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Terrific Sensex! Pm puts Stakes on Growth rate

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    Terrific Sensex! Pm puts Stakes on Growth rate Mukesh Ambani became the richest person in the world Palash Biswas Contact: Palash C Biswas, C/O Mrs Arati Roy,
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 29, 2007

      Terrific Sensex! Pm puts Stakes on Growth rate
      Mukesh Ambani became the richest person in the world
      Palash Biswas

      Contact: Palash C Biswas, C/O Mrs Arati Roy, Gosto Kanan, Sodepur, Kolkata- 700110, India. Phone: 91-033-25659551
      Email: palashbiswaskl@...

      German chancellor Merkel on 4-day visit to India
      Business Standard - 1 hour ago
      India and Germany are likely to sign a slew of agreements on mutual cooperation in the fields of science and technology and defence during the four day visit of German chancellor Angela Merkel to New Delhi and Mumbai beginning tonight.
      Merkel visit to focus on Asia policy Hindu
      Ahead of India Visit, Merkel Signals Shift in Asia Policy Deutsche Welle

      The bulls run the Indian markets have achieved another milestone with Sensex hitting the 20000 mark. It was a solid 700 points rally on the Sensex and Nifty hit 5900 levels scoring over a double century.

      The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said on Monday headline inflation had remained suppressed in the September quarter due to lack of pass-through from higher global oil prices, while consumer prices were firm on costlier food prices.

      India to relax overseas borrowing rules for firms
      MUMBAI: India plans to relax overseas borrowing rules for local firms to enable them to tap funds at lower cost and will do so first for infrastructure projects, a finance ministry official said on Monday.

      "I am not in a position to say when the (external commercial borrowing) norms will be relaxed.

      They will certainly be relaxed in the shortest possible time and when they are relaxed infrastructure projects will be the first," D. Subbarao, finance secretary, told an Indo-US business conference.

      Chairman of Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) Mukesh Ambani on Monday became the richest person in the world, surpassing American software czar Bill Gates, Mexican business tycoon Carlos Slim Helu and investment guru Warren Buffett, courtesy the bull run in the stock market. Following a strong share price rally on Monday in his three group companies – India's most valued firm Reliance Industries, Reliance Petroleum and Reliance Industrial Infrastructure Ltd – the net worth of Ambani rose to $63.2 billion (Rs 2,49,108 crore). In comparison, the net worth of both Gates and Slim is estimated to be slightly lower at around $62.29 billion each, with Slim leading among the two by a narrow margin. Warren Buffett, earlier the third richest in the world, also dropped one position with a net worth of about $56 billion.

      Ambani's wealth of about Rs 2,49,000 crore includes about Rs 2,10,000 crore from RIL (50.98 per cent stake), Rs 37,500 crore from RPL (37.5 per cent) and Rs 2,100 crore from RIIL (46.23 per cent).

      Slim's wealth has been calculated on the basis of his stake in companies like America Movil (30 per cent), Carso Global (82 per cent), Grupo Carso (75 per cent), Inbursa (67 per cent), IDEAL (30 per cent) and Saks Inc (10 per cent).
      According to information available with the US and Mexican stock exchanges where these companies are listed, Slim currently holds shares worth a total of $62.2993 billion, with more than half coming from Latin American mobile major America Movil.

      Slim is closely followed by Gates with a net worth of $62.29 billion currently.

      Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Monday 9-10 percent economic growth is sustainable for many years, and the government has ambitious plans to modernise infrastructure.
      Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said signals from stock markets and foreign investment flows are positive and the government will work toward maintaining an encouraging atmosphere for investors. India is keen to receive gas from Turkmenistan via a planned pipeline and is also considering investments in gas and oil producer Qatar to meet rapidly rising domestic demand, India's oil minister said on Monday.

      "Be it FDI flows, investments in stock markets, investments in our knowledge economy, the signals are all positive. We will work to keep these positive," he said at the Fortune Global Forum meeting here.

      Singh's statement comes on a day when the country's stock markets touched a new record, with the benchmark Sensex surging past the 20,000-mark for the first time.

      M Damodaran, Chairman of Sebi, while announcing the decision on the new policy on P-notes said that this was not a board meeting to decide on a single issue.

      Speaking to mediapersons after the Sebi board meet today, he said the stock exchanges would be mandated to constitute a committee chaired by a non-executive member of a concerned exchange to focus on surveillance. This, he feels, would make the market a safer place for investors.

      The meet also saw new policy announcements like clearing of Sebi's proposal to have an SME exchange.

      But the most awaited decision on P-notes was that the board has decided that FIIs and sub-accounts shall not issue P-Notes as underlying as derivatives.

      "All current position to be wound up within 18 months. Further issue of PNs by sub-accounts will be discontinued with immediate effect," Damodaran said.

      It was a terrific day for the Indian markets. The Sensex conquered the 20,000-mark on the back of frantic buying by foreign and local investors in blue-chip stocks. The Sensex made history after it hit an all-time intra-day high of 20,024.87 points during the last five minutes of trading on Monday.The index took only 10 days to gain 1,000 points after it crossed the 19,000-mark on October 15.The major drivers of Monday's rally were index heavyweights Larsen and Toubro, Reliance Industries [Get Quote], ICICI Bank [Get Quote], HDFC Bank [Get Quote] and SBI [Get Quote] among others. With today's landmark, Sensex has joined the 20,000-point club, whose other members are Hong Kong's Hang Seng, Brazil's Bovespa and Mexico's Bolsa among others.The Sensex crossed three milestones in October as it breached the 18K on October 9, 19K on October 15 and 20K today!

      Terming the signals from stock markets as positive, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said "India story looks so good" and promised to carry forward reforms to make the economy more efficient.

      "Be it FDI flows, investments in our stock markets or investments in knowledge economy, the signals are all positive. We will work to keep these positive," Singh said inaugurating the Fortune Global Forum in New Delhi.

      The comment coincides with stock markets benchmark Sensex crossing the 20,000-mark during the day for the first time.

      Expressing satisfaction over economic growth, Singh complimented "the economic management team consisting of Finance Minister and Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission for managing the economy so efficiently."

      "I know very well that investment is an act of faith. It is shaped by perceptions, by expectations and by all uncertainties of life. I invite you to have faith in India. I assure you that your faith will not be misplaced," he told global investors and bankers.

      "All those who invest in India, who invest in its future, who invest in India's prosperity and who invest in the capability of the Indian people will be investing in the future of democracy," the PM said asserting that no policy reform has ever been reversed despite different political parties holding the office over the last two decades.

      "The beauty of Indian democracy is its vitality, its ability to periodically rejuvenate itself and its ability to reform itself," he said.

      Referring to unleashing of Indian enterprise in the past decade, Singh said "our growth process is based on widening and deepening of our domestic market."

      GDP may grow at 9% this year: Chidambaram
      Indian economy is likely to expand at close to 9 per cent this fiscal and the government may take more steps such as relaxing norms for infrastructure companies to raise funds abroad for sustaining high growth, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said on Monday.

      "There is nothing more important to sustain growth than infrastructure... this year growth is likely to be close to 9 per cent. The rate of investment in infrastructure is lagging behind GDP growth," he said at the US-India CEO Forum in Mumbai.

      Chidambaram said India needs to raise investment in infrastructure from the current level of five per cent of GDP to nine per cent of GDP over the next five years.

      The Planning Commission has estimated an investment of $488 billion in infrastructure, he said. Of this, 70 per cent will be met by the public sector through budgetary resources and retained earnings while the remaining 30 per cent will be funded by the private sector.

      "Infrastructure financing is major challenge. We have identified some steps that have to be taken. Firstly, ECB norms for infrastructure must be made more flexible, pension and insurance funds need to invest more in infrastructure and its guidelines would have to be revisited and above all create a broad, deep and active corporate bond market," he said.

      The statement assumes significance as the government had recently tightened norms for External Commercial Borrowings to arrest the rise in rupee against the dollar by encouraging capital outflows. There has been speculation that government may relax norms for core sector firms.

      Chidambaram also observed that initiatives for dedicated infrastructure funds were stalled due to the lack of projects.

      "We are sensitizing state governments to make a shelf of projects for investment," he said.

      Wheat imports beyond judicial scrutiny: Govt

      NEW DELHI: The Centre has sought the dismissal of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on wheat imports saying that the court should not interfere in its decision making process and cited various Supreme Court judgements to buttress its argument.

      The government has been in the midst of controversy over its decision to import the grain at a rate of $325 per ton which many contend is too high. "International market is not predictable and changes in weather conditions, quantity of production etc. and large number of other factors influence international prices of wheat," the government has said in its affidavit filed in the Delhi High Court in its response.

      The PIL filed through advocate AK Thakur had also sought a CBI inquiry into the issue.

      The Centre said the decision pertaining to wheat import was taken to fill the gap of 5 million tonne in the central pool stock which is being used for welfare schemes and emergencies.

      It said filling the gap by purchasing wheat from domestic market would have adversely affected the consumers as the price of the product would have risen due to increased demand.

      "If this gap was made up by purchasing wheat in the domestic market, it would have adversely affected the market sentiments and the prices would have gone up, compelling the consumers to pay higher prices," the affidavit said.

      The PIL had contended that to meet the shortfall in the buffer stock, the government placed the order of 5.7 lakh mt of wheat in July with three foreign firms at a much higher price of $325 per tonne against $263, the lowest bid received in May in a global tender floated by State Trading Corporation.

      Industry asks Centre to simplify sales tax norms

      NEW DELHI: There is a need to announce a road map for the Goods and Services Tax (GST) that would eliminate taxes leading to cascading and distortionary effects, industry chamber CII said. The chamber has sent its recommendations to the finance ministry on constituting the GST model, adding that it must be simple to administer with efficient tax collection and credit disbursement mechanisms.

      CII has recommended that India should have only two indirect taxes — GST (Central & state GST) and property tax. The Central GST should include central excise, service tax and education cess while state GST could include a combination of all taxes currently levied by the state and octroi by municipalities, it said.

      On levying the Central and state GST, CII said both must be levied on the common base price from manufacturing to retail stage on goods and services. Tax on property sale must be levied on the value addition under the state GST and not on the total amount as applicable currently, it added.

      The chamber has suggested that municipalities should get financial support from states to meet their expenses and should be allowed to impose only property tax. The responsibility of tax collection should be divided and any tax-paying unit should pay Central and state GST to only one authority, CII said in a statement.

      The Centre could collect GST from manufacturers and service providers while states could collect it from others, including traders, the chamber recommended. The input tax credit to be available for the Central GST as well as state GST should be paid irrespective of the collecting agency and a nationwide clearing house mechanism must be created to facilitate transfer of Central and state GST and allow credit for tax paid, CII said.

      The chamber has made the case for allowing states to collect dual GST on certain services consumed directly like beauty treatment and levying dual GST on imports with credit for tax paid.

      Other recommendations include no tax element in prices of goods exported, the tax collecting authority to be responsible for refunds, and refunds to be given based on the periodical return within stipulated time frame not exceeding the periodicity of return. The consumer, who is the actual taxpayer, should be able to find the element of total tax paid, CII said.

      India today became the 20th nation in the world to have seen its stock market benchmark enter the league of bourses that have touched the 20,000-point milestone.
      The bellwether index Sensex on Monday breached the 20k level in intra-day trade for the first time in its over two-decade history. As many as 32 indices spanning across 19 countries have already crossed this mark.

      After crossing the magical figure in late afternoon trade, the Sensex, however, fell to close at 19,977.67.

      In Asia, the bellwether index is second only to Hong Kong's Hang Seng to achieve this feat, while markets like China and Japan are yet to see any of their indices touching 20K points. Even in the West, markets like the US, UK, Canada, Germany and France have not seen their indices reaching this mark.

      The countries whose stock market indices have crossed 20K level include Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Venezeula, Peru, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Italy, Poland, Russia, Hungary, Ukraine, Turkey, South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and Hong Kong.

      Italy and Hong Kong have four indices each trading above 20K level, while South Africa and Peru have three such indices each. Mexico and Russia have two such indices each, while others have one index each to have crossed 20k level.

      Argentina's Indice Bolsa General is trading above 1,28,300 points, while Jamaica's JSE Market Index is near 99,000 level.

      Other big indices in terms of sheer value include Egypt's Hermes Index, Russia's ASP General, Brazil's Bovesta Index, Poland's WSE WIG Index, Turkey's ISE National 100 Index and benchmark index of Nigeria stock exchange, all of which are quoted above 50k points.

      Ambanis fight their way to another Forbes list


      New Delhi: Sometimes a fight can be the route to fame. Mukesh and Anil Ambani have yet again made it to a list of richest people compiled by Forbes, but this time the recognition is not only for their business acumen.

      Forbes, in its latest list of "Billionaire Family Feuds", has bestowed the Ambani brothers with the recognition because of their fight over Reliance since the death of their father Dhirubhai Ambani.

      Calling their fight a "silver lining", the magazine has detailed how the fortunes of the brothers have continued to rise even though they have been at loggerheads. Ten families have made it to the list with the Ambanis being the only ones from India.

      "Sometimes fighting has a silver lining, as has been the case for Indian brothers Mukesh and Anil Ambani. Unable to get along, the brothers began fighting publicly in late 2004 for control of Reliance Industries, one of India's largest conglomerates. The situation became so untenable that their mother Kokilaben brokered a court- approved peace settlement that entailed divvying up the family businesses," the US business magazine wrote about the siblings in a report in its latest edition.

      The magazine reports that in 2005, the brothers had a collective net worth of $7 bn, but fortunes changes soon after. In the Forbes' March 2007 list of world's richest persons, Mukesh was ranked at 14th place with $20.1 billion and Anil followed with a net worth of $18.2 billion ranked at 18th.

      According to Forbes, the bickering is still continuing between the two brothers despite their mother brokering a settlement to divide the family assets way back in June 2005. "Anil has taken Mukesh to court a couple of times, most notably over a crucial gas-supply agreement. The recent court ruling gives the brothers four months to renegotiate a deal," the report says.

      But the magazine also commends that fact the infighting and the split has not affected the stock prices of the individual companies, which are making them much richer than what they were when the fight first started.

      The other billionaire family feuds mentioned in the list include a then 19-year-old member of the Hyatt's Pritzker family, who successfully sued her father and almost a dozen other relatives, and a father and his beauty-queen fifth wife suing his son over the family fortune.

      The Ambani family is the only one from India and half the list is dominated by American families. There are also feuds involving families in Canada, Germany, Hong Kong and Switzerland.

      PTI reports Forbes has also listed the fight involving late celebrity actress and former Playboy playmate Anna Nicole Smith, who battled her stepson, of much higher age than her, for about a a decade to get the rights over the fortunes of her late husband.

      While the case was yet to be resolved, both Smith and her husband died. They were married for just a month.

      "For these wealthy dynasties, there just doesn't seems to be enough money in the world to convince them to get along. Instead they turn on each other, and very often, take their relatives to court.," the magazine said about the families mentioned in the report.

      Following is the timeline on the rise and rise of the Sensex through Indian stock market history.

      1000, July 25, 1990

      On July 25, 1990, the Sensex touched the magical four-digit figure for the first time and closed at 1,001 in the wake of a good monsoon and excellent corporate results.

      2000, January 15, 1992

      On January 15, 1992, the Sensex crossed the 2,000-mark and closed at 2,020 followed by the liberal economic policy initiatives undertaken by the then finance minister and current Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.

      3000, February 29, 1992

      On February 29, 1992, the Sensex surged past the 3000 mark in the wake of the market-friendly Budget announced by the then Finance Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh.

      4000, March 30, 1992

      On March 30, 1992, the Sensex crossed the 4,000-mark and closed at 4,091 on the expectations of a liberal export-import policy. It was then that the Harshad Mehta scam hit the markets and Sensex witnessed unabated selling.

      5000, October 8, 1999

      On October 8, 1999, the Sensex crossed the 5,000-mark as the BJP-led coalition won the majority in the 13th Lok Sabha election.

      6000, February 11, 2000

      On February 11, 2000, the infotech boom helped the Sensex to cross the 6,000-mark and hit and all time high of 6,006.

      7000, June 20, 2005

      On June 20, 2005, the news of the settlement between the Ambani brothers boosted investor sentiments and the scrips of RIL, Reliance Energy [Get Quote], Reliance Capital [Get Quote], and IPCL [Get Quote] made huge gains. This helped the Sensex crossed 7,000 points for the first time.

      8000, September 8, 2005

      On September 8, 2005, the Bombay Stock Exchange's benchmark 30-share index -- the Sensex -- crossed the 8000 level following brisk buying by foreign and domestic funds in early trading.

      9000, November 28, 2005

      The Sensex on November 28, 2005 crossed the magical figure of 9000 to touch 9000.32 points during mid-session at the Bombay Stock Exchange on the back of frantic buying spree by foreign institutional investors and well supported by local operators as well as retail investors.

      10,000, February 6, 2006

      The Sensex on February 6, 2006 touched 10,003 points during mid-session. The Sensex finally closed above the 10K-mark on February 7, 2006.

      11,000, March 21, 2006

      The Sensex on March 21, 2006 crossed the magical figure of 11,000 and touched a life-time peak of 11,001 points during mid-session at the Bombay Stock Exchange for the first time. However, it was on March 27, 2006 that the Sensex first closed at over 11,000 points.

      12,000, April 20, 2006

      The Sensex on April 20, 2006 crossed the 12,000-mark and closed at a peak of 12,040 points for the first time.

      13,000, October 30, 2006

      The Sensex on October 30, 2006 crossed the magical figure of 13,000 and closed at 13,024.26 points, up 117.45 points or 0.9%. It took 135 days for the Sensex to move from 12,000 to 13,000 and 123 days to move from 12,500 to 13,000.

      14,000, December 5, 2006

      The Sensex on December 5, 2006 crossed the 14,000-mark to touch 14,028 points. It took 36 days for the Sensex to move from 13,000 to the 14,000 mark.

      15,000, July 6, 2007

      The Sensex on July 6, 2007 crossed the magical figure of 15,000 to touch 15,005 points in afternoon trade. It took seven months for the Sensex to move from 14,000 to 15,000 points.

      16,000, September 19, 2007

      The Sensex scaled yet another milestone during early morning trade on September 19, 2007. Within minutes after trading began, the Sensex crossed 16,000, rising by 450 points from the previous close. The 30-share Bombay Stock Exchange's sensitive index took 53 days to reach 16,000 from 15,000. Nifty also touched a new high at 4659, up 113 points.

      The Sensex finally ended with its biggest-ever single day gain of 654 points at 16,323. The NSE Nifty gained 186 points to close at 4,732.

      17,000, September 26, 2007

      The Sensex scaled yet another height during early morning trade on September 26, 2007. Within minutes after trading began, the Sensex crossed the 17,000-mark . Some profit taking towards the end, saw the index slip into red to 16,887 - down 187 points from the day's high. The Sensex ended with a gain of 22 points at 16,921.

      18,000, October 09, 2007

      The BSE Sensex crossed the 18,000-mark on October 09, 2007. It took just 8 days to cross 18,000 points from the 17,000 mark. The index zoomed to a new all-time intra-day high of 18,327. It finally gained 789 points to close at an all-time high of 18,280. The market set several new records including the biggest single day gain of 789 points at close, as well as the largest intra-day gains of 993 points in absolute term backed by frenzied buying after the news of the UPA and Left meeting on October 22 put an end to the worries of an impending election.

      19,000, October 15, 2007

      The Sensex crossed the 19,000-mark backed by revival of funds-based buying in blue chip stocks in metal, capital goods and refinery sectors. The index gained the last 1,000 points in just four trading days. The index touched a fresh all-time intra-day high of 19,096, and finally ended with a smart gain of 640 points at 19,059.The Nifty gained 242 points to close at 5,670.

      20,000, October 29, 2007

      The Sensex crossed the 20,000 mark on the back of aggressive buying by funds ahead of the US Federal Reserve meeting. The index took only 10 trading days to gain 1,000 points after the index crossed the 19,000-mark on October 15. The major drivers of today's rally were index heavyweights Larsen and Toubro, Reliance Industries, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and SBI among others. The 30-share index spurted in the last five minutes of trade to fly-past the crucial level and scaled a new intra-day peak at 20,024.87 points before ending at its fresh closing high of 19,977.67, a gain of 734.50 points. The NSE Nifty rose to a record high 5,922.50 points before ending at 5,905.90, showing a hefty gain of 203.60 points.

      Ambanis 1st to hit $100-bn mark on wealth street, but together

      Mumbai : The Ambanis on Monday became the world's first family to own a fortune of over 100 billion dollars in stock market wealth, based on the combined worth of two brothers Mukesh and Anil, separated for over two years now.

      Mukesh Ambani's net worth on Monday surged to a staggering 63.2 billion dollars, while that of younger brother Anil rose to 38.5 billion dollars on the back of a sharp surge in the share prices of their group companies.

      Their combined wealth of 101.7 billion dollars is well ahead of Waltons, considered to be the world's richest family. The Walton family is the promoter of US-based retailer Wal-Mart Stores and holds a net worth of about 71 billion dollars, based on its 39 per cent stake in the behemoth.

      Mukesh and Anil - the two sons of legendary industrialist Dhirubhai Ambani, who started his career as a petrol station attendant in Yemen and later founded Reliance Industries - split the business empire between them in June 2005.

      At the time of split, the Reliance empire had a market capitalisation of little more than Rs 1,10,000 crores, which has now grown over seven times to nearly Rs 7,75,000 crores.

      According to the information available with stock exchanges, Mukesh controls shares worth Rs. 2,49,000 crores in his three group companies -- Reliance Industries, Reliance Petroleum and Reliance Industrial Infrastructure Ltd. Anil owns shares worth Rs. 1,52,000 crores through shares held in Reliance Communications, Reliance Capital, Reliance Natural Resources Ltd and Reliance Energy.

      India is rapidly bulging in the ‘middle’

      Chennai: Take the current population figure of the US and add a 100 million to it. That’s about 400 million, or the number of Indian city dwellers who will belong to ‘middle class’ households, living at a comfortable standard with disposable incomes between Rs 2 lakh to Rs 10 lakh a year.

      Will! When? By 2025, forecasts a recent McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) study, "The ‘Bird of Gold’: The rise of India’s consumer market".

      India is rapidly bulging in the ‘middle’. With the economic engine chugging at 7.3 per cent annual growth over the next about twenty years, our ‘middle class’ is expected to grow eight times: to nearly 600 million, or 40 per cent of the population, from the current 5 per cent.

      The size of the market, measured by private spending, will leap to Rs 70 trillion (or Rs 70 lakh crore), quadrupling from Rs 17 trillion or about 60 per cent of India’s GDP in 2005. In the process, India would become the world’s fifth-largest consumer market from twelfth now, the report declares.

      "Higher private incomes and, to a lesser extent, population growth will encourage this rise in consumption. Changes in savings behaviour will play only a minor role."

      By 2025, ‘India’s wealthiest citizens’, earning more than Rs 10 lakh a year, would have grown ten-fold relatively, to 2 per cent of the population, from 0.2 per cent today; they’d number 24 million, which is 4 million more than the latest headcount of Australia.

      These ‘global’ Indians, who would live in the eight largest cities, are likely to have ‘tastes similar to those of their counterparts in developed countries: brand name goods, vacations abroad, the latest consumer electronics, and high-end cars.’

      Car purchases are anticipated to be the dominant transportation spend in household budgets. Ahead of this will be food, the single largest category of expenditure, declining however from 42 per cent to 25 per cent, during the forecast period.

      While food outlays may rise at 4.5 per cent annually, healthcare spending will grow more than twice as fast, at 11 per cent a year, and account for more than a seventh of a family’s expenditure.

      That may be worrying, but take heart at the projection for education; it will grow by 11 per cent over the next 20 years, to hog close to a tenth of household consumption, higher than today’s levels in any of the countries benchmarked by MGI.

      Reassuringly, rural households emerging from poverty will make educating their children a priority, while higher-income urbanites will be spending more on better-quality education, university degrees, and study-abroad programs, predicts the report.

      "Meanwhile, despite India’s fondness for cricket and ‘Bollywood’ movies, recreational products and services will take a smaller slice of household spending there than in other countries."

      Wish the ‘bird of gold’ in the story didn’t end up as the fabled golden-egg-laying goose.


      Industry pullout threat
      Tamluk, Oct. 27: The companies that proposed the Rs 2,000-crore shipyard on the bank of the Hooghly in East Midnapore today threatened to pull out in the face of opposition by the Trinamul-led Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee.

      "We are ready to talk to the farmers. But if the government fails to provide us land, we shall shift elsewhere," Subir Chakraborty, the vice-president of Bharati Shipyard, told a joint news conference in Haldia with Saurav Das Patnaik, an Apeejay Group director, by his side.

      Chakraborty said they had surveyed land in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. "But we chose Bengal because the government promised to provide us with the land. The 12-15m depth of the Hooghly near Geonkhali would have been helpful for the shipyard."

      Bharati needs 400 acres to build the shipyard in collaboration with Apeejay.

      "Over 40,000 people will get jobs," Das Patnaik said. "Village youths who have passed Class X or XII will be trained so that they can be employed."

      Villagers who had decided to sell their land if the investors spoke to them directly changed their decision yesterday as political leaders stepped in.

      Asked if the project can be shifted to Jelingham near Nandigram, as suggested by Trinamul, Chakraborty said: "No. We chose Geonkhali as it’s well connected by road and rail. Haldia port is only 20km away and Calcutta port about 60."

      The Pratirodh Committee refused to comment.

      Paulson brings bank keys
      - Official who can allow branches in US part of visiting team
      K.P. NAYAR

      Washington, Oct. 27: Henry M. Paulson Jr., the US treasury secretary who will kick off three days of official engagements in India tomorrow with a visit to Calcutta’s Grameen Sanchar Society, is bringing two symbols of America’s commitment to closer economic ties with South Asia’s largest country.

      In the run-up to his trip to India, the US Federal Reserve granted a licence to ICICI Bank to open a branch in New York, the result of more than three years of strenuous efforts by the bank to upgrade its token representation in the Big Apple.

      And to underline his determination to allow greater access for Indian financial institutions to the US economy, Paulson insisted that Jack Jennings, a key official in the Federal Reserve Board — which grants bank licences — should accompany him on the trip.

      Jennings can expect to be persistently questioned in Mumbai about the fate of a long-pending application by the State Bank of India to open a branch in "Little India", the commercial section of New York’s Jackson Heights.

      If the grapevine on Wall Street is to be believed, Jennings will return from his trip to India with Paulson and grant the licence to open the branch.

      Seeking financial reform is at the centre of the treasury secretary’s meetings in Mumbai and New Delhi.

      But his arguments will lack credibility when India’s leading banks find it difficult to negotiate the maze of US regulations such as the International Banking Act, the demands of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve to gain access to the American market, while Paulson is seeking a level-playing field for the US financial community in India.

      Paulson will find in finance minister P. Chidambaram, his main interlocutor in India, a tough negotiator and he knows it. Only last month, at meetings of the Indo-US Trade Policy Forum and the Indo-US CEO’s Forum in New York,

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