Panel to break DTS standoff
Fertiliser subsidy rate cut
United Bank net profit jumps 113%
Travelmartindia banks on reverse auctions

New Delhi, June 24 
The government has decided to constitute a group of ministers (GOM) to iron out the glitches that are holding up the plans to corporatise the department of telecom services (DTS) which will pave the way for the state-owned utility to start offering mobile telephony services in the four metros.

The decision, taken at a Cabinet meeting today, comes two weeks after communications minister Ram Vilas Paswan set the October 1 deadline for the corporatisation of DTS.

The group will be headed by communications minister Paswan and will have finance minister Yashwant Sinha, commerce and industry minister Murasoli Maran, human resource and development minister Murli Manohar Joshi, labour minister Satya Narain Jatiya and minister of state for personnel Vasundhara Raje as members.

The issue has been at the centre of a major standoff between the government and the telecom unions which fear job cuts after the DTS is corporatised. The government had offered a free phone facility to all telecom department personnel as a blandishment to secure their endorsement of the proposal. The unions have refused to relent and the government has put its freebie on hold; the unions have decided to go on strike on May 28 to protest the move.

The GOM will resolve quarrels with telecom employees over issues like pay scales and pensionary benefits, by August 15, 2000 to �ensure a smooth switch over to corporatisation.�

After the meeting, Paswan told reporters, �The PM has formed GOM and asked it to submit its report by August 15 for smooth corporatisation of DTS.�

The government had earlier proposed the corporatisation of DTS by January 1, 2001. This deadline was advanced � after the meeting with Vajpayee and finance minister Sinha�as a barter to clear the free phone scheme.

Paswan had got the prime minister to agree to the free phone scheme to the telephone department employees by claiming that this was a good bait to get them to accept the corporatisation proposal of DTS. The freebie scheme was cleared in the face of stiff opposition from finance minister Yashwant Sinha.

Condemning the current agitation by telecom employees against proposed corporatisation of DTS and reported privatisation of Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL), Paswan said,�Whatever has been happening since yesterday is not correct.� He added that workers should not do anything to harm the country.

The telecom network in the entire country had been crippled since yesterday due to the mass casual leave taken by the India Telecom Services Association (ITSA) which was spearheading the agitation. Most of the routes on long distance (STD) were affected badly besides disruption in connectivity between land line telephone to cellular networks.    

New Delhi, June 24 
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today slashed the base rate of subsidy it pays to fertiliser manufacturers. The base rate of concession for indigenously produced di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) has been reduced to Rs 2800 per tonne as against the previous Rs 3900 per tonne. It stood at Rs 4500 per tonne before the budget this year.

There is, however, no change in base rate for imported DAP and it remains at Rs 950 per tonne. �This stood at Rs 3100 per tonne before the budget,� said an official spokesperson.

The base rate of muriate of potash (MOP) fertiliser has been increased to Rs 2,800 per tonne from Rs 2695 per tonne earlier. Before the budget, the rates stood at Rs 3,250 per tonne. Base rates of single super phosphate (SSP), has been reduced to Rs 700 per tonne from Rs 800 per tonne. Before the budget, this stood at Rs 900 per tonne. The new revision of base rates would be effective retrospectively from April 1, 2000.    

Calcutta, June 24 
United Bank of India has recorded a 113 per cent increase in its net profit to Rs 31.36 crore in the financial year 1999-2000 compared with Rs 14.70 crore in the previous year.

The bank�s non-performing assets (NPAs) have gone down to 12.7 per cent to Rs 587 crore from 14.7 per cent in the previous year. It has targeted to reduce it by another Rs 300 crore in the current financial year. Gross NPAs of the bank, however, stand at Rs 1520 crore.

UBI, which shut down eight branches last year, has decided to close another 40 branches this year through merger and relocation.

The bank has been able to achieve a capital adequacy ratio of 9.6 per cent last year.

The operating profit of the bank rose to Rs 84.29 crore compared with Rs 46.39 crore in the previous year.

Addressing a press conference here today UBI chairman Biswajit Choudhuri said, �It is still a modest net profit. We have not taken into consideration the provision for wage revision. However, we have advanced the payments to pension fund this year. The payment to pension funds can be made over a period of seven years. We have reduced it to five years. Due to this we have to make an additional provisioning of Rs 21 crore.�

The wage revision will cost the bank an additional Rs 39 crore every year.

The deposits of the bank have increased to Rs 16,788 crore, registering a growth of Rs 2,272 crore (15.7 per cent) over the previous year. The credit deposit ratio, however, has not yet looked up and it stands at 36 per cent.

The advances increased to Rs 4563 crore, registering a growth of 18.7 per cent.

Choudhuri said the percentage of investments marked to market has risen to 80 per cent against a minimum of 75 per cent stipulated by the Reserve Bank of India. The total priority sector lending stands at 42.6 per cent.

Business per employee has increased to Rs 1 crore as against Rs 86 lakh in the previous year.

Interest income has increased to Rs 1697 crore in 1999-2000 compared with Rs 1453 crore in the previous year.

Talking about UBI�s restructuring plan, Choudhuri said the bank had asked the government for a recapitalisation fund of Rs 200 crore to maintain its capital adequacy ratio. It had also asked for some funds for technology upgradation.

The bank has been able to reduce the number of loss-making branches from 74 in 1998-99 to 65 in 1999-2000.

Talking about the future plans of the bank, Choudhuri said seven-day banking branches would be increased from 18 to 100 this year. Two-shift banking would be introduced in 40 branches in different centres.

Central Bank net

Central Bank of India has reported a marginal three per cent rise in its net profit at Rs 150.69 crore on a 15 per cent increase in total income at Rs 4,186 crore for the year ended March 31, 2000 compared with the previous year.

Total deposits were up by 17 per cent to Rs 35,872 crore and net advances increased by 23.5 per cent to Rs 15,805 crore in 1999-00, a bank statement said here today.

Union Bank profit drops

Union Bank of India has reported a 37 per cent decline in its net profit at Rs 101 crore even as its business mix comprising deposits and advances improved by 15 per cent to Rs 46,400 crore for the year ending March 31, 2000 compared with the previous year.

Operating profit of the bank was, however, up by 26 per cent to Rs 391.65 crore in 1999-00 as against last year, a bank statement said here today.    

Mumbai, June 24, the e-commerce-based travel portal, has decided to focus on reverse auctions, a process through which sellers compete against each other to win a buyer.

The portal, which plans to develop into a complete travel solutions website, has tied up with over 30,000 hotels worldwide and several airlines. Its online travel bid service provides the traveller with the option of travelling at his quoted price. The traveller has to bid a price for a hotel stay or for an airline ticket and thereafter the portal matches his bids with any existing hotel accommodation available at that price and gives it to the bidder.

According to sources, Travelmart, in which Citibank has a 22 per cent stake, is largely based on the business to business (B2B) model.

Among others, the portal offers services in air and hotel reservations, cruises, vacation packages, foreign exchange, flight charters, adventure tourism/eco tourism and others.

In order to become a one-stop-shop travel solutions provider, Travelmartindia, has also struck strategic alliances with various other portals which include,, to be the exclusive travel content and e-commerce ticketing service provider. While many more such alliances are on the anvil, plans include the introduction of e-ticketing for the first time in the country.

The portal, has been founded by Manoj Gursahani of Sound Travels Corporation Ltd. The latter is an IATA-approved travel company for major airlines like British Airways, Air-India and Cathay Pacific.

�It was found that the India-specific travel web sites are largely content providers of information on catalogues of travel agencies, and they do not concentrate on the individual traveller.

Therefore, Travelmartindia has been formed to address this particular aspect with various value added services,� officials said.

At present, the site has over 25,000 registered members. On an average it is getting over 2 million hits in a month.    


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