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Ashwani Narula – Furniture Prince of India

By Sushma Arora

Ashwani NarulaNEW DELHI: We talk about a magic mantra for success with a young self made dynamic entrepreneur who has not only risen to fame from ground levels but has motivated and inspired several in the home decoration business.

Ashwani Narula of the brand – Benchcraft Concept, creates ripples in the décor business with his inimitable style and approach. Blessed with nerves made of Steel and a humour to match, Ashwani captures the imagination of his clients while spinning the magic yarn of colours shapes and style.

Benchcraft MumbaiWhile we keep reading about India, emerging as a brand to reckon with, we wonder simultaneous about the key players tugging the success forward. While the industrialists of our country are inspiring global businesses, people like Ashwani have risen to fame thanks to their persistence, perseverance and sheer hard work and are a motivational force for the upcoming young entrepreneurs.

"I believe the only way to gain wealth and fame is to either earn it or inherit it." In his case it surely has been earned. Having lost his father early, the young lad with family responsibilities to shoulder Ashwani, decided to get in the furniture and furnishing business rolling with what ever resources he could muster.

Shilpa Shetty with one of the art works she bought from BenchraftHe got his first contract from his maternal uncle to furnish the upcoming Canada Colony at the Napth Japhri project. There was no stopping him after that. Fearless, ruthless at work and practically no personal life were the few highlights of his early years.

In 1997, he launched his own firm, A.N. Enterprises. He began supplying furniture to big showrooms from his small factory in Kirti Nagar, a furniture hub in West Delhi, with one carpenter and one polisher. Today his firm employs 150 skilled people.

Of course, in the intervening period, Ashwani launched his own brand name "Benchcraft" in 2001 with his first showroom spread over 2,000 sq ft in upscale Ghitorni, Mehrauli Gurgaon Road, bordering Delhi and Gurgaon. End 2004, he opened another showroom spread over 25,000 sq ft in the same area. He reached the big league in mid-2006 with the launch of 65,000 sq ft showroom in the same area.

Benchcraft MumbaiThere was no looking back for him as he opened one show room after another. He launched his 7,500 sq ft showroom in Mumbai on September 3, 2006 in Raghuvanshi Mills, an interior and furniture hub for rich and famous.

In January this year, Benchcraft made inroads in Hyderabad. Soon he is launching another showroom at Grand Mall in Gurgaon. Next month is is launching another showpiece in Gurgaon which one can visit only on invitation.

Commenting on his firm, Ashwani says: A.N. Enterprises carries out the business of interior designing and manufacturing of all kinds of furnishing and allied accessories.

Benchcraft HyderabadNeedless to say, the firm is professionally managed with full time professionals, in-house employees and consultants.

"It is totally self sufficient in terms of designing turnkey execution and manufacturing of furniture and has a comprehensive setup in form of office as well as manufacturing unit," he adds.

Some of companies for whom he has done the turnkey projects include Pizza Corner, McKinsey, Unitech, Siemens, Hindustan Lever, Sukam, Flex Industries, Patni Computers, Hutch and three properties of Hotel Jukso in Pune, Gurgaon and Delhi.

Benchcraft DelhiPopularity of his furniture and furnishing can be gauged from the fact that it also travels to far off places in Australia, the US, the UK, Hungary, Dubai and Singapore.

In its endeavor to remain ahead of the competitors, Benchcraft as a brand caters to individual interior designing requirements of the clients. The firm is constantly engaged in providing the latest and the best designs.

A.N Enterprises has its own chain of competent fabricators having excellent facilities of carpentry and joining with specialized workers who work directly under the supervision of the firm through its representative for different projects, with a view to completing each project within the stipulated time and ensuring strict quality control.

His business travels have taken him to Italy, Dubai and Turkey.

Ashwani is single and lives with his mother and sister in Gurgaon, Haryana.

Australia and India Agree to Joint Study on a Bilateral FTA

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Aug 31: The Australian Government Minister for Trade, Warren Truss, today announced that Australia and India have agreed to undertake a joint feasibility study into the merits of a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries.

Mr Truss said the study will provide an opportunity to consider the potential for benefits which might flow to Australia and India from an FTA.

“The study will examine the potential gains for both countries, in particular the impact a comprehensive and genuinely liberalising FTA could have on promoting economic growth, trade in goods and services, investment and other commercial linkages,” Mr Truss said.

“The relationship between Australia and India has been one of rapid growth in trade and investment.

“The FTA feasibility study is a natural extension of the Australian Government’s efforts to look at ways to tap the potential of India’s rise as a major economic power,” he said.

2006-07 preliminary figures show India is now our fourth-largest merchandise export market - recording $10.1 billion worth of exports - equivalent to six per cent of Australia’s total merchandise exports.

Mr Truss said India is also Australia’s fastest-growing major merchandise export market, increasing at more than 34 per cent per annum over the past five years.

“India is a emerging as one of the key drivers for global economic growth and its economic rise will be increasingly critical to world economic development,” he said.

“India’s middle class will especially present important opportunities for Australian business. India also stands to benefit from Australia’s significant economic strength and competencies.”

The Australian Government will consult widely in Australia, including with the States and Territories, relevant industry bodies and others stakeholders during the feasibility study.

The process will ensure that all views are taken into account in developing our position on any future FTA negotiations with India.

Mr Truss said that the Australian Government will initially hold bilateral meetings with India to discuss the study’s terms of reference. The FTA feasibility study will commence in late 2007 and is expected to be completed in 2009.

Australia’s two-way trade in goods with India reached $11.4 billion in 2006-07, making India our ninth-largest trading partner. Services trade with India in 2006 was $1.9 billion.

Deora asks for second opinion on RIL's $ 8.8 b investment

NEW DELHI, Aug 26: Petroleum Minister Murli Deora has asked for an independent review of Reliance Industries' proposed investment of US $ 8.8 billion in developing its eastern offshore KG-D6 fields to allay fears of 'gold plating'.

Eminent reservoir engineer P Gopalakrishnan has been engaged to look into the reasons for rise in Phase-I capital expenditure from US $ 2.47 billion to US $ 5.2 billion and an additional USD 3.6 billion proposed for Phase-II beginning 2010 for maintain plateau production of 80 million standard cubic meters per day.

Besides, one of the six short listed international consultants including Mustang Engineering of US, Pajak Engineering of Canada, Petrofac of UK and Beicip Franlab of France will be appointed to carry out validation of the proposed field development plan, according to oil regulator V K Sibal.

In a letter to the ministry, Sibal said the USD 8.8-billion investment approval was limited only to establish techno-economic feasibility of producing gas from Dhirubhai-1 and 3 fields in KG-D6. RIL will however be reimbursed cost from gas sales based on actual independently audited expenditure and not on approved Field Development Plan.

E&P companies in India are under tremendous financial pressures on account of worldwide increase in the input costs in tandem with the increase in crude oil prices, according to Prabh Das, Joint Secretary in the Petroleum Ministry.

Giving an example in a letter to the Finance Minister, Das has stated that the cost of chartered hiring of drilling rigs, a major input for E&P operations, has increased between 75 to 228 per cent in the past two to three years.

As per the Production Sharing Contract, all capital commitments are made on the basis of a tendering process through international competitive bidding (ICB) mechanism and detailed procurement procedures are laid out in the PSC based on the concept of optimal pricing.

Sibal said initially US $ 2.47-billion development plan was approved in 2004 to produce 5.3 Trillion cubic feet of gas at a peak production rate of 40 mmscmd. However, on subsequent exploration, the block was found to hold higher gas potential and development plan was revised to produce 10.02 Tcf of gas at a peak production rate of 80 mmscmd.

"The contractors' estimate of the revised investment is higher due to the increase in number of wells and production and pipeline facilities to produce a higher volume of gas and also due to the increase in price levels in global market for E&P operations," he said.

He said the cost per barrel of D6 block is estimated to be very competitive when compared to international companies and other discoveries in the country.

"The per barrel finding cost of KG-D6 is estimated at US $ 5.69, compared to US $ 10.61 for PY-1 (in Cauvery basin), US $ 34.21 for CN-ON-3 (in Cambay basin) and US $ 5.74 for Rajasthan block. The cost of British Petroleum in 2005 was US $ 5.79."

The regulator said development cost globally are revised suitably when there is escalation in price levels or change in production capacity. "For instance, Sakhalin project cost was revised by Shell from US $ 11 billion to US $ 20 billion. In India, during the current year, PY-1 investment was revised from US $ 138 million (2004) to US $ 371 million."

Sibal said the idea of 'gold plating' was misplaced and "was coined out of sheer ignorance of business economics. Inflating the expenditure does not benefit any body, neither the companies nor the Government... Every additional rupee of wasteful investment eats into the profit of the companies.”

Deora asked for an independent opinion after charges of 'gold plating' of investment to get higher gas price surfaced. Gopalakrishnan will submit his report by September 15.

A Reliance spokesman, when contacted, said that RIL costs were lowest in the world, including India and the track record of the company to build the most advanced plants is a public knowledge.

“We have already informed the Committee of Secretaries (COS) and various government functionaries that the capital cost to be recovered by the company are open to all for scrutiny. Basically an attempt is being made by a section of polity to mislead the public to meet their narrow interests,” added the spokesman.

Rich should share wealth with poor: Mukesh Ambani

Mukesh AmbaniNEW DELHI, Aug 21: Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani has said the rich must share wealth with the poor. He also pushed for a new development model for India to reduce disparities.

'India is definitely turning a new leaf though there are concerns on many fronts,' Ambani said, delivering the sixth Darbari Seth Memorial Lecture organised by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) here.

'In the new developmental model, there is need for a comprehensive vision and some exemplary leadership so as to place higher income among the people. And in this, there is need to substantially involve the corporate sector,' he said.

'What India needs is not conflict but cooperation among all sections.'

On the energy front, he declined to be drawn into making any comments on the impact of the Indo-US civil nuclear cooperation except to say 'noble metals is one solution for energy but renewable energy is another.'

However, he stressed on the need for largescale use of solar energy as in the 'next 20 years, it is going to transform the world. In the coming eight to ten months, we are setting up 30 pilot projects in Maharashtra.'

Making a strong case for his retail outlets, he said: 'Indian farmer bears the highest risks. So, by unleashing a genuine pro-farmer and pro-consumer retail, it would help both and put them in a win-win situation.'

As part of this, a brief film on the Reliance retail was screened for the jam-packed hall at the India Habitat Centre having interviews with farmers and consumers and the benefits of the retail outlets.

Reliance opens country's first hypermarket

NEW DELHI, Aug 14: To coincide with India’s Independence Day, Reliance Retail has opened its first hypermarket in Ahmedabad, with plans to open 30 more such superstores across the country at an investment of over Rs 375 crore by this year end.

The hypermarket in Ahmedabad, which at over 1,65,000 sq ft is by far the largest retail facility under a single roof, has over 95,000 products ranging from full line of groceries to garments, consumer durables to garden equipment.

"The company will open 30 hypermarkets by this year end of 40,000 to 60,000 sq ft each," according to K Radhakrishnan, CEO of Reliance Hypermarket.

Radhakrishnan said six malls under the Reliance Mart brand would come up in the national capital, five each in Punjab and Andhra Pradesh, three in Gujarat and two in Bangalore.

Over 500 such superstores are planned by 2010.

The hypermarket format is the latest to be unveiled by Reliance Retail, which last year unveiled its fresh food format store Reliance Fresh, followed by consumer electronics store Reliance Digital.

ONGC demands over 12% hike in APM gas price

NEW DELHI, Aug 9: State-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) has demanded a 12.5 pc hike in price of natural gas it produces from fields given to it on nomination basis as it was incurring losses at the present price of Rs 3.2 per cubic meter (1.97 dollars per million British thermal units).

ONGC Chairman and Managing Director R S Sharma has stated that the company's realisation was only Rs 2.97 per cubic meters after paying for royalties and taxes.

Against this, the cost of production was Rs 3.272 per cubic meter.

"As per the cost accounting records for the year 2005-06 duly audited by cost auditors, ONGC had negative margin of Rs 0.302 per cubic meter on gas business," he wrote to Petroleum Secretary M S Srinivasan on 30th July.

ONGC is to produce 38.77 million standard cubic meters per day of gas from fields given to it on nomination basis and priced by government orders (called APM gas) in 2007-08.

It would produce another 8.38 mmscmd from fields operated outside the APM regime.

Sharma, said the APM gas price should be raised to Rs 3.6 per cubic meter as recommended by the tariff commission and it year a 20 per cent hike should be effected so that the prices are gradually aligned to market standards.

For non-APM gas, he sought a minimum price of 4.75 dollars per mbtu, the price of gas sold from Panna/Mukta and Tapti fields off Mumbai.

The ONGC demand comes at a time when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has referred the issue of gas pricing to a Group of Ministers after power and fertiliser sectors in general and Anil Ambani Group in particular wanted the government to renege on its promise of giving market price to companies investing in gas exploration.

PM sets up EGoM on natural gas price

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Aug 6: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has constituted an Empowered Group of Ministers (EG0M) to go into the issue of pricing of natural gas to be produced by Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries from its eastern offshore Krishna Godavari basin block.

The Prime Minister conveyed the decision to set up the EGOM when Petroleum Minister Murli Deora met him this morning on the issue, official sources said.

RIL, drawing from its right under the contract for KG-D6 block, proposed to price the gas between 4.33 dollars per million British thermal unit and 4.58 dollars per mBtu.

Though the Petroleum Ministry was the competent authority to decide on the issue, Deora asked the Prime Minister's Office to constitute a Committee of Secretaries to look into the issue.

The CoS, headed by Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar, in its report relied heavily on the 'emotive' issue of RIL gas supply to state-run power utility NTPC.

Sources said the EGOM would be headed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and would give its decision on the issue within a month.

Deora said the sanctity of the contracts signed under New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) would not be compromised.

``The government will stand by its commitment on the contracts,'' Deora said. ``Contracts for those companies who have completed their work as per schedule must be honored by the government.''

Meanwhile, the petroleum ministry has welcomed the Anil Ambani Group company Reliance Energy's demand for a gas utilisation policy saying it should withdraw all court cases seeking at least half the output from RIL' gas from the Krishna-Godavari basin.

"If they are serious about their demand for a gas utilisation policy, we welcome it. For that, they should first withdraw all cases in various courts where they had, by virtue of a private family agreement, claimed ownership of at least half the 80 million standard cubic metres per day of gas to be produced from KG-D6. Unless that happens, how can anyone decide how much gas can be allocated to different sectors," a top petroleum ministry official said.

The ministry's comment came in response to Reliance Energy Director JP Chalsani demanding that a gas utilisation and pricing policy be put in place before deciding the pricing of gas from the KG-D6 fields of Reliance Industries.

Reliance Industries challenged Chalsani's assertion that the company was targeting an exorbitant return of up to 225 per cent in the KG-D6 investments, saying its investment of $5.2 billion can be audited by an independent consultant.

A Reliance Industries official said its capital expenditure was the lowest in a similar gas field anywhere in the world.
On this, a DGH official said that there is a procurement process manual that is comprehensive with extensive procedures and checks and balances on the costing. Any amount that is extravagent or could have been managed prudently will not be approved for cost recovery.

The official added that RIL has categorically welcomed any verification or auditing by the government and CAG or others as they have innovatively finalised the inputs at the lowest cost/ unit basis anywhere in the world.

The RIL official challenged Chalsani's assertion for a regulated price for gas since consuming sectors like power and fertiliser were regulated, saying in the exploration and production business model, as inputs (rig cost and services) are deterministic (at market prices) and outputs probabilistic, no regulated price regime could provide an adequate risk-reward balance.

"By making such comments, the ADAG is only showing off its lack of knowledge about E&P business," he said.

Canara Bank pays highest-ever dividend

By Deepak Arora

Canara Bank Chairman and Managing Director M B N Rao presenting a dividend Cheque of Rs 210 crores to Finance Minister P Chidambaram for the Financial Year 2006-07. Also seen in the picture is Delhi Circle's General Manager Y L Madan.NEW DELHI, Aug 4: Canara Bank has achieved its highest ever net profit of Rs 1,421 crore for the financial year 2006-07 on the back of a strong top line growth.

With the growth in profitability, Canara Bank has declared a dividend of 70 per cent, the highest since it went public as compared to 66 per cent dividend declared for the financial year 2005-06.

On Thursday, the bank’s Chairman and Managing Director, Mr M B N Rao, presented a cheque amounting to Rs 210 crore as dividend for the financial year 2006-07 to the Finance Minister, Mr P Chidambaram.

Canara Bank has the record of paying dividend to the Government without break since nationalization in 1969.

Govt may allow market price for RIL KG gas

NEW DELHI, Aug 2:The government is likely to clear the price quoted by Reliance Industries Ltd for its gas from the Krishna-Godavari basin without seeking to control the price.

"Depressing gas prices artificially will lead to arbitration, which we cannot hope to win," said a government official. He said a meeting in the law ministry a couple of days ago discussed the legal issues that might come up if the gas price was administered.

"The case for depressing prices was found to be weak," the official added.

He said as the production-sharing contract allowed for a market-driven price, the government could not afford to set a benchmark for administering prices under the New Exploration and Licensing Policy as the pricing formula for the RIL gas would apply to gas from the country's other deep waters as well.

"There are many such issues which we cannot overlook," the official added.

RIL, along with partners Oil and Natural Gas Corporation and British Gas, is selling gas from the Panna-Mukta and Tapti fields for around $4.75 per million British thermal unit (mBtu). It has "discovered" a well-head price of $4.33 per mBtu for its K-G basin gas.

The gas pricing issue is not likely to go to the petroleum regulator, though officials in the petroleum ministry say if the regulator decides the price, there will be no accusations of favouritism. "However, gas pricing is outside the scope of the regulator in its present form," a petroleum ministry official said.

The fertiliser and power ministries, which together consume around 70 per cent of the gas, said they should get supplies at a subsidised rate of less than $3 per mBtu. These companies get gas at an administered price from ONGC and Oil India or use expensive naphtha or fuel oil.

They said since there was no efficient gas market in the country, as demand far outstrips supply, RIL could not claim to have discovered a market-driven price for its gas.

The government has been deliberating on the issue through a committee of secretaries led by the Cabinet secretary. "We are going to reach a decision very soon," the government official said.

The country's deep water and ultra-deepwater regions are believed to hold enough gas to meet the country's demand. The present demand is double the supply of around 85 million cubic metres per day (mcmd).

The government has projected the 2011-12 demand at 283 mcmd, against the domestic production of 108 mcmd and LNG imports of 82 mcmd.

Morgan Stanley: RIL to be $100bn m-cap company

Mukesh AmbaniNEW DELHI, Aug 1: Reliance Industries, India`s most valued firm, may become the first in the country to achieve a market capitalisation of USD 100 bn, international brokerage and equity research major Morgan Stanley said on Tuesday.

Morgan Stanley`s India-based analysts said in a research note sent to the firm`s institutional clients that they were raising the consolidated earnings forecasts for RIL in the current and next fiscals.

They also revised upward their one-year price target for RIL shares, while projecting a 35 per cent surge from the current levels in its "base case" scenario.

Morgan Stanley further said in "bull case" scenario, the shares could rise by about 37 per cent, which when translated into market capitalisation would amount to over USD 100 bn.

RIL`s market cap currently stands at about USD 64 bn, the highest for any listed entity in the country. However, this pales in comparison to the US, where the most valued listed entity Exxonmobil, which is also into the energy business, has a market value of close to USD 485 bn.

None of the Indian companies have ever achieved this mark, even though at least 30 companies in the us have a market capitalisation of more than USD 100 bn. These include tobacco giant Altria Group, insurance major AIG, telecom firm AT&T, Coca-Cola, General Electric, Google, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Intel, JP Morgan, Johnson and Johnson, Merck, Microsoft, Procter and Gamble, Verizon Communications and Wal-Mart.

The combined market cap of all the 30 constituents of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the benchmark index of the US market, is more than four trillion dollars, which is over four times the entire market capitalisation of all the listed entities here in India.

Rising cotton prices will result in a windfall gain for RIL

NEW DELHI, July 30: Polyester margins are expected to move up as high cotton prices will divert demand to synthetic fibers. Reliance, which is claimed to be world’s largest yarn producer will benefit immensely from the change in business cycle.

Rising cotton prices along with falling area under sowing for cotton is further expected to result in improved margins for the polyester business. This along with rejuvenation of downstream textile industry and a greater thrust towards value added exports will improve margins for the polyester business.

In the last one-year global cotton prices have moved up by 23 per cent to US $ 1574 per ton and expected to rise further. Higher cotton prices, historically have resulted in a shift in consumption pattern towards polyester, resulting in better margins for the latter.

Also in the last few years there has been a greater thrust on increasing exports from countries like India and China. Both the countries are looking at increasing high value added exports of textiles and here too they will have to rely upon polyester exports as rising cotton prices will make it uncompetitive.

What will work in Reliance’s favour is a slow down in the Chinese addition of polyester capacity. Since RIL is an integrated player and virtually controls the entire value-chain and hence costs.

Interestingly US, which is world’s largest cotton grower and consumer has seen a 28 percent fall in acreage under cotton production. Most of the farmers have shifted to corn, which is currently yielding better returns on account of the demand from the bio fuel industry

Besides world’s cotton stock has also seen a 13 per cent decline, which will further fuel hike in cotton prices. China too has started using its stock as it has seen higher capacity addition in the downstream processing, which will put additional pressure on global demand-supply scenario for cotton.

In India we are seeing a divergent trend where acreage is under plantation as the sowing season is currently under progress. Indian textile industry, spurred by concession on loan rates from government, is likely to see a spurt in cotton exports from India.

These factors will drive polyester demand and push up prices of polyester further, thus improving RIL’s margins in the polyester business.

RIL reports yet another quarter of outstanding performance

NEW DELHI, July 30: Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has once again announced good results for the first quarter of FY2007-08. The GRM for the first quarter was US$ 15.4 /bbl as against US$ 12.4 / bbl in the corresponding period of the previous year.

RIL’s outstanding performance is a result of a highly complex refinery along with most efficient liquid port, location advantage and following sound economics of buying cheap and selling premium products.

The complex refineries allows RIL to buy and process some of the heaviest and sour crude the world has seen and which only a handful of refineries have the capability to process. The refinery regularly tries out crude from new sources, which are both cheaper and challenging to process.

During the last quarter RIL tried out crude with an API of 21 - 24. API is an indicator of how heavy, sour and difficult the crude is to process. The differential in light and heavy margins has been growing in the past few quarters and today it stands at US $ 5 - 5.5/bbl.

With RIL refinery converted into EoU the company has focused on exports with reducing sales in the local market where it is incurring losses as government refuses to give RIL subsidy at par with what it gives to the PSU oil companies.

For a long time now RIL has outperformed the Singapore complex benchmark GRM by a wide margin. In fact the margin has become so wide that there is no point in comparing RIL’s refining margins with the Singapore complex benchmark. The factors that have contributed to high GRMs are:

Cost of sourcing crude oil; Manufacturing reliability and efficiency; Ability to produce quality transportation fuels; Flexibility of crude oil receipt and product evacuation infrastructure.

The highly complex configuration of the RIL refinery gives it the ability to process heavy and sour crude. The incremental oil supply through new discoveries is also in this category.
Further, many of these crudes are in the "challenged" category and require unique technical capabilities for processing. These factors continue to support high levels of light heavy differentials and provide a unique advantage to the refineries who posses the capability to process heavy and sour crude oils.
During the quarter RIL processed 4 new crudes which it procured at a substantial discount.

The RIL refinery continues to reap the benefits of access to world class logistical infrastructure. This allows the refinery to import up to 100 percent of its crude oil requirement in VLCC’s (Very Large Crude Carrier) capable of bringing up to 2 million barrels in each shipment.

This reduces the freight costs considerably and optimizes the overall landed cost of crude oil. The product evacuation infrastructure again provides the flexibility to evacuate the products in varying parcel sizes and optimizes the supply chain costs of the buyers. This again results in higher realization to RIL for its products.

RIL continues to demonstrate its superior manufacturing capabilities by continuing to run its refinery in a smooth, safe and flexible manner. While worldwide refinery outages have led to spikes in margins, RIL refinery has maintained its reliable operations to take advantage of these opportunities.
Efficiencies in energy consumption, ability to swing production and quality at short notices, readiness and adaptability to accept different crude blends on a continues basis, adjusting operating parameters, blending management and several other factors all add up to a significant contribution to RIL’s GRM.

Growing concerns on the environmental front have lead to most countries making their fuel specifications stringent. As RIL is critically dependent on export markets, it continuously optimizes its product pattern to maximize netbacks to the refinery. This is done while feeding fuels to suit requirements of different quality conscious markets across the world on the one hand and simultaneously making its crude slate heavier and sourer and maximizing "bottom of the barrel" conversion.

In summary while market condition have remained favourable, the large scale, flexible and complex configuration, path breaking efficiency in operations, innovation around crude procurement and the structural advantages of the refinery have uniquely positioned RIL to take advantage of the unfolding opportunities in the refining sector.

Anil, Amar fail once again in attacking Mukesh

Mukesh AmbaniMUMBAI, July 27: Wakf property controversy going on relating to the new dream house of Reliance's Mukesh Ambani met with an anti climax on Friday and brought to light some more interesting aspects about the controversy and throwing in a completely new perspective.

Anil Ambani's friend - Samajwadi party leader Amar Singh arranged a rally to embarrass Mukesh Ambani in this controversy. Samajwadi party issued a press release on Thursday saying there will be a rally of 8000 students who will march and collect donations to give it to Mukesh Ambani as he has taken the alleged wakf property on which an orphanage is supposed to have been built.

However, when people came to know that the so called Wakf property belonged to Madhavarao Scindia and was sold recently to a trust and it is not a wakf property, they decided not to make their children instrument of this blackmail and fight between two rival brothers Anil and Mukesh Ambani.

Rally was to be organised from Govandi, Geeta Vikas School.
On Friday at 2.30 PM, when newsmen from several media agencies went to the site, they realised that there were not more than 10 students there. In fact, there were more media people than the number of protesting students.

After going for a few meters, the rally was abruptly called off after the organisers realised that parents of children have seen through the game of corporate rivalry between two brothers being given communcal colours which none of them want to participate.

When asked to the Maulana leading the rally of less than few students that when there are several properties in dispute on wakf, why Mukesh Ambani is being targeted by Samjawadi party? He answerd that they are not interested any inquiry which is instituted by government and the Wakf board. They will fight for this land without knowing facts that original owners were Madhav Rao Scindia Trust.

When he was further probed why he was using his community angel to help the friend of Samajwadi party head honcho to achieve his corporate objectives, he chose to stay silent.

The rally was finally over within 10 minutes and all children were whisked away some of whom were crying and wanting to go home as soon as possible.

Nervousness over Govt’s gas pricing

NEW DELHI, July 27: More trouble is brewing for the next round of exploration acreage auction, with more companies and investment bankers expressing nervousness over political pressure on the government to renege on contractual commitment to allow market-pricing of oil/gas from new finds.

The latest to join the chorus on the issue is British major BP (formerly British Petroleum). The Times of India had on July 10 first reported that Chevron, Niko, BG (British Gas) and Hardy had written to the government expressing apprehensions over the government reneging on the terms of contracts due to political interference. Such views among global majors will hit efforts to attract investments during the coming auction.

In a letter to oil minister Murli Deora, BP's India head Ashok K Jhawar says, "Were the government to consider the reintroduction of some form of administered pricing for natural gas, we would be concerned since, as a long-term investor in India, of primary importance to us is fiscal stability for the life of our contract''.

"Subsidies in energy pricing should come at the consumer end, not at the exploration end, otherwise experience shows that countries which set an unrealistic well head price of gas suffer from lack of exploration and development since investment tend to flow to higher-price locations."

Even investment bankers are getting jittery over demands from Andhra CM YSR Reddy and state-owned entities that will require the government to renege on contractual commitments.

"Investor nervousness increases when government arms like NTPC and a chief minister, who is from the same party ruling the Centre, challenge existing law and policies," a Singapore-based investment banker said on condition of anonymity.

Though oil/gas is a Central subject, Reddy has rejected market-pricing for gas from Reliance Industries' find off his state's shores and is pressuring the Prime Minister for preferential pricing and first right of use.

NTPC, which has dragged Reliance to court on the liability clause of a gas sale agreement, is also asking the government to take its share of profit in kind. A panel of secretaries is now grappling to form a gas pricing policy, which could undo the benefits of auctioning acreages.

"Investors are not worried about court battles. But when ruling party voices oppose a policy (acreage auction) that had been put in place by Parliament and received wide support from parties that rule today as well as those in the opposition, it signals a politically risky situation to be pumping money," the investment banker said.

MUL profit up 35 pc, to become Maruti Suzuki

NEW DELHI, July 27: New launches and rural marketing initiatives helped market leader — Maruti Udyog — post a 35.18% jump in net profit at Rs 499.6 crore for the first quarter ended June 31, against Rs 369.57 crore during the same period last year.

Total income (net of excise) during the quarter also increased by 27.08% to Rs 4,154.07 crore against Rs 3,268.77 crore in the same period a year ago.

To encash the Suzuki’s success in the global markets, the company’s board has also approved a proposal to change its name to Maruti Suzuki India Ltd subject to shareholders’ and other regulatory approvals.

"This international dimension in the company’s name will help Maruti as it expands its role in the global markets," it said. Shares of the company witness a jump of 3.88% or Rs 31.40 to close at Rs 841 after touching a high of Rs 857.90 after the company announced its results.

Maruti has recently tied up with regional rural banks to provide loans at lower rate of interest. This helped the auto major register a jump of about 105 in sales during the quarter.

During the quarter, the company sold a total of 1,69,669 units as against 1,44,948 units in the same period last year, up 17.1 per cent. In the domestic market it clocked 1,60,604 units, while it exported 9,065 units.

Besides, the company is also focussing on global markets such as Europe along with Afro-Asian markets like where it is already fetching numbers.

The company is currently working on a small car at its Manesar plant and will roll-out 2,00,000 units to cater to the European market.

"Maruti is also developing capabilities to become Suzuki’s R&D hub for Asia outside Japan," it added. MUL’s strong performance comes at a time when the industry is grappling with subdued sales due to increase in interest rates and most of the manufacturers resorting to discounts.

New launches like SX4 and diesel variant of its runaway success ‘Swift’ has helped the company maintain its growth. It had also undertaken various marketing strategies like rural sales and employees scheme to enhance sales.

BP, BG, Hardy slam govt on gas pricing under NELP areas

NEW DELHI, July 22: Slamming the move to regulate gas prices, global giants British Petroleum, Hardy Exploration and British Gas have warned the government of investor backlash if it reneges on its commitment of giving freedom to sell gas at market price from areas auctioned under NELP.

India has attracted 7.2 billion dollar investment in oil and gas hunt through New Exploration Licensing Policy that promised the right to sell the discovered oil and gas at market prices. However, international investors took a serious note when the government formed a committee to look into pricing of gas from Reliance Industries' NELP-I block.

"Were the Government to consider the reintroduction of some form of administered pricing for natural gas, we would be concerned since, as a long term investor in India, of primary importance to us is fiscal stability for the life of our contract," Ashok K Jhawar, country head, BP, which had won to areas for extraction of gas from coal seams (CBM), wrote to Petroleum Minister Murli Deora.

BG India managing director William Adamson on July 10 wrote to Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar that such a development "would dampen the pace of exploration and erode the confidence of the international companies in the forthcoming bidding rounds".

India is planning the seventh round of auction in August.

Chevron India president John R Digby wrote to Deora on July 2 that "market forces should drive the destination, customer selection and pricing of gas in India".

Hardy Exploration vice president Ashu Sagar wrote "any action to renege on commitments will weaken investor confidence not only in NELP but also in Indian contracts."

BP said subsidies in energy pricing should come at the consumer end, not at exploration end. Otherwise, "countries which set an unrealistic wellhead price for gas suffer from lack of exploration and development since exploration investment tend to flow to higher-priced locations".

Niko Resources, one of the first foreign firms to invest in country's oil and gas hunt, said "we are concerned with the recent developments, wherein there is sustained pressure and coercion being exerted (on Reliance) from various sectors (notably power) to reconsider market-determined price".

"We consider such influence being made on gas pricing to be non-compliant with the rights provided to the contractor for marketing of gas at 'arms-length prices to the benefit of parties to the contract (Reliance and Government)' under the Production Sharing Contract," Niko chairman Edward S Sampson wrote to Petroleum Secretary M S Srinivasan on July 3.

Hardy said the Production Sharing Contract for areas auctioned in six NELP rounds guarantee a market determined price. "By artifically imposing (price) restriction, the Government shall impose a country and political risk."

BG said Indian exploration and production scenario had undergone profound changes post NELP and some dramatic results have been obtained in terms of discovery of large oil and gas reserves as well as the emergence of the East coast offshore as a major hydrocarbon province.

Niko said contractors like Reliance invested in fields "keeping in mind the favourable fiscal terms offered under PSC and the anticipated decent return on investment based on competitive hydrocarbon pricing that the PSC provides for.

"The establishment and realisation of a market determined price is what will allow for ensuring the fiscal terms remain internationally competitive, which in turn will induce more such investment from companies like ours," it said.

Much Ado About Nothing

NEW DELHI, July 9: The Chairman of Maharashtra Wakf Board M A Aziz, embroiled in a controversy over the acquisition of land for a residential complex by Mukesh Ambani-owned company Antilia, today said the state government has no jurisdiction to interfere in Wakf-run matters.

In his reply to the notice served on him by the state Revenue and Forest Department, Aziz alleged Wakf Minister Anees Ahmad was "out to exact personal vendetta because I exposed his role in a land deal in Nagpur".

He said he had sent the reply and the government has no jurisdiction in Wakf matters which are to be decided only by Wakf tribunal.

The Wakf Board had earlier issued a notice asking Antilia to explain within seven days why the plot should not be restored to the Board as it was acquired "in contravention of Wakf rules".

The move came two days after the state government termed the deal as "illegal" and directed the Wakf Board to "take back possession" of the property.

However, Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh has said that "as far as I know, the Wakf Board had given a no-objection certificate (for five land deals, including that of Antilia)." Ambani is building a 27-storey skyscraper on a 4,532 sq m plot in south Mumbai.

The Currimbhoy Ebrahim Khoja Orphanage, a charitable Trust, was in acute shortage of funds. The Trust therefore decided to sell the said property and utilise the sale proceeds to shift the Orphanage to an alternate complex. It issued Public Notices in Times of India and Navbharat Times on April 17, 2002, inviting offers from public for the sale of the property. The Trust received many offers and the offer of Antilia Commercial Pvt Ltd of Rs.21.05 crore being highest was accepted and MOU was entered into with them on May 9, 2002.

The Trust submitted its application for permission of Charity Commissioner for the sale of the said property. Permission was granted by the Charity Commissioner on August 27, 2002. As required under the provisions of the Income Tax Act 1961, Form 37-1 was filed with the Appropriate Authority which vide their Certificate dated Sept 11, 2002, certified that it has no objection to the transfer of the said property by the Trust to Antilia Commercial Pvt Ltd for Rs. 21.05 crore.

In April 2004, Antilia Commercial Pvt Ltd received a notice from Maharashtra State Board of Wakfs to explain why action should not be taken to recover the said property from them. In response, Antilia Commercial Pvt Ltd filed a case before the Tribunal constituted under the Wakf Act, 1995 submitting that they have acquired the property after due process of law. In the meantime, the Trust obtained opinion of Dr Tahir Mahmood of National Human Rights Commission that Currimbhoy Ebrahim Khoja Orphanage remains a trust and cannot be regarded as a Wakf.

The Trust represented that it has always been a Public Charitable Trust and is not a Wakf. The Wakf Board after having been satisfied that the sale of the said property is beneficial to the Trust, decided to ratify the sale of the said property in favour of Antilia Commercial Pvt Ltd and accordingly informed the Trust vide its letter dated March 19, 2005. The notice issued by the Wakf Board to Antilia Commercial Pvt Ltd was withdrawn vide letter dated March 23, 2005

As the matter was resolved amicably, the suit filed by Antilia Commercial Pvt Ltd was withdrawn. Since the Wakf Board continued to maintain that the Trust is a Wakf, the Trust has filed a writ petition in 2005 in the High Court of Judicature at Bombay that the Trust is not a Wakf. The Writ Petition is presently pending.

Court defers decision on RIL gas dispute to July 12

MUMBAI, July 5: The Bombay High Court has said it would give its final order on July 12 on the issue of restraining Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL) from selling gas produced from one of its prime blocks in the Krishna-Godavari basin to a third party.

The high court, which had passed an interim order on June 22 on a petition filed by Anil Ambani owned Reliance Natural Resources Ltd. (RNRL) and state-owned NTPC Ltd., was hearing a review petition filed by the Mukesh Ambani owned RIL Thursday.

The court had stated in its interim order that 81.6 million cubic meters of gas per day (mmscmd) was earmarked for RNRL, NTPC or for RIL's captive use for the next eight years.

RIL filed a petition seeking an injunction on the order and argued Thursday that since there was no power project at the blocks and the gas was lying unused it should be permitted to sell the gas to other companies.

Reliance indicated that the sole objective of Anil Ambani owned energy utility is to procure gas by any means through media campaigns and misinformation and thereafter sell the same to end users at a much higher rate and earn huge brokerage without either setting up gas fields or putting up power plants.

It is believed that Anil Ambani group has assured Government that it has most of the approvals and plans would be implemented soon. However, industry experts say that if Anil Ambani would even try in all possibility, no power plant would be ready before 2012, while the gas production from KG basin is expected to start flowing in less than a year if the interim order vacated.

Interestingly the question on the ability of private companies in power sector for setting up mega projects has been questioned as most companies including Anil Ambani group had hardly contributed to additional capacity despite India facing crunch over the last decade.

The country needs natural gas for its energy requirement and the gas in the Krishna-Godavari basin in eastern India should not be allowed to lie idle at a time when we are paying heavily to meet our energy requirements, said RIL counsel Harish Salve.

'We told the court that since the proposed work on the project has not yet started and production of gas will not commence before 2012, what is the point of keeping the gas underground. We have requested the court to review its order,' Salve told reporters after the hearing.

RIL had in the June called for competitive bids for selling the 80 mmscmd of gas and received price bids from various power and fertiliser companies.

'RIL's deal with RNRL was confined to only 40 mmscmd. We should be free to sell the remaining 40 mmscmd to third parties as the volumes being referred to are only on discoveries made before the agreement before June 2005,' he said, referring to the settlement between the two Ambani brothers.

RIL argued on the basis of arguments of Ministry of Petroleum and public at large that the pricing of gas should be market determined and not artificially suppressed.

Reliance had appealed to the division bench to overturn the order which had in effect stalled gas projects thereby delaying nearly 50 per cent of the Indian gas requirement and undermining energy and security.

Reliance in its argument has conveyed to the High Court that it must be allowed to negotiate with the buyers as gas cannot be stored and should not be flared in the hope that Reliance Energy would one day set up its power plant.

USIBC awards for Mukesh Ambani, Boeing's McNerney

By Deepak Arora

Mukesh AmbaniNEW DELHI, June 25: Chairman of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) Mukesh Ambani and Boeing chief James W. McNerney will receive the United States-India Business Council (USIBC) leadership award for "Global Vision" 2007 in Washington on Wednesday.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will also be honoured with the USIBC distinguished service award.

The awards will be given at the two-day USIBC 32nd anniversary summit at the US Chambers of Commerce, a statement from Washington Sunday said.

US Commerce Secretary Carlos Guteirrez will deliver the inaugural speech at the summit that US Trade Representative Susan Schwab and Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath will also attend.

Rice will deliver the keynote speech on "Uniting Two Great Democracies for 21st Century", the statement said.

Kicking off the summit Tuesday will be the 32nd Anniversary Cultural Recital and Gala Dinner at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with a sarod recital by maestro Amjad Ali Khan, whose sons Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan will accompany him.

Meanwhile, sources here said Ambani would meet three top US officials, including Rice, at the event and was likely to hold discussions on a range of issues like outsourcing and energy security.

"Discussions are also likely on alternative energy sources in the wake of growing international concerns over global warming," the sources added.

The Washington headquartered USIBC, a premier advocacy organization, promotes economic reforms to deepen trade relations and broaden commercial ties between the two countries.

"USIBC formulates an annual work plan that targets specific issues important to its 250 member-companies, compiled from progress on-the-ground and to devise strategies and prepare representations to advance sector-specific reforms in India," council president Somers said in the statement.

Toward this, USIBC has partnered with premier Indian business organizations like the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), the American Chamber of Commerce in India (AmCham India), National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM), The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE), and the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (IACC).

Govt to lose $10 bn if RIL gas priced at subsidised rates

NEW DELHI: The government will lose USD 10 billion in revenues and Reliance Industries will make no profit if natural gas from its KG basin fields are sold at subsidised rates instead of the market price, a petroleum ministry official said.

Government will get USD 4.6 billion in royalty, profit share and corporate tax if RIL gas is priced at current subsidised rate of USD 2.50 per million British thermal unit (mBtu). This could go up to USD 14.5 billion if gas is sold at a market-determined price of USD 4.5 per mBtu.

Reliance, which plans to begin production from its KG-D6 block off the east coast from July 2008, stands to get 6.6 billion dollars in revenues at USD 2.5 per mBtu gas price, almost all of which will go into recovering USD 5.2-billion investment being made for developing the field and the project financing cost, the official said.

At USD 4.5 per mBtu, Reliance will get USD 14.9 billion in revenues, he said, indicating the government may accept the price formulation proposed by the company that caps it at 4.58 dollars per mBtu at rupee-to-dollar rate of 41.

RIL plans to index gas price to crude oil with a floor of USD 25 a barrel and a cap of USD 65 per barrel. At the lower level, the gas price comes at USD 2.5 per mBtu.

"This price compares very favourably to the current price of gas being sold by private operators like British Gas (USD 4.75 per mBtu for Panna/Mukta and Tapti fields) and imported LNG (USD 4.8 per mBtu)," he said.

The delivered price of Reliance gas at power and fertiliser plants would be between USD 5.2-6.2 per mBtu, depending on location and taxes.

Industry seeks declared goods status for natural gas

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, June 14: Industry has sought declared good status for natural gas which is fuel of the future for the power, fertilizer and other sectors.

Different Chambers of Commerce and Members of Parliament have sent representations in this regard to several Ministers and officials in various Ministries as well as Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers on VAT that is meeting on Friday.

It was pointed out that natural gas and RLNG are subject to varying rates of Sales Tax in different States. In few States, the rate is as high as 20 per cent.

Besides, the high rate of tax, some States such as Assam and Madhya Pradesh also do not allow input tax credit under VAT law to the gas consumers. As electric energy is exempt from VAT, the power generating companies have no choice but to absorb the entire burden as they cannot avail input tax credit.

Similarly, goods used as fuel are not eligible for VAT credit due to restriction imposed by the states. This restriction badly affects all sectors that are using natural gas as fuel.

Since natural gas is a key input, due to this high and multiple point sales tax structure, the consumers are adversely affected particularly in the fertilizers and power sectors.

Importance of natural gas is likely to increase due to increase in production of natural gas in the coming years with interstate trade also increasing consequently.

It is important to note that suitable relief in sales tax will not only ensure that cost of gas to the end consumer is kept low but will also facilitate development of National Gas Grid in the country.

As a fuel, natural gas has to compete with coal, which enjoys “declared goods” status under Section 14 of the Central Sales Tax Act 1956 thus attracting maximum 4 per cent sales tax.

Also, natural gas and crude belong to the same category – “petroleum”. Thus, when crude enjoys “declared goods” status under CST Act, 1956 natural gas should also be extended the same benefit, it was pointed out.

It may be mentioned that natural gas is the fuel for the future given that it is clean, abundantly available and cost competitive. Projections available from alternative sources on gas consumption points to the fact, that natural gas would be the most preferred fuel in the global energy basket by the year 2025.

The major factors contributing to this include the increasing globalization of gas business, recent discoveries, inherent fuel efficiencies, opening up of the major gas markets and projected growth in imports in the Asia-pacific region, Europe and North America and environmental concerns.

Natural gas is an important source of energy in power, fertilizer, petrochemical and other industries. The Government policy have been promoting investment in the gas sector by providing sops for LNG and is a proof that it recognizes the importance of this sector.

A report of the Sub-Group on Natural Gas and marking of petroleum products for XI Five Year Plan states that natural gas, accounting for 24 per cent of the total global primary energy supply, is the third largest contributor to the global energy basket and with a CAGR of about 3 per cent over the last five years, it is growing at the fastest rate among fossil fuels.

In the power sector, only 11 per cent of total power generation capacity of 1,26,839 MW is based on gas whereas in the fertilizer sector, about 58 per cent of production is based on gas. The corresponding figures in the petrochemicals and LPG/Liquid Hydrocarbon Sectors are 43 per cent and 31 per cent respectively.

The Sub-Group on Gas Hydrocarbon Vision – 2025 has also estimated a long term demand for gas. According to this report, as against the requirement of 151 MMSCMD in 2001-02, the domestic gas supply was 70 MMSCMD. The Report forecast that in future, the demand supply gap would continue to exist, which will have to be met from imports and increase in domestic production.

The Ministry of Power had also undertaken an exercise to identify gas based projects likely benefits from which could accrue during the XI plan period and beyond. The estimated capacity for these gas based power plants is of the order of 31765 MW.

Thus the overall new gas based capacity addition identified for future during XIth / XIIth Plan periods by the Power Sector are of the order of 33,655 MW. The magnitude of gas requirement for all these plants would be of the order of 100 to 120 MMSCMD, when the plants are set up.

Department of fertilizers has proposed the case for switch over to 100 per cent natural gas in the fertilizer sector, which is expected to give a push to gas demand in this sector during the XI Five Year Plan. The projected gas demand in the XI plan period would increase from 40.82 MMSCMD in the year 2007-08 to 79.36 MMSCMD in 2011-12.

The estimated demand as per the current industry estimates in the petrochemicals/refineries and internal consumption (of gas industries) sectors is about 25.37 MMSCMD in 2005-06. These industries are estimated to grow in line with the economic growth. Hence, an annual growth rate of about 7 per cent is assumed during the XI plan period, which would result in demand of 33.25 MMSCMD by the terminal year of the XI Plan.

BoA nod to RIL's Gurgaon, Rewas SEZs

NEW DELHI: The government on Tuesday gave formal approval to the multi-services SEZ of Mukesh Ambani promoted Reliance Industries in Gurgaon and in principle approval to the company's port-based SEZ in Rewas.

The Board of Approval, which met on Tuesday, gave formal approval to 24 proposals and in principle approval to nine other zones.

Apart from Reliance, the SEZs of GMR, Indiabulls and Gitanjali Gems were also approved.

Mukesh Ambani is India's first trillionaire

NEW DELHI, May 28: A sharp surge in share prices of his group companies has earned Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani a rare distinction. He is India’s only trillionaire. He has more than Rs 1,00,000 crore of wealth through his shareholdings.

Younger brother Anil trail close with nearly Rs 90,000 crore in the stock market through his holdings.

Now, just how big is a trillion? For those who are blasé about figures, writer Bill Bryson has a useful perspective. In his book Notes From a Big Country, he writes: “If you were locked in a vault and you could keep every dollar bill you initialled, (we’re assuming that you initial one bill every second and that you don’t need to eat, sleep or take comfort breaks) do you know how long it would take you to make a million dollars?”

It would take you 31,709.8 years to get to your first trillion.

That sorted, one must note that the figures depend on fluctuating share prices, and rich-list rankings can be influenced by the exchange rate of the rupee.

Mukesh, based on his direct and indirect holdings in various group companies, is estimated to have control of about Rs 1,11,000 crore worth shares.

The wealth of the two Ambanis include value of shares held in their names, as well as those held in the names of their children, wives and various holding companies.

In March, Forbes estimated Mukesh’s stakes at $20.1 billion; London-based steel tycoon LN Mittal was then at $32 billion. Together, the Ambanis are worth more than Mittal.

Other Indian billionaires include Azim Premji of Wipro, Kushal Pal Singh of DLF, Sunil Mittal of Bharti, Kumar Mangalam Birla of AVB, Shashi & Ravi Ruia of Essar, Ramesh Chandra of Unitech and Pallonji Mistry of Shapoorji.

Indian Govt to device gas pricing regime

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, May 22: With India's domestic natural gas output projected to nearly double by 2010, the government has undertaken an exercise to device a pricing regime for the fuel that will aid growth in Asia 's fourth largest economy.

Reliance will start gas production from its prolific Krishna Godavari field next year while GSPC and ONGC are to follow suit in the next couple of years, triggering a mammoth exercise to fix a right pricing regime that is beneficial to both, producers and consumers.

"Currently, we have two regimes - administered pricing for gas produced by ONGC/OIL and free market pricing for small quantities of gas produced by joint venture fields. With 120 million standard cubic meters per day output (more than current availability at 91 mmscmd) expected from Bay of Bengal fields,
inputs have been called from industry for shaping the
policy," according to an official.

He said opinions expressed by experts on the issue at a recent industry seminar are being examined by the ministry.

At the seminar, Paul Deemer, a partner with Vinson and Elkins, said that regulated gas pricing deters investment and the government should leave prices to be fixed by free market forces. It should not get involved in gas pricing as long as it is an arms-length transaction.

David Victor, professor of law at Stanford Law School, said pricing of gas in India would be driven by LNG which in-turn takes cues from prices at international gas exchange, Henry Hub.

Claire Spottiswoode of UK said regulators have no role in setting prices in upstream oil and gas exploration because suppliers need adequate incentives to compensate them for investment risks.

Spottiswoode said multiple suppliers aided by third party access, which is competing for consumers, would encourage gas competition.

" India should adopt a single legal jurisdiction, which would deal with all the issues at the national, state and the local

Noting that India would continue to import liquefied natural gas (LNG), which would drive the prices, Victor said gas prices are more volatile than oil. "Higher volatility of gas implies India should have derivatives and other tools for risk management in place."

State-owned companies, according to him, are very poor in developing gas resources. "More important than geology, the business and regulatory environment should encourage the private sector. Private sector will only be encouraged if there is free market pricing of gas."

Deemer said production sharing contract (PSC) for gas fields should allow for transfer of Minimum Work Programme obligations from a not-so-prospective block to the one that has better prospects.

"In some cases, after carrying out some of the minimum work obligations it becomes clear to the company that the remainder of the work in a particular block is futile. Hence, the money earmarked for a not-very-prospective block would be better utilised in the interests of the nation in another block that is more prospective," he said.

He also said PSCs were designed primarily for oil. "Oil and gas cater to different markets and are different animals. There has to be a separate PSC for gas."

Securing natural gas as national asset

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, May 8: Petroleum and natural gas reserves are nation’s strategic assets as the country is facing extreme shortage of this valuable natural resource. To secure the country’s future needs, India has been making efforts to secure petroleum and natural gas supplies from abroad.

In this direction, the government has been securing future needs from the Gulf, including Iran, and even neighbouring countries like Myanmar.

The government also expects to wipe out the current gas deficit of 80 million standard cubic meters per day (mscmd) once the RIL-promoted prolific KG-D6 block begins production beginning July next year.

Though Mukesh Ambani-run Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) had committed 5.2-billion dollar investment in the KGD-6 gas field, it’s the government that’s would own the 85 per cent of the gas. In other words, the gas from this block is a national reserve and cannot be allowed to be shared between the Ambani brothers – Mukesh and Anil.

Anil-led RNRL has not made any investment in exploration or development of the gas fields. With none of its proposed power projects, including Dadri, having not progressed beyond the drawing room stage, his company intents to make trading profit by sale of gas, a national asset that RIL would supply to it.

RIL has been exploring KGD-6 gas field under the Production Sharing Contract (PSC). All the capital and revenue expenses incurred by RIL in exploration and production of gas from the gas field are to be met from sale proceeds of a specified percentage of gas actually produced and sold. The other constituents which have a share in the gas produced from the field are the Government of India and NIKO.

As RIL recovers the expenses incurred by it in exploration and production of gas, the Government’s share of the gas produced from the KGD-6 Block goes up and would at some stage be as high as 85 per cent. In other words, the government can trade this gas for cash or kind and is termed as “profit petroleum”.

It may also be mentioned that many of the existing power and fertilizer producers in the country are operating under-capacity, in spite of the huge unmet demand, only for the reason of inadequate production of natural gas in the country.

In such a situation an order of restraint preventing RIL from producing certain quantity of gas which could have been made available to other operating companies in these priority sectors, is a retrograde step and completely contrary to public interest.

RIL to appeal against order on sale of gas

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, May 6: Mukesh Ambani-run Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) is expected to appeal in a day or two against the Bombay High Court that restrained it from selling half of the intended gas output from its prolific KG-D6 block to parties other than firms owned by his brother.

The High Court has in its May 3 ad-interim order asked RIL not to sell the volumes committed in the 2005 demerger agreement that split the Dhirubhai Ambani empire between Mukesh and Anil.

Sources said RIL was likely to file an appeal against the order with a division bench of the Bombay High Court by Tuesday as the order would force the company to produce only half of the 80 million standard cubic meters per day of planned production from July 2008 in absence of an infrastructure to take the fuel to power plants owned by Anil Ambani Group.

"Our project financing has been done on the basis of producing 80 mmscmd of gas and recovering the cost through sale of that volume. Now here is a position where we will be investing in creating infrastructure for producing 80 mmscmd but actual output will be only half, playing a havoc on the entire financing," a source close to RIL said.

RIL had committed 5.2-billion dollar investment to produce 80 mmscmd of gas beginning July 2008. But with Anil Ambani Group not in a position to take the gas to any of its power plants in absence of a transport pipeline from east coast, this uncertainty, some say, will jeopardize the nations first deep-sea gas development project that was supposed to wipe out the current 80-90 mmscmd gas deficit of growing economy.

Anil’s mega Dadri Power Project in Uttar Pradesh, which was to consume most of the gas, is at least three to four years away from completion.

On Friday last, Union Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde had said in the Lok Sabha that work on Anil Ambani Group's mega Dadri power project in Uttar Pradesh is unlikely to start till gas for the project is tied up. To another question, the Minister said gas from KG Basin was not likely before two years.

The projects depending on gas, Shinde said, should immediately switch over to naphtha to meet the shortage of electricity in the country.

The High Court had also said Reliance Natural Resources Ltd (RNRL) had not specified the year-wise quantities it intends to take.

This has reportedly not happened as Anil’s proposed plans for setting up gas-based power plants, including Dadri, have not progressed beyond drawing board stage, experts pointed out.

"Although the applicant company (RNRL) has specified the quantum of gas which it is entitled to receive fro the respondent company (RIL) by way of supply for their power projects for generation of power, however, it has not disclosed the immediate actual consumption of gas by the existing power projects and future requirements of the concerned power projects."

The court however allowed RIL to go ahead with sale of the remaining 40 MMSCMD volume. "The respondent company (RIL) may proceed with the process of sale of the gas through auction, but of the remainder quantity of the gas explored and produced by it."

Another question being raised is that natural gas is a national asset as the country is facing extreme shortage of this valuable natural resource. There is also a huge deficit of power with no immediate addition to the generating capacity in sight.

RIL has been exploring KGD-6 gas field under the Production Sharing Contract (PSC). All the capital and revenue expenses incurred by RIL in exploration and production of gas from the gas field are to be met from sale proceeds of a specified percentage of gas actually produced and sold. The other constituents which have a share in the gas produced from the field are the Government of India and NIKO.

As RIL recovers the expenses incurred by it in exploration and production of gas, the Government’s share of the gas produced from the KGD-6 Block goes up and would at some stage be as high as 85 per cent. The fact that the gas belongs to the country appears to have been lost sight of completely by the Hon’ble Court while granting the restraining order.

Many of the existing power and fertilizer producers in the country are operating under-capacity, in spite of the huge unmet demand, only for the reason of inadequate production of natural gas in the country. In such a situation an Order of restraint preventing RIL from producing certain quantity of gas which could have been made available to other operating companies in these priority sectors, is a retrograde step and completely contrary to public interest.

RNRL has not and is not required to make any investment in exploration or development of the gas fields. The stated case of RNRL is that it is entitled to make trading profit by sale of gas that RIL supplies to it which is being seriously disputed and resisted by RIL. To permit a private entity with a huge promoter holding to make profits at the cost of the country as a whole is completely contrary to all tenets of public interest.

Buy Canadian citizenship for Rs 45 lakh

NEW DELHI, May 3: There have been reports of people paying huge sums like Rs 30 lakh to go to foreign countries as illegal migrants. However, they seem to have missed a trick. For as little as Rs 45 lakh, an entire family can become Canadian citizens completely legally. In fact, for a somewhat larger amount, a family could get become citizens of the US, UK, Australian or New Zealand too.

The majority of Indians hankering to settle abroad may not know this, but many Indian businessmen have been utilising schemes floated by these countries to gain citizenship in return for investing a few hundred thousand dollars there. What’s more, some foreign banks are even willing to part-finance your investment.

Governments in the US, Canada, UK, New Zealand and Australia, among others, are offering citizenship to anybody (and his/her family) who is willing to invest a certain minimum sum in their country. The sums vary in each case, as do the strings attached.

In the UK, citizenship comes with an investment of £750,000 (about $1.5 million or a little over Rs 6 crore). In the US, $500,000 (Rs 2 crore) will get you and your family citizenship, for New Zealand a million New Zealand dollars (Rs 3 crore).

In Australia, there is no minimum investment stipulated. However, a commitment to start a business within four years will do the trick.

In the case of Canada, the stipulated minimum investment that gets you automatic citizenship is 400,000 Canadian dollars or about Rs 1.4 crore. However, a major Canadian bank, Desjardins — with assets of $130 billion and ranked 92nd internationally — has come up with its own scheme under which it will finance around 70 per cent of the amount if the investor makes a down payment of 30 per cent. That means just Rs 45 lakh will do to get you Canadian citizenship.

Citizenship-for-investment schemes have been around for a couple of years in most cases, but Indians were unable to take advantage of them as they were not allowed to invest more than $25,000 per year abroad till December last year. With the RBI increasing the limit from $25,000 to $50,000 and then to $100,000 last month, ‘buying’ foreign citizenship has become possible. A family of five, for instance, could take out $500,000 in one go without violating RBI guidelines.

Desjardins’ offer is a recognition of this fact. Explaining the scheme, Marc Audet, vice president of Desjardins, said that the bank offers a scheme under which one needs to deposit only C$120,000 with the bank. The bank will finance the remaining C$280,000 to file the application for permanent residency (which entitles you to citizenship after two years) in Canada.

The C$400,000 are invested in interest-free Canadian government bonds. After five years, when the government returns the money, the bank will keep all of it.

In effect, the C$120,000 you pay upfront becomes the interest earned by the bank on the C$280,000 that it lends you to file the application.

RelianceDigital unveiled

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, April 24: To take retail revolution in the country to the international level, Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) has launched its first-ever consumer electronics and household appliances mega store called "Reliancedigital" in the national capital region (NCR) on Tuesday.

Launched with the philosophy of "Grahak Devo Bhava" (Customer is God), President and Chief Executive Ajay Baijal said "Reliance Digital will offer the most competitive pricing, solution and servicing for the products."

"The mega store is one stop shop for all technology solutions in the field of consumer electronics, home appliances, information technology and telecommunications," said Mr Baijal.

The first store, unveiled at Shipra Mall in Ghaziabad, would be followed by another pilot outlet in NCR and four more in the country's south in the coming days. He said the stores would be set up at an investment of Rs 3 to 10 crore each.

"These stores will be spread in an area of 15,000-35,000 square feet. We are planning 150 Reliance Digital mega stores in 70 cities over a period of three to four years," he added.

He said these stores would retail some 4,000 products of over 150 brands covering consumer electronics, home and kitchen appliances, computers, televisions, accessories other personal durable products.

Besides Mr Baijal, the top company officials present at the unveiling ceremony of the mega store included Kamal Nanavaty, Adawal Shanker, Raghu Pillai, Jyotindra Thacker, Navneet Saluja and Nitish Tipnis.

Mr Adawal Shanker is assisting RIL Chairman in acquiring key properties and assets in the NCR for locating the bigger format stores including consumer durables and IT. Recently, RIL had acquired properties worth Rs 1,500 crore in Delhi. Though the company has acquired half a million sq ft of space as of today, in the next three years it will acquire 100 million sq ft for its chain of stores.

The digital stores will be in a combination of standalone stores and malls. Reliance Retail had announced an investment of Rs 25,000 crore for its retail expansion by the year 2011. The company had earlier launched Reliance Fresh retail stores in November last year, for selling fruits, vegetables, staples and dairy products.

"Since the opening of Reliance Fresh in Hyderabad six months ago, the group has opened over 134 more stores in 17 cities in 10 states," Baijal said.

To take care of aam aadmi, he said the company will also offer zero per cent finance options to the consumers and also extended warranties.

As a pioneering service trend in the country, Reliancedigital also introduced "RehanceresQ", an end to end solution related to all your technology products. RelianceresQ, through a network of in-house service centers will provide the consumers with pre sales and post sales support services.

"Reliance will also come out with its private label of consumer durables products... that is definitely in the strategy after we open four to five stores," he said.

The company also continues to offer all its customers RelianceOne, a common membership and loyalty program across all its formats, which follows the philosophy of 'Earn Anywhere, Spend Anywhere'.

The Reliance Digital foray is part of the group's plans to invest in multiple formats of malls, hypermarkets, discount stores, supermarkets, specialty stores and convenient stores.

Now Indians can invest $1 lakh abroad

NEW DELHI, April 24: Individuals can now invest more money outside India with RBI increasing the ceiling on such investments from $50,000 to $1 lakh.

RBI's lean season credit policy, announced on Tuesday, allows individuals to book forward contracts up to an annual limit of $1 lakh, which can be freely cancelled and rebooked.

RBI has also increased the aggregate ceiling on overseas investment by mutual funds to $4 bn.

Mukesh Ambani wields willow as he turns 50 and frisky

Mukesh AmbaniMUMBAI, April 22: Metre-high cakes, jet-setting parties, performances by film stars and an unabashed show of wealth are usually the ingredients of a business tycoon's birthday bash, but India's richest resident Mukesh Ambani padded up for a game of cricket last week on his 50th birthday that passed with very little notice.

But as the low-profile business mogul paired with his son to defeat the rival team captained by wife Nita, the stock market conjured up the perfect gift for the winner - a 50 billion dollar valuation of his flagship company Reliance Industries (RIL) in terms of market capitalisation.

RIL's market cap increased to Rs 2,14,774.43 crores -- equivalent to over 50 billion dollars on the back of the company's shares touching a 52-week high of Rs 1,545 last week. Ambani, whose net worth was 20.1 billion dollars as of March this year, owns a personal stake of 48 per cent in RIL.

The corporate behemoth had been at Rs 1,38,640 crore level in market cap a year ago.

Sources said Ambani had mooted the idea of a cricket match with family and employees, as he loved sports.

Incidentally, his estranged brother Anil, who was credited with influencing Reliance's decision to sponsor the 1987 Reliance World Cup, was in Mumbai attending the wedding bash of Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan.

Mukesh Ambani, ranked 14 among the Forbes's list of world's 100 billionaires, spent the evening with his mother Kokilaben and family, besides friends, including ICICI Bank chief K V Kamath.

Mukesh Ambani's Reliance group has diversified from being a pure petrol-to-petrochemical player to retail business with investments of over 5.5 billion dollars. His other mega plans include 10 billion dollar investment in developing Special Economic Zones.

Montek favours market price for fresh gas finds

By Deepak Arora

Montek Singh AhluwaliaNEW DELHI, April 17: Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia has favoured moving progressively toward market-determined gas prices as the country is on the verge of making gas finds and attracting investment in the sector.

Addressing a seminar on “Expansion of the gas markets”, organized here by Observer Research Foundation, a non-governmental think tank, Mr Ahluwalia said the government has doubts about the gas-pricing issue, which the country has not yet defined despite adopting a market-determined pricing system for petroleum products.

"We should progressively move toward market-determined prices of gas as we have done in the case of petroleum products," he said.

"This is required as in the next few years we would see a lot of new gas discoveries being made particularly in the private sector."

"I am of the view that market-determined gas pricing would allow us to experiment with a system where a very substantial volume of gas would not be put under the administered-price mechanism," he said.

Touching upon the difficulty faced by the power generators regarding gas-based capacities -- both existing and projected -- Mr Ahluwalia said, "It’s clear that one of the key issues really is pricing of gas.

Administered price mechanism created expectations somehow that gas will be available at relatively low prices and for a sustained period. This led to a lot of power capacity being set up based on loose assurances of gas supply which were not actually legally enforceable."

Mr Ahluwalia said very little investment was being planned for gas-fired power plants now, signifying investors have learnt their lessons.

Investors are being dissuaded by shortage as well as market-driven price for quantities that are not controlled by government.

Since coal still remains -- and will remain -- a key fuel for generating electricity, producers attuned to APM gas find the market price prohibitive.

One way to bring some sort of parity in the two fuels could be to put a premium on environmental impact of power generation.

Mr Ahluwalia suggested levying a ‘carbon tax’ -- a euphemism for taxing polluting industrial emissions — on electricity generation units to prod the power sector to accept a market-driven price for natural gas. Such a tax will raise the cost of coal, which is more polluting than gas.

Ashwani Narula – Furniture Prince of India

By Sushma Arora

Ashwani NarulaNEW DELHI: We talk about a magic mantra for success with a young self made dynamic entrepreneur who has not only risen to fame from ground levels but has motivated and inspired several in the home decoration business.

Ashwani Narula of the brand – Benchcraft Concept, creates ripples in the décor business with his inimitable style and approach. Blessed with nerves made of Steel and a humour to match, Ashwani captures the imagination of his clients while spinning the magic yarn of colours shapes and style.

Benchcraft MumbaiWhile we keep reading about India, emerging as a brand to reckon with, we wonder simultaneous about the key players tugging the success forward. While the industrialists of our country are inspiring global businesses, people like Ashwani have risen to fame thanks to their persistence, perseverance and sheer hard work and are a motivational force for the upcoming young entrepreneurs.

"I believe the only way to gain wealth and fame is to either earn it or inherit it." In his case it surely has been earned. Having lost his father early, the young lad with family responsibilities to shoulder Ashwani, decided to get in the furniture and furnishing business rolling with what ever resources he could muster.

Benchcraft DelhiHe got his first contract from his maternal uncle to furnish the upcoming Canada Colony at the Napth Japhri project. There was no stopping him after that. Fearless, ruthless at work and practically no personal life were the few highlights of his early years.

In 1997, he launched his own firm, A.N. Enterprises. He began supplying furniture to big showrooms from his small factory in Kirti Nagar, a furniture hub in West Delhi, with one carpenter and one polisher. Today his firm employs 150 skilled people.

Of course, in the intervening period, Ashwani launched his own brand name "Benchcraft" in 2001 with his first showroom spread over 2,000 sq ft in upscale Ghitorni, Mehrauli Gurgaon Road, bordering Delhi and Gurgaon. End 2004, he opened another showroom spread over 25,000 sq ft in the same area. He reached the big league in mid-2006 with the launch of 65,000 sq ft showroom in the same area.

Benchcraft MumbaiThere was no looking back for him as he opened one show room after another. He launched his 7,500 sq ft showroom in Mumbai on September 3, 2006 in Raghuvanshi Mills, an interior and furniture hub for rich and famous.

In January this year, Benchcraft made inroads in Hyderabad. Ashwani is opening his next showroom shortly in Bangalore, the IT capital of India.

Commenting on his firm, Ashwani says: A.N. Enterprises carries out the business of interior designing and manufacturing of all kinds of furnishing and allied accessories.

Benchcraft HyderabadNeedless to say, the firm is professionally managed with full time professionals, in-house employees and consultants.

"It is totally self sufficient in terms of designing turnkey execution and manufacturing of furniture and has a comprehensive setup in form of office as well as manufacturing unit," he adds.

Some of companies for whom he has done the turnkey projects include Pizza Corner, McKinsey, Unitech, Siemens, Hindustan Lever, Sukam, Flex Industries, Patni Computers, Hutch and three properties of Hotel Jukso in Pune, Gurgaon and Delhi.

Benchcraft DelhiPopularity of his furniture and furnishing can be gauged from the fact that it also travels to far off places in Australia, the US, the UK, Hungary, Dubai and Singapore.

In its endeavor to remain ahead of the competitors, Benchcraft as a brand caters to individual interior designing requirements of the clients. The firm is constantly engaged in providing the latest and the best designs.

A.N Enterprises has its own chain of competent fabricators having excellent facilities of carpentry and joining with specialized workers who work directly under the supervision of the firm through its representative for different projects, with a view to completing each project within the stipulated time and ensuring strict quality control.

Ashwani is single and lives with his mother and sister in Gurgaon, Haryana.

Essar acquires Algoma Steel

MUMBAI, April 16: Ruias owned Essar Steel has announced that they have agreed to acquire Canadian Algoma Steel for an aggregate value of 1.8 billion Canadian dollars (approx. USD 1.58 bn) to be paid in cash.

Commenting on the deal Shashi Ruia, Chairman Essar Global Ltd, an arm for Essar Groups' international operations, said "we believe Algoma is an excellent addition to our existing steel business and also offers growth potential. This acquisition fits in with our global steel vision of having world class low cost assets with a global footprint."

Benjamin Duster, Chairman of Algoma's Board of Directors said, "The Board of Directors unanimously supports the Essar proposal as it reflects a significant premium to the historical share price of Algoma."

Algoma Steel is an integrated steel producer based in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario with steel shipments of 2.4 million tonnes in 2006.

It has revenue of 1.9 billion Canadian dollars which are primarily derived from the manufacture and sale of rolled steel products, including hot and cold rolled steel and plate.

The offer price of 56 Canadian dollars per share represents a premium of 48 percent to Algoma's stock price for the 20-day period ending on February 14, 2007 when Algoma confirmed that it was in discussions regarding a potential transaction, a joint statement by the two companies said.

The arrangement must be approved by Algoma's shareholders by the affirmative vote of at least 66 percent (2/3rd) of the votes cast, in person or by proxy, at a shareholders meeting, and is subject to customary closing conditions including necessary regulatory approvals.

The support agreement provides for payments to Essar in the event that the acquisition is not completed under certain circumstances.

Algoma expects the shareholders meeting to approve the arrangement will be held in June and the acquisition will be completed shortly thereafter if approved by the shareholders.

"The Board of Directors of Algoma has unanimously recommended that Alogma shareholders vote in favour of the transaction," the statement said.

Ruia, said Algoma will provide Essar an excellent platform for the Canadian and North American market.

"We are impressed with Algoma's management team and look forward to working with them to enhance our industrial leadership," he said.

UBS investment bank is acting as exclusive financial adviser to Essar and sole arranger of Essar's transaction financing.

Genuity Capital Market is acting as exclusive financial adviser to Algoma.

Reliance's ‘discovery man’ gets Padmashree

By Deepak Arora

President Kalam confering Padmashree on Ravi BastiaNEW DELHI, March 29: He is not a magician or a tarot card reader. Yet, he can see what lies miles beneath the Mother Earth. Not just beneath, but 3 to 4 miles down below referred to as “Paattaal Lok”. Meet the living wizard, Dr Rabi Narayan Bastia, who has been successfully finding oil and gas reserves for the energy-hungry India for over a decade.

In reorganization of his services in the area of science and technology, the President, Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, has conferred the Padmashree, one of the country's highest civilian honours, on Dr Bastia.

Padmashree is an award given by the Government to Indian citizens to recognize their distinguished contribution in various spheres of activity.

Dr Bastia, who has 28 years of exploring behind him, has worked in India and abroad. He was working as a Chief Geologist with ONGC, when Dirubhai Ambani, a great visionary himself, discovered him and asked him to head the exploration business for the Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) in 1996.

“Dhirubhai Ambani was a great visionary. He always embarked on where others dread to tread. Though Dhirubahi had no training as geologist, but he saw huge hydrocarbon reserves in the deep waters of the country and had felt that is what the country will need in the future,” said Dr Bastia.

"We were a handful of people in the exploration and production (E&P) division. Apart from being a sleeping partner in Panna/Mukta and Tapti oil and gas fields, Reliance had no experience in this hugely risky business. But Dhirubhai Ambani encouraged us to go into areas never attempted before," he said.

“It was Dhirubhai, Reliance founder, who scripted his dreams and these are being converted into reality with full dedication by his son, Mr Mukesh Ambani, who is the current Chairman of RIL” said Bastia.

It may be mentioned that the national award to Bastia is the first Padam shree received in the Reliance family. “I am delighted to hear this and you have become the first person to bring this national honour to the Reliance family,” Mukesh Ambani told Bastia when he met him after hearing the great news.

President Kalam confering Padmashree on Ravi BastiaWhen Bastia joined Reliance in 1996, Dhirubhai Ambani was giving shape to energy foray of the company, which till then was into petrochemicals and textiles.

With the backing of Dhirubhai and Mukesh Ambani behind him, Bastia went on discovery spree. His very first gas discovery in the Krishna Godavari basin, some 200-km from Andhra coast, turned out to be the world’s largest deepwater find in the year 2002.

Subsequent to the Dhirubhai-1 discovery, Reliance made 16 more finds in the block KG-DWN-98/3 (also known as KG-D6) in Bay of Bengal.

The block is estimated to hold an in-place reserve of about 35 Trillion cubic feet and when the first two of the finds in the block go on stream mid-2008, the nation's 80 million standard cubic meters per day gas deficit will be wiped out.

Under Bastia, Reliance also found oil in the block and made a sizeable discovery in block NEC-25 off the Orissa coast. The discovery in the Mahanadi offshore is another tribute to his foresight, particularly due to the fact that this discovery was preceded by a long spell of unsuccessful exploration by previous operators.

A famous zoologist, Pratt, had said: “The best discoveries of the world have been found by conviction of the people.” He said “Dhirubhai not oly had such dreams but firm convictions. And we tried to prove him right by connecting his convictions through Pratt.”

On exploration, Bastia said “it is a passion in a sandy desert where one has two conflicting images – a mirage and a real image. So if you hit the right one you have plenty. If not then you burn yourself very fast.”

He said “this is the only science which more of an art. It is only inexact science where two plus two do not make four. Here human ingenuity is coupled with tools, technology etc. It has not set rules and change is name of the game. Of course, one needs plenty of optimism.”

A couple of years after Bastia joined the Reliance Group, the first round of auction of exploration areas under New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) happened. “We bid and won KG-D6 block. Using 3D seismic we saw huge hydrocarbon 'plays' (potential) and our assessment proved right when in the very first well we found huge gas reserves."

With a team of 160 people, he now looks after exploration in 36 blocks that Reliance has in India and nine abroad. "Our job is to create value (discover oil and gas) and hand it over to another group which develops the finds."

The company's focus is now on deepwater acreages in the East coast and Bastia feels that three to four big finds may happen over the next couple of years.

“No new oil and gas fields can be discovered with world ideas. No new fields can be discovered with old concepts. But new fields can be discovered in old areas with newer concepts.” That’s my vision for India, says Bastia. Ameen.

SAIL launches exquisite dinner set

By Deepak Arora

Union Minister of Chemicals & Fertilizers and Steel Ram Vilas Paswan (centre) launching the Salem Steel dinner set in the presence of Secretary (Steel) R.S. Pandey, and SAIL Chairman S.K. Roongta, Chairman (left).NEW DELHI, March 29: The steel major, Steel Authority of India (SAIL), has entered the market with exquisite giftware to give the private players a run for their money. In run up to this, it has launched Odyssey – a 40-piece stainless steel dinner set.

The launch was done by the Minister of Steel and Chemicals & Fertilizers, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, in the presence of Secretary (Steel), Mr R.S. Pandey, and SAIL Chairman, Mr S.K. Roongta.

The newly designed kitchenware, which is priced at Rs 10,500 and is 30 per cent cheaper than its competitors, is made from stainless steel product of the Salem Steel Plant of SAIL.

The exquisite 12 kg Odyssey collection presents a combination of the conventional bright finish and the contemporary brush finish making it an ideal choice for the dining table. Crafted out of Salem Stainless, the new dinner set is designed for a family of six. The Odyssey dinner set – a lasting gift for a lifetime represents a combination of aesthetics and utility.

In the recent months, SAIL has embarked on several initiatives in the recent months to bring the company closer to the ultimate consumers. This includes measures to expand the distribution outlets by appointing dealer in every district across the country.

Moving in tandem with the new philosophy, the Salem Steel Plant has been giving an added thrust on manufacturing value added stainless steel products – virtually anything in stainless steel right from kitchenware to pipes and tubes, roofing sheets, fabricated products et al.

Salem Steel Plant is the bulk producer of high quality stainless steel and has always been acknowledged as the benchmark in stainless steel.

SAIL is now implementing Rs.1553 crore expansion-cum-backward integration plan to install new SMS and Continuous Casting facility to produce stainless slabs at the annual rate of 180,000 tonnes and to expand capacity of SSP's existing Cold Rolling Mills (CRM) to 146,000 tonnes to meet the growing demand of stainless steel in the country.

Reliance Fresh is numero uno

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, March 29: In an encouraging spate of retail outlets opening in the National Capital Region (NCR) in the past six months, Reliance Fresh has captured the numero uno position and is still rising, giving worry to its competitors.

The sales have exceeded all estimates with average sale by a store being to the tune of Rs 5 lakhs, while the company had estimated the same to be around Rs 2 lakhs. The footfalls are also high being 4,000 per day, sources said.

Reliance Fresh is expected to open its 100th retail store sometime next week. The question being debated is whether Pune can beat Delhi and breast the 100th outlet landmark. If so, Delhi will have the honour of having the 101st shop.

Without wanting to be identified, sources within the Reliance group of companies say the company has so far opened 96 Reliance Fresh stores, spread over a carpet area of 2,50,000 sq ft in different parts of the country .

Delhi has 24 of the 96 shops in the country today and accounts for 30 per cent of the total sale.

The company claims there has been overwhelming response to Reliance retail in the period under review. Looking at the very encouraging response from the public and the buyers, there are plans to commission more city distribution centers and city processing centers that will further strengthen the supply chain.

Also, back end sourcing has been strengthened so that the demand is not left unattended or not met. The effort also is to step up quality controls and checks and help the existing vendors by providing them quality products.

Additionally, it is stated that the mother company of Reliance Fresh, Reliance Industries Ltd is pitted to start in the National Capital Region a hyper market that will sell electronics goods as part of project.

NTPC-SAIL Power JV announces 3 crore interim dividend

By Deepak Arora

SAIL Chairman S.K Roongta (3rd from left) receiving the interim dividend cheque from  R.C. Shrivastav, Chairman,  NSPCL and Director (HR), NTPC (2nd from right - 1st row)NEW DELHI, March 22: NTPC-SAIL Power Company Pvt Limited (NSPCL), a 50:50 joint venture between Steel Authority of India Ltd. (SAIL) and National Thermal Power Corporation Ltd. (NTPC Ltd.), announced an interim dividend of Rs 3 crore for its shareholders.

The company presented an interim dividend cheque of Rs 1.5 crore to SAIL, its joint partners, in a function held here today. Mr S.K. Roongta, Chairman, SAIL, received the cheque from Mr R.C. Shrivastav, Chairman, NSPCL and Director (HR), NTPC. Director (Finance), SAIL, Mr Soiles Bhattacharya and other senior officers were present on the occasion. Final dividend would be paid after finalisation of annual accounts in September 2007.

NSPCL which manages the captive power plants at Rourkela, Durgapur and Bhilai with a combined capacity of 314 megawatts (MW) has been in profit ever since its formation in 2001. The company registered profit after tax of Rs 30.67 crore in 2005-06. It has been distributing dividend continuously for the last five years and has paid a total dividend of Rs 77 crore since 2001-02.

The operational parameters of NSPCL are of high standards with the Plant Load Factor (PLF) of the plants in the range of 85-93% which is much above the national average. The company is presently executing a major capacity enhancement plan. This includes 2X 250 MW Thermal power plants being set up at an estimated project cost of Rs 2,500 crore at Bhilai.

On the occasion, Mr. S.K. Roongta, Chairman, SAIL, appreciated the excellent performance of the SAIL-NTPC JV company since its formation and said “NSPCL will set a new standard in the working of power plants.”

The other Power JV of SAIL, Bokaro Power Supply Company Pvt. Ltd. (BPSCL), a 50:50 joint venture with Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC), which manages the captive power plant at Bokaro Steel Plant having a rated capacity of 302 MW, has been in profit ever since its formation in 2002.

SAIL floats Cement JV with Jaiprakash Associates Ltd

By Deepak Arora

Mr. G. Ojha, Director (Personnel), SAIL (left) and Mr. Manoj Gaur, Executive Chairman , Jaiprakash Associates Ltd. (right) signing the JV in presence of Mr. S.K. Roongta, Chairman, SAIL (centre).NEW DELHI, March 21: SAIL today signed a shareholder agreement with Jaiprakash Associates Ltd (JAL) to form a Joint Venture Company (JVC) for producing 2.2 Million Tonnes (MT) cement per annum from the slag generated during the Blast Furnace operations at its Bhilai Steel Plant.

The agreement was signed by Mr. G. Ojha, Director (Personnel), SAIL and Mr. Manoj Gaur, Executive Chairman of Jaiprakash Associates Ltd. in presence of Mr. S.K. Roongta, Chairman, SAIL.

Ernst & Young are the lead consultant and financial advisor for this venture and Holtec is the technical consultant. Director (Finance), SAIL, Mr. Soiles Bhattacharya and Regional Director of Ernst & Young, Mr. Prashanto Sengupta were also present on the occasion.

The JVC will have 26 per cent equity contribution from SAIL and 74 per cent from JAL, making it SAIL’s largest joint venture with a private sector player. The Board of the JV Company will have members from both companies in proportion of their equity. The JV will have its unit located at Bhilai and Satna to have better economies of operations.

While SAIL is India’s largest steel producer, Jaiprakash Associates is the fifth largest cement producer in India and the JV will benefit from their strengths in respective areas. The approximate cost of this project is Rs. 600 crore which will be completed in 37 months.

The JVC is being formed as a part of the company’s sustained eco-friendly efforts to explore the alternative mode of slag disposal at its Bhilai Steel Plant. The JV will enable the plant to gainfully utilize the slag generated in its Blast Furnaces and also the idle assets of Satna Mines.

While SAIL will offer 1 MT of granulated slag annually and provide land at Bhilai and Satna on lease to the JVC, JAL will organize debt and ensure project execution within defined scope, cost and time. JAL will also be responsible for project and operations of the JVC.

On the occasion Mr. S.K. Roongta, Chairman, SAIL said “This is the largest joint venture that SAIL was embarking on with a partner from private sector. Steel and cement being the prime inputs for infrastructure development of the country, we are happy for our association with the cement industry.”

Mr. Manoj Gaur, Executive Chairman, JAL, said, “It’s a giant stride for J.P Associates to be a JV partner with a business organization like SAIL. The JV will have state-of-the-art technology and shall be completed ahead of schedule.”

SAIL has plans to set up a similar cement producing unit as a joint venture in Bokaro. The earlier joint ventures of SAIL in power plants at all its major integrated steel plants are running successfully.

RIL, IPCL boards give green signal to merger

MUMBAI, Mar 10: The Board of Mukesh Ambani group's Reliance Industries on Saturday approved the merger of subsidiary IPCL with itself a move that will help push the corporate giant's turnover to about Rs 1,00,000 crore and give it a competitive edge.

The Boards of the two companies have approved a swap ratio of 1:5, which means IPCL shareholders would receive one share of RIL for every five shares held by them.

Through the merger RIL would issue six crore shares to IPCL shareholders, which would expand its equity shares share capital to Rs 145.3 crore resulting in an equity dilution of 4.12 per cent, a company statment said.

Analysts believe that the merger could dilute the stake of RIL's promoters by 1.7 per cent from 43.1 per cent to 41.4 per cent post merger.

RIL's turnover stood at Rs 83,487 crore for the nine months ended December 30, 2006, while IPCL had posted a Rs 10,307 crore turnover in the same period.

Analysts expect the merger to bring additional benefits like reduced management costs for the group, besides marketing synergies already being reaped by the company ever since RIL acquired control of IPCL in 2002.

"We believe that the merger brings benefits like reduced management costs and increased management bandwidth, other benefits like product grade optimisation (and) marketing synergies, had been incorporated earlier after RIL took over the management control in 2002," analysts at domestic brokerage firm Edelweiss Capital said in a report.

"The merger will be earnings accretive for shareholders of RIL and shall provide shareholders of IPCL an opportunity to participate in RIL's diversified business portfolio," RIL Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani said in a statement.

RIL's board also approved an interim dividend of Rs 11 per share, while IPCL board approved interim dividend of Rs six per share for the shareholders.

The appointed date of merger of IPCL with RIL is April 1, 2006.

The merger would also enhance RIL's profits as it derives 35 per cent of profit after tax from petrochemicals. Net profits of RIL stood at Rs 8,055 crore for the nine months ended December 31, 2006 whereas IPCL had reported a net profit of Rs 1,014 crore in the same period.

The proposed merger is expected to facilitate the integration of management resources with economic interest, while providing for free flow of products and intellectual capital between the two companies.

At present, promoters' stake in IPCL stands at about 47 per cent, FIIs hold 12.5 per cent, insurance companies hold close to nine per cent and the government has a marginal stake.

In June 2002, the Centre as part of its disinvestment programme divested 26 per cent of its equity shares in favour of Reliance Petro Investments Limited (RPIL), a Reliance group company. Subsequently, RIL increased its holding to 46 per cent through an open offer.

RIL hives off overseas oil, gas projects into a Dubai firm

NEW DELHI, Mar 10: Reliance Industries has hived-off its overseas oil and gas projects into a separate wholly-owned company based in Dubai and is eyeing a tie-up with ONGC Videsh Ltd to jointly bid for oil and gas opportunities abroad.

Reliance Exploration and Production DMCC has been formed with Mukesh Ambani as its chairman, industry sources said.

The company's interest in a discovered oil block in Yemen and in an offshore exploration block in Oman, besides exploration projects in northern Iraq, East Timor and Columbia will be transferred to the new company.

The Dubai-based firm has been modelled on lines of ONGC Videsh Ltd, which is a fully owned overseas investment subsidiary of state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC).

"Reliance has realised that it needs to delink assets in politically risk-prone areas from its balance sheet. Besides, it also makes business sense because every time they brought home seismic data of any overseas assets for processing, they paid 12 per cent customs duty," a source said.

The source said, "It is keen on bidding together for major opportunities with OVL. OVL, which has presence in 15 countries and has well-known tie-ups like the one with Mittal Steel for overseas oil asset acquisitions, has earned itself a reputation as a serious player. Reliance is a conservative player and would rather like to share risks with OVL."

Reliance spokesperson was not immediately available for comments.

The company is looking at opportunities in Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.

The Mukesh Ambani-run Reliance Industries is keen on acquiring gas fields in the Central Asian region and Middle East.

"It wants to bring the gas in its liquefied form (LNG) to a terminal on the west coast. This gas would act as balance to the company's gas from Krishna Godavari field on the east coast," the source said.

Reliance Industries has interests in one exploration block each in Yemen and Oman. Oil has been discovered in onshore Malik-9 block in Yemen and a development plan for the block has been approved by the Yemeni Government and test production commenced in December 2005, according to the company website.

In the Oman offshore block where RIL is the operator, the existing seismic data has been collected and 2D reprocessing of data is underway.

The company has also signed a technical evaluation agreement with ANH (Columbia's hydrocarbon regulator) and also entered into a cooperation agreement with Ecopetrol (national Oil Co of Columbia) for farm-in opportunities in that country.

65,000 jobs at stake in private petrol stations

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, March 8: There is growing unrest among the dealers and employees working in the retail outlets of private oil companies as their jobs and investments are under threat due to discriminatory policies of the Government which are heavily loaded in favour of public sector undertakings.

The threat is affecting nearly 65,000 people employed in the sector and large number of dealers who had invested Rs 1.5 crore to Rs 2 crores each in these outlets.

These outlets were set up after the Government of India notified a new policy for deregulation and marketing of petroleum products at the market driven prices.

The announcement on April 1, 2002 declared that the consumer prices of motor spirit and high speed diesel will be market determined with effect from that date. Consequent to this policy rights were granted to private players which made heavy investments in order to sell these products at market prices.

But contrary to this policy, since mid 2004 the Government began to intervene and prevent PSU marketing companies from increasing domestic prices as a result of hike in international prices. The Government also compensated PSU marketing companies through budgetary support in terms of oil bonds and discount given by upstream players like ONGC.

This non-transparent process compensated PSUs for about one-third of their under recoveries on Motor Spirit and High Speed Diesel in 2005-06 (Rs. 5,931 crores out of Rs. 14,964 crore) and fully in 2006-07 (est. Rs. 20,500 crores).

The private companies were left with no choice but to either absorb huge losses by continuing to sell MS and HSD at same price as public sector undertakings or reduce volumes through price increase. Any attempt to sell products at prices higher than PSU oil companies resulted in no sale.

The consumers are also suffering because they are forced to buy from PSUs outlets only. This is also increasing the subsidy burden on the Government as PSUs have to sell larger volumes.

The only solution of the problem lies in scrapping subsidies and taxes that co-exist along with subsidized LPG and PDS Kerosene. This virtually eliminates the possibilities of participation by private sector.

One time reduction in excise duty can enable Government of India to eliminate subsidies in all forms and also help in reviving private sector and assure in better customer service through competition.

The impact of any subsequent increase in international prices can be countered by reducing excise duty by Rs. 300/KL on HSD and Rs. 420/KL on MS for every dollar per barrel increase in international prices or alternatively in steps of Re 1/litre for both MS and HSD for every 3 USD/Bbl increase in International prices.

The other option is to pay subsidy to the private companies also as done in the case of PSU marketing companies. Another alternative is to have fix subsidy per litre which can be adjusted by oil marketing companies in both the sectors on duty payments based on excise paid with gate passes for removal of products from refineries for domestic consumption. This is the pattern followed in the case of fertilizer industry.

SAIL wins SCOPE Gold Trophy

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, March 8: Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) has been conferred the Gold Trophy of the ‘SCOPE Award for Excellence and Outstanding Contribution to the Public Sector Management’ in the Institutional Category for the year 2004-05.

The award was presented by the Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh, to SAIL Chairman Mr S.K. Roongta at a function held at the Parliament Library Building in New Delhi this morning.

SAIL, the largest steel maker of the nation, was one of the leading PSUs that received the award on the occasion.
Instituted by the Standing Conference of Public Enterprises (SCOPE), the apex body of public sector organisations, the award aims to reward, recognise and encourage the contribution of public enterprises as well as of outstanding individuals for their vision and leadership qualities in creating national wealth. The five-member jury for the awards was headed by Justice P.N. Bhagwati.

SAIL had earlier bagged the special SCOPE Award in the Turnaround category for achieving a spectacular turnaround in 2003-04.

Today’s award function was held on the occasion of the Conference of Chief Executives of Central Public Sector Enterprises on ‘Empowering Public Sector for Growth’ organised under the auspices of the Department of Public Enterprises and SCOPE.

Global stock meltdown takes Sensex down by 471 pts

MUMBAI, March 5: Stocks across the world fell on Monday, as spooked investors shunned risky equities and headed towards less riskier assets like government bonds.

The 30-share Bombay Stock Exchange Sensitive Index (Sensex) fell 4.12 per cent or 506.42 points to close at 12,310 points, even as markets across Asia, Europe and the US touched new lows in recent times.

The markets meltdown was triggered by the rising value of the Japanese Yen against the US dollar, that saw investors rushing to unwind their carry trades. Japan is an export-oriented economy and an appreciating yen will hurt exporters like Toyota whose profits are likely to come down. This led Japanese markets to fall.

Japanese institutional investors (who invest say 60 per cent in Japan and 40 per cent in other markets) had to exit or cover their margins. To do so, they began selling in other markets; other foreign investors also became nervous and joined them, which saw markets falling across Asia, Europe and the Americas.

With valuations running high (markets across the globe were trading at historic highs), investors were nervous and were looking for a trigger to exit. So, the crash in the Chinese stock markets last Tuesday saw indices across Asia and Dow falling.

Another big concern facing the markets is the slowdown of the US economy, which is expected to now grow at a slower 2.50-3 per cent a year. A slowdown in the US means that exports to the US would drop as US will consume less.

India already runs a trade deficit and current account deficit, both of which are likely to widen further. These deficits are financed and balanced by the capital flows—foreign direct investment and foreign institutional investment. As long as the trade gap widens, the rupee will continue to depreciate further.

Now, as long as the FDI and FII flows are sustained, you will continue to have an appreciating rupee. But the moment fund flows slow down, which is likely to happen, it will start impacting the rupee. A depreciating rupee will make exports more competitive while imports will cost more. How are FIIs likely to react?

"If the rupee depreciates, those who are already invested would like hedge their currency risks and exit partly. FIIs, who want to bring in fresh money, would like to wait for the rupee to depreciate further to get more rupees for their dollars," said a stock market analyst, who didn’t wish to be identified.

There’s, of course, another school of thought: FIIs investing in emerging markets, and particularly in India, target returns of 20-30 per cent, and are not influenced by the rupee depreciating by 5 per cent every year.

Need to save farmers from clutches of middlemen

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, March 2: The budget speech of Finance Minister P Chidambaram has made a good case for revitalizing the rural economy by restructuring the agrarian society.

In this connection several steps have been taken by him including a substantial hike in the allocation for rural areas, steps to provide credit for the farmers through banks and need for making provision for quality seeds and making inputs for irrigation cheaper.

All these steps will certainly go a long way in improving the lot of farmers, but the important bottleneck of marketing will have to be addressed if the farmers are to get good return for their labour. It is no secret that at present middlemen who operate the Mandis or wholesale markets are making big gains by exploiting the producers on one hand and the consumers on the other.

By resorting to practices like hoarding they pay low prices to farmers and sell them at a high price by creating artificial scarcity. As a first step to help the farmers they should be given the freedom to decide to whom they should sell their produce. There is also need to ensure that farmer get inputs like seeds, extension service and fertilizers at his doorsteps.

One way to ensure this is the entry of corporate houses in retail trade. They can ensure that farmers get all the inputs required by him at reasonable prices and customers also get quality items at fair prices. For this there is need to set up chains of cold storages at the collection centers. At present about 30 per cent of total produce of vegetables and fruits is lost because of poor storage and transport facilities and absence of cold storages.

The absence of proper packages also acts as a disadvantage. In case these steps are taken our agriculture can again become profitable instead of leaving farmers at the mercy middlemen and weather gods.

It is true that a substantial number of farmers depend on rains to water their fields, but their lot can be improved through supply of better technology it may include crops which require less water and introduction of sprinkler system.

In many areas of Punjab, farmers by giving up rice cultivation which requires lot of water with fruits and vegetables have improved their earnings as well overcome the problem created by water table falling continuously.

If the States and Centre combine their efforts with help from corporate houses the farmers can make fresh beginning which will make them happy as well as bring smile on the face of consumers by supplying them their products at reasonable prices.

This will certainly call for reinventing the present system of State agencies doing the procurement through traditional mandis.

Indian Budget's thrust on Agriculture, social sectors

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Feb 28: Keeping with its promise to "aam aadmi", the fourth UPA Budget lays emphasis on welfare of poor and weaker sections, students, women and senior citizens and gives a new thrust to social sectors like education, health and agriculture.

Presenting the growth oriented Union Budget in Parliament for 2007-08, Finance Minister P Chidambaram gave relief to small tax payers, the small service providers and to small scale industry.

Mr Chidambaram also promised one-lakh scholarships and one-lakh jobs to the physically challenged. The Finance Minister also announced a massive ground water recharge programme and social security for rural landless households. The Budget also lays emphasis on creation of jobs and unveils increased farm credit to the farmers that will help revival of agriculture.

To meet the expectation of the masses, the Budget has increased the threshold exemption limit by Rs 10,000 that would give Rs 1,000 relief across the board for Income tax payers. Senior citizens will get two thousand rupees benefit. However, the Finance Minister has also proposed one per cent additional education cess.

To please women and senior citizens, Mr Chidambaram proposed a hike in exemption of income tax for women to Rs 1,45,000, while for senior citizens it has been upped to Rs 1,95,000. The income tax exemption limit for others is now Rs 1.1 lakh. He also said that insurance companies would launch a senior citizens scheme in 2007-08.

The Budget also proposes to expand the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme to 330 districts in the country, which was half the total number of districts.

While broadening the Service tax net, the Budget, however, gives a major relief to small service providers by raising the limit to eight lakh rupees. Fulfilling the demands of the corporates, surcharge on Income tax on companies with Income upto one crore has been withdrawn.

Two lakh people would benefit out of service tax exemption and the Government would lose Rs 800 crore as a result. Service tax on Residents Welfare Associations, whose members contribute more than Rs 3,000, has also been waived.

Peak custom rates for non-agricultural products have been reduced to 10 per cent. While Biscuits, footwear, umbrella, bio-diesel, non electrical water purifiers, non premium cement bags will become cheaper cigarettes and beedies will cost more.

While emphasizing on the need for vocationalisation of education and improving the skill of the youth, the Finance Minister mentioned modernisation of 500 ITIs and modernization of 1,400 additional ITIs.

To curb inflation and give supply side responses, the Budget lays new momentum on the National Programme of pulses, ground water resources and the strengthening of rain-fed authority. The budget also aims at fiscal consolidation through reduction of excise and custom duties in a number of commodities.

The Finance Minister has raised spending on education by 34.2 per cent in the coming fiscal year and raised health and family welfare spending by 21.9 per cent.

"Revenues were buoyant for the third year in succession. I have put the revenues to good use to promote inclusive growth, equity and social justice," he told parliament. "The economy is in a stronger position than ever before. It, therefore, behooves us to set higher goals."

The Indian economy, Asia's fourth largest, is expanding at its fastest pace in 18 years and is estimated to grow at a cracking 9.2 per cent in the fiscal year ending on March 31.

Mr Chidambaram said a country with over one billion population must be almost self-sufficient in basic food items. "Otherwise supply constraints could upset macroeconomic stability and growth prospects. Hence agriculture must top the agenda of the policymakers," he said.

Mr Chidambaram also said that customs duties on chemicals and plastics would be reduced. Imported food processing machinery will now cost less after a slash in customs duties.

For "cats and dogs" lovers, he had good news as he reduced a slash in customs duties of imported pet foods. For young hip and happening folks, in sync with global fashion, Rolex and Swatches will now cost less, after he reduced a slash in customs of watch dials and umbrella parts.

While pan masala will cost less now, there's bad news for nicotine lovers. The Finance Minister announced a hike of 5 per cent in excise duty on cigarettes.

However for urban professionals, eating at home will become cheaper after the government has decided to abolish excise duty on ready-made food mixes. He also announced a reduction in excise duty on biscuits/packed foods.

The Finance Minister also introduced death and disability cover for rural landless families to be called "Aam Aadmi Bima Yojana".

With the help of Life Insurance Corporation (LIC), 70 lakh households would be covered under the social welfare scheme. For this, the Centre would give 50 per cent of the premium at Rs 200 per household. For the purpose, the LIC would maintain Rs 1,000 crore fund.

The Budget also raises allocation for National Highway Development programme from Rs 9955 crore to Rs 12600 crore.

He said work on Golden Quadrilateral road project was nearly complete and considerable progress has been made on North-South, East-West corridor, which is likely to be completed by 2009. Northeastern region will get Rs 405 crore for highway development.

The defence allocation has been increased to Rs 96,000 crore, which includes capital expenditure of Rs 41,922 crore.

Similarly, tourism infrastructure has been allocated Rs.520 crore as against Rs.423 crore last year.

For the Commonwealth Games, he said 20,000 more rooms were required. Therefore, he has proposed five-year tax holiday for two, three, four star hotels and convention centres with a seating capacity of 3,000 in NCT of Delhi, Gurgaon, Ghaziabad, Faridabad and Gautam Buddha Nagar.

He also extended tax exemption on aviation turbine fuel sold to turbo prop aircraft to all small aircraft less than 40,000 kg.

While, PAN has been made sole identity for participants in the security markets to strengthen capital market, Indian investors have been allowed investment in overseas capital markets through mutual funds. Mutual funds can also set up Infrastructure Fund schemes.

The Finance Minister also promised to make Mumbai a world-class financial center.

To make the Commonwealth Games a success, he announced Rs 150 crore to the Ministry of Youth and Sports and Rs 350 crore to the Delhi Government for the purpose. He also provided Rs 50 crore for the Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune.

Fiscal deficit for 2007-08 has been pegged at 3.3 per cent of GDP at Rs.1, 50,948 crore and revenue deficit at Rs.72,478 crore which will be 1.5 per cent.

Total expenditure during 2006-07 estimated at Rs.6,80,521 crore including Rs.40,000 crore for SBI shares. The share of States from the revenue expected to touch Rs.1, 42,450 crore during 2007-08 as against Rs.1,20,377 crore during 2006-07.

He said additional revenue from direct taxes would yield Rs 3,000 crore and indirect taxes revenue would be neutral.

The Budget also exempts withdrawals by central and state governments from Banking Cash Transaction Tax. The limit for individuals and HUF has been raised from Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000.

RIL board approves $ 3 b cracker project in Jamnagar

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Feb 24: The RIL Board of Directors on Saturday has approved setting up of $ 3 billion cracker project in Jamnagar and to set up largest integrated 2 MMTPA petrochemical complex.

The Reliance Industries Board also confirmed the decision taken on November 9 last year to raise US $ 2 billion to finance the capital expenditure plan for oil and gas business through External Commercial Borrowings by way of debt.

It also decided to raise further equity by way of preferential issue of 12 crore warrants exercisable into equal number of equity shares of Rs.10 each of the Company to the Promoters as per SEBI guidelines for Preferential Issues, subject to shareholders approval.

An amount equivalent to 10 per cent of the price would be paid on allotment of warrants and the remaining 90 per cent would be paid at the time of subscription to equity shares on exercise of rights attached to the warrants within a period of 18 months.

On exercise of such rights the paid up capital of the Company will increase from Rs 1393 crores to Rs 1513 crores.

The RIL Board also decided to build one of the largest integrated cracker and petrochemicals complex with a total capacity of 2 mmtpa in the SEZ at Jamnagar.

This cracker will use refinery off gases and other byproducts as feedstock to manufacture ethylene, propylene and its downstream commodity and specialty derivatives.

The proposed facility will be built at a capital cost of US $ 3 billion and is expected to go on stream by 2010 -11.

This unique integration with the refinery will place the proposed cracker complex at par with the most efficient producers of olefins and derivatives in the world including those in the Middle East and will enable the Company to achieve one of the most competitive cost positions.

The Board also appointed Dr. R.A. Mashelkar as an independent director on the Company’s board, subject to necessary Government approvals.

Dr. Mashelkar is an eminent scientist and engineer and has an outstanding academic record and has held several high positions in the field of Science and Technology.

Dr. Mashelkar is presently the President of the Indian National Science Academy (INSA) and President of Global Research Alliance, a network of publicly funded R&D institute from Asia Pacific, Europe and the US with over 60,000 scientists. Dr. Mashelkar is also receipient of Padmashri.

Wal-Mart Executives Met By Indian Retail Protesters Concerned About Local Businesses

NEW DELHI, Feb 22: Walmart executives visiting India were greeted with angry protests by shopkeepers concerned about a tie up with Bharti Enterprises, announced earlier.

Nearly 100 protesters waived banners stating, "Save small retailers," near government buildings in the capital, New Delhi.

Wal-Mart vice chairman Michael Duke was scheduled to hold meetings with government officials and Bharti representatives in Mumbai.

The planned initiative between the two firms is a joint venture for cash-and-carry.

"Imagine, this is the only country where WalMart says we won't use our name. Bharti will run the store and we will run the back-end operations of sourcing. This itself is a sham and bogus contract and it has to go," protests Vinod Shetty, Spokesperson, India FDI Watch.

Retailers are also demanding a level playing field. "We have asked the government to allow us to form buying groups so that we can sell at lower prices too," says Ashok Vaykul, General Secretary, Mumbai Wholesalers Federation.

The Bharti joint venture is seen by analysts as a huge opportunity for Walmart to get a foothold in a market which estimated to double its value to $637 billion by 2015.

"Wal-Mart was keen to get into India. I think they have chosen the right partner," said Bharti Chairman Sunil Mittal . Adding, "It is going to be a large investment, we are going to be a big player in this market."

Bharti's popularity in India is attributed to Airtel, which offers mobile phone services to more than 24 million users.

Analysts are gung-ho on the deal which should expand the company's business reach and take advantage of India's rapid economic growth - close to 9 percent. The growing middle class and rising consumer demand also contribute to favorable market conditions.

BBC World Service economics correspondent Andrew Walker commented earlier on the deal saying,: India's small shopkeepers (who currently account for the majority of retail sales) are often family businesses and they are worried that lowering the barriers to Wal-Mart and others might cost them dearly."

Walker continued to say, "Certainly analysts expect the big players to account for a large share of growth in retailing that is bound to come with India's rising middle class."

A statement from Walmart said Duke is in India "to learn more about the market first-hand and to further explore the wholesale cash-and-carry business."

A spokesman for FDI Watch, an organization that tries to limit the growth of foreign retailers in India said, "Around 40 million people depend on the retail sector and these people's livelihoods will be ruined if Wal-Mart is permitted to enter India's retail market.

At the present time, Indian regulations allow foreign multi-brand retailers to run only cash-and-carry or franchise enterprises.

IFFCO inks MoU with Jordan’s JPMC

By Sushma Arora

NEW DELHI, Feb 1: Soon after the news of Tatas acquiring Corus, the fertiliser major, IFFCO, has done the country proud by signing a landmark deal with a Jordan company to expand its global presence.

As part of its strategy of backward integration plan to meet its essential feedstock requirement of Phosphoric Acid, IFFCO has signed a MoU with Jordan Phosphates Mines Company (JPMC) for setting up a state-of-art Phosphoric Acid Plant in Southern Jordan.

Chairman, JPMC, Walid Kurdi and IFFCO Managing Director, Dr U S Awshthi, signed the above MoU at Amman, Jordan.

In this new venture IFFCO and its associates will have a 52 per cent stake, while the JPMC and its associates will hold 48 per cent. The plant and associated facilities are estimated to cost US $ 350 million with a capacity of 1,500 tonnes of phosphoric acid per day.

Utilities and other related facilities would be located adjacent to Eshydia Mine in Jordan. Acid produced by the Joint Venture shall be sold internationally or used by IFFCO in its Plants in India.

The total Phosphate demand in the country is about 5.2 million tonnes of P2O5 whereas total production is only 4.2 million tonnes of P2O5. This leaves a gap of about 1 million tonne of P2O5 in demand and availability.

India imports 2.6 million tonnes of finished Phosphoric Acid (P2O5 ) from other countries whereas its indigenous production is only about 1.2 million tonnes of P2O5. This Joint Venture will help in bridging the gap between demand and supply, having a subduing influence in the international prices, said Mr Awasthi.

Both the companies have ample experience of successfully operating joint ventures on global level and have affirmed their keenness to put this Plant on stream in record time for which a Feasibility Study is being commissioned.

This joint venture symbolizes the IFFCO’s thrust in international cooperation in the field of fertilizer.

IFFCO, globally acclaimed largest producer and seller of fertilizer in cooperative sector, has already successfully set up joint ventures in Oman, Egypt and Senegal. The Cooperative also holds major stake in General Insurance, IFFCO Tokio General Insurance Company, and Power Sector on the domestic front.

IFFCO, a Society, wholly owned by cooperatives, possesses the state of art fertilizer production facilities at Kalol, Kandla, Phulpur,Aonla and Paradeep in India. The Society is eyeing on an annual turnover of Rs.15,000 crores (USD 3400 million) by the year 2010.

SAIL shines in third quarter

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Jan 31: Aided by higher production and robust domestic sales, public sector steel major Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) has reported a 124.2 per cent increase in net profit for the quarter ended December 31, 2006 at Rs 1,471.19 crore. The third quarter net profit in 2005-06 was Rs 656.07 crore.

With high profits being reported for third quarter of the current financial year, SAIL's net profit for the first nine months of the current fiscal were at a record high of Rs 4,300.41 crore. This represented a 47.79 per cent increase over the net profit of Rs 2,909.7 crore recorded in the same period in the previous year.

SAIL Chairman S.K. Roongta said the production was up six per cent and sales were up nine per cent during the third quarter, which helped the company post healthy growth figures.

Mr Roonta said factors that contributed to the growth in the third-quarter figures include better product mix, use of improved technology and energy consumption measures.

“The demand in the period was driven mainly by sectors such as infrastructure, construction and automobile,” he added.

It also declared an interim dividend of 16 per cent amounting to Rs 660.86 crore.

SAIL's total income for the third quarter this year was up 30 per cent to Rs 8,760.16 crore (Rs 6,736.84 crore). The company achieved a record production of 3.3 million tonnes (MT) of saleable steel and highest ever sales of 3 MT during the quarter ended December 31, 2006. About the nine-month period ending December 31, 2006, the Chairman said total sales stood at Rs 25,241.55 crore, up 25 per cent over Rs 20,183.7 crore in the same period in the previous year.

Mr Roongta said that the nine month net profit and turnover this fiscal was the highest ever registered by SAIL. "The outlook for the next quarter is good and we are aiming for five per cent higher capacity utilisation over third quarter," he added.

In April-December 2006, SAIL recorded the best ever production of 9.3 MT of saleable steel and also the best ever sales. Borrowings have come down by Rs 384 crore from Rs 4,298 crore on March 31, 2006 to Rs 3,914 crore as on December 31, 2006.

The Chairman said SAIL is in the process of increasing its overall production capacity to 22 million tonnes per annum from the present 12 million tonnes at an investment of about Rs 40,000 crore.

On the company’s plans to raise funds to support expansion, he said, “Our internal accruals are strong... We will raise funds as and when required.”

On Chiria mines, Mr Roonta said: “PMO has taken up the issue and the company is in talks with the Jharkhand government to get renewed mining lease.”

Tatas bag Corus for $11.3 bn in an all-cash deal

LONDON, Jan 31: India's Tata Steel is set to become the world's fifth-biggest steelmaker after winning a bid battle for Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus Group by agreeing to pay 5.75 billion pounds ($11.3 billion).

Britain's Takeover Panel said in an e-mailed statement that after an auction Tata Steel had agreed to offer Corus investors 608 pence per share in cash, topping a final bid of 603 pence from Brazilian Companhia Siderurgica Nacional (CSN).

Both offers were right at the top end of what analysts had thought possible and will now be put to Corus investors, who have no reason not to accept the higher price.

Corus was not immediately available for comment.

The auction process, following a takeover tussle that began in earnest when Tata Steel offered 455 pence per share on October 20, started at the close of trading in London on Tuesday when Corus shares ended 0.5 per cent higher at 563 pence.

CSN and Tata Steel were keen to buy Corus to Tata Steel wins Corus with $11.3 billion offer become significant players in
the consolidating steel industry, where Dutch-based Mittal Steel last year bought Luxembourg's Arcelor to create the world's biggest steelmaker, Arcelor Mittal.

The 608 pence Tata Steel is set to pay values Corus at around seven times its forecast earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) for 2006, well above the multiple Mittal Steel paid for Arcelor which was 4.6 times historic EBITDA

Ahead of the auction, called last week by the Takeover Panel to bring the bid battle to an end, CSN had the upper hand after it had made a bid worth 4.9 billion pounds ($9.6 billion) or 515 pence per share, accepted by Corus on December 11, hours after it had accepted a 500 pence offer from Tata Steel.

The battle pushed Corus's share price to seven-year highs and pitted 70-year-old Tata group chairman Ratan Tata, from one of India's best-known business families, against Benjamin Steinbruch who at 52 is one of Brazil's most famous executives as chief executive and main owner of CSN.

Ratan Tata has transformed the once-staid Tata group since taking over as chairman in 1991. He has cut the number of companies in the group from over 300, and acquired new businesses with growth potential.

Tata Steel has spent more than $400 million in recent years to buy Singapore's NatSteel and Thailand's Millennium Steel, and other group companies have also made acquisitions outside India.

For CSN's part, its 603 pence offer marks the second time in five years it has failed to buy Corus.

In 2002, CSN openly held talks with Corus about a tie-up but ended up backing off because of concerns about the European company's financial health.

Steinbruch set his sights on Corus again last year after CSN lost out to Chicago-based steel services group Esmark in a showdown for US steelmaker Wheeling-Pittsburgh Corp.

On Tuesday, Tata Steel reported a 41 per cent jump in net third-quarter profit to 10.63 billion rupees.

Sterling, which has been nudging the $2 mark for several weeks, could get a boost from the deal as Tata Steel looks to buys pounds to pay Corus's British shareholders.

'Reliance Fresh' forays into NCR

By Deepak Arora

Dr A Shanker with Reliance Fresh teamNOIDA, Jan 29: Mukesh-Ambani led Reliance group ushered in a new retail culture in the national capital region (NCR) on Monday by opening nine western-style food stores.

The launch of 'Reliance Fresh' stores in Noida, Greater Noida, Gurgaon, Ghaziabad and Faridabad took the number of such outlets that sell fruits, vegetables, groceries and dairy products to 49 in the country with an investment of close to Rs 3,000 crore.

Reliance Retail president and CEO (operations and strategy) Raghu Pillai said 8 to10 per cent of the Rs 25,000 that the company has planned for its retail venture by 2010 had been invested so far.

Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL) entered the retail trade last year and has plans to expand its footprint in the NCR in multiple formats of hypermarkets, supermarkets and convenience stores.

Dr A Shanker & Reliance Fresh TeamDr A Shanker, Group President (Corporate Communications) and a key lieutenant of Mukesh Ambani attended the prestigious launch at Noida. Dr Shanker also looks after all the regulatory aspects of retail business along with Mr Manoj Modi, who assists Mr Mukesh Ambani.

'We plan to have a pan-India presence and achieve a target of Rs.1000 crore revenue by 2010 by which time we hope to complete Phase I,' said Raghu Pillai.

Bigger format stores such as hypermarkets, supermarkets and specialty stores would be opened in the April-June quarter, he said. The nine stores in the NCR cover a total area of 19,000 sq ft. He said Reliance will open 100 stores in the NCR by the quarter ending in June 2007.

Reliance Fresh store'In the first phase we have plans to employ 500,000 people. We are following an all-inclusive model giving the right affordability across all income groups,' Pillai added.

'We are aggressively partnering farmers by following a farm-to-fork strategy in our supply chain management model and ensure that we deliver fresh fruits and vegetables at affordable prices to our consumers.'

He said the company was looking to use this network to tap export markets.

"We are looking at exports. But there is this problem of surplus and deficits (of commodities). But exports are a definite possibility," said Gunender Kapur, president and chief executive (Foods Business), Reliance Industries, said.

Reliance Fresh storeSanjiv Asthana, president and chief executive of agri and foods business, said the market was big enough for organized players and the 12 million mom and pop stores to co-exist.

But the company's Fresh brand of stores plan to soon launch home delivery services, a move that could rob the advantage that neighbourhood stores have at present.

Reliance Fresh also offers a membership and loyalty programme - RelianceOne - to deliver customised benefits to frequent shoppers. Currently, it has 200,000 loyalty customers across Hyderabad, Jaipur and Chennai.

SAIL Bags BML Munjal Award for Excellence

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Jan 12: Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) has been honoured with the B.M.L. Munjal Award for Excellence in Learning and Development for the year 2006, in the public sector category.

Mr. S.K. Roongta, Chairman, SAIL, received the award, instituted last year by the elite Hero Mindmine Institute, a part of the Hero group of industries, from Mr Praful Patel, Union Minister for Civil Aviation, at the Mindmine Summit 2007 titled 'Imagining. Investing. Inventing: The Global Indian Manager' organised here yesterday.

The award recognises the significant turnaround brought about in the working of SAIL in its productivity and profitability over the last few years in general and the significant efforts made in the year 2006 in adding value to its business processes through developing human resources competency.

The success which has come to SAIL in achieving its mission, to a large extent, is based on a scientific encouragement for and support to, technical training and managerial training. This, noted the jury which selected the awardees, runs at multiple levels from managing directors and senior executives' communication forums to shopfloor-based HRD initiatives.

The citation accompanying the award described as "significant" SAIL's effort to put in place "a useful learning and development practice called 'learning from each other'. The high degree of commitment shown by the company in the development and welfare of the communities in which are ensconsed its plants and mining efforts, are an example of what corporate enterprises can do to give richer returns to all stakeholders.

While doing all this, to keep continuously enhancing its profitability, is a result of many factors, including its focus at multi-skilling and people development. The jury also acknowledged the success of SAIL's use of investment in HRD for better results as a corporate entity, and investing in employees and their learning.

The jury for this year's B.M.L. Munjal Awards for Excellence in Learning & Development was headed by Mr. Deepak Parekh, Chairman, HDFC, and comprised eminent professionals in various fields. The award in the private sector category was shared by Satyam and Infosys.

Hero Mindmine Institute is the academic and scholastic face of Hero Mindmine, the learning and training solutions provider set up by the Hero group of industries, that seeks to generate databases on 'key issues facing India, Indians and Indian businesses'.

RIL to challenge IT notice 'influenced' by Amar Singh

RIL Chairman Mukesh AmbaniNEW DELHI, Jan 3: Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) has decided to challenge an order passed by the Income Tax authorities with regard to “income” from transfer of 50 crore shares from Mukesh Ambani to his brother, Anil, as part of family settlement, according to highly placed sources.

Under pressure of Samajwadi Party Member of Parliament, Amar Singh, the Income Tax Department has now brought to tax notional income ignoring the facts of this transaction and has raised a demand of Rs 1,156 crores in the hands of Mukesh Ambani.

The sources alleged that the order passed by the Income Tax Authorities is bad in law and would be challenged in appeal.

Anil AmbaniIt is widely known and reported earlier by the media that RIL Chairman, Mukesh Ambani, who had acquired 50 crores shares of Reliance Infocomm Ltd (RIC) at par from Reliance Communications Infrastructure Ltd. (RCIL), had in 2004, returned the said shares at par to RCIL to facilitate the family settlement.

This news website has a copy of the letter dated September 12, 2006 written by Amar Singh to the Prime Minister on the subject.

Amar SinghSources in the Income Tax Department believe that while this transaction does not result into any income, the government was trying to play safe fearing a back lash from Amar Singh especially when Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections are round the corner.

Amar Singh is leader of regional Samajwadi Party and close confidante of UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh.

Anil Ambani, Amar Singh and Mulayam SinghWhen contacted, RIL sources said “the order passed by the Income Tax Authorities is bad in law and will be challenged in appeal. In the transaction no income accrued to Mukesh Ambani - either in law or on facts.”

Sources said “the demand will be wiped off as soon as this issue is taken up by independent judicial appellate authorities.”

It has been alleged that the assessing officer while being a judicial authority, had no choice to take an independent decision as he had written instructions from his superiors to make the addition.

On this ground alone, it was pointed out the order was likely to be quashed.

Reliance Group bags Asset Magazine accolade

NEW DELHI, Dec 20: Reliance Industries Ltd has been named the best corporate for 2006, while its subsidiary Reliance Petroleum's $2 billion greenfield refinery financing has been judged the best syndicated loan by Hong Kong based Asset Magazines' annual awards.

The eighth edition of The Asset Magazine Triple A House & Deal Awards for excellence in the financial services industry has judged Reliance Group as the best corporate for its success in tying up the financing for its greenfield refinery project in Jamnagar, Gujarat.

Judged as the best syndicated loan and best project finance loan by the Asset Magazine, the financing involved the large foreign currency loan and the largest limited recourse financing in Asia outside of China since the Asian financial crisis, the citation states.

It notes that the deal was upsized from the initial amount of $1.5 billion due to the strong market support with 52 banks participating.

Apart from the loan, the project is being sponsored through a combination of sponsor equity, including $300 million from Chevron, a strategic investor with five percent equity, and proceeds from a highly successful IPO in April, an export credit agency tranche of $1 billion and other debt of $1 billion.

Together with its existing refinery of 28 million tonnes capacity, the new export oriented refinery will put Reliance Petroleum as the largest of its kind on a single location.

IOC inks MoU with Sinopec for cooperation in oil, gas sector

TTO News Service

NEW DELHI, DEC 15 : State-run Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) has signed a pact with China's Sinopec for cooperation in refining, petrochemicals oil and gas exploration in third countries.

The memorandum of understanding (MoU), signed by IOC director (Business Development) BM Bansal and Sinopec director general Chen Qi, will facilitate enhanced cooperation in refinery and petrochemicals sector, according to a press note.

The MoU was signed during the ongoing visit of petroleum minister Murli Deora to Beijing for attending a meeting with energy ministers of other major oil importing countries-US, China, Japan and Korea.

Deora is accompaied by a high-powered delegation comprising petroleum secretary MS Srinivasan, IOC chairman Sarthak Behuria and ONGC videsh managing director RS Butola. "Other areas of cooperation include international trade, exploration and production (E&P) in third countries, collaboration in engineering and technical services, exchange of knowledge/technology in operations, refinery optimisation and training," the release said.

"Behuria and Sinopec president Liu Deshu agreed that cooperation should be expanded to include collaboration in areas of overseas E&P activities and petrochemicals," it said.

Bansal would hold follow up meetings with concerned officials of Sinochem to draw out the broad framework of cooperation in the above areas. IOC also held discussions with Sinochem on expanding the existing MoU.

IFFCO's clean sweep at National Energy Conservation Awards

By Sushma Arora

NEW DELHI, Dec 15: Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO), globally acclaimed marketer and manufacturer of fertilisers in cooperative sector, has won three prestigious National Energy Conservation Awards - 2006 from Ministry of Power, Government of India for the year 2005-06.

In the Fertiliser Sector, first prize has been bagged by IFFCO's Kalol Unit (Gujarat); two Second Awards have also been bagged by IFFCO's Phulpur Unit II (U.P.) and IFFCO's Aonla Unit I (U.P.). It is a rare achievement that all the three Awards in this category have been bagged by IFFCO for its excellent energy conservation efforts.

The National Energy Conservation Award - 2006 were presented by Mr Sushilkumar Shinde Hon'ble Union Minister for Power here on December 14. The prestigious First prize was received by Mr A.K.Sinha, General Manager, Kalol whereas Second Award was received by Mr N C Nigam, Sr. General Manager, Aonla and Mr Vindod Kumar, Jt. General Manager, Phulpur .

IFFCO a 100 per cent cooperative, has been recipient of awards instituted by Fertiliser Association of India (FAI) also. IFFCO has won the FAI Golden Jubilee Award on 'Transfer of Improved Farm Technologies'. The prestigious award was received by Mr D.K.Bhatt, Marketing Director IFFCO. Similarly an Article titled " Implementation of Energy Saving Project at IFFCO Phulpur Unit " has been awarded First prize in the production / technology discipline by Fertiliser Association of India (FAI), New Delhi.

IFFCO's all plants after expansion have been exhibiting sterling display on production front year after year.

RIL to double output in KG basin

TTO News Service

NEW DELHI, Dec 13: Reliance Industries today said it has secured approval for doubling output from its gas field in KG basin at an enhanced investment of $ 5.2 billion.

"The Directorate General of Hydrocarbons approved addendum to the initial development plan for the deepwater Block KG-DWN-98/3 (KG-D6). The capital expenditure for initial phase of development to produce 80 mmscmd of gas is $ 5.2 billion," RIL said in a statement.

Originally, the company had planned to invest 2.47 billion dollar to produce 40 mmscmd gas. However, with rig prices going up and more reserves being found in the block the company raised the capex and the planned output.

Reliance will invest $ 5.2 billion in Phase-I of the development involving drilling of 22 wells. Together with the Phase-II commitment of 28 additional wells, the total project cost would be $ 8.84 billion.

"The development plan envisages commencement of delivery of first gas by second half of 2008-09," the statement said.

The block KG-D6 in Krishna Godavari basin in the Bay of Bengal was awarded to RIL and NIKO Resources of Canada under NELP-I bidding round. RIL, as operator holds 90 per cent in the block and NIKO the remaining 10 per cent.

ONGC's huge gas find in Krishna basin

NEW DELHI, Dec 13: State-run ONGC has made a huge gas find in the Krishna Godavari Basin with initial estimates suggesting reserves of about 21 trillion cubic feet, and also struck a big gas field in Mahanadi Basin off Orissa coast.

ONGC, which had previously discovered 2-3 tcf of gas reserves in about half-a-dozen wells in the Krishna Godavari Basin block KG-DWN-98/2, struck a 28 meter net gas pay zone when deep sea drillship Belford Dolphin reached 5,300 meters depth at well UD-1, 55-km from the coast.

Separately, ONGC has struck an estimated 3-4 tcf of gas in Block MN-OSN-2000/2 in water depths of about 1200 mts, sources said. They said ONGC has also found 15-20 million barrels of oil reserves in an Assam block.

The ultra-deepwater well UD-1 is yet to reach its target depth of 6,500 meters and vertical seismic profile has thrown up at least one more pay zone larger than the one encountered. There could also be oil, the sources said.

The well UD-1 will reach its target depth in next 10 days and testing will take another week. The ONGC might be planning a new year gift to the nation with this (discovery), the sources said.

The state-run firm had done a mud drill test of the ultra-deepwater well UD-1 and preliminary estimate put in place reserves at 600 billion cubic meters (over 21 tcf). The second net pay zone could be in excess of 80 meters and there appeared traces of oil too, the sources said.

RIL may tie up with Gazprom for Russia

NEW DELHI, Dec 12: Private sector energy major Reliance Industries (RIL) is considering expanding its oil business to the land of the Volga and Vodka. It is talking to Russian government officials to enter the country's downstream oil sector by investing in the refinery and petrochemical industry.

The RIL move follows the recent visit of Russia's deputy prime minister Alexander Zhukov who was in the capital early December. Talks were held between RIL officials and the Russian authorities on possible investments in Russia's oil and gas sector. RIL may even rope in a Russian oil firm as its partner for the projects.

Although there is no confirmation, sources indicated that Gazprom, the state-run Russian oil major, may well partner RIL's downstream ventures in Russia. RIL, it is learnt, is expected to push for stakes in upstream oil and gas assets in lieu of its investments in the downstream sector.

When contacted, RIL officials declined to comment. In what is being seen as a strategic move, RIL is concentrating on the downstream segment in Russia which offers huge opportunities. The move comes at a time when Russia is in the process of increasing government control over its oil and gas assets.

Several major global energy players like Shell and Exxon Mobil have been forced, on the pretext of regulatory issues, to divest their stakes and take on Russian state oil firms like Gazprom as strategic partners. But while Russian authorities are on a nationalisation drive in the upstream sector, its refining sector lags behind, requiring huge investments.

RIL's move to enter this segment will, therefore, be welcome as the company will bring in global expertise to Russia's refining segment. On RIL's part, an entry into Russia will provide a foothold in the European markets, where there is a growing demand for high-grade fuel.

Reliance is planning to service some of the European markets with its high-grade fuel from the under-construction RPL refinery in Jamnagar. A stake in Russia's refinery industry will only help them service this market better.

Russia has a total of 41 oil refineries with a total crude oil processing capacity of 5.44 million bbl/d. According to an EIA report, many of the refineries are inefficient, ageing, and in need of modernisation. With Russian domestic demand at 2.6 million bbl/d in 2004, refining capacity far outstrips local needs for refined products.

According to the draft plan for economic development during 2005-08, Russia will concentrate on the reconstruction and upgrading of refineries so that they can convert a higher level of crude. The draft focuses on increasing the production of high-quality light oil products, catalysts and raw material for the petrochemical industry.

Wal-Mart-Bharti to export farm goods

KOLKATA : The scope of the Wal-Mart-Bharti mega back-end retail alliance is silently falling into place. The $316-billion company, Wal-Mart, has drawn up plans with Bharti to export Indian farm produce and develop backward linkages in the agriculture sector. Wal-Mart has plans to replicate its global supply chain model and invest in IT back-end in the Indian agriculture sector.

A Wal-Mart Stores spokesperson said: "With Bharti, we believe we can best leverage Wal-Mart's experience and expertise to partner with farmers to provide efficient linkages. We will also like to leverage our global scale to transform these suppliers into exporters with access to our global markets."

Wal-Mart aims to leverage its sophisticated information systems and supply chain management expertise to achieve efficiencies that will benefit Indian farmers and business partners. "Linkages backed by improved supply chain efficiencies will help maximise value for farmers," the spokesperson said.

However, Wal-Mart refused to divulge critical details about the plans. For the first time, Wal-Mart will source agri-products from India for its global operations. In 2005, the company had directly sourced $414 million through its Bangalore global procurement office and major categories were home textiles, apparel, fine jewellery and housewares.

It is well-known that Wal-Mart is looking at cash-and-carry operations in India jointly with Bharti. The company intends to localise its Indian venture to a large extent. "In every location we operate in, we are local. We carry local products from local suppliers that appeal to local taste, need and fashion," the spokesperson said.

With Wal-Mart showing interest in export of Indian agri-products, this will be the second such initiative for Bharti. Bharti Enterprises has another venture, FieldFresh Foods with EL Rothschild Group-owned ELRO Holdings India, to export fresh agri-products like fruits and vegetables to Europe and the US.

FieldFresh Foods is investing close to $50 million to create state-of-the-art infrastructure for R&D, climate-controlled processing facilities and cold stores. As per the information posted on FieldFresh's website, the company has partnered with farmers across the country with over 5,000 acres already under cultivation.

IndianOil to deploy indigenous FCC technology at Paradip Refinery

NEW DELHI, Dec 6: In a major fillip to indigenous petroleum R&D, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IndianOil), the largest commercial enterprise in India and the flagship national oil company, is all set to deploy its own FCC (Fluidised Catalytic Cracking) technology at its upcoming 15 million tonnes integrated Paradip Refinery-cum-Petrochemicals complex on the east coast of India.

An agreement to this effect was signed at IndianOil's R&D Centre at Faridabad by Dr. R. P. Verma, Executive Director (R&D), IndianOil, and Mr. P. Sur, General Manager (Projects-Process), Refineries Division, IndianOil, in the presence of Mr. Sarthak Behuria, Chairman, IndianOil, and Mr. B. N. Bankapur, Director (Refineries), IndianOil.

Addressing newsmen, Mr Behuria said that the novel refining process technology - named INDMAX (Indane Maximisation) - developed by IndianOil's world-class R&D Centre enables high yields of LPG and high-octane gasoline (petrol) by using various refinery streams, including heavy residues and naphtha as feedstock.

A demo plant of 100,000 tonnes per annum capacity based on the technology is already operational at IndianOil's Guwahati Refinery since June 2003.

The proprietary technology and catalyst formulation have earned US, European and Indian patents and were conferred awards by the Department of Science & Technology (DST) and the Department of Industrial & Scientific Research (DSIR) of the Government of India in 2004, he said.

The INDMAX process uses a special catalyst. A manufacturing facility for the same is being put up in association with InterCat, USA, in Gujarat. This development has catapulted IndianOil into the league of select multinational licensors such as UOP, Stone & Webster and Shell, Mr Behuria added.

IndianOil's R&D Centre, ranked among Asia's finest, has taken a lead in developing and commercially deploying innovative flagship technologies in the petroleum-refining sector. Besides pioneering work in lubricants formulation, refinery processes, pipeline transportation and alternative fuels, the Centre is also the nodal agency of the Indian hydrocarbon sector for ushering in Hydrogen fuel in the country.

It has developed two other key process technologies, viz, DHDS/DHDT Technology for producing Euro-III and Euro-IV grade diesel and IndeTreat / IndeSweet for removal of sulphur compounds from lighter petroleum fractions, viz., LPG, Gasoline and ATF.

IndianOil is setting up an integrated refinery-cum-petrochemicals complex at Paradip in Orissa. To be commissioned by 2011-12, the complex will comprise a 15 million tonnes per annum refinery and facilities for production of front-end petrochemicals, including Paraxylene, Polypropylene and Styrene.

The site for the project, consisting of over 3,000 acres of land, has been fully developed by dredging and filling along with construction of approach roads, bridges, water & power supply, boundary wall. Work is currently in full swing for the construction of the mega refinery-cum-petrochemical complex.

IndianOil has already installed a large crude oil terminal along with a Single Point Mooring (SPM) terminal on the coast for handling very large crude carriers (VLCCs) for its refineries at Haldia and Barauni, and the same terminal will be expanded for receipt and handling of crude oil for Paradip Refinery.

Prof. Sen calls for accelerating agriculture growth

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Dec 5: Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in agriculture in the country has to be raised from the present level of 2 per cent to 4 per cent by making optimal use of all inputs - fertilizers, seeds and water.

This was stressed by Prof. Abhijit Sen, Member, Planning Commission while delivering keynote address here at a Seminar on "Accelerating Agriculture Production - Agriculture Policy Initiatives and Directions".

The seminar was organized by IFFCO Foundation, a trust formed by the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO).

The seminar was attended by large number of agriculture scientists, experts from the fertilizer industry, vice chancellors of Universities and farmers.

Prof Sen lamented over the dismal growth in agriculture sector, though GDP has grown by 6 per cent and even sometime up to 7 and 8 per cent. "Today, we are importing food grains whereas in the past, we were not only self sufficient in food grains but were exporting also," he added.

"We have to make an in-depth analysis for decline in agriculture growth," he said. "Farmers need assurance that they will get remunerative prices for their produce. For the purpose, subsidy on fertilizers has to continue."

Prof Sen said that providing employment to the rural masses in non-agriculture sector would ease pressure on agriculture work force. He also expressed concern over rising debt in the agriculture sector. He urged not to discriminate between nutrients and different fertilizers as it created imbalance in the use of fertilizers. He said that we have to cater to the needs of those farmers also who are not having irrigation facilities and are totally dependent on rains.

Chairman IFFCO Foundation and IFFCO, Mr Surinder Kumar Jakhar, said that the seminar had a special significance in the backdrop of declining growth in agriculture sector, import of wheat, non availability of fertilizer at certain places, hardships being faced by the domestic fertilizer industry and absence of fresh investment in fertilizer sector.

Mr Jakhar emphasized on the use of secondary and micro nutrients along with fertilizers and said that irrational and imbalanced use of fertilizer was badly affecting the health of soil and was main cause for reduction in farm produce. He urged the Central Government to expedite release of fertilizer subsidy to fertilizer manufacturers and demanded a clear-cut fertilizer policy.

Mr Jakhar raised serious concern over the newer developments in cooperatives sector and said that concerted efforts are being made by Indian companies and particularly the multinational companies to capture the cooperatives and turn them in to private businesses.

Quoting the first Prime Minister of free India, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, that " Every thing can wait, but not agriculture", Mr Jakhar said that today this not being followed.

Dr. S S Sisodia, Chairman, NCUI, said that Agriculture growth cannot be achieved without strengthening cooperatives. Dr Sisodia said that cooperatives have always been helping farmers and are now also helping them. He thanked Chairman, IFFCO and IFFCO Foundation for organizing this Seminar.

Speaking on this occasion Mr Sachin Pilot, MP, said that agriculture sector and farmers were at a cross road today. "The decline in agricultural production, scarcity of quality inputs, raising prices and non remunerative prices for farm produce are main causes of concern for the farmers."

Mr Pilot said it was surprising that USA, Europe and Japan do not want to have any cut in subsidy to farmers in their countries but want us to stop subsidy. He complimented IFFCO for setting up IFFCO Foundation, which was committed to sustainable development of agriculture and cooperatives.

Mr Suresh Prabhu, former Minister of State for chemicals and fertilizers, said that the rural economy of the country was collapsing and only growth in Agriculture Production could bring it back on rails. Mr Prabhu said any Finance Minister was shocked to see the Subsidy Bill but if we do not pay subsidy it was a bigger shock for the farmers.

"Farmers are losing interest in Agriculture because it is becoming non-remunerative. In order to save country from hunger we have to ensure that agriculture remains remunerative for them," he added.

Mr J N L Srivastava, former Secretary Agriculture and Managing Trustee IFFCO Foundation, said that Foundation was helping farmers and cooperatives through various promotional activities and was making all out efforts to help raising standard of living of Farmers at large.

Seminar was also addressed by Dr. R B Singh, Mr S S Nandurdikar, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Dr. K N Tiwari and Mr B B Patnaik and Dr. Arvind Kapur.

Reliance restarts VGO Hydrotreater II unit in record time

JAMNAGAR, Dec 1: The VGO Hydrotreater II Unit of the Refinery at Jamnagar commenced normal operations here on Friday. The VGO Hydrotreater II Unit was shut down in view of the fire that occured on 25th of October 2006 and the damaged portion of this Unit was refurbished within a record time of 35 days.

The refinery has sustained normal production through out the entire period of the shutdown.

While commenting on the re-start of VGO Hydrotreater II Unit, Chairman and Managing Director, Reliance Industries Limited, Mr Mukesh Ambani said "I compliment the Reliance Team at Jamnagar Refinery for once again demonstrating exemplary performance by restarting the VGO Hydrotreater II Unit in such a short time and for ensuring normal operations at the refinery including continued supply of LPG in an uninterrupted manner through the period of the shut down."

Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) is India's largest private sector company on all major financial parameters with turnover of Rs 89,124 crore (US$ 20 billion), cash profit of Rs 13,174 crore (US$ 3 billion), net profit of Rs 9,069 crore (US$ 2 billion), net worth of Rs 49,804 crore (US$ 11 billion) and total assets of Rs 93,095 crore (US$ 20.9 billion).

RIL is the first and only private sector company from India to feature in the Fortune Global 500 list of Worlds Largest Corporations and ranks amongst the world Top 200 companies in terms of profits, RIL is also ranked amongst the top 25 climbers in the list for second consecutive year.

RIL emerged in the worlds 10 most respected energy/chemicals companies and amongst the top 50 companies that create the most value for their shareholders in a global survey and research conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers and Financial Times in 2004. RIL also features in the Forbes Global list of worlds 400 best big companies and in FT Global 500 list of worlds largest companies.

Is Dadri project a land grab ploy?

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI: Eyebrows are being raised over the failure to take-off of the 7,480 MW gas-fired Dadri project on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border. Anil Ambani-led Reliance Energy Ltd (REL) had signed the agreement with the Uttar Pradesh Government on June 16, 2004 to feed electricity hungry western part of the state.

However, the company has not been able to make much progress on the project and questions are being raised over the viability of the Dadri project. It is also being asked whether the prime agricultural land would be returned to the lawful owners of the land.

It is well known that REL acquired a huge tract of land at cheap rates for the project with the help of Mulayam buddy and Samajwadi Party leader, Amar Singh, who has close ties with the younger scion of the Ambani family.

After the split between the Ambani brothers last year, Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Ltd has refused to supply natural gas at 2.34 dollars per million British thermal unit, a price that was essential to make electricity generation viable.

As the project seems unviable, Anil Ambani has taken his brother to the court to save and underline his ownership of the land. Experts allege that the case filed by Ambani junior against his elder brother's group Reliance Industries Limited for supply of gas is considered laughable because there is no power plant that could use the gas.

Samajwadi Party, which lost in the recent local elections, is panicky over the great response of the people to the Jan Morcha Alliance's (JMA) Deoria-Dadri Mukti Sangram Yatra.

Despite being in possession of the extremely fertile land that could have yielded quintals of food grains for the needy farmer in every harvest season and despite all the wherewithal the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG) has at its disposal, not even one major contract has been signed.

"No equipment or design or engineering work has been initiated towards infrastructure development at the site," sources said. The only thing that has been achieved in the past nearly three years is that ADAG has been able to corner precious land for a token payment, all because of his proximity with the current ruling party in Uttar Pradesh.

It is crystal clear to all that ADA Group might be heading towards a problem with the project with the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh falling due in February next year. The political climate in the state is not favouring Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi party. With the anti-incumbency wave falling flat on the face of Yadav, Anil Ambani is apprehensive of the fruition of the project.

He and his group are now desperate to ensure that the land he managed to acquire, for what can safely be described as a pittance, is not taken away by any future State government.

The legal team in ADAG is now preparing for a battle in the Bombay High Court for this case. The ADA group had recently lost a case against the Government of India on the airport modernization issue in the Supreme Court.

It would not be inaccurate at this stage to believe that Mr Anil Ambani, with his PR set up, will try transforming this state of affairs into a credible situation, portraying himself as a victim, and use the non-availability of gas to hide his inability to create the infrastructure.

IndianOil commences derivatives trading on NCDEX

NEW DELHI, Nov 14: Indian Oil Corporation (IndianOil) has joined the league of select companies trading in derivatives on the National Commodities & Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX).

IndianOil's first derivatives trade of crude oil was inaugurated here today by Mr. Sarthak Behuria, Chairman, and was executed electronically through the NCDEX terminal at the Corporate Office. IndianOil has recently acquired a trading-cum-clearing membership with NCDEX. Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Behuria said commencement of derivatives trading on the domestic exchanges would be an extension to hedging activities currently undertaken by IndianOil through overseas over-the-counter markets.

Mr S.V.Narasimhan, Director (Finance), said that IndianOil would fully utilise the platform as a vehicle for its oil price risk management activities. IndianOil is actively acquiring membership of other domestic exchanges like Multi-Commodity Exchange too, he added.

IFFCO observes Vigilance Awareness Week

By Sushma Arora

NEW DELHI, Nov 8: India's largest cooperative, IFFCO, has voluntarily come forward to observe "Vigilance Awareness Week - 2006" at its Corporate Office. To mark the occasion, IFFCO's Managing Director, Dr U S Awasthi, administered a pledge to the employees.

Chief Vigilance Officer, IFFCO, J N Sahu, read out the messages of the President, Dr A P J Abdul Kalam and the Vice-President,

In his inaugural address, Mr Ashok Pahwa, chief Guest and former Secretary of the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers, stressed on the need for introspection and self-analysis.

He emphasized the mean of obtaining money were important for the fulfilment of life. "At the fag end of one's active life, people often realize that earning through righteous means is equally important for betterment of the humanity as ill gotten money spreads disharmony in society."

He called for humanizing the organization based on certain moral code of human behaviour to be observed in the day-to-day functioning.

Additional Secretary (Home), Mr P. V. Bhide, who was the guest of honour, praised the success and transparency of IFFCO as well as the growth of the organization besides employee loyalty and their pride in IFFCO.

He said everybody in their life should be vigilant in a holistic manner for the betterment of the society. He said that only observing formal vigilance procedures and formalities would not bring the desired result but activities intended of one's own will to eradicate the evils in society would serve a better dimension.

Mr Bhide said vigilance activities should be taken up with a purpose and not as a mere formality of administration. "Only then vigilance will play a vital role in Corporate Governance," he added.

In his keynote address, Dr. Sujit Basu, Director, MDI, Gurgaon, elaborated the essence of ethics and the truth in Corporate Business following the footsteps of Gurudev Rabindra Nath Tagore and Swami Vivekanand.

Dr. U. S. Awasthi, Managing Director of IFFCO, emphasised on the importance of vigilance and audit in every organization in the present day context.

He stressed that IFFCO was observing this Vigilance Week not by any external factors but internally for it's organizational excellence and growth and larger responsibilities undertaken by the society towards meeting the need of small and poor farmers of this country in general.

He advised the employees to be vigilant not only in workplace but also in every sphere of life especially for one's own health for better growth and meaningful life.

Dr. Awasthi praised Mr Pahwa and Mr Bhide for their vision and simplistic approach in past to resolve the complex situations.

The function concluded with a vote of thanks by General Manager (P&A/HRD), Marketing Division.

Anil makes Mukesh Ambani shield for Dadri project

TTO News Service

NEW DELHI, Nov 8: In order to overcome its troubles to commission the 7,480 MW Dadri power project in Uttar Pradesh, Anil Ambani group firm Reliance Natural Resources Ltd has moved the Bombay High Court against Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) for execution of the gas supply and purchase deal between them.

It is interesting to note that the Petroleum Ministry had rejected the price deal in July last and many times thereafter.

Petroleum Ministry, while rejecting the deal between RIL and RNRL, had cited lack of price discovery and non-adherence to the arms length sales criterion required under production sharing contract, as the reasons for rejection.

This move of Anil Ambani comes a day after the Supreme Court had rejected a petition filed by Anil Ambani's Reliance Airport Developers Ltd. challenging a government decision to award contracts for modernising Delhi and Mumbai airports to rivals.

Industry experts feel that Anil Ambani group, which is facing trouble in commissioning the Dadri project in time, has filed the plea with the court in order to look for an alibi.

It is interesting to note that the case has filed four months after the deal was initially rejected by the Petroleum Ministry and comes within one week of RIL filing the redevelopment plan with the Ministry of Petroleum for enhanced output.

RNRL filed an application at a companies court in the High Court, praying for implementation of the demerger agreement that came into effect in December last year.

The demerger pact, which was signed as per the settlement between the two brothers, required RIL to supply 28 million standard cubic meters of gas per day (mmscmd) at 2.34 dollars per million British thermal unit.

Significantly, RIL is also involved in a legal tussle with state-run NTPC Ltd. The generation major had early this year approached the Bombay High Court for execution of a gas deal by RIL for its Kawas-Gandhar power projects in Gujarat at a price of 2.97 dollars per mBtu.

When contacted, an RNRL spokesperson said an application has been filed, requesting the court to give directions to RIL on implementation of its December 2005 order.

RIL officials confirmed receiving a court notice. They, however, declined to comment further, saying the company was studying the notice.

Reliance Retail launches first 11 stores in Hyderabad

By Deepak Arora

HYDERABAD, Nov 3: Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) has launched its ambitious plan to market fresh fruits, vegetables and other agricultural products across the country by opening 11 pilot stores in this southern metropolis.

An ordinary customer who walked into the store in up market Banjara Hills area threw open the "Reliance Fresh" shop by cutting a ribbon. The other ten stores that opened in this capital city of Andhra Pradesh state were also opened by their first customers. The stores also sell staples, top-up grocery, fresh juice bars and dairy products.

On the inaugural day, the slick, air-conditioned stores recorded combined sales of Rs 22 lakh.

RIL, India's largest privately-owned industrial house, will invest nearly US $ 6 billion in building massive infrastructure like cold storage facilities in 68 world class distribution centres, and open similar stores in 784 urban cities and over 6,000 rural towns across India in the next five years.

Reliance Fresh stores will be opened in 70 cities in the next 18 to 24 months, Raghu Pillai, Chief Executive, Operations and Strategy, Reliance Retail, said.

RIL hopes to generate retail business worth $22 billion by 2011. The annual retail business in India is worth about $300 billion, and is growing by 8 per cent annually.

The stores will provide direct employment to half a million people and indirect employment to another million people all over the country, said Gunender Kapur, President and Chief Executive, Foods Business.

RIL Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani described today's event as "a small step in our initiative that will create a virtuous circle of prosperity by bringing the farmers and consumers in a win-win partnership."

"This retail offering will deliver unmatched affordability, quality and choice of products and services to the consumer, and help us fine-tune our offering by listening to the consumers and learning from them," Ambani added.

Ambani is India's richest man with assets worth $17 billion. His company RIL involved in textiles, oil refining, gas exploration and a host of other businesses.

The layout and design of the outlets, a key ingredient of branding, has been done by Mukesh Ambani's wife Nita. She is charting the company's course for "people outreach" bring to Reliance fold the last consumer or supplier-farmer.

Under the project, the company will set up world-class infrastructure for supply chain under a farm-to-fork strategy. "This idea is to make farmers our partners and ensure fresh fruits and vegetables at affordable prices," Pillai said.

Sanjeev Asthana, Chief Executive, Agri-business, said the world-class supply chain that would be set up under the project would prevent wastage of agricultural and horticultural products.

Since over 40 percent of the fruits and vegetables produced in India is said to go waste due to lack of efficient supply chains, Reliance will set up collection centres across the country to source the produce directly from farmers.

"This will eliminate middlemen and add value to farmers," Asthana said, adding farmers will be provided insurance, healthcare, best technologies and training on how to increase productivity.

On sourcing of products, Pillai said "we are sourcing from all over the country. For example, in these 11 stores, the apples are from Himachal Pradesh and Shimla, onion and potatoes from Karnataka and Maharashtra and, of course, the greens from in and around Hyderabad."

To a question on the pricing structure, said "competitiveness on prices is not the only preposition. The pricing may not be in line with the procurement rates of fresh fruits, vegetables and grocery products. I cannot say that the company would stabilise the prices. All I can say is that the prices would be in the most appropriate way."

RIL's entry into retailing of these products will mean creation of cold storage facilities all over India. The company will buy the products direct from the farmers at competitive rates, thus ensuring better income for the farmers. Agriculture provides livelihood to 70 per cent of India's 1.1 billion people.

The name "Fresh" in "Reliance Fresh" denotes clear consumer benefits of providing fresh choice of fruits, vegetables and grocery. The brand colours have been chosen after intense and detailed deliberations based on consumer research, said Kapur.

Responding to a question, Kapur said the Fresh green denotes nature, freshness, health, vibrancy, crispness and the fullness of life. The colour red signifies brightness, power, approachability, warmth, optimism, richness, dynamism and auspiciousness.

"These colours have been blended with the traditional Reliance blue colour that denotes honesty, reliability, seriousness and calmness, thus, intended to inspire confidence."

Pillai said that the venture will not put neighbourhood kirana merchants and cart vendors grocers out of business. In fact, he said the company was contemplating partnering small-scale traders at a later stage by setting up separate outlets wherein the traders could purchase groceries and other products from them.

K S Venugopal, Head, AP Operations, said the model chosen by the company for these retail outlets is going to be a mix of company-owned and franchisees. "Of the 11 outlets opened today, most of them are franchisees. We want to promote entrepreneurs all over the country."

Venugopal said that by the year-end, the company plans to have outlets in five other cities in AP - Vijayawada, Guntur, Warangal, Tirupati and Vizag

Reliance Retail Revolution

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI: A new retail revolution will be witnessed in the country on Nov 3 when Reliance Retail will unveil 11 "friendly neighbourhood stores" in Hyderabad. The launch takes place just five-months after the Reliance Group Chairman Mukesh Ambani spelt out company's Rs 25,000 crore retail plans for the next five years.

To be called Reliance Fresh, these 'friendly neighbourhood stores' will sell fresh fruits, vegetables, staples and other products. The first of these stores are spread across 2,000 sq ft to 5,000 sq ft. The size of the stores will increase as Reliance Retail unveils other formats over the coming months.

This format would be followed by launch of a nation-wide chain of hypermarkets, supermarkets, discount stores, department stores, convenience stores and specialty stores. Reliance Retail is expected to commission 4000 stores across the country in the next three to four years and is expected to employ over 5 lakh people in the same time frame.

The "Brand" of its Neighbourhood Stores was unveiled a few days ago and was kept distinct from the opening as the brand encompasses more than the physical space and is a reflection of the ethos and vision of the company. Mukesh Ambani has entrusted the task of managing and handling the Branding & Communication for the pan India Retail network to his wife and the first lady of Indian Industry Nita Ambani.

Nita Ambani has also been in-charge of the architecture, design and layout of the Reliance Retail stores which will within months become a common feature in the Indian neighbourhood. She has spent the past one year with international consultants and experts fine tuning the look and feel of the stores that are expected to usher in a new era of retailing.

The branding and positioning of the company will also feature an important aspect of reaching out to all its stake holders including the most important - the Indian Farmer and the Indian consumer. Mukesh Ambani has frequently expressed his desire to kick start the agrarian economy to ensure sustainable growth for the country in the coming years. The retail venture is an integral component of the Farm - to - Fork business model that is expected to provide the farmers with economic and social options.

Leveraging the strengths and experience of Nita Ambani in civil society initiatives and social work, Mukesh has also asked Nita to spearhead the People Outreach initiatives with special focus in the rural landscape. She will also focus on ensuring that the cross section of the Indian society is comfortable in the retail experience being offered by Reliance.

RIL regains top slot in M-cap league; shares hit record high

MUMBAI, Nov 1: Reliance Industries on Wednesday regained its position as the country's most valued firm, following a sharp jump of over 3 per cent in its share price driven by the company's plans to raise 2 billion dollars (over Rs 9,000 crore) for oil and gas exploration and production.

RIL's market capitalisation soared to over Rs 1,76,000 lakh crore after the company's share price hit an all-time high of Rs 1,268 per share.

The Mukesh Dhirubhai Ambani Group flagship company has toppled state-run energy giant ONGC as the country's biggest corporate entity in terms of market value. ONGC commanded a market cap of about Rs 1,72,000 crore at the end of today's trading session.

Earlier last month, RIL had replaced ONGC from its long-held top spot in the market league, but the PSU oil exploration giant had subsequently regained its position.

However, RIL's share price soared ahead 3.1 per cent to close at Rs 1,264.20 at the Bombay Stock Exchange today after hitting an intra-day high of Rs 1,268, while pushing the company ahead of ONGC in the market-cap league.

ONGC's share price dropped 1.43 per cent to Rs 804.

The sharp rally in RIL's share price followed the announcement that the company plans to raise 2 billion dollars through Foreign Currency Convertible Bonds (FCCBs), syndicated loan or fixed/floating bonds. The company's board is scheduled to hold a meeting on November 9 for approving the proposal to raise funds.

The company now plans to invest 5.2 billion dollars to double the output from its D6 block in KG-Basin, as against its previously proposed investment of 2.47 billion dollars.

Earlier yesterday, Banc of America Securities announced that it has successfully closed a 300 million dollar private placement of debt securities for RIL, which marks the first ever such placement by an Indian company in the US.

RIL files amended development plan for KG-D6

MUMBAI: Nov 1: Reliance Industries Limited has filed an amendment, to the initial development plan for the Deepwater Block KG-DWN-98/3 (referred to as KG-D6), with the Director
General of Hydrocarbon (DGH) for approval.

The Deepwater Block KG-DWN-98/3 in Krishna - Godavari Basin off the East coast of India in Bay of Bengal was awarded to Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) and NIKO Resources Limited, Calgary, Canada (NIKO) under NELP-1 bidding round. RIL, as operator of the block holds 90% of the participating interest and NIKO the remaining 10%.

The block covers an area of 7645 sq kms and its north-western boundary is about 40-60 kms southeast of Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh. Water depth in the block ranges upto 2700 m.
RIL made the world's largest gas discovery in 2002 in this block.

Based on the initial reserve estimates of the block RIL prepared an Initial Development Plan for developing two discoveries Dhirubhai 1 and Dhirubhai 3 in the block. The Initial Development Plan envisaged production plateau of 40 mmscmd. The Initial Development Plan was submitted to the DGH in May 2004 and was approved in November

Subsequent to the approval of the Initial Approved Development Plan for Dhirubhai 1 and Dhirubhai 3 gas fields, a lot of exploratory work has been done in the block to assess the overall hydrocarbon potential and the recoverable reserves in these fields .This includes acquisition of additional 3D seismic data, drilling of additional exploratory wells resulting in 13 discoveries and extensive coring of two development wells.

RIL has also obtained independent assessment of 2P reserves for the Dhirubhai-1 and Dhirubhai-3 gas discoveries at 11.3 TCF which is almost double of the earlier estimates.

Fire would not impact refinery output, fin performance: RIL

By Sushma Arora

JAMNAGAR, Oct 26: Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) has said its financial performance and production from the Jamnagar refinery will not be impacted by the fire that destroyed one of its oil processing facilities. "All the 40 units but for the one destroyed yesterday are operating as normal. We see no impact on the refinery operations and performance," RIL President (Refinery) P K Kapil said.

Kapil, refuted reports that the fire would create LPG shortage in the country, saying they would be no shortfall in product availability and the refinery would meet all its commitments. "The refinery's financial performance and operations would not be affected by the fire," he said.

Meanwhile the company has constituted two task forces one to put in operation the destroyed unit and the other to investigate the cause of the fire and suggest preventive measures so that such incidents are not repeated.

According to an RIL spokesperson, one person has died in the fire that devastated a unit at Reliance Industries' refinery in Jamnagar, while a company employee was seriously injured. The company employee sustained 60 percent burn injuries and has been shifted to Mumbai for treatment.

A major fire on Wednesday had destroyed one of the oil processing facilities at the refinery. The unit will be shut for 10 days for repairs, but overall throughput is not likely to be affected.

Although the company maintained that there would be no production loss, the government has asked Indian Oil Corp to tie-up import of about 1,00,000 tonnes of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to meet any shortfall arising from the fire at a secondary processing unit (VGO Hydrotreater-II).

SAIL will maintain its share, despite mega mergers: Chairman

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Oct 25: Undeterred by mega mergers and announcements to create big capacities by foreign producers like POSCO and Mittal Steel, India's largest steel maker SAIL has exuded confidence of retaining its leading position.

"Let anybody come We shall maintain or consolidate our market share," SAIL Chairman Sushil Kumar Roongta said.

Asked whether SAIL was looking for acquisitions overseas or would expand through the greenfield route, Roongta, who assumed charge of the over Rs 32,000 crore PSU recently, said "there is enough potential in the domestic market to grow but we shall not close our eyes to good opportunities even overseas."

On the mega deal of Tata Steel acquiring Anglo-Dutch steel company Corus in the UK, Roongta expressed happiness saying the deal shows the confidence of overseas markets in Indian entrepreneurs.

"We are at a take-off stage. There is plenty of scope to grow. If good opportunities exist we would not close our eyes," he said.

"We have a very strong client-base. Despite new producers in the 90's we have been able to hold on to ourselves," he said and asserted that despite being the nation's biggest producer, there was no room for complacency.

SAIL has set a target of producing 22 million tonnes of steel in the next five years, Roongta said and added the capacity of Bokaro, Durgapur, Rourkela, and IISCO would be increased to 14 MT, 5 MT, 5 MT and 5 MT respectively. "40 MT for SAIL may not be a distant target," he suggested.

SAIL had planned to invest Rs 37,000 crore by 2012 to produce 22 million tonnes of steel, Roongta said adding the plan has now been changed to be completed by 2010.

Roongta, said SAIL is aware of the need for cold-rolled steel for the automobile sector and has accordingly decided to build a 2.5 MT cold-rolling mill at its Bokaro unit. "The unit would exclusively cater to the auto sector," he averred.

Asked whether SAIL was looking for acquisition of smaller capacities outside India, he said SAIL's current priority was to retain its position as the country's biggest steel producer but did not write off any brownfield expansion.

He reasoned that Mergers and Acquisitions did not happen earlier in the state-run entity as the PSUs Boards were not adequately empowered to explore the same. "We have not been looking outwards till 5 to 7 years back and that is making the difference," he reasoned and said now everybody (steelmakers) "has found new confidence."

Yahoo India launches product innovations

By Sushma Arora

NEW DELHI, Oct 18: Yahoo! India - the largest internet brand in the country has launched Yahoo! Indichat plug-in which enables users to chat in Hindi and Tamil without any need for a language keyboard. The user can just load the Side Panel plug-in and start chatting in Hindi and Tamil.

Innovative features of Yahoo! Indichat
1. The Plugin works on Version 8 of Yahoo! India Messenger and is a Side Panel Plugin. Currently, it allows the users to chat in Hindi and Tamil using an English keyboard
2. Messages can be sent across messenger versions
3. Users can also send Instant Messages to their Windows Live contacts in the Yahoo! messenger buddy list through the Interoperability feature
4. Indichat allows users to search for content in Hindi/Tamil on Yahoo! India Search

Yahoo! India also offers other plug-ins which facilitate chat in other Indian languages like Telugu, Marathi, Bengali, Gujarati and Malayalam. Also, a user with any language keyboard can chat on Yahoo! Messenger 8.0 in that language.

The plug-in feature will revolutionize user experience on Yahoo! Messenger 8.0 by enabling music, finance, games, answers and many more features in their messenger window. This takes Yahoo! Messenger beyond just a device for chatting, making it a daily essential service for net users.

"We continuously innovate, make relevant and localize our communication products in our effort to provide the best Web experience possible," said George Zacharias, MD Yahoo! India.

Users can download Indichat plug-in for Hindi and Tamil from into their Yahoo! Messenger 8.0. The service will be rolled out in other Indian languages very soon.

Another unique feature from Yahoo! India is the introduction of Indian language Audibles which are available in Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Malayalam, Gujarati and Punjabi. Audibles are an extremely popular fun feature of Yahoo! Messenger.

Yahoo! Mail Beta innovations:
1. Fast and intuitive interface,
2. Drag and drop e-mail organization
3. Reading pane to instantly view messages
4. View multiple e-mails at the same time, through tabbed navigation
5. An integrated RSS reader, providing access to breaking news, blog entries, and other feeds directly in the Web mail experience
6. Keyboard shortcuts and right click menus
7. Calendar view integration within e-mail to give instant alerts for the day's activities

Yahoo! India also announced the launch of Yahoo! Mail beta for India, the next generation Web 2.0 mail product from Yahoo!

Highlights of Yahoo! Mail beta include a sleek, easy-to-use interface with the speed and responsiveness of a desktop application. The latest version also features innovative online calendar integration and provides a fast, efficient experience with enhanced functionality, such as drag and drop e-mail organization, message preview and an integrated RSS reader. Like the current Yahoo! Mail experience, the new version is a free, browser-based service, accessible from virtually any computer connected to the Internet, without the need for a software download.

The new Yahoo! Mail beta embodies Yahoo!'s proficiency in scaling innovative technology. Not only is the new version now available to all Yahoo! users, it also provides the most significant enhancement to the Yahoo! Mail interface and user experience since its launch in 1997.

Mukesh replaces Premji as India's richest

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Oct 16: In a double-treat of sorts, Reliance Industries' emergence as India's most valued firm has also catapulted its Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani right on to the top of the country's richest list.

After toppling state-run energy giant ONGC as India's largest corporate house among listed entities after more than four years, RIL's market cap has further swelled to over Rs 1,65,000 crore taking Mukesh Ambani's net worth based on his shareholding in group companies to more than Rs 70,000 crore.

Ambani's elevation to the top of the country's richie-rich club has pushed Wipro's Azim Premji to the second position with a net worth of about Rs 64,700 crore.

The younger Ambani brother Anil's net worth has also soared after the recent record breaking rally in the stock market. Anil Ambani maintains his position as the country's third richest person with a net worth of over Rs 61,000 crore based on his shareholding in group companies.

The combined market value of Mukesh Ambani group companies -- RIL, Reliance Petroleum (RPL), IPCL and Reliance Industrial Infrastructure Ltd (RIIL) has soared to about Rs 2,04,000 crore
The cumulative market capitalisation of Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group companies -- Reliance Communications, Reliance Capital, Reliance Natural Resources and Reliance Energy -- currently stands at about Rs 1,08,500 crore.

While Wipro has also witnessed a sharp rally in its share price over the recent past, Azim Premji's net worth has not risen much due to the fall in the total promoter stake in the company.

Wipro's market capitalisation currently stands at about Rs 80,000 crore, which puts Premji's net wealth based on his 80.94 per cent holding in the company at Rs 64,723 crore.

Promoters, including Mukesh Ambani, hold a total stake of 49.92 per cent in RIL which is estimated to be worth about Rs 82,800 crore based on the company's current share price.

Total promoter stake in four Mukesh Ambani group companies -- RIL, RPL, IPCL and RIIL -- is worth more than Rs 1,00,000 crore, excluding the 5 per cent stake held by US energy major Chevron in RPL, while that of four ADAG companies is estimated to be around Rs 68,000 crore.

Oktoberfest at Cafe Uno, Shangri-La

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Oct 13: Oktoberfest at Munich is one of the most famous folk festival - and beer festival - in the world (and the biggest) and is the German city major attractions. It starts third Saturday in September and only after a tradional ceremony: The 'Wies'n' publicans, set off at 11am on their colourfully decorated floats pulled by horses, make their way along Schwanthaler Strasse towards the Theresienwiese.

The first barrel of beer is personally tapped by the Lord Mayor at 12 noon and on Sunday, starting at 10 am, groups in traditional garb from all over Europe march to the Theresienwiese. The blissful, beer-laden festival lasts for a total of 16 days and six million people attend each year.

The 'Wies'n' festival originates from the wedding feast for Crown Prince Ludwig and his bride Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen in 1810. Statistics show the impressive dimensions of the event: 14 giant tents with a total seating capacity of 100,000 serve 5.5 million litres of potent 'March beer', more than 600,000 fried chickens and 84 heads of cattle. The annual commercial value of the whole thing is estimated at a minimum of 0.7 billion Euro.

Well, if you missed out the Munich Oktoberfest, don't worry. Shangri La hotel has brought this great Bavarian tradition at its Café Uno. So join the first-hand experience for a buffet lunch and dinner with mouthwatering Oktoberfest specials like Grilled Zucchini with Parmesan Cheese, Sauer Kraut with Kassler, Beef Gulash, German Sausages and Semmel Knoedeln.

The festivities are accompanied by the special performance of German bands specially flown in from Munich after playing at the Oktoberfest there. Enjoy the festival with Paulaner "Oktoberfest" beer. Drop by in the afternoon between noon and 3.30pm, or come for the evening sessions from 7pm to 11pm. Take your children along as there are activities for them too. The festival concludes on October 22.


RIL topples ONGC as India's largest M-cap company

MUMBAI, Oct 12: Corporate behemoth Reliance Industries (RIL) today replaced state-run energy giant ONGC as India's largest corporate entity in terms of market capitalisation with a more than one per cent surge in its share price.

Shares of RIL jumped about 1.3 per cent in morning trade today, taking its market capitalisation to over Rs 1.61 lakh crore, ahead of the incumbent leader Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) Ltd.

ONGC's shares were trading marginally in the red giving the company's market cap at about Rs 1.60 lakh crore.

The market observers said RIL could witness continued uptrend in its share price in the coming days on expectations of a robust second-quarter performance, scheduled to be announced on October 19.

IT major Infosys, which replaced PSU power major national thermal power corporation as the country's third largest corporate entity yesterday, maintained its position with a market capitalisation of over 1.11 lakh crore.

Infosys's shares were seen gaining further ground after a jump of about four per cent yesterday, driven by an impressive Q2 results and its plans to launch a secondary American depositary share offering of about USD 1.5 billion.

Another it major TCS was also seen trading with a gain of about two per cent, taking its market cap to over Rs 1.03 lakh crore, the fifth largest among India's listed entities.

NTPC, now the fourth largest in the Market-Capitalisation league, was trading with a modest gain keeping the company's market cap at about Rs 1.07 lakh crore.

BSNL announces reduction in fixed line tariffs

NEW DELHI, Oct 12: BSNL has announced a massive reduction in fixed line tariffs by bringing its 1.16 crore fixed line subscribers under one India plan enabling them to make STD calls anywhere in the country at Re 1 per minute and local call at the rate of Re 1 per 3 minutes.

BSNL also reduced monthly rentals from Rs 225 to 180 besides doubling the free calls to 50 calls a month. The new tariff will come into effect from 1st November, BSNL CMD A K Sinha told reporters.

Infosys Q2 profit soars 52%; exceeds expectations

Bangalore, Oct 11: Beating market expectations and riding on the back of booming outsourcing demand, software giant Infosys today reported a jump of 52 per cent in its consolidated group profit to Rs 930 crore for the second quarter ended September 30.

The country`s second largest software exporter said its revenue rose by 50.4 per cent to Rs 3,451 crore in the July-September period, from Rs 2,294 crore in the year-ago quarter.

Surpassing its own guidance for the second consecutive time, the company also raised its annual revenue forecast pegging it in the range of Rs 13,853 crore and Rs 13,899 crore for the year ending March 31, 2007.

"Our robust organic growth coupled with investments in various strategic areas helped us to grow faster in this environment. We have revised our guidance to cross USD 3 billion in revenues this fiscal," Infosys CEO and Managing Director Nandan M Nilekani told reporters at Infosys campus here.

A marginal depreciation in rupee, improvement in operating margins despite absorbing wage increases and other strategic investments, reduction in visa costs, scale benefits and increased business from top customers were cited by the company executives for the performance that went well beyond its own and market expectations.

On stand-alone basis, the company`s net profit rose by 51 per cent to Rs 896 crore in the latest quarter, from Rs 592 crore in the year-ago period.

The company reported a consolidated net profit, after tax and exceptional item and minority interest, of Rs 929 crore for q2 2006-07 as against Rs 606 crore in same quarter last year.

Goa to set up hydro power plant

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Oct 8: Goa Government plans to set up a 50 MW hydro power generation plant in Mhadai region, according to Mr Digambar V Kamat, Goa Power Minister.

In an exclusive tête-à-tête with this correspondent, Mr Kamat said the government had called for an Expression of Interest for a Consultant and around 20 companies have submitted bids.

"In about 10 days we will shortlist the consultant, who will prepare tender documents to set up the power generation unit on BOT (Build, Operate and Transfer) basis. The whole process of awarding the contract for the power plant will be completed by end-December," he said. The Minister said the NHPC has been appointed to prepare the detail project report.

With the help of Union Power Minister, Mr Sushil Kumar Shinde, the Goan Minister said the State was considering setting up a 250 MW thermal power plant. "A NTPC team is expected to visit the State soon to help in preparing the feasibility report," he added.

Mr Kamat, who has the unique distinction of being the longest serving Power Minister in the country, has taken several steps to empower the "Aam Admi". "My focus has always been to give best service to the people," he said. Some of these steps include mobile vans to attend to consumer complaints 24-hours and mobile transformers in all the 22 sub-divisions to restore electricity within half-an-hour in case of unforeseen breakdowns in the area distribution network.

Besides, he said, "we have improved the distribution system and set up a 400 KV sub-station in Goa." He added "this ultramodern online dispatch centre has considerably improved the voltage and reliability profile of power to Goa and minimized the transmission and distribution losses with the State."

Goa has been making surplus revenue of Rs 140 crore per annum during the past two to three years during the tenure of Mr Kamat, who has been adjudged the best Power Minister.

When he took over as Power Minister in 1999, the revenue of the State was Rs 232 crore. It now stands at Rs 600 crore per annum.

Showing his concern for the "Aam Admi", Mr Kamat said "Goa is the only State in the country where Rupee One is charged as tariff for the first 60 units." He also informed that power tariffs have not been increased in the State for the last five years.

Mr Kamat has also brought down the technical and commercial losses from 30 per cent seven years ago to mere 16 per cent now.

US billionaire acquires OCM for $37 mn

LONDON, Oct 5: US billionaire investor Wilbur Ross has made his debut in India by buying out the troubled textile maker OCM for USD 37 million in an all cash deal.

WL Ross & Co, the private equity firm led by Ross Struck the deal yesterday to acquire 100 per cent stake in OCM, which was facilitated by Asset Reconstruction Company of India Ltd (ARCIL).

The deal acquisition was funded by WL Ross` US $300 million Indian asset recovery fund, with additional funding from the WLR Recovery Fund III and Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC).

"There are a few countries in the world that will become world leaders in textiles: India, China and we also think Vietnam. We have been looking for some time for investment in India," Ross told Financial Times.

The India acquisition will add to the firm's extensive global textiles operations. Ross said industries like textiles and cement have been very fragmented in India and there is a need to consolidate them.

WL Ross has sponsored more than us $4.5 billion of distressed assets since its founding in 2000. Ross rolled up five bankrupt US steel companies to create the international steel group, which was sold last year to Mittal Steel for USD 4.5 billion.

Govt launch marker to check adulteration of kerosene

NEW DELHI, Oct 4: In the biggest ever anti-adulteration drive, the Government has launched a programme of dyeing kerosene with an imported, un-removable marker so that it is not used as an adulterant in petrol and diesel.

Launching the kerosene marker at Indian Oil Corp's (IOC) Bijwasan terminal in New Delhi, Petroleum Minister Murli Deora said, "the new marker system being introduced for the first time by the oil industry in alignment with the international practices is expected to curb auto fuel adulteration."

Dyeing of kerosene with a marker imported from Authentix of the UK would help detect adulteration of kerosene in auto fuels and ensure PDS kerosene reaches the targeted group, he said.

Petroleum Secretary M S Srinivasan said all the 32,000 petrol pumps in the country would be equipped with a testing kit within four months. "Consumers can use the kit to test the fuel and report adulterations."

IOC Chairman Sarthak Behuria said the entire programme would cost the oil industry Rs 160 crore annually.

Authentix director (international) Tim Wilkinson said the its marker cannot be tampered with and it was possible to visually detect even a small trace of kerosene (1 per cent) in auto fuels using a simple but highly accurate and effective test kit.

In September 2005, an NCAER study concluded that 38.6 per cent of PDS kerosene was being diverted for adulteration in petrol and diesel.

The incentive being the huge price difference - while a litre of kerosene costs just over Rs 9, an equal volume of petrol in Delhi is priced at Rs 47.50 and diesel at Rs 32.40

Jetfleet, Europcar introduce state-of-the-art rental cars

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Sept 28: Thanks to Jetfleet and Europcar, jet-set travellers in the Indian metro cities will now finally get to rent cars equipped with mini-refrigerators and laptops.

Jetfleet will commence operations in the capital New Delhi on October 3 followed by Bangalore in early November and Mumbai by early December, said Mr Mahiyar M. Sadri,Director, Jetfleet.

Mr Sadri said "Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai, Agra, Jaipur and Pune will be added to the network in 2007 followed by Goa, Ahmedabad and Chandigarh in 2008."

Jetfleet Country Manager, Mr Gautam Nath said "We are beginning the car rental business with a fleet of 28 cars and expect to create a pool of 800 to 900 vehicles of different models in the next three years."

Jetfleet Private Limited, a Jetair promoted entity, on Wednesday inked an agreement with Europe's leading car rental firm Europcar, to provide a unique personal mobility solution targeted at the Indian and expatriate corporate and leisure travel business in India.

Jetfleet has entered into an exclusive tie-up with Europcar to provide exclusively tailored personal mobility solutions that respond to specific market needs.

"Jetfleet has been set up to provide travellers a comprehensive range of Europcar's facilities in key metros and tourist destinations throughout India. Customers will also be able to avail of Europcar's global network, expertise and a frequent flyer program akin to those run by Airlines," said Mr Sadri.

The company plans to equip every vehicle in its fleet with a state-of-the-art advanced Global Positioning System (GPS), first-aid kits, a mini-fridge, laptop, mobile phone chargers and other sundries like wet tissues, newspapers and magazines.

Notably, Europcar has over 3,000 rental agencies in 170 countries and its evolution is based on partnerships with airlines, railway operators, hotel groups, automobile clubs and roadside assistance services.

The fleet will include newer models of a range of brands as per market needs, which will be replaced frequently to minimize downtime, optimize comfort levels and ensure safety of customers.

There will also be an option for a reliable self-drive experience.

Commenting on the partnership with Jetfleet, Mr Douglas Hunt, CEO, Europcar, Asia Pacific, said, "Partnering with Jetfleet aligns Europcar with a leading and dynamic player in India and reinforces our existing network within the Asia-Pacific region. Furthermore, besides the obvious synergies to both the partners, this partnership should also provide the corporate travellers in India with a truly international personalised mobility solution"

"The master franchise agreement with Europcar will help corner 25 per cent of the corporate mobility solutions market in India within the first three years of operations," said Mr Sadri.

RIL closes $300,000,000 US private placement

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Sept 18: In a new historic first by an Indian issuer, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has successfully closed and funded the first ever US private debt placement. Taking advantage of increasing investor confidence in India and its major industrial enterprises, Reliance launched a $200,000,000 issue in the US Traditional Private Placement market led by Bank of America Securities, ABN Amro and HSBC and was able to substantially oversubscribe the transaction resulting in it being increased in size to $300,000,000.

The senior unsecured notes have been placed for a period of 10 and 12 years with US Insurance companies marking the first meaningful transaction in the Regulation D market since the early 1990's from Asia.
It is also a highly successful deal from a debut issuer from the emerging markets. RIL is the only active corporate issuer of bonds out of India and this successful debut issue continues in that tradition. RIL was the first Asian issuer of 100 year bonds in the international bond markets in 1997. The Company had earlier this year also successfully closed the first ever 10 year Euro yen issue by an Asian corporate.

Alok Agarwal, Chief Financial Officer, stated: "We are very pleased with the strong investor response to our inaugural, U.S. private placement. Accessing this important source of capital not only increases our financial flexibility, but also serves to extend the average maturity of our debt. We are particularly pleased that this transaction afforded us the opportunity to establish a partnership with some of the foremost institutional investors in the United States."

Reliance was able to take advantage of robust demand in the US Private Placement Market for strong, investment grade credits. The issue was purchased by a group of 10 large U.S. insurance companies, led by AIG, AEGON and ING. The transaction was structured to include bullet maturities of 10 and 12 years, which served to lengthen the Company's overall debt maturity schedule and to further diversify its sources of funding. The Company intends to use the proceeds of the financing for capital expenditure.

Reliance is India's largest private sector enterprise with operations in three major business segments: (i) exploration and production of oil and natural gas, (ii) refining and marketing of petroleum products, and (iii) petrochemicals, including the manufacturing and marketing of polymers, polyester, polyester intermediates and chemicals. For the fiscal year ended March 31, 2006, Reliance had turnover of Rs. 89,124 crore (US$ 19.98 billion).

Mukesh is ET's Biz Leader of the Year

By Deepak Arora

MUMBAI: One of India's wealthiest businessmen overcomes personal distractions and internal strife to lead his company to an exciting new path of growth; two women with contrasting backgrounds battle huge odds to emerge triumphant in a male-dominated culture at different ends of the globe; a super-rich industrialist spends time and energy in giving something back to the community that nurtured his success, while a suave bureaucrat and a determined politician skilfully manage to push the reforms agenda amidst opposition.

This year's winners of The Economic Times Awards for Corporate Excellence form a rich array of leadership talent that's helping India gain her rightful place in the world. Since 1998, every year, the Oscars of Corporate India as they are called, have selected a range of remarkable leaders and entrepreneurs who represent the very best of the best.

This year was no different. A distinguished jury, chaired by Lakshmi Niwas Mittal, on his first visit to Mumbai after the merger with Arcelor, selected seven individuals, two companies and one social service foundation for India's highest business awards.

Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, India's largest private sector company, bagged the Business Leader of the Year Award for bouncing back from the family split to drive his company on a bold new growth path.

Indra Nooyi, chief executive designate of PepsiCo, is the Global Indian of the Year

Airtel inks Rs 4500 cr network expansion deal with Ericsson

NEW DELHI, Aug 23: Bharti Airtel has awarded Swedish telecom vendor Ericsson a US$ 1 billion (about Rs 4500 crore) contract extending over three years, to cover expansion and upgrade of its GSM, GPRS network as well as managed services to increase network capacity and services footprint.

The contract will enable Bharti Airtel rapidly expand its mobile services footprint further and reach out to all towns and cities in 15 telecom circles in the country. The three-year service contract with Ericsson is towards the design, planning, supply and installation commissioning of Airtel networks in these circles, a Bharti statement said.

Last year Bharti Airtel had signed a US$ 250 million (Rs 1,075 crore) contract with Ericsson, to set up and maintain Airtel's cellular network in 3,000 towns and villages across the country. In 2004, they had signed a US$ 400 million agreement for supply of GSM network.

Ericsson will also upgrade the network with mobile softswitch (Media Gateway and MSC Servers), the solution that paves the way to an all-IP network. Bharti Airtel will be able to reduce the operational costs and introduce new services in a cost-efficient way.

The scope of the agreement extends to 15 Airtel circles of Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, UP (West), Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Chennai, Karnataka, Kerala, Rajasthan, UP (East), Jammu & Kashmir, Assam and North East.

Manoj Kohli, President, Bharti Airtel said, "Our partnership with Ericsson is testament to this belief as it allows us to focus on delivering better customer experience even as we leverage the world class expertise of our partners to roll out our networks across all census towns by March 2007. In addition, we are also sourcing next generation products that will allow us to deliver innovative products & services to our customers."

This partnership will enable Airtel to channel its resources and expertise to its core areas of product innovation, value added services, marketing, branding and pricing, while simultaneously providing world class mobile services by leveraging Ericsson expertise in network management.

Our partnership with Bharti Airtel resulted in the first managed services contract in the industry.

Speed of roll-outs plays an extremely important role in large expansions of this nature. Ericsson has demonstrated expertise in this area, said Mats Granryd, Managing Director, Ericsson India. Ericsson is a long-term Bharti partner, managing more than 70 percent of its GSM/GPRS network in 15 regions in India.

Anil Ambani group comes under SEBI scanner

NEW DELHI, Aug 21: The Anil Ambani Group has come under scanner of SEBI and the Finance Ministry with regard to non-transfer of shares to the shareholders.

The SEBI has received such complaints from aggrieved investors in Reliance Capital Venture Ltd that got merged with Reliance Capital Ltd and Reliance Energy Venture Ltd that got merged with Reliance Energy Ltd for not having received the shares of the new companies.

Both these companies had declared its book closure dates between August 1 and 5 this year. The stocks of the earlier companied have been de-listed from July 25 this year. Investors allege that they have not received of shares of the new companies in their demat accounts even after 24 days of de-listing of their stocks in the old companies.

With the large number of shareholders not receiving their stocks, it is being felt that the prices of the shares have gone up several times due to the artificial scarcity in the market. One of the shareholder alleged "it's like old times when promoters used to create artificial shortage of stock in the market and then jack up the price. Due to non-availability of shares in my account, I cannot sell them now when the prices are high."

The SEBI has been urged to protect the interests of small investors by protecting their investment. Rajendra Naik, an investor from Thane, alleges in the complaint to SEBI that the same management is currently in the process of giving itself more that 80 crore shares of Reliance Communications Ventures Ltd without any valuation report or public justification.

In another complaint to SEBI, Rajesh H Pugalia, an investror from Banswara, Rajasthan, alleged that his shares of these companies have vanished from his HDFC Bank demat account and he has blamed the bank for this.

'One India, One Rate' for Speed Post

NEW DELHI, Aug 21: To keep an edge on the private courier agencies, India Post kicked off a new Speed Post tariff under 'One India, One Rate' scheme. It is for the first time that Speed Post rates are reduced, with an objective to make Speed Post brand a relevant and vibrant one.

There would be a new weight slab of upto 50 grams under this scheme. ''Speed Post tariff under this scheme will be Rs 25 for the first weight slab of 'upto 50 grams', irrespective of the distance. However, in respect of 'local', the current Speed Post rate structure will continue,'' sources in the Postal Department said.

The new tariff of Rs 25 for the weight slab of upto 50 grams (other than local articles) will be inclusive of service tax and educational cess, irrespective of the distance involved. ''As such, the rate is all-inclusive and the customer will pay just Rs 25,'' they said. This is one of the many new initiatives, the Department has planned as a part of Speed Post's 20th anniversary celebrations.

Speed Post was started in August 1986 with a view to provide time-bound and express delivery of letters and parcels to the customers. Its rates were restructured on 10th September, 2001, and after that there had been no change in the rates.

Now, with a view to enable the customers to send their letters through Speed Post, the department has introduced 'One India One Rate' scheme. In the past 20 years it continues to be the market leader in the express industry. ''During 2005-06, Speed Post revenue crossed Rs 408 crore and in the current year, we have targeted a revenue of Rs 500 crore,'' sources said.

One of the oldest department of Posts and Telegraphs, India Post is now focussing on diversification of its services, as it has lost a big pie of core businesses like handing letters and parcels to private courier agencies. The department is also welcoming public-private partnerships (PPP) to enhance the quality of its services.

Collaboration with the science company DuPont for manufacturing Rakhi emvelopes last months was a citation of its PPP initiatives. Such diversified business interests have infused a new life to the crumbling India Post and the losses of department have come down significantly to Rs 1,215 crore in FY06, from Rs 1,411.5 crore in FY02.

Capital's consumer forum summons Anil Ambani

NEW DELHI: Reliance Communications (formerly Reliance Infocomm) Chairman Anil Ambani was summoned on Friday by a city consumer forum to personally appear before it on August 30 in connection with a complaint, accusing the telephone major of "unfair trade practices".

The summon was sent on the basis of a complaint lodged by a resident of the national capital, accusing the company of fraudulently de-activating his mobile phone connection taken under the 'Khazana' promotional scheme.

The District Consumer Forum (North) also directed the company to activate the phone connection with immediate effect. The forum also said that if the respondent fails to comply with either the summon or the direction on re-activating the phone, all bank accounts of the company would be frozen.

Roongta appointed SAIL chairman

MUMBAI, Aug 18: State-owned Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) today said S K Roongta has been appointed as the Chairman of the company following a Government of India order.

Pursuant to the order of the government, Roongta, Director (commercial) of the company, has assumed charge as Chairman with effect from August 17, SAIL informed the Bombay Stock Exchange.

Shares of the company were trading at Rs 75.80, down 0.59 per cent on the BSE today.

Synergy Launch at Shangri-La hotel, New Delhi !

By Sushma Arora

NEW DELHI, Aug 11: Shangri-La hotel launched its marketing corporate initiative program called 'Synergy' with a fun filled evening studded with games, lucky draws, dance, music and great prizes. The prizes included about 15 internationals hotel stays at Shangri-La hotels and resorts worldwide, consumer durable products and much more.

The program was launched in the presence of Mr. Andrew Quinlan, General Manager, Mr Divya Prakash Ahuja, Director (Sales and Marketing), Shangri-La staff representatives and all Synergy Program members.

The program designed exclusively to recognize and reward corporate travel planners for patronizing Shangri-La Hotel, New Delhi saw an attendance of more than 800 people from the various corporate houses.

"As an introduction we have close to 1000 members keen to enroll for this program from various cities and representation from renowned corporate entities, multinational corporations, diplomatic mission and Indian conglomerates. The benefit related program works on a simple premise of 'Rewarding for Patronizing'. The benefits are extended to people who may not be using the end product but recognize our product and services," said Mr Divya Prakash Ahuja.

The program brings amazing benefits and redemptions like exquisite leather products, cell phones, home appliances, washing machines, laptops, home theater, other consumer durable products for your everyday use, free holidays and much more! "Synergy" allows you to earn points by simply booking your corporate clients at Shangri-La, based on the category of room booked and every materialized room night.

"The accumulated points then can be redeemed for a range of exciting rewards either at regular intervals or at the end of the membership which is renewable every year."

"We render its popularity to the unstinted support and the confidence of our synergy partners in our product and services," said Mr Andrew Quinlan.

The night also saw a phenomenal performance by the pop star band "Aasma", the foursome rendering their popular numbers like Salem Salma, Chandu ke Chacah and many more. The crowd was seen enjoying the scrumptious array of food and drinks and music by the group and the DJ, as the party wore on till the wee hours of the morning.




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