Govt to hold sway over oil sector regulator
Duncans to sell two gardens in Dooars
APC in marketing overdrive
Gold eases as high prices find no takers
Maruti bait to woo customers
Global Trust gets new MD

New Delhi, Feb. 9: 
The government plans to trammel another regulatory authority—this time the proposed petroleum regulatory board. Ministers and bureaucrats are loathe to relinquish their powers and this is again in evidence in the petroleum sector where the administered price mechanism (APM) is scheduled to be dismantled from April 1.

The government has proposed to set up a regulator to monitor the affairs of petroleum sector in a post-APM scenario. It will be the country’s seventh regulator after similar watchdogs were set up for the capital markets, ports, power, telecom, communications and insurance.

On paper, the petroleum sector regulator will have wide-ranging powers to regulate and monitor the petroleum sector but there are riders.

Under clause 44 of the proposed Bill, the petroleum watchdog will be permitted to frame regulations but “with the previous approval of the central government”.

The Centre has also retained the right to override the regulator.

“It may from time to time issue to the Board such directions as it may think necessary in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the defence of India including efficient conduct of military operations, agreements entered into with other countries or public order,” says a draft Bill for the creation of the Petroleum Regulatory Board.

Under section 32(1) of the proposed Bill, the Centre has retained the right to prohibit or restrict some of the activities in the petroleum sector. These include prohibition of possession of equipment to dispense petrol and diesel, and storage, supply or sale of equipment for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

It can also bar the sale and use of solvents, raffinates, slops, naphtha, kerosene and any other product that the Centre notifies for adulteration of petrol and diesel and for use as a fuel in any automobile. It can also place restrictions on the unauthorised possession, storage, supply, bottling transport and consumption of LPG.

If the Centre deems it expedient to maintain or increase petroleum or petroleum product supplies to secure their equitable distribution and availability at fair prices, “it may issue policy directives to the board or any entity or person as it may deem fit and such policy directives shall be binding on them,” says the draft Bill.

In the event of war, natural calamity, strike, industrial unrest, joint action by any group leading to disruption of supply, and any other circumstance affecting public interest, the Centre can take over the control and management of any storage site, facilities and business premises of any entity and retail outlets etc, suspend its operations or entrust any agency of the central or state government to manage it in the manner directed by it for such a period as it may deem fit.

This is not the first time that the government has taken out an insurance while ceding powers to a regulator. In the Trai Act of 1997, it had conferred sweeping powers on the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.


Calcutta, Feb. 9: 
G.P. Goenka flagship Duncans Industries Ltd (DIL) has decided to put two Dooars gardens on the block in order to generat cash to shore up the company’s bottomline.

When contacted, chairman G.P. Goenka said: “It has been on my mind for quite sometime now. Selling one or two gardens will help beef up the company’s bottomline. Though nothing has been firmed up yet, I am not desperate, and will sell it only if I get a good price.”

Goenka however, does not want to sell his gardens in Darjeeling—Runglee and Marybong—which produce premium quality tea.

“The gardens that I have in Darjeeling are neither generating enough cash nor they are affecting our bottomline in a major way. If at all I have to sell, I will think about the Dooars gardens.” However, he declined to name the gardens he wants to sell.

Market rumour is that DIL has put Bagracote, Gungaram and Lankapara tea estates on the block. But in the present depressed scenario, it will be extremely difficult for any garden to fetch good price. Industry sources said that the price being offered for a Dooars garden is Rs 120 per kg, which is much below expectations.

Duncans, which has a total tea production of around 17 million kgs, has 10 gardens in Dooars and Terai—Birpara, Hantapara, Dumchipara, Lankapara, Tulsipara, Garganda, Kilcott, Nagaisuree, Bagracote and Gungaram.

Goenka said the company is working out a strategy to boost its tea business. “We are concentrating on both the sale of packet teas as well as loose teas. While packet tea sales are not picking up the way we expected it to, the company is nevertheless laying major emphasis on it. We are also firming up other plans for the business as part of a restructuring exercise.”

The brands within the company’s fold include Runglee Rungliot, Double Diamond, Sargam, Shakti and No.1.

DIL has also decided to demerge its tea and fertiliser businesses. Goenka said that the entire exercise would enable the company to focus more on both businesses.

Meanwhile, senior managing director of DIL, Bhaskar Banerjee, has put in his papers after an 18-year stint with the company. Banerjee, a past president of Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry, termed it as an amicable parting.

Goenka however ruled out appointing a successor to Banerjee. “For the last year I have been looking after the tea business. So there is no need of appointing a managing director. V.P. Kaushik will look after the fertiliser business.”


Calcutta, Feb. 9: 
American Power Conversion (APC) is drawing up plans to aggressively market its products. The UPS (uninterrupted power supply) maker, which has launched awareness programmes for its channel partners and distributors, also plans to increase the number of authorised service providers from 69 to 120 by this December.

APC focuses on four segments — home, small office or business networks, data centres and access providers in the telephony sector. Of this, almost 82 per cent of the revenues come in from the home and small office segment.

The $ 1.4 billion company expects an overall revenue growth of 20-22 per cent from its Indian operations in 2002. The Asian region contributed 16 per cent of the total revenues in 2001, which was 2 per cent lower than the previous year.

Says Balu Pandian, marketing manager of APC India, “Despite the economic slump, we have been able to maintain a steady growth rate. This is mainly because our revenues are linked not only to PC sales, but also to the electricity environment. Another important factor is that most PC vendors now consider the UPS as an integral IT peripheral.”


Mumbai, Feb. 9: 
After scaling dizzying heights, gold today gave away its gains in the domestic markets on selling at higher levels as the markets waited for emerging international trends which have seen the prices of the yellow metal top the $ 300 per ounce mark.

Bullion market circles said standard gold opened weak at Rs 4,920 per 10 gram in the local markets today, and declined further to end at Rs 4,900, showing a fresh fall of Rs 60 over yesterday’s close of Rs 4,960. Ten-tola gold bar also started on a subdued note at Rs 58,000, but managed to hold that position till the end, showing a steep fall of Rs 400 over the previous close of Rs 58,400.

Today’s fall was largely attributed to lack of buying at higher levels of the precious metal and selling by fresh stockists. As a result, prices gave away part of the handsome gains scored during the week.

Market circles said that few were also seen liquidating their holdings at higher levels.


New Delhi, Feb. 9: 
Maruti Udyog, the country’s largest automaker, has tied up with Bajaj Allianz to market a one-year comprehensive insurance policy to car owners. The offer will be open for two weeks to all those who buy Maruti cars between February 11 and 24.

The policy includes a vehicle insurance cover for a year, a personal accident death insurance of Rs 2.5 lakh and an insurance of Rs 10 lakh to cover air accidents.

The triple bonanza insurance cover comes at a time when the company has registered a 7.9 per cent drop in car sales in January at 31,180 cars against 33,877 cars sold in the same period a year ago.

Maruti sales in April-January are about 2.5 per cent higher than that during the same period last year. Retail sales in January were the highest among all the months this fiscal. In all, Maruti has sold 2,69,825 in April-January 2002 compared with 2,62,715 in the same period last year.

Industry sources revealed that the expectations from the budget could be behind the company’s dramatic move. “While some prospective customers expect car prices to come down after the budget, there are others who expect them to go up. Maruti may be making the first move to break this dilemma,” sources said.

“The bonanza has been extended to all models. Maruti Udyog wants to shake up the market at a time when car companies are vying with one another to lure customers who may prefer to put off car purchases till after the budget,” sources revealed.

Car buyers are expecting a cut in excise duties in the budget. “Maruti is trying to build confidence in prospective customers that if they buy a car now, they won’t really lose out. Even if the excise duty comes down in the budget, the triple bonanza offer will more than offset the loss,” sources said.


Hyderabad, Feb. 9: 
Sudhakar Gande, former senior director of American Express Bank, has been appointed managing director of the Global Trust Bank. The board of directors of GTB unanimously took the decision at its meeting here today.

Gande will assume charge in the first week of March, a GTB release said.

He has more than 15 years of varied experience in banking and financial fields and has served the American Express Bank in various capacities for more than a decade, it said. He has experience in domestic and international markets in the areas of corporate finance, investment banking, business strategies and debt restructuring.

The post of managing director at GTB fell vacant after the resignation of R.S.Hugar, who held the position for six months in 2001. Since then the affairs of the bank was monitored by a three-member committee.

Hugar had taken charge of the bank after the resignation of Ramesh Gelli, founder chairman cum managing director. Gelli resigned following the bank’s alleged nexus with Ketan Parekh, the Big Bull in the capital market.

The board of directors of GTB had recently split the position of the chairman cum managing director into non-executive chairman and the managing director, the release added.


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