Sunday, June 21, 2009

Satyam Computers now renamed as "Mahindra Satyam"

Satyam Computers is now Mahindra Satyam

Two months after taking over scam-tainted Satyam Computer Services, Tech Mahindra Sunday renamed the IT major as Mahindra Satyam.

The logo will be adopted from the Mahindra Group. "This strategic move paves the way for the emergence of a robust brand, which draws from the core values of the Mahindra group and the inherent strength of the Satyam brand," said a company statement here Sunday evening.

"Customer centricity, high standards of corporate governance, unimpeachable ethics form the cornerstones of the Mahindra Group," said Mahindra Group vice chairman and managing director Anand Mahindra.

"This rebranding exercise symbolizes an amalgamation of the Mahindra Group's values with Satyam's fabled expertise, even as it retains that part of Satyam's identity which signifies commitment, purpose and proficiency of the organization and its people," the statement said.

Satyam's executive vice chairman Vineet Nayyar described the move as "a significant milestone towards the recovery of the company".

Tech Mahindra, owned by the $6.3 billion Mahindra Group, bought the scam-hit IT company in an open auction in April.

The re-branding comes six months after Satyam's founder and then chairman B. Ramalinga Raju confessed to a Rs.78-billion accounting fraud.

The government launched a probe, superseded the board, and put the company up for sale in open auction.

Ramalinga Raju, his brother Rama Raju, former chief financial officer Vadlamani Srinivas and five other accused are currently in jail.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

UB group launches Four Seasons wine

The Four Seasons Wines Limited (FSWL), a subsidiary of United Spirits Limited and part of the UB group, launched its first varietal range of wines from Baramati called the Four Seasons and Zinzi.

Launching its two products here yesterday, United Spirits Training Manager, Wines, Clive Castelino said Four Seasons and Zinzi wines have been styled keeping in mind the tastes of the Indian consumer and the diversity of Indian cuisine.

The Four Seasons wines will leverage the distribution strength of USL and will be available across all metros and mini metros in India.

Meanwhile, senior manager, trade marketing (wines) of US, Peter PK Mitter expressed hope that the two new wine products will pick up a large sale in the cit

Nortel to shut down, sells wireless business to Nokia

Toronto-headquartered Nortel, which is under bankruptcy protection in both the US and Canada, has announced that it will liquidate itself.

In a statement issued Friday, the 127-year-old Canadian telecom equipment giant said it has entered into a deal with Nokia Siemens to sell its wireless business for $650 million.

"This (sale) will ensure Nortel's strong assets - technologies, customer relationships and employees - continue to play an important role in driving the future of communications. The value of Nortel's wireless business is recognised throughout the industry," said Nortel president and chief executive Mike Zafirovski.

"The agreement we are announcing today is solid proof of that value and represents the best path forward for our other businesses," he added.

Once the biggest maker of telecom equipment and Canada's most valuable company, Nortel said it was in advanced stages of discussions with other parties to sell its other businesses.

"Maximising the value of our businesses in the face of a consolidating global market has been our most critical priority. We have determined the best way to do this is to find buyers for our businesses who can carry Nortel innovation forward, while preserving employment to the greatest extent possible," said Zafirovski.

Nortel, which once accounted for the bulk of the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX), said it was delisting from the stock market.

"Trading in such shares on the TSX is expected to be suspended pending the TSX's decision on the delisting application," the statement said.

Nortel, which has been in business making telephones and later telecom technology since 1882, had to file for bankruptcy after suffering losses to the tune of $5 billion last year.

Even as its top bosses restructured the company and cut jobs, Nortel posted a further loss of $507 million in the first quarter ending March 31.

The telecom giant's accumulated problems - from the bubble burst to internal accounting scandal to the current meltdown - forced it to seek bankruptcy protection in the US and Canada this January.

Its bankruptcy plea was accepted ahead of its $107 million interest payment in January.

The telecom giant had announced last month to sell its majority stake in LG-Nortel, which it formed with Korea's LG Electronics in 2005.

Nortel, which once employed 90,000 people worldwide, has about 30,000 employees now.

But under the deal with Nokia-Siemens, 2,500 of its employees will stay with the new company.

Paramount to buy 10 Airbus planes for $1.5 bn

As the first step to going global, the city-based Paramount Airways will buy 10 A321 aircraft for $1.5 billion from European aircraft manufacturer Airbus.

An agreement signed at the ongoing Paris Air Show also provides the Indian carrier airline an option for purchasing 10 more aircraft, Paramount said Friday.

The European Central Bank will fund the purchase.

"Today marks an important and strategic landmark in our expansion plans and in particular our goal to become a leading international carrier," Paramount managing director M. Thiagarajan said.

The carrier is looking at flying to the Middle East and the Far East.

Till now, Paramount's fleet comprised aircraft from Brazilian manufacturer Embraer.

BlackBerry posts $643 mn profit

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM) has reported a profit of $643 million for the first quarter of the year, compared to $518.3 million posted during the previous quarter.

However, its quarterly revenue was slightly dwon at $3.42 billion from $3.46 billion in the previous quarter. But it is still up 53 percent from $2.24 billion during the same period last year.

BlackBerry added about 3.8 million net new subscribers accounts during the quarter, taking its total subscriber base to nearly 28.5 million.

During the quarter, RIM sold over 7.8 million smart phones that accounted for 81 percent of its revenue. Services accounted for 13 percent of the revenue.

The wireless communications giant, which is based in Waterloo near here, forecast the second quarter revenue in the range of $3.45 billion and $3.70 billion.

RIM also expected to add up to more than 4.1 million new subscribers in the next quarter.

"We are starting fiscal 2010 with strong financial performance and impressive market share gains, including a 55 percent share of the US smart phone market according to IDC's latest estimate," RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie said.

"The industry leading BlackBerry product portfolio is driving strong customer demand around the world and our penetration of new market segments continues to expand.

"We are particularly excited about the strength of our product portfolio for fiscal 2010 and we are looking forward to driving continued growth and profitability in our business throughout the remainder of the year," he added.

But the better-than-expected results by the BlackBerry maker failed to enthuse investors as its stock slipped more than four percent Friday.

The RIM shares closed down $3.83 at $82.97 on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX).

Last week, the company's stock traded at $95.

RIM shares had sunk to $44.60 during the first week of December. Since then, the company's stock has almost doubled.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The cellphone goes to Asian classrooms

Can the cellphone replace the blackboard? Not quite, but it is finding new uses in the classroom in pockets of Asia, says a new report.

The latest and seventh volume of the "Digital Review of Asia Pacific', released at a function here, highlights the power of new communication technologies in the field of education.

In the Philippines, the cellphone and SMS are being used as the primary means for interactive learning. SMS is also being used to inform students of schedule changes, deadlines, examination regulations, grades, new courses and library resources.

Student groups and organisations use the cellphone to publicise social activities, job fairs and book discounts as well as for voting in student elections.

University administrators use cellphones to coordinate the admissions process to conduct marketing campaigns and announce grants, surveys, policies and emergency information like bad weather and suspension of classes.

In Indonesia, Mongolia and the Philippines, the focus of e-learning innovation is also the cellphone.

The review, also called the DirAP, aims to "serve as a guide for (information and communication technologies) ICT-related policy development, planning, research, and project implementation" in the world's most populous continent.

It is put together by the Orbicom Network of Unesco Chairs in Communication (Canada), the International Development Research Centre of Canada, and SAGE Publications India at New Delhi.

The report points to some interesting aspects:

* Studies show that while most students in South Asia use computers, very few have internet access.

* Ironically, the most important problem to internet-based distance education in the Asia-Pacific region - the widespread lack of net access - has been discussed little.

* India, Indonesia, Laos, Mongolia, the Philippines and Thailand were found to be needing a distance education boost.

Bangladesh, says the DirAP report, is a country giving considerable attention to linking literacy with economic affairs. But in China, it says, inter-sectoral coordination is critical for lifelong learning and linking education with poverty alleviation.

The report says the Asia-Pacific region needs organisational upgrading, training to advance distance education in the region.

Incidentally, the Virtual University of Pakistan has state-of-the-art servers, 155 Mbps fibre trunk. Yet, students have been wary and slow in joining, suggests the study, but more numbers have been joining since 2005. The Pakistani initiative is at

There are problems elsewhere too. E-learning is seen to work in Cambodia, but lack of institutional support, and a negative perception of distance education is affecting the field.

The open university of Indonesia (Universitas Terbuka) has 1,000 courses, 31 study programmes and four faculties. But limited net access hits students. Slow net speed is an issue too.

In most of the 13 Asia-Pacific countries studied, browser loading times were up to four times slower than acceptable.

(Frederick Noronha can be contacted at

3G auction base price proposed at Rs.4,040 crore

The finance ministry has proposed a reserve base price of Rs.4,040 crore for third generation (3G) spectrum auctions and the final announcement could be made in a week, IT and Commmunications Minister A. Raja said Friday.

"It is a proposal by the finance minister. We have discussed the matter with the Prime Minister," Raja told reporters after meeting Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

"The matter will be referred to the GOM (group of ministers) or the CCEA (Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs)," he added. "We are hopeful of a decision within a week."

The government, reeling under a burgeoning fiscal deficit pegged at Rs 332,835 crore or 5.5 percent of the GDP, hopes to get some relief from the funds generated through these auctions.

"If you calculate using just the base price at Rs.4,040 crore, the government will earn about Rs.24,240 crore," said a senior official in the telecom ministry.

"There will be an announcement on these lines in the upcoming union budget also," the official said.

"Six 3G licenses will be auctioned," he added.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Indian Mobile servies revenue to row at 12.5 %: Gartner

Total mobile services revenue in India is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.5 per cent from 2009-13 to exceed USD 30 billion, according to Analysts Gartner.

The India mobile subscriber base is set to exceed 771 million connections by 2013, growing at a CAGR of 14.3 per cent in the same period from 452 million in 2009.

This growth is poised to continue through the forecast period, and India is expected to remain the world's second largest wireless market after China in terms of mobile connections, it said in a report here.

''The Indian mobile industry has now moved out of its hyper growth mode, but it will continue to grow at double-digit rates for next three years as operators focus on rural parts of the country,'' said Madhusudan Gupta, senior research analyst at Gartner.

Growth would also be triggered by increased adoption of value-added services, which are relevant to both rural and urban markets, he added.

Mobile market penetration is projected to increase from 38.7 per cent in 2009 to 63.5 percent in 2013. Gartner said this growth is primarily attributed to the operators increasing their focus on the rural market, local consumer durable and electronic companies entering the domestic mobile handset segment, and lower handset prices.

The Indian mobile connection market continues to be dominated by prepaid subscribers. Prepaid connections accounted for more than 93 per cent of all mobile connections in 2008 and it is expected to grow to more than 96 per cent of the connection base by 2013, surpassing 741 million versus 312 million in 2008.

The postpaid subscriber base will exceed 29 million subscribers by 2013, grow at 2.5 per cent from 23 million in 2008.

The churn rate in India is 53.2 per cent in 2009, and despite a maturing market, the ratio is expected to increase to 59.6 percent in 2013.
Gartner said the revenue from data services will significantly contribute to the overall growth of mobile services in India , with a CAGR of 16.8 per cent from 2009 to 2013. Prepaid subscribers are expected to adopt data services faster than the post-paid segment. The bulk of revenue will continue to come from voice services. However, with the increased growth in data services, the percentage of revenue coming from voice will reduce from 89 per cent in 2008 to 86 per cent in 2013.

Gartner predicts a significant drop in average revenue per user (ARPU) as the bulk of new subscribers will come from rural areas, that are dominated by prepaid subscribers.

Also, voice tariffs will decline substantially in 2009 as new operators join the market. Growth will be triggered by increased adoption of value-added services, which are relevant to both rural and urban markets.

However, the bulk of new connections will come from data cards and multi-SIM use. Voice usage will increase steadily, but data usage will grow more strongly with the increased consumption of value-added services.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fiat launches Grande Punto

A week after Honda entered the small car segment in the Indian market, Italian auto major Fiat Wednesday launched the globally available Grande Punto, its third small car offering in the country.

"The launch of Grande Punto marks a new milestone for Fiat in India as we bring the quintessentially Italian designs to Indian shores," Fiat India chief executive Rajeev Kapoor said.

The car, to be priced between Rs.3.11 lakh and Rs.6.11 lakh ex-showroom in Delhi, will be rolled out from the company's Ranjangaon plant in Maharashtra. It will come in four variants with three engine options - two petrol and one diesel.

Grande Punto, which follows Fiat's sedan launched in January, was first launched in the European market in 2005. India will be the third country after Italy and Brazil where it will be manufactured.

The car is sold in over 209 countries, creating a lot of scope for exports from the 200,000-unit capacity plant in Ranjangaon.

"We will start exporting soon but our priority is the domestic market," Fiat Italy's sales and marketing director Giorgio Gorelli said.

The company will also consider India as a global hub for its small cars at a future date.

It has set up a dedicated team in the capital to explore component exports from India, said Fiat's global chief operating officer Silvio Bonfiglioli.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Urban Cooperative Banks can declare dividend on their own: RBI

The Reserve Bank of India today said that the Urban Cooperative Banks can henceforth declare dividend without prior permission from the Apex Bank The Bank, in a circular here, said that the UCBs, however, need to comply with certain parameters laid down by it. These parameters included compliance with CRAR norms as prescribed by RBI.

Net NPA were less than 10 per cent after making all necessary provisions as per the assessment made by RBI in its last inspection report.

There was no default in CRR/SLR during the year, for which dividend is proposed. All the required provisions should have been made for NPAs, investments and other assets as per the prudential norms prescribed by RBI. Dividend was to be paid out of the net profit and after making all statutory provisions and adjustment for accumulated losses in full.

UCBs complying with all other parameters, except the one at para 3 (ii) above, may approach the concerned Regional Office of the Reserve Bank for permission for dividend declaration.

GAIL expects 7% growth in PAT in FY10

GAIL (India) Ltd, the country's largest gas transmission and marketing firm, today said it expects its profits to go up by seven per cent during the current fiscal.

The state-run company posted a 7.80 per cent growth in net profit at Rs 2,804 crore for the financial year 2008-09, compared to Rs 2,601 crore in the previous fiscal.

However, the company's net profit for the fourth quarter ending March 2009 declined by 12.74 per cent to Rs 630 crore, compared to Rs 722 crore in the corresponding period last year, mainly due to lower price realisation and E&P costs.

''For the running year, our results should be fairly good,'' company Director (Finance) R K Goel told reporters here.

''Turnover should exceed Rs 30,000 crore and profit should be more than Rs 3,000 crore,'' he said, adding that higher sales volume and a rise in polymer prices on the back of firmer crude prices should drive revenue and profit growth.

The company has set a target of transmitting about 95 million metric standard cubic metres per day (mmscmd) natural gas during the current fiscal.

The gas transporter is planning to raise Rs 500 crore through a local bond issue by December, as part of its annual requirement of at least Rs 3,000 crore debt for the next three years, including through foreign borrowing, he said.

On five million tonnes LNG plant at Dabhol, the official said it is expected to be commissioned by September, adding that the terminal will initially run at 35 per cent capacity.

India top retail destination for investors: AT Kearney

India has emerged the most attractive retail destination for investors among 30 emerging markets, says a report by US-based global management consulting firm AT Kearney.

According to the company's Global Retail Development Index (GRDI), India tops the list of most attractive retail destination followed by Russia and China.

Last year, India was at the second position.

"Low inflation and rent reductions of up to 40 percent in tier-2 and -3 cities also help make India the most attractive retail investment destination in the 2009 GRDI," the report said.

"In India, slower retail sales are causing Indian retailers to delay expansion plans and restructure their operations. But this has opened the window of opportunity for global retailers and many, including Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Tesco, are continuing expansion plans as Indian consumers grow increasingly affluent, brand-conscience and familiar with global retail formats," the report said.

Other Asian countries on the list are United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Malaysia.

"Larger, resilient developing countries sit atop the 2009 GRDI as they are most likely to lead the economic recovery. For the fourth time in five years, India is the most attractive country for retail investment according to the Index," the report said.

"With economic conditions in developed markets improving slowly, emerging markets are becoming much more important sources of growth for global retailers," said Hana Ben-Shabat, AT Kearney partner and co-leader of the study.

Added Michael Moriarty, also a partner and study co-leader: "Countries throughout Asia are well positioned for an early recovery from the economic crisis as domestic demand is holding up well, GDP growth continues and trillions of dollars of sovereign reserves are providing governments and state banks with tools for action."

Moriarty said Asian countries continued to transform their economies with domestic consumption as a primary focus, adding that it was "a trend that should favor continued growth in retail over the long term".

Ansal properties to raise Rs 1,500 cr through QIP route

Delhi-based realtor Ansal Properties and Infrastructure limited (APIL), the flagship Company of the Ansal API Group, today announced its intentions to raise upto Rs 1,500 crore by way of qualified institutions placement (QIP).

The Board of Directors at a meeting held here decided to seek the approval of shareholders to issue equity shares to residents and non resident qualified institutional buyers by way of QIP buyers for raising a sum of up to Rs 1,500 crore.

The APIL Board has decided to seek approvals of the shareholders for making public issue or any other issue, from time to time for raising a sum of up to Rs 2,500 crore and further that the ceiling of the shareholding by registered Foreign Institutional Investors in the Company through Portfolio Investment Scheme in terms of FEMA 1999 be increased from 24 to 49 per cent or statutory ceiling, the company said here in a release.

APIL Vice Chairman and Managing Director Pranav Ansal said the move to raise funds through QIP route was to provide both financial and business strength to significantly enhance the Company's flexibility. This QIP will also be used to partly fund and support the two large hi-tech integrated townships consisting of hotels, buildings, shopping malls, IT parks, banks, group housing etc in Lucknow namely Sushant Hi-Tech City of about 1,760 acres and Megapolis in Dadri, which spans over 2,500 acres.

RComm adds 2.4 mn subscribers in May

nil Ambani-led Reliance Communications today said it has added a total of 2.4 million users in May, taking its subscriber base to 77.2 million.

In April, the country's second largest mobile operator, had a subscriber base of 74.8 million.

Besides Rcomm, the country's other mobile operators had added 8.3 million GSM users during May 2009, taking the GSM subscriber base to 306.4 million, according to data released by Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).

TVS eyes 12-15% growth in FY10

Eyeing a 12-15 per cent sales growth in current fiscal, TVS Motor Company Ltd today said it will launch two new vehicles -- gearless scooter and bike in the executive segment -- in the next four months.

''We will launch a a gearless scooter and a bike in the executive segment in the next four months...We are also looking at double digit growth in sales which should be around 12-15 per cent,'' Company Prseident Marketing H S Goindi told reporters here.

The company, which has witnessed growth in mopeds and motorcycles sales in the domestic market, however, maintains that finance is still a problem.

''If the financing becomes a bit easier, it would further push up the two-wheeler sales in the country,'' Mr Goindi said.

The company has around 28 per cent market share in the scooter segment which does not include its electric vehicles.

TVS today launched the new Apache RTR 180 in the premium segment priced at Rs 63,999 (ex-showroom Delhi) and plans to sell about 2,000 units of it in a month.

Also, it will be selling its new Flame SR 125 from this month onwards and targets to sell about 8,000-10,000 units by this year-end.

The two-wheeler manufacturer is banking on the moonsoon season to push up its sales.

Andhra Bank achieves business of 1 lakh crore

Andhra Bank has achieved a business of Rs one lakh crore in the last financial year and was planning to put a target of mobilising Rs 1.2 lakh crore by March and Rs 1.5 lakh crore by September next year, Chairman and Managing Director of Bank R S Reddy said today.

Talking to newspersons here, after inaugurating new premises of Andhra University Campus branch in the city, he said performance of the bank was significant last year as it was the result of our attempt to transform it using the four factors of technology, product process and Human Resource Management.

The new technology was used to bring all the 1,432 branches, extension counters and service centres under the Core Banking Solutions(CBS) and offer new products like internet, SMS alerts and mobile banking to the customers, he said.

Andhra Bank would open 122 new branches this year, out of which only eight branches would be opened in Andhra Pradesh and rest outside the state, he said.

In association with Bank of Baroda and Indian Overseas Bank, the bank would open a branch in Malayasia to increase its global presence, he added.

TVS launches new Apache RTR 180 at Rs 63,999

Announcing its foray into the premium 180 cc bike segment, TVS Motor Company today launched the new Apache RTR 180 priced at Rs 63,999 (ex-showroom Delhi) with the plans to sell about 2,000 units of the new bike in a month.

''With the new Apache RTR 180 we hope to make further inroads into the bike segment in the country...and hope to sell about 2,000 units of the new machine,'' Company President H S Goindi told reporters here.

However, he apprised that this is an introductory price for the first two months, adding that the new bike will be available in both electric and kick start versions and three colours.

The company, which sells around 10,000 bikes every month, is planning to increase the number of units to 12,000 by this fiscal-end.

Worst of global crisis may be yet to come-IMF chief

The worst of the global economic crisis may be yet to come, International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn said on Monday.

Finance ministers of the Group of Eight nations agreed over the weekend that the global economy was showing encouraging signs of stabilisation and started to consider how to unwind rescue steps for their economies.

Strauss-Kahn, on a visit to Kazakhstan, said he largely agreed with their position but appealed for caution in assessing the state of the global economy.

''Their (G8) stance is that we are beginning to see some green shoots but nevertheless we have to be cautious,'' he said in opening remarks before closed-door talks with Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov. ''The large part of the worst is not yet behind us.'' Strauss-Kahn referred to credit growth as a sign that financial activity was beginning to pick up but did not say whether the IMF was ready to help with a possible ''exit strategy'' once economic recovery is certain.

Welspun India gets court nod for de-merger

Textile major Welspun India has received the Gujarat High Court's nod for the de-merger and transfer of its two divisions into two separate companies, it was announced Monday.

"The court has approved the composite scheme of arrangement between Welspun India, Welspun Global Brands and Welspun Investments," the company said in a regulatory filing.

Under the scheme, the company's two divisions - marketing and investment and treasury - would be de-merged into Welspun Global Brands and Welspun Investments respectively, the statement said.

"The order becomes effective from June 12," it added.

LIC housing to offload stocks

LIC Housing Finance Limited (LICHFL) today decided to offload partially its holding in LICMF Asset Management Company and LICMF Trustee Company to raise around Rs 138 crore.

The company informed the BSE that it would off load 1730 shares out of 3500 shares of Rs 10,000 each of LICMF AMC and 2000 shares of 3600 shares of Rs ten each of LICMF Trustee company.

The Board also decided to offload the full holding of 1200 shares of LICMF Trustee Company held by its 100 per cent subsidiary LICHFL Care Homes.

The sale was subject to regulatory approval and other necessry consent from the parties included in the transaction, the company said.

TCS launches Provider Performance Insight

Indian IT giant Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) today announced the launch of Provider Performance Insight, a business intelligence (BI) solution built on SAP Business Objects software for hospitals and other healthcare providers.

Using its proprietary BI framework, TCS has developed an out-of-the-box dashboard that will simplify projects, reduce costs and dramatically shorten time to value related to both hospital administration and patient care, TCS said in a release here.

Hospitals have traditionally not embarked on end-to-end data warehousing and analysis due to perceived high costs, high complexity and long gestation period.

Typical BI projects in other industries can take 12 months for initial results and up to 18 months for completion. In response, TCS' Provider Performance Insight takes just three to five months to deploy and provides end-to-end solutions for both administrative and clinical processes to enhance patient services and improve strategic decision making.

''The escalating cost of healthcare makes it imperative for all healthcare providers to evaluate efficiencies in every aspect of their business,'' said Debashis Ghosh, head of Life Sciences and Healthcare at TCS.

''Both patient care and operational effectiveness need to be evaluated, improved and tracked on an ongoing basis and this will be enabled by our solution,'' he added.

The Provider Performance Insight solutions would offer a snapshot of patient care delivery activities, effective performance evaluations of patient service, ability to optimize staffing levels to reduce overall cost, power to track and trend staffing ratios over multiple periods, real-time assessment of overall financial status, ability to compare revenue across peer organisations or departments and increase revenue across clinical service lines.

TCS Life Sciences and Healthcare division is a decade old, sixth largest group within TCS, serving Healthcare, Pharmaceutical, Bio-technology and Medical Device companies for their Business and IT needs.

From Bioinformatics to Clinical Trials to Healthcare, TCS delivers solutions and services across varied business areas with a experienced workforce of more than 6000.

3i Infotech offers solutions for Media/Broadcasting industry

3i Infotech, a global information technology company, today announced its entry into the Media and Broadcasting Industry as a System Integrator.

The company in a release here said it would offer an unique value proposition to media and broadcasting companies, with best-of-the-breed products from leading global media and broadcast solution vendors, complemented with 3i Infotech`s own expertise in System Integration and Project Management Services, thereby providing the entire range of offerings to the industry.

As a System Integrator for the Media and Broadcasting Industry, 3i Infotech has partnered with global technology leaders such as Apple, VSN, Kramer Electronics, Mhatre Electronics (authorised distributor of JVC), Harris and Comsat.

The company would provide offerings which incorporate solutions customized to meet unique requirements of the sector.

The System Integration offerings included Media Consultancy Services (MCS) an Offering to television channels an absolutely automated workflow by flawless integration of numerous components and related services, Media System Integration Services (MSIS) utilizing best-of-the-breed products from global broadcasting solution vendors, to develop a highly customised solution and Integrated Media Solutions (IMS) that would ensuring optimisation of the workflow across various phases and facets of broadcasting operations.

IBM emerge top in Non-x86 UNIX Server market in India

IBM today announced that it had emerged as the leader in the India non-x86 UNIX Server market in terms of Factory Revenue in Quarter one of 2009 as per IDC's Asia/Pacific Enterprise Server Tracker.

IBM was the only vendor to attain a positive year-on-year revenue growth of 4.3 per cent (Q1 2009 over Q1 2008) in the India non-x86 UNIX Server market. It had gained a market share of 39.2 per cent in terms of factory revenue, a company release said.

Meanwhile, the company announced that it had emerged as the leader in the India External Disk Storage Market in terms of Factory Revenue in Q1 2009 with a market share of 33.1 as per IDC's Asia/Pacific Enterprise Disk Storage Tracker release.

Commenting on these achievements, Mukul Mathur, Director, Systems and Technology Group, IBM India/South Asia, said, ''Clients today are increasingly looking at forging a long-term relationship with IBM to derive true value from their IT investments.''

Infosys introduce iTransform product suite

Infosys Technologies Ltd today introduced iTransform product suite, which delivers an end-to-end offering for managing the transitions to 5010 version of the HIPAA standard transactions and ICD-10 coding systems.

By taking a comprehensive approach for assessment and emediation, and automating a significant amount of the transition exercise, based on prototype results, the iTransform product suite would help healthcare payers and providers save up to 50 per cent of the cost and up to 50 per cent of the duration to make the transitions compared to the manual process and remediation, the company said in a statement.

Healthcare organisations faced one of the most significant challenges to the US healthcare industry in decades in order to comply with HIPAA 5010 and ICD-10 regulations, said Eric Paternoster, senior vice-president and head of Infosys insurance, healthcare and life sciences division.

''iTransform not only simplifies transition, it also delivers an opportunity for payers and providers to take advantage of the new regulations for improving operational efficiency, reducing costs and providing better healthcare,'' he said.

The iTransform product suite uses tools and accelerators to accelerate every phase of transition while lowering the cost and risk of manual analysis and remediation, the statement added.

Kirloskar Oil gets shareholders nod for demerger

Diesel engines manufacturer Kirloskar Oil Engines today said shareholders have approved the demerger of its engine and auto component business into Kirloskar Engines India Ltd.

The shareholders have approved the scheme of arrangement between the company and Kirloskar Engines India Ltd, Kirloskar Oil Engines said in a filing to the BSE.

Satyam gets excellence award from ASTD

Satyam Computer Services Ltd, despite being caught in the country's biggest corporate scandal, has been honoured by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) for its continued quest for excellence.

Satyam received an Excellence in Practice Award for Talent Preparation Services and six Excellence in Practice Citations for Enterprise Learning Technologies, Family Learning, Integrated Project Management, Learning Management Review and Re-skilling Services.

In a statement, Tech Mahindra Chairman Anand Mahindra said, ''I am impressed by the world class standards adhered to by team Satyam and would like to congratulate each and every associate at Satyam for this honour which reflects the company's commitment to quality and talent development, towards the creation of world class IT professionals.'' ASTD is the world's largest association dedicated to workplace learning and performance professionals. The Society provides resources for learning and performance professionals, educators and students, brings professionals together in conferences, workshops and online, and recognises excellence and sets standards for best practices in learning and performance, amongst other functions.

Lodha ranked No 2 in 'India's Best Company to Work for'

Real estate and construction major Lodha Group has been ranked second in a survey conducted to find ''India's Best Company to Work For''.

The annual survey, conducted by the Great Place to Work Institute, India, has ranked the Lodha Group at No 2 in India for employees and potential employees in the Construction & Real Estate space. The ranking has been made based on surveys and studies conducted amongst employees of the company across a range of parameters, and is a comprehensive representation to what employees feel about the company.

''In today's scenario, with companies cutting down on their workforces to curb costs, employees are being given second priority, as managements are more engrossed with profitability. We at the Lodha Group recognize the fact that the best capital we have is our employees, and we are proud to receive this ranking on a pan-India survey of such scale,'' Company's director Abhisheck Ldha said in a statement here today.

''We do not just look at benefits and amenities to attract and retain our employees. We focus on a culture of trust and respect, and the ability of employees to contribute - and recognize such contribution - to the company's success. Their hard work and innovation make it an honour to lead them,'' he added.

The survey was judged based on two primary categories - the Trust Index and the Culture Audit. The Trust Index focused on issues such as credibility, respect, fairness, pride in the tasks and workplace, and camaraderie among colleagues across ranks and departments. The Culture Audit focused on the entire engagement culture of the organization - right from recruitment, followed by the development of the individual employee in the workplace, issues faced - and how these were overcome, employee engagement, and the factor of empathy which employees look at. The Lodha Group has scored highly on Work-Life balance and for support and collaboration, both among peers and across management ranks, the release said.

SoftPro acquires 100 pc of Cura

SoftPro Systems Limited, having a market cap of Rs 140 crore, has acquired 100 per cent of Cura Risk Management Software Limited, South Africa (Cura), for a structured consideration of 19 million US dollar in an all-cash deal.

By acquiring Cura, Softpro has established a strong foundation on which it plans to build a leadership position in this field and its revenues will grow six fold to over Rs 60 crore by March 2010, a company release here today said.

"More importantly, this will also establish Softpro as a global leader in the GRC (Governance, Risk and Compliance) space," the release said.

The GRC sector is where ERP was 15 years back and is poised to be one of the major growth sectors in the IT space. The recent global depression and revelations of corporate missteps have heightened the need for oversight of GRC functions.

These developments are giving a fillip to this segment like never before. Softpro would have the early mover advantage to leverage these opportunities, the release added.

Sterlite Ind slips by 7.61 pc to Rs 663.45 at BSE

Following were the top heavyweight losers and gainers at the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) today.

The five losers were Sterlite Ind, which fell by 7.61 per cent to Rs 663.45, Reliance by 7.48 per cent to Rs 2,180.45, Tata Steel by 4.77 per cent to Rs 434.05, L & T by 4.76 per cent to Rs 1,507.10 and Hindalco by 4.58 per cent to Rs 95.85.

While the top five gainers were Ranbaxy Lab by 1.91 per cent to Rs 287.70, TCS Ltd by 1.85 per cent to Rs 778.60, Hind UNI Ltd by 1.74 per cent to Rs 260.20, REL INFRA by 1.37 per cent to Rs 1,195.15 and Grasim Ind by 1.04 per cent to Rs 2,396.05.

Bajaj Allianz launches new plan

Bajaj Allianz today announced the launch of Invest Plus, a traditional plan, that offers transparency and flexibility of Unit Linked Insurance Policies with minimum guaranteed investment returns, promised at the beginning of the year itself.

This is the first of its kind traditional plan that offers upfront minimum guaranteed investment returns at the beginning of each year and an guaranteed maturity value so that customers can feel protected at all times and plan their investments without any worries, the company said in a release here.

Commenting on the offer, Allianz Country Manager and Bajaj Allianz Insurance CEO Kamesh Goyal said, ''Invest Plus offers guaranteed benefits in these uncertain times. The USP is the transparency of a ULIP product in a traditional product. The Minimum Guaranteed Investment Return (MGIR) works towards the benefit of the customer as he gets an upfront minimum guaranteed rate of return. This would be beneficial irrespective of market conditions as he is equally compensated by a Guaranteed Return.'' MGIR promises to offer the customer the same return for the year irrespective of the market scenario.

For the current fiscal it is seven per cent, the release said.

Another unique feature of Invest Plus is that it offers Guarantees like Guaranteed Maturity Value (GMV) and Guaranteed Investment Return (GIR). GIR is declared at the beginning of each financial year and GMV is equivalent to the total regular premiums paid till maturity date.

Chaats, curries spice up Indian's business in Macau

She was a single mother and came here over 25 years ago with a mission to teach kathak to Indian classical dance enthusiasts. But Aruna Jha ended up owning a restaurant chain and has been popularising chaats and spicy Indian curries in this small Chinese town ever since.

"I came in 1983 to Macau to teach kathak. The Macau cultural institute had invited me to come and teach dance. When I started teaching dance, I was the first Indian whose name was coming up in local newspapers and TV and everywhere here. That is when it all began," Jha told IANS here.

"One of the general managers in Hyatt hotel here asked me why don't I promote some Indian preparations like jal jeera and chaat. I said, why not the food? Then I went and prepared some Indian curry and they asked me to join them and I agreed. That's how my career in the food line began here in Macau," said the 49-year-old.

After spending 15 years at Hyatt, in 1999, Jha went on to open her first independent restaurant - Aruna Curry - with a 35-seating capacity in Macau - a Special Administrative Region of China like Hong Kong - and later in 2006, she opened her second outlet in Taipa.

And then, thanks to her flourishing business, she also opened her third and biggest restaurant - Aruna Maharaja - recently in partnership with two Indian rice exporters from India.

But opening a restaurant chain wasn't a cakewalk for Jha, who is from Dehradun, capital of India's Uttarakhand state, as she needed to recruit Indian cooks to keep the business going, and the Macau government didn't give her permission to do so.

"It's very difficult to recruit Indian cooks here because the government is not giving us the quota. They say that I should take the local cooks and not bring them down from overseas. At times I go to the kitchen myself and prepare food and serve my guests. I'm still fighting with the government," she said.

To add to Jha's dilemma, most chefs whom she trains in cooking her style of Indian food leave her in search of jobs in five-star hotels.

Despite all the hurdles, Jha opened Aruna Maharaja with an investment of 2.7 million HKD at the Venetian-Macau Resort last month to cash in on the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) weekend and awards that concluded here Saturday.

"IIFA was coming here so I wanted to promote my chain for Indians. Crowds have been coming in here, thanks to IIFA. I wanted to give full support to the event because it is doing good promotion for Macau.

"I remember when I came here, there were no Indians. But today I see so many people here. It looks like I am in my India," she said in a nostalgic tone.

The specialty of her restaurant, she said, is "the taste of home-cooked food".

"My specialty is to give home-cooked food. I have my own recipes which are just like home food and make visitors feel at ease and in a home like environment away from home," she said.

And over the years, she has developed a clientele of American, British, Australian and Chinese tourists as well, apart from the Indians.

RNRL wins legal tussle over gas supply

Anil Ambani's Reliance Natural Resources Ltd (RNRL) will get assured gas supply of 28 million metric standard cubic metre per day (mmscmd) from the Krishna-Godavari basin for 17 years, the Bombay High Court ruled Monday.

The court has also fixed the price at $2.34 per million British thermal unit (mmbtu).

RNRL had approached the court against Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) that had refused to give gas at $2.34 per mmbtu from the Krishna-Godavari basin.

The court has directed RIL to arrive at an arrangement along these lines within a month.

It has also said the Ambani brothers may consult their mother if there is any difficulty at arriving at a conclusion.

At 11.15 a.m., shares of RNRL were up 20 percent at Rs.105 while RIL shares fell 4 percent to Rs.2,258.

BRIC has potential to lead economic growth: PM

Global economic recovery was closely linked to the success of the economies of the four BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Monday before leaving for the Russian city of Yekaterinburg to attend a summit of the grouping.

Stressing that the four countries would play a crucial part in overcoming the ongoing economic slowdown, the prime minister said: "The countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) together account for 40 percent of the world's population and 40 percent of global GDP. The BRIC grouping has the potential to lead global economic growth."

"In fact, global economic recovery is closely linked to the success of the BRIC economies. India is among the fastest growing BRIC economies, and we are ready to play our part in coordinating international efforts to overcome the ongoing financial and economic slowdown," Manmohan Singh said in his departure statement before leaving for Russia to attend the BRIC and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summits.

The prime minister's first overseas visit since his re-election last month will also be marked by his first meeting with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari since the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

Discussing the SCO, he said: "I will also be attending the summit meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) for the first time. India has been an observer of the SCO since 2005."

The decision to attend the summit, he added, was "a reflection of the high regard we have for Russia's presidency of the SCO, and our desire to intensify our engagement with countries of our extended neighbourhood in central Asia".

"There are issues which concern both of us, such as the fight against terrorism and extremism and cooperation in areas of energy security, infrastructure development, agriculture, transportation, science and technology and education."

Government may allow private companies to mine coal

The government is "strongly considering" to allow commercial coal mining by private companies in a bid to bridge the demand-supply gap, Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal said Monday.

"We are strongly considering to allow commercial coal mining by private firms," Jaiswal told reporters here.

Currently, the government allows only state-run firms such as Coal India Ltd to mine for commercial use, while private companies are allowed to mine only for captive consumption.

Officials said letting private firms to mine coal would boost India's coal output and reduce dependence on imports.

India produces over 450 million tonnes of coal annually.

Former power secretary V.S. Sampath had said in March that the country would have to import 35 million tonnes of coal in 2009-10 to run its power utilities.

The government is expected to spell out reforms in the mining sector in the 2009-10 budget, slated to be presented July 6 in the Lok Sabha.

President Pratibha Patil during her address to a joint session of parliament June 9 had indicated reforms in the sector.

The coal ministry is likely to introduce the Coal Nationalisation (Amendment) Bill, 2000, in the coming budget session, which would allow private companies to participate in the mining.

The bill was earlier introduced in parliament during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government's tenure.

The government will likely seek an amendment to the bill to permit competitive bidding of captive coal blocks. This proposal has already been cleared by the cabinet.

Hindustan Dorr bags Rs 126.95 cr project

Engineering firm Hindustan Dorr Oliver Ltd today said it has bagged an order worth Rs 126.95 crore from HPCL-Mittal Energy Ltd for construction of plant on high-efficiency reverse osmosis technology.

The project is to be completed within 13 months, the company said in a statement.

Engineers India would be the project management consultants for the subject contract, it added.

Indian accounting firm KNAV goes global

To cater to the growing list of Indian MNCs, Indian accounting firm KNAV has become the first such firm to go global setting up operations in other parts of the world.

The company has a highly networked teams of certified accounting professionals in the US, UK and Canada besides India to provide a holistic approach.

KNAV in a release here said its team encompasses a breadth and depth of knowledge, which is uncommon for an Indian accounting firm as they utilise their specialised skill sets to provide seamless, value-added service around the globe.

Founded by four dedicated Indian accounting professionals, KNAV, has created a niche for itself by understanding and addressing the unique needs of the multinational Indian company.

Service areas provided include assurance, tax consulting and business advisory the release said.

KNAV's audit methodologies are custom tailored to client specific industry segments and employ leading edge software tools and paperless engagement documentation which reduces audit time and provides cost efficiencies.

KNAV has highly technical expertise needed to address their client's complex financial accounting issues, such as revenue recognition, business combinations, intangible valuations and option plans.

It said today's tax environment has become increasingly complex requiring transparency and careful strategising. KNAV's highly qualified tax team provides their clients with customised tax planning and is well versed in international tax policies and practices.

They specialise in international tax advice including overseas structuring for tax effectiveness, transfer pricing strategies and local tax compliances.

Additionally, they have extensive industry experience with the tax consequences associated with mergers and acquisitions.

KNAV’s client base included some of the best known names in Indian business. KNAV’s high profile multinational clientele include Nicholas Piramal India Ltd, Reliance Communications, Pidilite, Haynes International, Infotech, Larsen & Toubro Ltd and Fem Care Pharma Ltd.

HDFC MF to enable investors transact through mobile phones

HDFC Mutual Fund today announced the introduction of HDFCMFMobile, offering investors to carry out transactions using their mobile phones.

HDFC MF in a release here said the new unique facility would enable investors to transact using their mobile phone anywhere and anytime.

With HDFCMFMobile one can purchase, redeem or switch units of HDFC Mutual Fund, subject to lock in period, if any.

One could also view account details and portfolio valuation, request for account statements and check NAV of schemes of HDFC Mutual Fund.

HDFC Mutual Fund is the first and the only fund house to offer this facility to its investors in the country nad has joined ngpay to offer the same to the investors.

Air India salaries to be delayed next month

About 31,000 employees of flag carrier Air India will receive their June salaries only in mid-July as the national carrier attempts to overcome its losses, which were over Rs.4,000 crore (Rs.40 billion/$8.4 billion) during last fiscal, a top official said Sunday.

The July salaries could be delayed by over two weeks, said a senior civil aviation ministry official.

The move comes when Air India plans to seek Rs.5,000 crore in equity capital, Rs.7,000 crore as a five-year soft loan and a special grant of Rs.2,000 crore, the official added.

The airline's losses for last fiscal were about Rs.4,000 crore, while it had accumulated losses of Rs.2,226 crore in fiscal 2007-08.

Minister of State for Civil Aviation Praful Patel had earlier said that the government was likely to soon approve the bailout package for Air India. But he also said that the package would not match Air India's expectations.

Union budget to be presented July 6

The union budget for 2009-10 would be presented on July 6 and the railway budget three days earlier on July 3. The dates were decided early Monday before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's departure for the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, an official said.

The official decision would be announced later in the day, a senior official in the railways ministry told IANS.

"The date was decided early Monday morning before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was to leave for Yekaterinburg to attend the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) summits," the official said.

Friday, June 12, 2009

ADB Asia can't rely on US consumers for growth

Asia can't rely on exports to the United States for long-term economic growth, because U.S.

consumers will buy less as they increase savings and pay down debt, Asian Development Bank President Haruhiko Kuroda said on Friday.

''I'm optimistic on Asia's short-term outlook but pessimistic on the long term,'' Kuroda said in a speech in Tokyo.

''The U.S. savings rate could rise to as high as 10 per cent and suppress consumption. It's becoming impossible for Asia to rely on the U.S. consumer.''

NEDFi registers 31 Cr profit

Northeast Development Finance (NEDFi) has notched up Rs 31 crore net profit during the past fiscal against a cumulative sanction of Rs 1,294 Crore.

NEDFi officials here today said that the bottomline had been growing at more than 20 per cent in last few years and it was paying dividend from the last financial year and in 2009-10 NEDFi was expected to contribute more than 20 crore in taxes and dividend to the public exchequer.

NEDFi’s credit disbursement in the region has covered a wide spectrum of sectors like power, steel, cement, hospitality, tourism, nursing homes and milk processing, the officials pointed out, adding that it made business plan for the next five years for promoting investment and industrialisation.

The officials highlighted that NEDFi had broadened its activities from term-lending to micro-finance and commercialisation of medicinal and aromatic plants, skills development and market linkages for the first generation entrepreneurs and consultancy and advisory services besides, capacity building

S Korea banks need more core capital

South Korea's financial watchdog is no longer pushing banks to further raise capital bases, which hit a two-year high at the end of March, but is recommending they boost core tier 1 capital, a senior official said today.

The financial authorities are also looking at adopting supplementary indicators to monitor banks' capital bases, Rhee Chang-yong, vice chairman of the Financial Services Commission, told a teleconference with foreign media.

''We are not talking about a specific level of BIS (Bank for International Settlements) ratios, but advising them to raise tier 1 capital bases,'' he said, when asked if the watchdog continued to ask for additional capital raising by banks.

South Korean banks have raised 28 trillion won (22.3 billion dollar) in the past eight months, mostly through issues of subordinated debt and hybrid securities, most of which are not categorised as core capital.

Rhee said global regulators were moving to apply the tangible common equity (TCE) standard and tier 1 capital ratios to gauge banks' capital bases.

''Our stance is that we will step in line with global regulatory bodies. It is not appropriate for us to move ahead of them,'' he said in reference to a possible adoption of the TCE ratio.

The TCE measure looks at how much common equity is supporting a company excluding intangible assets such as goodwill.

South Korea banks' capital ratio jumped to 12.94 per cent at the end of March under the BIS guidelines, the highest level since the first quarter of 2007.

KB Financial Group the parent company of top domestic bank Kookmin, was seeking to raise 1 billion dollar - 3 billion dollar through a new share sale by around the third quarter, a banking source said last week, which was seen as part of an attempt to buy smaller rival Korea Exchange Bank.

Rhee expected the banking sector's consolidation to happen after the economy and stock markets showed signs of bottoming out, and said the time may not be right for the government to sell stakes in banks such as Woori Finance Holdings.

Ecuador buys back most debt,

Ecuador bought back 91 percent of its defaulted bonds via an international auction and renewed threats to take action against other ''illegal'' debt, the country's leftist government said .

President Rafael Correa called the debt buyback a ''resounding victory'' and the start of a new era in international markets that he says are at fault for the global financial crisis hurting poor nations.

Ecuador shocked investors by refusing to pay 3.2 billion dollars in 2012 and 2030 global bonds last year, saying the debt was riddled with irregularities when issued in 2000 after the renegotiation of a previous default.

Correa's bold move could set a rare precedent as Ecuador becomes one of the first countries in modern history to get away with defaulting on its debt even though it had the resources to repay it.

''We will probably be criticized for the resounding success we had in resolving the global bonds' problem. We are now a dangerous example to other indebted countries,'' Correa told a cheering crowd of supporters holding banners reading ''Debts should be payed but not fraud.'' ''We are analyzing what actions we should take with other segments of the debt, such as bilateral and multilateral debt.'' Still, Finance Minister Elsa Viteri said the OPEC member wants to keep good ties with the bond markets and that bondholders that did not participate in the auction will get another chance to sell their paper in the ''near future.'' ''The republic maintains its willingness to keep positive and balanced relations with the international financial community,'' Viteri said.

She said 7.2 per cent of the 2030 bonds and 18.7 per cent of its 2012 bonds remained in the market after the buyback or about 289 million dollar in total.

Ecuador launched a Dutch auction for the bonds on April 20, setting a minimum price of 30 cents on the dollar. On May 26, it announced it had accepted a price of 35 cents on the dollar, and on May 29 extended the buyback to June 3 to allow further bondholders to take up the offer.

Ecuador's bonds default stems from a government audit of its foreign debt that deemed most of the country's obligations ''illegal'' and recommended nonpayment.

MORE DEFAULTS UNLIKELY In a more moderate tone, Viteri said later that the country could sit down with other countries and multilateral lenders to discuss how to deal with ''illegal'' debt.

She said there are many options and that her government is studying its next move.

It's unlikely Ecuador will default on more debt as it seeks loans from multilateral and allies to weather the financial crisis, analysts say.

Ecuador holds 4.3 billion dollars in multilateral debt mostly owed to the Inter-American Development Bank and the Andean Development Corp that have good ties with the country.

The Andean country owes 1.4 billion dollars to countries ranging from Brazil to Italy.

Correa argues that servicing the global bonds deprives Ecuador of resources for development, without bringing any benefit to the country. It also says the bonds were issued by corrupt former officials acting in collusion with creditors.

Despite Correa's apparent win in the debt default, Ecuador will likely have to deal with aggressive holdouts and a stigma that will keep the Andean country out of the international debt markets for years to come.

Correa could also face attacks from some investors who were left out of the auction or refused to participate. These holdouts could seek repayment via lawsuits to seize Ecuador's assets abroad, including oil shipments.

The government will allow additional bondholders to sell debt back in an operation that will be similar to the recent auction, Economic Policy Minister Diego Borja told Reuters yesterday.

He said most of the bondholders that did not participate in the buyback were from Italy.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Raja again hints at 10 paise/minute local call

Communications and IT Minister A Raja today again hinted at the possibility of mobile telephone tariff falling to ten paise a minute for local call and 25 paise a minute for national long distance, notwithstanding the contrary opinion of private telecom players in the market.

He underlined this possibility during an interaction with the industry leaders here.

When Mr Raja first indicated such a low tariff, the industry had said it was not feasible.

Meanwhile, the Minister said the government has decided to set up a task force of experts from information technology and telecommication to assess cost effectiveness of telecom devices and services to make India a leading hardware and software manufacturing hub in the world.

He said the task force comprising of government officials and experts from Assocham and Nasscom will assist his ministry in making future projections of India's IT and software potential. It would also suggest the government to how India could become self reliant in IT and telecom hardware and eventually taken on Chinese supremacy.

Cisco launches 'innovative branch solution' for banks

Cisco today announced that it has launched a solution that would enable banks to optimise its services in their branches.

Cisco Senior Vice-President, Mr Anil Bhasin said,''Today banks are exploring options beyond core banking system. They are looking at ways to differentiate and increase revenues, especially in their top branches.'' ''This solution would enable banks to differentiate from their peers, increase revenue from the branch, improve service levels and improve staff operational efficiency,'' he said.

In the past, Cisco has worked with HDFC Bank, State Bank of India, Bank of India, IDBI Bank, Union Bank of India and Yes Bank.

'' We are talking to couple of banks for our innovative branch solution,'' Mr Bhasin said and added '' Installing the innovative branch solution for one branch would cost between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 15 lakh,'' said a release issued here today.

Bharti opens its second Easyday store in Punjab

Bharti Retail, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bharti Enterprises, today launched its compact hypermarket store ‘Easyday Market’ here.

Located at Vassal Towers, the new store offers customers a great shopping experience and a wide range of quality products at the best prices under one roof.

The Easyday Market offers over 18,000 products, including fashion wear, home ware, electrical appliances, mobile phones, toys, bakery products, fresh-cut non-veg, food and grocery and fruit and vegetables.

Commenting on the launch, Mr Vinod Sawhny, President and Chief Operating Officer, Bharti Retail Ltd, said the store is an important milestone as the company expands its presence in the compact hypermarket segment.

The first Easyday Market store in Ludhiana has received an overwhelming response from the customers, he added.

Easyday as a brand strives to offer the lowest prices everyday to its customers.

Fujifilm launches 7 new models

With the digital camera market in India growing by about 20-25 per cent per annum, Fujifilm India Pvt Ltd is looking to grab about 5-7 per cent of the market share by this fiscal, launching seven new models.

Annoucing this at a press conference here today, company advisor (marketing) Koji Wada and country general manager A Rajkumar informed that the company has about three per cent market share now with 35,000 digital cameras sold last fiscal.

Overall about 10 lakh units of all make were sold in India last year and it was expected to increase by 20 to 25 per cent by 2010/11.

''We are looking to increase market share in the digital camera segment in India from 3 to 5-7 per cent by next fiscal by adding more user friendly features without raising prices,'' they said.

Fujifilm India Pvt Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Fujifilm Corporation, Japan, today launched its range of seven new models in the city aiming to capture the untapped market in the eastern region.

The company was expecting eastern India market to contribute over 20 per cent to its national sales in the current year and planned to undertake various promotional initiatives, they added.

He said the company intended to develop the brand image of digital cameras to reinforce technical and marketing support to the existing channel network to penetrate deeper into the Indian market.

Honda to expand dealership

Premium car manufacturer Honda Siel Cars India Ltd today said it plans to expand its dealership to 112 by the end of current fiscal to strengthen its presence.

''The company is planning to expand its dealership base from the present 105 to 112 by the end of the current financial year,'' company President and CEO Masahiro Takedagawa told reporters here on the sidelines of launch function.

This move, Mr Takedagawa said, will increase the presence of the auto major across the country.

The company today launched the much awaited Jazz in the hatchback segment. The increase in dealership would help the company to achieve its target of selling about 2,000 units of the Jazz in a month.

Priced at Rs 6.98 lakh for the base model, the new car will be manufactured at the company's Greater Noida facility in Uttar Pradesh with 77 per cent of localisation.

'The Jazz' is equipped with a 1.2 litre i-VTEC engine designed especially for the Indian customer.

Asked whether it was a right time to launch a new product in the current market scenario, Mr Takedagawa said, ''the economy is showing signs of recovery and hopefully the motoring industry will also bounce back.'' Available in three types of manual transmission--Jazz, Jazz 'Mode', Jazz 'Active'--the car will be offered in six colours.

PSBs should consider mergers to face competition: Mukherjee

With a view to becoming more competitive, the public sector banks (PSBs) should consider mergers as a ''serious option,'' Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said here today.

''The PSBs should look at consolidation as a serious option in order to reduce risk to financial stability and to face competition. Any consolidation initiative in the banking sector would be viewed positively and the government, as a majority shareholder, would continue to play a supportive role in this process,'' Mr Mukherjee emphasised after meeting the heads of the state-run Banks.

In the meeting, it was discussed that as a result of various pro-growth measures announced by the government and the RBI; there are expectations about achieving a fairly decent growth in the current fiscal.

The overall business of PSBs, including the advances, grew by about 26 per cent during 2008-09 at a time when the credit growth of both private sector banks and foreign banks was declining and resources from non-bank financial resources were contracting.

During FY09, the net profit growth of the PSBs showed a robust growth of 27 per cent, according to an official statement.

RComm to roll out BlackBerry services at Rs 299/month

With a view to expanding its reach to wider market, Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communications (RComm) today said it will offer BlackBerry services to its customers at Rs 299 a month under 'Reliance E-Lite' plan.

''Through 'Reliance E-Lite', we will extend our reach to a wider market by providing an affordable and high quality of service to consumers,'' Reliance Communications Head (Wireless Data Business) Vrajesh Shelat said in a statement.

The company, in collaboration with Research In Motion (RIM), will provide its customers an unlimited access to Blackberry services, including email and instant messaging (IM) on their phones.

The services will be offered on BlackBerry models such as 8703e, 8830, Curve 8300, Curve 8900, Pearl 8110 and Pearl 8130.

Tata Motors affirms Thai eco-car project

Tata Motors Ltd said on Wednesday its 5-billion-baht ($147 million) project to produce an ''eco car'' in Thailand by 2012 was still on track.

Ajit Venkataraman, chief executive of Tata's Thai unit, dismissed local newspaper reports that the Indian car giant may be wavering on its Thai project.

Tata is one of six foreign carmakers applying for government incentives to manufacture mini passenger cars with at least an annual production capacity of 100,000 units, he told reporters.

''We have made long-term commitments to Thailand and are a part of its automobile industry with plans to extend our product lines to include commercial vehicles and buses as well as eco-friendly, affordable small cars,'' he said.

The Tata executive said its Thai eco-car would be an entirely different vehicle from the company's Nano model, billed as the world's cheapest car, that has attracted more than 203,000 bookings in India since April.

Nano production will start in early 2010 and full production will be achieved by late next year.

''Our eco-car project is going through its development process. We have several engine-size options, a decision to be dictated by market demand,'' he said, referring to a government requirement for the car to be powered by up to 1,300-cc engines.

Other companies applying to invest in Thai eco-car projects are Toyota Motor <7203.T>, Mitsubishi Motors <7211.T>, Nissan Motor <7201.T>, Honda Motor <7267.T> and Suzuki Motor <7269.T>.

Tata has sold nearly 600 one-tonne pick-up trucks since it entered the Thai market about a year ago. Venkataraman hoped to achieve, within five years, a 5 percent share of the Japanese- dominated segment in which 334,282 trucks were sold in 2008.

Tata and its local partner, Thonburi Automotive Assembly Plant Co, have invested in a 1.5-billion-baht joint venture to produce light trucks at Thonburi's eastern Bangkok suburban plant.

Fiat to close Chrysler deal on Wed, shrs rise

Italian car maker Fiat SpA was set to close its takeover of Chrysler on Wednesday in an ambitious move to survive and grow out of one of the worst crises in global auto industry.

Fiat shares traded 4.1 percent higher at 7.79 euros at 0945 GMT -- twice the rise in the DJ Stoxx auto sector -- following news that the U.S. Supreme Court had removed the final obstacle to the deal on Tuesday.

In a victory for the U.S. administration driving the restructuring of bankrupt Chrysler, the Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a request from Indiana pension funds to delay the sale.

''The news from the Supreme Court is very good for Fiat,'' one Milan trader told Reuters.

Fiat is joined by a union-aligned trust and the U.S. and Canadian governments in taking over the best parts of Chrysler.

Fiat is expected to close the deal by 1400 GMT, according to two sources familiar with the procedure.

In a statement, Fiat said it would occur shortly.

DROP IN SALES Fiat began looking for partners to gain scale late last year when the crisis came into full force, leading to a dramatic drop in car sales. This year is expected to be no different.

CSM Worldwide, an industry consultancy, has forecast a 20 percent drop in global production to 52 million vehicles this year as car makers lay off workers and leave their factories idle in the face of a sharp drop in demand.

Others in the industry do not feel the urgency to look for partners. Renault-Nissan Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn, for example, said on Wednesday his group had no problem with scale.

In Fiat's case, CSM Worldwide said it saw a ''tremendous amount of risk'' in trying to revive Chrysler.

SG Securities analyst Eric-Alain Michelis said turning around Chrysler would prove to be a tougher challenge for Fiat than convincing U.S. authorities of its plans for the U.S. car maker.

Not only did it have to renew an aging product line but also persuade former customers to buy a Chrysler again.

Fiat has sent a team of executives and engineers to Detroit to work with Chrysler to cut costs and prepare for the U.S.

launch of the Cinquecento (500), Fiat's popular small car.

Its stake in Chrysler will start at 20 percent and should rise to 35 percent over time.

GERMANY Fiat has had a harder time of persuading people in Germany of its plans to create a world giant in car industry.

It lost out to Canadian car parts market Magna International for General Motors Corp's Opel unit although the government invited it to improve its bid.

The sale is part of GM's restructuring, which saw it enter court protection on June after Chrysler sought bankruptcy on April 30.

Erich Merkle, an independent auto analyst based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, said the court's decision on Chrysler was good news for GM because it was using a similar quick-sale strategy to facilitate its way through bankruptcy.

ValueLabs among '50 Best Companies to Work for' in India

City-based ValueLabs, a global IT services company, has been placed amongst the 50 best companies to work for in India, for 2009, in a study conducted to identify great workplaces across the country.

The survey was conducted by The Great Place to Work Institute (GPWI) in collaboration with The Economic Times (ET), across all companies in India, spanning various sectors and sizes, and including domestic players as well as MNCs.

Complimenting ValueLabs, GPWI said, ''Your employees trust the people they work for, have pride in what they do and enjoy the people they work with.

"This was evident in their comments and their feedback in response to our survey. We were also very much impressed with several of your practices that we discovered in the 'Culture Audit' conducted by our team. Congratulations for your wonderful achievement.''

Citigroup begins $58 billion stock swap

Citigroup Inc on Wednesday began a long-delayed $58 billion stock swap that could leave the government with a 34 percent stake in the nation's third-largest bank.

Citigroup plans to swap common stock for as much as $33 billion of preferred shares, and convert as much as $25 billion of preferred shares held by the U.S. Treasury into common stock.

Citigroup said the swap could make it one of the world's best-capitalized banks, adding up to $61 billion of tangible common equity and $64 billion of Tier-1 common equity. It had planned to begin the swap in April.

The exchange offer could result in the issuance of more than 17 billion new common shares, diluting the holdings of existing investors by 76 percent. The public exchange offers expire July 24.

Citigroup shares closed Tuesday at $3.41.

Oil sector faces investment crunch - Gazprom CEO

A shortage of oil and gas investment means the sector will fail to meet demand when the global economy begins to recover, Gazprom Chief Executive Alexei Miller said on Wednesday.

There are no guarantees that further increases in oil demand will be supported by a sufficient growth in investments, the head of the Russian natural gas giant said.

Nobody has solved the issue of the ''2012 supply gap'' which may emerge later than thought but which will be deeper.

''It means prices may even jump over the $250 hurdle we have forecast a year ago,'' Miller said in a written text of a speech at a conference in Italy on the financial crisis and energy.

''Expectations remain that trimmed capital expenditure programmes of international oil majors caused by the high volatility of the crude oil market will reduce production capacities and oil supply on the market in three to five years,'' Miller said.

Investments into geological exploration and production in the global oil and gas sector will fall by more than 20 percent in 2009, he said.

''If capital expenditure is not restored the forecast of '$150 per barrel of oil in two, three years' voiced by Saudi Arabian representatives ... will come true,'' Miller said.

The Gazprom CEO said there were grounds for believing the oil price would rise to $85 per barrel by the end of 2009 while the market had pinpointed $100 per barrel as benchmark price in 2010.

With increasingly higher development costs, investment in startup oilfields have to reach some $400 billion per year, he said.

''As long as the market is excessively volatile it is absolutely clear that existing reserves will not be developed rapidly enough to satisfy the expected demand,'' he said.

Miller said the pricing system on the oil market needed to be radically revised, especially since the oil price reflected financial transactions on the equity market.

Miller urged the use of long-term contracts for the oil market to support the creation of a unified settlement and payment system.

''We should consider the reform of the existing system of linking oil prices to only one currency'' in favour of a multi-currency settlement system, he said.

A new Oil Exchange of producing countries trading physical volumes needed to be created in light of the monopoly position of the major NYMEX trade floor.

Saudi starts pumping from giant Khurais oilfield

Saudi Arabia has started production from its giant Khurais oilfield, the largest ever single addition to global oil supplies, Saudi Aramco's top executive said in remarks broadcast on Wednesday.

''I am happy to report today that Khurais has entered the stage of operation,'' Khalid al-Falih told Al Arabiya television in an interview. ''Oil will reach Aramco terminals in a few days for exports... it did not reach the stage of export (yet).'' ''The oil from the plant is now being pumped into tanks that are at the project,'' he said, adding that the field's capacity can now be seen as part of Saudi Arabia's total output capacity.

The kingdom does not need to use the extra capacity at current demand levels, the head of the state oil company said.

The 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) Khurais field contains highly prized Arab Light crude, which is easily converted into transport fuel.

Khurais would also produce 315 million cubic feet per day (cfd) of sour gas and 70,000 bpd of natural gas liquids (NGL) to be processed at Shedgum and Yanbu gas plants.

The field can supply over 1.5 percent of daily global oil demand and pump more than two of OPEC's smallest members.

''It's the single largest development that they have ever had,'' said Raja Kiwan, an analyst with PFC Energy.

The project brings to a close the latest expansion in oil output capacity in the top oil exporter and the most influential member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

CAPACITY SPIKES Saudi capacity has reached 12.5 million bpd. The kingdom has no immediate plans to raise its output potential further, but has outlined how it could reach 15 million bpd capacity when global oil demand requires.

''Khurais oil field is truly the biggest ever single increment to global production of light crude, said Tariq Qais Alsuqair, an analyst at Energy Economics said.

''The importance of such an increment is to ensure Saudi Arabia's commitment to the equilibrium of the oil market as a swing producer that secures any shortage in supply.'' The global economic recession has slowed oil demand and forced the Saudis to cut supplies with other OPEC members.

Khurais puts Saudi spare capacity at about 4.5 million bpd, more than the output capacity of Iran, OPEC's second largest producer, and enough to offset a major global supply outage.

Spare capacity is more than three times that targeted by the kingdom, of between 1.5 million bpd and 2 million bpd, to meet any unexpected outages. Saudi Arabia is the only OPEC country with significant spare capacity that can be tapped quickly.

''We project OPEC's total spare production capacity to be 5.2 million bpd for 2010, last time it was that high was in 2002,'' Tancred Lidderdale, head of Petroleum Supply at the U.S.

government Energy Information Agency (EIA), said.

Spare capacity eroded as demand grew quickly from China in 2004, but that cushion has now been replaced, giving the kingdom more spare capacity than it has had for a decade, Alsuqair said.

''OPEC spare capacity was 5.7 million bpd in 1998-2000 so i would assume that Saudi spare capacity nowadays is experiencing the 1998-2000 period,'' Lidderdale said.

''However, the component of the spare capacity (light, heavy, medium) should be different since Khurais (light crude) comes on line adding more light crude to the ratio.'' Khurais would produce for 20-25 years, Aramco says.

The project is named after the Khurais oilfield, but will handle oil from three fields: Khurais, Abu Jifan and Mazalij.

Saudi produces more oil from the world's largest field, at Ghawar. But that production was brought online in stages, not in a single phase. It plans to pump at full capacity at Khurais allowing it to rest capacity elsewhere, including at Ghawar.

The project involved drilling 420 wells and building four processing facilities and two gas facilities, and a 4.5 million bpd expansion of seawater well-injection capacity at Qurayyah treatment plant.

Nippon Steel says demand recovery still weak

Nippon Steel Corp, the world's second-biggest steelmaker, said demand for steel has been improving but the recovery lacks strength, despite some bright signs that Japanese manufacturers are gearing up production.

Nippon Steel said its crude steel output will likely increase to nearly 6 million tonnes in July-September, up some 30 percent from the current quarter, when crumbling steel demand on the global market is forcing it to operate plants at 55-60 percent capacity.

''We haven't seen a solid recovery in demand yet,'' Shinichi Taniguchi, executive vice president of Nippon Steel, told Reuters in an interview.

''The tempo of the recovery has been slower than what we expected at the end of April for sectors like construction and manufacturing, including autos. Shipbuilders are slowing down construction and export markets are shifting into a lower gear than what we expected,'' he said.

Growing signs that the economy appears to be over the worst of its slump and that automakers and some electronics makers are gearing up production have boosted shares in the steel sector.

Nippon Steel stock has risen nearly 30 percent this year, buoyed also by news that it and other Japanese steelmakers have agreed to a 15 percent cut on auto sheet with loss-making Toyota Motor Corp -- about half what the market anticipated.

Toyota, the world's biggest carmaker, and Honda Motor Co have reported strong demand for their hybrid cars, helped by government subsidies, while Toshiba Corp was reported late last month to be ready to reverse some chip output cuts.

Taniguchi said strong demand for the Prius hybrid is a welcome sign, but the smaller cars consume less steel than luxury cars.

Taniguchi said the company aims for a recurring loss, which is before taxes and extraordinary items, of 100 billion yen ($1 billion) in the first quarter as planned.

He also said an overhang of its semi-finished steel inventory will be wound down by the end July, helping the company to raise output to match demand.

The company expects the capacity utilisation rate to rise to nearly 70 percent in July-September.

S&P rating on Tata Steel stays on watch negative

Standard & Poor's (S&P) Ratings Services today said it had kept its 'BB' issue rating on the 3.67 billion pound sterling senior secured debt of Tata Steel UK Ltd. (TSUK) on CreditWatch, where it was placed with negative implications on February five.

''We have kept the issue rating on CreditWatch pending a review of our recovery analysis on TSUK. This review will factor in the impact on our simulated default scenario, and in turn our estimate of the stressed enterprise value at default, following: (1) a recent agreement with banks to amend the covenants on the company's senior secured debt; (2) the significant deterioration in the operating environment; and (3) the measures that TSUK undertakes to manage the currently challenging environment,'' said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Yasmin Wirjawan in a release here.

The issue rating is two notches above the corporate credit rating because of the recovery rating of '1', which indicated very high recovery in the event of a payment default.

The agreement with lenders has resulted in the testing of earnings-related covenants to be largely suspended until March 2010.

Testing would resume with significantly higher flexibility compared with the original covenants. Under the agreement, parent Tata Steel Ltd. (BB-/Negative/--) will inject 425 million pound sterling into TSUK in a phased manner.

TSUK would use about 200 million pound sterling to make prepayments on its debt.

TSUK is the intermediate parent holding company of U.K.-based steel manufacturer Corus Group PLC and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Steel.

Indyarocks launches Web-based multi-service IM launched

Geodesic, a leading provider of award-winning innovative products in the information, communication and entertainment space, and Indyarocks, a popular Indian entertainment based social network, will launch a multi-service instant messenger.

More than 3.2 million users of Indyarocks will now be able to chat with their friends spread across different IM platforms, from any computer with a web browser and a basic Internet connection.

In a statement, Geodesic Limited Managing Director Kiran Kulkarni said, ''We are thrilled to implement world's first socially integrated web-based multi-service IM for Indyarocks. Our IM platform provides Indyarocks users with a comprehensive IM experience, including the ability to login to their Indyarocks, Yahoo, MSN, GTalk, ICQ, AIM, and Jabber networks simultaneously and chat with buddies across all accounts.'' CEO Kalyan Manyam said, ''the integrated multi-service IM will be a powerful way for our users to connect with their friends on and beyond The chat feature will also enable our users to share their favourite Indyarocks content (photos, videos, blogs, movies, games) instantly with their friends across the World Wide Web.'' The multi-chat service is completely a browser-based application and will not require any downloads. The chat feature will be available across all pages of to provide a seamless rich chatting and social networking experience. Members will be able to browse through Indyarocks without disturbing any chat instances, he said.

Honda launches Jazz at Rs 6.98 lakh

Premium car manufacturer Honda Siel Cars India Ltd today launched its much awaited premium hatchback the 'Honda Jazz', priced at Rs 6.98 lakhs (Ex-showroom Delhi).

''The car will cater to a unique group of people who want the latest and the most stylish model with best of technology, safety and practicality in their cars,'' company President and CEO Masahiro Takedagawa told reporters here.

The car will be manufactured at the company's facility at Greater Noida with 77 per cent localisation whereas the remaining will be imported from countries such as Thailand, Indonesia and Japan.

The Jazz is equipped with a 1.2 litre i-VTEC engine designed especially for the Indian customer.

Asked whether it was a right time to launch a new product in the current market scenario, Mr Takedagawa said, ''the economy is showing signs of recovery and hopefully the motoring industry will also bounce back.'' However, he maintained that it was not wise to enter a niche car market but the company is eyeing to sell about 2,000 units of the Jazz in a month.

With the launch of the new car, the company is planning to create a new (J) segment just below the Honda City in the country.

Available in three types of manual transmission Jazz, Jazz 'Mode', Jazz 'Active' the car will be offered in six colours.

The booking will start immediately across the company's dealership, Mr Takedagawa said.

He also said that the signing of FTA between India and Thailand would further prove advantageous to the customers. However, the company is waiting for official signing of the deal.

Sold in over 130 countries, the second generation 'Honda Jazz' has registered cumulative sales of 2.8 million units.

Satyam hits upper circuit, Tech Mahindra surges

Satyam Computer today hit the upper limit surging by 10 per cent on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), for the second consecutive session, a day after the scam-tainted IT firm came out with results demonstrating that it was down but not out.

Satyam's new owner Tech Mahindra soared nearly 28 per cent at Rs 758 on the BSE and later traded at Rs 744.20, up 25.46 per cent.

After opening high on bourses, shares of Satyam hit the upper circuit at Rs 73.50 on the BSE, up 9.95 per cent over previous close. On the National Stock Exchange, Tech Mahindra surged by 12.90 per cent to a high of Rs 840. It was later quoting at Rs 824, up by 10.75 per cent, a leading broker said.

Yesterday, Satyam reported a net profit of Rs 160.50 crore for the October-December 2008, a period that saw the beginning of Satyam's fall from grace. The total income was Rs 2,327.21 crore. Satyam was at lowest level in January with a profit of Rs four crore before showing signs of revival by recording a Rs 52 crore profit in February. This was despite losing about two dozen clients.

Airtel inks pact with Comviva

Bharti Airtel, the country's leading telecom service provider, today said it has entered into a managed services deal with Comviva, a provider of value added services for mobile operators.

As part of this three-year deal, Comviva (earlier known as Bharti Telesoft) would manage about 2,000 Airtel's VAS nodes across the country from various partners, it said in a statement.

''With Comviva managing our full suite of value added services, we anticipate enhancements in the service experience we deliver to our customers,'' said Bharti Airtel President Mobile Services Atul Bindal.

Comviva CEO Manoranjan Mohapatra said, ''in addition to managing Airtel's 2,000 VAS nodes 'from a range of partners' we will also manage the complexities associated with the emergence of multiple technologies, different standards and a myriad of content to help grow Airtel's VAS business.'' Comviva, had last year signed a deal with South Africa's MTN to provide mobile value-added services to MTN customers in 21 markets.

HTC launches "Touch Diamond2" in India

Taiwanese smart phone maker HTC will launch the second generation Android powered mobile phones in India by this year end following the great success in the US and Japanese markets, a top official of the company said today.

Disclosing this at the national launch of ''HTC Touch Diamond2'' mobile phones that integrates innovation and simplicity with unique style and intuitive interface, HTC India Country Head Ajay Sharma said the company's cell phones, powered by Android platform, had been very successful in the two markets.

He said Microsoft Windows would be the key platform for the company's progress in India, through it was committed to introduce Android technology.

He said the 3G powered Touch Diamond2 perfectly balances function, form factor and cutting-edge technology to personalise communication and mobile Internet experience.

Diamond2 would be available at a market operating price of Rs 29,990 at HTC authorised resellers across the country from today.

''The Diamond2 ushers in a mobile communication experience that simplifies how we communicate with people in our lives, whether through voice, text or email,'' he said.

He said HTC had emerged as the third top mobile phone brand in India within two years of entry into the market.

In 2008 it had sold three lakh handsets ranging from Rs 13,000 to Rs 42,000, a growth of 300 per cent over 2007. During the current calendar year, HTC was expecting to achieve a growth of 100 per cent in sales volume, he said.

He said the new products moots a new people-centric communication approach, providing a single contact view that displays the individual conversation history of contacts regardless of whether voice, text or e-mail were used. This could be viewed from the contact card or in-call screen during a phone conversation, ensuring the latest communication contact-by-contact is always at held.

''Since our inception in India, the past two years has proven to be exceptional for HTC in terms of customer acceptance and growth volumes. HTC is now offering 16 models of smart phones in the country and four new models would be released by the year end,'' he said.

Tata Teleservices to launch GSM services by June-end

Tata Teleservices, the country's sixth largest mobile operator, today said it will launch its GSM services later this month with an investment of two billion dollar.

''The company will start rolling out GSM services in southern India in June under the Tata DoCoMo brand, and aims to cover almost all of India within six months,'' company Managing Director Anil Sardana told reporters here.

With 35.7 million subscribers by April-end, Tata Teleservices currently provides services on the CDMA platform in the country.

The company, which got spectrum in 18 of the country's 22 telecom circles, will have competitive tariffs, the Managing Director said.

''We are awaiting for allocations (of spectrum) in the remaining four circles, including the lucrative Delhi area,'' Mr Sardana added.

He, however, refused to comment on subscriber targets.

DoCoMo, which had completed its purchase of a 26 per cent stake in Tata Teleservices in March, will help it introduce data services such as i-mode mobile internet technology and mobile payment systems.

Banks have agreed to consider interest rate cuts: Mukherjee

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee Wednesday said banks have agreed to consider interest rate cuts, responding to his strong pitch saying measures to ease their burden were not being passed on and that industry needed credit at reasonable rates to push overall growth.

"They have agreed to explore the possibility," Mukherjee told reporters here after a review meeting on the country's financial sector with the chiefs of commercial banks and other lending institutions.

Addressing the bankers earlier, the finance minister had said affordable credit was necessary in the interest of overall development of the country and to ensure that the fruits of progress reach the average citizen.

"As a financial intermediary, banks have to stand by to provide credit at reasonable rates," said Mukherjee, adding the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had cut key rates and eased liquidity but there was no matching cut in interest rates.

"This is an area of concern in many quarters both within the government and outside."

He said prime lending rate had, indeed, come down from 13.75-14.25 percent six months ago to around 12-12.5 percent now but the quantum of such reduction had fallen short of expectations.

"I would urge the banks to address these concerns expeditiously and in adequate measure. This will help restore the environment for rapid growth and ensure that the growth process benefits all our people."

He further argued that the financial position of commercial banks, especially those owned by the government, also remained robust with a 26 percent growth in their overall business and 27 percent jump in profits.

Mukherjee also gave glimpse of the overall state of the Indian economy and said steps taken by the government and RBI had resulted in a 5.8-percent growth in the last quarter of previous fiscal and 6.7-percent in the year as a whole.

"I hope that the impact of various pro-growth measures would help to turn around the economy soon."

The finance minister also assured state-run commercial banks that the government would infuse more funds to ensure their capital base remained strong and credit flow did not suffer in this regard.

He also made a pitch for consolidation among commercial banks to improve their competitiveness globally and reduce the risk to financial stability, but said such proposals had to come from bank managements themselves.

"The government would only play a supportive role as a common shareholder."

Insurance regulator may issue 'embedded value' norms

The country's insurance regulator may issue norms for estimating "embedded value" of future insurance premiums by August, a top official said here Wednesday.

"The guidance note is ready and it would be issued within two months," J. Hari Narayan, chairman of the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (IRDA), said while addressing a conference on insurance.

Embedded value relates to future premiums of the policies sold by an insurance company. A standardised norm for calculating the embedded value is one of the requirements for eventual listing of insurance companies.

He added that the regulator would also issue guideline for insurance companies to adopt the International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS), a widely-used set of accounting rules, within a month.

"The IFRS for insurance companies are ready and we are waiting for comments of the Institute of Chartered Accountants," Narayan said.
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