Some inflationary pressure to remain in a growing economy: FM

"We can reduce the impact of high rising prices... If we could develop PDS, at least we would be able to protect these vulnerable sections...," finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said

New Delhi: Maintaining that "some inflationary pressure" will remain in a growing economy, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee today urged the states to strengthen the public distribution system (PDS) to enable the government insulate the poor from the adverse impact of inflation, reports PTI.

Replying to members' concerns during Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha, Mr Mukherjee said the Centre is waiting for a report on how to strengthen and restructure the existing PDS in the country.

He informed the house that a committee consisting of some chief ministers to look into the issue was constituted in February last year after a conference of chief ministers here whose report is awaited.

Admitting that there was a big difference between the price paid to a producer and the one paid by a consumer, Mr Mukherjee said, "We shall have to take steps but this cannot be tackled by the central government alone."

He was responding to a question by Congress member T Ratna Bai who asked the government about the measures being taken to control inflation.

"We can reduce the impact of high rising prices... If we could develop PDS, at least we would be able to protect these vulnerable sections...," Mr Mukherjee said listing out schemes for providing foodgrains at cheaper rates to below poverty line (BPL) families.

"In a growing economy, it will be difficult to say there would be no inflationary pressure.... price increase is taking place all over the world. Some impact will be there. As a growing economy, some amount of inflationary pressure would be there," he said.

He, however, quickly added, "It is indeed the responsibility of the government to see it remains within manageable limits."

Replying to a supplementary by Ravishankar Prasad (BJP) as to when the consumer price index would come down, Mr Mukherjee noted that consumer price index of industrial workers and rural workers has come down to single digit since August last year well after a gap of 16 months.

The minister agreed with Shivanand Tewari (JD-U), who said that the income of common man should also increase along with the growth in economy.

"This is an effort, the government has to do....this is the exercise we have to make," Mr Mukherjee said adding the central government's flagship programme MNREGA has increased the purchasing capacity of rural households.

Mr Mukherjee also sought to remind Brinda Karat (CPI-M) that the minimum wages in West Bengal was Rs56, when the central government had fixed Rs60 as the wage to be paid to MNREGA workers in the past.

"I am afraid, madam, I would not be entering into debate.

...When I had fixed Rs60 as minimum wage, the minimum wage in West Bengal was Rs56," he said adding that a worker can purchase at least two kilograms of rice when the minimum wage is Rs100 but he can do very little if the wage is Rs8 or Rs10.

Mr Mukherjee also said strengthening of PDS is "essentially the job of the state government" adding that the Union government cannot be expected to monitor PDS from Delhi.

"If they (states) have an effective PDS system, we will be able to insulate these people from the adverse impact of inflation," he added.

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FII holdings in public sector units on the rise

According to an analysis of 11 PSUs that came out with IPOs in the past two years, nine companies saw an increase in their foreign institutional investment shareholdings in the quarter ended December 2010 while two witnessed a decline in their FII holding

New Delhi: Overseas investors are increasingly reposing their faith and money in public sector undertakings (PSUs), with as many as nine public sector firms including Coal India, PowerGrid Corporation and NTPC, recording an increase in FII holdings in recent months, reports PTI.

According to an analysis of 11 public sector units that came out with initial share sales in the past two years, nine companies saw an increase in their foreign institutional investment (FII) shareholdings in the quarter ended December 2010, vis-à-vis the September quarter, while two companies-Oil India and Engineers India-witnessed a decline in FII shareholding.

In the case of another PSU that conducted a stake sale, MOIL, data on FIIs' shareholding during the quarter was not available on the Bombay Stock Exchange.

Central transmission utility PowerGrid saw an over seven-fold jump in FII shareholding to 12.05% in the quarter ended 31 December 2010, from 1.65% in the September quarter.

PowerGrid's experience was replicated by Coal India after it made its listing debut in November last year, with the company witnessing a two-third increase in FII shareholding in two months to 5.54% at the end of the December 2010. As of 30th October the company had a FII shareholding of 3.32%.

Analysts attributed the trend of increased FII holdings in PSUs to the strong balance sheet and long-term prospects of these entities.

"PSUs are generally known for their strong balance sheet, even enjoy virtual monopoly in some of the sector and they have got government blessing. These are some of the reasons which make FIIs comfortable in investing in such entities," SMC Global equity head Jagannadham Thunuguntla said.

He further said most of the PSUs come out a lower price band for their initial stake sales than private sector companies.

Similarly, NTPC saw its FII shareholding climb to 3.36% in the quarter ended December from 2.85% in the September quarter. FIIs' shareholding in Shipping Corporation rose to 2.32% in the quarter under review from 1.98% in the September quarter.

Interestingly, FII stake in Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) is far more than in other PSUs, although the increase is not much. The company saw its FII shareholding inch up to 21.22% in the December quarter from 20.4% in the previous quarter.

Despite the government's larger holding in these companies, their operations are based on sound business practices, so the chances of facing corporate governance issues are very less, which is also one of the primary reasons for the increasing FII holdings, CNI Research CMD Kishor Ostwal said.

Iron ore producer NMDC and hydro power firms NHPC and SJVN Ltd also witnessed an increase in FII shareholdings in the October-December quarter of 2010 vis-à-vis the quarter ended September.

On the other hand, EIL saw a marginal decline in FII shareholding to 6.83% in the December quarter from 6.98% in the previous quarter, while Oil India saw FII stake decline to 1.56% in the quarter under review from 1.73% in the September quarter.

Apart from companies that have already come out with their initial share sale, ONGC and IOC, which are slated to come out with two big-ticket follow-on public offers (FPOs) in 2011, have also witnessed an increase in FII shareholding.

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Domestic air traffic rises 21% in January

Jet and JetLite together flew 12.26 lakh passengers last month, followed by Kingfisher, which carried 9.61 lakh and IndiGo with 9.5 lakh. Air India (Domestic) flew 7.79 lakh flyers, SpiceJet 7.05 lakh and GoAir 3.15 lakh

New Delhi: Domestic air traffic rose by almost 21% in January over the same period last year, with Jet Airways and its subsidiary JetLite jointly flying about one-fourth of the passengers last month, reports PTI.

Over 49.36 lakh passengers were carried by all domestic airlines last month as against 40.88 lakh in January 2010, recording a growth of over 20.7%, official figures released on Monday showed.

Jet and JetLite together flew 12.26 lakh passengers last month, followed by Kingfisher, which carried 9.61 lakh and IndiGo with 9.5 lakh. Air India (Domestic) flew 7.79 lakh flyers, SpiceJet 7.05 lakh and GoAir 3.15 lakh.

The statistics for market share showed Naresh Goyal's Jet and its wholly-owned subsidiary, cornering 24.8% of the entire passenger traffic this January, followed by Kingfisher with 19.5% and no-frill airline IndiGo very closely behind it, with 19.2%.

National carrier Air India (Domestic) was in the fourth place with 15.8%, followed by another low-cost carrier SpiceJet with 14.3%.

The highest average seat factor, or passenger load per flight, was recorded at 88.6% by IndiGo in January, followed by Kingfisher with 86.5%, GoAir with 83.3% and SpiceJet with 82.6%, the figures showed.

Jet Airways and Air India (Domestic) recorded 73.9% and 69.3% respectively.

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