Govt to analyse ONGC auction before lining up more cos: FM

The share sale of ONGC scraped through with largest insurer LIC coming to the rescue at the last moment. Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday said that the stake sale was subscribed 98.3% yielding government Rs12,733 crore

New Delhi: With the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) disinvestment barely scraping through, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Friday said the government has decided to study the auction process before going ahead with stake sale of other companies, reports PTI.

“This (ONGC auction) is the first case. We shall have to analyse and then make assessment,” Mr Mukherjee told reporters here.

The share sale of ONGC scraped through with largest insurer Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) coming to the rescue at the last moment. Mr Mukherjee had yesterday said that the stake sale was subscribed 98.3% yielding government Rs12,733 crore.

Against an offer of 42.77 crore shares, the final demand was for 42.04 crore shares. Out of this LIC has reportedly purchased 41 crore shares.

The government has already asked Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to investigate the technical glitches that led to confusion about the subscription of ONGC share auction.

On account of the rush towards the close of the bidding process, the stock exchanges failed to upload the subscription amount leading to confusion about the total quantum of bids.

The government late night clarified that the auction has been successful and they have been able to raise the targeted amount.

With the ONGC disinvestment going through the government has raised Rs13,878 crore through stake sale in PSUs in the current fiscal. The government had set a target of mopping up Rs40,000 crore from disinvestment in the current fiscal.

The government is still toying with the idea of raising money through buyback under which the cash rich blue-chip PSUs will be asked to buy government’s stake.

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Obama blames India, China for spike in oil prices

“As places like China and India get wealthier, they’re going to want to buy cars like we do, and they’re going to want to fill them up like we do, and that’s going to drive up demand,” US president Barack Obama said in a speech in New Hampshire

Washington: US president Barack Obama sought to blame the burgeoning growth in India, China and Brazil for the rising oil prices in a bid to deflect the criticism of the Republicans in an election year who are attributing the surge to his failed energy policy, reports PTI.

Citing rising auto sales in these countries, he said as people in India and China get wealthier they will buy more cars and fill them up like Americans do, driving up oil prices.

Although Obama did not did not lay out a plan to deal with energy issues at home, he did call for removing subsidies to oil companies and investing more in clean alternatives.

“When you start hearing a bunch of folks saying somehow that there’s some simple solution, you can turn a nozzle and suddenly we’re going to be getting a lot more oil, that’s not just how it works.

“Over the long-term, the biggest reason oil prices will rise is because of growing demand in countries like China and India and Brazil,” Mr Obama said in a speech in New Hampshire.

Mr Obama travelled to Nashua in New Hampshire to deliver an address in energy and gas prices, which has crossed $4 per gallon here and has started pinching common man’s pocket.

Observers say the Republicans, in a presidential election year, are trying to exploit the issue in their favour to defeat Mr Obama, who is seeking re-election.

“Just think about this. In five years, the number of cars on the road in China more than tripled. Over the last five years, the number of cars tripled. Nearly 10 million cars were added in China alone in 2010—10 million cars just in one country in one year. So that’s using up a lot of oil,” he said.

“Those numbers are only going to get bigger over time. As places like China and India get wealthier, they’re going to want to buy cars like we do, and they’re going to want to fill them up like we do, and that’s going to drive up demand,” Mr Obama said.

Mr Obama, however, did not give any assurance to Americans on decrease in gasoline prices.

“While there are no short-term silver bullets when it comes to gas prices, I’ve directed my administration to look for every single area where we can make an impact and help consumers—from helping to relieve bottlenecks... to making sure speculators aren’t taking advantage of what’s going on in the oil markets.

“We are just going to keep on announcing steps in the coming weeks; every time we find something that can provide a little bit of relief right now, we’re going to do it,” Mr Obama said.

He added, however, that that he is asking the Congress to remove the subsidy on oil industry which currently amounts to $4 billion.

Mr Obama said, “I am asking Congress—eliminate this oil industry giveaway right away. I want them to vote on this in the next few weeks.

“Let’s put every single member of Congress on record: You can stand with the oil companies, or you can stand up for the American people.

“You can keep subsidising a fossil fuel that’s been getting taxpayer dollars for a century or you can place your bets on a clean-energy future.”

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Need to improve pulses yield says IPGA

If we are able to increase the yield, we would be a self-sufficient nation. Farmers would also continue growing pulses rather than shifting to other remunerative crops,” Bimal Kothari, vice-president, IGPA said

The Indian Pulses and Grains Association (IPGA) has sought to increase the yield of pulses and has called the government to invest more in agricultural research work, in order to meet the rising demand for pulses. The apex body has appealed to the government to consider the option of exports based on production of individual pulses.

“With growing population, the demand for pulses will definitely rise as it is an important source of proteins. The average yield of pulses per hectare needs to increase. India, despite being the largest producer and consumer for pulses, has a low yield compared to the world average,” Bimal Kothari, vice-president, IGPA, told Moneylife.

He adds, “To improve the yield, more investment is required in agricultural research for improving the method of growing, soil nutrients, type of seeds to be used, etc.”Currently, the production of pulses in India, according to government estimates, is pegged at 17 million tonnes as compared to 18.2 million tonnes last year. The estimated production includes Kharif and Rabi crops. To cater the domestic demand, India has already imported around 2.8 million tonnes of pulses.

According to Mr Kothari, the fall in production is not a worrying factor. Pulses prices, expect chana, have been stable. Last year, the minimum support price (MSP) was hiked, making pulses growing remunerative for the farmers. “Good MSP has definitely been a key factor for rise in pulses production over the years. If we are able to increase the yield, we would be a self-sufficient nation. Farmers would also continue growing pulses rather than shifting to other remunerative crops.”

 In the Mumbai market, the prices of pulses are stable with tur dal (raw) at Rs32 per kg, yellow peas at Rs21.50-Rs22 per kg, while chana has slightly moved up to Rs36 per kg. “Overall the demand is slow but prices are stable. This is mainly because this year there is no trend of a rise in the vegetable prices. Generally stable vegetable prices helps to hold the prices of pulses. For chana, the prices will soon come down,” Mr Kothari said.

The government has banned pulses export in India since 2006. Only kabuli chana (chickpeas) is allowed to be exported. In fact, the IPGA is endorsing for exports of certain pulses depending on the output. “The government should allow export with certain directives and riders. For instance last year tur saw a considerable rise in production, this time it is urad. So government can ascertain the production of various pulses and then allow exports,” he said.

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