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BUDGET 1999-2000

June 27, 2000

Vajpayee arrives in Italy to hardsell India
The European tour will intensify existing contacts and focus attention on expanding trade in newer areas.

June 25, 2000

PM for five-day visit to Italy, Portugal
'The Prime Minister, along with a delegation including the Finance Minister and the Commerce Minister, will attend the first India-EU summit to enable bilateral trade surpass $ 20 billion,' officials said.


Corporates adopt heritage sites, monuments
Firms spending on the upkeep of national treasures get 100% tax exemption. Many firms are providing help to preserve heritage sites after the Tourism Ministry launched this scheme.

Goa too adopts uniform tax policy
Following the Centre's threat to cut-off fiscal aid to the tourist state, Goa has decided to implement the uniform tax policy.

June 24, 2000

CCD decides 'in principle' to sell majority shares of 10 more PSUs
The panel, however, skirted the issue of divestment in Maruti Udyog, VSNL and MTNL. It also decided to appoint global advisors for sell-off in Air-India and Indian Airlines.
•CII welcomes govt's divestment plan
•Maruti employees threaten strike
•Telecom unions' stir on June 28


Maharashtra govt, Enron in a bind
MERC's move to formulate a reform package may prevent MSEB from favouring Dabhol Power Company. This has put the state government in a spot of bother: if it goes ahead with the reforms, DPC will have to fend for itself; if it drops the reforms, the World Bank may block a much-awaited mega loan, says R C Murthy.

It's momentum again!
Is it worth investing in infotech stocks at these reduced prices, asks Devangshu Datta.


Maruti pie shrinks to 54% in April-May
Meanwhile, Daewoo, Hyundai, Honda and Tata Engineering moved into top gear with their sales rising in the first two months of the current fiscal.

Karnataka keen to double IT graduates
'We are committed to various educational initiatives to enable expansion of quality knowledge resources into huge numbers that would be required in the coming years,' said Karnataka Chief Minister S M Krishna.

June 23, 2000

'Telecom sector will need $ 70 bn by 2010'
Investment in the telecom sector is expected to leap with the telecom infrastructure in India being expanded on a massive scale, Communications Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said.

Reduce deficit, Sinha tells states
'Difficult decisions will have to be taken to face the challenges of the new millenium,' Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha said.


'Govt will have to cut LPG subsidy by 2002'
'In the overall interests of India's economy, tough decisions will have to be taken, Minister of State for Petroleum E Ponnusamy said.

SEBI eases circuit filters, volatility margins
Circuit filters for 200 actively traded stocks will be eased to 16 per cent from July 3.

Raw coffee trading kicks off on COFEI
Around 117 lots of 1 metric tonne each and valued collectively at Rs 7.5 million, were traded on the exchange.

Orissa in a quandary over bumper rice crop
Orissa has urged the Centre to allow it to supply rice to West Bengal and Bihar following a bumper harvest and lack of storage space.


Govt launches 'Operation Knowledge'
To meet the increasing global demand for skilled Indian manpower in the New Economy sectors, the government has unveiled this initiative.

British hacker held in UAE
Dubai cops arrested a British engineer for hacking into the UAE's monopoly ISP, the EIM. The hacking is said to have severely hit the Gulf state's economy.


'Centre's apathy has robbed Kerala of economic progress'
'Weak politicians and Keralites living elsewhere have tarnished the state's image. Thus, despite stellar show in human development, Kerala's economy has stagnated,' says Dr I S Gulati, vice-chairman of Kerala State Planning Board.

June 22, 2000

Casual and Cool!
Changing corporate dress codes boost casual-wear mart.

Maruti mum; VSNL, MTNL wary over divestment issue
With the decision on PSU-selloff to be taken on June 23, employees, management and politicians are waiting with bated breath, sources said.
•Divestment panel to meet on Friday
•Telecom unions to strike work on June 28

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Bloomberg plans huge investments in India
'We are serious about business in India,' Bloomberg chief Michael Bloomberg said in a digital video conference from the US. He will arrive in India on Sunday for a recce.

'Ensure Indian IT pros' safety in Germany'
Indian IT professionals are sceptical about Germany's welcome to them because of attacks on non-Germans. India's HRD Minister Murli Manohar Joshi, thus, has urged the German government to protect Indian IT whiz kids.


India's stand on core labour standards vindicated: Maran
'Developing nations have realised the danger of linking labour with WTO and raised their voice in concern at the Cairo G-15 Summit,' Commerce Minister Murasoli Maran said.

Dr Reddy's Hyderabad unit staff on strike
Labour unrest has plagued DRL's unit at Bachupalli with employees protesting against 'arbitrary conditions and unfair labour practices'.

CMs, FMs of 9 states discuss fiscal strategy
The states will work out a comprehensive strategy to get out of the fiscal morass by toning up their tax administration and revenue mobilisation efforts.

Ford eyes stake in Indian e-trade portals
The auto major is also considering the feasibility of launching new models in India, Ford chief Jacques Nasser said. The company will replace its blue oval logo with the script 'Ford Motor Company' in a few months.

Cabinet approves closure of six PSUs
PSUs found unviable by an expert panel would be shut down and their employees would be offered a voluntary separation scheme for a period of two months.


Character flaw or system failure?
If scamsters squeal, they go to jail. If they don't, chances are the 'system' will ensure their escape so long as they grease the right palms, says Sucheta Dalal.

June 21, 2000

'Net' Gain!
Dot-coms boost sagging ad world fortunes.

CCEA approves scheme for securitisation of SEB dues
This would help in unlocking the unpaid dues by the state electricity boards and the money available to the PSUs through issuance of bonds will be used for new investments, sources said.

Cut tariff for international calls from India, urge US telecom majors
'India is committed to opening up the telecom sector to private funds,' said Communications Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, assuring US firms that their worries would be looked into.

PM to address business meet in Portugal
The Prime Minister will speak about India's economic reforms on June 27 at the meet, which is a precursor to the EU-India Summit.

PM to meet state CMs, FMs on Wednesday
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee will address the issue of carrying forward fiscal reforms to deal with the burgeoning deficit.
• Sinha calls chief ministers' meet on Jun 22


• G-15 summit calls for reform in IMF, WTO


Over 7 million disabled face joblessness
The downsizing of PSUs, the apparent apathy of corporates and their belief that 'job quotas for the incapacitated will fail' will put paid to the chances of the disabled getting employment.

June 20, 2000

Busted Dreams!
Lack of jobs, stricter laws in Gulf states hit Kerala's economy.


Chief ministers' meet to seek fiscal package
On June 21, the chief ministers of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and West Bengal will meet to ask the central government to share a part of their rising expenditure.

Jaipurias buy Timblos' Pepsi operations
The deal was struck for $ 15 million. With this, the Jaipurias now control the marketing and bottling rights of Pepsi in Goa and Karnataka.

Indo-UK trade meet on July 7
A high-level delegation will go to London to strengthen trade ties between the two nations and to woo NRI investors.

Now, India's turn to dump sugar in Pak
Pakistani sugar traders dread that India will dump huge quantities of sugar to take advantage of sugar scarcity in Pakistan, zero excise duty in India and the permission to export, said analysts.

Pak budget: old wine in new bottle
Analysts expect more 'mini budgets' as the military government has not explained in its maiden effort where will it get the revenues to meet the collection target set for the new fiscal.

June 18, 2000

Govt eyes fast-track sell-off of large PSUs
The idea is to ensure that all ministers opposing the divestment of PSUs under their ambit are brought in line. The final decision on the issue is likely to taken on June 23.

RBI-SEBI panel cautions banks on IPO financing
'Liberal funding of IPOs can lead to over subscription and high premium. Poor opening of shares may see banks finding it difficult to realise dues if borrowers are unable to offload shares,' said the panel.

IRDA to pare solvency norms for new entrants in health insurance
'A final decision on this will be taken after the insurance advisory committee concludes deliberations in its first meeting starting on June 19,' said N Rangachary, IRDA chief.


Bank of Baroda keen on insurance foray
'We will select a consultant and then a joint venture partner in the next three months. However, the bank is yet to decide whether to go in for the life or non-life insurance,' the bank's chairman said.

Move on FDI to remove hurdles, says govt
The decisions are in line with the President's address in 1995 which stated that the government would review the FDI regime to do away with bottlenecks and put FDI clearances on an automatic route, an official statement said.


Black pearl farming to begin in Andamans
The black pearl, about ten times more expensive than the white pearl, is only second to diamonds in terms of price and prestige, and is found thriving in the Andaman and Nicobar waters.

June 17, 2000

Branson's Virgin Airways seeks to rule Indian skies

Govt plans to set up ICE Authority
The draft ICE Act, being vetted by the Finance Ministry, says that the new body will be a super regulator and will incorporate TRAI, which will be renamed Carriage Bureau.

June 16, 2000

Future of Money!
Smart cards gaining currency; set to change spending habits

Divestment panel to meet on June 23
'A medium-term sell-off plan is on the anvil,' N K Singh, secretary, PM's Office, said. He also said that irrespective of the depreciation of the rupee, India's GDP growth will exceed 7 pc.


India may allow offshore banks in SEZs
'We will also provide the industry with perfect environment and total operational freedom,' Commerce Minister Murasoli Maran said.

Maran calls for pro-active steps in trade, investment promotion
'Such a strategy is imperative to achieve the targetted export growth rate of 18% this fiscal and an annual FDI inflow of $ 10 billion,' the commerce minister said.

Ford to sell 25,000 Ikons in India in 2000
The auto major has also hiked the prices of some of its models by Rs 8,000-9,000. Ikon 1.3 Exi, Ford's new offering, will be priced at Rs 550,000.

TELCO developing petrol Siera, Safari
'The two modified versions will roll out by the year-end. The auto major is also planning to launch a 'soft-top' version of Suma,' a top company official said.

June 15, 2000

Jolted Awake!
LIC, GIC pull up their socks as MNCs come calling. closes at $19.31 on the NASDAQ became the first Indian Internet portal to be listed on the NASDAQ. It opened at $ 21 and touched a high of $ 23.5.

Govt eases borrowings guidelines further
Rules for corporates seeking access to international capital markets have been relaxed. Cases involving up to $ 50 million have been placed under the automatic route and the RBI's limit has been raised to $ 100 million.


Paswan's free lunch
The free-phones-for-telecom-staff plan will help Paswan in getting the employees' consent to go ahead with the corporatisation of the Department of Telecom, says Mahesh Nair.


A wireless world beckons India
WAPCON2000, the two-day conference on wireless Internet technologies, takes off in Bangalore.


'We are committed to offering the best'
'Karnataka means business. Investors will find everything going their way: clearances, sanctions, letters of intent, the works,' says Karnataka Chief Minister S M Krishna.

June 14, 2000

Laying out the red carpet
'We offer a pro-active rιgime, an investor-friendly climate, skilled manpower, a good labour force, excellent infrastructure, security and abundant natural resources to all investors,' says Karnataka Chief Minister S M Krishna.

PM's foster son-in-law to launch hotel management institute
Ranjan Bhattacharya's International Institute for Management and Technologies at Gurgaon will cater to 100 students. Those clearing the three-year degree course will be absorbed in the Carlson chain of hotels worldwide.


Govt clears Jet Air, Enron, Joyco proposals
The Foreign Investment Promotion Board cleared 21 cases involving an inflow of Rs 4.29 billion as foreign direct investment.


World Bank offers loan for Kerala scheme
The $ 60-million assistance is for rural water supply and sanitation projects to be implemented in four Kerala districts.

Karnataka keen to house centre for tech-transfer
The centre for cleaner production, to be promoted by UN's Industrial Development Organisation, would be funded by a Swiss government agency.

June 13, 2000

Cashew vs Potato!
'Nut King' J R Pillai to take on the might of MNCs.

Air-India mulls VRS for employees
'We are actively considering the proposal for a voluntary retirement scheme for Air-India employees to improve the carrier's functioning,' Union Civil Aviation Minister Sharad Yadav said.

Hearing in case against 'Big Bull' from Tuesday
The hearing in a case filed by the Enforcement Directorate against Mehta and five others will begin at a Bombay court from June 13.


Maran to the rescue of leather traders
'Necessary steps would be taken to put an end to the barbaric treatment to animals in the leather trade,' said India's commerce minister.


IBM on the prowl in India
'We are looking at acquisition opportunities in India but have yet to zero in on specifics,' Ranjit Limaye, IBM India managing director, said.

NSE futures trading kicks off
The first trade transacted in a June 2000 contract opened at 1,461 points.

Virgin, Air-India yet to reach a settlement
'Air-India has not confirmed that we can fly yet,' a Virgin Airways spokeswoman said. A final round of talks between the two airlines may be held in Bombay on June 19.

Govt may reconsider Kannur airport issue
Union Minister Sharad Yadav and Kerala Chief Minister E K Nayanar discussed the project, which may get a fresh lease of life, sources said.

Sony to launch Playstation in India next year
'Enthused by the response to test-marketing of Playstation-I in India, we have decided to launch the game in 2001-2002,' Sony India marketing chief T Itagaki said.


June 11, 2000

Environmentalists see red over pollution by Grasim unit Environmentalists see red over pollution by Grasim unit

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PM approves Paswan's free-phone scheme
The prime minister gave his approval to the controversial plan after a meeting with Paswan and Sinha on Saturday morning.

RBI lays down tough insurance entry norms for NBFCs
The central bank has said that any NBFC with owned funds of over Rs 5 billion, capital adequacy ratio of 15%, NPAs of less than 5%, and three continuous years of profit can undertake insurance business.


'Optical communication will be the future's driving force'
'Speed of communication will change things forever. Increased use of multimedia-enabled PCs and the Net will create huge demand for optical components. We will focus on this,' says Bell Labs' president Arun Netravali.


Govt to auction 5 million tonnes of wheat
Acute shortage of storage has made the government take this decision. It also plans to export wheat to SAARC nations.

World Bank sanctions $ 516-million loan for road projects
The loan will partly meet the cost of the 6,000-km 'golden quadrilateral' road project between the four metros and the North-South and East-West Corridors.

Top Indian team for US to discuss biz issues
Shashi Ruia, chairman, Indo-US Joint Business Council, along with Sunil Mittal, co-chairman, will lead the delegation for the meeting in San Francisco.

Oswal Chemicals plant faces closure
Recurrent accidents at the Orissa unit have made trade union leaders, environmentalists and politicians demand its closure, sources said. The state government will take a decision on the issue on Monday.

June 10, 2000

Grasim's bid to sell Mavoor unit raises unions' hackles

BSE kicks off futures trades
Sensex futures began on a dull note. The BSE June contract closed at 4783.10 points, up 28.10 points from its opening of 4755. Aravamuthan Sasikant finds out what some market players feel about the move.

• RBI blows hot and cold, but grips rupee


World Bank sanctions $ 516-million loan for road projects
The loan will partly meet the cost of the 6,000-km 'golden quadrilateral' road project between the four metros and the North-South and East-West Corridors.

MTNL to cut leased-line rental by 15%
The executive board of Mahanagar Telephone Nigam has also decided to slash its Internet tariff to expand its subscriber base.

High Court admits writ against AP power tariff hike
The court also ordered issuance of notices to the Andhra Pradesh government and the AP Transco and Electricity Regulatory Commission. The next hearing in the case will be on July 3.

'Maruti may see drop in profit this fiscal'
'MUL's bottomline will be hit due to big investments at its plant, massive deprecation, and the Rs 3-billion borrowings from the market,' MUL managing director Jagdish Khattar said.

Court to curb cheque-dishonour mooted
The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India has also suggested that the Negotiable Instruments Act be amended.


• Karnataka nods projects worth Rs 132 bn

June 9, 2000

Air-India told to trim flab, streamline operations before alliance
Air-India: Illusory privatisation proposal 'Despite the hype over Air-India's privatisation, the government and the airline's staff will be the majority shareholders. Until the government pares its equity to 26%, strategic investors may not be interested,' says Dilip Thakore.

US judge orders breaking up of Microsoft
This could be the biggest corporate break-up since AT&T, though Bill Gates is almost certain to go in for an appeal.

Microsoft to appeal against 'split' order
'We have a strong case and will resolve this through the appeals process. We will defend our right to innovate and improve products,' Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said.

Boom for software, gloom for others
Other engineering branches suffer as students gravitate towards the software industry. This has also thrown up a skewed job market with few wanting to venture into other disciplines creating a acute manpower shortage.

• A roaring success!
Bonanza for Karnataka as global funds pour into the state.
• More...

Environment activism to the fore
'At the risk of sounding absurd, I would suggest that the era of unethical Indian business is drawing to a close,' says Devangshu Datta.

Film industry gears up for strike
The first meeting of the Jayant Patil committee, set up to fight the tax on transfer of copyright, is on June 11. This will decide the future course of action by the film industry, said sources.

Pak traders-govt standoff worsens
With the military regime in Pakistan threatening the agitating traders with imprisonment, the latter may resort to a civil disobedience movement, sources said.

June 8, 2000


Karnataka emerges major destination for global investment Karnataka emerges major destination for global investment
• Pepsi to invest Rs 1.25 billion
• Govt may introduce ESOP for PSUs
• More...

US judge orders breaking up of Microsoft
This could be the biggest corporate break-up since AT&T, though Bill Gates is almost certain to go in for an appeal.

Rupee sinks to all-time low of 44.72/$
Heavy dollar-buying by banks and strong corporate demand led to the Indian currency plumbing new depths, said dealers.

Maharaja on the prowl for a suitable ally
Air-India has a long list of top foreign airlines to choose from for strategic alliance. But will the global majors be interested in biting into the Maharaja's pie?

'India has achieved a lot, but it is not enough. The fiscal consolidation for the government is the most important thing, IMF managing director Horst Koehler said.

Hyundai puts IPO, private placement on the backburner
'We have chalked out a three year business plan, which involves fresh infusion of $ 400 million. We will go slow on private placement,' Hyundai Motor India president A P Gandhi said.

Pak traders protest against general sales tax
For the first time since the military takeover in Pakistan, traders observed countrywide protest rallies, creating an uncertain environment for the government to boost its revenue collection.

June 7, 2000

Acute shortage of manpower hits Indian IT firms

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'It gives me great confidence that this country knows what to do and has a clear vision in the long-term on where it should head to, IMF chief Horst Koehler said.


'Zee channels to be available without cable'
'Zee Television's channels would be available on C-band from the third week of June, facilitating direct viewing by the people,' Zee chairman Subhash Chandra said.
• More...


Consensus grows against Indian leather
The US-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals recently got the Council of Leather Exports to impose a 60-day moratorium to improve conditions in Indian abattoirs.

What the IT Bill means to you
'The Information Technology Bill is a great achievement and a remarkable step ahead in the right direction,' a paper prepared by CII said.


A bullet train for the minister, free telephones for others
India needs statesmen who think of India's economic interests rather than petty politicking, pipe dreams and appeasement of vote banks, says Sucheta Dalal.

June 6, 2000

• Finance Minister slams developed nations
• Karnataka signs MoUs for Rs 40 billion
• 'Zee to invest Rs 2 bn; shelves ADR'
Kenneth Lay, the energetic messiah: The Economist
By bending all the rules of the energy business, Enron's chairman Kenneth Lay has turned the company from a stodgy gas concern into a soaring New Economy major. But what has he learned along the way?

What stars foretell about RIL, Anil Ambani
When Jupiter transits Neptune, well-informed people such as Anil Ambani can become heroes. The favourable aspects of this transit will bring prosperity to Reliance and its shareholders this year, says astrologer Rajen K Sharma.

June 5, 2000

Shekhar Kapur's VC firm sells out
Softtechnet, the venture capital firm backed by the movie director, has been sold for 33 million pounds just two months after it pulled off a highly successful IPO.

June 4, 2000

Karnataka expects Rs 250-billion projects from investors' meet
'To be opened by Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha on June 5, it will have a veritable who's who of the business world taking part in it,' Karnataka Industry Minister R Deshpande said.

Sinha under fire over the 'Mauritius muddle'
A political battle rages in Delhi as the opposition demands the finance minister's resignation over the 'FII bail-out' issue. The BJP, meanwhile, maintains that there was no foul play involved.

Jaipurias to buy Timblos' Pepsi operations in Goa, Karnataka
The deal, reportedly struck for over Rs 600 million, will see the Timblos selling their bottling plants and marketing operations to the Delhi based Jaipuria Brothers.

Duty drawback to hit carpet industry hard
'It the government does not roll back it decision to impose value caps on carpets, about 200,000 people would be rendered unemployed and the sector will lose Rs 2 billion annually,' the Federation of Indian Export Organisations said.

Goa's delicacies to be dearer
With Goa adopting the uniform tax policy, tourists will now have to pay more for its specialities.

Govt to formulate SSI policy in three months
'The new policy will cover all aspects related to SSIs to suit the growing needs of the sector in relation to the global perspectives,' Minister for Small-scale Industries Vasundhara Raje said.

'New textile policy will boost exports'
'The aim is to make the textile sector globally competitive and achieve an export target of $ 35 billion in the next five years,' Union Textiles Minister Kashiram Rana said.

June 3, 2000

June 2, 2000

Many foreign airlines show interest in Air-India pie
Govt unveils amnesty scheme for companies
The scheme, to be open for three months, will offer one-time amnesty to 500,000 firms to create a healthy investment climate in India.

Will RBI print notes?
Foreign institutional inflows may dry up once Nifty futures start trading in Singapore, says Devangshu Datta.

FEMA replaces FERA
The government has set up an Appellate Tribunal for Foreign Exchange with the Foreign Exchange Management Act coming into force.

BIFR proposes winding up of 8 PSUs
The board suggested this step as these units had failed to implement their revival plans. It also drew up recast schemes for two ailing PSUs.

June 1, 2000

Home II, Alone & Alert
Investment banker Norman Prouty loves life and biz in India.


Swamy, leftists slam Yashwant Sinha
'Prosecute Sinha. His denial on favouring FIIs is wholly unconvincing,' said the Janata Party president. The Communist Party of India-Marxist also demanded the finance minister's resignation over the double taxation controversy.

Eicher Motors drops plans for overseas truck unit
'We have decided not to set up a unit in South Africa as the feasibility report was not favourable. Instead, we will enter new African markets like Egypt through the export route,' Eicher Group chairman S Sandilya said.

Tough decisions, astute planning bring Madhya Pradesh out of cash crisis
The state plans to make major capital expenditures in the core sector. The new investments have been possible by prudent fiscal management, cost-cutting, taking bold steps and clearing all dues, said officials.