Business & Economy

RIL in Marcellus Shale JV with Carrizo Oil & Gas


Energy and petrochemicals major Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) today said its subsidiary, Reliance Marcellus II, had signed definitive transaction agreements to enter into a Marcellus Shale joint venture with the United States-based Carrizo OIl & Gas Inc.

A press release from RIL said that, under the proposed transaction, Reliance would acquire a 60% interest in Marcellus Shale acreage in Central and Northeast Pennsylvania that is currently held in a 50-50 joint venture between Carrizo and ACP II Marcellus LLC, an affiliate of Avista Capital Partners.

Accoding to the release, pursuant to the transaction, Reliance will acquire 100% of Avista’s interest and 20% of Carrizo’s interests in the joint venture. Upon completion of the transaction, Reliance and Carrizo will own 60% and 40% interests, respectively, in a newly formed joint venture between the companies.
Reliance will pay a total consideration of $392 million, comprising $340 million of cash and $52 million of drilling carry obligations. The drilling carry obligations will provide for 75% of Carrizo’s share of development costs over an anticipated two-year development programme.

The release said the joint venture would have approximately 104,400 net acres of undeveloped leasehold in the core area of the Marcellus Shale in Central and Northeast Pennsylvania, of which Reliance’s 60% interest will represent approximately 62,600 net acres. This acreage is expected to support the drilling of approximately 1,000 wells over the next 10 years, with a net resource potential of about 3.4 Tcfe (2.0 Tcfe net to Reliance).  The transaction allows for additional growth in the development acreage, at pre-agreed terms.
Carrizo will serve as the development operator for the joint venture and Reliance has the option to act as a development operator in certain regions in the coming years as part of the joint venture.
The transaction is anticipated to close by mid-September 2010, the release said.
“Reliance is excited about the opportunity to further expand presence in the Marcellus Shale in the United States," Mr Walter Van de Vijver, President, International E&P Business, Reliance Industries said,

"We are pleased to establish a long-term partnership with Carrizo, which has demonstrated operating expertise in the shale plays. The proposed joint venture will supplement strengths achieved through our recent joint ventures and further expands our footprint in North American shale gas operations," he added.
Jefferies & Company, Inc. acted as lead financial advisor and Vinson & Elkins LLP acted as legal counsel to Reliance. BNP Paribas and Credit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank provided strategic advice to RIL in respect of this investment, the release added.

Carrizo is a Houston-based energy company engaged in the exploration, development, exploitation, and production of oil and natural gas primarily in the Barnett Shale in North Texas, the Marcellus Shale in Appalachia, and in proven onshore trends along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast regions.



Lok Sabha adopts resolution asking Govt. to contain inflation

The Lok Sabha today adopted a resolution asking the Government to take steps to contain inflation after a debate on rising prices during whic Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee put up a spirited defence of the steps taken by the Government to address the issue.

"This House takes a considered view of inflation and urges the government to take further effective actions to contain its impact on common man," the resolution read out by Speaker Meira Kumar said.

"The Government has been fully aware of its responsibility and has taken determined steps since the end of last year to contain inflation," Mr Mukherjee said in his intervention in the debate that was initiated yesterday by Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj.

Mr Mukherjee noted that Ms Swaraj had raised the issue of high taxation of petroleum products. "She is correct if taxes go down, the commodities will become cheaper and it will provide a great relief to the consumer. It is precisely for this reason that my Government has undertaken the single biggest reform in taxation in the form of Goods and Service Tax (GST)."

He hoped that all the political parties which had expressed concern about the price rise and the plight of the "common man" would convert it into real action by supporting the GST.

Referring to the inflation rate, Mr Mukherjee said both the aggregate indices and their components pointed towards pressure from supply side factors like food, fuel and commodity prices and demand side factors as the economic recovery becomes stronger and domestic capacity constraints in many sectors are being reached.

"I must remind the hon’ble Members that inflation is a complex problem and it has to be handled with utmost care. In a democratic country, we cannot control inflation by law and decree. In the 60s, 70s and 80s, some nations tried to control inflation by having the government fix the prices. The predominant effect of this was disappearance of goods from the shops. In other words, goods were cheap but not available. At the same time, black markets flourished. We certainly do not want to create such a situation in India," he said.

The Finance Minister said the Government's priorities in this regard to ensure that goods, especially food items, should be easily available and accessible to people at large and that remunerative prices are given to those producing and providing goods and services so that producers are encouraged to produce more.

He said the Government also wanted to ensure that goods, including food items, are provided to vulnerable section of society at subsidised prices through an efficient and effective public distribution system.

He said that, in order to address the concerns of the "aam aadmi", the Government had given them entitlement to work, information and education for their children backed by legal enactment.

Mr Mukherjee said a policy package had to be carefully crafted to contain inflationary pressures, maintain the growth momentum and restore the fiscal health of the economy. He said that, as a result of the steps taken by the Government, the food price inflation had come down to 9.67 per cent from over 21 per cent in the last week of November 2009.

He said the south-west monsoon had been good so far and the Government was looking foward to a bumber Kharif crop. "When larger supplies come in at harvest time, it will lead to significant fall in prices of food items," he said.

Quoting a recent study by NCAER which pointed to a decreasing share of low income households and increasing share of high income households for the period 2001-02 to 2009-10, he said that as large numbers of households saw their incomes growing, their food consumption patterns were changing.

He said the entire agriculture system had to gear up to increase the productivity of food items. "Growing demand is an inevitable consequence of rapid and inclusive growth," he said.

"In my Budget for the year 2010-11, I presented a four-pronged strategy of increasing production, reducing wastages, providing credit to the farmers and giving boost to the agro industry. We have to take the Green Revolution to the eastern region of the country, conserve the gains made in the green revolution areas and organize 60,000 pulses and oil seed villages at the earliest and create food storage capacities and cold chains to preserve food," he said.


NTC puts up Bharat Mills land in Mumbai for sale in e-auction

Four days after the public sector National Textile Corporation (NTC) got a bid of Rs 474 crore for 2.39 acres of land of its closed Podar Mill in Mumbai, the company today put another of its prime properties in the metropolis on sale through an e-auction.

Indiabulls Infratech Limited of Mumbai had emerged as the highest bidder for the 2.39 acre plot of the Podar Mill in the three-day e-auction. The reserve price for that plot was Rs 250 crore.

Today, the company has put 8.37 acres of land of the Bharat Textile Mills, facing Worli seafront in Mumbai, on e-auction with a reserve price of Rs 750 crore.

According to an NTC press release, the bid prices had crossed Rs 1000 crores within a couple of hours after the online bidding began at 10 am this morning.

NTC is hoping to raise about Rs 5000 crore in the current financial year for its modernisation and revival programmes through the sale of the land of its closed mills in Mumbai and other cities.

The three-day online auction will close at 5 pm on August 6. Seven bidders, including Indiabulls, are in the fray for the property. The others are D B View Infracon Pvt Ltd, Peninsula Realestate Magment Pvt Ltd, Ahinsa Realtors Pvt Ltd (Tata), Perspective Realty and Infrs.Ltd, and Lodha Structure Developers Pvt Ltd.

NTC Chairman K Ramachandran Pillai said he was confident the auction would be as successful as the first. "The first electronic auction brought us a rate that was double the expectations. We look for a more exciting finish this time,’’ he said.

The process of e-auctioning is being conducted by e-Procurement Technologies Ltd.,Ahmedabad on behalf of NTC. The minimum bid increment amount has been fixed at Rs. 2 crore. All the bidders would have a valid digital certificate well in advance to participate in the online event. If a bidder places a bid in the last 10 minutes of closing of the auction, the auction shall get extended automatically for another 10 minutes. In case, there is no bid in the last 10 minutes of closing of auction, the auction shall get closed automatically without any extension. The close of the first e-auction was prolonged thus upto 6.20 pm.

The NTC was set up in April 1968 to manage the affairs of sick textile undertakings in the private sector taken over by the Government. The number of units in its fold had increased to 119 by 1995.

After closing down as many as 77 unviable units, the NTC has launched a Rs 9102 crore revival package for 24 mills with the private sector. It has already spent nearly Rs 900 crore and completed the moderinisation of 18 mills.

The Corporation is setting up four green field projects and modernising two other mills. It has raised Rs 4149 crore by selling assets of the closed mills already.


Tata Sons forms Selection Committee to choose Ratan Tata's successor

Ratan Tata
Ratan Tata

Tata Sons Limited, the promoter company of the Tata Group, today said that its Board had formed a Selection Committee for eventually deciding on a suitable successor to its Chairman Ratan Tata.

The company said in a statement that the decision was in accordance with its Articles of Association. The Committee comprises five members, including an external member.

The Chairman of Tata Sons has traditionally been the Chairman of the Tata Group.

Mr Tata, 72, has been Chairman of Tata Sons since 1991. He is also the Chairman of the major Tata companies, including Tata Motors, Tata Steel, Tata Consultancy Services, Tata Power, Tata Tea, Tata Chemicals, Indian Hotels and Tata Teleservices. During his tenure, the group's revenues have grown 12-fold.

Mr Tata is due to retire only at the end of December 2012 when he reaches the age of 75.

According to the release, the Committee has commenced its work. It said the Committee was in the process of formulating criteria for identifying the most suitable candidate taking into account the global nature and complexity of the Group’s business at the present time.

"The Group would require someone with experience and exposure to direct its growth amidst the challenges of the global economy. The selection process for a prospective candidate would consider suitable persons from within the Tata Companies, other professionals in India as well as persons overseas with global experience," the release said.

The release said that it was expected that the final selection would be made in adequate time to effect a smooth transition and change of leadership before Mr. Tata’s retirement at the end of December 2012.

Last week, there was speculation in the media about the possibility of 53-year-old Noel Tata, Mr Tata's half-brother, being groomed for a bigger role in the group. The reports appeared after Mr Noel Tata was appointed Managing Director of Tata International, a leather and engineering trading company with presence in ten African nations.

Mr Ratan Tata joined the Tata Group in 1962. He was appointed Director-in-charge of the National Radio and Electronics Company (NELCO) in 1971. In 1981, he was made Chairman of Tata Industries, another promoter company of the Group.

About 66 per cent of the equity capital of Tata Sons is held by philanthropic trusts endowed by members of the Tata family. It is the owner of the Tata name and the Tata trademark.


State Treasuries to be computerised at cost of Rs 626 crore

The Government of India has approved a Mission Mode Project for computerisation of State Treasuries in the country at an overall cost of Rs 626 crore at Rs 1 crore per district in existence on April 1 this year.

Minister of State for Finance Namo Narain Meena told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply to a question yesterday that the scheme, to be implemented in about three years beginning 2010-11, would support States and Union Territories (UTs) to fill the existing gap in their treasury computerization, upgradation, expansion and interface requirements, apart from supporting basic computerization.

The scheme covers installation of suitable hardware and application software systems in networked environment on a vide area basis and building interfaces for data sharing among various statke holders, it said.

The treasury computerization project is expected to make budgeting processes more efficient, improve cash flow management, promote real-time reconciliation of accounts, strengthen Management Information Systems (MIS), improve accuracy and timeless in accounts preparation, bring about transparency and efficiency in public delivery systems, better financial management along with improved quality of governance in States and UTs, he added.


L&T bags orders worth Rs 1025 crore in buildings, factories segment

Engineering and construction major Larsen and Toubro (L&T) today said it had secured orders aggegating to Rs 1025 crore for the construction of two hospital buildings, residential projects in Mumbai and a cement plant from a major cement manufacturer.

The orders were bagged by L&T's Buildings and Factories Operating Company (B&F-OC), a part of its Construction Division, a press release from the company said.

These orders further enhance the order book of the B&F-OC, which has already secured major design & build contracts for airports, IT parks and commercial space, the release added.


India Travel Trade Expo in Mumbai on August 6-7

The India Travel Trade Expo (ITTE 2010), which will showcase both outbound and inbound tourism products, will be held here on August 6-7.

The event has been organised by the Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), the country's largest travel asociation, a press release from the organisers said.

The TAAI Travel Awards will be given away on the first day of the exhibition in recognition of the contribution made by airlines, hotels, spas and other players in the industry.

ITTE 2010 Chairman Iqbal Mulla said the exhibition would provide an opportunity for exhibitors to establish new customer contacts, create space for strategic partnerships and build long-term business relationships.

There will be a CEOs' Conclave on the opening day, followed by sessions on inbound and outbound tourism. The sessions will discuss challenges faced by the industry and the inputs from these would be submitted as a report to the Government.


GMR Group closes the InterGen refinance transaction

Infrastructure major GMR Infra today said it had achieved financial closure for the refinancing of a short-term loan of $ 737 million, taken for the acquisition of a 50 per cent stake in independent power producer (IPP) InterGen NV, by a five-year facility.

A press release from the GMR Group said the refinancing was done by a combination of Senior and Mezzanine Debt from a consortium of banks led by Axis Bank and ICICI Bank, consisting of major Indian banks including Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, Canara Bank, Exim Bank, Indian Bank, Indian Overseas Bank, and Syndicate Bank.

In October 2008, the GMR Group had successfully bid for and acquired a 50 per cent stake in InterGen for $ 1.2 billion. A part of the acquisition cost was funded by the Short Term Bridge Loan for two years.

"The loan, due for repayment in October 2010, has now been successfully refinanced well in advance of the due date," the release said.

"Despite increasing spreads in the foreign currency markets, the pricing was achieved on competitive terms for a longer tenor of five years. The current transaction underscores the strong fundamentals of InterGen business and reaffirms the confidence of the Indian banks in GMR Group," the release added.

InterGen has 12 power plants with a total generation capacity of 8088 MW. It is jointly owned by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and GMR Infrastructure Ltd. InterGen’s plants are located in the United KIngdom, the Netherlands, Mexico, the Philippines and Australia.


Maruti Suzuki hikes prices of all models except Alto

Car maker Maruti Suzuki India Ltd has announced an across-the-board increase in the prices of its various models, except the Alto.

"Due to sharp increase in the input costs Maruti Suzuki India Ltd has decided to pass on part of this cost impact to customers," the company said in a press release.

According to it, the approximate price revision on various models (ex showroom, Delhi) ranges between Rs 2,000 and Rs 7,500. The price increase ranges between 1 per cent and 1.5 per cent across models, the release said.

There is no change in the prices of Alto model, the company's largest selling model, it said, adding that the new prices are applicable with immediate effect.


Govt. releases additional 4.57 lakh tonnes of foodgrains for APL families

The Government is making an additional allocation of 4.57 lakh tonnes of foodgrains to the States for issue to Above Poverty Line (APL) families in an effort to check prices in the open market.

According to an official press release, allocation of foodgrains to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families, including Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) families, are at present made at the rate of 35 kg per family per month.

For the APL families, the allocations of foodgrains are made depending upon availability of foodgrains in the Central Pool and past offtake.

At present, the APL families are being given allocations ranging from 10 kg to 35 kg in different States and Union Territories (UTs).

The release said the Government had considered the availability of adequate stocks of foodgrains in the Central Pool and the requests of States/UTs for higher allocation of foodgrains under APL category.

Keeping in view the need to check prices of foodgrains in the open market, the Government has decided to make an additional monthly allocation of 4.57 lakh tonnes of foodgrains – rice and wheat – at APL Central Issue Prices, to States/UTs where it is presently less than 15 kg per family /month, to ensure distribution of at least 15 kg per APL family/month, for a period of six months from August 2010.

Accordingly, release orders for additional allocations of rice/wheat to 22 States and UTs have been made, the release added.


ADB to provide $ 222.22 m loan for rural roads in four states

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will provide a loan of $ 222.2 million to India under the Rural Roads Sector II Investment Programme under an agreement signed here today.

According to the agreement, the loan amount will be utilised for construction and upgrading of roads in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Orissa.

An official press release said around 2443 km of roads would be taken up for construction and upgrading in Madhya Pradesh, 1509 km in Orissa, 443 km in West Bengal and 312 km in Chattisgarh under the programme.

Dr Anup K Pujari, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Finance signed the loan agreement on behalf of the Government of India. Mr Hun Kim, Country Director signed on behalf of the ADB.

The agreement was also signed by Mr Sanjay Dubey, CEO, Madhya Pradesh Rural Development Authority, Mr Bhasker Khulbe, Resident Commissioner, Government of West Bengal, Mr Ranglal Jamuda,  Principal Secretary, Department of Rural Development, Government of Orissa and Mr R C Pandey, CEO, CGRRDA, Government of Chattisgarh signed the loan agreement on behalf of the respective state governments. 

Mr Jitendra Kumar, Director (RC), signed the loan agreement on behalf of the Ministry of Rural Development.

The Rural Road Sector II Investment Programme was approved on 6 July, 2010. This is the last tranche of the $ 750 million Rural Road Sector II investment programme, approved in 2005 as a Multi Financing Facility (MFF) for these states.


India's exports maintain upward trend, grow by 30.4 % in June

Maintaining their upward trend for the eighth consecutive month, India's exports grew by 30.1 per cent to $ 17.745 billion in June this year from $ 13.606 billion in the same month of 2009.

Maintaining their upward trend for the eighth consecutive month, India's exports grew by 30.1 per cent to $ 17.745 billion in June this year from $ 13.606 billion in the same month of 2009, an official statement said here today.

In rupee terms, the exports were valued at Rs 82,632 crore in June this year, which was 27.1 per cent higher than the level of Rs 64,996 crore in June last year.

The country's exports had grown by 35.1 per cent in May this year. The cumulative value of exports for the period April-June 2010 was $ 50.777 billion (Rs 231,743 crore) as against $ 38.396 billion (Rs.187,218 crore), registering a growth of 32.2 per cent in dollar terms and 23.8 per cent in rupee terms over the same period last year, the statement said.

India's imports during June, 2010 were valued at $ 28.299 billion (Rs.13,1781 crore) representing a growth of 23 per cent in dollar terms (19.9 per cent in rupee terms) over the level of imports valued at $ 23.013 billion (Rs.109,937 crore) in June, 2009.

The cumulative value of imports for the period April-June, 2010 was $ 83.044 billion (Rs.378,992 crore) as against $ 61.871 billion (Rs.301,439 crore), showing a growth of 34.2 per cent in dollar terms and 25.7 per cent in rupee terms over the same period last year.

According to the statement, oil imports during June, 2010 were valued at $ 8.354 billion which was 26.5  per cent higher than oil imports valued at $  6.601 billion in the corresponding period last year. Oil imports during April-June, 2010 were valued at $ 25.276 billion which was 51.8 per cent higher than the oil imports of $ 16.647 billion in the corresponding period last year.

Non-oil imports during June, 2010 were estimated at $ 19.946 billion which was 21.5 per cent higher than non-oil imports of $ 16.412 billion in June, 2009. Non-oil imports during April - June, 2010 were valued at $ 57.768 billion which was 27.7 per cent higher than the level of such imports valued at $ 45224 billion in April - June, 2009.

The trade deficit for April - June, 2010 was estimated at $ 32.267 billion which was higher than the deficit of $ 23.475 billion during April -June, 2009, the statement added.


Wipro to develop core software for Crime and Criminal Tracking Network System

Wipro Infotech, a part of the Wipro Group and a provider of IT and business transformation services, today said it had been selected as the software development agency (SDA) for the Union Home Ministry's Crime and Criminal Tracking Network System (CCTNS).

The CCTNS is a mission mode project under the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) and has been conceptualised by the Home Ministry.

According to a press release from Wipro, the CCTNS aims to create a nation-wide networked infrastructure for the evolution of an IT-enabled and state-of-the-art, criminal tracking system.

The CCTNS will span across all 35 States and Union Territories and electronically link over 14,000 Police Stations and 6,000 Higher Police Offices across the country.

The release said the project included vertical connectivity of police units (linking police units at various levels within the State and between States and Union Territories) as well as horizontal connectivity (linking police functions at State and Central levels to external entities). CCTNS will also present a citizen-interface to provide basic services to citizens.

As part of the scope of the contract, Wipro will develop the core application software to be used by the States and another core application to be used by the Centre for digitization of crime and criminal records. The solution is being developed on multiple technology platforms to address different levels of functionality required at the Centre and in the States.

Once implemented, the application will link the State Crime Records Bureau with the National Crime Record Bureau, thereby creating a database that can be accessed in real-time from any police station across the country. Given the present day national security scenario, Wipro’s solution is expected to greatly enhance police efficiency in the detection and prevention of crimes. 

“We feel extremely privileged that the government has chosen to partner with Wipro for the CCTNS project which is of crucial importance to homeland security," Mr Anand Sankaran, Senior Vice President and Business Head, India, Middle East and Africa, Wipro, said.

"We will leverage our domain expertise and best practices to build the core application software for CCTNS for effective and efficient policing through adoption of principals of e-governance," he said.

Mr Ranbir Singh, Government Vertical Head, Wipro said “Wipro is currently working with several state governments for e-enabling security and surveillance. CCTNS project is one more step towards enabling the government accelerate efforts in the detection and prevention of crime.”


India, Argentina to step up cooperation in agriculture

Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Agriculture, Sharad Pawar and the Minister of Agriculture, Live Stock and Fisheries of Argentina, Julián Andres Dominguez signing a joint declaration on cooperation in the field of agriculture, in New Delhi on August 02, 2010.
Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Agriculture, Sharad Pawar and the Minister of Agriculture, Live Stock and Fisheries of Argentina, Julián Andres Dominguez signing a joint declaration on cooperation in the field of agriculture, in New Delhi on August 02, 2010.

India and Argentina today agred to enhance technical and professional cooperation in the agricultural sector and foster the trade of plant and animal products between the two countries.

At a meeting between Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and his Argentine counterpart Julian Andres Dominguez here, the two sides expressed deep satisfaction with the substantive cooperation that already existed between the two countries in this sector, particularly in the context of food security.

Mr Dominguez, who is on a two-day official visit to India from today, and Mr Pawar agreed that the two countries would sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in this regard in the near future.

Among other things, the MoU would cover sanitary and phytosanitary issues for bilateral trade of animal and plant products between the two countries, an official press release added.


L&T wins Rs 6500 cr mega power plant order from Jaiprakash Group

Engineering and construction major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) today said it had won a Rs 6500 crore order from the Jaiprakash Power Ventures Limited (JPVL) for its 3x660 MW power plant being set up in Uttar Pradesh.

The order is for the supply, erection and commissioning of Boiler-Turbine Generator package, Critical Piping, Electrostatic Precipitators (ESPs), and Power Plant Automation for the project.

A press release from L&T said the value of the contract was around Rs 6500 crore. The project would be fully commissioned in 60 months, with the first unit scheduled to go into commercial production in 48 months.

The 1980 MW project, based on supercritical technology, will be located in Karchana district, 40 km from Allahabad, the release said.

According to it, supercritical plant and equipment are being increasingly preferred by utilities for their higher efficiencies and for environmental friendly thermal power generation.

While the contract for the Boiler Island has been given to L&T-MHI Boilers Pvt. Ltd, the contract for another package comprising the Steam Turbine Generator Island, ESPs, Critical Piping and Power Plant Automation system has been awarded to L&T.

L&T will procure the Turbine Generator equipment from L&T-MHI Turbine Generators Pvt. Ltd., a joint venture between L&T and MHI/Melco of Japan.

The new contract for L&T is the second similar order from Jaiprakash Power Ventures, an independent power producer (IPP) that is part of the diversified Jaiprakash Group.

The first order from JPVL, comprising two supercritical units of 660 MW each and located in Singrauli District of Madhya Pradesh, was placed on L&T in August last year, and is set to be commissioned in 2013, the release added.


Mumbai property fetches Rs 474 crores for NTC in e-auction

Indiabulls Infratech Limited, Mumbai today emerged as the highest bidder at Rs 474 crore for 2.39 acres of land of the closed Podar Mill of the National Textiles Corporation (NTC) in a three-day e-auction of the property which ended today.

The bid was much higher than the reserve price of Rs 250 crore set by NTC for the sea-facing plot of land at Worli and will set the trend for a series of online auctions that the company plans to conduct for its properties in Mumbai and other cities with the aim of raising Rs 5000 crore in this financial year.

According to an NTC press release, Indiabulls Infratech beat seven other bidders in a close auction that was launched by Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran.

Other bidders who vied for the property of the closed mill were Delhi-based National Building Construction Corporation Limited, Kohinoor Duet, Mumbai, Peninsula Mega-City Development Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, Celebration Developers Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, Runwal Developers Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, Lodha Ultimate Buildtech & Farms Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, and DB View Infracon Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai.

At the close of the first day bidding, the highest quote was Rs 284.40 crores, which jumped to Rs 316.15 crores on the second day.

``It was quite exciting and encouraging. This was proved to be the excellent option because of many factors. Unlike in the manual bidding, the bidder gets multiple opportunities, as quotes are visible to the bidders. It is the best way to ensure transparency and nothing can be better than this for realizing the best price’," NTC Chairman, K Ramachandran Pillai, said.

``As it was the first time for any PSU, we had done our homework well and all possible loopholes were plugged in well. It went absolutely smoothly and the price is the best we can fetch," he said.

The NTC now plans to put the 8.37 acre plot of the closed Bharat Textile Mill in Worli under the hammer from August 4 to 6.

Seven real estate majors have already been shortlisted for the same and the NTC has fixed a reserve price of Rs 750 crore. ``We hope to hold at least ten more such e-auctions and the prices expected from the sales will go much beyond our target of Rs 5000 crore this financial year,’’ Mr Pillai added.

The process of e-auctioning was being conducted by e-Procurement Technologies Ltd., Ahmedabad, on behalf of NTC, after a detailed system audit conducted by EQDC, a Government of Gujarat enterprise, and under close auditing and monitoring of Hari Bhakti & Co. an NIC/Cert-in empanelled system auditor.

The release said the NTC had firmed up plans to sell off about 55 acres of surplus land, mainly in Mumbai, and to mobilise over Rs 5000 crore to fund the ongoing revival project. Besides the properties of six more mills in Mumbai, the NTC is also selling off smaller properties in Indore, Kanpur, Bangalore, and Coimbatore. The revival plan launched in 2005 is expected to be over by March 2011.

NTC had already raised about Rs 4000 crores in the last four years by selling 26 properties in Mumbai and other cities, but through manual auctions, the release added.


Sub-committee to present major ideas on transforming agriculture sector

The Sub-Committee on Agriculture set up by the Prime Minister's Council on Trade and Industry today decided that it would present to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh major ideas to transform the agriculture sector along with an action plan to bring it about.

At its first meeting here today, the sub-committee decided to hold one more meeting in the third week of August to discuss and finalise its recommendations.

At today's meeting, the sub-committee reviewed the current state of the agriculture sector with the underlying objective of ensuring food security, increasing farmers’ incomes and providing agri-products at reasonable prices to the consumers.

The Sub-Committee on "Enhancing Agriculture Production and Food Security’ was formed by the Prime Minister’s Council on Trade and Industry in its first meeting on May 26, 2010. It comprises Mr Mukesh Ambani, Mr M. S. Banga, Dr. Ashok Ganguli and Mr Jamshyd Godrej. Agriculture Secretary P. K. Basu is its convener.

According to an official press release, the sub-committee reviewed areas identified by the Ministry of Agriculture for private sector investment in the agriculture sector, which are:

-Focussing on Eastern region of the country where large investment in sinking shallow wells, managing flood water and lifting water, coupled with use of advanced technology can transform the agricultural economy of this region;

-Development, production & distribution of hybrid rice seeds on competitive costs like China;

-Speeding up process of farm mechanisation and establishing farm machinery service providers;

-Oil palm cultivation and processing;

-Contract production, procurement, processing and retailing of pulses;

-Setting up terminal markets with cold chains tied up to production spokes;

-Setting up tissue culture laboratories for production of planting material in north, central and north-eastern parts of the country;

-Processing of horticulture produce for longer life, loss reduction and value addition;

-Creation of additional storage capacity of 100-150 lakh tonnes;

-Setting up integrated and automated mandis, modern storage systems, transportation and logistics systems to handle foodgrains from the production to final consumption stage.

-Reforms required in APMC laws and Essential Commodities Act and removal of restrictions placed on the movement of foodgrains and stock limits;

-E-trading coupled with warehousing to facilitate credit and storage choices to farmers;

-Setting up agriculture infrastructure of soil, nutrients, seed, bio-fertilisers, pesticides testing laboratories;

-Extension services designed and suitable for specific crops and market-industry linkage;

-Easing of land constraints to enable scale farming;

-Permitting contract farming and medium term land leasing;

-Encouraging private sector micro-finance companies to expand their operation for agriculture credit;

The release said the members agreed that agriculture and manufacturing required focussed attention, as called for by the Prime Minister. Members were also of the view that farmers took the highest risks and, therefore, agriculture policies needed to be developed and reformed in such a way that farming became an assured and remunerative business.

They felt that the entire post production management required to be tailored to eliminate post-harvest losses and provide quality products to consumers at reasonable prices. Members felt that this would require a massive reforms and development programme built around following elements:

a. Focus on identified crops and regions for the entire value chain by organising policy reforms and interventions;

b. Build strong public private partnerships in agriculture, including for turning around and using full capacity of public sector institutions and assets;

c. Making agriculture attractive for young entrepreneurs to invest in;

d. Increasing availability of agriculture financing to private sector, including providing priority sector status to such financing;

e. Recognising that there are well-entrenched lobbies, which come in the way of reforms, undertake reforms boldly for farmers and consumers interest;

f. Identifying pro-reform states and working with them to initiate and mainstream change;

g. Focus on north-eastern states to exploit their tremendous potential and also to make agriculture development inclusive;

h. Transforming agriculture in sustainable manner recognising imperatives of climate change.


Accenture, Mahindra Satyam and L1 Identity Solutions get UIDAI contracts

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has selected three biometric solution agencies - consortia led by Accenture, Mahindra Satyam - Morpho and L1 Identity Solutions - and awarded them contracts to implement the core biometric identification system for the "Aadhar" programme.

The goal of the programme is to provide each Indian resident with a unique identification number – Aadhaar, and enable easier, more efficient and secure access to welfare schemes. The programme is designed to confirm the identity of the 1.2 billion residents of India, making it the largest identity management programme in the world.

The initial phase of the contract will run up to two years and a total of 200 million residents are expected to be de-duplicated by a combination of the three biometric solution agencies in the first stage of the programme.

According to an official press release, the entire selection process was completed in a record three months and many new international benchmarks, including one of the lowest prices for de-duplication, have been achieved.

The multi-modal system and allocation of de-duplication transactions among the three agencies based on the performance of each system is being attempted for the first time in identity resolution systems anywhere.

The scope of work for the biometrics solution providers will, inter-alia, include the design, supply, installation, commissioning, maintenance and support of multi-modal Automatic Biometric Identification Subsystem (ABIS) and multi-modal Software Development Kit (SDK) for client enrollment station, verification server, manual adjudication and monitoring function of the UID application.

These functions would go into creating the ability of UIDAI to ensure de-duplication during the allotment of UID numbers based on the biometric information collected from the residents, the release added.


Cabinet nod for release of Rs 4868 cr as interest subvention to PSBs

The Union Cabinet today approved the release of a sum of Rs 4,868 crore, subject to actuals, as interest subvention to public sector banks (PSBs), Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) and cooperative banks to ensure short-term crop loans to farmers.

The decision also covers payments to the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) to be used for refinance to RRBs and cooperative banks at concessional rates to reimburse the amount of interest subvention to ensure that the farmer, in general, should receive short term crop loan at 7 per cent per annum ( 5 per cent for prompt payers) with an upper limit of Rs. 3 lakhs on the principal amount during 2010-11.

The Government has since 2006-07 been subsidizing short term crop loans to farmers in order to ensure the availability of crop loans to farmers for loans up to Rs. 3 lakh, at 7 percent per annum.

This Interest Subvention Scheme has been continued for 2010-11 for PSBs, RRBs and coopertive banks. In 2009-10, an additional subvention of one per cent was being provided to farmers who repay on time. This has been increased to two per cent in 2010-11. Thus, the effective rate of interest for such farmers will be five per cent per annum.

The banks have been consistently meeting the targets set for agriculture credit flow in the past few years. For 2010-11, the target for agricultural credit flow has been raised to Rs.3,75,000 crore from Rs.3,25,000 crore in 2009-10, the release added.


NTC begins e-auction of land of its closed mills, eyeing Rs 5000 crore

The public sector National Textiles Corporation (NTC) today began an e-auction of the land of its closed textile mills by putting a 2.39 acre Mumbai property under the hammer.

NTC is chasing a target of raising Rs 5000 crore through the sale of such land to finance an ongoing modernisation drive.

The e-auction, launched by Union Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran, is the first ever initiative by any government company to sell land through e-auctions.

An NTC press release said that At 6.50 pm on the first day of the three-day e-auction today, the highest bid for the land of the Podar Mill (Process House, facing Worli Sea Face in Mumbai, was Rs 284.40 crore aginst the reserve price of Rs 250 crore fixed by the company.

"There are eight bidders participating in the e-auction which will conclude at 5 pm on July 31. The e-auction will ensure a high degree of transparency in the process of the sale of land of the closed mills of the NTC,’’ NTC Chairman Mr K Ramachandran Pillai said.

NTC has drawn up a roadmap to generate Rs 5,000 crore during the current fiscal by selling most of its properties in Mumbai, Indore, Kanpur, Bangalore and Coimbatore.

The main resources will be from Mumbai by selling the remaining 2,24,500 sq. mtrs of land. On the basis of Rs. 100 crore per acre of reserve price that the company is expecting, NTC is hoping to raise the targeted amount easily.

Till now, NTC had been resorting to physical tender process for selling its immovable properties.

The process of e-auctioning is being conducted by e-Procurement Technologies Ltd., Ahmedabad on behalf of NTC, after a detailed system audit conducted by EQDC, a Government of Gujarat enterprise, and under close monitoring of Hari Bhakti & Co. an NIC/Cert-in empanelled system auditor.

There are eight bidders participating in the e-auction that will continue till July 31. The participating bidders are: Indiabulls Infratech Limited, Mumbai, National Building Construction Corporation Ltd, New Delhi, Kohinoor Duet, Mumbai, Peninsula Mega-City Development Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, Celebration Developers Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, Runwal Developers Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, Lodha Ultimate Buildtech & Farms Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, and DB View Infracon Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai

The present bidding will be followed by e-auctioning of the next property at Mumbai - Bharat Textile Mills - measuring 8.37 acres (33,938.83 sq. mtrs.). The reserve price of the property has been fixed at Rs. 750 crore. This auction will be carried out during august 4-6. For this auction, seven parties have submitted the earnest money deposit.

The bidders shortlisted for the Bharat Textile Mills are: D B View Infracon Pvt Ltd, Indiabulls Infraestate Ltd, Peninsula Realestate Magmt Pvt Ltd, Ahinsa Realtors Pvt Ltd. ( Tata ), Perspective Realty Pvt Ltd. ( Oberoi ), Videocon Realty & Infrs. Ltd, and LodhaStrucutre Developers Pvt Ltd, the release said.


SBI ties up with Oxigen to promote kiosk banking

Oxigen Services Pvt. Ltd and Sahyog Microfinace Foundation today announced a tie-up with State Bank of India (SBI) under which they will offer banking services by connecting Oxigen web retailers directly to SBI's Core Banking System.

Existig web-enabled Oxigen retailers will be appointed as customer service points (CSPs) of Sahyog Micro Finance Foundation, a business correspondent (BC) of SBI, to carry out banking transactions on behalf of the bank, a press release from Oxigen said here.

"This kiosk-based banking model will provide the necessary ease and comfort to customers in all parts of India with inherent benefits like flexi timings and reach through current Oxigen footprint of over 20,000 web enabled retailers," Mr Pramod Saxena, Chairman and Managing Director, Oxigen, said.

"This localisation of retail banking services is much needed for financial inclusion of the unbanked population in both rural and urban India. There is also room for including our PoS (Point of Sale terminals) retailers in the future," he said.

Mr Sunil Pant, Chief General Manager, SBI, Delhi, said the tie-up was an attempt by the bank to open banking services across strata of society and to make transactions, including savings, a regular part of everyone's life.

"The web-enabled retailers will have SBI Kiosk Banking Customer Service Centre signs enabling them to do banking services for masses. In the first phase, the activity will be rolled out initially in Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) and Mumbai and will be taken nationwide in due course," he said.

According to the release, one of the principal features of the web-based no-frill kiosk banking is that it can reach out to the unbanked masses across India and help them open accounts with minimum documentation.

As part of the service, biometric readers will record user fingerprints for banking transactions such as cash deposits and withdrawals and money transfers to other SBI accounts. Customers can also avail auto/home loans and loans against property and gold, get National Savings Certificates (NSC) or Kisan Vikas Patras, invest in mutual funds and activate current accounts, term deposits and recurring deposts at these locations.

With a base of over 75,000 outlets and growing, Oxigen has the ability to create a vast network of banking kiosks reaching out to the nooks and corners of the country, the release added.

Oxigen is a major player in the area of Single Point Recharge, Bill Payments and Ticketing services in the country.


Lanco Infratech bags order for 1980 MW project from Mahagenco

Infrastructure company Lanco Infratech Limited (LITL) today said it had bagged a contract from the Maharashtra State Power Generation Company Limited (Mahagenco) for balance of plant (BOP) package for three new units of 660 MW each being set up for its Koradi Thermal Power Plant near Nagpur.

The scope of work includes supply, civil work and services including erection, testing and commissioning of complete Balance of Plant package, including major packages like Coal Handling, Ash Handling, De-Mineralized water plant, Cooling Towers, Fuel Oil Handling, Compressed Air System and Water Treatment, a press release from the company said.

"While we have won the contract under stiff competition where there were six major EPC players who have tendered their bids, this contract depicts the confidence of the Mahagenco in the execution capabilities of LITL, it will also help us demonstrate our capabilities in executing projects other than our own portfolio," Mr. S C Manocha, CEO, LITL – EPC Division, said.

The project is the first major external contract for LITL – EPC Division after the company decided to pursue work from clients other than the Lanco Group’s own power generating companies.

"Going forward, we are quite bullish to aggressively bid for such contracts not only in India but also outside India. While there is a lot of scope in setting up thermal power plants in India as the market is growing and is a quite huge, about 75% of the electricity consumed in India is generated by thermal power plants," he added.

The schedule for completion for contract shall be 42 months from the start of work at site, the release added.


Centre makes available 19.2 lakh tonnes of sugar for August

The Central Government has made available 19.20 lakh tonnes of sugar for August, which it said would be sufficient to meet the internal demand for the commodity during the month.

The quantity includes 2.20 lakh tonnes of levy sugar and 17 lakh tonnes of non-levy sugar, an official press release said here today.

The non-levy quota includes normal quota of 13.37 lakh tonnes, 3.13 lakh tonnes of white/refined sugar processed out of imported raw sugar during May and June and 0.50 lakh tonnes out of direct imported white/refined sugar, it said.

The release said the sugar factory shall sell/deliver and dispatch entire non-levy quantity including the sugar processed out of imported raw sugar released for the month of August 2010 within the validity period of the release order, that is upto August 31.


India's food inflation rate dips sharply to 9.67 %

India's food inflation rate dipped sharply to 9.67 per cent in the year to July 17 from 12.47 in the previous week, while fuel prices remained more or less steady at 14.29 per cent up from a year ago. .

India's food inflation rate dipped sharply to 9.67 per cent in the year to July 17 from 12.47 in the previous week, while fuel prices remained more or less steady at 14.29 per cent up from a year ago, an official statement said here today, quoting provisional data.

This is the first time in this year that the food inflation rate has come down to single digit levels and is bound to come as a bit of relief to the Government, which is facing a determined attack by a united Opposition in Parliament on the issue of rising food and fuel prices.

High prices of food items have been a cause of worry for the Government since the worst monsoon in more than three decades last year and floods in some states adversely affected the Kharif crop.

According to the figures released today, the prices of pulses were up 21.23 per cent from a year ago, milk by 19.03 per cent, fruits by 12.14 per cent, wheat by 6.27 per cent, cereals by 5.62 per cent and rice by 5.31 per cent.

However, the prices of potatoes were down 46.05 per cent, vegetables 14.77 per cent and onions 10.25 per cent.

Overall, the annual rate of inflation for Primary Articles, which have a weight of 22.02 per cent in the Wholesale Price Index (WPI), stood at 14.50 per cent for the week ended July 17 as compared to 16.48 per cent for the previous week and 8.18 per cent during the corresponding week, ended July 18, 2009, of the previous year.

The index for this major group rose by 0.4 per cent to 308.8 from 307.5 for the previous week, the provisional data showed.

Within this group, the index for Food Articles rose by 0.6 per cent to 299.3 from 297.6 for the previous week due to higher prices of fish-marine (3%), gram and milk (2% each) and mutton, urad, wheat, tea and maize (1% each). However, the prices of fish-inland and rice (1% each) declined.

The index for Non-Food Articles rose by 0.2 per cent to 288.6 from 288.1 for the previous week due to higher prices of rape & mustard seed and sunflower (2% each) and raw silk, raw jute, groundnut seed and copra (1% each). However, the prices of raw cotton (1%) declined.

In the category of Fuel, Power, Light & Lubricants, which have a weight of 14.23 per cent, the index declined by 0.1 per cent to 386.3 from 386.7 for the previous week due to lower prices of naphtha, light diesel oil and furnace oil (1% each).

The annual rate of inflation for this group stood at 14.29 per cent for the week as compared to 14.27 per cent the previous week and (-)10.63 per cent during the corresponding week of the previous year.


India's infrastructure sector grows by 3.4% in June

A coal power station.
A coal power station.

India's six core industries grew by 3.4 per cent in June this year as compared to 6.3 per cent in the same month of 2009, an official statement said here today, quoting provisional data.

The six core industries had registered a growth rate of 5 per cent in May this year.

During April-June in the current financial year (2010-11), the six core industries registered a growth of 4.6 per cent as against 4.3 per cent during the corresponding period of the previous fiscal.

The index of six core industries, which have a combined weight of 26.7 per cent in the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), stood at 258.1 in June, 2010, the statement said.

According to the provisional data, crude oil production, which has a weight of 4.17 per cent in the IIP, grew by 6.8 per cent in June as compared to 4 per cent in the same month last year. Crude oil production registered a growth of 5.9 per cent during April-June this year as compared to -1.3 per cent in the corresponding period of 2009-10.

Petroleum refinery production, which has a weight of 2 per cent in the IIP, was up 2.9 per cent in June this year as compared to a decline of 3.8 per cent in the same month of 2009. It grew by 5.3 per cent in April-June this year as against a decline of 4.2 per cent in the corresponding period of 2009-10.

In the case of coal production, which has a weight of 3.2 per cent in the IIP, there was a 0.9 per cent growth in June this year as against 15.2 per cent in June 2009. Coal production fell by 0.4 per cent during April-June this year as compared to an increase of 13 per cent in the same period of the previous financial year.

Electricity generation, with a weight of 10.17 per cent in the IIP, registered a growth of 3.4 per cent in June this year as against 7.7 per cent in the same month last year. It grew by 5.6 per cent in the first quarter of this fiscal as compared to 5.8 per cent in the same quarter of the previous year.

Cement production, which has a weight of 1.99 per cent in the IIP, was up 3.6 per cent in June this year as compared to 12.7 per cent in the same month last year. It grew by 7 per cent in the first quarter as compared to 12.1 per cent in the same period of 2009-10.

Production of finished (carbon) steel, which has a weight of 5.13 per cent in the IIP, went up by 3.5 per cent in June 2010 as against 3.6 per cent in the corresponding month last year. It grew by 3.6 per cent in the April-June quarter this year as compared to 1.7 per cent in the same period of last year, the statement added.


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