Business & Economy

India, Colombia sign BIPPA to boost investment flows

India and Colombia today signed a Bilateral Investment Promotion & Protection Agreement (BIPPA) to serve as a catalyst in boosting investment flows between the two countries.

The agreement was signed by Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and his Colombian counterpart Luis Guillermo Plata at a function here. Mr Plata is accompanying his country's External Relations Minister Jaime Bermudez Merizalde on a two-day visit to India.

Among other things, the agreement is aimed at enhancing bilateral investment and technology flows between the two countries by creating favourable conditions for investors.

These include a mutually acceptable definition of investment as also intellectual property rights, besides National Treatment and Most Favoured Nation Treatment on post-establishment basis, protection against expropriation, except for a public purpose against a fair and equitable compensation, and full reparability of investment and returns.

According to an official press release, the greement provides for an elaborate dispute resolution mechanism to settle disputes between an investor and the host Government or between the two Governments. The mechanism includes recourse to negotiations, conciliation, domestic dispute resolution mechanism and to international arbitration.

The agreement shall remain in force for a period of ten years and thereafter it shall be deemed to have been automatically extended unless either country gives to the other country a written notice of its intention to terminate the agreement. The agreement may be amended at any time after its entry into force by mutual consent, the release added.


GST will qualitatively change tax system: Mukherjee

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said the proposed Goods and Service Tax (GST), which will be launched across the country on April 1, 2010, would redistribute the burden of taxation equitably between manufacturing and services and bring about a qualitative change in the tax system.

"With the minimisation of exemptions, it will broaden the tax base and lower the tax rates," he told a meeting of the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers here.

The meeting was attended by, among others, its chairman and West Bengal Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi. The committee released its First Discussion Paper on the proposed GST at the meeting.

Mr Mukherjee said that, by switching to the destination principle, the distortions in the tax system would be reduced, fostering a common market across the country.

According to him, the compliance cost will come down and trade and industry will become more competitive, leading to an increase in exports and lower prices for domestic consumers.

Mr Mukherjee, however, said the propsoed GST would be able to deliver on all these promises only if it had some essential features. He said it had to be comprehensive in scope and apply to as large a range of goods and services as possible by minimizing the number of exemptions to a small list of essential items which impact the common man.

To the extent possible, the exemption lists of the States and the Central Government must be in alignment, he said.

The Finance Minister said the rates of tax of the Central GST (CGST) and State GST (SGST) taken together must be moderate. He said the rates of tax of SGST and exemlptions under it must be uniform throughout the country so that a given set of foods and services invited the same tax treatment in every State.

He said the input credit claim must be seamless, covering the entire value chain from manufacturing to retail without breaks, regardless of whether goods or services were supplied within a State or across State boundaries.

As far as possible, every transaction in the tax net should bear both CGST and SGST and the tax treatment of goods and services must be similar, he said.

Mr Mukherjee said the Central and State levies must be fully neutralized in the case of exports (out of India) and the procedures should be simple and harmonised between the Centre and the States.

He said that, with the release of the discussion paper, detailed discussions would begin with all stakeholders and help the committee to refine and design the concepts of the GST further.

He noted that the committee had made significant progress in developing a consensus on various issues and urged it to ensure that settled issues were not reopened and there was forward movement at a fast pace.

"Once we decide on the rate structure and agree on the list of exemptions there should be no deviation in the pursuit of short-term interests. All of us will have to keep the long-term interests of the economy in view by taking carefully thought-out decisions in consultation with each other before making any deviations," he stressed.

The Finance Minister said this spirit of co-operative federalism was the essence of GST and the only feature that would ensure that a national market with free movement of goods and services across State boundaries developsed in the truse sense.

He assured the States that strict adherence to mutually-agreed rates would not impact their fiscal autonomy.

"To begin with, the canvas of fiscal policy is much wider than taxation and goals of public policy are as effectively met through the expenditure side of the budget. Even within the realm of taxation, the belief that the only degree of freedom available to us for enhancing revenues is by changing the rates of tax is a somewhat limited view. There is enormous scope for augmenting revenue collections by improving our tax collection machinery and the delivery of taxpayer services. There is ample evidence to show that lower taxes lead to better compliance and higher revenues. GST gives us an opportunity to bring together the machinery of the Centre and the States to jointly work for better enforcement," he explained.

He also stressed the need to focus more closely on the benefits of working collaboratively with the taxpayer community to improve outreach and assist them in the due discharge of their tax liability.

He emphasised that the creation of a strong information technology infrastructure, both for the Centre and the States, was critical for the success of GST.


Railways carry 501.28 MT of freight in April-October

The Indian Railways carried 501.28 million tonnes of revenue earning freight traffic during the first seven months of the current financial year, up 7.12 per cent from the 467.97 million tonnes actually carried in the corresponding period (April-October) of 2008-09.

An official statement said the Railways carried revenue earning traffic of 73.46 million tonnes in October this year, an increase of 11.17 per cent over the actual freight traffic of 66.08 million tonnes carried by it in the same month last year.


Siemens gets Rs 608 crore order from Qatar

Siemens India Ltd today said it had received an order worth approximately Rs 608 crore from the Qatar General Water and Electricity Corporation in Doha for the complete supply, design, erection, testing and commissioning of 132 kV and 66 kV high voltage cables.

In a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange, the company said the order was required to be completed over a period of two years.



RIL announces first oil discovery in Cambay Basin

Energy and petrochemicals major Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) today announced its first oil discovery in the onland explroatory block CB-ONN-2003/1 (CB 10 A&B) in the Cambay Basin.

RIL, headed by industrialist Mukesh Ambani, holds 100 per cent participating interest in this block, located at a distance of about 130 kms from Ahmedabad in Gujarat. The block was awarded to RIL under the fifth round of the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP-V).

According to a press release issued by RIL, the block covers an area of 635 sq km in two parts -- Part A located in the west with an area of 570 sq km and Part B located to the east with an area of 65 sq km.

It said 3D seismic data has been acquired over 80 per cent of the block area and 2D Seismic data had been acquired over the entire area.

The release said five wells had been drilled in this block. The fifth well, CB10A-A1, which is the discovery well, was drilled to a total depth of 1451 m in Part A of the block with the objective of exploring the play fairway in the Miocene Basal Sand (MBS) of Babaguru formation. A gross reservoir thickness of about 15 m was encountered and the well flowed at a rate of 500 barrels of oil per day (bopd) through a 6 mm bean with a flowing tubing head pressure of 360 psi on conventional testing. This discovery is expected to open future potential within the block, it said.

The discovery, named "Dhirubhai–43" has been notified to Government of India and the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons. The commerciality of this discovery is being ascertained through more data gathering and analysis, the release said.

"This discovery supplements RIL’s understanding of the petroleum system in this block in the Cambay basin. Based on interpretation of the acquired 3D seismic data in the Contract Area, several prospects have been identified at different stratigraphic levels to fulfill Minimum Work Obligation under the Production Sharing Contract (PSC), the release added.

RIL is India's largest private sector company on all major financial parameters with a turnover of Rs. 1,50,771 crore (US$ 29.7 billion), cash profit of Rs. 21,566 crore (US$ 4.3 billion), and net profit (excluding exceptional income) of Rs. 15,607 crore (US$ 3.1 billion) as of March 31, 2009.


L&T wins Rs 1635 cr order from MPPGCL

Engineering and construction giant Larsen & Toubro today said it had won a Rs 1635 crore order from the Madhya Pradesh Power Generation Co. Ltd. (MPPGCL) for the  2 x 600 MW Malwa coal-fired power plant.

The 1200 MW project in Khandwa District of Madhya Pradesh will be capable of adding approximately 28.80 million units to the grid every day once it is commissioned. The project is being funded by MP State Government and the Power Finance Corporation (PFC).

The contract will be executed on turnkey basis and L&T’s scope includes design, engineering, manufacture, supply, erection and commissioning of Balance of Plant (BoP) systems comprising Coal Handling and Ash Handling Plants, CW and Raw Water Intake Systems, Effluent Treatment Plant, BOP Civil Works, Cooling Towers, Chimney, 400kV and 200kV Switchyards, Plant Electrical Systems and other associated auxiliaries.

A press release issued by the $ 8.5 billion company said it was geared for a major thrust into engineering and construction in the power sector – both thermal and nuclear.

It said the company had taken a slew of initiatives recently to integrate and augment its capabilities, including the estbalishment of a wholly owned subsidiary - L&T Power Limited -- which brings together all its offerings in the thermal power segment.

It has entered into joint ventures with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (MHI) for the manufacture of supercritical boilers and steam turbine generators.

L&T’s engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) capability extends to building single units up to 1000 MW for supercritical coal-based power projects, the release said.

According to the release, L&T is also setting up manufacturing capabilities for other critical equipment including pressure piping, coal pulverizers and heavy forging.

The Rs 1635 crore order from MPPGCL follows a recent Rs 6897 crore order received by the company from Mahgenco- Maharashtra for a 3 x 660 MW supercritical Boiler – Steam Turbine Generator Package, the release added.


RCom, atom sign deal on m-commerce

Reliance Communications has entered into an agreement with mobile commerce solutions provider atom technologies that will enable its customers to conclude payment transactions using Reliance mobile telephones.

"With this partnership RCom will now be able to offer a fast, secure, inter-operable and the most convenient platform to conclude payment transactions using Reliance Mobile," a press release issued by the two companies said.

According to it, atom will offer through RCom multiple banks (Indian and foreign) as well as merchants on a common platform, thereby allowing its subscribers to make payments across the entire merchant base.

"Reliance subscribers will now be able to purchase insurance services, DTH recharges, movie tickets, books & periodicals, consumer goods, holiday packages as well as bus & train tickets using their Reliance Mobile connection. These services will also be available on R-world for all GSM customers," it said.

The release said that, currently, atom technologies had more than 100 merchants registered for mobile commerce transactions. It has merchant acquiring relationship with ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Citibank and Axis Bank.

"Our agreement with atom technologies will set the ground for RCom to make an aggressive pitch in the Indian m-commerce market. We are positively aggressive on the m-commerce opportunity and are developing a series of applications as part of this thrust. We will leverage our agreement with atom technologies to drive m-Commerce transactions across both the GSM and CDMA networks," Mr. Anil Pande, Head – Product, Mobile Data and Content services, Reliance Communications said.

Mr Dewang Neralla, Director of atom technologies, said the partnership would be mutually beneficial.

Mobile commerce is in its nascent stages in India, but it is expected to increase in the coming years as the services become more sophisticated and prices of mobile handsets become lower. Currently, users of m-commerce perform a wide variety of transactions via mobile phones, from paying for utility bill and movie tickets to shopping and holidays.

atom technologies is a part of the Financial Technologies Group, while RCom is the flagship of the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani group.


Infosys opens second Latin American centre in Mexico

IT services provider Infosys Technologies Limited (ITL) today opened its second Latin American Development Centre at Monterrey in Mexico to serve its global, near-shore and Latin American clients.

The centre will offer a full range of IT services, including business and IT consulting, business process outsourcing (BPO), packaged solutions implementation and infrastructure management, a press release issued by the company said.

The development centre, managed by Infosys’s subsidiary, Infosys Technologies S. De R.L. De CV, will cater to clients in all industries including banking, financial services, manufacturing, retail, distribution, insurance, and many others, it said.

"From our first development centre opening with a few clients and a dozen employees, we now have some 30 clients and 330 professionals and the future looks 'muy brillante'," Mr Ashok Vemuri, Senior Vice President and member of Executive Council, Infosys Technologie, said.

"Our public-private partnership with the city of Monterrey and the government of Nuevo Leon, Mexico demonstrates that such unions create opportunities for the city’s very talented new graduates from local universities. And it clearly creates tremendous value for clients around the world who increasingly look to our centres in Latin America for the solutions they need," he added.

According to the release, both Monterrey facilities provide Infosys with dedicated resources to serve clients primarily in North America, Latin America and Europe with bilingual talent in an agreeable time zone and close proximity. Furthermore, it strengthens the company’s global delivery model capabilities with such other development centres in the Czech Republic, Poland, Thailand, Philippines, China, Australia and India.

It said that, after examining several countries in the region, Infosys chose to establish a presence in Mexico due to the broad language skills available in the region and its geographical proximity to Canada, the United States and Europe. Latin America is a strong emerging market and one where many of Infosys’ clients have operations already, the release added.


Railway earnings up 8.31 % in April-October

Indian Railways recorded total approximate earnings on originating basis of Rs 48322.23 crore during April-October this year as compared to Rs 44614.15 crore during the same period last year, registering an increase of 8.31 per cent.

An official statement said the total goods earnings went up from Rs. 30197.30 crore during April-October last year to Rs. 32452.79 crore during the first seven months of the current financial year, an increase of 7.47 per cent.

According to it, the total passenger revenue earnings during the period this year were Rs. 13626.74 crore as against Rs. 12575.06 crore in the corresponding period of 2008-09, showing an increase of 8.36 per cent.

The revenue earnings from other coaching amounted to Rs. 1317.72 crore during April-October 2009 compared to Rs. 1127.54 crore during the same period last year, an increase of 16.87 per cent, it said.

The total approximate numbers of passengers booked during April-October 2009 were 4318.23 million compared to 4119.89 million during the same period last year, showing an increase of 4.81 per cent.

In the suburban and non-suburban sectors, the numbers of passengers booked during April-October this year were 2216.08 million and 2102.15 million as against 2193.73 million and 1926.16 million during the same period last year, an increase of 1.02 per cent and 9.14 per cent, respectively, the statement added.


Tata Power launches FCCB offering of up to $300 million

The Tata Power Company, a part of the Tata group, today said it had launched and priced a $250 million+ upsize option of $ 50 million, 5 years and 1 day, 1 to 1.75 per cent coupon foreign currency convertible bonds (FCCB) offering. 

The bonds are convertible at 10 per cent premium over the closing price of the company’s shares on the National Stock Exchange of India on November 5, 2009 and bear a yield to maturity of 3.5 per cent per annum calculated on a semi-annual basis.

These bonds are expected to be listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange. Nomura is the sole underwriter and bookrunner to the offering, a press release from the company said.

Tata Power intends to use the aggregate net proceeds from the issue for capital expenditure of its existing power plants, projects under implementation and other project plants of the company, including projects undertaken through its subsidiaries, the release added.


Govt fixes FRP for sugarcane at Rs 129.84 per quintal

The Government today said it had decided to fix the Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) for sugarcane at Rs 129.84 per quintal to be paid by the sugar factories from October 1 this year instead of the Statutory Minimum Price (SMP) fixed earlier.

The FRP is linked to a basic recovery rate of 9.5 per cent, subject to a premium of Rs.1.37 for every 0.1 percentage point increase in recovery above 9.5 per cent, an official press release said.

The new price has been fixed after giving due consideration for margins to the sugarcane farmers on account of risk as well as profit on the cost of production of sugarcane including the cost of transportation. It includes a margin of nearly 45 per cent on account of profit and risk to the farmers on the all India adjusted average cost of production of sugarcane including the cost of transportation to the mill gate.

The announcement means that the sugarcane farmer is legally guaranteed a price of Rs.129.84 per quintal. However, the sugar mills are free to offer any price above the FRP as deemed fit by them.

The FRP for 2009-10 will be over 51 per cent higher than the SMP for the year 2008-09. Since the FRP gives adequate consideration for margins on account of profit and risk to the farmers, Clause 5A of the Sugarcane (Control) Order, 1966 (SCO) which provided for sharing of additional profits by sugar mills, has been deleted.

It has also been provided in the SCO that if any State Government or any other Authority fixes any price for sugarcane above the FRP, the difference between such price fixed by the State Government or the Authority above the FRP fixed by the centre will be paid by the State Government or such Authority to the farmers or the sugarcane growers co-operatives, as the case may be.

This will be applicable to all the sugarcane which is procured by the sugar factory in such States which fix such price higher than the FRP.The sugarcane farmers would now get a better guaranteed price for their sugarcane in the form of FRP, more so in the States which were not fixing any sugarcane price above the SMP earlier.


Alagiri invites Indonesian businessmen to invest in India

Union Minister for Chemicals & Fertilisers M K Alagiri has invited Indonesian businessmen to invest in the Petroleum, Chemicals and Petrochemicals Investment Regions (PCPIRs) being set up in India and become partners in the country's infrastructure development.

Addressing the Indonesian business community in Jakarta today, Mr Alagiri said the PCPIRs were being set up to encourage global scale investment in the sector to accelerate economic growth and technological development.

He said the PCPIRs would be delineated investment regions having an area of about 250 sq. kms with at least 40 per cent of the area earmarked for processing activities. These regions, like other chemical parks, would have a combination of production projects, public utilities, logistics, residential areas and administrative services.

The Minister said the per capita consumption of chemicals and petrochemicals in India was relatively low in comparison to the world and the sector, therefore, offered a huge potential for development.

He said the sector, with a total annual production of about $ 35 billion, contributed about three per cent of India's gross domestic product (GDP).

According to him, over the last decade, these industries had evolved as innovators, with investment being planned in research and development in both commodity chemicals and specialty chemicals.

Mr Alagiri invited Indonesian businessmen to participate in an exhibition and conference being organised at Ahmedabad from December 12-14 on Fine Chemicals, Agrochemicals and Colorants.

He also invited them to the biannual "India Chem" exhibition to be held from October 28-30 next year in Mumbai.


Maytas Infra wins Rs 790 cr road project from ITNL

Maytas Infra Limited today said it had been awarded the Pune-Sholapur road contract worth Rs 790 crore from IL&FS Transportation Networks Lmited (ITNL).

INTL had been awarded the work of four-laning of the 104.6 km Pune-Sholapur section in Maharashtra on a Design, Build, Finance, Operate & Transfer (DBFOT) basis by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). The project is to be completed in a period of 20 months.

Maytas Infra was among the leading engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) companies which were invited by ITNL to submit their bids to construct this project on an item rate basis for the given bill of quantity.

The project involves widening of the 2-lane stretch of the highway to 4-lane for a length of 104.60 km, realignment of length of 4.750 km (Sholapur bypass), construction of two road over-bridges, 7 major bridges, 21 minor bridges, 1 grade separator, 12 vehicular underpass, 7 pedestrian underpass, 197 culverts, and 83 km of service roads within 24 months.

According to the release, the contract is a major breakthrough for Maytas Infra as it has not been able to bid for any contract in the last several months after the collateral damage suffered by it due to events related to Satyam Computer Services. This contract will go a long way in boosting the image of Maytas Infra in the market and restoring the confidence among its stakeholders.

"We are thankful to ITNL for reposing their faith and trust in Maytas Infra’s Execution Capability and quality, and supporting the Company during this difficult period. Through this project, we envisage assisting our client in building and providing a quality infrastructure link between the two important cities of Maharashtra and contribute to its economic growth," Mr. Chander Sheel Bansal, President, Maytas Infra, said.

"Maytas Infra is committed to maintain the interests of all its stakeholders and award of this project is a testimony to our steadfast commitment. We are confident of consistently catering to the requirements and expectations of our customers now and in the future," he added.

Besides helping to achieve the economic growth of the region, the project will also help to alleviate the problem of the commercial traffic traveling on the busy NH-9 (linking Pune in the west to Hyderabad in the south). This environment friendly project would create world-class infrastructure facilities and shall help in reduction in the fuel consumption by all users of this road, the release added.

Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd (IL&FS) had in September taken over the management control of the cash-strapped Maytas Infra, a company that was controlled by the family of B Ramalinga Raju, promoter of Satyam.

Mr Raju had resigned as Chairman of Satyam on January 7 this year after disclosing that its profits had been overstated for years and that about $ 1 billion of cash and bank balances on the company's books did not exist.

He and some of his close associates are now under investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation in what is India's biggest case of corporate fraud. Since then, Tech Mahindra has come in as a strategic investor in Satyam and the company is now on road to full recovery from the setback it had suffered. The government had at that time also put Maytas under its scanner.

The order to hand over the management of Maytas Infra, which reported a loss of Rs 490 crore in FY 09, to IF&FS was issued by the Company Law Board (CLB) on August 31 on an application to this effect from the company.

Maytas was the lead consortium partner for the Hyderabad Metro Rail but lost the project because it failed to achieve financial closure. Later, it also pulled out of the Western UP Tollway Project and divested a part of its equity in Cyberabad Expresssway, Hyderabad Expressway and Pondicherry-Tindivanam Tollway Project.


TCS scales up US software delivery centre with 300 associates

IT services, business solutions and outsourcing services provider Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) today said it had scaled up its North America domestic delivery centre, TCS Seven Hills Park, in Cincinnati, Ohio to 300 associates.

The announcement was made at an event attended by, among others, Ohio's Governor Ted Strickland.

A press release issued by the company said Seven Hills Park provided a wide range of IT solutions, consulting, business process outsourcing and engineering services for TCS customers across industries including banking and financial services, life science and healthcare, as well as manufacturing and retail.

Seven Hills Park is also the location of TCS’ new North American training centre. Over the last several months, more than 225 associates have joined the company from universities in the United States and completed a six weeks training programme at the centre as part of the initial learning programme (ILP).

Many of these newly trained associates are now developing custom IT solutions for the government and healthcare sectors.

"Fostering job creation is vital to a strong economic recovery for Ohio. Companies like Tata Consultancy Services are tapping into our highly talented workforce and world-class educational institutions to grow their business while providing high skilled jobs for Ohioans. This is the type of investment and long term commitment that will ensure Ohio’s place as an economic leader," Mr Strickland said.

Mr N Chandrasekaran, CEO and MD of TCS, said: "The United States is by far our largest market and Seven Hills Park plays an integral role in our strategy of putting our customers first. As part of our global network delivery model, Seven Hills Park helps TCS deliver on our promise of providing reliable, scalable, cost-effective delivery of IT services and solutions."

Mr Surya Kant, president of TCS North America, said: "We place great importance on ensuring that we provide the best service to our North American customers. The Cincinnati region is a great place for us to recruit and train local talent to meet the demands of our customers as they grow out of the downturn. The strong partnerships we continue to have with the greater Cincinnati academic community including the University of Cincinnati and Ohio State University ensure that we will continue to find skilled professionals in this region."

In keeping with its corporate values of giving back to the community, TCS Seven Hills Park recently hosted the TCS "goIT" summer camp, designed to create higher levels of awareness with respect to IT careers and technology specifics among local high school students, many of whom are now considering careers in technology related fields. TCS Seven Hills Park is also a supporter of the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, which provides assistance and opportunities to disadvantaged families living in Ohio’s southern Appalachian counties.

TCS Seven Hills Park is located in the Cincinnati suburb of Milford, Ohio, and sits on 223 acres of wooded land, which includes 196,000 sq ft of office space.


CCEA nod for splitting PSC for oil block in North-East

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today approved a proposal from the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas to split the Production Sharing Contract (PSC) for an oil and gas exploration block in the North-East into two parts.

The decision would enable the signing of a separate PSC for the Nagaland portion of the AA-ON/7 block, the bulk of which is in Assam.

According to an official press release, the move would help to carry out an Additional Exploration Work Programme in the Nagaland portion of the block by signing a separate PSC at terms and conditions not inferior to the existing terms and conditions in the present PSC.

As per the decision, a separate PSC for the Nagaland portion of the block with an effective date of August 9, 2006 will be signed. The Exploration Period of the PSC will be valid for seven years from the effective date.

A cumulative exploration work programme of 2D seismic survey for 150 Line Kilometres (LKM), re-processing available data of 100 LKM and drilling of two exploratory wells in three exploration phases of two , three and two years' duration will be carried out by the contractor over and above the minimum work programme (MWP) already accomplished in the existing PSC.

The release said the decision involved no financial expenditure on the part of the Government. The contractors under the signed PSCs have commitments to carry out exploration work programme which may lead to discoveries of hydrocarbons.

The special dispensation will facilitate exploration in the frontier area of Nagaland and the objective of accelerated exploration of hydrocarbons in the country.

The proposal would be implemented immediately and a new PSC will be signed between the Government of India and the contractor, the release said.

Canora Resources Limited (CRL) is the operator of the block, the PSC for which was signed on February 19, 1999. Out of the total block area of 1934 sq km, 1126 sq km is in Assam and 808 sq km in Nagaland.

The Petroleum Exploration License (PEL) for the Assam portion of the block was granted on March 27, 2001 for the Nagaland portion on August 9, 2006. The Phase III of the exploration expired on March 26, 2008. The MWP for all the three phases was completed in the Assam portion but no exploration work could be carried out in the Nagaland portion.

According to the release, Nagaland is a logistically tough area and the signing of the separate PSC for it could help restore exploration and production (E&P) activities in the state.


Cabinet liberalises payments for royalty, technology transfer

The Union Cabinet today approved a proposal by the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion, Ministry of Commerce & Industry, to permit all payments for royalty, lumpsum fees for transfer of technology and payments for use of trade mark and brand name on the automatic route without any restrictions.

An official press release said the payments would be subject to the Foreign Exchange Management Act (Current Account Transaction) Rules, 2000.

To get the information about the nature and the details of technology and the amount paid for it, a suitable post reporting requirement would be devised within three months in consultation with the Department of Economic Affairs and the Reserve Bank of India, it said.

Hitherto, automatic approval was permitted for foreign technology transfers involving payment of lumpsum fee of $ 2 million and royalty of 5 per cent on domestic sales and 8 per cent on exports.

Beyond these limits, prior permission of the Government of India (Project Approval Board) was required. In addition, where there is no technology transfer involved, royalty upto 2 per cent for exports and 1 per cent for domestic sales is allowed under automatic route on use of trademarks and brand names of the foreign collaborator. As many as 8062 approvals have been granted for technology collaborations from 1991 to June, 2009, the release said.

The Government expects the latest liberalisation to freely promote the transfer of state-of-the-art technology into the country.


MSP for Rabi crops of 2009-10 fixed, Rs 1100 per quintal for wheat

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today fixed minimum support price (MSP) for Rabi crops of the 2009-10 that will be marketed in 2010-11.

The MSP for wheat has been fixed at Rs.1100 per quintal, Rs 20 more than the MSP fixed last year.

An official press release said the MSP of barley has been fixed at Rs.750 per quintal and of gram at Rs. 1760 per quintal marking an increase of Rs.70 per quintal and Rs.30 per quintal, respectively, over the last year’s MSPs.

The MSP of safflower has been fixed at Rs.1680 per quintal marking an increase of Rs.30 per quintal over the last year’s MSP.

MSPs of other Rabi crops remain unchanged at the last year’s level. These are masur (lentil) at Rs.1870 per quintal and rapeseed/mustard at Rs.1830 per quintal.


Profitable listed CPSEs to increase public holding to 10 %

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today decided that all profitable listed Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) should increase their public holding to at least 10 per cent.

The CCEA meeting also decided that all unlisted CPSEs having positive net worth, no accumulated losses and having a net profit in the three preceding consecutive years should get listed on the stock exchanges.

An official press release said the disinvestment proceeds would be chanelised into the National Investment Fund (NIF). The corpus comprising deposits from April, 2009 till March, 2012 would be available in full for investment as capital expenditure in specific social sector schemes determined by the Planning Commission and Department of Expenditure. The status quo ante of NIF would be restored from April, 2012, it said.

President Pratibha Patil's address to the joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament on June 4 and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's Budget Speech in the Lok Sabha on July 6 had articulated the Government's intention to encourage the participation of people in the disinvestment programme.

The Government had said that public sector undertakings were the wealth of the nation and part of this wealth should rest in the hands of the people while retaining at least 51 per cent equity in the CPSEs.


Direct tax collections up 3.92 % in April-October

Net direct tax collection in the first seven months of 2009-10, upto October, stood at Rs 1,73,447 crore, up 3.92 per cent from Rs 1,66,905 crore in the same period of the last fiscal.

An official statement said here today that the growth in corporate taxes was 4.59 percent (Rs 1,09,996 crore as against Rs 1,05,174 crore), while personal income tax went up by 2.87 percent (Rs 63,195 crore as against Rs 61,433 crore).

The lower growth in net collection was mainly on account of higher tax refund outgo of Rs 33,137 crore as against Rs 20,212 crore last fiscal.

Net collections during October this year continued to be positive at Rs 20,822 crore compared to Rs 19,708 crore during October, 2008. Further, during the month personal income tax growth was 16.1 percent (Rs 11,398 crore against Rs 9817 crore last fiscal), whereas corporate tax recorded a negative growth of 4.72 percent (Rs 9424 crore against Rs 9891 crore last fiscal).

The growth in securities transaction tax picked up by 3.79 percent during April – October 2009 (Rs 3865 crore as against Rs3724 crore) as compared to the corresponding period last fiscal, the statement added.


Inflation rate for Primary Articles at 8.94 %

The annual inflation rate for Primary Articles stood at 8.94 per cent for the week ended October 24, while it remained unchanged at its previous week's level of -6.20 per cent for another major group, Fuel, Power, Light & Lubricants, an official statement said today, quoting provisional data.

The rate of inflation was 8.67 per cent for the previous week for Primary Articles.

The rates were 11.73 per cent for Primary Articles and 13.59 per cent for Fuel, Power, Light & Lubricants for the corresponding week (ended October 25, 2008) of last year, the statement said.

As per a decision taken on October 19 by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), the weekly release of the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) will henceforth cover only the Primary Articles and the commodities in the broad group of Fuel, Power, Light & Lubricants.

The monthly WPI covering all commodities for October will be released on November 12, the statement said.

According to the provisional figures, the index for Primary Articles, which have a weight of 22.02 per cent in the WPI, declined by 0.1 per cent to 273.0 from 273.3 for the previous week.

Within this category, the index for Food Articles declined by 0.3 per cent to 277.7 from 278.4 for the previous week due to lower prices of fish-marine (3%), fruits & vegetables (2%) and barley and jowar (1% each). However, the prices of moong (3%), wheat and bajra (2% each) and condiments & spices and gram (1% each) moved up.

The index for Non-Food Articles rose by 0.2 per cent to 236.3 from 235.8 for the previous week due to higher prices of raw silk (6%), raw rubber (3%) and castor seed, rape & mustard seed, raw cotton and copra (1% each). However, the prices of raw wool (6%) and linseed and groundnut seed (1% each) declined.

According to the CCEA decision, the collection of data for Manufactured Products, which have a weight of 63.75 per cent in the WPI, would have a monthly frequency.

The monthly release of WPI is a widely followed international practice and the Government expects the decision to improve the quality of the WPI.

At the same time, the Weekly Price Index for primary articles and commodities in Fuel, Power, Light and Lubricant Group would facilitate weekly monitoring of the prices of agricultural commodities and petroleum products which are sensitive in nature.


Tele-density in India reaches 43.50 in September

The number of telephone subscribers in India rose to 509.03 million at the end of September this year, 3.03 per cent higher than the level of 494.07 million in the previous month.

The overall tele-density in the country had reached 43.50, the monthly summary issued by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said.

The Government had set itself a target of 500 million telephones by the end of 2010, which had been achieved more than a year earlier, an official press release said.

The wireless subscriber base, which includes GSM, CDMA and Fixed Wireless Phones (FWP), went up from 456.74 million in August to 471.73 million at the end of September, registering a growth rate of 3.28 per cent. The wireless tele-density is 40.31.

The wireline subscriber base continued to decline, going down from 37.33 million in August to 37.31 million at the end of September.

The release said the decline was mainly on account of the reduction in the wireline subscriber base of public sector telecom service providers Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL), which lost 0.06 million subscribers in September. The overall wireline teledensity is 3.19.

The total broadband subscriber base has increased from 6.98 million in August to 7.22 million in September, showing a growth of 3.29 per cent, the release added.


MoEF outlines policy for new ports, expansion of existing facilities

The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has outlined a new policy for expansion of existing ports and initiation of new projects on the coastline, under which new ports at identified sites would be subjected to Comprehensive Environment Impact Assessment (EIA).

The EIA would be based on data for a minimum of three seasons and the EIA report would be prepared on the basis of actual field measurements, appropriate modeling studies and so on, the Ministry said in an office memorandum posted on its website.

It said expansion of existing ports, harbours and jetties within their notified port limits shall be undertaken subject to the condition that the hydro-dynamic studies indicate that the expansion activities do not have significant impact on the shoreline abutting the project and has no significant impact on the ecologically sensitive areas along the stretch.

The memorandum said that hotspot stretches, that is areas which are prone to high erosion above one metre per year (identified by the concerned Central/State Government agencies), locations within 10 km on either side of eco-sensitive areas categorised as Coastal Regulation Zone-I (i) and water bodies with high biodiversity shall not be considered for location ports and harbours.

However, fishing jetties and embarkation facilities for local communities could be set up with EIA as per Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006.

With regard to Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep Islands, the port and harbour projects shall be undertaken in accordance with CRZ Notification, 1991 and approved Coastal Zone Management Plans. Port projects of more than 5 million tonnes per annum on these islands shall be subjected to Comprehensive EIA including physical and mathematical modeling and ground verification, it said.

The memorandum said the Institute for Ocean Management (IOM), Chennai and ICMAM shall identify the shoreline changes at micro level and map them in at least 1:25000 scale map. A decision with regard to specific conditions will be taken by October 31, 2010 after which a National Policy in this regard will be drawn up.

The memorandum has been issued on the basis of a report submitted by the Ministry of Earth Sciences which had been requested to identify coastal stretches which were subject to erosion or accretion.

Earlier, the Ministry of Earth Sciences had been given the task after the Ministry of Environment and Forests had, in August this year, decided to defer consideration proposals pertainining to development of ports and expansion projects received after July 31 and not to accept any new projects seeking environmental/CRZ clearance till a policy was finalised.

This was done after the Expert Committee, chaired by Prof M S Swaminathan, set up to review the comments received on the draft Coastal Management Zone 2008, had in its report of July 16, 2009 had recommended an immediate study to be undertaken to examine the cumulative impacts of port projects on the coastline. It had said that pending the study there should be a moratorium on expansion of existing ports and initiation of new projects.


India's exports fall by 13.8 % in September

India's exports fell by 13.8 per cent to $ 13.608 billion in September this year from the level of $ 15.789 billion registered during the same month last year, an official statement said here today.

This was the 12th straight month in which the country's exports had registered a fall, mainly due to the lower demand from developed countries as a result of the global economic downturn. But the extent of fall has been gradually reducing.

In August this year, the country's exports had fallen by 19.4 per cent to $ 14.289 billion from $ 17.724 billion in the same month of 2008.

In rupee terms, the country's exports had fallen by 8.4 per cent from Rs 71,941 crore in September last year to Rs 65,916 crore in September this year.

According to the statement, the cumulative value of exports for the period April-September this year was $ 77.855 billion (Rs 378,196 crore) as compared to $ 108.907 billion (Rs 464,451 crore) in the corresponding period of 2008, a fall of 28.5 per cent in dollar terms and 18.6 per cent in rupee terms.

It said India’s imports during September, 2009 were valued at $ 21.377 billion (Rs.103,546 crore) representing a decrease of 31.3 per cent in dollar terms (minus 27.0 per cent in rupee terms) over the level of imports valued at $ 31.136 billion ( Rs. 141,865 crore) in September, 2008.

The cumulative value of imports for the period April- September 2009 was $ 124.584 billion (Rs. 605,075 crore) as against $ 185.002 billion (Rs. 790,644 crore) registering a negative growth of 32.7 per cent in dollar terms and 23.5 per cent in rupee terms over the same period last year.

Oil imports during September, 2009 were valued at $ 6.343 billion which was 33.5 per cent lower than the figure of $ 9.543 billion in the corresponding period last year. Oil imports during April- September, 2009 were valued at $ 34.808 billion which was 45 per cent lower than the level of $ 63.285 billion in the corresponding period last year.

Non-oil imports during September, 2009 were estimated at $ 15.034 billion which was 30.4 per cent lower than non-oil imports of $ 21.592 billion in September, 2008. Non-oil imports during April- September, 2009 were valued at $ 89.776 billion which was 26.2 per cent lower than the level of such imports valued at $ 121.717 billion in April- September, 2008.

The trade deficit for April- September, 2009 was estimated at $ 46.729 billion which was lower than the deficit of $ 76.095 billion during April-September, 2008.


Mukherjee to inaugurate Economic Editors' Conference

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee will inaugurate the two-day Annual Economic Editors' Conference here tomorrow.

The event, organised by the Press Information Bureau, is aimed at enabling economic editors and journalists, invited from all over the country, to interact with ministers and senior officers of the key economic and infrastructure ministries.

Apart from getting a detailed background of the Government's policies and programmes, the conference is also expected to provide the mediapersons with a comprehensive view of the overall economic scenario in the country. It will also enable the Government to get feedback from the journalists.

Besides the Finance Ministry, the Planning Commission and the Ministries of Power, Agriculture, Commerce & Industry, Road Transport & Highways, Tourism, Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation and Petroleum & Natural GAs will participate in the conference.

In all, about 300 editors and financial writers from across the country will attend the event, an official press release added.


AI, Aerostar in alliance for engine MRO facility for Middle East customers

National carrier Air India's Engine Overhaul Facility at Mumbai and Aerostar Asset Management, based in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have created an Engine Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) brand aimed initially at the Middle East market.

Called "A Team", the strategic alliance will provide engine repair and management solutions to all airline operators of the region, an Air India press release said.

A Team will utilise the existing engine overhaul facilities of Air India in Mumbai and the marketing set-up of Aerostar in the Middle East, it said.

The alliance would sell repair services for jet engines such as GE CF6-50 & 80 series, P&W 4000 series, GE-90 series and CFM56-7 series and will also cover CFM56-5 series engine in the near future.

The release said the marketing agreement in this regard was recently executed between the two companies and the brand would be formally launched at the Dubai Air Show to be held during November 15-19.

Air India's Engine Overhaul Facility, established in 1996, has been catering to third party MRO services since 1999. The facility is approved by Director General of Civil Aviation, India, Federal Aviation Administration, USA, and European Aviation Safety Agency. It is also an ISO rated facility.

Aerostar Asset Management is a company promoted by the ETA Star Group which has a strong presence in the Middle East. Aerostar has been involved in jet engine management for various customers since 2005.

According to the release, the alliance will provide practical and cost effective solutions for engine repair management, leading to reduced cost of ownership for engines operators.

"Air India’s technical expertise in the field of engine overhaul and its elaborate facilities coupled with Aerostar’s capabilities in MRO marketing and material sourcing will be an ideal combination for high level of customer care, lower repair cost & tighter TAT and assured quality that will ensure longer engine time on wing. The arrangement will also result in additional revenue earnings for Air India," it added.


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