CSE weighs debt trading
PowerGrid to invite fresh bids for NLD venture
Caltiger plans to link up state
Cell firms seek WiLL review
Crisis at Hind Lever factory blows over
Dumping worries for lead battery makers

 
 
CSE WEIGHS DEBT TRADING 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 28: 
Making a brave attempt to rise from the ashes of payment crisis, the beleaguered Calcutta Stock Exchange (CSE) is planning to introduce debt trading and integrate with other smaller exchanges to breathe fresh life into the century-old bourse.

Talking to The Telegraph, CSE managing committee chairman Dipankar Basu said CSE used to be essentially a market for equity trading. “But the way changes are taking place, CSE needs to shift its focus to other prospective areas as well like the development of a debt market, including trading in gilts,” he said.

Basu, a former State Bank of India chairman, said several measures are being contemplated to inject fresh blood into the trading system of CSE.

Referring to the proposed ban on the forward trading from July 2, Basu said a concrete business plan is to be in place to bring back the past glory of the bourse.

He is hopeful that the bourse, where trading has come down miserably over the last one month, will be able to come up with effective developmental plans in the next couple of weeks.

“We have looked into various prospective segments where the exchange has to improve its performance,” he said.

The exchange, he said, needs to focus on derivatives business. “It will have to be decided whether we will have our own derivative segment or we will participate in other stock exchange’s system,” Basu said.

Except for the Bombay and National stock exchanges none of the other bourses is ready with derivatives trading and CSE can utilise this gap to increase its business volume.

The exchange is also exploring business proposals that could be offered to financial institutions who could fund the exchange’s future programmes.

Meanwhile, the CSE governing board today reviewed the report prepared by the managing committee on last month’s payment crisis and sought more details on the matter.

Refusing to comment on the committee’s findings, he said efforts have been made to find out why such a precarious payment situation was created and who were the culprits behind the whole mess.

“We need some more time to collect and collate information relating to the payment defaults. We are hopeful of completing the report by the end of next month,” Basu said.

Apart from inspection into the crisis, the committee has also deliberated on some “very useful suggestions” made by some past presidents of the bourse.

“We have, in the process of preparing the report, discussed several developmental aspects with the senior members in the exchange and some of the suggestions will figure in our final report,” Basu said.

Asked whether CSE would formally seek more time from the Securities and Exchange Board of India, Basu said the market watchdog “understands” the situation very well and the required time will be automatically given.

Incidentally, Sebi had asked the managing committee to submit the report within 10 days and the deadline was expired on April 15.

   

 
 
POWERGRID TO INVITE FRESH BIDS FOR NLD VENTURE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, April 28: 
PowerGrid Corporation of India Limited has decided to invite a fresh bid to select a joint venture partner for its Rs 1,100 crore national long distance telephony venture.

PowerGrid chairman and managing director R.P. Singh said, “We have decided to call new bids for NLD, because when we had called bids earlier, the policy on national long distance was under discussion to include intra-circle traffic (between two states).”

The company has started construction of a broadband telecom link from Delhi to Mumbai, which will connect more than 10 cities in this route. About 36 cities are scheduled to be covered by PowerGrid under the proposed telecom link.

“We will deploy the state-of-the-art technology comprising dense wave division multiplexing and synchronous digital hierarchy equipment, which will provide a competitive edge over the other players in the field,” said Singh.

PowerGrid has already signed a memorandum of understanding for mutual co-operation, to lease bandwidth capacity, with major telecom players like Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd, BPL, Gas Authority of India Ltd, Dishnet DSL, S.Kumars, L&T Spectranet, Himachal Futuristic Communications Ltd and Jain TV.

The power transmission public sector company has also decided to adopt a competitive and transparent tariff mechanism to select the private sector partner for its $ 2.62 billion transmission projects.

It has identified five such projects for private sector participation. A section of the 400 kv power transmission system to be offered to private sector transmission companies will cover Rihand II ($ 230 million), Maithon RB ($ 125 million) , Ennore ($ 300 million), Karcham Wangtoo ($ 125 million) and Kahalgaon-II, Barh North Karnpura ($ 1840 million).

“All these projects will be offered under the build-own-operate-transfer scheme and will based on a transparent competitive tariff system. It will be evaluated by all the agencies like Central Electricity Authority, Central Electricity Regulatory Commission and the power ministry,” PowerGrid sources said.

   

 
 
CALTIGER PLANS TO LINK UP STATE 
 
 
BY ALOKANANDA GHOSH
 
Calcutta, April 28: 
Caltiger, the city-based internet service provider (ISP), plans to enter into an alliance with the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) to set up a wide area network (WAN) linking 25 places in the state.

Caltiger will be the technology, network and service provider for the project, which will be implemented at a cost of Rs 7-8 crore.

Sources said WBIDC may either acquire an equity stake for Rs 2 crore from Caltiger, or extend a loan for the project. The promoters of Caltiger, who had earlier this year divested 2 per cent of their stake worth Rs 2 crore, to the Industrial Investment Bank of India (IIBI), currently hold a 48 per cent stake in the company.

Caltiger, with an estimated 5.93 lakh subscribers, has an equity base of Rs 37 crore.

Caltiger sources say all the hardware and support required for the project is in place and the project will be operational within two months of commencing work.

The alliance with WBIDC is expected to be finalised by the middle of May this year.

WAN will help users across the state to set up virtual offices using the network backbone. Caltiger says the network will be commerce and consumer-oriented and help connect the private sector and NGOs through an internal network.

   

 
 
CELL FIRMS SEEK WILL REVIEW 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, April 28: 
Private cellular operators — Tata, Bharti, Hughes Escorts Communications and BPL have again knocked the doors of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, requesting him to review the limited mobile services at Rs 1.20 a call on basic telephones as cleared by the Group on Telecom (GoT-IT).

A delegation of top industrialists, including, Ratan Tata, Sunil Bharti Mittal, Sashi Ruia, Rajeev Chandrashekar, Rajan Nanda, Kumara mangalam Birla today met the Prime Minister and asked him to reconsider the GoT-IT report.

Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) chairman Vinay Rai said: “The delegation claimed that the issues need to be reviewed, particularly the point whether limited mobility formed part of the basic service licence. We feel, GoT-IT did their best within the given time, but the issues are technical and complex.”

He added that the group has requested the Prime Minster to set up a technical committee for reviewing the whole issue.

A senior executive of a cellular company said, “The explanatory memorandum of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) recommendations is not only full of contradictions but also features over-simplifications of several critical issues which have been dealt with through untenable rationalisations. The group has highlighted those same remarks.”

COAI has been opposing the move to allow mobile services through wireless in local loop (WiLL) on grounds that it would give tremendous advantage to basic operators.

Rai said: “The issue needs to be discussed by the basic and cellular operators. We have sought government’s intervention in the debate. Earlier, we could not reach at an agreement because there was no arbitrator while we discussed the issue.”

On Friday the Prime Minister accepted suggestions of GoT-IT to allow limited mobility but he said that issues concerning tariff should be referred to Trai.

   

 
 
CRISIS AT HIND LEVER FACTORY BLOWS OVER 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 28: 
The labour problems at Hindustan Lever Ltd’s (HLL) Garden Reach factory have been resolved, with the CITU-affiliated Thika Majdoor Union, calling off its three-day long agitation, launched to protest the suspension of its seven members. An HLL spokesman said the contract labourers’ union has assured the management of maintaining discipline in the factory. The union, he added, has also given an assurance that it will not disrupt the production process.

“The union called off the agitation at 1 pm today and the factory is now ready to resume operations,” he said. The withdrawal of the agitation will pave the way for wage negotiations with the contractual labourers, he added.

A wage revision is also due with permanent workers from January this year.

According to the Shramik Sangram Committee, which runs the permanent workers’ union, HLL wants to slash its workforce by 500, a proposal which has been rejected outright by the union.

Meanwhile, all of HLL’s four plants in the Garden reach factory had to be shut down during the agitation due to the shortage of raw materials, supply of which was blocked by the agitating union for the last three days.

The HLL spokesman also said the state government has played a very positive role in resolving the crisis.

   

 
 
DUMPING WORRIES FOR LEAD BATTERY MAKERS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 28: 
Domestic lead battery manufacturers have expressed concern over the import of cheap batteries which has touched an alarming figure of 2.89 lakh pieces for automotive batteries and 1.9 lakh for industrial batteries during the nine-month period from April to December 2000.

Addressing a press conference here today, Sudhir Chand, vice-president of Indian Battery Manufacturers Association said, “On Friday, the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCIS) released the import figures, based on the arrivals of batteries from different countries through the ports.”

The major dumping of batteries have come from China, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Philippines, Bangladesh and Taiwan.

Chand, who is also the director (automotive) of Exide Industries said that the cheap imports of industrial batteries, which include, UPS and telecom batteries, have acquired 30 per cent market share. Imported automotive batteries have garnered 6 per cent market share, he added.

The total size of the battery market is Rs 2,000 crore.

The total consumption of the automotive batteries is 7.2 lakh, including, 6.2 lakh for the replacement market and the rest for the original equipment.

Chand said: while the DGCIS released figures for nine months, “on the annualised basis the figure will be much higher. For instance, we expect the import figures for automotive batteries to be at 3.6 lakh pieces.”

The battery manufacturers pointed out that customs duty on major raw materials — lead and separators (comprising 50 per cent of the cost) — is the same as the customs duty on finished products imported into India.

“Lead produced in India barely caters to 25 per cent of the total demand and essentially needs to be imported. Due to this anomaly the domestic manufacturers are facing a cost disadvantage in the home market while being competitive abroad,” Chand said.

“We want the government to reduce the basic customs duty on lead and lead alloys from 35 per cent to 15 per cent,” said the manufacturers.

   
 

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