Ketan Parekh looks to FIs to pull him out of a mess
Govt in touch with Sebi
Dhoot son rises in east
Foreign broadcasters to pay 48% tax
IISCO to sell old aircraft
Central Bank mulls closure of loss-making branches
Export thrust to NIIT sales
Intel, HCL Infosystem unveil e-biz solutions

 
 
KETAN PAREKH LOOKS TO FIS TO PULL HIM OUT OF A MESS 
 
 
FROM SATISH JOHN
 
Mumbai, March 6: 
Big Bull Ketan Parekh finally appears to have lost his Midas touch. At the end of a tumultuous week, Parekh, who had fired the imagination of speculators swarming Dalal Street with his unerring calls on the market, went into a state of torpor as the bears took a hammer lock on most counters.

“We were neither buying nor selling shares recently”, he told The Telegraph. Famous for his ability to spot winners and literally ratchet up shares to Himalayan heights, Parekh is desperately trying to put cobble a winning strategy that will help him climb out of the mess that he now is in.

Known for his famed skills to ignite the market and specific counters during the good old times, the Big Bull now is wary and is looking for salvation from institutions to change the dour sentiment on the market.

“Institutions (local as well foreign institutions) have to come forward and buy for sentiments to change,” said the once-flamboyant market maker.

The multi million-dollar question is, will they oblige. Parekh reckons that the valuations still look attractive at present, but isn’t letting on whether he is going bottom-fishing for stocks.

Asked to comment on his two hot picks of the season — Himachal Futuristic and Global Telesystems — which have been hammered over the past week, Parekh remains ebullient: “They look good for the long term.”

He is quick to rubbish market talk that he is in a bit of a hole over his bad calls on the market in recent times and vehemently denies he is facing a liquidity crisis. He points to the fact that end account settlements of pay-in and pay-out on all stock exchanges went off smoothly.

The man in the eye of the storm does not believe or at least gives no inkling that exchange officials or even his fellow brokers have done him in this time. “They have all been very fair,” he reasoned. A section in the market feels that market regulators are handling him with kid gloves because they do not precipitate a crisis on the market.

Asked to comment on the rash of rumours circulating in the market about his cash crunch which sent a chill through the market, Parekh says with a sigh, “I also don’t like it, but what can be done about it.”

The Big Bull reckons that the convulsions in the market has led to do with marauding bears as with a spate of bull unloading that sent stocks into a deep downward spiral.

Last year, around the same time Parekh was in the eye of the storm for a very different reason. The income-tax department was after him at that time, but he restored confidence when he wrote post-dated cheques totalling Rs 26 crore that reassured the department and the market players, investing him with a certain halo.

An income tax survey of his 12 firms reveals that his income over the eight months of the financial year 1999-2000 was a whopping Rs 250 crore. Even the tax officials were impressed by the scale of his operations.

In fact, sources say, the tax on an income of Rs 92 crore was arrived after setting off the profits against the loss of Rs 53 crore of Classic Credit during 1999-2000 which was acquired this year from the ITC group. This year, sources say, the figures would be more down-to-earth.

Parekh comes from the stable of Narbheram Harakchand Securities or N. H Securities as it is popularly called. A third generation broker, he has a legacy to protect. However, neither his grandfather nor his father Vinubhai Parekh has ever influenced the market the way he has.

But broking circles still expect him to pull a rabbit out of his hat. If the institutions oblige, that is. Tomorrow will be a crucial day for the bourses.

   

 
 
GOVT IN TOUCH WITH SEBI 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, March 6: 
Finance minister Yashwant Sinha today said the government would soon find out the reasons behind the recent stock market crash and it was in touch with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi).

Sinha told newspersons on the sidelines of a function to mark the international women’s day, “We are in touch with Sebi and we have asked them to give a report quickly.”

The stock market has been falling after a budget-day rally of 177 points. A bear cartel is suspected to be behind the recent market crash which saw the BSE sensitive index falling by nearly 100 points yesterday and by as much as 176 points last Friday.

Sebi chairman D.R. Mehta said yesterday that investigations into post-budget crash at the stock exchanges would cover 14 entities, including foreign broking firms.

Sinha said reasons for the crash of the market, after a 177-point jump in the BSE index after the presentation of the budget on February 28, would be known soon.

“There is an enquiry Sebi is holding. Let us find out,” he said.

   

 
 
DHOOT SON RISES IN EAST 
 
 
BY SUTANUKA GHOSAL
 
Calcutta, March 6: 
Videocon will use Bengal as a launchpad for its metamorphosis into a multinational, and chairman V N Dhoot said his son will be based in the city to handle the growing business in this part of the country.

“I have bought a house in Alipore three months back. My son, Anirudh, will stay there. We want to use Bengal as our gateway to south-east Asia and the neighbouring countries. Since our business is expanding in this part of the country, we feel that one of our family members should be here,” V. N. Dhoot, chairman of Videocon group, told The Telegraph. Twenty-four-year old Anirudh has an MBA degree from UK’s Cardiff University.

Dhoot said the Salt Lake unit, which manufactures colour TVs and white goods manufacturing, and a component unit planned at Siliguri will help it break into the markets of the region.

Videocon will invest Rs 20 crore in setting up a component manufacturing factory in Siliguri. “We decided to set up the factory in Siliguri after Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee asked us to invest there. Land for the unit has already been identified and my officials are conducting a survey,” Dhoot told reporters after the chief minister laid the foundation stone for a white goods manufacturing unit within its Salt Lake factory. “We will be investing Rs 150 crore in two phases. In the first phase, Rs 100 crore will be pumped in. The unit will come up within 18 months.”

The firm also launched the internet TV developed by its engineers at the company’s state-of-the-art laboratory in San Jose. Priced at Rs 20,000, these TVs have an in-built modem and are integrated with the television circuit.

Dhoot said he has received full co-operation from the employees of the Salt Lake factory, which had been acquired from Philips India for Rs 30 crore. “Hire-and-fire policy will not work in Bengal. Cordial relations have paid off in our case. The productivity has increased significantly.”

Governor Viren Shah said Bengal is the midst of an industrial turnaround, and poised for higher growth. Somnath Chatterjee, chairman of West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, was also present at the inauguration.

   

 
 
FOREIGN BROADCASTERS TO PAY 48% TAX 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, March 6: 
The government today said no clarification was required over taxes on foreign broadcasters, who would have to pay like all multinationals at the rate of 48 per cent.

Speaking to reporters after an Associations Council (Ascon) meeting organised by CII, revenue secretary S Narayan said the presumptive income of 10 per cent has been withdrawn because foreign channels were earning much more. “The foreign broadcasters will be taxed just like any other MNC,” he said. He asserted the government has provided a ‘level playing’ field to the domestic and foreign broadcasters. Efforts are already under way to bring all broadcasters operating in India under a uniform service tax net.

Answering questions on how incomes of foreign broadcasters earned abroad through sponsorships would be treated, Narayan said the government will go through the books of accounts and tax companies according to their income. “We will be taking up specific issues separately.” He did not elaborate on how the entire process will be carried out.

Currently, domestic broadcasters have to pay taxes at a rate higher than those which are foreign owned. According to industry analysts, the companies that are likely to take a tax hit on their margins include some of the popular channels like Star, ESPN and HBO.

At the Ascon meeting, industry representatives started lobbying the government in the run-up to the Exim policy and the supplementary budget. Issues raised by industry were mostly related to the indirect taxes of excise and customs. “Customs duties issues have not been addressed adequately in this budget. That is why industry has so many apprehensions,” Narayan said. This is seen as an indication that further changes will be made in customs duties after taking into account the interests of various industries.

On excise duties, Narayan said the government is committed towards a single duty regime of 16 per cent. He said exemptions are limited to products which will be phased out over time. The pharmaceutical industry lamented that the budget had left them vulnerable to cheap imports. It sought complete exemption for clinical trials of new drugs. It also asked for hundred per cent income tax exemption on royalties, up from 50 per cent.

The industry also wants assistance from the Rs 150-crore fund for R&D which was promised last year budget but has not been released so far. In addition, it has asked for tax exemptions on equipment meant for research and development.

   

 
 
IISCO TO SELL OLD AIRCRAFT 
 
 
BY AMIT CHAKRABORTY
 
Calcutta, March 6: 
Indian Iron and Steel Company (IISCO) has decided to sell two aircraft acquired by the original promoter, Sir Biren Mukherjee, in 1960.

The steel ministry has asked the Steel Authority of India (SAIL) to dispose all items that are of no use to plants but are retained by them for reasons of sentiment. Apart from two short-haul Beach Craft models, IISCO has offered to sell its 54 kms Chasnala-Burnpur ropeway on an ‘as is where is and no-complaint’ basis. IISCO is not the only SAIL outfit getting rid of unwanted assets. Durgapur Steel Plant (DSP) recently sold an open hearth furnace which had been replaced with a basic oxygen furnace in a revamp carried out in the mid 1990s.

The two aircraft, with registration number VT-DMR Queen Air 54 and VT-DMQ Twin Bonanza D 50C, had recorded total flying hours of 7359.45 and 6182.55. These planes were extensively used for making sorties to mines and Sir Biren’s base in Calcutta.

After nationalisation in the early 80s, these planes were used primarily by political leaders, top SAIL and IISCO executives to fly to Calcutta airport for their onward journey to Delhi. Sources said the planes, almost grounded during the past two years because of high fuel and maintenance costs, had to wait for a directive from the Centre to be sold off

The 54-km ropeway, which links coal and ore belts across Bihar and Bengal, has 10 stations spread over six sections. Moving buckets overhead carried coal, iron ore, dolomite and sand during the heydays of the IISCO plant in Burnpur. But now they will be valued for items like steel structures, buckets, CGI sheets, mechanical items like gear boxes, rollers and sheaves, diesel generating sets, copper and aluminium cables, control panels and 44m diameter track rope.

   

 
 
CENTRAL BANK MULLS CLOSURE OF LOSS-MAKING BRANCHES 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Mumbai, March 6: 
The Central Bank of India is toying with the idea of introducing a restructuring programme, including the closure of certain loss-making branches and eliminating one layer from its existing four-tier set-up.

Sources close to the bank said under the present setup, the bank has four layers comprising its branches, regional offices, zonal offices and the central office. The axe, they feel, is most likely to fall on either its zonal or regional offices. “We have a plan to remove one-tier from our existing setup, to make the bank stronger,” officials said.

Additionally, the bank which is currently implementing a voluntary retirement scheme (VRS), is also looking at the possibility of closing down unviable or loss-making branches. A decision on the issue is likely to be taken shortly, officials added. The bank presently has a total network of around 3,109 branches.

The VRS programme which closes on March 8, has so far seen around 7,000 of the over 49,000 workforce submitting their applications for the scheme. Sources here said the bank is now working out a staff redeployment plan after the VRS plan goes through. “There will be a vacuum due to the VRS plan. However, the bank plans to redeploy the workforce by training them,” they added.

Central Bank will be the second nationalised bank to contemplate the elimination of a tier in its organisational structure and the closure of some loss-making branches.

Recently, Bank of Baroda (BoB) had indicated that it was pursuing a similar option. BoB, which also has a four tier-structure, plans to eliminate either the zonal or regional offices.

The bank, whose performance was hit by sizeable non-performing assets in the previous years, posted a marginal growth in net profit to Rs 151 crore with net NPAs of 9.84 per cent for the year ending March 2000. Sources said while the huge exposure to certain loss-making sectors such as textiles primarily led to the bank posting huge NPAs in the previous years, they added it has now decided to move away from such traditional areas and concentrate on housing and software, apart from infrastructure lending in areas such as power, ports and roads.

The bank has, in recent times, laid out a plan to enhance the contribution of savings bank accounts to achieve a growth in its overall deposits.

Officials said efforts in this direction have yielded results as the bank has overshot the targets. While the total deposits for the year ending March 2000 stood at over Rs 35,000 crore against a target of Rs 30,300 crore, advances were above Rs 15,000 crore.

   

 
 
EXPORT THRUST TO NIIT SALES 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, March 6: 
NIIT will use software exports as a springboard to attain its Rs 10,000-crore revenue target in the second half of this decade.

There are plans which envisage NIIT’s software factories sprouting in the neighbourhood, like the learning centres in the vicinity. One of these was set up in the capital today.

“NIIT, one of the most trusted brand-names in information technology, is announcing a new dimension of creating distributed software factories in Delhi,” company chairman Rajendra S Pawar said. These centres will come up in other cities too.

“Software complexes, unlike the conventional factories, are non-polluting. Software facilities established in different parts of the city will be ideally suited for the Capital City State, which does not have large plots allocated exclusively to high-tech IT parks in business hubs,” Pawar added. About 62 of the top 700 Indian software companies are based in Delhi.

Pawar said global customers have set new challenges for NIIT to be at the cutting edge of the software technology.

NIIT leverages its SEI-CMM Level 5 quality processes and unique business model to deliver world-class software, knowledge management solutions and e-learning solutions to its customers.

Arvind Thakur, director and president of NIIT’s Global Software business, said world-class large-scale facilities such as NIIT’s fuel Delhi’s potential to enhance its share in the Rs 17,150-crore Indian software industry. He said in addition to providing the most modern facilities, special care has been taken to create an ambience that stimulates creativity.

The facility has a computer-based building management system (BMS) which combines state-of-the-art technology with simple operating techniques to control alarms and monitor building services such as electricity, air-conditioning, UPS and access-control systems.

Thakur said while India had established an impeccable reputation for high-quality software it required to make a strategic shift to high expertise and high value-add areas.

   

 
 
INTEL, HCL INFOSYSTEM UNVEIL E-BIZ SOLUTIONS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, March 6: 
Intel and HCL Infosystem today joined hands to launch an e-business solutions programme.

Under the programme, both companies will jointly build a solution centre to showcase solution capabilities and validate new solution stacks on Intel architecture, like voice over internet protocol (VoIP), a call centre and unified messaging solutions for service providers.

The programme will showcase internet banking, investment banking and business intelligence for the finance sector.

According to Avtar Saini, director, South Asia Intel, “This partnership will clearly enable critical business integrate best-of-breed solutions to reorganise and streamline their offerings to suit specific customer requirements.”

The programme is also aimed at enhancing HCL Infosys’ solution capabilities in the mid-tier and back-end server space.

“The e-business solutions program with Intel will give a fillip to our efforts in creating a more customer-focussed delivery model for business,” said Ajai Chowdhury, chairman and CEO, HCL Infosys.

MSN Holi special

MSN India today announced a Holi special on its website msn.co.in. The scheme, launched in association with srkworld.com, will enable a visitor to the website send his wishes for Holi to his loved ones in many ways.

The portal offers a selection of sweets, which can be sent out on the customer’s behalf. Complementing the gift hamper will be specially personalized and signed cards from Shahrukh Khan and Juhi Chawla. In the run up to Holi, the site will feature folklore and legends behind the festival of colour.

For the enthusiastic chef, the website will feature Holi-specific recipes for everything from bhang vadas to puran polis. Besides, the site will have a wide range of exciting virtual games, puzzles and crosswords on the Holi theme, and a live message board for Holi, to add colour to the week.

   
 

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