BNP Paribas plans mutual fund foray
Trai waives entry fee for voice mail service
Dunlop told to submit revival plan
Glaxo sells Livogen to E Merck
Plan panel chief pares growth forecast to 6.5%
Cheminor , DRL merger completed
Tribeni Tissues expects turnaround this year
Green signal for Bangla rail link
Foreign Exchange, Bullion, Stock Indices

Mumbai, Dec 29: 
BNP Paribas, the Paris-based banking conglomerate, is examining the possibility of entering the domestic mutual fund industry though an asset management company (AMC).

The move assumes significance in view of BNP�s proposed venture with State Bank of India (SBI) for the life insurance business through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Cardif S.A.

Consequent to the tieup in the insurance business, it is now believed that both the banking entities are likely to partner in BNP�s AMC foray as well.

Industry circles said in such an event, BNP may end up picking up a stake in SBI�s asset management company, which already manages a vast arrary of mutual funds instead of floating a separate AMC.

This is only logical considering the fact that many of the companies which have announced an entry into the insurance sector have either had their joint venture partners taking a stake in their existing AMC outfits or formed a new entity.

A case in point is Prudential ICICI, Birla Sun-Life, and HDFC Standard Life.

While confirming that BNP was looking at undertaking asset management functions in the country, a spokersperson from the bank said that �though we are looking at the market, no firm steps towards it has been taken as yet��.

When asked to comment on the possibility of BNP tying up with SBI for the AMC, she said that �it is too premature to make any comments at this stage��.

Senior SBI officials were not available to comment on the possibility of BNP picking up a stake in the bank�s present asset management company following the insurance partnership.

BNP, which has a presence in India dating back to 1860, offers a wide range of banking and investment services through its branch network in India.

The bank has eight branches in the country in Mumbai, Calcutta, Delhi, Pune, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Chennai and Hyderabad.

BNP Paribas India offers services like investment advisory, depository and custody services in addition to the commercial banking activities.

It also offers research, broking and investment banking services through group sister firm, BNP Paribas Equities India Private Ltd (earlier called as BNP Prime Peregrine India Pvt Ltd)

Sources added that BNP was planning to extend its activities in the country by even looking at e-broking and e-commerce.

The bank has aggressive plans to have on-line trading at the leading stock exchanges. BNP had earlier stated that it would either have a strategic alliance or rope in a joint venture partner for the Internet broking services.

In the realm of banking, sources said BNP Paribas India is now laying stress on the retail banking sector. So far in this area, the bank so far focused on corporate banking by offering services to multinational companies and major Indian firms apart from high net worth individuals with thrust being on working capital finance, cash management services. It also included private banking services like investment advisory and custodial services.

Globally, Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP) and Banque Paribas had merged in May 2000 under the name BNP Paribas to emerge as the largest bank in France and the second largest bank in Europe. The combined entity has total assets of more than $ 700 billion.

The AMC foray is likely to further cement the ties between BNP Paribas and SBI. On Wednesday, SBI announced that BNP Paribas subsidiary Cardif SA would pick up a 26 per cent stake in its proposed life insurance joint venture.


New Delhi, Dec 29: 
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has decided to waive entry fees for those who wish to offer voice mail/audiotex services � a benefit that is now being extended to internet service providers (ISPs) in category C. However, it will seek a performance bank guarantee of Rs 3 lakh.

The regulator has also recommended that there should be no revenue sharing for content services. It has suggested that the revenue sharing formula should be restricted to telecommunication carriage service providers or network operators and not from content application service providers such as voice mail/ audiotex.

It has also suggested that existing practice of unlimited number of players in voice mail/ audiotex service should be continued.

Voice mail provides a public interface between originator and recipients of voice communications, especially when there is no immediate or convenient direct telecommunication service available between subscribers� equipment.

Voice mail service enables the subscriber to send a message to one or more recipients and to receive messages via a telecommunication network using a combination of store and forward, and store and retrieve techniques.

There are a limited number of such service providers at present though it could become very popular given the fact that the tele-density is low.

The service could be very useful for the subscribers who are constantly on the move or do not have a telephone of their own. A Voice Mail Service (VMS) subscriber has a voice mail number and a mail box.

Any person can leave his message in the �mail box� of a VMS subscriber by dialling the mailbox number, from where it can be retrieved at the convenience of the VMS subscriber.

A VMS user with any telephone instrument shall be able to use other functions such as stop recording, continue recording, redirect, group messaging, message checking, time and sender identification, repeat, pause and continue, skip and forward, save, replay and deletion.

A VMS user can have access to operator assistance, if required. Voice mail service has a wide range of applications like message services, telemarketing/ telebooking Services, voiceline services and tele-complaint services.

The voice mail/ audiotex service provider is essentially a content provider like an ISP. The authority is of the view that an identical policy should be followed for all kinds of content services i.e., whether they are provided on the internet or other public network platforms.


Calcutta, Dec 29: 
The West Bengal government today asked the management of the ailing tyre-maker Dunlop India Ltd to pump in more funds, as well as submit a composite revival package in association with the banks, before January 8, as per the directive of the Board of Industrial and Financial Reconstruction.

State finance minister Asim Dasgupta advised the Dunlop president M D Shukla, who met him during the day, to put in more money on behalf of the management, besides the contribution of the banks, for the revival of the company.

He also said both the State Bank of India and United Bank of India had been complaining about lack of transparency on the part of the Dunlop management while submitting the revival package to IDBI, the operating agency. Shukla agreed to meet the company�s bankers in the first week of January.


Mumbai, Dec 29: 
Glaxo India Ltd, today sold its liver tonic Livogen to E. Merck India for a consideration of Rs 8 crore. The sale of Livogen forms part of a rationalisation exercise within its product portfolio that entails withdrawal from tail-end brands.

While the deal was announced late last month, Glaxo said the sale includes the rights, title and interest in the registered trademark of Livogen. Glaxo, it may be recalled, had announced that it would sell its its tail-end brands over the next couple of years and the proceeds from the disposal of these brands would be invested in additional promotion of new products.

Meanwhile, the Glaxo scrip witnessed a roller-coaster ride when it finished at Rs 454.45 after opening at Rs 457 and rising to an intra-day high of Rs 460. The counter witnessed 42,820 trades, generating a total turnover of Rs 1.95 crore. The E Merck scrip closed higher at Rs 432.60 after opening at Rs 431.50 and rising to an intra-day high of Rs 435.

Earlier, Glaxo had sold its haemorrhoids ointment brand Anovate and skin ointment brand Derobin to US Vitamins for Rs 6 crore. The company had also sold Macraberin and Multivite FM to Universal Medicare fo Rs 10 crore.


New Delhi, Dec 29: 
Gross domestic product (GDP) grew at the rate of 6 per cent in the second quarter (July-September) of the current financial year, but Planning Commission chief K C Pant scaled down the full-year growth projection to 6.5 per cent instead of the 7.1 per cent estimated earlier.

According to the fresh set of figures released by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO), the spurt in GDP was fuelled by robust numbers from the construction and manufacturing sectors.

Mining and quarrying sectors grew at 8.4 per cent, while manufacturing logged a 5.9 per cent, construction 8.7 per cent and trade, hotels, transport and communication grew at a combined rate of 7.8 per cent.

According to CSO figures, quarterly GDP at factor cost at constant (1993-94) prices for the period is estimated at Rs 2,65,392 crore as against Rs 2,50,434 crore during the corresponding period of the previous year. Financing, insurance, real estate and business services grew 8.5 per cent, and community, social and personal services registered a growth of 7.1 per cent.

Agriculture, forestry and fishing grew at about 1 per cent while electricity, gas and water supply grew at 3.9 per cent. GDP at current prices during July-September is estimated at Rs 4,25,184 crore compared with Rs 3,83,143 crore during the same period of previous year, showing a rise of 11 per cent.

In agriculture, the production of rice increased by 2.1 per cent while production of coarse cereals fell by 1.5 per cent during the Kharif season compared with the previous season. Cash crops such as oilseeds also registered a negative growth rate of 3.5 per cent during the Kharif season (2000-01).

According to the latest estimates available on the index of industrial Production (IIP), the index of mining, manufacturing and electricity registered growth rates of 8.4 per cent, 5.7 per cent and 1.9 per cent respectively during the second quarter of the current fiscal.

The construction sector � cement and steel � registered growth rates of 2.6 per cent and 12.6 per cent respectively during the second quarter of 2000-01 as against growth rates of 15.7 per cent and 12.6 per cent in the same period of 1999-2000

Pant said the trends for the first two quarters of the current year indicate that an overall growth of 6.5 per cent was looked more likely in the current financial year. He cited tardy growth in the farm sector, and the first-quarter GDP growth of 5.8 per cent, as the reasons for a lower forecast.

Asked whether the Planning Commission would still go ahead with a 9 per cent growth target for the Tenth Plan (2002-07), Pant admitted that it was a ��stiff� target. However, the commission would certainly identify the ��requirements and conditions�� that had to be met to achieve a nine per cent growth, at least towards the end of the Tenth Plan.


Hyderabad, Dec 29: 
The merger of Cheminor Drugs Ltd with Dr. Reddy�s Laboratories was completed today, converting it into an integrated multinational pharmacuetical company.

The Andhra Pradesh high court today approved the merger with effect from April 2000.

PricewaterhouseCoopers had conducted the valuation of both the companies prior to the merger and suggested a swap ratio of nine shares of DRL against 25 shares of Cheminor Drugs.

DRL, which acquired American Remedies Ltd (ARL) a Chennai-based company in 1999 with a turnover of Rs 943 crore, had posted a post-integration turnover of Rs 8 billion in 1999-2000.

Cheminor Drugs, a DRL group company, is a leader in bulk actives, intermediaries with large export markets in the US, Europe and Japan and reported a net sales of Rs 2154 million in 1999-2000.

DRL now plans an ADR issue in the middle of 2001.


Calcutta, Dec 29: 
ITC Ltd has put on hold its plans to either selloff or find a strategic partner for Tribeni Tissues, its ailing paper division, which is hoping to register a turnaround in the current fiscal. The division is hoping to ratchet up sales by 15 per cent over last year�s level of Rs 130 crore.

�We have taken a lot of measures to put the division back on the rails. And today, we are quite hopeful of turning the corner by adding value both to the products and productivity,� said Ranjit Jacob, CEO of Tribeni Tissues.

Jacob said under no circumstances would ITC go in for a distress sale of its paper division.

�Our first task is to achieve the turnaround and establish ourselves with the multinational corporations dealing with speciality paper products,� Jacob said.

�The first thing we decided last year that we have to be very strong in core areas. At the same time, we took some very hard decisions like closing down unviable units, slashing surplus manpower and adding value to the products,� he said.

These measures are now paying off and the division is now looking to export its products.

�Our mission is to take on the international players by offering international price and quality,� he said.

ITC has recently started even exporting speciality paper to some major Asian countries like the Philippines and Indonesia. The company is also making efforts to penetrate the US and the European markets.

Last year, ITC closed down the jute pulp mill in Tribeni Tissues division in the face of stiff resistance from the employees.

According to ITC, the jute pulp unit became unviable due to the sharp increase in jute prices and the fact that wood pulp gives a superior quality paper compared with jute pulp.�

The jute pulp mill operated at an output level of around 6.5 tonnes per day against an overall capacity of 35 tonnes per day at the time of closure.


Calcutta, Dec 29: 
Eastern Railway is gearing up for the ceremonial run of a goods train, christened Sonar Bangla, which will chug along into Bangladesh on Sunday with a token consignment of coal through the Petrapole-Benapol frontier.

The route, which cuts the distance to Bangladesh�s nearest railway terminal by 35 kilometres, will be revived after 25 years, opening up an alternative rail corridor to the neighbouring country.

The railways in the two nations have been working on the plan to reopen Petrapole-Benapol link for years in an effort to boost the movement of freight, which, according to estimates, is expected to be increase two fold in as many years.

Currently, the Gede-Darshana border, the only route open between India and Bangladesh, handles one million tonnes of freight. Eastern Railways, the zone of the Indian Railways that operates the link between the two countries, has spent over Rs 5.5 crore to revive the old Petrapole-Benapol link with Noapara, the largest railway freight terminal in Bangladesh.

Usually, the consignments from India are unloaded at Noapara, from where they are despatched to other parts of Bangladesh, by road or river.

Bangladesh Railways has improved its tracks and other technical facilities to handle wagons which have a higher loading capacity. A single rake to Bangladesh will now be able to carry 2,700 tonne compared with 1,350 tonnes earlier.

In the past, India had offered a Rs 20-crore loan to Bangladesh Railways to improve its track and general infrastructure to a standard where it would be in a position to handle more traffic.

The Petrapole-Benapol link was established in 1923 and had been functioning smoothly until the India-Pakistan war in 1965. The route was revived after Bangladesh achieved independence in December 1971. However, freight services were discontinued in 1976 due to a long spell of poor business.

Of the one million tonne cargo currently handled by the Eastern Railway via the Gede-Darshana route, cement accounts for 49 per cent, food grains 21 per cent, fertiliser 10 per cent, stone 7 per cent, coal 1 per cent and general cargo 12 per cent.

According to estimates, Indian Railways would have to carry two million tonnes of freight by 2002. Although there is hardly any freight available for the return journey of wagons, railway officials in both countries expressed hope that some general cargo would be identified in the long run.

Meanwhile, Eastern Railway said it carried 51.10 million tonnes cargo during April-November 2000, showing a marginal improvement as against 50.82 million tonnes in the same period last year.. Of this, coal was the major revenue-earner, accounting for as much as 44.06 million tonnes.

Revenues improved to Rs 630.64 crore in the first eight months from Rs 588.45 crore in the same period last year. The number of passengers went up to 43.40 crore compared with 41.02 crore.



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