Fast track approval for PSU overseas investment on the anvil

Once the fast-track mechanism is in place, government-owned companies, particularly in the strategic areas of coal, oil and mines will be able to seek approval for investment abroad directly from the high-powered committee, within three weeks

New Delhi: The government is considering a fast track approval of PSU proposals for acquisition of natural resources like oil, coal and mines overseas, without going to the Cabinet, according to a top official.

An empowered committee headed by Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrasekhar will be put in place for clearing the PSU projects for acquisitions of strategic assets abroad, Secretary in the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE), Bhaskar Chatterjee, told PTI.

"Secretaries of the administrative ministry (in charge) of PSU, its Chairman and Managing Director and representatives of ministries of external affairs, law and finance will be on the empowered committee," he said.

Mr Chatterjee said that once the fast track mechanism is in place, government-owned companies, particularly in the strategic areas of coal, oil and mines, will be able to seek approval for investment abroad directly from the high-powered committee within three weeks.

"They will take the proposals directly to this committee. They don't have to go through the process of referring their proposals to the ministry," he said, adding that under the present dispensation, it may take up to six months for the approval.

He said that the proposal for setting up of the empowered committee would soon be taken to Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises Minister Praful Patel.

The mechanism, to be approved by the Cabinet, is likely to be in place in the next three to four weeks, Mr Chatterjee added.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said on 15th December that the government is working on a policy to encourage public sector units to scout for raw material strategic assets abroad.

The move is aimed at fighting competition from the neighbouring country China. Besides, it would help in providing a cushion to the PSUs to fight competition, posed by private companies in India looking at similar opportunities overseas.

The world's largest coal producer Coal India is also in talks with US-based Peabody Energy and Massey Energy for stakes in the mines owned by these companies.

State-run steel major SAIL along with NTPC, Coal India and Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd (RINL) is also scouting for coal mines in Australia and other coal-rich nations by forming a joint venture company called 'International Coal Ventures Ltd'.


Range-bound opening likely: Friday Market Preview

Markets in the US gained on upbeat data from the chain-store retail sector and a fall in weekly jobless claims

The Indian market is likely to open range-bound today on supportive global cues. The US markets settled higher on Thursday on the back of good data from the chain-store retail sector and a dip in the weekly jobless claims numbers. The Asian pack was also higher in early trade today, boosted by earnings numbers and a rise in material stocks. The SGX Nifty was down 13.50 points at 5,525 against its previous close of 5,538.50.

The market opened on a steady note on Thursday, riding on its own strength in the absence of any triggers from the Asian bourses. Overcoming initial hiccups and a sharp rise in the weekly food inflation numbers, the indices continued their upward journey that began on Wednesday. The market witnessed some consolidation in the noon session, with buying support improving later to take the indices to a higher trajectory in post-noon trade. Both the Sensex and Nifty finally settled off the day's highs, ending higher by 2% thus making it a second straight day of gains. Although both the key indices ended positive at 18,449 (up 359 points) and 5,527 (up 95 points) the market is not likely to run away. The short-term indicators are at extreme levels of bearishness and we expect that a slow rally has started.

Markets in the US gained on upbeat data from the chain-store retail sector and a fall in weekly jobless claims. Retail sales figures showed shoppers brushed aside bad weather to help January same-store sales beat analysts’ expectations. US chain-store sales climbed 4.8% in January. The number of US workers filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell by 42,000 to 415,000 in the week ended 29th January, the Labor Department said. 

The Institute for Supply Management’s index of service industries, which covers about 90% of the US economy, rose to 59.4 in January from December’s 57.1. Analysts had predicted the figure at 57.2, with estimates ranging from 54.5 to 62.

The Dow rose 20.29 points (0.17%) to 12,062.26. The S&P 500 gained 3.07 points (0.24%) to 1,307.10 and the Nasdaq added 4.32 points (0.16%) to 2,753.88.

The Asian markets were in the green in early trade on Friday on merger news from Japan that signalled a growth in the regional economy. Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal Industries plan to merge to create the world’s second-largest steelmaker taking on competition from Asian rivals and shrinking demand from domestic automakers. The deal, which would see Japan’s Nippon Steel acquiring Sumitomo Metal is valued at $11 billion,

Meanwhile, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc, Japan’s top publicly traded bank, gained 1.8% on improved earnings numbers.

The Nikkei 225 surged 1.14% while the Jakarta Composite, which opened higher pared gains and was down 0.16% in early trade.

Back home, the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) on Thursday reserved order on a plea by Anil Ambani group firm Reliance Communications (RCom), which has challenged state-owned BSNL’s demand of access deficit charge (ADC) and disconnection notice for its walky service. RCom has challenged a demand note issued by BSNL on 30 December 2010, asking it to deposit Rs68 crore for two circles—UP West and Orissa—as ADC.


Posco-India yet to renew MoU for steel plant project

The South Korean steel producer is unhappy about the job quota the Orissa government is insisting on for all new projects in the state

Bhubaneswar: Though six months have passed since its memorandum of understanding with the Orissa government for a 12 million-tonne-per-annum greenfield steel mill lapsed, Posco-India is yet to reply to queries by the state government for the renewal of the MoU, official sources said on Thursday.

"Certain queries have been made to Posco-India. But it has yet to respond. Once the response is received, there should be no problem in renewing the MoU," chief secretary, B K Patnaik told journalists here. The MoU issue came up following the clearance from the environment ministry for the Posco project on 31st January.

The five-year MoU with the South Korean steel major lapsed on 21 June 2010, official sources said, as efforts to set up the steel plant near Paradip did not make headway.

"We will renew the MoU with Posco at an appropriate time," Raghunath Mohanty, minister for steel and mines, said.

Sources said that Posco-India was reluctant to accept any new clause in the MoU to be renewed as suggested by the state government. The state government has decided to reserve jobs for local people in all mega projects and wanted this to be incorporated in the MoU, sources said.

According to the new job reservation policy, all industries setting up units in the state would be required to provide at least 90% jobs in the unskilled category to local people, including families affected by the project and up to 60% jobs in the semi-skilled category. Similarly, 30% of jobs in the supervisor and managerial cadre also have to be given to local people. The new policy allows senior executive posts to be filled from the open market.

While other mega projects, including Tata Steel and Jindal, have already accepted the state's job reservation policy that has not been notified till today, Posco-India has been reluctant to accept this saying that job reservation on a geographical basis does not conform to the constitutional provisions of India.


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