Panel proposes market regulators for urea, coal
Rupee claws back to 46.26 in volatile trading
Zee, HFCL ignite 61-ptsensex rally
Ambassador steps on gas for small car foray
Truce at Maruti, production set to resume
Chandra�s ASC super malls to peddle tech wares of
Luxury liners cruise along cash stream
Foreign Exchange, Bullion, Stock Indices

New Delhi, Sept 20: 
The Expenditure Finance Commission wants the finance ministry to free the distribution of urea, allow prices to be set by the market and appoint a regulator whose brief would be limited to fixing a referral price.

The commission�s second report submitted today says a few departments in the ministry of information and broadcasting should be wound up, and the work currently being done by them should be farmed out to private agencies.

It also wants many functions now being discharged by the ministry of coal taken away and given to a market regulator.

Instead of the government doling out varying levels of subsidies to fertiliser companies, a uniform subsidy on prices could be paid in the interim period, said the commission, which is headed by former finance secretary K. P. Geethakrishnan.

The commission wants the government to appoint a market regulator which will protect farmers� interests after fertiliser prices are freed.

The prices of phosphatic and potassium farm nutrients have already been decontrolled. With urea being gradually freed from price controls, prices across the entire fertiliser industry will be set by market forces.

The government has already raised urea prices and reduced subsidy payments to industry this year, provoking howls of protest from an angry opposition. Today�s policy decision will merely make the cuts a permanent annual feature.

The decision itself has been prompted partly by a ballooning fertiliser subsidy bill, estimated at a staggering Rs 12,650 crore. The other motivation is the need to meet WTO obligations on the unrestricted import of farm nutrients. India has promised to remove all quantitative restrictions on urea imports by next year as a result of which it will have to phase out price controls.

Parts of the information and broadcasting industry which the commission wants shut down are the Song and Drama division, the Directorate of Field Publicity and the Directorate of audio-visual publicity.

The Geethakrishnan panel also points out that with coal denationalisation now more imminent than ever, the ministry of coal will have very little to do.

It feels much of its remaining functions, such as enforcing laws aimed at protecting the interests of coal mine workers, can best be left to a market regulator.    

Mumbai, Sept 20: 
A roiled rupee today fought its way up to 46.26 in a roller-coaster session, helped by companies and banks that stepped in to sell their dollar reserves after some gentle prodding from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

Displaying extreme volatility due to alternate bouts of selling and buying of greenbacks, the rupee touched a high of 46.08 before finishing at 46.23/26 in a 13-paise gain over Tuesday�s historic low of 46.38.

Today�s appreciation, despite lingering fears over the new peaks global crude prices are scaling everyday, was the result of some heavy dollar-selling by banks. There are unconfirmed estimates which put the inflows between $ 70 and $ 120 million. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) also aided the rupee�s rally when it reportedly asked dealing desks of some foreign banks to unwind their dollar positions.

According to sources in the market, another boost to the rupee came from heavy dollar sales by an overseas telecom major � believed to be Singapore Telecom � in the region of $ 70 million.

However, forex analysts were quick to shrug off any sense of euphoria arising from today�s rebound, saying there were still nagging fears about the fallout of high crude prices.

The market will, therefore, be on tenterhooks till the next Opec meeting which will take place in two months.

Till then, the rupee is likely to hover in the region of 46.20-46.50 in the immediate term. �The outlook on the rupee is bearish,� said Rohan Lazrado, general manager of HDFC Bank.

Opening a shade stronger at 46.35/40, the rupee hit the skids because of surging demand for greenbacks from companies. The situation changed when State Bank of India (SBI) � one of the key movers in the forex market � started selling greenbacks. This helped the rupee stage a mild rally in the early session, and hovering in the 46.30-46.33 range.

Things improved later when reports indicated that the central bank had approached some foreign banks, asking them to unwind their dollar positions.

Many of these banks had gone long on the US currency, expecting the rupee to touch the 46.50-mark so that they could rake in profits.

The increased dollar supplies from Singapore Telecom, coupled with the Reserve Bank�s persuasions aimed at unlocking dollars from corporates and banks, resulted in the rupee appreciating to the day�s high of 46.08.

Among companies, Reliance Industries was reported to have been one of the big sellers of greenbacks in the course of trading.    

Mumbai, Sept 20: 
Brisk buying in Zee Telefilms and Reliance Industries ignited a much-needed rebound that helped the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) sensex close 60.91 points higher at 4325.25.

Dealers say much of the purchases were made by speculators, but even foreign funds were believed to have picked up select shares. The 30-share index has fallen over 499 points since last Wednesday amid growing concern over rising oil pool deficit, relative lack of interest from FIIs and the selloffs on Nasdaq.

The session started on a desultory note with the sensex opening at 4211.87 � its day�s low � but trading picked up after operators took a fancy for Zee Telefilms and Reliance, shortly after noon. The pace was hastened by reports that technology stocks had staged a turnaround on exchanges in the US. So strong was the rally that speculators who were in no mood to make commitments because of fears over a sharp increase in petro prices were forced to cover their short positions.    

Calcutta, Sept 20: 
The old warhorse is gearing up for battle. After years of being upstaged by the pretty young things which have taken the roads by storm, Hindustan Motors, the flagship of the C.K. Birla group, is planning to redesign its age-old Ambassador model, taking the small cars head-on.

The cash-strapped company has formed an expert committee to draw up a petrol-driven Ambassador model with a lower engine capacity.

The new Amby will have an engine capacity of around 1200 cc, against the existing petrol version, which has an engine capacity of 1800 cc.

Confirming the move, a senior HM official said the committee was drawing up the design of the new engine, which would be ready by the end of the current financial year.

�It is felt that the petrol version of the Ambassador should have a lower engine capacity so that it can take on rivals in the small car segment. We hope to be able to launch the new Amby model next year,� the official said.

The official pointed out that the existing Ambassador does not fit either into the small or into the medium car segments. This is the reason, he said, why the Amby, which is the oldest auto brand in the country, faced a temporary setback in the market place.

The new Amby will have multipoint fuel injection facility and will be Euro-II compliant, he added. While the official declined to comment on the likely price band for the new car, sources said it would be much lower than the existing petrol version.

The official said the new car will have an edge over other cars particularly in the government departments, where the Amby already has an almost unchallenged monopoly.

HM, which has faced massive losses, is optimistic that the small Amby will help it turn the corner very soon.    

New Delhi, Sept 20: 
Car-maker Maruti Udyog Ltd today said it will restart production tomorrow following a two-day shut down, after the company�s management agreed to hold talks with agitating employees.

The two-day shut down followed a stand-off between employees and the management over various demands, including an incentive scheme and a new pension formula.

The management�s decision to hold talks and cool down tempers follows a statement issued by the employees� union earlier in the day threatening to go on an indefinite strike.

The employees, who had staged a dharna outside the corporate office, later said that talks with the management would be held without any pre-conditions. However if differences continued, the agitation would be intensified.

Said Jagdish Khattar, managing director MUL, �The employees are demanding implementation of old incentive schemes, but with the changed market conditions that is difficult. We are trying to convince them to accept a new incentive scheme. I am optimistic the matter would be resolved soon.�

Mathew Abraham, general secretary of Maruti Udyog Employees Union (MUEU), today said, �We met managing director Jagdish Khattar and will wait till Saturday for further action.�

He added, �The Maruti management has conveyed that a meeting will be held on Saturday, on the condition that the employees withdraw their agitation. We will explore all avenues of settlement. However, if they fail to hold talks, we will intensify the strike by going in for a tool-down and even indefinite closure of the plant.�

The Maruti management however said it had suspended vehicle production for two days from September 19 due to its high inventory levels.    

Mumbai, Sept 20: 
The Subhash Chandra-promoted ASC Enterprises Ltd, which is implementing the Agrani mobile communications project, is considering an extension of its retailing plans.

The company is considering a move to set up �super-malls,� which will not only market products and services of group company Essel, but �technology products� of other companies as well.

Though the idea is still believed to be in the nascent stage, sources said that over the next couple of weeks, the senior management of the company will hold detailed deliberations on the issue.

The shopping outlets will be modelled on the lines of the CrossRoads mall, set up by the Ajay Piramal group.

�The malls will not only sell the products and services of the group, but also technology products of companies like IBM, Compaq and others,� sources told The Telegraph.

However, as the plan is presently only at the drawing board stage, sources added that it may see some changes later. �The company may make some changes and detailed thought is being given to this concept,� they added. Sources also did not rule out the possibility of other group companies participating with Agrani in this venture.

The mall concept takes Agrani�s initial idea of setting up call centres in the country, a step forward.

The call centres were earlier supposed to market all products of the Essel group under the TIMES concept. The TIMES plan stressed by the media giant covers various businesses of the group � Technology, Internet, Media, Entertainment and Social responsibility.

The initial plan was to set up centres whereby consumers could not only obtain Agrani cellular phones, but get cable connections as well. Sources said that the Agrani project would, however, focus on providing mobile communications for users in India and in neighbouring countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan.

Financial closure for the project is expected to be completed shortly. Agrani, which is a regional multi-mission geostationary satellite system, is awaiting the nod of financial institutions for a disbursement of around Rs 125 crore. This is expected to take the total contribution of FIs and banks to over Rs 1,400 crore in the Rs 3,170 crore project.    

Mumbai, Sept 20: 
If you are at sea deciding on that perfect luxury holiday, try the ocean. Chances are you won�t be disappointed, unless you are hoping to run into Long John Silver himself aboard one of them.

According to industry estimates, luxury cruises are fast gaining popularity as get-aways for those who can dare to dream.

In 1999, the cruising industry is estimated to have grown by 9 per cent, with five lakh people annually embarking on cruises from Asia. From India alone, about 50,000 people set sail last year.

While destinations in the Caribbean islands, the Mediterranean and the Pacific Rim are already popular with cruise afficionados, the virgin locations of the Indian Ocean are waiting to be tapped.

And stepping in to fill the gap is Jaswant Lalwani, chairman and CEO of Indian Ocean Cruise Line Ltd, (IOCL), who started the first dedicated cruise line for the Indian Ocean.

IOCL will operate the luxury liner �Ocean Majesty,� which it has taken on lease for the purpose, for a series of cruises in the Indian Ocean from November 14 this year to April 25 next year.

The 1994 built, 444 ft ship, promises to carry 600 passengers in comfort and style.

Though Lalwani did not divulge the exact lease payment details, he placed the total project cost at $ 10 million, adding that the lease payment will account for the bulk of the costs.

The ship has 300 double rooms and eight passenger decks.

For the starry-eyed, there is an observation lounge meant to provide a perfect view of the starry nights.

And for stars of a different kind, a casino and a show lounge for providing cabaret and live entertainment have been thrown in as well.

IOCL is registered in the Cayman islands in the Caribbean. The company was formed in October last year.

Prior to his present venture, Lalwani was the worldwide marketing head of Cunard Cruise Line, an international player in the cruise industry, which owns the famous QE2.

The cruise-only pricing for two at IOCL starts at Rs 40,000 for 4 nights from Dubai to Mumbai and Rs 85,000 for 7 nights from Chennai to Singapore, with extra charges for on-shore tours and other services.

The ship will begin its voyage from Athens. In India, passengers will be able to embark and disembark from the liner from both Mumbai and Chennai. Its ports of call in the country will include Goa, Cochin, Mangalore, Tuticorin, Port Blair and Kadmat. International ports on the luxury liner�s route include Colombo, Singapore, Yangon, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Phuket, as also the shopping destinations of the Gulf countries.

While the Taj Group of Hotels has entered into a strategic alliance with the IOCL to provide on-shore hospitality, TCI has been appointed as the General Sales Agent (GSA) for India and, according to Lalwani, bookings have already commenced.

Lalwani is gung-ho about his project.

�I look at the Indian Ocean as a niche market. Even the American and European customers are keen to discover it,� he quips.

Lalwani is expecting around 4000-5000 customers from India and an equal number from those abroad to take the cruise in the first year.

IOCL is aiming for a turnover of around $ 10 million. It intends to add 2-3 more ships in the next few years to cater to other attractive destinations.

Lift the anchor mate, the sea beckons.    


Foreign Exchange

US $1	Rs. 46.26	HK $1	Rs. 5.85*
UK �1	Rs. 65.36	SW Fr 1	Rs. 25.65*
Euro	Rs.39.18	Sing $1	Rs. 26.20*
Yen 100	Rs. 43.35	Aus $1	Rs. 24.65*
*SBI TC buying rates; others are forex market closing rates


Calcutta	Bombay

Gold Std (10gm)	Rs. 4560	Gold Std (10 gm	4520
Gold 22 carat	Rs. 4305	Gold 22 carat	4180
Silver bar (Kg)	Rs.7950	Silver (Kg)	8035
Silver portion	Rs. 8050	Silver portion	8040

Stock Indices

Sensex	4325.25		+60.91
BSE-100	2190.47		+29.92
S&P CNX Nifty	NA		-
Calcutta	118.92		+0.60
Skindia GDRNA	687.11		-35.29

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