide by the court’s decision. Its stock fell $1.10 to $39.08 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Bloomberg

BJP’s Yeddyurappa to form govt in Karnataka

New Delhi: Paving the way for installation of the first chief minister of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the South, the Centre on Thursday decided to revoke the month-old President’s Rule in Karnataka.

Ending several days of suspense, the Union Cabinet decided to end the Central rule in the state and revive the Assembly which had been kept under suspended animation following JD (S) refusal to hand over power to BJP.

Announcing the decision after the cabinet meeting, finance minister P. Chidambaram said governor Rameshwar Thakur would be advised to invite BJP’s B.S. Yeddyurappa to form the government.

Yeddyurappa, who had a telephonic conversation with Thakur this afternoon, indicated that he would likely be sworn-in on November 12, sources in Raj Bhavan said. PTI

TCS, Infy among world’s top 20 tech providers

New York: Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Infosys were on Thursday named among the world’s 100 biggest technology providers to the global financial services industry. I-Flex Solutions and Patni Computer Services have also been named in the list. TCS moved up three positions from 13th last year to be ranked as 10th biggest technology vendor in 2007. Infosys also moved up four positions to 14th. PTI

Samir Barua is new director of IIM-A

Ahmedabad: Professor Samir Kumar Barua was on Thursday appointed director of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A). He took charge after Dr Bakul stepped down on 10 October on completion of his five-year term. Barua has been on the faculty of IIMA since 1980. PTI

Ford losses shrink to $380 million in Q3

Detroit: US auto maker Ford Motor Co. posted a narrower-than-expected quarterly loss on Thursday and said it was close to a deal to sell its British luxury brands Jaguar and Land Rover.

Ford posted a third-quarter net loss of $380 million (Rs1,493 crore) compared with a loss of $5.2 billion a year earlier. The auto maker, which has struggled with declining US sales and falling market share, said it was moving ahead of its own targets for its turnaround. “Our third-quarter performance is very encouraging," CEO Alan Mulally said in a statement. “We can see our plan taking hold with significant improvement continuing in our core automotive operations."

The company said it expects to conclude a deal to sell Jaguar and Land Rover by early next year. By contrast, it said it would focus on improving results at its Swedish Volvo unit. Reuters

Musharraf promises to hold elections by 15 Feb

Islamabad: Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on Thursday announced that elections would be held before 15 February and vowed to quit as army chief, hours after US President George W. Bush bluntly told him to lift the emergency rule.

“General elections in the country would be held by 15 February next year," the state-run news agency ‘APP’ quoted Musharraf as saying.

Stepping in personally in the wake of the political crisis in Pakistan, Bush telephoned Musharraf on Wednesday.

“I spoke to President Musharraf right before I came over here.... And my message was very plain, very easy to understand. And that is: The United States wants you to have the elections as scheduled and take your uniform off," Bush said at Mount Vernon, Virginia. PTI

MR Tobacco booked for Rs21 cr duty evasion

New Delhi: The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) on Thursday said it has arrested a director of MR Tobacco Pvt. Ltd, a manufacturer of gutkha (flavoured chewing tobacco), for alleged duty evasion. The firm has defrauded the government of more than Rs21 crore, CBEC said in a statement. The company executive has been remanded to judicial custody for two weeks.

MR Tobacco did not declare the correct number of shifts it is working in, and the speed of its packaging machines as required by an order issued by the board in August, the statement said.

CBEC said it found that the company was manufacturing gutkha using unaccounted-for raw materials, to evade taxes. Gutkha is a “sensitive" commodity and is taxed at a high rate of 67.98%. Staff Writer

Global group to review crisis in credit markets

Tokyo: Global market regulators said on Thursday they would study whether to change how they oversee complex financial products at the heart of the US subprime mortage related crisis that has unnerved investors since August.

The International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) said it had set up a task force to undertake the review which will take several months.

“The group will engage with securities regulators and the financial services industry to examine how they have responded to the recent crisis, the lessons that can be learned and what further work may be needed by IOSCO," said Michel Prada, head of IOSCO’s technical committee.

“The recent events in credit markets have demonstrated how closely linked the world’s financial centres are and that the issues facing securities regulators can no longer simply be viewed in a national context," Prada said. Reuters

Sept industrial output predicted to be up 9.9%

New Delhi: India’s industrial output in September is forecast to have grown 9.9% from a year earlier, easing from the previous month and adding to expectations that official interest rates have peaked.

The median forecast of 10 analysts in a ‘Reuters’ poll put annual growth below the robust 10.7% in August.

“Manufacturing should be strong but it will be slower than (the) previous year. I expect growth to be in this region as the festival season kicks in," said Riyaz Khan, economist with the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy.

Policymakers expect a spate of Hindu and Muslim festivals to boost demand into the end of the year, as people traditionally splurge on consumer goods at this time.

So far, growth has been dampened by a series of interest rate rises which have slowed demand for automobiles, real estate and some consumer durables. Reuters

Nod to hike share capital in NMDFC by Rs100 cr

New Delhi: In yet another move to woo the minorities, the Centre on Thursday decided to enhance the share capital in the National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation (NMDFC) by Rs100 crore.

A meeting of the Union cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, gave its approval for enhancement of the authorized share capital of the corporation from Rs650 crore to Rs750 crore. The enhanced share capital would enable the corporation to be more effective in helping the target groups, finance minister P. Chidambaram said. PTI

Sunil Mittal’s criticism of PSUs irks minister

New Delhi: Airtel chief Sunil Mittal’s remarks against Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) have evoked sharp reaction from the government with minister of state for commerce Jairam Ramesh slamming the telecom czar for castigating the public sector undertakings (PSUs), which were subjected to “aggressive lobbying" from private competitors.

“Public service enterprises have to face many constraints in their operations, not the least being aggressive lobby by the competitors to stymie their expansion," Ramesh said in a letter to Mittal.

Mittal had objected to allocation of spectrum to the PSUs, especially BSNL, that does not fulfil subscriber-based criteria as prescribed in the current policy. PTI

Omaxe buys SN Realtors for Rs45 crore

Mumbai: Real estate developer Omaxe Ltd on Thursday said it has acquired New Delhi-based SN Realtors Ltd for Rs45 crore.

Through this takeover, Omaxe has acquired over 11 acres in Faridabad on which it plans to develop a residential project with a further investment of Rs100 crore.

“The company has acquired land measuring 11.012 acres at Faridabad, Haryana, at a total consideration of Rs45 crore (including share purchase considerations) through the process of acquisition of SN Realtors Ltd," Omaxe informed the Bombay Stock Exchange.

The board of directors at its meeting on Wednesday had approved the proposal to acquire the entire shareholding of SN Realtors at a share purchase consideration of Rs32.20 crore. PTI

Kolkata bourse to share BSE trading platform

Kolkata: The Calcutta Stock Exchange (CSE) has entered into an agreement with the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) that would allow its members to trade on the national bourse, a senior official said on Thursday.

Integration of the new system, to be launched on Friday, will be completed by the end of current fiscal, said P.K. Roy, secretary of CSE.

“The new arrangement will provide eligible members of the Calcutta Stock Exchange access to the trading platform of Bombay Stock Exchange," T.V. Rangaswamy, chief general manager of BSE, said.

“For the first time the stocks which are only listed at the bourse in Kolkata will be available on national trading platform. There are some 2,500 such companies," Roy said.

The new system will help increase business in the regional bourse, Binay Agarwal, a CSE member said. Reuters

LN Mittal may take 50% stake in HPCL arm

New Delhi: Steel baron Lakshmi N. Mittal is eyeing half of Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd (HPCL) exploration arm Prize Petroleum Co. Ltd for about Rs200 crore.

Mittal, which made rapid advances in the oil sphere this year, first with a 49% stake in HPCL’s Bhatinda refinery and then partnering with the state-run firm for a separate refinery on the east coast, is in talks with financial institutions to buy out their 50% stake in Prize Petroleum, sources close to the development said.

“He has looked at a few firms but nothing is finalized just now," they said.

Besides Mittal, Essar Oil Ltd, Jaiprakash Associates Ltd and Larsen & Toubro Ltd are the other firms interested in buying a stake in Prize Petroleum.

Prize operates Cluster-7 field of Oil and Natural Gas Corp. and won two exploration blocks in fourth and sixth round of auction under the New Exploration Licensing Policy. PTI

Microfinance book calls for more documentation

New Delhi: Microfinance has no doubt improved the lives of the poor in India but sometimes it leads people to borrow too much, to the extent that overindebtness can lead to suicides in extreme cases, said a new book.

“The controversy in Andhra Pradesh shows that the impact of microfinance needs to be more rigorously documented in order to convince policy makers and regulators that the movement should be supported," wrote Prabhu Ghate in ‘Indian Microfinance: The Challenges of Rapid Growth’.

In March 2006, the Andhra Pradesh government raided and temporarily closed down nearly all branches of microfinance institutions functioning in the Krishna district.

The step led to widespread criticism in the media and did much to reverse the slowly growing awareness and appreciation of the good work being done by microfinance institutions. PTI