Pension plan for BSNL staff cleared
Mittals buy out Telecom Italia stake in 3 firms
DSP power unit
India needs to increase bandwidth
Making a spectacle
Details key to online brands
Tax breaks for infotech services
Tata Chemicals washes its hands off detergents
Foreign Exchange, Bullion, Stock Indices

 
 
PENSION PLAN FOR BSNL STAFF CLEARED 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Sept 27: 
In a bid to appease agitating telecom workers, the Union Cabinet today agreed to give government-regulated pension benefits to those employees being transferred to Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd.

Among other decisions, the Cabinet approved the shutting down the Hindustan Vegetable Oil Corporation, bringing in a new liberal multi-state co-operative society act and raising the bonus ceiling for casual workers.

“Pension for the BSNL employees will be paid by the government,” parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan said after a Cabinet meeting that stretched for over three hours.

The pension will, however, not be paid out of the Consolidated Fund of India but out of a government-guaranteed fund, officials said.

Arrangements will be worked out to obtain pension contribution from the PSU to be deposited with the government fund, Mahajan said. The existing GPF of the employees will be transferred to their new accounts to be operated by BSNL.

Employees have been protesting against the move to corporatise the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and have demanded that they should be paid pension in accordance with the government scheme and out of the consolidated fund of India.

Mahajan also said DoT officers and employees who were earmarked for transfer to BSNL would have to join from October 1 “on deemed deputation without deputation allowance” in the same posts they are currently holding.

“They will continue to be central government employees till the date of absorption,” the minister explained. Cut-off dates will be given to all employees to either join the new corporation as full time employees or remain on deputation. Group A officers will be given up to five years, while others will be given “reasonable” time.

In accordance with a deal struck with junior employees, Group C and D employees, who agree to join as full time BSNL employees instead of as government servants sent on deputation on October 1 itself, will get higher PSU pay scales. They will get an ad-hoc additional allowance of Rs 1000 a month till their new scales and their positions are fixed.

With Mamata Banerjee absent from the meeting, the Cabinet also managed to clear a controversial move to shut down the Hindustan Vegetable Oils Corporation Ltd. The railway minister had earlier stalled the move in Cabinet. Mahajan said the government has decided to offer voluntary separation scheme (VSS) to all the 1,424 employees of the sick company. This will cost the government Rs 75 crore.

HVOCL, which manufactures vanaspati, edible oils and cornflakes, has been suffering losses since 1991-92; it had an accumulated loss of Rs 33.58 crore as on March 31, 1999. The sick firm, whose free hold assets have been valued at Rs 329 crore, was set up in 1984 by merging Ganesh flour mills and Amritsar oil works.

The Cabinet also approved a new multi-state co-operative societies legislation. The new Bill aims to cut down on government interference and control of coops.

The new Act will simplify registration procedures, cutting down on approval time from six months to four months. It also provides for deemed registration just as companies have a deemed limited status.

The Bill will also do away with the provision for prior consultation with the central government registrar before passing any resolution relating to amalgamation or transfer of assets/liabilities of the society.

The government today also reduced eligibility for ad hoc bonus to causal labourers from 240 days to 206 days of employment. It also raised the salary ceiling for casual workers eligible for bonus from Rs 750 to Rs 1,200 a month.

Mahajan said the eligibility condition was reduced as the government had shifted from a six-day week to five-day week following the recommendation of the fifth pay commission.    


 
 
MITTALS BUY OUT TELECOM ITALIA STAKE IN 3 FIRMS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Sept 27: 
The Bharti Group today bought the entire stake held by its foreign partner Telecom Italia in three ventures for a consolidated sum of $121 million.

Telecom Italia has sold a 20 per cent stake in Bharti Televentures Limited, 30.2 per cent stake in Bharti Telenet Limited, the fixed basic telephony operations in Madhya Pradesh, and a 2 per cent stake in Bharti Cellular Ltd, which manages the group’s GSM cellular operations in Delhi.

Singapore Telecom Ltd, the new partner, has taken a 15 per cent stake in Bharti Televentures.

Bharti group chairman Sunil Mittal told The Telegraph: “The decision was already taken but we were waiting for the right time to seal it. It will have no impact on the company’s performance. Moreover, Singapore Telecom has taken 15 per cent of the equity in Bharti Televentures, which is an important initiative.”

He added, “We have taken the necessary approvals from the concerned departments and also from Department of Telecommunications.”

There was a lot of speculation about the withdrawal of Telecom Italia from its Indian ventures ever since it announced its decision to move out of Asia operations.

Telecom Italia has decided to focus on Europe, the Mediterranean basin and Latin America.

Bharti Enterprises had recently de-merged its manufacturing and service operations and will list three companies as part of group restructuring to keep pace with regulatory, management and technological advancements and changes in telecommunications and information technology sectors.

Mittal said, “The restructuring is designed to create functional and operational specialisation with a linear vision of business lines and functional areas. The company has instituted total operational freedom with corporate control.”

The telecom major had recently tied up with Singapore Telecom (SingTel), one of Asia’s leading providers of domestic, international and mobile telecommunications.

Singapore Telecom had committed to invest $ 400 million in Indian telecom. For this purpose, SingTel is acquiring a significant minority stake in Bharti Group through Bharti Telecom Limited and Bharti Televentures Limited, the holding arms of the Group’s telecommunications services companies.

The investment of $400 million by SingTel is the largest to date by a Singapore company in India and the third largest investment ever made by it outside Singapore after those in Belgium and Thailand.

This is also the single largest investment by any international investor in the telecom sector in India.

DSP power unit

By A Staff Reporter

Calcutta, Sept 27: A 12-member team of the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) visited the Durgapur Steel Plant for due diligence of the captive power unit, which is proposed to be hived off into a joint venture.

DSP was,so far, unable to receive the NTPC team due to stiff resistence from the CITU-led Durgapur Steel Employees Union.    


 
 
DSP POWER UNIT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Sept 27: 
A 12-member team of the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) visited the Durgapur Steel Plant for due diligence of the captive power unit, which is proposed to be hived off into a joint venture.

DSP was,so far, unable to receive the NTPC team due to stiff resistence from the CITU-led Durgapur Steel Employees Union.    


 
 
INDIA NEEDS TO INCREASE BANDWIDTH 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Sept 27: 
Information Technology pundits feel that India needs to arm itself with greater bandwidth if it really wants to join the big league of IT superpowers.

Addressing a three-day India Internet World seminar at Pragati Maidan here today, John Sculley of Sculley Brothers and former CEO of Apple Inc, said, “India should increase its role in the new economy. With the experiences that I and others have had looking at the global economy through the eyes of many different partners and nations in the world, we can start to seem some patterns.”

Maury Zeff, director of Products Yahoo Asia, said, India is a strategic market for the company and its would soon provide local language content.

It will also increase its local content in India host local servers to increase the speeds.

Speaking at the India Internet World here today Zeff said, “It is important that bandwidth availability is increased as it will determine the growth of internet in India. The development of local URL will also help the whole process.”

While Yahoo will allow local people to produce content for Yahoo India, a censor would be instituted to avoid propaganda of a particular activity or movement, said Zeff.

“Yahoo has appointed local editors who have been educated about Yahoo philosophy and its tradition,” said Zeff.

Band-X, the bandwidth exchange, announced its plans to solve the long standing demand of internet service providers in India — the bandwidth. Band -X will act as an exchange to offer bandwidth to buyers and sellers.

ISPs would have the freedom to choose the bandwidth providers and also negotiate the price. This company will evaluate the profile and capability of the bandwidth sellers for buyers.

This will allow buyers to make a choice on the basis of price and quality. It will also give the seller the flexibility to adjust prices.

Pran Mehra, CEO of Band-X Corporation’s India operations, claimed that bandwidth prices had fallen by 30 per cent in the past seven months, because of this facility.    


 
 
MAKING A SPECTACLE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Sept 27: 
If the internet makes you go goggle-eyed, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Charmed Technologies, the Indian subsidiary of Charmed.com, is all set to break the chains that bond nerds to their PCs in much the same way that Walkman liberated music addicts from their chunky music systems. The device is a pair of spectacles that will enable the user to browse the Net through a small video screen attached to it.

By the end of the year, the company will also launch a badge — a small repository for personal information with around 8 MB of memory from which details can be transferred using Bluetooth and various other wireless technologies.

The badge will be sold to Indian customers for $20 (around Rs 900). The company also plans to lease the badge for other purposes like video conferencing.    


 
 
DETAILS KEY TO ONLINE BRANDS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Sept 27: 
What’s the mantra to create a strong online brand ? It’s not an arcane management concept. All it takes is details. Details, says Knightridder.com director of operations Janine Warner, are the key to high online visibility — something Netizens and internet boffins call the race for eyeballs.

Warner, whose company is based in Miami, heads a team that produces all of Miami Herald’s websites in Spanish and English, including Herald.com, Etherald.com and Miami.com.

Speaking at the India Internet World here today, she said one must first identify the strongest brand across all products. “Test the brand to ensure it works for your audience,” she said at the Advertising and Marketing Forum of the India Internet World.

According to Warner, it is important to develop consistent marketing materials across all media such as print, online, radio and TV. In her dotcom company, Warner is responsible for developing new business ventures, fostering partnership with other business organisations and working with the newsroom, marketing and business departments. “The entire spectrum of media should help in reinforcing the brand.”

However, it was the knack for finding joint marketing opportunities that seemed Warner’s favourite tool, one that could rescue a brand from the trickiest situations, and strengthen it when the going is good. Reiterating that one size doesn’t fit all, Warner emphasised that new markets should always look for innovative and untried marketing strategies.

More important, Warner said it pays more to promote an online brand, offline.    


 
 
TAX BREAKS FOR INFOTECH SERVICES 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Sept 27: 
Information technology-enabled products and services will be now entitled to tax concessions of the kind lavished on computer software. According to a notification by Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), IT-enabled products and services such as websites services, legal databases, medical transcription, call centres, back office, operations, content development animation, data processing, engineering and design can avail of tax concessions.

The concessions will be available to infotech companies under section 10A and 10B of the Income Tax Act, which allows a 100 per cent deduction on profits from export, and 25 per cent of total sales.

These sops were given to software technology parks, export-processing zones, export-oriented units, free-trade zones and special economic zones. National Association of Software and Services and Companies (Nasscom) today welcomed the CBDT decision and the finance ministry’s move to grant tax holiday to IT-enabled services.

“This exemptions extended to services listed by Nasscom would sharpen India’s competitive advantage, create jobs, bring in more foreign exchange and increase revenues of IT-enabled firms by about 85 per cent in 2000-2001,” Nasscom president Dewang Mehta said.

A Nasscom survey says IT-enabled services in India are projected to grow by 66 per cent from Rs 2,400 crore in 1999-2000 to Rs 4,000 crore in 2000-01.    


 
 
TATA CHEMICALS WASHES ITS HANDS OFF DETERGENTS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
 
Tata Chemicals, the largest domestic producer of soda ash and a leading fertiliser manufacturer, has decided to exit from detergent business. The detergent products along with the flagship brand “Tata Shudh” contribute an insignificant share to the company’s turnover.

“After careful consideration the company concluded that it should exit from the detergent business. It is in discussion with potential buyers and expects to exit from this business during the December quarter,” mentioned a release from Tata Chemicals.

The company forayed into detergents, a market dominated by fast moving consumer goods’ majors like Hindustan Lever and Nirma, in a bid to integrate in the area of soda ash which is the key ingredient for the manufacturing detergents.

According to analysts, Tata Chemicals is planning. a similar step with the salt business. It may hive off its salt brand in the near future.

Earlier, Ratan Tata, chairman of the Tata group had informed the shareholders that the company was actively considering hiving off its detergent business. This is in line with the group’s strategy to focus on its core areas of business.

The move comes at a time when DCW Ltd, another soda ash major, is planning a tie-up with Hindustan Lever to make detergents at their Dhrangadhra plant in Gujarat.

It is perceived to be a right step taken by Tata Chemicals after it reported a net loss of Rs 3.76 crore for the first quarter of the current fiscal as against a profit of Rs 6.5 crore in the corresponding quarter of last year. Soon thereafter, its managing director Manu Sheth put in his resignation. Tata Chemicals appointed Prasad R Menon as managing director of the company.    


 
 
FOREIGN EXCHANGE, BULLION, STOCK INDICES 
 
 
 
 

Foreign Exchange

US $1	Rs. 46.11	HK $1	Closed
UK £1	Rs. 67.58	SW Fr 1	Closed
Euro	Rs. 40.90	Sing $1	Closed
Yen 100	Rs. 42.75	Aus $1	Closed
*SBI TC buying rates; others are forex market closing rates

Bullion

Calcutta	Bombay

Gold Std (10gm)	Rs. 4635	Gold Std (10 gm	4540
Gold 22 carat	Rs. 4375	Gold 22 carat	4200
Silver bar (Kg)	Rs.8075	Silver (Kg)	8125
Silver portion	Rs. 8175	Silver portion	8130

Stock Indices

Sensex	4164.10		+74.52
BSE-100	2115.55		25.55
S&P CNX Nifty	1292.55		+24.65
Calcutta	1115.55		+1.35
Skindia GDRNA	649.61		-8.97
   
 

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