Govt to set up panel for faster acquisitions of mineral assets

New Delhi: To help public sector companies acquire global mineral assets without delays, the government would soon set up a committee, chaired by cabinet secretary KM Chandrasekhar, which would help formulate a policy to fast track finalisation of bids, reports PTI.

"Broadly, the idea is to enable PSUs (Public Sector Units) to finalise their bids rapidly, to set up a fast track committee to be headed by the cabinet secretary," DPE secretary Bhaskar Chatterjee told PTI.

The move is aimed at fighting competition from its neighbour 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.

"We are outbid by private and international players, especially China," Mr Chatterjee said.

In the past, companies like Coal India, NTPC and SAIL have evinced interest in acquiring coal mines abroad to secure its fuel supplies.

The country's largest power generation company, NTPC is looking at picking up stakes in coal blocks in Indonesia, Australia and Africa.

"Any kind of policy by the government to streamline the process is welcome," CMD NTPC Arup Roy Choudhary said.

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, Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd (RINL), is also scouting for coal mines in Australia and other coal-rich nations by forming a joint venture company-International Coal Ventures Ltd.

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Decision on raising cotton exports cap on 13th Dec: Khullar

New Delhi: The government will decide whether to hike the cap on cotton exports in the current season beyond the existing ceiling of 55 lakh bales on 13th December, reports PTI quoting commerce secretary Rahul Khullar.

A meeting of the secretaries of the ministries of commerce, agriculture and textiles, which was scheduled to be held tomorrow, has been postponed till Monday, as Mr Khullar leaves for Brussels tonight for the India-EU Summit on 10th December.

“Cotton meeting has been postponed till Monday... Then we will take a decision,” he told reporters here.

Current trends, as well as the price situation of the natural fibre, will also be looked into at the review meeting.

The government had earlier accorded permission for the export of 55 lakh bales (170 kg each) of the natural fibre in the current cotton season, which runs from October to September.

Cotton production is expected to total 335 lakh bales in 2010-11, whereas domestic demand is pegged at 266 lakh bales.

Prices of the natural fibre have increased sharply over the past few months. According to industry experts, prices of the natural fibre are ruling at about Rs43,000 at present, compared to around Rs26,000 in the same period last year.

The government has also imposed a cap of 72 crore kg on cotton yarn exports this fiscal to help the domestic textiles industry in view of rising prices in the global market.

According to industry sources, prices of cotton yarn have increased by about 85% in the last nine months.

Total cotton yarn production is estimated at 346 crore kg in 2010-11, while domestic demand is pegged at 265 crore kg.

The textiles industry has been clamouring for restrictions on the export of cotton and cotton yarn, arguing that high prices are making their operations unviable.

India's cotton exports increased to 83 lakh bales during October-September, 2009-10, cotton season, compared to 35 lakh bales in the same period of 2008-09, as per official estimates.

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Hero to buyout Japanese partner Honda; deal this month

New Delhi: The BM Munjal promoted Hero group will buyout the Japanese partner Honda from the world’s largest two wheeler producing venture, a deal for which would signed this month, reports PTI.

After months of negotiations, the Hero group is believed to have reached an agreement to acquire 26% stake of Honda in the 26-year old joint venture but it is not clear at what price.

“The deal is at the final stages and could be signed within this month,” a source said.

The two sides are in the final stages of working out the valuation.

According to sources in the know of the development, the two partners have agreed that current royalty rate per model paid to Honda will remain unchanged. The royalty paid in 2009-10 on an average was 2.3% to 3% of sales.

Moreover, Honda will continue to provide technology and models to the Hero Group for a transition period, the minimum for which is till 2014 as per their existing joint venture agreement.

The source said that interest of investors and all stakeholders of Hero Honda have been given top priority during the negotiations and it would not be compromised at any cost.

When contacted, a Hero Honda spokesperson declined to comment. On the other hand, Honda said it and the Indian partner “regularly hold discussions about the future of the joint venture. However, at this time, nothing is available to disclose.”

It is understood that the Hero Group is arranging funds on its own to finance the buyout of Honda’s stake.

The Hero group and Honda hold 26% each in Hero Honda that started operations in 1984 to become the world’s largest two-wheeler maker today.

In 2004, the Hero group and Honda had extended their agreement for 10 years, under which the Japanese partner would continue to provide technology to the JV. It was to come up for renewal in 2014.

Of late the market had been rife with speculation that the partnership is headed for a break-up with the partners unhappy with the existing circumstances.

While the Hero group wants the curbs imposed on export and technological development under their JV agreement to be lifted, Honda had wanted more royalty payment from the Indian firm.

Moreover, Honda’s move to enter the Indian two-wheeler market through its 100% subsidiary Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India in 2000 had not gone down well with the Indian partner.

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