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Top stories this week…

Feb 17, 2001

Govt. approves FDI worth US$ 79 m…
The Government of India has cleared 33 foreign direct investment proposals involving the forex inflows to the extent of US$ 79 million. Proposals cleared include those of Teamsia Semiconductors, iFrameIndia.Com, Vantico International and Castrol India. Castrol India has been allowed to increase its foreign equity holding to 70 percent from the existing 51 percent.

ONGC to take 20% stake in Russian oil field…
ONGC Videsh finalized a deal in with Russia’s Rosneft in which ONGC will buy a 20 percent stake in the Skahalin-1 oil field. The production is expected to start in this oil field in 2005. The initial investment in the project is expected to be in the range of US$ 1.5 billion to US$ 2 billion.

Forex reserves rise to US$ 41 bn…
According to the weekly statistical supplement released by the Reserve Bank of India the forex reserves rose by US$ 347 million to reach US$ 41 billion. The factor responsible for this is extraordinary inflows on account of India Millennium Deposits and strong FII inflows. After the US Federal Bank cut interest rates India has been a popular destination for parking money.

Brokers at BSE make open offer for 20% of VST…
Two Mumbai-based brokers have made an open offer for acquiring 20 percent stake in the Hyderabad based cigarette company VST, which produces the Charminar brand of cigarettes. British American Tobacco owns 32 percent stake in the company. VST is the third largest cigarette company in the country next to ITC and Godfrey Phillips. The brokers already hold 15 percent stake in the company.

Govt. to offload stake in Maruti…
The cabinet committee on disinvestment has agreed in principle to sell government’s 50 percent stake in Maruti Udyog Limited (MUL). MUL is co-promoted by Suzuki Motor Corporation. In the first step, the company will subscribe to a rights issue in favour of both partners in MUL. This would bring in more funds and consolidate the capital base of the company. After this the government will sell its share in MUL to a group of domestic financial institutions.

Customs duty to fall…
The finance minister (FM) indicated that lowering of customs duties would continue to fall in line with pervious budgets. The effort was to bring the duties in line with Asian tariff levels. The FM also asked the industry to be prepared for the inevitable removal of import tariff on the final list of 714 items.

HLL springs a surprise…
Hindustan Lever pulled a smart one on the markets by beating all expectations when it declared its December 2000 annual results. The company clocked a growth or 4.5 percent in topline and a 22 percent growth in the net profits. For the fourth quarter the company recorded a year on year growth in topline of 6 percent and a growth in net profits of 24.5 percent.

HDFC Bank plans ADS…
HDFC Bank is planning American Depository Shares (ADS) issue of US$ 150-US$ 200 million. This would give the company sufficient funds required for further acquisitions post the Times Bank merger. The bank requires these acquisitions to grow at a set target of 25 to 35 percent per annum.

RBI cuts interest rates…
The Reserve Bank of India on late Friday evening cut the Bank Rate and Cash Reserve Ratio by half a percentage point (50 basis points). The Bank Rate has been reduced from 8 percent to 7.5 percent effective from February 16, 2001. The CRR has been brought down from 8.5 percent to 8 percent in two stages effective from fortnights’ beginning February 24, 2001 and March 10 2001.

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