IPCL selloff on fast track
Heads roll at Global Trust Bank
HLL sells 74% in seeds unit to Mauritian firm
BSNL notifies new rates
Deutsche Telekom to offer net telephony
Pepsi plans to step up exports
SWC lists markets for export thrust
Healthy rise in BoP surplus
Focus on wind power potential

 
 
IPCL SELLOFF ON FAST TRACK 
 
 
BY PALLAB BHATTACHARYA
 
Calcutta, March 30: 
Decks have now been cleared for Indian Petrochemical Ltd’s divestment with the government agreeing, in principle, to meet Oil & Natural Gas Corporation’s (ONGC) demand on feedstock pricing.

Sources said petroleum minister Ram Naik and disinvestment minister Arun Shourie met today in New Delhi to hammer out a solution to the vexed issue which had been widely seen as the main stumbling block to IPCL’s disinvestment.

ONGC, which supplies gas to IPCL’s two units at Nagathone and Gandhar, had been demanding that post divestment IPCL should buy feedstock from the corporation at market rates and not on the basis of the current cost plus formula.

The existing contract under which IPCL pays ONGC for feedstock on the basis of a cost plus formula would have remained valid till 2006. But with today’s meeting between the two ministers, the pricing formula for feedstock is going to change.

ONGC chairman Subir Raha said he was happy that the government has acceded to the company’s demand.

“It has been decided that the fuel price will be contracted on a “formula based on international bench mark.”

“At present, we are getting a price based on cost plus mechanism, decided by the government from time to time. But in the post-APM era, the prices should be market driven,” he said.

Raha also said there is a clause in the present agreement that the price will be renegotiated on April 1 this year. “We have only demanded that, and the government has exactly agreed to this legitimate demand,” he said.

According to Raha, the exact formula will be decided at a meeting with IPCL chairman Ashoke Chawla early next week.

Both the prospective bidders for IPCL—Indian Oil and Reliance—have demanded a firm gas sales and purchase agreement with ONGC for a 10-year period prior to privatisation.

Naik had earlier promised that supply will be maintained provided the problem regarding the price of the feedstock is resolved. Sources, however, said conceding ONGC’s demand means gas prices will now go up two times.

A little over six crore shares will be released by the government in the first phase of disinvestment in IPCL.

Going by the Friday’s closing price at Rs 81.65 per share, the six crore shares of IPCL is valued at around Rs 490 crore.

The price of the IPCL scrip has gone up over the last few trading sessions from Rs 58 in January 14 to Rs 82 on Friday following the anticipation of disinvestment proposal.

Sources, however, feel the price of the scrip is still below the company’s intrinsic value.

“The company is making steady profit and paying dividend paying. Moreover, the three plants are operating at over 100 per cent capacities even in the face of steep recession in the market. Hence the price should be much better,” they noted.

   

 
 
HEADS ROLL AT GLOBAL TRUST BANK 
 
 
OUR BUREAUX
 
March 30: 
Global Trust Bank has sacked seven senior officials, including Sridhar Subasri, the executive director, for alleged “deviations and serious irregularities in adhering to the laid down procedures as well as internal guidelines of the bank”.

During its board meeting here two days ago, the bank “discharged”, the officials after internal findings had revealed certain serious irregularities, GTB president P.C. Narayan said in a statement here today.

Apart from Subasri, other officials who have been asked to go were president K.A. Choudhry, executive vice-president Nageshwara Rao, senior vice-presidents K.V. Rao and B.N. Prakash, and vice-presidents S.R. Krishnamurthy and S.R. Kalluria, bank sources said.

They said Reserve Bank of India has been intimated about the board decision.

Narayan said the steps to “discharge” the officials had been taken “in the process of clearing up the problems” in the bank.

Bank sources said the clearing process was in light of the alleged role played by them last year in financial assistance for stock market operations flouting RBI norms.

GTB said the board examined in detail the reason for the “accounts becoming irregular to understand the lapses and fix the responsibility.”

The bank, it said, had taken a number of measures to strengthen the internal control systems as well as setting up a recovery machine to “critically examine and follow-up on problem accounts”.

   

 
 
HLL SELLS 74% IN SEEDS UNIT TO MAURITIAN FIRM 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Mumbai, March 30: 
Hindustan Lever Limited (HLL) has sold a majority stake in its seeds venture to a Mauritian company for Rs 115 crore.

According to the joint venture agreement signed today, India Seeds Holdings Limited (ISHL)—a company incorporated in Mauritius and engaged in seeds and biotechnology business—will acquire a 74 per cent shareholding in Hind Lever subsidiary Paras Extra Growth Seeds Ltd (PEGSL).

The selloff is likely to lead to a profit before tax (PBT) of Rs 72 crore for HLL. Hind Lever’s seeds business had a turnover of approximately Rs 100 crore.

ISHL is an associate of Hicks Muse Tate Inc and Emergent Genetics LLC which are based in the US with global interests in seeds and biotechnology.

To facilitate the new set-up, the capital base of PEGSL has been expanded and in order to retain 26 per cent shareholding in the expanded capital base, HLL has made further investment of Rs 7.19 crore in the equity capital of PEGSL. HLL was advised by Lazard India.

Earlier this year, HLL’s shareholders had approved the transfer of the company’s seeds undertaking to PEGSL by an overwhelming majority of 99.56 per cent votes.

The objective and purpose of the said transfer, HLL said was to induct a suitable technology partner into the business who could add value through technology, know-how, marketing and product development.

Emergent Genetics LLC has extensive experience in the industry and have access to new seed traits through biotechnology and the operational expertise needed for their introduction and growth in new markets.

Emergent’s associates in seeds include Stoneville Pedigreed Seed Company (the second largest hybrid cotton seed company in the US), Produsem SA (a leading wheat seed producer in Argentina) and L Daehnfeldt A/S (a leading vegetable seed company in Denmark).

The knowhow and expertise from Emergent and its associates will complement HLL’s strength in operations, marketing and distribution thereby adding significant value to the business, HLL said.

   

 
 
BSNL NOTIFIES NEW RATES 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, March 30: 
Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) today announced the new low rates for domestic and international long distance telephony, following the increase in pulse rate.

Enhancing the pulse rate would mean reduced tariff for customers because the call-meter would now change after a longer duration. New rates would be effective from Monday.

However, the PCO owners may not be able to offer this advantage to the customers immediately since the software in the metering equipment would have to be changed.

Earlier, in its directive the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had announced the new tariff as part of a rebalancing exercise. For STD calls, BSNL has changed the tariffs for mobile-to-fixed and vice versa, and mobile-to-mobile calls and also for calls from basic service operators to BSNL.

   

 
 
DEUTSCHE TELEKOM TO OFFER NET TELEPHONY 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, March 30: 
Deutsche Telekom is set to enter India to offer voice over internet telephony, which is being permitted from Monday.

The company had explored business opportunities in India back in 1995, but quietly backed out of plans to partner Indian telecom companies.

It is now revisiting the options of entering other areas in the telecom sector which it plans to unveil soon.

Deutsche Telekom will be using voice-related solutions provided by VocalTec.

VocalTec is a Nasdaq-listed company which supplies turnkey voice infrastructure solutions to global carriers over the next-generation, packet-based networks.

Its solutions are designed to enable carriers and service providers to capitalise on the revenue opportunities provided by increased demand for convergent voice and data services.

VocalTec has offices in over 20 countries. As an innovator and provider of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solutions since 1995, its solutions are commercially deployed in over 100 countries, powering 20 per cent of the global VoIP market.

The company offers multiple services solutions and supports carrier services like international long distance calling, packet tandem switching and inter-domain carrier services as well as hosted global business services like voice VPN, conferencing, global call centres and calling card services.

VocalTec’s list of customers include China Telecom PTAs, Deutsche Telekom, ITXC, NTT Communications and Verizon.

VocalTec partners industry leaders in the fields of packet transport, billing and customer care, and systems integration to provide best-of-breed integrated network solutions.

Cisco decision

Cisco Systems Inc today announced its decision to introduce a bunch of comprehensive voice solutions that will enable telecom service providers to take advantage of the deregulation in the Indian telecom sector.

“Cisco’s leadership in voice-over-IP technologies coupled with our experience in powering the largest voice-over-IP networks in the world, places us in a unique position to ensure success for service providers who plan to enter the long-distance voice market”, said Hari Harikrishnan, product manager, Cisco Systems.

“Deregulation of the national long distance (NLD) and international long distance (ILD) services in India in April 2002 provides the perfect opportunity for service providers to enter the high-growth long distance market using voice-over-IP,” said Harikrishnan.

According to the Gartner Research report, Indian cellular market is expected to be the world’s fastest growing with about 30 million cellular users by 2005 — a compounded annual growth rate of 52 per cent that is double the growth rate in China. Fixed lines are expected to grow to about 80 million by 2005.

   

 
 
PEPSI PLANS TO STEP UP EXPORTS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 30: 
Pepsi is aiming to increase its export from India by close to 35 per cent to Rs 350 crore in the financial year ending December 31, 2002. In the last financial year, the company posted an export turnover of around Rs 260 crore.

A spokesperson for Pepsi Foods said, the company was planning to start contract farming of sea weeds in the south, but refused to disclose further details. “It’s not been finalised as yet. So we cannot reveal the details yet but we expect this to drive our exports significantly,” he said.

Pepsi is a major exporter of processed food and has successfully implemented contract farming in Punjab. The company also exports concentrates, PET and glass containers for the carbonated drinks business abroad.

Pepsi is expecting its gross turnover to increase by more than 10 per cent in the 2002 fiscal. In the last year, the company’s carbonated drinks witnessed a marginal growth in India.

   

 
 
SWC LISTS MARKETS FOR EXPORT THRUST 
 
 
FROM RAJA GHOSHAL
 
New Delhi, March 30: 
Shaw Wallace and Company, the Rs 1,300-crore alcoholic beverage major, has identified the US, Europe, Singapore, Hong Kong, China and New Zealand as thrust areas for export of its principal beer brands.

The company, which has a 28 per cent market share of the 71.6 million cases beer industry, has recently secured a US FDA approval to sell its alcoholic beverages. “Beer exports will be one of the thrust areas for the company,” said Kapil Channa, executive vice-president of SWC.

Shaw Wallace wants to hawk its top beer brands—Royal Challenge premium lager, Kohinoor (also a lager beer), Hi-Five premium lager and the strong beers such as Haywards 5000 and Haywards 2000—as genuine Indian beer brewed and bottled in India.

The principal target for Shaw Wallace beer brands are the Indian restaurants and other outlets catering to consumers having a taste for Indian beers. No foreign associate or agent has been tapped for this purpose. The international business division of Shaw Wallace has developed these markets across all continents through direct personal contacts, the company said.

The company is gung ho about the US market as it feels there is a sizeable number who prefer strong beer and lager beer as against draught beer, which is more prevalent there. The popularity of Indian food is also giving a boost to Indian beer, said a company spokesperson.

The company is testing the waters as far as the Chinese markets is concerned. The first consignment to China is on its way and more exports will follow based on the response. The company refused to give actual or targeted figures for its beer exports, saying that it has just started the process.

In India, Shaw Wallace has seven fully-owned brewing units and has manufacturing contracts with 11 breweries. It is also setting up four greenfield brewery units in West Bengal, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Goa.

   

 
 
HEALTHY RISE IN BOP SURPLUS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Mumbai, March 30: 
The country’s balance of payment (BoP) surplus for the nine months ending December 2001 climbed up to Rs 26,529 crore compared with Rs 13,129 crore in the corresponding period of the previous year.

According to the statistics released by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today, capital inflows into the country in terms of both portfolio flows and foreign direct investment grew to Rs 16,570 crore for the period against Rs 11,132 crore in the same period of the previous year. The BoP surplus during the fiscal year ending March 2001 was Rs 27,662 crore.

Similarly, the nine-month trade deficit narrowed down to Rs 44,878 crore against Rs 54,553 crore while the current account deficit was sharply down to Rs 3,363 crore from Rs 14,253 crore.

In dollar terms, the country’s balance of payments surplus was $ 5.569 billion against $ 2.735 billion in the same period of the previous year. The RBI figures further revealed that the trade deficit during this April-December period narrowed to $ 9.482 billion from $ 12.045 billion in the corresponding period last year. For the April-March 2001 period, the balance of payments surplus of the country stood at $ 5.86 billion.

On the other hand, foreign investment, that included portfolio and direct flows, was higher at $ 3.5 billion in the period compared with $ 2.491 billion in the corresponding period of the previous year. The current account showed a deficit of $ 726 million in April-December, down from $ 3.186 billion a year ago.

For the October-December quarter, the current account surplus was $ 785 million and the balance of payments surplus $ 3.624 billion.

   

 
 
FOCUS ON WIND POWER POTENTIAL 
 
 
FROM M RAJENDRAN
 
New Delhi, March 30: 
India is likely to emerge as the ‘Wind Superpower’ with a potential to generate about 45,000 megawatt from wind power.

The country has already identified 13 states possessing the technical potential to exploit about 9,000 MW. The World-Watch Institute report on progress toward a sustainable society has recognised India as a potential wind superpower. The report has also placed India as fourth largest wind power generator in the world after Germany, the US and Denmark.

The ministry of non-conventional energy sources has also identified 160 sites in 13 states having a potential for wind power. Two new states—Rajasthan and West Bengal—have been recently identified with potential for wind energy.

Wind generation is the fastest growing energy source in this decade and is expanding at 25 per cent per year, says the report. Recognising the growing popularity of wind energy France will host The 2002 Global Windpower Conference in Paris from ril 2. The first global wind power event is being jointly organised by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) and Indian Wind Turbine Manufacturers’ Association (IWTMA).

According to IWTMA, ”The capital cost of wind power projects range between Rs 4 to 5 crore per mw. This gives a crore cost of energy generation in the range of Rs 2.00 to Rs 2.50 kilowatt hour, taking into consideration the fiscal benefits extended by the government.”

Rakesh Bakshi, chairman, The 2002 Global Windpower Conference, said, “Power generation from wind has emerged as one of the most successful programmes in the renewable energy sector. It has started to make meaningful contributions to the overall power requirements of some states.”

According to an estimate, by year 2020-2050 fossil fuels are likely to reach their maximum potential, and their price will become higher than other renewable energy options because of increasingly constrained production and availability.

   
 

FRONT PAGE / NATIONAL / EDITORIAL / BUSINESS / THE EAST / SPORTS
ABOUT US /FEEDBACK / ARCHIVE 
 
Maintained by Web Development Company