Govt says NTPC deal can't be equated with private accord

The Supreme Court had sought a response after Anil Ambani-led RNRL had consented to the government being made a party to the dispute

The Indian government on Wednesday filed its affidavit in the Supreme Court on the ongoing gas row between the Ambani brothers saying that the arrangement for State-run NTPC Ltd cannot be equated with any agreement between Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) and Reliance Natural Resources Ltd (RNRL), reports PTI.

The apex court had sought the response after Anil Ambani-led RNRL had consented to the government being made a party to the dispute. RNRL contended that it was entitled to receive the gas at $2.34 per unit from Mukesh Ambani group company RIL which had entered into an arrangement for supplying gas to NTPC at that rate.

"The rights and obligation of NTPC and RIL cannot be regarded as similar in status to the private arrangement as in the case of RIL and RNRL because NTPC is not only a State-run unit but the process involved for price determination in the case of NTPC gas was by international competitive bidding," the government said in the affidavit.

However, the government said the price offered by the contractor to NTPC will require scrutiny and approval of the government under the production sharing contract (PSC).

"The Central government will take an appropriate decision in the case of NTPC as and when a need arises. Such a decision based on public interest, if in favour of NTPC cannot be termed as discriminatory or arbitrary," the affidavit placed before a bench headed by chief justice KG Balakrishnan said.

The government said that a decision in respect of NTPC will be taken when either its rights get established in the pending suit with RIL in the Bombay High Court or if overriding public interest warrants any government intervention.

The decision taken by the empowered group of ministers (EGoM) at its meeting held on 12 September 2007, 28th May and 23 October 2008 additionally reflects that it has not excluded the entitlement of NTPC for consideration.

"It may be pointed out that since there exists an ongoing suit between NTPC and RIL the decisions of the Central government were stated to be without prejudice to the rights of NTPC," the affidavit said.

It said any request of NTPC for supply of gas will be considered by the government in the light of the relevant provisions of the PSC.

Further, the affidavit said the Government has on the one hand left NTPC to establish its right in the pending suit in the High Court, and on the other hand it has not foreclosed any options available under PSC. However, such a decision would be taken by a competent authority keeping in view the charter of the State-run unit and other relevant circumstances having a bearing on public interest.

The government clarified that the affidavit filed on 13 January 2009 before the High court was not intended to convey that the government has rejected the case of NTPC or that it has chosen to signify any implied termination of the State-run unit's rights.

The Ambani brothers are engaged in a high-voltage bitter legal battle over the supply and price of gas from the KG basin. While RNRL is seeking gas at a committed price of $2.34 per unit, RIL says it cannot honour the commitment made in the family agreement due to the government's pricing and gas policy.
-Yogesh Sapkale

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    Sensex sheds 28 points, ends at 17,170

    Profit-booking pulls down markets; auto stocks put up a good show

    Indian markets ended up in negative territory, mainly on profit-booking. The Sensex closed at 17,170, declining 28 points from the previous day’s close. The Nifty closed at 5,123; up one point. 

    Auto stocks were among the major gainers following strong monthly sales figures for November 2009.

    Tata Motors jumped 4% after total sales zoomed 65.49% to 54,108 units in November 2009 over November 2008. Tata Motors’ total passenger vehicle sales in the domestic market grew by 44.52% at 20,706 units last month, against 14,327 units in the same month last year, said the company. Exports jumped by 86.64% at 3,994 units, compared with 2,140 units in the same month last year, it added.

    India’s second largest bike maker by sales, Bajaj Auto, shot up 3% after the company said total vehicle sales rose 73% to 2.76 lakh units in November 2009 over November 2008. Motorcycle sales jumped 84% to 2.42 lakh units.

    Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC) announced a dual-rate loan scheme under which a borrower will be charged a fixed rate up to March 2012 and a floating rate thereafter, after market hours on Tuesday. For a 20-year loan of Rs30 lakh, a borrower will pay a fixed rate of 8.25% up to March 2012 and then a floating rate that will be 500 basis points below the prime lending rate (PLR)—the institution’s benchmark rate. Currently, the PLR is 13.75%. The stock was down 2%.

    Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) was down 1%. As per reports, the company’s unit has signed agreements to pick up stake in a giant gas field and an LNG plant in Iran.

    Jaiprakash Associates gained 1% after it posted 48.77% jump in its cement sales to 1.03 million tonnes in November 2008 over November 2008.

    ACC fell 1% after cement shipments fell 4.04% to 1.66 million tonnes in November 2009 from 1.73 million tonnes in November 2008 while Shree Cement remained flat after the company’s cement shipments rose 15.28% to 7.09 lakh tonnes in November 2009 over November 2008.

    Sterlite Industries declined 1% on reports the government could mop up close to Rs3,000 crore from the sale of its residual stake in Bharat Aluminium Company (BALCO), to Sterlite Industries. Sterlite had bought 51% of BALCO in March 2001 for Rs552 crore from the government.

    Indiabulls Real Estate surged 5% after a foreign brokerage raised its rating on the stock to ‘overweight’ from ‘underweight’.

    Bharati Shipyard shot up 11% following its decision to increase the open offer price for Great Offshore by 5.4% to Rs590 a share from Rs560 earlier. The open offer for a 20% stake in the offshore drilling company will remain open from 3 December to 22 December 2009. However, Great Offshore tumbled 6% after two block deals were executed in the stock. One bulk deal of 10 lakh shares was struck at Rs575 on the Bombay Stock Exchange. ABG Shipyard said it has sold its stake in Great Offshore, ending a six-month battle with rival Bharati Shipyard for a controlling stake in the offshore services provider. ABG, along with its unit, sold 30.78 lakh shares of Great Offshore, or about 8.27% of equity, through a stock market sale, it said. ABG was up 10%.

    Fedders Lloyd Corporation rose 5% after a consortium of the company received an order worth Rs120 crore.

    According to the finance ministry, the World Bank has committed to increase its lending to India to about $7 billion this year from an average $2.30 billion in the previous four years. India has also sought early completion of the process of voice and quota reforms at the World Bank to increase the representation of emerging and developing countries, the ministry said.

    In September 2009, the World Bank approved $4.30 billion in loans for India to help finance infrastructure building and to shore up the capital of some State-run banks as the economy recovers from the global financial crisis. The loans are part of the bank’s $14 billion lending for Asia’s third-largest economy over three years through 2012.

    Meanwhile, the government has reportedly drawn up a list of 25 State firms for stake sales which include Nuclear Power Corporation of India, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, Exim Bank of India, Punjab & Sind Bank, Indian Railways Finance Corporation and National Housing Bank.

    As per reports, other companies planning initial public offers (IPOs) include SBI Caps and SBI Fund Management, both subsidiaries of government-controlled State Bank of India.

    Many of these IPOs could hit the market after the follow-on public offers of 5% each in NTPC and Rural Electrification Corporation, and a 10% stake sale in unlisted Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam are completed in the current financial year, the report added.

    During the day, Asia’s key benchmark indices in Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, China, and Taiwan were up by between 0.37%-1.40%.

    After Dubai World announced plans to restructure $26 billion of its debt, the Dubai government made it clear that it was not responsible for Dubai World’s debts. This was a blow to creditors’ assumptions that the Arab emirate would guarantee the government-controlled conglomerate’s liabilities.

    On Wednesday, 1 December 2009, the Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 127 points while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite climbed 13 points and 31 points respectively on upbeat economic news and fading fears about the Dubai debt crisis.

    As per key US economic news, the Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing index expanded for a fourth consecutive month in November but at a weaker pace, falling to 53.6 from 55.7 in October.

    In premarket trading, the Dow was trading nine points higher.
    — Swapnil Suvarna

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    Big media houses tying up with individuals for TV content

    Instead of producing 10 to 15 in-house shows and serials, big media houses are now tying up with individual producers and scriptwriters for good quality content

    Big media houses are finding it difficult to generate good content and are now eying to tie up with well-known writers and producers, individually.
    “You need individual creative teams for surviving in the television business. Corporates are now tying up with individual writers and local producers to create good content,” said Umesh Ray, chief executive officer and joint managing director, SP Telefilms Pvt Ltd.

    Big media houses like the Reliance ADA Group and UTV as well as major TV channels are finding it easier to tie up with individuals for content rather than aligning with production houses like Balaji Telefilms Ltd. Earlier, these media houses tried to produce in-house content in collaboration with production houses, but they failed to generate revenues as well as deliver greater viewership through higher television rating points (TRPs).

    Earlier in 2006, Reliance ADA Group’s unit Adlabs Films Ltd (now renamed as Reliance MediaWorks Ltd), had a tie-up with Synergy Communications Pvt Ltd—a production house owned by well-known quiz master Siddhartha Basu. The joint venture, Synergy Adlabs Media Ltd, produced some non-fiction shows like ‘Jiya Jale’, ‘Champ’ and ‘Angrezi Mein Kehte Hain’ as well as interactive shows ‘Aap Ki Kacheri’, ‘Kya Aap Paanchvi Pass Se Tez Hai?’ and ‘10 Ka Dum’.

    Despite using top film stars as anchors and airing them on prime time, these shows failed to garner higher TRPs as well as capture the viewer’s mind.

    Similarly, Ronnie Screwvala’s UTV, which is in the TV content business since 1991, has been unable to churn out good content lately. UTV made its mark with blockbuster daily soap ‘Shanti’ in 1994 on national TV channel Doordarshan. Later it produced some content like ‘Chakravyuh’ and ‘Saanp-Seedi’ for Zee TV, ‘Bhabhi’ for Star Plus, ‘Soni Mahiwal’ for Doordarshan and ‘Athiradi Singer’ for Sun TV.

    UTV, also a major player in film production and distribution, later tied up with anchor-actor Shekhar Suman and Smriti Irani, but their joint ventures could not produce good, saleable content for TV. Last year, Smriti Irani Television Ltd (SITL), UTV’s joint venture with Smriti Irani, also known as the ‘bahu’ or daughter-in-law of the small screen, announced that it would produce a serial based on the life of Mahatma Gandhi. However, there are no signs of the serial till date.

    9X, the TV channel promoted by Peter Mukerjea, former chief of Star TV India, also vanished from the scene as it could not produce appropriate and quality content to pull in viewers. Following decline in TRPs, Sony also revamped its content but is still waiting for results.

    Star Plus and Zee, which also registered lower TRPs, have shown some good results after tying up with individual writers and producers. Zee has tied up with Swastik Pictures of Siddharth Tewary and Vikas Seth and is producing a daily soap called ‘Agle Janam Mohe Bitya Hi Kijo’. Swastik has also tied up with other TV channels and is producing serials like ‘Mata Ki Chowki’ and ‘Agla Janam’. Recently, Zee TV has tied up with film producer Rajshri Productions and is producing a fictional show called ‘Yahan Main Ghar Ghar Kheli’. SAB TV had also tied up with Tonny and Deeya Singh’s production house DJ’s Creative Unit for a program ‘Left Right Left’, a serial based on the lives of soldiers.

    Mr Ray from SP Telefilms said, “Endemol, a UK-based digital production company, has tied up with two individual scriptwriters, Anjana Sood and Vicky Chandra, to produce ‘Sabki Laadli Bebo’ in Star Plus. SAB TV had tied up with Asit Modi’s Neela Telefilms to produce a family-oriented show ‘Tarak Mehta Ka Ulta Chasma’.

    Colours, the most successful Hindi television channel, has partnered with some of the country’s leading production houses. The channel’s production partners include Endemol India (for ‘Fear Factor–Khatron Ke Khiladi’), Meenakshi Sagar Productions (for ‘Jai Shri Krishna’), Shakuntalam Telefilms (for ‘Bandhan Saath Janmon Ka’), Playtime Creations (for ‘Jeevan Saathi’), Sphere Origins (for ‘Balika Vadhu-Kacchi Umar Ke Pakke Rishtey’), Jay Pranlal Mehta (for ‘Rahe Tera Aashirwad’), Wizcraft Television (for ‘Sajid’s Superstars’) and Deepti Bhatnagar Productions for ‘Mohe Rang De’.
    “Individual producers have responsibility for the content they produce as they need to cover the production cost and generate profits to survive and create a name in the industry. But when you are employed in a corporate you do not need to worry about performance because at the end of the month, you will get your salary,” said Mr Ray.

    Five years back, big corporates were reluctant in funding individual writers or local producers and performance was a question. But now corporates are welcoming talented people and are ready to fund them. 
    -Pallabika Ganguly

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    R Sridhar

    1 decade ago

    Very nicely researched article. Keep it up!

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