One-man panel to examine spectrum policies during 2001-09

New Delhi: A day after the Supreme Court favoured the probe into the second generation (2G) scam covering the time since 2001, the government today announced setting up of a one-man panel to look into the spectrum allocation procedures and policies during 2001-2009, a period that includes NDA regime, reports PTI.

Announcing the decision, telecom minister Kapil Sibal told reporters that the one-man committee of retired Supreme Court Justice Shivraj V Patil, will “examine appropriateness of procedures (adopted) by the Department of Telecom (DoT) in the issuances of licences and allocation of spectrum during the period 2001-2009.”

Incidentally, Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata also sought a probe into spectrum allocation since 2001 saying the maximum flip-flops in the telecom policy occurred during the BJP rule.

He also alleged that change from auction to revenue sharing for telecom operators at that time could have caused a loss of Rs50,000 crore to the exchequer, going by the yardsticks adopted by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) for 2G spectrum.

The inquiry by the one-man committee is likely to be completed within four weeks so that the government knows the entire gamut of procedures adopted for grant of spectrum not only to 122 licencees (by former Telecom minister A Raja in 2008) but also before that, both in the category of start-up and additional spectrum.

Once the government has the inquiry findings with it, a decision would be taken on how to move forward. “(The) objective is to tell people of this country that how the spectrum was given and we will put this in the public domain,” he added.

During 2001-04, the BJP-led NDA government was at the Centre. Former telecom minister A Raja had been saying that he only followed the policies of his predecessors. Mr Raja was forced to resign last month in the wake of CAG report that put the revenue loss to the exchequer at Rs1.76 lakh crore for distributing licences in 2008 at 2001 prices.

Mr Sibal also clarified that a one-man committee had nothing to do with issuing show-cause notices to alleged ineligible applicants, which he said was a separate exercise.

There are several terms of references, which will be finalised with the one-man committee, Mr Sibal said, adding that the committee will look into various procedures followed in issuing licences during the 2001-09 period.

When asked about the objective of such a committee when the government auditor CAG has already given its report, Mr Sibal said, “CAG is a constitutional body, it has recommendatory authority. They (CAG) have given the report and the same is being examined by the Parliamentary Panel.”

“Broadly speaking, we are looking at the internal departmental procedures adopted by the DoT during the period 2001-09 with the issuance of telecom, access service licences and allocation of spectrum to all telecom access service licencees during the above period,” the minister said.

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Tata Motors offers four-year warranty on Nano to push sales

New Delhi: Faced with dwindling sales, Tata Motors today announced a four-year or 60,000 kilometre manufacturing warranty on its small car Nano in a bid to woo more customers, reports PTI.

Bettering its previous warranty of 18-month or 24,000 km, whichever is earlier, announced in March last year, the company said the new offer will come at no extra cost.

“The Tata Nano will now come with a four-year/60,000 km (whichever is earlier) manufacturer's warranty, at no extra cost. Besides being applicable on new deliveries, the warranty is also being extended to all existing owners of the car,” the company said in a statement.

The company said all new Nano customers will have an option to avail a “comprehensive maintenance contract” at Rs99 per month.

From a sale of 9,000 units in July, Nano deliveries fell in every following month and touched a low of 509 units in November. Sporadic incidents of the small car catching fire has made it difficult for the company to push Nanos sales, despite a number of assurances through various campaign initiatives.

Tata Motors earlier this month had asked Nano buyers to bring back their cars to add safety devices free of cost to prevent the vehicles from catching fire but insisted it was not a recall.

Even after registering 85% fall in sales at just 509 units in November this year, Tata Motors claimed that deliveries have “substantially increased in the first five states of open sales.”

“Customer satisfaction studies with current Tata Nano owners indicate that over 80% are satisfied or very satisfied with the car, because of it being small yet spacious, its performance, manoeuvrability, durability, mileage and safety,” Tata Motors claimed.

In August, the sixth incident of a Nano catching fire since its launch was reported from the National Capital, three months after a company probe declared the car was “absolutely safe”. Five previous such incidents were reported from across the country, including Mumbai, Lucknow, Delhi and near Vadodara in Gujarat.

After ramping up production at its Sanand facility, the firm started open bookings at many places such as Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

However, due to rising input costs it raised the Nano prices twice for the off-the-shelf customers. It has so far delivered over 71,000 units.

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Steel prices expected to go up by January on higher raw material costs

There hasn’t been much change in the demand, but increasing raw material costs is putting pressure on steel producers to hike prices

Indian steel makers may go for another price hike as surging raw material--iron ore and coking coal-prices will pressurise steel mills to increase product prices, according to industry experts.

"It looks like prices will go up. Steel prices will move upwards keeping in mind that coking coal prices are being finalised at a higher level for the January-March period and iron ore prices are also moving up. So there will be severe cost pressure on steel mills which will lead to a price hike in January," Sharad Mahendra, vice president, sales and marketing, JSW Steel told Moneylife.

"Some steel makers are planning to increase steel prices by end-December or early January. Though globally steel prices are at an improved level, it's purely because of high raw material prices and there is no significant rise in demand. To protect margins and grab the better demand-supply scenario in the fourth quarter, steel companies are preparing to increase prices," a Mumbai-based analyst said. 

Recently, state-run Steel Authority of India (SAIL) increased prices of long products by Rs300 to Rs37, 500 per tonne, citing good demand for long products as construction activity is likely to pick up in the coming quarter. JSW Steel has raised hot rolled coil prices by 1-1.5%.

According to the analyst, steel prices may increase between Rs1,000 to Rs1,500 per tonne. Mr Mahendra said, "It's difficult to predict the exact hike as coking coal contract prices are in the last stage of finalisation, but in terms of percentage it could be between 3% and 6% per tonne. It's just a guess now."

China is the largest steel producer, so whenever raw material prices go up either they have to shut down units or hike prices, added the analyst.

Now, the Chinese steel industry is coming back on track. Some market experts feel that threat of cheaper Chinese imports into the country may restrain domestic players to go for a large price hike.

However, Mr Mahendra said, "Even though the Chinese steel industry is coming back on track, we do not see it as a threat as the input costs in terms of iron ore and coking coal are very high, so the Chinese mills are not able to export their products at lower prices. Secondly, after capacity shutdowns, which were taken place because of the Chinese government's energy rationalisation policy, Chinese steel demand is forecast to be very good. So I don't think China's increasing steel production will impact the Indian market in the near term."

Supply of coking coal and iron ore would be another concern for steel makers as supply would be less amid higher demand from China and India.

"China's average steel production is 50 million tonnes per month. In September, steel production stood between 46 million tonnes and 47 million tonnes, however, the country managed to produce more than 50 million tonnes of steel in October and for this monthly rate of production the requirement of iron ore and coking coal is huge," said the analyst.

"Weather predictions in Australia, from where majority of coking coal comes, are very bad. It may impact shipments and movement of coking coal from Australia to the rest of country. In India, very few mines are working right now and production of iron ore has come down," added Mr Mahendra.

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