f o r    m a n a g i n g    t o m o r r o w
MARCH, 2007
 Cover Story
 Sector Analysis

The centre is looking at removing the distinction between FDI and FII investments. This will impact sectors like asset reconstruction, real estate and aviation, where separate ceilings apply to FDI and FII investment. However, allowing FDI through the FII route in the realty sector could result in prices shooting through the roof. The Asian financial crisis of the '90s is still fresh in mind, and a method should be devised to moderate possible volatility in key sectors.

S&P And After
For the first time in 14 years, international credit rating agency, Standard and Poor's (S&P), has raised India's credit rating to investment grade. S&P is the last of the three major international rating agencies to do so. Moody's Investors Service did it in January 2004 and Fitch Ratings in August 2006. The upgrade is likely to spur the flow of foreign investment into power, steel and other industries, which receive less than a tenth of the funds going China's way.
More Net Specials
What's Cheaper, What's Dearer?
Once again, cigarettes get slammed, but medical equipment become cheaper.
All non-agricultural items: Peak customs duty rate on non-agricultural items are down from 12.5 to 10 per cent. That means, all imported machinery and non-agricultural commodities just got cheaper-in theory. How much of the gains reach the consumer is a different issue.

Biscuits and food mixes: Biscuits and food mixes have been fully exempted from excise duty. In doing so, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, he said, was trying to show that he is not biased towards idli and dosa mixes. Mixes majors such as mtr, recently acquired by Finnish company Orkla, must be licking their chops.

Steel: Duties on seconds and defective steel have been reduced from 20 to 10 per cent. That should correct an anomaly that some in the industry have been complaining about, which is that duty on prime steel is only 5 per cent. Impact on local prices will depend on the demand for steel.

Pet foods: Dog and cat lovers, rejoice. While you enjoy your cheaper dosa and sambhar fare, your pet can chew on imported chow, which will now attract just 20 per cent customs duty from 30 per cent before. And if you are feeding your dog home-cooked food, it's time you indulged him a bit.

Mouth freshener: Excise duty on pan masala without tobacco (mouth fresheners) has been slashed from 66 to 45 per cent. However, pan masala with tobacco will continue to attract 66 per cent excise duty. Worse for the pan masala manufacturers, exemptions given to units in North Eastern states stand withdrawn.

Watches and umbrellas: Perhaps the unseasonal rain the night before the Budget had nothing to do with it, but customs duty on umbrella parts has been cut from 12.5 to 5 per cent. Ditto, watch dials. Chinese manufacturers must be grinning from ear to ear.

Medical equipment: Customs duty has been dropped from 12.5 to 7.5 per cent. It's a small concession, but the healthcare industry must be grateful. Equipment are among some of the biggest investments that hospitals make.

Polyester yarn: A reduction in customs duty on polyester from 10 to 7.5 per cent means yarn just got cheaper. What's more, customs duty on raw materials such as DMT, PTA and meg has also been reduced from 10 to 7.5 per cent.

Water purifiers: First the good news: "Water purification devices operating on specified membrane-based technologies" have been fully exempt from excise duty. The bad news: It will only impact purifiers that do not use electricity (Zero B, Thermax), and will not include your Aquaguard at home. Why? They use electricity and, ergo, haven't been exempted.

Bio-diesel: Budget 2007-08 fully exempts bio-diesel from excise. Who gains? Not too many people, since bio-diesel still sells in very limited quantities. Just the same, it's an incentive for manufacturers to start producing more bio-diesel.

Footwear: Just like umbrella parts, those used in the manufacture of footwear will now attract just 8 per cent excise duty, compared to 16 per cent earlier. That's great for buyers of Liberty, Bata and Action shoes, but not for those who buy imported shoes.

Cigarettes: A favourite whipping boy, the tobacco industry, and cigarettes in particular, have been slapped with an extra 5 per cent excise duty. The petty smokers haven't been spared either. Excise duty on biris (which was last fixed in 2001) will be raised from Rs 7 to Rs 11 per thousand for hand-rolled biris and from Rs 17 to Rs 24 per thousand for machine-made biris.

Cement: Probably in a move to curb the rising cement prices over the last one year, the fm has decided to levy excise duty of Rs 600 per metric tonne on cement bags (50 kg) costing more than Rs 190 per bag. The silver lining? The fm has promised to reduce the present rate of excise duty of Rs 400 per metric tonne to Rs 350 per metric tonne on cement sold at Rs 190 per bag.

Commercial property: Banks, beauty salons, clinics...just about any such service providers who use rented property to operate their business, will have to pay more in terms of rents, since such immovable properties will now attract service tax. And who will they pass on the cost to? Of course, you, the consumer.

Wealth management: Your personal wealth manager may start charging you more for his services, since the Finance Minister has brought him under the service tax net as well. So, just hope that the stock markets don't tank any more; otherwise, you may not have much wealth left to pay him out of.

Design services: Yet another service that will start paying tax starting 2007-08. Design services is a broad terminology that covers designing of furniture, consumer products, industrial products, packages, logos, graphics, websites, and three-dimensional models.

Mobile downloads: Apparently, "development and supply of content" includes everything from mobile value added services to music to movie clips to ring tones, besides things like wall paper, mobile games, news, and animation films. Will your mobile phone service provider pass on the cost to you? Most likely, yes.

Aircraft: Low-cost carriers may not remain so low cost any more. All private aircraft, including helicopters, imported into the country will attract a 3 per cent import duty. That apart, such imports will attract countervailing duty and additional customs duty. Perhaps the last thing the beleaguered industry needed.

Contract work: When the Finance Minister said that he was going to bring works contract under services tax, he was talking about a wide variety of installation work. Consider the list: erection, commissioning or installation of plant, machinery equipment or structures; plumbing, sound insulation, fire proofing or water proofing.

Art: "I propose to expand the tax base of capital gains to include certain works of art," the Finance Minister said pithily, but mysteriously. Given that some art funds have been launched of late, their effective returns to investors may be affected.

Dividend: Sure, the shareholder doesn't pay any tax on dividends, but the company paying out does. The Finance Minister has not just upped dividend distribution tax from 12.5 to 15 per cent, but in the case of money market mutual funds and liquid funds, increased it to 25 per cent. Investors are going to howl.