The Mint Report for 24 December 2009

The Mint Report for 24 December 2009

A West Asian country could set up a major crude oil storage in India. A delegation of Indian officials is expected to go to Oman in January to work out the details of a potential joint venture agreement. India wants oil producing countries in West Asia to set up storage facilities on India’s coast for oil meant for Asian markets. If it takes place, the investment will help build India’s own oil storage infrastructure and help it meet immediate needs when there’s a disruption or emergency.

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And some of India’s biggest public sector companies are going to get a lot more autonomy. On Thursday the cabinet approved a proposal for creating a category of so-called Maharatnas for state-run firms that are performing well. Companies that come under the new category include NTPC, ONGC and SAIL. Maharatna status lets companies take investment decisions worth up to Rs5,000 crore without consulting the government, instead of the previous limit of Rs1,000 crore.

Environment minister Jairam Ramesh is calling for a halt to activity at many of India’s industrial clusters. Ramesh says up to 85% of industrial clusters are badly polluted and have reached their limits. Ramesh was referring to a study by IIT Delhi and pollution control boards of the Centre and state. According to the study, 33 out of 88 areas were critically polluted with scores of 70 to 80 points out of 100. Another 32 clusters were seriously polluted, scoring 60 to 70 points.

Food prices have shot up again. Wholesale food inflation rose 18.65% in the week ending the 12 December. That’s a slight fall from last week when inflation stood at 19.95%.

The government said foreign direct investment into India jumped 61% in November to $1.74 billion. FDI flows were also up in October.

The Bombay Stock Exchange says it plans to slash its trading fees from the 29 December and also roll out derivative products. The move is part of the BSE’s efforts to compete more effectively against its rival the National Stock Exchange. The BSE currently has a 25% share of India’s equities market while the NSE has the rest.

Indian shares went up 0.75% on Thursday to reach their highest close since May of 2008. The Sensex rose 130 points to close at 17,361 and the Nifty climbed 34 points to end the day at 5,178.