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RIL has always followed all laws and norms

NEW DELHI, Aug 5: Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has dismissed allegations of any wrong doing in its 'transactions" in the Oil-for-Food programme and stated that the Government was informed at every stage of their trade and other transactions with foreign countries.

In a statement on Saturday, the compnay said "our attention has been drawn to certain references made about Reliance Industries Limited in connection with the UN Oil for Food Programme in Iraq. RIL has always followed national and international laws and norms in all its dealings. The Government of India and its various departments have always been kept informed at every stage of our trade and other transactions with foreign countries as required under the rules and regulations."

RIL statement comes after CPI (M) leader Prakash Karat, demanded a separate probe into RIL's transaction with Iraq under the programme, since the company's name featured as a non-contractual beneficiary in the Volcker report alongside Congress Party and Natwar Singh. The Government had earlier instituted the Pathak Inquiry Authority under Retd. Justice RS Pathak, but the terms of reference were only limited to Natwar Singh's and Congress Party's involvement.

Tech Mahindra IPO subscribed over 70 times, GMR 6.5 times

MUMBAI, Aug 4: Initial public offerings seem to have come back in the vogue with the huge oversubcriptions witnessed by two public issues -- Tech Mahindra and GMR Infrastructure -- which closed today.

The IPO of Tech Mahindra Ltd, an IT solutions joint venture between Mahindra and Mahindra and British Telecom, was oversubscribed by more than 70 times, while the public issue of Hyderabad-based infrastructure major GMR was oversubcribed by nearly 6.5 times.

Both the issues received significant oversubcriptions from the institutional investors, while response from retail investors were relatively sluggish.

The huge oversubcriptions for the two IPOs, particularly the Tech Mahindra issue, comes on the back of a lacklustre response to most of the IPOs that hit the capital market after a successful IPO of Reliance Petroleum Ltd in April.

RPL IPO was oversubcribed by more than 51.2 times and the issue price was fixed at Rs 60 per share near the top end of its price band of Rs 57-62 per share.

However, the stock market had witnessed a sharp downslide after hitting a life-time high of 12,671.11 on May 11, the same day when RPL was listed on the bourses.

GMR had fixed its IPO price band at Rs 210 to Rs 250 per share, while that of Tech Mahindra was fixed at Rs 315-365 per The bids recieved for both the issues were evenly distributed across the entire price bands of the two IPOs.

Tech Mahindra IPO, which had opened on August 1, recieved total bids for more than 89 crore shares as against its issue size of 1,27,46,000 shares.

The public issue of GMR Infrastructure, recieved total bids for nearly 25 crore shares, as against its issue size of 3,81,36,980 shares. GMR issue had opened on July 31.

Both IPOs have received robust response from the Qualified Institutional Buyers (QIBs), particularly the foreign investors.

While the response from retail investors had been lacklustre at the beginning of the public offer, the interest gained some support towards the closure of the issues while tracking the robust trend shown by the institutional investors, the investment banking sources said.

GMR plans raise about Rs 950 crore from the IPO of 38,136,980 equity shares of Rs 10 each through 100 per cent book building process, while Tech Mahindra plans to raise over Rs 465 crore through the public issue of 1,27,46,000 equity shares of Rs 10 each. GMR IPO was oversubscribed by nearly 1.6 times on its first day itself. However, the company lagged behind Tech Mahindra in terms of oversubcriptions when its issue opened for public subcription on August 1.

In pre-IPO placements, GMR Infrastructure has placed 2.89 per cent of the post issue equity with ICICI Venture for Rs 250 crore, 1.11 per cent with Citigroup Venture Capital for Rs 99.17 crore, 0.75 per cent of its equity with George Soros promoted Quantum Fund for Rs.67.25 crore and 0.30 per cent with Punjab National Bank for Rs. 27 crore.

While Citigroup, Quantum and PNB had picked the stake at Rs 270 per share, ICICI Venture had bought its shares at Rs 261 per share. Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation (IDFC), which had also invested in the Company will hold 3.55 per cent of the post issue capital.

GMR Infrastructure plans to use part of the IPO proceeds for investment in various infrastructure Special Purpose Vehicles, which are currently in the development stage. JM Morgan Stanley Private Limited, DSP Merrill Lynch Limited, Enam Financial Consultants Private Limited and SSKI Corporate Finance Private Limited are the BRLMs for the issue.

Tech Mahindra, formerly known as Mahindra-British Telecom, was set up as a joint venture between M&M and UK-based British Telecommunication in 1986.

TML intends to use the IPO proceeds partly for expansion of its existing facilities at Pune and enhancing its delivery infrastructure. The company's clients include global majors like BT, Alcatel, AT&T, Motorola and Nortel.

RIL petrol dealers sign new pact

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Aug 3: About 750 of the 850 fuel retail dealers of Reliance Industries have signed a new concession agreement with the company, ending a protest they had planned today on loss of business due to selling petrol and diesel at a higher price than public sector rivals.

The concession agreement to the channel partners includes waiving off network usage charges and substantial increase in diesel margins. Further, the company has agreed to bear the cost of interest on loans for three months and has even negotiated with banks to re-schedule dealers' loan repayments.

RIL, which priced petrol and diesel at Rs 2.50 per litre higher than public sector firms, has seen diesel sales plummet about 70 per cent in June and July leading to fall in market share to under two per cent from highs of 14 per cent.

Besides enhancing margins by 70-100 per cent, it has also agreed to consider converting pumps into company-owned outlets on a case-to-case basis and would in future set up only company-owned outlets, industry sources said.

Over the past three years, RIL has set up a nationwide extensive petrol pump network with over 1,250 retail outlets. Out of these, RIL owns and operates more than 400 outlets.

The RIL has said that level playing field in the petroleum retailing sector is essential for the well-being of private sector marketing companies and their dealers.

The Government provides subsidies to public sector petroleum retail companies. As per estimates, the Government provides Rs. 5.77 per litre of Subsidy for Diesel sold through outlets of PSU oil companies.

The private sector oil companies have been kept out of the ambit of the Government sponsored survival package.

Partially, to part compensate the losses thus incurred due to absence of a level playing field, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) increased the price of diesel by Rs. 2.50 per litre over the rates offered by PSU, who enjoy subsidy benefits. This has caused hardships to consumers and dealers.

Despite this differential in price, RIL is incurring substantial losses in retail marketing. Further, this in turn has affected the operations and consequent revenues of RIL dealers.

RIL empathizes with its channel partners' and considers their well being of utmost importance and is doing everything possible to ensure their well being. Even as a long-term solution to create a level playing field in the petroleum marketing sector is awaited, RIL has taken adequate steps to ensure short term relief for its channel partners.

Over 750 dealers, representing in excess of 90 per cent of Reliance Industries' petroleum retail dealers have already reaffirmed their faith and commitment in the approach taken by RIL and have expressed their support to work with the company in a constructive and collaborative manner.

Only a select few dealers and their representatives today chose to adopt a confrontationist approach. RIL representatives met these dealers and explained that the root cause of the problem was the lack of level playing field and that RIL is doing everything possible to find a long-term solution to the problem. These select few dealers subsequently called-off their protest.

RIL is fully cognizant of the concerns of the dealers and will continue to ensure their well being.

Reliance Retail inks MoU with Punjab govt for agri project

CHANDIGARH, Aug 1: Mukesh Ambani-controlled Reliance Retail has signed an agreement with Punjab government for its agricultural and retail projects entailing an initial investment of Rs 500 crore. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed in the presence of the Deputy Chief Minister, Punjab, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, by G S Cheema, Financial Commissioner of Punjab, and Dr A Shanker, President, Corporate Affairs, RIL.

After signing the MoU, the company would start the process of preparing feasibility studies for setting up infrastructure, cold storage, logistics and signing agreements with farmers. State government officials said that they were expecting to see tangible progress in the project by the end of this fiscal.

Speaking on the occasion, Bhattal said Reliance will invest Rs 500 crore initially to set up rural hubs for procurement of vegetables, fruits, pulses and other farm produces. "These will be supplied to marketing chains in India and abroad," she said, adding the project would help improve the condition of indigent farmers.

State Finance Minister Surinder Singla said with Reliance coming to set up agri-chain, farmers will gain significantly. The income levels of farmers are estimated to go up from Rs 20,000-Rs 25,000 per acre to Rs 1 lakh per acre. "This will bring the second green revolution in Punjab," he added.

Promising a series of projects from Reliance in the retail venture, Dr Shanker said the company would set up world- class supply chains that would not only generate additional value for farmers but would also create more employment opportunities in both rural and urban Punjab.

Criticising Akali Dal for opposing the project, Bhattal said depsite claiming to be the champions of farmers' cause, Akalis had themselves failed to take any concrete steps during their tenure to imporve their conditions. They are now opposing the project just for the sake of opposition, while ignoring the benefits that would accrue to the state's agriculture sector as also for its overall development, she added.

Rubbishing the opposition's charge that the government had given land to Reliance at throw-away prices, Bhattal said it was important to invite the industry and give some concessions to improve the condition of farmers. She said Reliance's project was a part of the state's initiative to help diversify the agriculture sector.

When asked whether Punjab government has put any conditions for giving concessions, she said the land given to Reliance cannot be put to any other use other than agriculture. The state government has also kept 10 per cent of land in all focal areas so that when market prices go up the government has the option of selling it at a higher price.

As part of the project, RIL would undertake to complete the roll out by 2012 in Punjab, envisaging forward linkages to encourage demand driven farm production and setting up of captive farms, organic farms, greenhouses along with development of infrastructure for supply chain.

Reliance's MoU with Punjab follows an agreement reached by it in June for setting up a Rs 25,000 crore SEZ in Haryana.

IFFCO converts Phulpur unit from Naphtha to Gas-based

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, July 17: Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Ltd (IFFCO) has switched its Phulpur unit, in Uttar Pradesh, from Naphtha to Gas which would help save around Rs 1,000 crore annually in subsidy provided by the government.

Commissioned in 1981 and expanded in 1997, the Phulpur unit produces 1.42 million tonnes (MT) Urea annually.

The IFFCO Managing Director, Dr U S Awasthi, said by pursuing the government policy to encourage conversion of Naphtha-based Urea manufacturing units to Gas based-unit, IFFCO took the lead to enter into an agreement with GAIL in August 2004 for supply of re-gasified LNG to Phulpur unit.

GAIL has laid a dedicated 139 km long Spurline to connect Phulpur to HBJ Pipeline.

Dr Awasthi said ''necessary modifications were carried out by IFFCO in the main plants as well as Service Boilers for change over of Feed/ Fuel from Naphtha/Fuel Oil to LNG. The change over has been successfully implemented in both the plants in the first week of July 2006."

He further said that the switch over from Naphtha to LNG would entail substantial subsidy savings of more than Rs 1000 crore annually to the government keeping in view the prevalent price differential in Naphtha/FO and re-gasified LNG.

Retailing the next big thing in Reliance's future strategy

MUMBAI, June 27: While addressing the Annual General Meeting of the company in Mumbai, Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani has said organised retailing will be the "next big idea" in the companies' future plans.

Organised retail will have a profound impact and it will be a path breaking initiative to touch the lives of rural people, who are yet to be touched by the economic development that the country is witnessing, he said.

Sharing the company's progress during the past year, Ambani said the demerger of Reliance unlocked tremendous value for the shareholders to the tune of Rs 46,000 crore. This was unmatched in the history of corporate India, he said.

Before the demerger of Reliance Industries Ltd into four new companies, which have now been transferred to younger brother Anil Ambani, the share price of RIL was hovering at about Rs 650 per share.

Now, the combined value of RIL's share and those of the four companies is at around Rs 1,300 per share, he said.

"RIL shareholders have seen a return of 100 percent during the past one year as against 40 percent in the BSE Sensex," he said. Recalling his announcement two years ago that RIL had become the first company to post one billion dollar profit, he said the company has now doubled the net profit to USD 2.03 billion this year.

Turnover has jumped 58 percent to Rs 89,124 crore, he said, adding this included exports of Rs 32,691 crore.

Exports now contribute 37 percent of the company's turnover, he said, adding that this was 8.2 percent of India's total exports.

"Contrast this, with five years ago when exports were only 13 percent of the turnover," he said. On petro retail, he said Reliance had set up 1,218 retail outlets in just two years and would be strengthening and consolidating its position further.

About the company's petrochemicals business, Ambani said a further 900,000 tonnes per year of polypropylene capacity would be added at the new export-oriented refinery of Reliance Petroleum Ltd by 2008.

"Reliance would then become the fourth largest producer of polypropylene in the world," he said.

In April this year, Reliance expanded the capacity of the poly propylene plant at Jamnagar by 280,000 tonnes. Reliance is building the next generation polyester
business, which would provide solutions to not just textiles, but also to packaging, paper, and construction industries.

The company will also make investments in research and development, particularly in technical fibres.

Reliance Haryana SEZ pact signed

By Deepak Arora

CHANDIGARH, June 19: Reliance and Haryana on Monday signed an agreement for the largest multi-product special economic zone (SEZ) in the State which would attract Fortune 500 companies and investment of over Rs 100,000 crore and create five lakh jobs.

The HSIIDC Managing Director, Mr Rajiv Arora and the Reliance Ventures Ltd (RVL) Director, Mr Anand Jain, inked the agreement on Monday in the presence of the Chief Minister, Mr Bhupinder Singh Hooda and the RIL Chairman, Mr Mukesh Ambani.

Soon after signing of the agreement, the Reliance Industries Ltd Chairman and Managing Director, Mr Mukesh Ambani, committed Rs 25,000 crore for the project, spread over 25,000 acres, in the next five to 10 years. Overall investments may be in the vicinity of Rs. 40,000 crore. RIL and its group companies will hold 90 per cent equity in Reliance Haryana SEZ Ltd, while Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Corporation Ltd HSIIDC will have the remaining.

Mr Ambani said "the project is a first step towards public-private partnership which would help make India a top economic power." The RIL Chairman said the project would include a 2,000 MW captive power project and a cargo airport, subject to government approval.

Outlining his commitment to Haryana, he said, "The SEZ would create opportunity for the whole of north India. We would leverage our strengths in infrastructure creation to create a world class infrastructure." This will be first major investment by RIL outside the western India.

Mr Ambani was confident of wooing top Fortune 500 global companies to utilize their expertise in job creation and emerging global technologies in life sciences and nanotechnology. "Our objective is to create a world class infrastructure so that the young generation could enjoy the fruits of globalization," he stated.

He said it was essential for India to have a global level infrastructure. "The public-private partnership to build world class infrastructure is essential to compete with established SEZs in China, Dubai, Malaysia and Indonesia. Global capital will come only with a world class infrastructure," he observed.

Mr Ambani said the joint venture will have highest standards of transparency and equity. The emergence of global infrastructure close to Delhi would enable the joint venture partners to woo other entrepreneurs, he added.

The Haryana Chief Minister said the key parameter for entering the SEZ joint venture was to create jobs for the youth. He was hopeful that the establishment of SEZs would result in doubling of per capita income in next five years. "We are confident of creating 5 lakh jobs from this SEZ in next 10 years. Youth will be provided vocational and industrial training," Mr Hooda said.

The focus of the SEZ is on developing non-polluting or low polluting medium and large industries as well as export houses. Apart from this, software development centres, hospitality and educational institutions would be set up.

Top aids of Mukesh Ambani, Dr Anand Jain and Dr Shanker Adval, negotiated the finer details of the agreement with Haryana officials before it was formalized today.

The spirit of pioneering

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, June 4: Besides being one of the most successful businessmen of the country, Dr K K Jajodia is a philanthropic at heart. He is renowned for his charitable deeds - be it working for welfare of physically challenged, educating poor children, protecting wild life or promoting HIV/ AIDS campaigns. His love for his country India is unbound.

Dr Jajodia's business interests include tea, oil and natural gas and e-commerce. He is Group Chairman of London and India-based Duncan McNeill Group and Chairman of Assam Company Ltd, the first tea company in the world established in 1839.

Assam Company, the flagship company of Duncan Macneill Group, was established on February 12, 1839 by a Deed of British Parliament and was the first tea plantation company in the world. Queen Victoria awarded a Royal Charter to the company in 1845. Prince Dwarkanath Tagore (uncle of Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel laureate) and Motilal Seal were amongst its Founder Directors. The company now owns 15 factories and 58 tea estates including out-gardens.

Dr Jajodia is an active member of WWF, 1001 Club; Vice Chairman, Rhino Foundation (Assam); and Patron of the Thare-Machi - Starfish Initiative, a HIV/ AIDS awareness campaign in underdeveloped countries. He is also President, International Goodwill Society of India (IGSI), New Delhi, which is founded by Justice Dr Nagendra Singh, president of the International Courts of Justice, The Hague; and Chairman of the KK Jajodia Foundation which manages two schools in Delhi.

He is also Director (International Affairs) of Art of Living (AOL) Foundation, which is the biggest non-governmental organization (NGO) in the world. It is spread over 140 countries. His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is the founder of AOL Foundation.

The Foundation recently celebrated its silver jubilee in Bangalore where the largest and biggest-ever human gathering of over 15 million prayed and meditated for world peace under the guidance of spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. The event also saw the largest-ever gathering of foreign delegates ranging from Kings, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Ministers, and Ambassadors to citizens thanks to the tireless efforts of the organizers including Dr Jajodia.

Dr Jajodia's love for India is unbound. To promote country's interests he has held important positions of Chairman or President of important international business organizations like Indo-Canadian Joint Business Council, Indo-Korea Joint Business Council, Indo-Columbian Joint Business Council, and Commission on Biosociety - International Chamber of Commerce with headquarter in Paris.

He has been member of Indian delegations to the US, the UK, France, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore.

To promote India, he has hosted and sponsored events for world leaders and dignitaries. During this course, he has rubbed shoulders with the UN Secretary General, Mr Kofi Annan; till recently US Treasury Secretary John Snow, former Italian prime minister Giuliano Amato; the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip; Prince Charles; the then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi; Singapore prime minister Gob Chock Tong; the then Indian President Dr S D Sharma; the UPA Chairperson, Mrs Sonia Gandhi; Mrs Hillary Clinton; and Dr Henry Kissinger.

Very spiritual at heart, he has been lucky to receive blessings from among others Sri Sri Ravi Shakar, Sai Baba, Shankracharyas, and Mother Teresa.

Dr Jajodia's foundation acquired the only bronze head of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, sculptured during Nehru's lifetime by Ms Fedda Brilliant, and donated it to Trinity College, Cambridge. Dr Jajodia has also donated the "Nehru Scholarship" in the perpetuity to Trinity College, Cambridge.

Dr Jajodia's Trusts have made valuable contributions for the renovation of temples and ancient culture centers in India.
He completed his Bachelor of Commerce (B. Com.) Honours from University of Bombay, where he ranked first in college and second in University. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Philosophy and Senior Fellowship from Dr Nagendra Singh Institute of Vocational Studies, Roorkee, India.

Dr Jajodia is married to Anjali Devi and have one son Aditya and two daughters, Nisha Kanoi and Shalini Jalan.

'4Ps Power Brand Night' -- Honouring the Soaring Success…

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, June 4: It was a stupefying and nostalgic Thursday evening to honour the 4Ps brands of India. The Capitol at the Ashok Hotel rocked from the world go. The momentous event was organised by 4Ps Business and Marketing, India's fastest growing business and marketing magazine published by Planman Media, in collaboration with the Indian Council of Market Research (ICMR), an arm of Planman Consulting.

In the heydays of liberalization and commercialization, amidst a horde of products and services entering into this competitive foray, it is no mean feat to shine out in a rapidly growing economy such as ours. And it is with this understanding that 4Ps has organized "The 4Ps Power Brands Night," to felicitate the titans that have been featured in the rankings and listings of our magazine.

The memorable event has been a great success in the presence of leading corporates, high profile celebrities, socialites, and last but not the least the entire crew of Planman Media. Some of the eminent corporate luminaries present there were Prof. Arindam Chaudhuri (Chairman, Planman Consulting), Mr. Siddhanta Sharma (CEO-Spice Jet), Mr. Stefano Pelle (COO - Perfetti van Melle), Mr. R C Venkatesh (MD - ESPN India), Vab Goel (MD - NVP), Mr. Gopal Ratnam Kannan ( Country Manager- Swatch), Mr. S.M. Khan (Press Secretary to the President of India) and Mr. Amit Burman (CEO - Dabur Foods).

The "Gadgets" market is a sought after industry with a greater technologically literate and driven mass in our country today. To provide a better insight into this market, 4Ps in association with ICMR conducted a research on the "50 sizzling gadgets that India desires" covered in the March 17, 2006 issue. This was based on customer and retailers' feedback as well as valuable inputs by the companies themselves. This story incorporated some of the bigger names in the Industry such as Samsung, Sony, LG, Apple, Cannon and Hewlett Packard.

The Indian Council of Market Research also conducted a comprehensive study on the Banking sector in India. This research was a result of the analysis of customer satisfaction levels with different products and services offered by a bank. Based on this ICMR report, 4Ps Business and Marketing featured "The 10 best banks in India" in the April 14, 2006 issue. As a plethora of banks crowd in the financial sector today and only a handful of them have made it to the 4Ps Power night. Some of the prominent ones amongst them are HSBC Bank, HDFC Bank, ABN AMRO Bank and Standard Chartered.

Anchor Sonali entertained the guests during the awards ceremony.

Mr. Abhimanyu Ghosh, Group Publisher, Planman Media said, "'4Ps Power Night' has been organized with the aim to accolade these companies and banks as the "4Ps Power Brands". We appreciate the achievements of all the winners and strongly believe that they would continue and would provide even better products and services for the Indian mass. This inspirational night would surely lay a platform for these deserving winners to continue their performance with perseverance."

'4 Ps Business And Marketing', an initiative of The Indian Institute of Planning and Management and a Arindam Chaudhuri Dream, the magazine is available fortnightly. An unputdownable magazine by any international standards, the magazine had set a new pulse in the dynamic marketing and business world and aspires to carry it on with further zeal. The magazine is published by Planman Media, the media publishing arm of India's largest multi-interest consulting firm, Planman Consulting.

IFFCO's sales cross US $ 2 billion; makes core projects foray

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, May 18: After the grandiose journey in the fertilizer arena, the world's largest fertilizer cooperative IFFCO has decided to make a big foray into the infrastructure sector.

This has been possible due to almost 35 per cent percent growth in sales at Rs 9,943 crore and healthy Rs 341 crore net profit during last fiscal, said Dr U S Awasthi, company's Managing Director.

With its financial muscle with US $ 2 billion plus sales and technological competence in fertiliser projects, Dr Awasthi said IFFCO-led trans-national consortium has been pre-qualified, based on a global tender, to develop a 22 km long bridge over sea between Mumbai and Navi Mumbai. This Rs 2,600 crore Mumbai Trans Harbour Link Project (MTHL) would be across the deep sea connecting Sewri in Mumbai and Nhava in Nhavi Mumbai.

The consortium includes Italian Thai Development Company Ltd (ITD) of Thailand, MAEDA Corporation of Japan and ITD Cementation India Ltd. The project to be developed on Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis will be the first such venture in which IFFCO decided to take on stiff competition from six global consortia. The contracts are likely to be awarded to the successful bidder in 2007-08.

The Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Ltd (IFFCO) Chairman, Mr S.K. Jakhar, disclosed that in its bid to ride the infrastructure boom, IFFCO has also entered into a joint venture agreement with Chattisgarh State Electricity Board (CSEB) to develop a 1000 MW coal-fired power project at Prem Nagar in the State.

The 74: 26 Joint Venture christened as IFFCO Chattisgarh Power Ltd (ICPL) has been incorporated to take up the project shortly. With 74 percent stake, the IFFCO will also have the management control through five of its nominees on the board. Two members have been inducted from the CESB.

Mr S.K. Jakhar is also the Chairman of the new joint venture while CSEB Chairman is the vice-chairperson. IFFCO and its associates will put in Rs 1155 crore towards the equity in this mega power project while the CSEB would pitch in with Rs 405 crore. The debt equity ratio for the Rs 5,200 crore venture has been set 70: 30. IFFCO has nominated its Executive Director Mr M.M.Raheja as the Chief Executive of this power project.

The project will source coal from the Tara coal block. The projected levelised tariff is Rs 2.16 per unit. The financial closure for the project would be achieved in 2006- 2007. CSEB has agreed to buy 90 percent of power generated from this project while the JV will have the flexibility to trade the rest 10 percent amongst the western states.

Dr Awasthi, informed that while diversifying into infrastructure, IFFCO has continued its campaign to achieve backward and forward linkages in the fertilisers sector. As part of this drive, it has floated the Indo Egyptian Fertiliser Co, a joint venture with Egyptian Government's El Nasr Mining Co. The 76:24 joint venture will set up a plant to produce around 450,000 tonnes of phosphoric acid (P2O5) annually.

IFFCO will enter into a 100 percent buyback arrangement for the phosphoric acid produced from the JV. Dr. Awasthi said that Mr S K Jakhar is the Chairman of IEFC. Washington based International Finance Corporation (IFC) has been retained as the financial advisor to the joint venture. A four-member board of directors has been constituted for the Cairo-based Joint Venture. IFFCO nominee C.P.Srivastava has taken over as the Chief Executive of the company in which US $ 325 million investment would be made. Shareholders agreement has already been signed for the JV.

Dr. Awasthi informed that IFFCO has commitment to reduce the subsidy since it has taken all important steps to switch over from Naphtha to Gas. IFFCO's Phulpur Unit, that has a capacity to produce 14.16 lakh MT of Urea per annum, was operating on Naphtha as a feed stock. This Unit has now switched over from Naphtha to Gas which shall result in reduction in Govt. Subsidy Bill by around Rs.1,000 crore per year.

Mr Jakhar expressed pleasure at the commencement of production at the recently acquired Paradeep Unit after revamp. The plant is running continuously and the load shall be increased gradually.

IFFCO's sales turnover crosses US $ two billion, marks an around 35 per cent jump over previous financial year's Rs 7397 crore. The surge in sales turnover is due to highest sale of fertilisers at 81.95 lakh tonnes. Fertiliser production touched 64.35 lakh tonnes. This is against 61.54 lakh tonnes in 2004-05. Net profit increased to Rs 341 crore from Rs. 298 crore in the previous year, a jump of around 15 per cent. After takeover from Oswals, operations at Paradeep plant revamped. The unit would produce 15.75 lakh tonnes during 2006-07, added Dr Awasthi.

Ghansham promoted as Chief Manager (PR), IFFCO

NEW DELHI, June 1: Congratulations!! Mr Ghansham Dass has been promoted as Chief Manager, Public Relations, IFFCO, at the corporate office. A veteran in the field and winner of several awards, Mr Ghansham Dass is seen in the photograph receiving Rajbhasha award from Fertiliser and Chemical Minister, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan.

Kalam charts 7-point action plan for SBI

NEW DELHI, May 30: Charting a seven-point mission for State Bank of India, President A P J Abdul Kalam today urged the bank to increase lending to the farm sector and create a Rs 5,000 crore venture capital fund.

Speaking at the SBI's Bicentennial Celebrations here, Kalam said the bank should increase the agriculture and agro processing credit to 20 per cent (from 10 per cent) of the total loan disbursal within the next three years.

To raise agricultural growth to over 4 per cent is vital for increasing the overall GDP growth to 10 per cent, he said pointing out that when both manufacturing and services sectors are showing robust growth, agriculture is lagging begind.

Kalam asked the bank to allocate Rs 5,000 crore for SBI Cap Venture for funding to innovative scientists and technologists from 2007-08 for faster societal transformation including development of ICT products, software development and software services.

Kalam asked the largest lender of the country to create and nurture five rural development projects similar to bio-fuel project and sea weed project which has employment generation potential for at least 50 lakh rural youths.

SBI should adopt and innovatively fund at least one lakh sick SSI units so that latest technology can be infused to overcome problems and make them profitable ventures.
Citing potential of medical tourism, Kalam said the bank could provide funds at competitive interest rates for creation of corporate hospitals which will also serve the rural community

Fortinet acquires intellectual property assets from CoSine Communications

BANGALORE, May 30: Fortinet - the pioneer and leading provider of multi-threat security solutions - today announced it has completed an acquisition of all pending patents and related intellectual property (IP) assets of CoSine Communications, Inc. In connection with the sale, CoSine retained a limited right to continue using the transferred IP to support its existing customers.

The acquisition significantly strengthens Fortinet's IP and patent portfolio and provides the company with key innovations that will allow it to better address the carrier/service provider market. Terms of the transaction are confidential.

CoSine was a leading provider of a widely-adopted Internet Protocol (IP) Service Delivery Platform that enabled telecommunication carriers and network service providers to rapidly deliver a an array of secure services simultaneously to thousands of subscribers from within a service provider's network, including managed firewall, VPN and security broadband access. Products offered by CoSine included the IPSX switch, InVision service management system and InGage customer network management software.

The acquired IP portfolio covers a diverse set of technologies and key applications pertaining to methods for delivering security services through hardware than software platforms, managing subscriber profiles, and router virtualization and management.

"CoSine was an early innovator in the networking and security arena - revolutionizing the way security was deployed, delivered and managed on a massive scale. They were active in seeking patent protection for their key technological achievements and their IP portfolio reflects this diligence," said Ken Xie, Fortinet's founder, president and CEO. "We're excited to have acquired these assets and believe they will play an important role in Fortinet's growth in the high-end segment - particularly the carrier and service provider market."

HCL Info to market iPods in India

NEW DELHI, May 30: India's largest PC company HCL Infosystems has entered into a non-exclusive tie-up with Apple Computers to distribute iPods and desktops in the country. iPods will be available in India in the price range of Rs 4,000 to Rs 23,000. So far, Apple products in India have been sold by unorganised retail and grey market.

Domestic consumers will be able to download songs from at Rs 5 per download against Rs 44 (99 cents) available through (Apple's official website).

The tie-up comes just months after Nokia (HCL's largest partner) ended its exclusive distribution arrangement with HCL. The Finnish cell phone giant, which accounts for 72% of HCL Info's revenues, will now distribute handsets in 50% of the territories directly.

The iPod downloads will compete with mobile song downloads which are being offered at Rs 20 per song by leading mobile operators. Consumers will also be able to download full movies on iPods, which until now were distributed mainly through the organised grey market.

Samsung to sell one lakh flat panel TVs this year

MUMBAI, May 30: Electronics major Samsung India today said it hoped to sell about one lakh flat panel television sets by end of this December -- which would give the company 50 per cent share in the segment. "We wish to develop the LCD market in India and hope to sell about 1,00,000 sets this year," company's Deputy Managing Director R Zutshi told reporters at the launch of 'Bordeaux' LCD range.

The company will commence manufacturing LCD television in its Noida CTV facility from the third quarter of this year. "The LCD panels will be imported from South Korea and assembled in Noida by the end of June," he said, adding that it will produce about 5,000 units a month initially and will gradually ramp it up by September-October.

A part of the 20 million dollars overall investment announced for line expansion and mould development would be used for LCD manufacturing, Zutshi said. A 20 per cent rise in revenues is expected in 2006, he said. The company had posted revenues of Rs 6,200 crore last year. Samsung India currently holds 28 per cent market share in the Colour TV market, which it expects to increase to 32 per cent.

The company will capitalise on the World Cup Soccer fever to market the new 'Bordeaux' LCD range by offering schemes and introductory discounts on purchase of LCDs, along with their Home Theatre, Samsung Director Sales and Marketing Pradeep Tognatta said.

Oil price hike: Is there a cushion?

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, May 9: With crude prices in the international markets going through the roof, the government is once again grappling with the politically sensitive issue of oil price hike.
Assembly elections in four states are over and there are indications that the matter will be put up before the Prime Minister within a week.

The under-recoveries of oil marketing companies have increased to Rs.9.80 per litre of petrol, Rs.10.20 per litre diesel, Rs.16.60 per litre kerosene and Rs.125 per LPG cylinder. The main challenge before the government is: how to handle the price of diesel -- which, like kerosene, is considered the poor man's fuel.

The cost of crude -- on landed cost basis -- comes to Rs 23 per litre. The international parity price of diesel is Rs 28.3 per litre. The average retail price of diesel is Rs 33.4 litre. Of this, the state governments' taxes account for over Rs 6 per litre. Central government taxes further take away over Rs 3 per litre. After accounting for freight costs and dealer commission, the oil PSUs are left with less than Rs 20.9 per litre, which is even less than the basic cost of crude.

To prevent oil PSUs from bleeding further and allowing them margins as recommended by the Rangarajan Committee, diesel prices need to be raised by at least Rs 10 per litre, if the current rates of taxes and duties remain unchanged.

This kind of a hefty hike is bound create a public outcry, not acceptable to any government -- much less to one critically dependent on support from its Left allies. So the government is left with no alternative but to rejig taxes.

One option considered workable by the oil industry as also by the Left is to bring diesel under the category of "declared goods" as has been done for LPG. Once an item is brought under the "declared goods" category, the powers of the state governments to impose taxes on it are restricted.

If diesel is brought under this category and specific basic excise duty on it is removed, there will be a uniform 4 per cent sales tax on it. In such a scenario, the required price hike for diesel will be only Rs 2.50 per litre.

Needless to say, the state and Central governments would need to sit and balance the revenue collection as done for other declared goods. A middle path could perhaps be a uniform sales tax at the rate of 12 per cent and removal of specific basic excise duty. In this second scenario, the required price hike will be Rs 5 per litre. In either case, the government has little alternative but to hike the prices.

Sarthak Behuria takes over as CIE Chairman

NEW DELHI, May 9: Mr. Sarthak Behuria, Chairman, IndianOil Group Companies, and Chairman, Standing Conference of Public Enterprises (SCOPE), has taken over as Chairman of the Council of Indian Employers (CIE).

CIE is an apex body of employers in the country, contributing to strengthening industrial relations, labour and social policies within the tripartite framework of the Government. SCOPE is one of the constituents of CIE, with Employers Federation of India (EFI) and All India Organisation of Employers (AIOE) as the other two constituents.

Mr. Behuria, who is Chairman of IndianOil since March 2005, is also Chairman (part-time) of subsidiary companies, IBP Co. Ltd., Bongaigaon Refinery & Petrochemicals Ltd and Chennai Petroleum Corporation Ltd. Earlier, he was CMD of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd.

Mr. Behuria also heads Petroleum Federation of India representing oil industry organisations. He has been elected to the board of World LPGas Association as its Vice-President representing the Asia Region.

Book exposes Walmart

The book "Selling Women Short" by Liza Featherstone is a compelling documentation of sex-discrimination and questionable work ethics at Wal-Mart and should be an eye-opener for the proponents of FDI in retail in India. In a country where the implementation of labour laws leaves much to be desired, arrival of the world's richest and biggest retail, also accused of being the biggest exploiter, will only add fuel to the fire.

We already see a culture of hiring people on contract, with the wording therein heavily tilted in favour of the employers. If the young adults hired at the numerous BPO firms are already "cyber coolies" then the impending burst of so-called employment can only mean the revival of "bonded-labour", which has supposedly been uprooted from this country through legislation. Of course, we know different and all we need to add to our misery is a foreign master -- we are yet to know if the government is even contemplating introduction of clauses safeguarding the workforce which may be working for this "predator".

Featherstone draws extensively on interviews with the plaintiffs against Wal-Mart, and underlines how sex-discrimination in employment contributes to keeping women poor. The work being done by Betty Dukes and others like her, to reform and unionize Wal-Mart, offers hope for the future, and Featherstone reveals the creative solutions workers around the US have found. Selling Women Short combines the personal stories of the Wal-Mart employees with superb investigative journalism to show why women who work low-wage jobs are getting a raw deal, and what they are doing about it.

Now this is an American story about American women. Can you even imagine the plight of women in India? With poor understanding of the fine print in their contracts and poorer legal aid, one can only shudder at what they will have to go through in the hands of sophisticated masters of the trade like Wal-Mart. However, going back to the book one has to give credit to Featherstone for sounding a warning bell for future customers and worker of this monolith.

"Fortune magazine's 'Most Admired Company' for two years running, Wal-Mart offers its customers low prices and its shareholders big profits, but as Featherstone (Students Against Sweatshops) argues, this comes at great cost. Wal-Mart's success is based not only on its inexpensive merchandise or its popularity (Featherstone cites working-class shoppers and Paris Hilton among Wal-Mart's fans) but on bad labour practices.

Using a close investigation of the class action suit Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and extensive interviews with female workers, Featherstone indicts Wal-Mart for low wages, discriminatory policies and sexist practices. Many women employed full-time at Wal-Mart make so little that they are dependent on public assistance: 'It is curious that Wal-Mart - the icon of American free enterprise and self-sufficiency... - turns out to be one of the biggest 'welfare queens' of our time,' Featherstone writes. She doesn't give much time to related topics - racism, exploited overseas labor - but this is a clearly written and compelling book.

Wal-Mart is the biggest private employer in the world. It controls the quality, quantity, and prices of household goods in many markets. It fosters a wholesome image through its advertising and in the content of the media it sells. To keep prices low, it keeps starting wages low, but maintains that it offers training and promotional opportunities within a corporate culture that rewards dedication and industriousness. However, according to Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the class-action lawsuit against it, it does not offer those opportunities based on seniority or performance but largely on whether the employee is male or female.

In this groundbreaking expose, Featherstone looks at how Wal-Mart, America's largest employer, systematically deprives its female workers of promotions, pay, and job assignments. She goes on to show how those women are about to change history.

On television, Wal-Mart employees are smiling women delighted with their jobs. But reality is another story. In 2000, Betty Dukes, a 52-year-old black woman in Pittsburg, California, became the lead plaintiff in Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, a class action representing 1.4 million women. Featherstone reveals how Wal-Mart, a self-styled "family-oriented," Christian company:

* Deprives women (but not men) of the training they need to advance
* Relegates women to lower-paying jobs, like selling baby clothes, reserving the more lucrative positions for men
* Inflicts punitive demotions on employees who object to discrimination
* Exploits Asian women in its sweatshops in Saipan, a U.S. commonwealth

McKinsey mentions Wal-Mart's "efficiency in logistics," which make it possible for the company to buy in bulk directly from producers of everything from toilet paper to refrigerators, allowing it to dispense with wholesalers. McKinsey also makes much of the company's innovative use of information technology, for example its early use of computers and scanners to track inventory, and its use of satellite communications to link corporate headquarters in Arkansas with the nationwide network of Wal-Mart stores. Setting up and fine-tuning these tracking and distribution systems has been the special achievement of founder Sam Walton's (the "Wal" of Wal-Mart) two successors as CEO, David Glass and the incumbent Lee Scott.

Although her book Selling Women Short is a powerful indictment of how Wal-Mart has treated its female employees, Featherstone acknowledges the lure of the Wal-Mart store for female shoppers, who delight "in spending as little as possible, all in one place." At a Wal-Mart "supercenter" you can change a tyre, buy groceries for dinner, and get a new pair of shoes and some yard furniture-a set of errands that once would have required a long afternoon of visits to far-flung merchants.

All these innovations contribute to Wal-Mart's remarkable productivity record, and this in turn has opened up another major source of competitive advantage for the company, its policy of "Every Day Low Prices" ("EDLP"), which makes it possible for it to undersell its competitors by an average of as much as 14 percent. Here the picture darkens because Wal-Mart's ability to keep prices low depends not just on its productivity but also on its ability to contain, or even reduce, costs, above all labor costs.

Since there is no assembly line at Wal-Mart its senior management uses blunter methods to achieve higher levels of productivity from the workforce. These methods are governed by a simple principle: when deciding how many workers to employ, Wal-Mart management relies on a formula guaranteeing that the growth of the labor budget will lag behind the growth in store sales, so that every year there will be more work for each employee to do.

In her paper "The Quality of Work at Wal-Mart," presented at the conference in Santa Barbara, Ellen Rosen of the Women's Studies Research Center at Brandeis, described in detail how this squeeze on labor works. Each year Wal-Mart provides its store managers with a "preferred budget" for employment, which would allow managers to staff their stores at adequate levels. But the actual budget imposed on the store managers always falls short of the preferred budget, so that most Wal-Mart stores are permanently understaffed. The gap between the preferred and actual budgets gives store managers an idea of how much extra work they must try to extract from their workforce.

The pervasive understaffing at Wal-Mart gives rise to one of the most common employee infractions at the company, "time theft." With each employee having more work to do, managers assume that whenever they see an employee not working, she must be shirking her duties, or "stealing time" from the corporation, a punishable offense. When Barbara Ehrenreich worked at a Minneapolis Wal-Mart as part of her research for her book on low-wage work, Nickel and Dimed, she was told by her boss that "time theft" in the form of "associates standing around talking to one another" was his "pet peeve." Later a fellow worker warned Ehrenreich that they could only talk about their work, and that anything else counted as "time theft" and was forbidden. Ehrenreich soon found that her boss and his fellow management spies were a constant presence on the shop floor, looking out for time thieves.

But Wal-Mart's harshness is not simply a consequence of management's efforts to extract maximum productivity from its workforce at minimum cost. There are also employees and groups of employees that management particularly mistrusts, and these have often been subjected to relentless harassment. Hundreds of employees have testified against Wal-Mart in the many class-action lawsuits brought against the corporation, and their sworn depositions provide a detailed account of what it is like to work at Wal-Mart day by day, even hour by hour.

The exploitation of the working poor is now central to the business strategy favored by America's most powerful and, by some criteria, most successful corporation. India, it seems is a dream not too far away. And if India does not heed history, it is doomed to repeat it.

Reliance's mega retail vision targets entire spectrum

NEW DELHI, May 1: From a fleet of aircraft to ferry farm fresh produce to cities, to cold storage chains, speciality stores, mega malls and convenience stores, Mukesh Ambani's vision for Reliance Retail encompasses a wide variety of business models to reach the consumers. The attempt is to be the best and the largest in the country by ensuring a presence in all districts, and in all major towns and cities, industry sources say.

The multimillion-dollar retail venture is set to take off with the first of the many malls slated to open in Ahmedabad in October. It is expected to see an investment of $700 million in the first phase.

Reliance Retail has drawn inspiration from several successful business models in India like Big Bazaar, Spencer's, Shoppers' Stop and the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF) among others. Even the traditional village marts where farmers sell their produce once a week are being developed for creating rural hubs.

"The village hub or market place will be the aggregation and segregation point for farm fresh goods. These rural business hubs would also serve as the retail point where farmers would be able to buy seeds, fertiliser, equipment and even take loans in tie-ups with banking institutions," said an industry insider who keenly follows the developments.

It is from these aggregation points that Reliance Retail would take on a high-tech shape with plans afoot for not only setting up warehouses and cold storage facilities but also food processing units and even operation of cargo planes for delivering farm fresh produce, he added.

"Reliance is in the process of seeking clearance from the civil aviation authorities to operate a fleet of 30-40 small and medium aircraft of 30-60 tonnes. The idea is to reduce wastage and provide the best quality produce to consumers," said a senior company official, who however hastened to add that company rules did not permit his talking to the media.

Work is on at all levels to create the infrastructure and to tie up supplies - be it vegetables and fruits from farmers or electronic and other products from global sourcing majors such as Hong Kong's Li & Fung that supply to large chain stores like Wal-Mart.

Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Baroda, Pune and Hyderabad are among cities earmarked for front-end operations like malls speciality stores, hypermarkets, supermarkets and convenience stores. The major focus will however be on smaller cities, towns and districts.

Reliance Retail has already acquired large tracts of land in Haryana and a similar exercise is on in states like Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.

Negotiations are soon set to conclude for about 900 acres of land in Punjab, which is set to become the hub of dairy processing activities of Reliance Retail. To execute these mammoth projects, Reliance has been on a major talent hunt that has led to immense churning in the top and middle rungs of several companies, headhunting firms said.

So far about 2,000 people have been recruited for Reliance Retail and another 5,000 will be added over the next few months.

RIL Q4 net up 9.2 pc; 100 pc dividend

MUMBAI, April 29: Reliance Industries has announced a 9.2 percent increase in net profit at Rs 2,502 crore for the fourth quarter ended 31st March 2006 as compared to Rs 2,292 crore in the year-ago period.

The total income grew 34.47 percent to Rs 24,629 crore for the reporting quarter as against Rs 18,315 crore a year ago. The Board has recommended a dividend of Rs 10 on shares of Rs 10 each. The paid-up equity capital as on March 31, 2006 is Rs 1,393.51 crore. Analysts said the results were above market expectations and the company's share price jumped to the four-digit territory at Rs 1,013 on BSE and Rs 1,012 on NSE at 1415 hrs.

For the year ending 31st March 2006 the net profit increased 19.77 percent at Rs 9,069 crore as compared to Rs 7,572 crore in 2004-05. The total income for the year 2005-06 grew 21.32 percent to Rs 81,894 crore as compared to Rs 67,501 crore in the previous fiscal. The Group posted a net profit of Rs 9,398 crore for the year FY'06, compared to Rs 7,628 crore in 2004-05. Its total income stood at Rs 84,130 crore against Rs 68,128 crore.

Fertiliser concession scheme extended by 3 years

NEW DELHI, April 27: The Union Cabinet on Thursday extended the fertiliser concession scheme that expired on March 31by three years. This would help farmers to get fertilisers at affordable rates. While the exact quantum of the concession on account of this extension is yet to be worked out, the payout over the past three years was over Rs 20,000 crore.

Official sources said the concession or subsidy payout on account of this scheme for the next three years has to be at least in the same region. The Cabinet also gave its nod to extend the term of the Justice Pathak Inquiry Authority probing into the Volcker Committee report by three months. The Cabinet extended the term of the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities headed by Justice Ranganath Misra by 6 months.

The Cabinet cleared an air services agreement between India and New Zealand and a tourism agreement between India and Fiji.



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