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December 8, 2000 - December 9, 2000

Mafatlal Industries awaits financial revamp Saturday, December 9, 2000

AHMEDABAD: The Arvind Mafatlal group's textiles flagship Mafatlal Industries Limited (MIL), which was declared sick by the Board for Financial and Industrial Reconstruction (BIFR) in October this year, is waiting for the Industrial Development Bank of India (IDBI) to consider proposals submitted for carrying out a complete financial restructuring.

Speaking to The Times of India, senior vice-president RR Likite said: "We approached the BIFR around February this year and the application was approved in March." According to a company official, MIL had little choice but to approach the board after its entire networth got eroded.

"As per BIFR norms, all outstandings have been freezed and we are depending solely on the revamping exercise which would help us to reduce the interest burden," the official said.

The haemorrhaging blue-chip company has also had to shut down two of its mills in Mumbai about six months back. Out of a total five mills spread over Gujarat and Maharashtra, the company today depends solely on the other three mills located in Ahmedabad, Nadiad and Navsari.

Confirming the development, Likite said: "The Nadiad factory, with its focus mainly on exports, is performing well and is still exporting to countries it used to in Europe, the US and the Middle- East." So long, Mafatlal Industries has been concentrating on printed fabrics and voils as its core export items..

However, according to insiders in the industry, the export capacity at the Nadiad unit has come down to around 10 to 15 per cent from 100 per cent earlier. "The unit is facing black days ahead for its production capacity has slumped from more than a lakh metres per day in 1997 to about 10,000 metres a day today," the official said.

He stated that the present capacity of the Ahmedabad unit stands at around 9,000 metres per day. "We have received tremendous support from the staff, numbering to around 400 in Ahmedabad, 4,000 in Nadiad and 2,000 in Navsari. In fact, the company had to initiate a 30 per cent cut in their salaries from April this year. But they have had no complains," he said.

The source of the financial decay in MIL can be traced back to 1992 when the company failed to sort out differences with Royal Dutch/Shell in the group petrochemicals venture in Maharashtra - National Organic Chemical Industries (NOCIL).

"The irreconcilable differences forced the MIL to buy out the stake of their collaborator at almost Rs 1,000 per share. Signs of financial strain started appearing then. Nevertheless, we managed to carry on satisfactorily till about 1997. But unfortunately NOCIL failed to perform well. Reliance Petrochemical proved too much of a competitor. We pumped in about Rs 700 crore, but NOCIL failed to reap good returns."

Unable to cope with mounting losses, MIL submitted a revamp proposal to ICICI in September 1998. The revival package envisaged mopping up of additional income through sale of assets and other measures. The FI approached the Delhi-based KSA Technopack in 1998-99 to carry out a feasibility report. According to reports published, the company posted a loss of Rs 326.49 crore during the financial year ended September 1999. It's networth stood at Rs 268.38 crore during the same period.

"However, ICICI, with its prime focus on banking, rejected the proposal after about a year saying it was not 'viable'. That happened to be the final blow and we were left with little option but to approach the BIFR," added the official.

According to the company balance sheet for the year ended September 1999, the net loss for MIL stood at Rs -262.37 crore and gross loss at Rs -232.77 crore. Operating profit was at Rs -95.48 crore with operating income at Rs 408.57 crore and total income at Rs 480.16 crore.

For the same period, reserves & surpluses were at Rs -108.09 crore, current liabilities at Rs 268.27 crore, total debt at Rs 680.82 crore and share capital at Rs 49.99 crore. Total liablities stood at Rs 622.72 crore and inventories at Rs 86.10 crore. The scrip was last traded at Rs 14.65 on September 21.

GEB accepts ADB loan conditions Friday, December 8, 2000

VADODARA: The stage is set for the procurement of the $350 million loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) with the Gujarat Electricity Board (GEB) communicating to the bank its acceptance of the conditions attached with the loan.

Talking to The Times of India here on Wednesday, a senior GEB official said that these conditions were discussed at the board meeting of the GEB in the last week of November, and were approved.

The GEB has sought the loan for its various projects and restructuring of the power sector. The conditions relate to draft action plan of 100 per cent metering and getting feedback from the consumers and their organisations on it, appointment of two professional persons on the board of the newly-constituted Gujarat Transmission Company, acceptance of power tariff order of the Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Authority (GERC), and recovery of dues from the civic body and some others.

ADB directors are expected to meet on December 13 to decide on the loan, but a crucial hearing of the GERC on the petitions filed by the industry and agriculture organisations is expected to take place before that i.e. on December 11.

The ADB has insisted on an action plan for 100 per cent metering of all the consumers, including farmers. A three-member Gujarat government team headed by its additional chief secretary (power) Vijay Ranchan, GEB member finance Srivastava and additional chief secretary finance (economic cell) Sudhir Mankad had been to Manila (Philippines) headquarters of ADB for negotiating with the bank last month.

Of the loan, $200 million are for GEB projects, and the remaining $150 million for restructuring of the power sector.

Highly reliable source in the GEB said most of the bank's conditions had already been agreed to and the GEB had started taking steps in that direction. The newly-formed Gujarat Transmission Company has accommodated two professionally-qualified persons, one of them noted economist Manu Shroff.

As for the conditions of power reform Bill, the state cabinet has already approved it, and has sent it to the Central government for clearance. Besides, the ADB wants corporatisation of the GEB. Sources said this process is on.

Governor sends draft gas ordinance back to govt Friday, December 8, 2000

AHMEDABAD: Striking a second blow this week to the state's soaring ambitions to create a wide-spread natural gas network in Gujarat, Governor Sundar Singh Bhandari has returned the draft Gas Ordinance to the state government, saying there was no urgency for bringing about such a legislation.

Well-placed sources said the governor, after intense questioning, finally wrote back, suggesting that the government get the legislation passed in the state assembly.

The governor's move follows a forced compromise that Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) had to strike on Tuesday with Canadian firm Niko Resources, which, last month, was removed from operatorship of Hazira oil fields.

Bhandari's decision comes in the wake of a report that the Central government and multinational oil majors had reservations about the proposed legislation that is aimed at putting in place a 'common carrier network' for natural gas in the state.

The Centre feels a central gas Act should first come into existence before the states start adopting similar legislation. Private companies are objecting to the proposal that would give Gujarat State Petronet Limited (GSPL) sole rights to ferry LNG through a 1500-km gas grid to be set up at a cost of Rs 2,500 crore.

The state's energy department and the state-run GSPC and its subsidiary GSPL were pressing hard for the ordinance that would enable Gujarat to become the first state with a gas grid.

However, the governor, supposedly, was not convinced about the necessity to bring about a legislation bypassing the state assembly. Besides, sources said, Raj Bhawan had been apprised of Union petroleum minister Ram Naik's reservations on the issue.

The governor's has come as a downer to GSPC, which has elaborate plans to make forays into gas infrastructure and distribution.

Two days ago, on the intervention of the Centre and the embassies of Canada and the US, GSPL had to revoke its decision to remove Niko Resources from operatorship of Hazira gas field.

Niko, involved in a joint venture with GSPC, had objected to a GSPC decision to unilaterally transfer the 14-km pipeline meant for evacuation of the gas from the Hazira reserve to GSPL in April this year. The GSPC maintained the pipeline project was outside the ambit of the production sharing contract (PSC) signed with Niko. Niko stopped supplying gas from Hazira and filed a case in the Delhi High Court against the transfer move.

One of the gas consumers, Essar, too, had filed a court case against the stoppage of supplies and claimed Rs 4.46 crore in damages, which would rise by Rs 11 lakh per day of delay.

Canadian High Commissioner Peter Sutherland and US Ambassador Richard Celeste took up the GSPC-Niko dispute with the Union petroleum minister and Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel. Though the Government of India, in its affidavit filed before the Delhi HC, accepted that the pipeline project was not within the scope of the PSC, pressure was put on the Gujarat government and GSPC to strike a compromise with Niko.

Following several rounds of talks between the two companies, an agreement was reached on Tuesday under which GSPC agreed to withdraw its notice to remove Niko from the operatorship of Hazira fields, while Niko agreed not to let the pipeline or any other dispute come in the way of supply of gas.

The Delhi High Court is expected shortly to give its decision on the pipeline transfer.

Sarpanch suspended over Dalit's death Friday, December 8, 2000

VADODARA: Four days after Dalit Ramesh Zaverbhai Rohit committed suicide in protest against harassment from upper caste in his village, the district administration has suspended Surasamad village sarpanch Hasmukh Patel. The orders were issued by district development officer Thara D.

Patel was alleged to have instigated a section of villagers to harass Ramesh. Ramesh's widow Kailashben and mother Kashiben had alleged that the sarpanch had singled out Ramesh for supporting Dalit candidate Motibhai Rohit in village co-operative society board elections that was later conducted closed-doors. Kailashben had also alleged that about 10 people had abused and beaten her inside her house on the behest of the sarpanch. "There also the sarpanch was involved," Kailashben had told TOI when it visited the village earlier this week.

Incidentally, district collector Anil Mukim had also visited Surasamad on Tuesday and met members of Dalit and the upper caste community in the village. The district police, on its part, has already suspended Sinor PSI A R Chaudhary who was charged of beating Ramesh and making mockery of his complaint. Dy SP B Vasava is also conducting an inquiry into the case even as the state social justice and welfare ministry's probe is also in progress.

Meanwhile, a formal request has been made to Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel seeking the release of sum from the CM's fund for Ramesh's widow, who now has to raise two children in a family that has lost its bread winner.

Mercedes sales in Gujarat likely to grow 10% Friday, December 8, 2000

AHMEDABAD: Mercedes-Benz India Limited (MBIL) is hoping to achieve a 10 per cent rise in sales in the Gujarat/Rajasthan region for the period January-December 2000 over that in the same period last year.

MBIL sold 48 vehicles (inclusive of the E-class, S-Class, MB van and CVO) in January-December 1999 against about 55 vehicles sold till date this year.

Speaking to The Times of India, general manager (corporate affairs) MBIL Suhas Kadlaskar said Gujarat, which accounts for 7 to 8 per cent of the all-India market, may see the introduction of new models once the auto policy comes into force in April 2001.

"As soon as the new auto policy is in place, we will take decisions on the introduction of new models. These will be introduced in Gujarat as well," he said.

"The Gujarat market has a lot of potential and the sales figures have been very encouraging. The sales volume in Delhi and Mumbai is followed by that in Chandigarh and Gujarat, placing the region in the fourth position in terms of sales," he said.

Corroborating the importance of the Gujarat/Rajasthan region, Cama Motors Limited director Rustom Cama, who happens to represent one of the 10 dealers of Mercedes-Benz cars in India, said: "There might be launch of models around May 2001 following India's entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Advertisement for the same might begin during March/April."

"We have sold about 84 of the S-Class model in September this year. We had a one-time batch for the first time this year and most of the cars in this category have been pre-sold and delivered within a month. We have also retailed about 50 units of the E-Class in a month," said Cama.

The S-Class, costing around Rs 60 lakh, was launched in the region in August this year. The E-Class costs about 35 to 40 lakh across the country on the road.

On an average, the local dealer sells around three to four cars per month, projecting a rather confident picture of the market in the region. His range of customers extend from tobacco merchants, agriculturists to big names among corporates. "In fact, the corporates account for about 10 to 15 per cent of our total sales," added the dealer.

On any further investment planned for the region, Kadlaskar said: "The company has already invested Rs 600 crore at its production facility at Pune. This is quite sufficient for meeting the current sales volumes. For Gujarat and Rajasthan, we have a dealership arrangement and so there seems to be no need for any extra investment."

On whether the automobile sector slump has had any adverse effect on Mercedes-Benz, manager (corporate affairs) MBIL Reeta Philip said: "We have not been affected by the auto sector slump and the company is one of the fastest growing in the luxury segment in India."

"Our buyers are a largely insulated lot. The market is moderately conservative like that in Mumbai. So, the impact of the slump has been negligible. It is the mid-sized segment which has been hit hard," added Cama.

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