KATHMANDU, Aug 18 (IANS): Jindal Steel and Power Ltd, the third largest Indian steel manufacturer whose owners are ranked among the 20 richest Indians by Forbes magazine, has lost its bitter battle for control of a much-sought-after hydro power project in Nepal with the republic's apex court upholding the contract to another Indian contender.
Jindal went to court last year after the Nepal government awarded the 402 MW Arun III project to Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam, the public sector undertaking owned by the government of India as well as the state government of Himachal Pradesh.
After the sea change in Nepal's political scenario in 2006, when a new coalition government replaced the regime of King Gyanendra, the hydropower sector was opened to international players and nine companies, mostly Indian, who had bid for Arun III.
Jindal's bid was among the most attractive with its offer to provide 21 percent free energy to power-starved Nepal.
However, the then Girija Prasad Koirala government of Nepal amended the criteria, which had earlier sought only private players, allowing bids from the public sector as well.
Satluj was also allowed to amend its free energy offer to 21 percent from the initial 4.5 percent.
Jindal sought court remedy, alleging that the awarding of the contract to its Indian competitor was illegal.
However, the apex court quashed the petition Sunday, upholding the government's decision.
It also said if the slighted Indian company felt there was corruption involved, it should lodge a complaint with Nepal's Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority.
PNB aims to issue 2 lakh global credit cards by March 2010
CHANDIGARH, Aug 18 (PTI): Intending to widen its credit card base across value as well as high end customers, public sector lender Punjab National Bank (PNB) is now aiming to issue 2 lakh global credit cards by March 2010.
"We are targeting to issue two lakh global credit cards to our customers by the end of the current fiscal," PNB Chief General Manager (Credit Card Venture) Ranjan Dhawan said Monday.
The bank would also shortly launch its new cards- Corporate and Platinum credit cards. "Corporate Cards will be meant for senior executives of companies who often travel for business purposes. In this category, there will be two cards such as Individual liability and corporate liability," he informed.
Another second Platinum card will come with enhanced benefits for high end customers (income having between Rs 7 to 10 lakh per annum). "This card will meet the requirements of customers like premium gold membership, lounge expenses etc," he said.
"Trials for these cards are already on and we hope to launch them within next two months," he said.
Having launched its credit card in February this year in association with VISA, PNB has already created a card base of 28,000. This card is accepted at over 29 million merchant establishments and one million ATMs worldwide which use VISA as a payment gateway.
Having decided to foray into Card Acquiring Business, Dhawan said that the bank, under this initiative, would provide Point of Sales (PoS) terminals to merchandise establishments which are associated with it.
"We have sought Expression of Interest for launching this service and we hope to introduce the same within the next 8-9 months," he said.
Aditya Birla group moves High Court against tax notice
MUMBAI, Aug 18 (PTI): The Aditya Birla group, which controls cellphone major Idea Cellular, has moved the Bombay High Court against the income-tax department's notice regarding capital gains tax on a share purchase deal.
The Division Bench of Justices F I Rebello and D G Karnik on Monday reserved orders as to whether the Birla group's petition is admissible or not. The order will be passed ton Tuesday.
In the present case, the issue is whether the Birla group is liable to pay capital gains tax on the share-purchase transaction worth USD 150 million with AT&T Mauritius (subsidiary of AT&T).
The Mauritius-based company sold its stake in Idea to the Birla group in 2005.
According to the Birlas, since the double-taxation avoidance treaty exists between Mauritius and India, AT&T was not liable to pay tax in India, and so the Indian entity did not deduct tax.
The company's lawyer Soli Dastoor said the Birla group was permitted to remit the whole purchase amount to AT&T by the Income-Tax authorities in September 2005.
RBI offers 600 bln rupees at special repo
MUMBAI, Aug 18 (Agencies): The Reserve Bank of India will conduct a special repo auction for 600 billion rupees on Monday and the reversal of the auction will be on Aug. 31, it said in a statement.
The special repo facility on a daily basis was introduced on Oct. 14, 2008, offering 200 billion rupees to meet liquidity needs of mutual funds.
The central bank later increased the facility to 600 billion rupees to include liquidity needs of non-banking financial companies and housing finance companies.
At its policy review on April 21, the central bank said the auction will be conducted on a weekly basis every Monday till March 2010.
with logo of airtel
Airtel launches global wholesale portfolio
NEW DELHI, Aug 18 (IANS): Bharti Airtel on Monday launched its global wholesale service portfolio, which will enable telecom companies across 50 countries to access its services.
The company has invested $500 million to expand its connectivity by building cable capacity, network infrastructure and international points of presences, an official statement said.
The portfolio includes solutions for voice and data connectivity, collaboration services, co-location, carrier outsourcing and content distribution through its next-generation high speed submarine network.
"From being a regional partner for foreign carriers, Bharti is now uniquely poised to serve global carriers to and from any part of the globe," said David Nishball, president (enterprise services), Bharti Airtel.
Torrent starts output from final phase of Gujarat power unit
MUMBAI, Aug 18 (IANS) The $1 billion power and healthcare major Torrent group has started commercial production of electricity under the final phase of the Rs.3,600 crore Sugen power plant in Gujarat that will cater to its customers in Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar and Surat.
Like the first two phases, the third stage of the unit is also generating 382.5 MW, taking the total capacity to 1,147.5 MW, the company said in a regulatory filing with the Bombay Stock Exchange.
The project is located close to the Tapi river on National Highway No.8, with close proximity to the gas supply infrastructure, comprising LNG terminals and main gas trunk lines.
Promoted by the Mehtas, Torrent Power distributes more than 10 billion units of power to 1.9 million customers in Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar and Surat -- the main industrial and commercial hubs of the state -- covering 408 Sq Km.
Sensex ends 637 points down
MUMBAI, Aug 18 (IANS): Thanks to weak global cues and continued profit selling, a key index of the Indian equities markets Monday shed 637 points to close below the 15,000-mark.
The 30-scrip sensitive index (Sensex) of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), which opened lower at 15,284.23 points, ended at 14,774.01 points (provisional), down 637.62 points or 4.14 percent.
The Nifty of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) also closed in the red, losing 4.2 percent from its previous closing figure to end at 4,387.8 points.
Broader market indices closed in the negative terrain, with the BSE midcap index ending 3.77 percent down, while the the BSE smallcap index closed 3.03 percent.
Other Asian markets shut shop in the red as well, while European markets were ruling negative.
Japanese economy shows growth after five quarters
TOKYO, Aug 18 (DPA): Japan's economy grew 3.7 percent in the second quarter, the first positive increase in five quarters, according to preliminary estimates released Monday by the Japanese government.
The figure represented a huge swing upward from the first quarter, when the gross domestic product (GDP) fell by an annualized 11.7 percent, and the quarter before that, which saw a dive of 13.1 percent.
Private consumption as well as the state fiscal injections contributed to the positive growth. But private investments continued to remain weak.
China's foreign direct investment falls in July
BEIJING, Aug 18 (Agencies): China received $5.36 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) in July, down 35.7 percent year on year, said Ministry of Commerce spokesman Yao Jian on Monday.
China's total export-import volume between January and July decreased by 22.7 percent year on year to $1,146.71 billion. Imports and exports volume for July amounted to $200 billion, illustrating the falling off in foreign trade, Yao said.
The amount of direct Taiwanese investment in the Chinese mainland totalled $1 billion in the first half of the year, down 14.94 percent year on year, and the trade volume between the two shrank 35.1 percent to $52.53 billion in the same period, he said.
NTPC shareholders move court on Reliance gas
NEW DELHI, Aug 18 (IANS) Some shareholders of the state-run power utility NTPC moved a petition on Monday seeking directions to its management from the Delhi High Court to ensure all legal steps are taken to get natural gas supplies from Reliance Industries at the contracted price.
The petition filed on their behalf by advocate R.N. Ramalingam also asks the court to order a probe into NTPC with regard to its contract with Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries for the supply of 12 million units of gas at $2.34 per unit from the Krishna-Godavari basin.
"NTPC and its officials are acting against the public interest and are acting in a manner that a huge wrongful profit will be made to Reliance Industries to the tune of Rs.25,000 crore at the cost of public exchequer," the petition said.
The litigation was filed here while NTPC was advised by the government to move the Supreme Court to secure gas from Reliance Industries. The Bombay High Court is also hearing the matter.
Two top law officers of the government, Attorney General Goolam E. Vahanvati and Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam, have already advised the company to move the apex court immediately to secure its interest in the gas row.
"NTPC should take all possible steps to protect its interest as advised by the solicitor general," said Vahanvati over the weekend, endorsing the solicitor general's legal opinion to the government.
Law ministry officials said the unanimous opinion of the two law officers has been forwarded to NTPC, which is a listed company that has 10.5 percent of its shares held by public and financial institutions.
"The fact that NTPC had to file a suit is a telling comment on the facts of the present case," said Subramaniam.
"I regret to say that if international competitive bidding processes are intended to be treated with such disdain from responsible bidder (Reliance Industries), the world of business founded on trust and faith will break down."
NTPC - as also Anil Ambani's Reliance Natural Resources - are fighting a legal battle to get gas at $2.34 per unit from Reliance Industries, which has refused to do so, saying the government's stand on price would frustrate the deal.
Thailand hopes trade with India will touch $10 bn by 2010
KOLKATA, Aug 18 (IANS): Bilateral trade between India and Thailand is expected to grow to $10 billion by 2010 from $6 billion last year, an official from Thailand said here Monday.
"India has increasingly become an important economic partner for Thailand. Last year, the average value of our bilateral trade has been around $6 billion and it has constantly expanded at the rate of about 28.97 percent in previous years," said Kiat Sittheeamorn, president of the Thailand Trade Representative (TTR).
TTR is a government body, set up to promote trade between Thailand and other countries.
"We are aiming that, in 2010, the total amount of bilateral trade will reach $10 billion," Kiat said, while speaking at an interactive session organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry.
Investment from Thailand to India during 2000-2009 was to the tune of $831.2 million whereas Indian investment to Thailand in 2008 alone stood at $282.11 million.
The industrial sectors in which Thai investments are prominent in India are telecommunication, hotel, tourism, food processing, trading and chemicals.
Earlier in the day, Kiat met the leader of the opposition in West Bengal Partho Chattopadhyay of the Trinamool Congress.
Regarding the meeting, he said: "We have conveyed that trade and investment regime in India should be made more competitive so that everyone is interested to come over here."
Asked about his outlook of the growth in the tourism sector in both countries, Kiat said: "This area will certainly grow a lot. At least half a million Indians visit Thailand every year, compared to 60,000 Thai people visiting India."
He added that two more high-level Thai visits are scheduled for this year - Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in November and Deputy Prime Minister Korbsak Sapawasu in October.