One brand for Essar, Hutchison
Flat markets feel the temple heat
CSE set to don new garb
Commercial users of phone hit
Funds crunch at Duncans
AOL awaits the tieup call
US court ruling to act as a tonic for Ranbaxy
Foreign Exchange, Bullion, Stock Indices

Mumbai, March 14: 
The Essar and Hutchison groups are moving towards a single brand for their cellular telephony ventures, which will replace the four existing brands owned by the two.

In fact, with the principal agreement between the two inked many months ago, the partners have already begun operating like a single entity. The combined venture is putting into place a joint marketing team and equipment contracts are now a joint exercise.

The move towards a single brand will see prominent brands from the Hutch-Essar fold—including Orange (Mumbai), Cellforce (Gujarat), EssarCell (Delhi) and Command (Calcutta)—being phased out.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Vikas Saraf, CEO, Essar Teleholdings Ltd (ETHL), said the new brand would be launched by the end of this year.

The move towards a single brand confirms speculation in the industry on whether the “Orange” brand will eventually be surrendered by Hutchison, since it is globally now the property of France Telecom.

The combined venture has already done considerable work, conducting several studies to zero in on the new brand name. While Saraf declined to give more details on the branding exercise, he however revealed that none of the existing brands would be retained.

“We have not hired any agency to formulate the new logo and brand. We are devising the new branding strategy in-house.”

Already, due to the lower equipment prices, the combined entity will reap the benefits as the 1996 pricing of $ 700 per subscriber for setting up a network has been brought down significantly to $ 150 per subscriber. Efforts are now being concentrated on sorting out the legal, regulatory and accounting framework for merging the operations.

The consolidation is to be spread over two phases, with an IPO for the combined entity in mid-2003. The major circles that will figure in the first phase of consolidation include Mumbai, Delhi, Calcutta, Gujarat Andhra Pradesh, Chennai and Karnataka.

ETHL will have a 30 per cent stake in the Hutch Essar IPO vehicle, which will not include its Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and UP (east) properties, owned separately by its subsidiaries Evergrowth Telecom Limited (EGTL) and Aircell Digilink India Ltd respectively.

Within six months of the offer, the IPO vehicle will be merged with ADIL and EGTL at a valuation to be decided by an independent valuer, to form the final consolidated entity.

However, it has not yet been decided whether the IPO would be made in the domestic or international markets or a combination of both.


Mumbai, March 14: 
Apprehension on what the Ides of March would bring gripped the bourses today, with bulls sulking on fears that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and its motley band of ‘kar sevaks’ may violate the Supreme Court’s ruling banning religious activity in Ayodhya.

“Most preferred not to build fresh positions as they were worried that there could be some disturbances tomorrow,” a broker said, summing up the day’s developments.

He said the markets are likely to remain overtly cautious, as Friday could witness disturbances at Ayodhya if some groups proceed with their ‘shila daan’ programme. But in the event of no untoward incidents, the bulls are expected to go charging ahead on Monday.

The lack of any visible activity in most counters saw the 30-scrip benchmark Bombay Stock Exchange sensitive index closing marginally up (0.31 per cent) at 3,580.83 points, after oscillating in a narrow 28-point band throughout the day.

The sensex opened at 3573.98 and was seen in a tight range of 3590.43 and 3562.17 before closing at 3580.83 as against the previous day’s close of 3569.62, a rise of 11 points. Traded volumes also dropped to 72.7 million shares from Wednesday’s 83.1 million shares.

Said John Band, CEO, ASK Raymond James, “The markets will heave a sigh of relief if everything passes of peacefully tomorrow. As the trading day progresses, the markets will absorb the developments. If there are no mishaps, then we can see the markets opening on Monday on a strong note.”

Brokers added the indices would have ended on a negative note had it not been for buying in some selected pivotals.


Calcutta, March 14: 
The Calcutta Stock Exchange (CSE) is set to emerge as the first regional bourse to fully corporatise itself. It has decided to overhaul its constitution to kickstart the process of demutualisation. The management will seek the board’s approval to the new bye-laws at a meeting on Friday.

Demutualisation of the exchange will entail re-designation of its executive director as the managing director and the dismantling of the five-member management sub-committee. It was set up following the payment crisis about a year ago. Dipankar Basu, chairman of the panel, stepped down last month.

Supriyo Gupta, the vice-chairman of the management sub-committee, is likely to take over as the new chairman of CSE, while P.K. Sarkar, the executive director, will be re-designated as the managing director. Gupta, however, refused to comment on the new appointments.

The CSE management will soon convene a general body meeting to seek approval of its members—the shareholders of the exchange—for implementation of the new regulations.

The new bye-laws of the exchange are modelled on the recommendations of the M.R. Mayya committee.

The report of the committee was adopted by the Securities and Exchange Board of India in January. Sebi gave the stock exchanges two months to shape up.

The CSE board now comprises nine broker-directors and as many public representatives. But two public representatives – V.N. Reddy and S.S. Ahuja – have distanced themselves from the exchange. They have not been attending board meetings for the last few months.

It was learnt that Ahuja has already indicated to Sebi reasons for not attending the board meetings of the exchange. However, when contacted he refused to comment on the matter. Reddy, who is a professor of the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, could not be contacted as he is abroad.

In tomorrow’s meeting, the CSE board will also finalise its plan to introduce trading in stock futures, following which it will seek Sebi’s clearance. The bourse will have to set up a settlement guarantee fund of about Rs 30 crore to introduce trading in stock futures. Members of the derivative segment of the bourse will have to contribute over Rs 10 lakh each to the fund, and pay about Rs 2 lakh as membership fee.


New Delhi, March 14: 
Commercial telephone subscribers will get fewer free calls with the telecom regulator announcing today the implementation of the third phase of the tariff rebalancing formula that was enunciated in the Telecom Tariff Order 1999. The new rate structure comes into effect from April 1.

While commercial subscribers in urban areas will get only 30 free calls per month of the billing cycle against 60 at present, those in the rural areas will get 45 free calls per month against 75 at present.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has also clubbed the low-user category (people who make less than 500 calls a cycle) and the general-user category into one group called the “non-commercial user category”.

Trai has already embarked on a review of the tariff structure and the new rates could be announced in the next three to four months.

Trai officials today said the service provider will have to inform the subscriber within 14 days, under which category the service will be offered to the subscribers.

Officials clarified that there is no increase in rentals, but since the low- and general-user category have been merged as “non commercial user subscriber”, there will be difference in rentals for the commercial subscribers. “Commercial user subscribers” shall mean and include a person and/or an establishment carrying on any trade, business or profession or any work in connection with or incidental or ancillary thereto.”

Limited mobility

The telecom tribunal would give tomorrow its decision on the controversial limited mobility services case. “The order on WLL would come tomorrow,” Justice S.C. Sen who chairs the Telecom Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) said today.


Calcutta, March 14: 
Duncans Industries Limited (DIL) is passing through a cash-crunch, chairman G. P. Goenka said today. Speaking at the company’s annual general meeting, Goenka said: “The company is facing problems in paying its electricity bills and meeting other payment obligations.”

Asked to comment on the Unit Trust of India’s decision to initiate legal action against the company for defaulting in payment on DIL debentures, Goenka said he would “not dispute the matter”.

The company, which notched up a turnover of Rs 1827.39 crore for the 18 months ending September 30, 2001, had posted a paltry net profit of Rs 2.89 crore. The interest burden of the company has increased to Rs 161.14 crore from Rs 75.90 crore in the previous year.

Goenka said the company would soon repay GE Caps’ Rs 127 crore loan.

The severe cash crunch has forced Goenka to take the decision to rope in a joint venture partner for Andhra Cement, a group company.

Goenka has been trying to sell some of the group’s non-core businesses for quite some time now and recently hived off Herdilia Chemicals.

“We are looking for a joint venture partner for Andhra Cement, which will invest in the company’s equity,” he said. For the year ending March 31, 2001, Andhra Cement has suffered a net loss of Rs 6.9 crore.

The company’s fertiliser business, which is located at Panki, Uttar Pradesh, has run into trouble following the government’s decision to revise retention prices downwards.

The government’s move means that the company will have to pay back Rs 300 crore to the government. The company has moved the Allahabad high court challenging the government’s order.

“If we have to pay up this amount we will be forced to close down the Panki unit. We are waiting for the outcome of the court hearing. The case will come up for hearing on March 19,” the chairman said.

He said that the tea business was passing through a rough patch, adding that auction prices were at least Rs 25 lower per kg. However, he said teas from DIL’s gardens are commanding a premium of Rs 7 to Rs 10 per kg at the auctions.

Regarding the group’s future plans on the tea business, he said that DIL would go in for a massive retail drive to boost overall sales.

“The entire tea business is being restructured,” he said.

Recently, DIL had obtained shareholders’ approval to demerge the tea and fertiliser businesses.

The company has also drawn up a plan to reduce costs at the garden level by Rs 7 to 10 per kg.

At today’s AGM, the shareholders approved all the resolutions, including the company’s profit and loss accounts.


New Delhi, March 14: 
AOL Time Warner chief executive Gerald Levin sees India as a huge market for the entertainment business and is keen on coming on board as a strategic investor if any opportunity comes its way.

Levin expressed the opinion after a two-hour meeting yesterday with Subhash Chandra, chairman of Zee Telefilms. No consensus was reached at the meeting though Zee chief had hinted that they were close to sealing a deal when he called a press conference in Mumbai last week to announce the acquisition of Padmalaya Telefilms.

“Though the meeting was held, nothing constructive came out of it. So there is no announcement as yet from Turner (an AOL subsidiary). But Levin did imply that he had a positive mindset on it if the deal came through. No multinational can deny the awesome reach of television in India and we will definitely grab at any good offer,” said sources at Turner International.

Last December, Zee Telefilms and Turner International (India) Private Limited (Turner), a subsidiary of AOL Time Warner Company, had announced plans to set up a joint venture company, Zee Turner Private Limited.

The company will manage distribution and trade marketing for a bouquet of channels of the two companies and third party channels in India and South Asia. Zee holds 74 per cent equity and Turner 26 per cent in the joint venture.

Zee had announced its intention to take in strategic partners and had zeroed in on three suitors—AOL Time Warner, Vivendi Universal and Viacom. However, with Levin leaving India today afternoon, no deal could be finalised this time.


New Delhi, March 14: 
Ranbaxy, the Delhi-based pharmaceutical major, today scented a whiff of opportunity when a court in the US refused to extend the patent of an antibiotic drug produced by GlaxoSmithKline.

The brand in question is Augmentin, which belongs to a class of drugs called penicillin antiobiotics, from the GlaxoSmithKline portfolio. Augmentin has a number of formulations.

The generic name of the drug is Amoxicilin/Clavunate potassium. GlaxoSmithKline’s patent expires this year. Ranbaxy has already filed for an USFDA approval for the drug and is expecting to get it to market this generic drug which has a $ 1-billion market.

The US court ruling led to the Ranbaxy scrip jumping to a two-year high of Rs 901 on the Bombay Stock Exchange on aggressive buying by funds and general investors. However, it closed at Rs 886.20 as against yesterday’s close of Rs 875.90.

GlaxoSmithKline was seeking an extension of patents for Augmentin till 2017, which the court held as invalid. The court has ruled on a summary judgement motion filed by Teva Pharmaceuticals relating to the validity of three of GlaxoSmithKline’s patents in the US covering Augmentin.

According to industry sources, the huge market for Amoxicilin Clavulanate will be a big boost for Ranbaxy which is increasingly turning to the US market for growth. Ranbaxy is ready to go ahead with the product after 2002, sources said.

However, GlaxoSmithKline believes its patents covering Augmentin are valid and is expected to appeal against the ruling.



Foreign Exchange

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Calcutta			Bombay

Gold Std (10gm)	Rs. 4965	Gold Std (10 gm)Rs. 4910
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Stock Indices

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