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Business & Economy

Telstra selects Infosys as a key partner

Infosys Australia today announced that it had been chosen by Telstra as a key strategic partner to support its five-year 450 million AUD application development and maintenance contracts.

Mr John McInerney, Telstra CIO and GMD Information Technology, is confident the new agreements will deliver significant benefits.

"This is an important milestone for Telstra IT. One of the key outcomes of our IT transformation is the delivery of operational excellence. These expanded contracts contribute to our strategy and ensure an ongoing investment with our key partners," he said.

"Infosys has been chosen as one of our key partners in this important area. Our work together in the AD&M domain is crucial to Telstra’s future IT success and we look forward to continuing our relationship," McInerney said.

"Telstra has been one of our most significant clients globally since 2003, and we’re delighted to be selected to build on that strategic partnership," Mr Kris Gopalakrishnan, CEO and Managing Director of parent company Infosys Technologies Limited, said.

"As a strategic partner for some of the world’s leading telecommunications companies, Infosys has led the way in leveraging its technology transformation capability for increased global competitiveness."

Infosys Australia CEO Jackie Korhonen attributed the selection to Infosys’ transformation expertise and proven track record in meeting Telstra’s objectives. In addition to the base spend for maintenance and support of core applications the Infosys-Telstra agreement covers a sizable discretionary spend over the next five years.

"This win speaks to Infosys’ ability to bring its solution and delivery capability in large scale transformation projects," said Mr Korhonen. "We believe our proven delivery excellence, global expertise and knowledge of the Australian market will help Telstra deliver more responsive service to its customers in Australia and around the world."

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Qtel, Tata Communications announce alliance

Qatar's Qtel and Tata Communications have announced a strategic alliance that they say will strengthen both companies’ network reach in the region and internationally.

Under the terms of the agreement, both the companies will align their infrastructures and work together to provide secure, scalable and flexible connectivity solutions including ethernet, MPLS (multi protocol label switching) and a wide variety of managed services to their global customers, a press release said.

"Qtel has a clear strategy in place to deliver the strongest possible communications framework for the growth of business in Qatar today. Partnership with companies like Tata Communications, which is a recognised leader in communications solutions, is a core part of that development strategy," Mr Ahmed Al-Derbesti, QTel's Executive Director, International Services, said:

The agreement complements the ambitious growth strategies of both companies. Qtel looks to provide its clients with world-class communication services and the capacity to expand internationally. Tata Communications continues to build connectivity into emerging markets, to better serve its customers, the release said.

With Qatar continuing to show strong growth in spite of global economic conditions — the International Monetary Fund forecasts that the nation’s economy will expand by 18 per cent this year — more and more companies are looking to establish a stronger presence in the market.

Mr Khalid Al Mansouri, executive director of Qtel’s Business Solutions, said: "This is a landmark agreement which will help to position Qtel at the heart of one of the most robust communication networks in the world today."

Vinod Kumar, president and COO of Tata Communications, said: "Joining hands with Qtel is a winning proposition for Tata Communications as it lends an invaluable perspective to our mission of delivering seamless connectivity and flagship communications services to customers with diverse and widespread network needs."

Over time, the agreement will enable Tata Communications to deliver layer 2 ethernet over SDH, ethernet over MPLS and a range of configurations including unique dedicated multipoint ethernet services to its international network of customers through Qtel.

In return, Qtel customers will have access to a range of new MEF (Metro Ethernet Forum) certified services, delivered via Tata Communications’ major networks of submarine cables, which are among the most significant in the world, and its tier-1 IP network that spans across five continents, the release added.

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Delhi airport awards four F&B concession packages

Delhi International Airport (P) Limited (DIAL) has awarded four food and beverage concession packages for the upcoming Terminal 3 at Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA).

The successful bidders, who were chosen through a tender process, will set up separate joint venture companies with DIAL to develop, operate, maintain and manage food and beverage outlets at T3.

Two of the four licences have been won by a consortium led by Travel Food Services (Delhi) Private Limited (TFS), which will set up outlets in the landside and international security hold area as well as in the domestic security hold area.

Devyani International Limited (DIL) has won a licence to set up an outlet in the landside and international security hold area while SSP Catering India Private Limited will set up an outlet in the domestic security hold area, a press from DIAL said.

It said passengers could look forward to an extensive range of food and beverage outlets featuring several well-known Indian and international brands. The options would include take away kiosks, food courts, sit-down restaurants and bars.

In all, DIAL had received 15 proposals from six bidders for the four licence packages in response to its tender.

The other bidders were HMS Host Inc., a consortium led by Nirula's Corner House and Lite Bite Foods Private Limited.

According to the release, DIAL will take a 40 % stake in the joint venture companies to be formed by the successful bidders.

"It is a pleasant surprise for us to see such strong interest from both international and local players in such an uncertain period. This shows that we may have hit the right note to attract the best industry players to help us create a world-class airport dining experience in Indira Gandhi International Airport Terminal 3," Mr Gavin Mckechnie, Chief Commercial Officer, DIAL, said.

Construction work is currently underway for T3 which is scheduled to be in operation before the 2010 Commonwealth Games to be hosted by Delhi in October next year. T3 would be among the largest passenger terminals in the world covering more than 5 million sq feet.

It will be an integrated terminal handling both domestic and international departure and arrivals. T3 is part of Phase 1 of IGI Airport’s Master Plan development having a total project outlay of more than $ 2 billion and will enable the the airport to handle more than 60 million passengers a year.

TFS is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Deluxe Caterers Private Limited (popularly known for brands like Copper Chimney), which has been in the food & beverage business for the last 36 years. The group has a network of over 200 restaurants in India and abroad.

DIL, incorporated in 1991, is well known for its chain of Costa Coffee cafes, Pizza Hut & KFC restaurants in India. Currently, DIL is operating cafe and food court in Terminal 1A and the new Terminal 1 D of Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA).

SSP Catering is part of the SSP Group of Companies, which was incorporated locally in 2008. The group has been operating food and beverage outlets in airports/railways for the last 60 years in more than 30 countries. It is a leading dedicated operator for food & beverage brands in travel & leisure locations in Europe and Asia and a growing presence in North America. It is currently operating food & beverage concepts in Terminal 2 of IGIA.

DIAL is a joint venture company comprising the Bangalore-based infrastructure major GMR Group, Airports Authority of India, Fraport, Malaysian Airport and India Development Fund. DIAL is working towards the modernization and restructuring of the Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi. The project being developed by DIAL under Public Private Partnership has been given the mandate to finance, design, build, operate and maintain the IGI Airport for 30 years with an option to extend it by another 30 years.

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Aegis says to invest $ 100 m in tech services

Aegis Limited, part of the Essar Group and a leading global services outsourcing provider, today announced it would set up an independent technology subsidiary called Aegis Tech Ltd.

Aegis plans to invest $ 100 million (approx. Rs. 480 cr.) over the next 12 months in Aegis Tech to propel growth in this emerging segment, the company said in a press release.

Aegis Tech will provide end-to-end, customized solutions in the areas of voice & data, networking, unified communications, managed services, information security, and remote infrastructure management, the release said.

The service emphasis will be on offering innovative business and engagement models to its customers that would largely enable IT infrastructure as a service for various verticals like telecom, government, power, utilities and the enterprises, it said.

"We believe in taking a partnership approach with our customers and technology providers to increase their revenues, cost optimisation and improve customer satisfaction. Aegis Tech will also work closely with the existing customers to offer end-to-end solutions. This synergy will deliver more value to our existing and prospective customers. We have put together a highly experienced team led by S K Jha as President," Mr Aparup Sengupta, MD and Global CEO, Aegis Limited, said.

Mr Jha said, "We propose to do this through an eco-system of technology and business partnerships; ensure high level of systems integration skills and capabilities. The existing technology people under Aegis group companies will move to Aegis Tech. To begin with Aegis will have 500+ people spread across India, ASEAN, North America, Africa and Australia. The employee base is expected to reach over 1000 in the next 12-18 months through new hires and acquisitions and we will have a global footprint to offer our services engagement to our customers and partners."

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India for successful conclusion of Doha process: Sharma

Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma today reiterated India's commitment to the successful conclusion of the World Trade Organisation's stalled Doha process through a constructive engagement.

While emphasising the need for resumption of negotiations based on the draft reports on Agriculture and Non-Agriculture Market Access (NAMA), Mr Sharma said that the "development dimension" of the Doha round must be central to all discussions.

The aspirations of all developing countries for a fair trading regime must be recognised, he stressed in his special address to the Cairns Group in Bali, Indonesia.

During the meeting, Mr Sharma also had discussions with US Trade Representative Ron Kirk. This was their first meeting though the two had talked over the telephone a few days ago. The two ministers agreed to take forward the multi-lateral negotiations and to review the US-India bilateral engagement during the visit of Mr Sharma to Washington later this month, an official statement issued here said.

The WTO talks had collapsed in July, 2008 in Geneva over the disagreement between India and the US over reduction in tariffs. Developing and developed countries differ seriously over the level to which they are willing to open up their markets.

The Cairns Group is a coalition of agricultural exporting nations lobbying for agricultural trade liberalisation. It was formed in 1986 in Cairns, Australia just before the beginning of the Uruguay Round. Current membership of the group includes Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand and Uruguay.

The group has been an influential voice in the agricultural reform debate since its formation and has continued to play a key role in pressing the WTO membership to meet in full the far-reaching mandate set in Doha.

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Wheat procurement crosses 24 MT

Wheat procurement by government agencies, as of yesterday, had crossed the 24 million tonne mark, an official statement said today.

Till this date last season, government had procured 21.7 million tonnes of wheat. The procurement, as such, represents an 11 per cent over the figure for the last season, it said.

The total wheat procurement in the last procurement season was 22.69 million tonnes, it said.

Rice procurement in the current marketing season, similarly, is higher by 18 per cent as compared to last season’s procurement. The procurement till June 5 this year has been nearly 30 MT as compared to approximately 25.2 MT last year. Total rice procurement in the last procurement season was 28.49 MT, the statement added.

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Kharif sowing progressing well: Govt

The Ministry of Agriculture today said that reports received from the states indicated that Kharif sowing had started in most of them and was progressing well.

So far, rice has been planted in 5.2 lakh hectare (ha), cotton in 12.5 lakh ha, sugar cane in 38.2 lakh ha and jute in 8.1 lakh ha, an official statement said.

Among oilseeds, groundnut has been sown in 26,000 ha, soybean in 32,000 ha, sunflower in 64,000 ha, sesamum in 51,000 ha and castor in 4,000 ha, it said.

Arhar has been sown in 16,000 ha so far, urad in 15,000 ha, moong in 37,000 ha and other pulses in 58,000 ha, it said.

Sowing of coarse cereals has not been reported so far from any state, the statement added.

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SBI, ISB launch public sector leadership research cell

State Bank of India (SBI) will set up a research cell on Public Sector Leadership in India in association with the Indian School of Business (ISB) here.

A memorandum of understanding in this regard was signed by Mr Ajit Rangnekar, Dean, ISB, and Mr R K Sharma, Chief General Manager of SBI, Hyderabad Circle, in the presence of SBI Chairman O P Bhatt and other senior officials on Thursday.

The "SBI Cell for Public Sector Leadership" will function under the aegis of the Centre for Leadership, Innovation and Change (CLIC) at the ISB, a press release from the school said.

According to it, the objective of the cell would be to focus on innovation, change management, organisational transformation, leadership comparisons between public and private enterprises and managerial mindsets and risk taking in middle management.

Mr Bhatt said that, as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities, SBI had set up, way back in 1977, a Research and Development Fund with the aim of supporting research work relevant broadly to the activities of the bank, the banking industry and the emerging financial scenario. The fund extends research grants to universities and other reputed institutions for undertaking research projects.

"We are proud to inform you that over the years we have extended research grants to several academic institutions for research projects at various universities. In one of our ongoing projects, in 2007-2008, in participation with the Reserve Bank of India, we had extended grants to the London School of Economics for establishing an Indian Observatory and IG Patel Chair at their Asia Research Centre," he said.

He was confident that the research projects undertaken by the new cell would be of relevance to industry, in general, and public sector enterprises, in particular.

Mr Rangnekar said public sector undertakings (PSUs) in India had played an important role in ensuring inclusive growth while adapting to meet global opportunities and challenges. "This need for ensuring Inclusive growth, while meeting domestic and global competitive pressures has put enormous leadership demands on the PSUs," he said.

He said the cell would create a knowledge repository on these leadership issues. It would draw lessons from the performance of the successful PSUs, identify areas for further improvement in their performance, contribute lessons for the private sector and how they both can work collaboratively towards inclusive growth.

Mr Prasad Kaipa, Executive Director, CLIC, ISB, said there was an increased interest in understanding how Indian public sector companies lead, innovate and manage change, given the growing success of many of them in the global landscape. He said the new cell would maximise cross-organisational learning in the public sector leadership community.

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GCMMF achieves turnover of Rs 6700 crore

The Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Limited (GCMMF), more popularly known as Amul and the largest dairy co-operative in India has posted a double-digit growth to take its turnover to Rs 6700 crore in 2008-09.

The unduplicated turnover of dairy cooperatives in Gujarat would be about Rs 10,000 crores, a GCMMF statement said.

The statement said GCMMF had chalked out a mission 2020, a long-term plan which envisages that the turnover of the dairy cooperatives in the state would reach Rs 27,000 crore by the year 2020.

The plan includes increasing productivity of milk cattle and higher processing infrastructure to handle the peak milk procurement of 195 lakh litres per day. Special emphasis will also be given to capture liquid milk market of major metro cities, the statement said.

According to the statement, Amul's performance has come at a time when international dairy markets are reeling under the impact of the worldwide recession and the slump in global demand. It said international prices of all major dairy products had declined drastically in recent months.

The statement said Amul had insulated Indian farmers from the turbulence in the global dairy trade. It said the dairy cooperatives had provided employment options for displaced workers from the urban manufacturing sector, who after losing their jobs due to the recession, have returned to their villages.

The statement said GCMMF had expanded its network of Amul Parlours to more than 4000 locations across various cities and towns of India. This includes 50 parlours in major railway stations and 50 special Amul Ice-cream scooping parlours.

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Audi introduces Q5 in India

Audi Q5German luxury car manufacturer Audi has launched its much-awaited sports utility vehicle (SUV) Audi Q5 in India.

Voted the Best Off-Roader in Europe by auto motor und sport and awarded the Golden Steering Wheel in Germany, the Q5 combines the dynamism of a sports sedan with Audi’s quattro permanent all-wheel drive to create a superior technology package for both on- and off-road driving, the company said in a statement.

The Q5 with two engine options - 2.0 TFSI and 3.0 TDI - is available at Audi dealerships across India from this week, it said.

"The Audi Q5 stands testament to Audi’s commitment to innovation and sophistication. We introduce now another excellent product of the Audi model range to our Indian customers. The market for the SUV segment has seen tremendous growth in this country during the last years. Driven by our philosophy of 'Vorsprung durch Technik', the Audi Q5 will become a benchmark for style, performance, safety, comfort and driving dynamics in its segment. It joins its ‘big brother’ Audi Q7 in creating a new market for the smaller luxury SUV admirer in the country," Mr. Benoit Tiers, Managing Director Audi India, said.

The Q5's large single-frame grill dominates the front-end, the headlamps have xenon plus bulbs and LED running lights as standard, and the rear lights also feature LED technology. The vehicle is 4.63 meters long, 1.88 meters wide and 1.65 meters high.

The vehicle is available with two engines – one petrol (2.0 TFSI) and one diesel (3.0 TDI). Both of them are direct injection units. The 2.0 TFSI with Audi valvelift system has a maximum power output of 155 kW (211 hp) and speeds up to 100 km/h in 7.2 seconds. The 3.0 TDI is the most powerful engine in the range with 176 kW (240 hp) and 500Nm of torque. It speeds up from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.5 seconds with a top speed of 225 km/h.

For these engines Audi has developed a new generation of the dynamic S tronic - the dual-clutch transmission now has seven gears.

The standard and optional equipment includes the Audi driver information system, the MMI (Multi Media Interface), xenon plus headlights with LED technology, Bang & Olufsen surround sound, a DVD player, Rear Seat Entertainment, 3-Zone automatic air conditioning, cruise control, an acoustic parking system with rearview camera and many additional features, the statement said.

The Audi Q5 range starts at INR 3,829,000 for the 2.0 TFSI and INR 4,419,000 for the 3.0 TDI (ex-showroom Mumbai) and will be offered in six exciting colors: Stratos Blue, Garnet Red, Ice Silver, Meteor Grey, Phantom Black and Ibis White.

The new Audi Q5 will be available along with the entire Audi model range comprising the new Audi A6, Audi A8, Audi Q7, Audi A4, Audi TT and the super sports car Audi R8 from June 4 onwards at 11 dealerships across the country: in Delhi, Gurgaon, Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and Kochi, the statement added.

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Legal agreements for WB financing for SIDBI signed

The legal agreements in respect of additional financing from the World Bank to the tune of $ 400 million to the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) were signed here today.

Dr.Anup K.Pujari, Joint Secretary (Multilateral Institutions), Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Dr.N.Roberto Zagha, Country Director, World Bank and Shri R.M.Malla, Chairman and Managing Director, SIDBI signed the agreements on behalf of Government of India, the World Bank and SIDBI, respectively, an official statement said.

The additional financing is for the multi-donor assisted Small and Medium Enterprises Financing and Development Project that was earlier implemented by SIDBI. The loan is being taken by SIDBI directly from the World Bank with a guarantee from the Government of India.

The project had an International Bank of Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) loan component of $ 120 million. The project had performed very well and keeping in view the outstanding performance of the project, SIDBI had requested for an additional IBRD financing of $200 million, which was forwarded to the World Bank by the Department of Economic Affairs in August, 2008.

This was later enhanced to $400 million owing to the enhanced credit requirements of SMEs due to the current economic down-turn. The objectives of the project include improved access of SMEs to concessional finance and providing business development services, thereby fostering growth competitiveness and employment creation of SMEs. The project has three components --- Credit Facility, Risk Sharing Facility and Technical Assistance Component.

This additional financing is intended to be allocated to scale-up the Credit Facility and the Risk Sharing Facility components of the project.

The agreements were finalised during negotiations held in New Delhi on March 20-21 this year, the statement added.

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Tourist arrivals show signs of revival

India's foreign exchange earnings from tourism amounted to Rs 3249 crore in May this year, an increase of 8.7 per cent over the figure of Rs 2988 crore registered in the same month of 2008, an official statement said today.

Foreign tourist arrivals in India during May totalled 295124, just 1.9 per cent lower than the number of 300840 for May last year.

There was a decline in foreign tourist arrivals, ranging from 10.6 per cent to 17.6 per cent, in the first three months of this calendar year. The decline was 3.5 per cent in April, as compared to the same month last year.

The figures have raised hopes in the Tourism Ministry about a quick revival in this sector in the coming months.

The Ministry has launched the Visit India Year 2009 Scheme in overseas markets with effect from April 2009 till March 2010, under which attractive incentives are being offered by airlines, hotels and tour operators to tourists visiting the country during this period. With aggressive promotion of the scheme being undertaken overseas, the Ministry is very hopeful that foreign tourist arrivals will show positive trends very soon and will continue to gain momentum during the rest of the year, an official statement added.

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Net direct tax collections up 5.77% growth

The government today said that net direct tax collections during the first two months of the current fiscal (2009-10) stood at Rs.24,158 crore, up from Rs.22,840 crore in the same period of last year, registering a growth of 5.77 percent.

The growth in Corporate Taxes was 5.56 percent (Rs.8,578 crore as against Rs.8,126 crore), while Personal Income Tax grew at 5.92 percent (Rs.15,559 crore as against Rs.14,690 crore). Securities Transaction Tax (STT) and Fringe Benefit Tax (FBT), however, declined by 24.75 percent (Rs.795 crore as against Rs.1,057 crore) and 5.57 percent (Rs.103 crore as against Rs.109 crore), respectively.

Growth during the month of May, was 16.88 percent (Rs.11,919 crore against Rs.10,198 crore), as against a negative growth of 3.19 percent for the month of April this year, an official statement said.

Overall refund outgo during the period increased by 26.19 percent (Rs.11,375 crore as against Rs.9,014 crore) while refunds to non-corporate taxpayers grew by 61.7 percent (Rs.2,149 crore against Rs.1,329 crore), spurred by faster processing of returns on the new national computer network, the statement added.

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PM reconstitutes plan panel, Montek remains Dy Chairman

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today reconstituted the Planning Commission, retaining renowned economist Montek Singh Ahluwalia as its Deputy Chairman.

The other members of the reconstituted Commission are Dr. Saumitra Chaudhuri, Prof. Abhijit Sen, Dr. (Ms) Syeda Hameed, Dr. Mihir Shah, Dr. Narendra Jadhav and Mr B K Chaturvedi, an official statement said.

The Prime Minister is the Chairman of the Planning Commission.

Prof Sen, Dr Hameed and Mr Chaturvedi, a former Cabinet Secretary, were members of the previous Planning Commission.

Dr Ahluwalia has become the first Deputy Chairman of the Commission to get a second term.

Dr Chaudhuri is a former member of the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council, while Dr Jadhav, also an economist, is the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Pune. Dr Shah is Secretary of Samaj Pragati Sahayog, a non-governmental organisation in Madhya Pradesh.

Members of the previous Commission Kirit Parikh, V L Chopra, B N Yugandhar and B Mungekar do not figure in the new panel.

The Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission enjoys the rank of a Cabinet Minister while the Members have the status of Minister of State.

It is likely that some more members will be inducted in the Commission later.

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Delhi Airport awards Duty Free concession to Aer Rianta

Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) has awarded the consortium comprising Aer Rianta International (ARI) of Ireland and Indian Duty Free Services (IDFS) the concession to operate, maintain and manage duty free outlets at the upcoming Terminal 3.

The duty free outlets will be run at the new terminal at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) by the consortium in a joint venture with DIAL, the latter said in a statement.

According to the statement, Aer Rianta and IDFS submitted the best bid. Aer Rianta is fully owned by Dublin Airport Authority (an Irish Government-owned entity) and with over 60 years of experience, it is acknowledged and respected as one of the world's leading airport retailing specialists, engaged in modern retail centres at major airports in Europe, Eastern Europe, North America and the Middle East.

Considered among the pioneers of the airport retail business, it started retail operations at Shannon Airport in Ireland way back in 1947. It was also instrumental in setting up the Dubai Duty Free, which is now one of the largest duty free operators in the world.

This relationship would allow for a greater synergy between DIAL and ARI / IDFS as both airport operators have in depth understanding of passengers’ needs as well as the airport environment, the statement said.

Moreover, ARI has a proven track record of operating JV Duty Free concessions in European and emerging markets which have yielded good results for all stakeholders. For example, it has been successfully operating JV models at Moscow Airport Duty Free on a 21-year contract and at Bahrain Airport on a 16-year contract.

IDFS has established itself as a leading travel retail operator in South Asia. Since its establishment, IDFS has diversified into numerous travel retail oriented businesses which include Duty Free sales, in-flight retail, airline amenities and warehousing.

DIAL Chief Commercial Officer Gavin Mckechnie said, "We have received proposals from five bidders namely Aldeasa, Aer Rianta-IDFS consortium, Dufry-Interglobe Consortium, Flemingo International and Setur. It is worth noting that, despite the economic downturn, the response to the Request for Proposal truly reflects the growth potential of the Indian economy and airport sector in particular."

Construction work is currently underway for IGI Airport’s Terminal 3 which is scheduled to be in operation before the 2010 Commonwealth Games to be held in Delhi. T3 would be among the largest passenger terminals in the world covering more than 5 million square feet.

It would be an integrated terminal handling both domestic and international departure and arrivals. T3 is part of Phase 1 of IGI Airport’s Master Plan development having a total project outlay exceeding $ 2 billion and would increase the airport’s capacity to handle more than 60 million passengers a year.

DIAL is a joint venture company comprising the Bangalore-based infrastructure major GMR Group, the Airports Authority of India, Fraport, Malaysian Airport and India Development Fund.

DIAL is working towards the modernization and restructuring of the IGIA under Public Private Partnership. It has been given the mandate to finance, design, build, operate and maintain the IGIA for 30 years with an option to extend it by another 30 years.

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Double farm productivity to meet demand: Pawar

Agriculture and Food Minister Sharad Pawar today exhorted agricultural scientists to help double agricultural productivity to meet the growing demand for food in the country.

This, he said, would require reducing post-harvesting losses, tackling environmental issues, enhancing production of foodgrains, specially pulses and oilseeds, and harnessing potential in dairy and fisheries sectors.

Speaking at the foundation day of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) here, Mr Pawar said there was an unprecedented degradation of land and groundwater resources, further compounded by deteriorating soil health in most parts of the country.

"There is also a deceleration in the rate of growth of total factor productivity. This trend needs to be reversed and agricultural productivity must be almost doubled to meet the growing demand for food and feed. It is a matter of concern that losses due to inadequate post-harvesting handling are enormous. The storage, transportation, processing, value addition and marketing of farm produce need to be improved to enhance household food, nutritional and livelihood security," he said.

Mr Pawar said immediate attention must be paid to enhancing and sustaining the foodgrain production in the context of competitive demand for resources, specifically agricultural land and water and enhancing production of pulses and oilseeds, which are central to an average Indian diet.

"With the objective of increasing the production of pulses and oilseeds, we had a detailed discussion with the states last year and a strategy session is contemplated on 9th and 10th of this month. I see a great potential in dairy and fisheries that are upcoming sectors, with demonstrated annual average growth rates of 3.4% and 5.4% respectively, the latter particularly in inland aquaculture. A characteristic feature of the produce from these, along with horticulture is the perishability, for which extensive cold chain and warehousing infrastructure is essential. We need to augment warehousing facilities for additional foodgrains as well," he said.

The minister also highlighted the need to bring the benefits of economic reforms to the agriculture sector and to increase the income of farm workers.

"Economic reforms initiated in the country in early 1990s have put our economy on a higher growth trajectory. This happened mainly due to rapid growth in non-agriculture sector. However, faster growth in non-agriculture sector did not help in shifting work force from agriculture to non-agriculture sector. The work force engaged in agriculture between 1980-81 and 2006-07 witnessed a very small decline, from about 60% to 52%. This has created a serious disparity between agriculture and non-agriculture, and urban and rural India. The per worker income in non agriculture sector more than doubled in the last 25 years, whereas in agriculture the increase has been marginal. With the result, a non-agricultural worker earns five times more income than the agricultural worker," he said.

Eminent agricultural scientist and Member of Parliament, Dr. M.S. Swaminathan and Dr Mangala Rai, the Director General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), also spoke on the occasion.

Mr Pawar released a new publication of NAAS, "State of Indian Agriculture", which documents the state of different sectors within agriculture and key/critical areas that need urgent attention.

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India-Mercosur PTA comes into effect

The India-Mercosur Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) has come into effect from June 1, an official announcement said today.

Mercosur is a trading bloc in the South America region grouping Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. It was formed in 1991 with the objective of free movement of goods, services, capital and people and became a customs union in January 1995. Its role model is the European Union.

India's trade with Mercosur amounted to $ 4.773 billion during 2007-08. India's exports to the region was worth about $ 2.905 billion while its imports were valued at about $ 1.868 billion during that period.

According to the statement, the major product groups covered in the offer are food preparations, organic chemicals, pharmaceuticals, essential oils, plastics & articles thereof, rubber and rubber products, tools and implements, machinery items, electrical machinery and equipments. The break-up of the number of tariff lines for different margin of preferences (MOPs) is: 393 tariff lines – 10%, 45 tariff lines – 20% and 14 tariff lines – 100%.

The major sectors covered in the offer list of India are meat and meat products, inorganic chemicals, organic chemicals, dyes & pigments, raw hides and skins, leather articles, wool, cotton yarn, glass and glassware, articles of iron and steel, machinery items, electrical machinery & equipments, optical, photographic & cinematographic apparatus. The break-up of the number of tariff lines for different margin of preferences (MOP) is: 93 tariff lines – 10%, 336 tariff lines – 20% and 21 tariff lines – 100%.

A Framework Agreement had been signed between India and Mercosur on 17 June, 2003 at Asuncion, Paraguay. The aim of this Framework Agreement was to create conditions and mechanisms for negotiations in the first stage, by granting reciprocal tariff preferences and in the second stage, to negotiate a free trade area between the two parties.

As a follow up to that, a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) between India and Mercosur was signed in New Delhi on January 25, 2004 and five annexes to this Agreement were signed incorporated on March 19, 2005. By this PTA, India and Mercosur have agreed to give tariff concessions, ranging from 10% to 100% to the other side on 450 and 452 tariff lines, respectively.

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Air India to phase out eleven A 320s

Air India is planning to phase out eleven of its twenty-year-old Airbus A 320 aircraft and also return a similar number of leased aircraft.

The airline's spokesman told NetIndian that four of the leased aircraft would be returned this year itself.

These steps are being taken because the airline is acquiring new aircraft from Airbus and Boeing to augment and modernise its fleet.

He pointed out that the national career had inducted 20 new Airbus A-319 and A-321 aircraft during the last 18 months and another 15 would be inducted by next year.

"Thus, phasing out of old aircraft is only natural," he explained.

He said the new aircraft, deployed on domestic sectors and for flights to neighbouring countries, were equipped with in-flight entertainment systems as well as comfortable seats and more pleasant interiors, adding to the joy of flying for the passengers.

The spokesman said the airline was in the process of acquiring, in all, 111 aircraft at a cost of about Rs 44,000 crore---43 from Boeing and 68 from Airbus. The deliveries began in 2007 and Air India had already received 48 of the aircraft.

The airline is acquiring A-319, A-320 and A-321 from Airbus Industrie and B-737-800, B- 777 and Dreamliner 787 from Boeing. The deliveries are expected to be completed by 2012, the spokesman added.

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Inflation rate dips slightly to 0.48 %

The headline annual rate of inflation dipped slightly to 0.48 per cent for the week ended May 23 as compared to 0.61 estimated for the previous week, provisional figures released here today showed.

The inflation rate was 8.90 per cent during the corresponding week (ended May 24, 2008) in the previous year.

An official statement said the Wholesale Price Index for "All Commodities" (Base: 1993-94 = 100) for the week ended May 23 rose by 0.04 percent to 232.3 (provisional) from 232.2 (provisional) for the previous week.

The index for Primary Articles (which have a weight of 22.02 %) rose by 0.2 percent to 256.6 from 256.1 for the previous week, the provisional figures showed.

Within this category, the index for Food Articles rose by 0.4 percent to 252.3 from 251.4 for the previous week due to higher prices of tea (5%), jowar (2%) and eggs, maize, arhar, condiments & spices, fruits & vegetables and gram (1% each). However, the prices of ragi and barley (1% each) declined.

The index for Non-Food Articles declined by 0.1 percent to 234.5 from 234.7 for the previous week due to lower prices of gingelly seed (1%). However, the prices of raw silk (7%) and raw rubber (3%) moved up.

In the category of Fuel, Power, Light & Lubricants (weight 14.23 %), the index remained unchanged at its previous week's level of 324.0, the statement said.

The index for Manufactured Products (weight 63.7 %) also remained unchanged at its previous week's level of 203.5.

Within this category, the index for Textiles rose by 0.4 percent to 141.5 from 141.0 for the previous week due to higher prices of texturised yarn (9%) and nylon filament yarn, hessian cloth and hessian & sacking bags (1% each).

The index for Paper & Paper Products rose by 0.1 percent to 203.8 from 203.5 for the previous week due to higher prices of other boards (all kinds) (2%).

The index for Leather & Leather Products declined by 0.7 percent to 166.2 from 167.4 for the previous week due to lower prices of footwear western type (1%).

The index for Rubber & Plastic Products declined by 0.6 percent to 166.6 from 167.6 for the previous week due to lower prices of injection moulded plastic items (4%) and cycle tubes (2%).

The index for Non-Metallic Mineral Products rose by 0.7 percent to 220.6 from 219.1 for the previous week due to higher prices of cement (1%).

The index for Basic Metals Alloys & Metal Products declined marginally by 0.04 percent to 255.6 from 255.7 for the previous week due to lower prices of zinc (5%) and zinc ingots and lead ingots (1% each). However, the prices of steel ingots (1%) moved up.

The index for Machinery & Machine Tools declined by 0.1 percent to 172.3 from 172.4 for the previous week due to lower prices of air-conditioners (9%).

The index for Transport Equipment & Parts declined by 0.3 percent to 174.6 from 175.1 for the previous week due to lower prices of truck chassis (diesel) (1%).

According to the statement, the final wholesale price index for All Commodities for the week ended March 28 stood at 228.6 as compared to the provisional number of 227.3 reported earlier on April 10. The annual rate of inflation, based on the final index, stood at 0.84 per cent as compared to 0.26 per cent reported on that date, the statement added.

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Cisco signs MoU for GIFT

Cisco has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Gujarat International Finance Tec-City Company Limited (GIFTCL) and Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Limited (IL&FS) for the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT) project.

The MoU was signed at a function here yesterday at which, among others, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was present, a Cisco press release said.

Under the MoU, Cisco will collaborate with GIFTCL in achieving GIFT’s vision of becoming a world class financial services centre, with infrastructure and facilities benchmarked to global standards.

Gujarat is one of the fastest growing states in India. Apart from having one of the largest manufacturing bases in India, the Western Indian state also accounts for a disproportionately large share of the investor and entrepreneurial population of the country.

Recognising the potential of the state to become a centre for the financial services industry, the Gujarat government has formulated GIFT as a mega project to realise this vision.

Initially, 550 acres of land has been allotted for the development of a Central Finance and Business District (CBFD) at a location between Ahmedabad, the commercial capital of the state, and Gandhinagar, its administrative capital.

GIFT has been conceptualized as a global financial and information technology (IT) services hub, a first of its kind in India, designed to be at or above par with globally benchmarked financial centers.

It aims to catalyse India’s large financial services potential by offering to global and local financial services firms world-class infrastructure to tap the opportunity and best-in-class quality of life to attract top talent in the country, the release said.

GIFT promises to be a Central Business Hub, not just for India but also for the rest of the world. The city is designed to provide next level infrastructure, services and platforms backed by state-of-the art information and communication technology (ICT), secured and resilient data centres benchmarked to Tier IV standards, and integrated and intelligent townships with high tech city services management, it said.

Cisco is a leader in networking for the Internet and Internet Protocol (IP) based networking solutions and is pioneer of the concept of Smart+Connected community practice (also known as Intelligent Urbanisation). Cisco will bring together a portfolio of products, services, partners, platforms, solutions and make appropriate investments. Cisco will utilize its deep industry knowledge in working together with GIFT for establishing a world class city, the release said.

The parties will jointly market, develop, implement and explore financing options of the GIFT Project. A joint task force will be constituted to work out legal, technical and financial aspects of this cooperation.

"GIFT is an ardent reflection of our commitment to building world class institutions and infrastructure to make Gujarat an ideal business destination not only for Indian companies but also for leading international players. A grand project like GIFT is truly a gift for people of Gujarat and India as the benefits will transcend to people across the social strata. The partnership between GIFT and Cisco, a leading global IT player, is a step in the right direction," Mr Modi said.

Wim Elfrink, Chief Globalisation Officer and Executive Vice President, Cisco Services said: "Rapidly expanding infrastructure demands on growing towns and cities are putting increasing pressure on governments and communities. We believe that cities which are run on information will transform the quality of life for citizens, drive economic growth and improve city services and management. Cities like GIFT, that use the network to accelerate and multiply their infrastructure investments, will be those who not only survive challenges but thrive and lead into the future. We are honored to join hands with the government of Gujarat and IL&FS to help build this city of tomorrow."

Speaking on the occasion Mr. Sudhir Mankad, Chairman – GIFTCL said, "GIFT will be developed as an intelligent city, which will transform the quality of life, and offer financial services enterprises a significant competitive advantage to operate regionally and globally. We are looking to work closely with Cisco, in developing a world-class financial services centre. We are delighted to partner with a world technology leader like Cisco in this important initiative."

Mr. Hari Sankaran, Managing Director – IL&FS, said, "GIFT, inspired by the worlds’ leading financial hubs, will provide the best in technology and infrastructure facilities, rivaling the biggest centers of commerce in the world. As a pioneer in the Public Private Partnership domain, IL&FS is indeed privileged to partner with the Government of Gujarat in creating a world class financial hub that asserts India’s steady rise as an economic power house."

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TRF forms JV with Tata Capital, Jasper Industries

TRF, a Tata company, has entered into a shareholders agreement along with Tata Capital and Jasper Industries to form a joint venture, Adithya Automotive Applications.

Adithya's main objects include engaging in the business of automotive applications to provide end solutions through fabrications and machining for vehicles to be used as tippers, load bodies, trailers, refrigerated bodies, and so on.

TRF will hold 51 per cent in Adithya, Jasper Industries 29 per cent and Tata Capital 20 per cent, a Tata statement said.

TRF manufactures bulk-material handling equipment and systems, port and yard equipment and trailer undergear. It was formed by the merger of three companies: Tata Robins Fraser (established in 1962), Tata Material Handling Systems (established in 1978) and Tata Technodyne (established in 1996).

Tata Capital is a finance company that caters to the financial needs of retail and institutional customers in India. It was established in 2007 as a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Sons.

Jasper Industries is an authorised dealer of commercial vehicles of Tata Motors in several areas of Andhra Pradesh.

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RIL's German unit Trevira files for insolvency

Trevira, a German company that had been acquired by Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has filed an application in a court in Bavaria for the commencement of insolvency proceedings with a restructuring plan.

The company said the move followed major efforts by the company to overcome the impact of the industrial slowdown in Europe, particularly of the automotive and textile sectors to whom it was an important supplier.

Trevira is a leading European manufacturer of high-value branded polyester fibres and filament yarns for the automotive industries, home textiles and technical applications. It has production units in Germany, Denmark, Poland and Belgium.

According to the statement, after it was acquired by Reliance Netherlands BV, Trevira had improved its operations and gained in reputation before being severely impacted by the recent global financial crisis, resulting in considerable demand contraction in its principal market segments.

The statement said European textile manufacturers are currently facing a considerable drop in demand for their products, while the cost of production and employment is increasing and competition from Asian and Eastern European industries is stronger than ever.

Trevira said it had recently appointed a Chief Restructuring Officer as its Managing Director who has many years of experience with a legal firm specialising in restructuring.

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ITDC presents dividend cheque to Minister of Tourism

India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) Chairman and Managing Director Pervez Dewan presented a dividend cheque of Rs 12.15 crore to Union Tourism Minister Selja here today.
 
Tourism Secretary Sujit Banerjee was also present on the occasion, an official statement said.

ITDC has declared 20% dividend for the financial year 2007-08. This is the second  consecutive year that ITDC has declared a dividend. Before this, the last dividend was paid in 1998-99.

During the financial year 2007-08, the turnover of the company stood at Rs. 470.27 crore and profit before tax increased to Rs.69.41 crore in 2007-08 as against Rs.68.77 crore in the previous year.

ITDC has launched a major upgradation drive for all its hotel properties including its flagship, The Ashok in the capital. The Janpath Hotel, New Delhi has had a complete makeover with the renovation of 151 rooms.

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Eight SEZ proposals approved by BoA

The Board of Approvals (BoA) of the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) met here today and granted approvals to eight proposals for SEZs in different parts of the country.

Two other proposals were given in-principle approvals, an official statement said. In all, 18 proposals were considered at today's meeting, which was presided over by the Board's chairman, Commerce Secretary G K Pillai.

Mr Pillai told the meeting tht so far 568 approvals had been granted for setting up SEZs, of which 315 had been notified. He said more than Rs 1,08,903 crore have been invested in these SEZs, which had generated direct employment for 3.87 lakh people. He said exports from the SEZs were valued at Rs 99,689 crore in 2008-09, about 50 per cent higher than the figure for the previous financial year.

The formal approvals given today were for three biotech SEZs---one each in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra, three information technology SEZs in Kerala and one each in Karnataka and Maharashtra.

The in-principle approvals were for multi-product SEZs in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, the statement added.

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Core industries grow by 4.3 % in April

The six core industries in India grew by 4.3 per ent in April as compared to 2.3 per cent in the same month of last year, provisional figures released by the government today said.

An official statement said the index of six core industries, which have a combined weight of 26.7 per cent in the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) with base 1993-94 stood at 243.0 in April.

During the financial year ended March 2009, the six core industries had registered a growth of 2.7 per cent as against 5.9 per cent in the previous year, the provisional data showed.

In April, crude oil production registered a decline of 3.1 per cent as compared to a growth of 1.0 per cent in the same month of last year. Crude oil production declined by 1.8 per cent for 2008-09 as a whole as compared to a growth of 0.4 per cent in 2007-08.

Petroleum refinery production declined by 4.3 per cent in April this year as compared to a growth of 4.3 per cent in the same month of last year. For the year as a whole, petroleum refinery production grew by 3.0 per cent as compared to 6.5 per cent in 2007-08, the statement said.

Coal production grew by 13.2 per cent in April as against a growth rate of 10.4 per cent in the same month of 2008. The growth was 7.7 per cent for FY 2008-09 as compared to 6.3 per cent in 2007-08.

Electricity generation registered a growth of 6.0 per cent in April 2009 as compared to 1.4 per cent in the same month of last year. It grew by 2.7 per cent in 2008-09  as against 6.3 per cent in 2007-08.

In the case of cement production, the growth was 11.7 per cent in April as compared to 6.9 per cent in the same month of last year. It grew by 7.5 per cent in the year as compared to 8.1 per cent in the previous year.

Finished (carbon) steel production went up by 1.6  per cent as compared to a decline of 0.6 per cent in the same month last year. Overall, it grew by by 0.4 per cent in FY 2008-09 as compared to 6.2 per cent in 2007-08, the statement added.

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