Get set to dial MTNL for all-in-one connection
Govt balancing act to retain surcharge on direct t
ICICI logs 18% growth in net
Revamp helps Siemens to bounce back in black
Centre cooking up great food divide

New Delhi, Jan 28 
Worried about the phone calls you could miss, because you are wired on to the Net? Your dilemma could end soon, says Mahanagar Telephone Nigam (MTNL) chairman and managing director S. Rajagopalan. The company plans to launch a new technology which will enable subscribers to use the phone even while they are connected to the internet.

The simultaneous use of a telephone connection for telephony and Net viewing has been made possible by a technology known as asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL). This promises access speeds more than those offered by integrated services digital network (ISDN) and ‘cable modems’ hooked up to cable television lines.

“The opportunities it can offer are many. You can, for instance, chat on the Net while your father is on a video teleconference, your brother watches a program on another PC and your mother calls up her friends — all of them utilising one telephone line at the same time,” says Rajagopalan. He added the initial cost of the modem required to be installed could be high but assured the benefits outweigh the cost incurred.

“There is a need to demystify the concept of internet in India. Internet here still has the image of elitism attached to it, like the cellular phone. The new technology will not only bring down the cost of maintaining the internet but also cut telephone bills. If we can provide fast and reliable connections, the time taken to browse and download graphics and data would be lower. This would mean less time spent on it,” the MTNL chief said.

The ADSL system uses the existing copper wire telephone lines to deliver fast and reliable performance without the high costs traditionally associated with either ISDN or Cable Modem.

While these technologies require considerable investment in infrastructure by telephone and cable TV companies, installation of ADSL is expected to cost less.

The per line cost of a ADSL technology-based telephone connection is expected to be in the region of Rs. 8,000-10,000 — this is expected to become cheaper within a few years.

As against this, the existing cost of an ISDN line is about Rs.30,000-Rs 45,000.

The company plans to procure the ADSL equipment through a tender to be floated by next week. “We will soon seek an approval from the board to float the tender. By April-May, we will instal 2,000-line exchanges in Mumbai and Delhi.

This will be gradually increased to 5,000 lines by December,” Rajagopalan said.

Currently, the companies which manufacture modems for the ADSL technology include, Motorola Semiconductor, Ericsson Austria, AT&T’s Paradyne division — which was recently sold off — Alcatel Bell and a few Japanese firms.    

New Delhi, Jan 28 
The 10 per cent one-time surcharge on corporate and personal taxes imposed in the last budget is likely to continue into 2001.

The revenue department is in favour of retaining the levy, saying it will help make up for the large give-aways being considered in customs duties and to meet demands from various departments such as defence for steep hikes in their expenditure allocations.

In all, Rs 3,700 crore was supposed to be raised through the surcharge —Rs 2,800 crore from corporate tax and Rs 900 crore from personal income tax. The revenue department hopes to mop up more than Rs 4,100 crore in the next financial year through this impost.

“This is a huge amount we can’t afford to do without in the next financial year given that we are considering a certain amount of rationalisation in indirect taxes, especially in customs duties,” top revenue department officials said.

The fact that tax collections are way short of their targets only strengthens their case. While the tax collection target of Rs 1,59,787 crore assumes that revenues will grow 21 per cent over last year, realistic projections made by the revenue department have tempered this increase to about 16 per cent.

The department admits one of its weakest spots is the falling corporate tax collections, an area which has given rise to considerable concern and alarm. “Under these circumstances, we cannot do away with this impost,” officials said.

To make matters worse, demands for sharp increases in expenditure from various departments do not show any signs of easing. On the contrary, certain departments, such as defence, have jacked up their demands by as much as 20-25 per cent.

Last year, around Rs 34,686 crore was earmarked for defence but the final figures are expected to be 15-20 per cent higher. And this year, the three defence services have placed huge demands for purchase of various kinds of equipment which they feel are essential given the tense situation on India’s western borders.

Budget session from Feb 23

The Budget session of Parliament will start from February 23. The cabinet is meeting tomorrow to finalise the date. Earlier, the finance ministry wanted to kick off the session from January 20, given the long unfinished legislative agenda. But state assembly elections, which start on January 17 and end on January 22, have forced the government to rework the dates. However, officials say this does not mean the budget will be delayed, reports our correspondent.    

Mumbai, Jan 28 
ICICI Ltd has posted a 18 per cent rise in net profit in the third quarter of 1999-2000. Net profit rose to Rs 252 crore compared with Rs 213 crore in the corresponding period of the previous year. The financial institution, however, has added another Rs 19 crore as extra-ordinary gain that took the net profit for the period to Rs 271 crore.

For the nine months ended December 31, profit after tax stood at Rs 811 crore (including the extraordinary income of Rs 19 crore) compared with Rs 721 crore in the previous year, an increase of 12.6 per cent. ICICI said it registered an increase in net profit despite enhanced provisions and write-offs which rose by 44 per cent to Rs 435 crore for the nine month period compared with Rs 302 crore in the previous year. For the third quarter, provisions were placed at Rs 189 crore compared with Rs 114 crore in the previous year.

The company’s outstanding net non-performing assets were Rs 3,649 crore and the net NPA ratio as per Indian GAAP was 7.4 per cent on December 31.

On the BSE today, the ICICI scrip rose to an intra-day high of Rs 124.95 after opening at Rs 123.40 but finished lower at Rs 118.90.

BoI profit up 19%

Bank of India (BoI) has registered an 18.64 per cent rise in net profit at Rs 70 crore for the third quarter ending December 31, 1999, against Rs 59 crore during the corresponding period last year. For the nine months ending December, net profit rose by 10 per cent to Rs 176 crore against Rs 160 crore in the previous year, according to BoI’s unaudited results released here today.

Dena Bank net falls

The net profit of Dena Bank dropped by 16.1 per cent to Rs 20.37 crore during the third quarter of 1999-2000, as provisions increased by 95.4 per cent to Rs 48.85 crore for the period.    

Mumbai, Jan 28 
Siemens Ltd is back on the recovery trail, following a restructuring exercise, by reporting profit after taxes of Rs 5.69 crore in the first quarter ending December 31, 1999, against a loss of Rs 22.29 crore in the corresponding period of the previous year.

The company’s order-book position improved 30 per cent during the period from Rs 185.80 crore to Rs 242.2 crore.

Turnover during the period increased 38 per cent to Rs 227.50 crore compared with Rs 164.90 crore in the corresponding period of the previous year.

“The result indicates that we are definitely on the right path. We continued to vigorously pursue our internal actions to meet new market challenges efficiently. This will be an on-going effort to remain competitive,’’ Siemens managing director J. Schubert said.

Colgate fares well

Colgate-Palmolive today reported a 10 per cent increase in sales to Rs 828.5 crore for the nine months of the current fiscal compared with Rs 750.50 crore in the corresponding period of the previous year.

Net profit during the period went up from Rs 27.50 crore to Rs 35.4 crore.

The company said the results reflected the benefits of focussed brand building, product launches and marketing support programmes. The company reported 9 per cent growth in volumes.

In the third quarter, sales increased by 3 per cent to Rs 260 crore compared with Rs 251.4 crore in the previous year.

Net profit went up 2 per cent to Rs 10 crore compared with Rs 9.8 crore in the previous year.

The company said Colgate Toothpowder, which was relaunched in September 1999 backed by a highly visible and effective advertising campaign, has managed to capture a 49 per cent share of the market.

The successful launch of six new toothbrushes over the last eighteen months and an innovative consumer promotion —”Dream 2000’’ — to achieve higher brand awareness helped volumes surge by 23 per cent in the first nine months of 1999-2000.

Indian Rayon net up

Indian Rayon and Industries Ltd has posted a net profit of Rs 16.64 crore in the third quarter compared with Rs 10.21 crore in the second quarter.

Turnover was down marginally at Rs 279.50 crore over Rs 280.04 crore in the previous quarter. However, the results of the two corresponding quarters are not comparable.    

New Delhi, Jan 28 
The BJP government wants to brand non-veg food for what it is — non-veg food. A new colour code is on the canvas under which all kinds of packed food containing meat, fish or egg-based ingredients will be classified as ashudh. Not an original idea, but one that might upset many, from food processors to consumers to politicians.

Even though the Communists might not like it, red is likely to be the chosen colour which will make BJP’s ‘shudh Shakaharis’ see red. It will warn them of the impending dangers to their creed if they munch on tainted non-veg fare.

A long list of supposedly vegetarian articles — cake, jams, jelly, biscuits, beer, confectioneries — are among the masahari suspects that are believed to be tempting the shakahari sages.

With this new colour code, the government wants it to be crystal clear, even to the illiterate among the veggies, on which side of the great food divide they stand — not to mention the ideological divide.

As a prelude to the introduction of this new colour code, the BJP-led coalition government has already invited suggestions and objections from corporates and consumers. People have until March 5 to write in.

The non-veg colour-code is an idea mooted by a Maneka Gandhi-chaired committee, which had urged the government to define and brand vegetarian and non-vegetarian food for what they are. Many in the BJP government came out in support of the idea because they felt it would help consumers whose food habits were dictated by religious beliefs.

In fact, by trying to define egg as non-veg, the government has re-opened an old controversy. Several Hindu and Jain religious purists, besides scores of scientists, consider egg non-vegetarian on the ground that it has the nucleus of animal life. Others insist it is vegetarian because life has not taken form. However, the real problem that the government faces in introducing this code is that the food industry is not happy with the idea. Partly, because much of what it sells as implicitly ‘veg’ may be shunned by a large segment of the Indian population which swears by its shakahari credo.

Food industry representatives do not overtly oppose it. But they make it clear they neither support it. The reasons extended, however, differ.

“We welcome the idea but the fact is that no one else in the world does it. There will be many problems because we are going to be the only ones insisting that food packs imported into this country be declared veg or non-veg through a colour code,” says Vijay Sardana, secretary of the Confederation of Indian Food and Trade Industry (Cifti).

Globally, there is a raging debate on whether food products should be classified by their ingredients, instead of doing it on the basis of a simple religious code linked to veg and non-veg formulas. Nutritional inputs, not religious sensitivities, should be the line of distinction.

Many countries, for instance, want milk-based foods to be clearly designated lacto-vegetarian since there are conflicting medical reasons for shunning or partaking them. Similarly, there are others others who want egg-based products to be treated as ovo-vegetarian.

Experts, on the other hand, remain undecided. A body under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is looking at framing a food-standards code called Codex Alimentarius. India, too, is a member of the committee. Cifti wants the government to wait untill this WTO panel comes up with a code. “Why be different? If we hope to sell to and buy from the world, we have to confirm to the standards evolved by WTO,” argues Sardana. But then, is the government willing to listen?    


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