Monday, 25 February 2013

Bharti Airtel adds voice to 4G services in Pune

India’s largest telecom services provider, said on Monday it will soon offer voice services to its 4G customers in Pune, giving subscribers in the city access to both voice and data on their 4G-enabled handsets.
The company had introduced its fourth generation or 4G services last April with operations in Bangalore, Kolkata and Pune but offered only 4G data services in these three circles. With this, Bharti Airtel will become the first telco to offer 4G data and voice services, analysts say.
Last week, India’s Telecom Commission allowed firms with broadband wireless access spectrum or 4G licenses to offer voice services.
“We have the advantage of a pan-India GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and 3G networks. With the deployment of cutting edge CSFB (Circuit Switched FallBack) functionality, we will have the flexibility of using either or both the networks to support voice services on our TD-LTE (time division long-term evolution) standard platform,” said Jagbir Singh, chief technology officer and director of network services group at Bharti Airtel.
 
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Tatas invest in Swiss solar tech developer Flisom

The Tata Group has been increasing its investment in the solar power business. The tea-to-telecom conglomerate recently invested in Zurich-based solar technology developer Flisom, which raised capital for the third time.

The group, through Tata Industries, is already a strategic investor in eight-year- old Flisom, which was spun off from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. Flisom, which also has other investors, will use the proceeds to set up a 15 MW solar module plant in Switzerland.

The Tata Group supports Flisom as it believes that the Swiss company's technology has the potential to make solar electricity affordable. In 2011, the group bought out British oil major BP's 51% stake in Tata BP Solar, a manufacturer of solar modules, and its access to BP's solar technology expires this year.



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Essar Steel Hazira units recognized by Gujarat safety bodies


Three units of the Essar Steel (ESIL) Hazira facility have been recognized by the Gujarat Safety Council and the Directorate of Industrial Safety & Health, Government of Gujarat, for achieving major safety milestones in the year 2011. These include: the Hot Rolled Coil (HRC) Division, which received a Certificate of Honor for achieving more than three million accident-free man hours; the Hot Briquetted Iron (HBI) Division, which received a Certificate of Merit for achieving more than two million accident-free man hours; and the Pipe Mill, which received a Certificate of Merit for achieving more than two million accident-free man hours.


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Essar Steel raises prices

Two major Indian steelmakers — Jindal Steel & Power Ltd. and Essar Steel Ltd.– have raised product prices by 1,000 rupees a ton ($18) a metric ton this month despite sluggish demand, as raw material costs remain high, executives of both these companies, who didn’t wish to be named, said Monday.
Jindal Steel and Power produces mostly long products used in the construction sector, while Essar Steel makes flat products used in making automobiles, machineries and consumer durables.
India’s steel demand slowed to 3.9% in the first nine months of the financial year that began April 1, due to weaker growth in industrial output.
As a result, at least two large steel companies–state-run Steel Authority of India Ltd. 1.67% and JSW Steel Ltd. haven’t raised prices since January.
Steelmakers said it is tough to predict if they will raise prices next month, as the federal government will present its annual budget on Feb. 28.
The budget could alter the pricing structure of steel, in case there is any increase or reduction in taxes on raw materials, or imported steel and scrap products. Tight secrecy around budget proposals in India makes it impossible for industry executives to gauge what kind of tax changes are being planned for their sector.


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Ratnakar bank targets rural customers

Starting three years ago with a business remodelling plan, India's Ratnakar Bank has ventured where few deposit-taking lenders have gone before. 

The private equity backed company, whose top ranks are now filled with pros from Wall Street banks, has expanded its business into India's poor, rural areas, a tough market long neglected by the country's financial groups. 

That market is showing promise. Ratnakar reported a fivefold increase in net profit to nearly 657 million Indian rupees ($12.15 million) in its last fiscal year. It aims to nearly double its branches to 200 and to list shares in 2014 or 2015, in what would be the first Indian bankIPO in eight or nine years. 

Ratnakar, with roots in rural parts of Maharashtra state, makes about one-third of its loans to farmers, small businesses and low-income consumers - a target base that normally operates outside India's banking system. 

"It is interesting that now, finally, they are doing what a bank should be doing: bring surplus money from urban centres and deploy it where it is needed," said Vijay Mahajan, founder of BASIX Group, an Indian microfinance institution. 

Mahajan estimates the market opportunity at about $50 billion in revenues for lenders in a country where about half of Indian households do not have bank accounts. 

Ratnakar is emerging as an outlier with a profitable model for India's 500 million low-income borrowers. In India, more than two-thirds of bank loans are to companies, and retail banking is largely focussed on families with disposable incomes. 

The bank is using the deposits it takes from urban customers and extending loans to rural borrowers, with an eye toward small businesses such as tea stall owners, cobblers and people who typically do not have access to banking services. 

In 2010, the 70-year-old bank took a strategic decision to modernise itself and hired professionals, including its CEO, from global banks. A year later, it raised about $130 million from investors including HDFC Ltd, Norwest Venture and Beacon Private Equity. 

It is in the process of raising another $55 million and expects to close the deal within a few days, said Rajeev Ahuja, a Citigroup veteran who is now Ratnakar's head of strategy. 

The bank's rural push follows a government-led initiative meant to encourage lenders to India's outskirts - a plan met with fears that money would be wasted on poor customers and bad loans. (To read a related story click on ) 

Indeed, Ratnakar faces a tough environment. "It is still a new bank with a new management team and the operating environment is still challenging, hence we remain cautious," said Karthik Srinivasan, senior vice president at ICRA Ratings. 

Dhanlaxmi Bank, a small south Indian lender, went through its own modernisation, only to suffer operating losses. The bank made a big push into major cities and was hit by heavy competition and funding shortages. 

By contrast, Ratnakar is targeting tea stall owners and cobblers - businesses historically dependent on loans from family and friends, loan sharks, or microfinance institutions. 

Microfinance institutions, or microlenders, tend to have more flexible credit policies but can charge up to 24 percent interest compared with banks that charge 13 to 16 percent. In India, a regulatory backlash due to highinterest rates and aggressive collection tactics slowed the development of microlenders, with many going out of business. 

That trend opened the door for Ratnakar, and others. ICICI Bank, India's No. 1 private sector lender, opened 101 so-called "grameen", or rural, branches in regions without banks in December alone, bringing its total to 400. 

To fund its loans, Ratnakar pays high deposit rates -- 5.5 percent on savings accounts, compared with 4 percent at most Indian banks, and its total deposit cost averages 8.9 percent, compared with the industry average of 6 percent. 

Ratnakar's operating expense of 2.67 percent of average assets is higher than the industry average of 1.7 percent. 

"Cost is high, but I don't think costs will always remain high," said Ahuja, Ratnakar's head of strategy. "As we build scale, cost of servicing and acquisition comes down." 

Vishwavir Ahuja, Ratnakar's CEO, ran the Indian operations of Bank of America for 27 years. He took over his current role in a 2010 management overhaul that brought in a handful of executives from Wall Street and global banks. 

The bank's net interest margin, a key gauge of profitability, stands at 3.58 percent compared with 3.07 percent for ICICI. 

COWS Rural banking involves a lot of risk in a country where a majority of the population lacks financial literacy and credit culture has yet to evolve. Poor Internet connectivity in the hinterland along with meagre savings and disposable income in the villages add to the challenges.




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Saturday, 23 February 2013

Tata Technologies gets award by Dassault Systèmes

Tata Technologies, a worldwide leader in Engineering Services Outsourcing (ESO), Enterprise Solutions, and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) has received three awards by Dassault Systèmes, the 3DEXPERIENCE company, at their 2013 Value Solutions indirect sales channel Kick off, held between 23rd and 25th January, 2013 in Puducherry.
Moreover, 3DVIA contest winners were announced where Tata Technologies PS team members were felicitated.
The awards won by Tata Technologies are as follows:
1. Sales Achievement Award for Revenue Growth in FY-13
2. V6 Certification Award for 31 Certifications done; highest in India
3. Best Deal of the Year Award
Wishwas Julka, Vice President, Global Tata Group & Asia Pacific on receiving the awards said, “We are honoured to receive these awards. They are a testimony of the team’s relentless effort and commitment towards Dassault Systèmes product portfolio and Tata Technologies strategic direction and growth objectives, including the product lifecyle management space in India. I congratulate each and every one who has contributed to make this happen.”
Dr. Chandan Chowdhury, Managing Director, India, Dassault Systèmes, said, “Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform and innovative solutions hold great value for the entire Indian industry, and the key to adding value to our customers is reaching out and evangelizing the same. Tata Technologies has been at the forefront,working with Dassault Systèmes on this mission, and I would like to congratulate the team for its tremendous commitment as well as their passion that they bring to the company.”

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Friday, 22 February 2013

Illawarra coal mine of Gujarat NRE continues expansion

Gujarat NRE is looking to further expand its coal operations on Illawarra , with plans to establish new mining domains going on public display.

The Illawarra Mercury reported that Gujarat NRE’s application for a major mine expansion at NRE No1 Colliery is part of the company’s expansion at the Russel Vale site.

The application states that there could be negative impacts for residents in the local area including more coal trucks on the roads, and noise from site operations. However, the company says that these issues will be mitigated by the construction of noise barriers, the use of acoustic mitigation equipment, and by enforcing a driver conduct code.

The expansion could produce three million tonnes more coal per annum, with a total of 46 million over the predicted 18 year lifespan of the project. The expansion is also expected to increase the mine’s workforce by 53. Gujarat NRE said the expansion would generate USD 609 million over the life of the project, with local expenditure expected to exceed USD 1 billion.

Gujarat NRE owns and operates two underground coal mines in the Illawarra region. It announced plans to invest USD 500 million in the expansion of its coal mines in New South Wales in 2010. Gujarat NRE’s received approval to mine its Longwall 5 at Russel Vale in December.


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JSPL raises stakes in Guj Nre Coking Coal Ltd

Gujarat NRE Coking Coal (GNCCL), the Australian subsidiary of India-based Gujarat NRE, has announced that India-based Jindal Steel & Power Limited (JSPL) has increased its shareholding in the company from 19.46 percent to 26.75 percent as of February 19.
As SteelOrbis previously reported, GNCCL had recommended its shareholders reject JSPL's offer of A$0.20 per each share, stating that JSPL's offer undervalued the shares and did not adequately reflect the company's future prospects.


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Catholic Syrian Bank offers rights shares to mobilise Rs 78 cr


Private sector Catholic Syrian Bank has decided to offer rights share with a premium of Rs 65 per share with a face value of Rs 10 each, for about Rs 78.46 crore.
Company Secretary of the Thrissur based bank, Sijo Varghese told PTI here today that the record date had been fixed for March 2.
It was decided at a meeting of the board of directors earlier this month to offer 1,04,61,781 equity shares of Rs 10 each for cash at a premium of Rs 65 per share to existing shareholders of the bank in the ratio of one new share for every three existing shares, he said.
The bank would mobilise Rs 78,46,33,575, Varghese added.
The issue would open on March 7 and close on March 21, he said. 

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Tata Group, UKIBC sign MoU for skill development


The Tata Group on Tuesday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the U.K. India Business Council (UKIBC) for skill development and delivery in India.
A statement from the Tata Group said the MoU will initially include projects in Odisha and Mumbai for replicable skills training across India. The MoU was signed in the presence of David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, U.K.
“The Tata Group of companies is keen to support the creation of skill development centres that can sit at the heart of sustainable communities in India,’’ Cyrus P. Mistry, Chairman, Tata Sons, said in a statement. “This initiative is designed to support the skill needs of large employers, as well as their supply chain of small and medium enterprises. They will seek to provide best-in-class skills, enterprise, employability and work placement in the country,” he said.
In a statement, S. Ramadorai, Advisor to the Prime Minister, in the National Council on Skill Development and Vice-Chairman, Tata Consultancy Services, said the collaboration with UKIBC was “in keeping with the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh’s, vision to have 500 million skilled individuals by the year 2022, supporting inclusive growth investment, creation of jobs and a better demand supply connect”.
The initiative will also test and evaluate a range of innovative approaches to the development of skills and employability, particularly pioneering e-learning approaches, providing a robust evidence base for future roll-outs at a significant scale . 

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Thursday, 21 February 2013

Essar Steel awarded Best Supplier in Performance

Essar Steel (ESTL) was awarded Best Supplier in Performance (Steel), by its customer, Automotive Axles (AAL) during the latter’s Supplier Partnership Meet held in Mysore, Karnataka, on February 7, 2013. ESTL was recognized for its performance in the current year, and for ensuring timely deliveries.
Automotive Axles, located in Mysore, is a major manufacturer of drive axles, tag axles and brake assembly, and suppliers to leading Indian vehicle manufacturers including Ashok Leyland, Tata Motors, and (military motor) Vehicle Factory Jabalpur – who cater to the vehicle needs of the Indian Armed Forces.
EStIL is the lead supplier to AAL, and its sales basket mainly comprises HR (Hot Rolled) coils in value added grades.


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Essar Steel to raise $1.1b to fuel capex, reduce debt

The Ruia family-controlled Essar Steel, one of the largest private steel makers by assets, is raising $1.1 billion to fund its capital expenditure and refinance high cost domestic debt. The company will retire $430 million of domestic debt to take advantage of the lower interest cost of dollar funding.

About $700 million will be the capex requirement, which also has an approval from Reserve Bank of India (RBI) under the automatic route. The company has a total debt of around $4 billion.

Bankers who have financed Essar Steel projects say the company has received approval from the central bank to raise up to $1.1 billion to refinance its domestic debt and capital expenditure. Domestic banks, such as State Bank of India and IDBI Bank are likely to participate in the foreign currency loans.

A senior Essar Steel official told Financial Chronicle that his company planned to refinance its rupee debt by dollar debt to reduce funding costs. “This is expected to reduce the funding cost by close to 6 per cent. Since the company’s revenues are largely dollar-linked, it also enjoys a natural hedge.”

Another senior official of the company said, “While $700 million is being raised for capital expenditure for 2013-14, $430 million is being raised for replacing high cost rupee debt. The capex funds may not be raised immediately.”

Last June, RBI allowed Indian companies in the manufacturing and infrastructure sector to raise ECBs up to $10 billion to refinance domestic debt.

The maximum permissible ECB under this route by a company is, however, limited to 50 per cent of the average annual export earnings realised during the past three financial years. The ECBs will be allowed to companies based on the foreign exchange earnings and their ability to service the ECB. The companies are also required to draw down the entire facility within a month after taking the loan registration number (LRN) from the Reserve Bank.

Essar Steel is investing around Rs 4,200 crore to set up the integrated facility in Odisha that includes a 12 million tonne per annum iron ore beneficiation plant at Dabuna and a 253 km slurry pipeline connecting Dabuna and Paradip.

“We had exports of $860 million and RBI allows companies to refinance 50 per cent of the average export earnings for the past three years,” the official added.



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Sistema asks for temporary license till auction process is completed

Sistema Shyam Teleservices who had lost 2G spectrum licenses last year following the Supreme Court’s February 2, 2012 verdict has sought a temporary license from the government till the next round of auction takes place.
In a letter to the Department of telecommunications (DoT) Sistema said that in the event of any negative order from the apex court, it would request the latter to issue  temporary licences till such time the auction process is completed and spectrum along with new licences are issued to the company.
Last Friday the Supreme Court directed that the telcos whose 2G licenses were cancelled following its February 2, 2012 verdict and failed to win spectrum in the auction will have to stop operations forthwith. This also applies to those who did not participate in the auction.
The apex court  had rejected the curative petitions of four telcos- Sistema Shyam Teleservices Ltd (SSTL), Videocon Telecommunications Ltd, Tata Teleservices Ltd (TTSL) and Idea Cellular Ltd and the former telecom minister A Raja in 2G case.
Earlier in April 2012 the review petitions of Videocon Telecommunications Ltd, S Tel Ltd, SSTL, TTSL, Unitech Wireless (Tamil Nadu) Pvt Ltd, Etisalat DB Telecom Pvt Ltd and Idea Cellular Ltd were rejected.
Reacting to the dismissal of its plea SSTL said that it is unfortunate that SC has not admitted its curative petition.



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Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Air Asia and Tata Sons to form a JV airline

Air Asia ,the largest discount carrier in Southeast Asia by fleet size, said Wednesday it plans to partner Tata Sons Limited and Arun Bhatia of Telestra Tradeplace Pvt. Ltd to set up a low-cost airline in India.
imageThe proposed joint venture comes after a September decision by the Indian government to open the aviation sector up to direct investment from foreign carriers. The three parties have signed an initial agreement and AirAsia has applied to the government to hold 49% of the proposed Indian joint venture.
If the Indian government gives its approval, the proposed joint venture will seek an operational license from the aviation authorities. AirAsia is investing in the joint venture via its investment arm AirAsia Investment Ltd.
The joint venture plans to operate from Chennai in the southern state of Tamil Nadu and proposed to link smaller cities to the metropolis.
"We have carefully evaluated developments in India over the last few years and strongly believe that the current environment is perfect to introduce AirAsia's low fares, which stimulate travel and grow the market," said Tony Fernandes, founder and group chief executive of AirAsia.


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Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Essar Steel claims over INR 2000 crore insurance



Essar Steel is seeking court intervention to receive more than INR 2,000 crore in insurance claim for terrorist attack on its pipelines after New India Assurance Company turned down the claim saying naxalites are not terrorists by definition.

The metal maker controlled by the Ruia family has appealed to the Bombay High Court to appoint an arbitrator in its dispute with the state run New India Assurance Co Essar Steel said that its pumping station and slurry pipeline in Chitrakonda in Odisha were blown up by terrorists in March 2010 causing the company losses of about INR 2,080 crore.

The company said that "The pumping station and pipeline at Chitrakonda was blown off by an act of terror resulting in direct physical loss.

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