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Top stories this week…

Dec 2, 2000

‘Cell’ing it off…Bharti Group has planned to divest around 10 percent equity stake in their holding company Bharti Enterprises to Mauritius based Seejay Cellular and to a clutch of domestic and international financial institutions. This is expected to part finance the buyout of British Telecom’s stake in Bharti Cellular. IMD spurts FDI…The foreign exchange reserves of the country swelled by US$ 1.6 billion to US$ 37 billion in the last week of November 2000. This was primarily due to the inflow of India Millennium Deposit raised by State Bank of India. Foreign current assets during this period also rose by US$ 1.6 billion to US$ 34 billion.

In ‘Quest’ of fragrance…ICI India is venturing into flavors and fragrances business. This is in line with its parent company ICI Plc., which acquired Quest from Unilever. It is in talks with Hindustan Lever, which owns Quest in India, for acquisition. The Quest business is estimated to be around Rs 1 billion (US$ 21 million). However, this has created apprehension about the focus of the company, which has been on a restructuring phase for more than a decade.

ONGC explores…Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) has planned to invest around Rs 20 billion (US$ 425 million) each in the next two years for oil and gas exploration. Besides, the company is also investing US$ 2 billion for enhancing recovery from Bombay High.

The power dilemma…The Maharashtra government is rethinking on the Phase II of the Enron backed Dabhol power project (DPP). This comes in the wake of widespread criticism of the pricing and the guarantees’ provided to Enron for Phase I of DPP. At the moment, the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) pays Rs 4 (US$ 0.1) per unit of power produced to Enron and is obligated by contract to buy 90% of Enron’s power production. Enron’s cost of power is the highest in the grid and this has sent MSEB finances in a tizzy. However, if the government does back out of the deal, it may have to shell out Rs 355 billion (US$ 7.5 billion) as compensation to Enron India. A catch-22 situation in the real sense.

DotEx from NSE…NSE.IT, the 100 percent information technology arm of the National Stock Exchange (NSE), launched the world’s first broker plaza named ‘DotEx Plaza’, an Internet based stock trading platform for its members. DotEx International, promoted by NSE.IT and I-flex Solutions, would act as the infrastructure service provider and neutral aggregator to bring together all market participants.

Raising stakes…Philips NV, the parent company of Philips India, has expressed its intention to acquire the entire outstanding 49 percent equity capital of the Indian subsidiary, through the ongoing open offer. The parent company had earlier expressed its interest to buy 23 percent from the public. If the deal goes through, then the Indian company would become a 100 percent subsidiary.

DoD on a roll…The Department of Disinvestment (DoD) has proposed a three-pronged strategy to bring down the governments stake in the telecom behemoth Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL) to 26 percent. This includes a strategic sale of 15 percent, a 5 percent offer for sale to employees and the Indian public, and a GDR/ADR offer of 7 percent.

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