Maran rips China bogey
IDBI to soon set up asset recast firm
Godrej Soaps in brand recast
Rajasthan woos investors from Bengal

Calcutta, Feb. 24: 
Union commerce minister Murasoli Maran today advised industry to stop raising the bogey of Chinese imports to buttress their demand for tariff barriers in order to stem the tide of cheap imports.

In a clear shape-up signal to the Indian industry, Maran asked industry to stop looking for chimeras to hide their own inefficiencies and urged Indian businessmen to be more competitive—both in terms of cost and quality—to take on China in the international market.

Addressing a meeting organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) here today, the minister said India had vast resources and there was no reason why the country could not compete with China in the export market. Maran’s observation comes a day after the Economic Survey for 2000-2001 pointed out that Chinese goods posed no threat to the country and India actually enjoyed a trade surplus with its neighbour in the north.

According to the survey, imports from China in dollar terms increased 17.9 per cent in 1999-2000 and went up further by 28.2 per cent in the first seven months of the current financial year. On the other hand, India’s exports to China increased by 28.2 per cent in 1999-2000 and by 53.3 per cent during the April-October period last year.

The commerce minister, however, admitted that infrastructure remains a major problem which deserves special attention.

Maran is optimistic that the country will be able to corner one per cent share of international trade by 2005.

He said economic liberalisation should be backed by reforms in other areas like education and labour.

The government has decided to set up a special cell to promote exports to neighbouring countries such as Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan, the minister said. West Bengal and north-eastern states of the country have a great potential to step up exports to these south-Asian countries because of their proximity, he added. According to him, Calcutta can very well become the gateway to south Asian countries.

“This potential has never been realised on account of various reasons. I think more and more private participation in exports would help correct the situation,” Maran said.


Calcutta, Feb. 24: 
The Industrial Development Bank of India (IDBI) will soon set up an asset reconstruction company to take care of its non-performing assets (NPAs).

IDBI chairman S.K. Chakrabarti, who was in the city, told reporters here today that “the increase in NPA is worrisome and it has to be tackled immediately. Our NPA is now 13.8 per cent of our assets.”

He was in the city to address a seminar on banking organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce.

Commenting on the growth of the Indian economy, the IDBI chairman said slowdown in industrial and agricultural sectors, high import of petroleum products and lower GDP are causes for concern. “Real GDP growth rate in 2000-2001 is estimated at 6 per cent compared with 6.4 per cent in 1999-2000,” he said.

“IDBI will, however, finance the projects despite economic slowdown. I think this is temporary. In the next five years, IDBI is going to disburse Rs 57, 000 crore and there will be tremendous opportunities. We are ready to finance projects,” he said.

The IDBI chairman said they have received only two proposals for financing from West Bengal in this financial year. “I feel that this state has huge potential due to its strategic position and power supply,” he said.


Mumbai, Feb. 24: 
Godrej Soaps Ltd (GSL) will acquire key brands from group holding company Godrej & Boyce (G&B), for a consideration of Rs 18 crore. The acquisition will bring all brands related to its businesses under the Godrej Soaps umbrella.

In a communication sent to the stock exchanges today, GSL said the board of directors have approved the “acquisition of trade marks in relation to the toilet soaps, cosmetics, toiletries, chemicals and other products manufactured, marketed and/or distributed by the company at a price of Rs 18 crore.”

The important trademarks that the deal brings to the company include ‘Godrej,’ for use in consumer products, chemicals and other businesses, Cinthol, No 1, Crowning Glory, Marvel, Evita, Ganga, FairGlow, Nikhar and Allcare.

Godrej Soaps and G&B had appointed Kalyaniwalla & Mistry, their statutory auditors to value these brands.

Announcing the acquisition, GSL chairman A B Godrej said, “With this acquisition, GSL now owns the brands relating to all its businesses. The new company, Godrej Consumer Products, which will be operational with effect from April 1 through the demerger of GSL, will, as a result of this acquisition, own its brands. This move will add considerably to shareholder value.”

In an interview with The Telegraph in September last year, A B Godrej had hinted at the possibility of Godrej Soaps buying key brands Cinthol, Ganga and No.1 from Godrej & Boyce Ltd to increase shareholder value.

He said the assigning of key brands to the brand portfolio of Godrej Soaps from its holding company will add value to the company in the longer run.

In a restructuring exercise aimed at reducing the large debt component and creating a focussed FMCG company, GSL recently demerged its Rs 382-crore consumer products business into a separate company, apart from divesting its 25.5 per cent shareholding in associate company, Godrej Sara Lee, to the public.

The consumer products division of GSL includes its branded soaps, toiletries and hair colour businesses. Thus after the demerger of the consumer products business, the existing company will retain chemicals, medical diagnostics and investments in associate group companies.

Meanwhile, Wipro ePeripherals (WeP) has taken over the electronic design and manufacturing division (EDM) of G&B located in Hyderabad. The takeover will enable Wipro to achieve its objective of expanding into international markets and consolidating its leadership in Indian markets, a press statement said.


Calcutta, Feb. 24: 
Rajasthan, the land of palaces, valour and deserts, is keen to add ‘business’ to that list. The state, a latecomer on the reforms scene, is making up for lost time, pushing ahead at breakneck speed with the right signals to investors. That was evident at a two-day business meet organised in the city by the Rajasthan government to woo investors from eastern India which concluded today.

Preliminary discussions were held on 114 projects worth Rs 2172 crore.

More than 200 entrepreneurs, including all the major business houses of the region mostly with roots in Rajasthan, called on the investment-hunters and “promised” to look homeward for their forthcoming ventures.

Suresh Neotia, chairman of Gujarat Ambuja Cements Ltd was upbeat.

“The condition of the state has changed significantly and I am bullish on the prospects of industry there.”

Neotia, who already has a cement plant in Rajasthan, added, “We are seriously considering coming up with another plant in the state.”

Marketing the state to investors here was a team led by the Rajasthan industry and energy minster Chandra Bhan, and comprising 15 senior government officials from the nodal state level agencies like the department of industry, Rajasthan State Industrial Development and Investment Corporation Ltd (RIICO), Rajasthan Financial Corporation (RFC) and Bureau of Investment Promotion (BIP).

The sops on offer during the two-day campaign included spot registrations with the industry directorate, allotment of land and preliminary discussions and loan assurances for projects from the state government agencies. “Rajasthan, being a reforming state is keen to have investments and our USP lies in good governance with minimum delays in decision making,” said Bhan.

“This campaign is part of our ongoing initiative of inviting investors to Rajasthan, taken up with more vigour after the resounding success of the International Rajasthani Conclave last year. And going by the initial results in Calcutta, it was worth coming here.”

According to Rajasthan government officials, the meet made “some significant investment breakthroughs” in areas like hospitality and entertainment, cement, processed chain cold storage and agro products, optical fibre plant, information-technology and hospital and health care.


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