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ITC board okays Rs 14,000-cr investment plan over 5-yr period — Growth strategy covers outlays for acquisitions

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ITC board okays Rs 14,000-cr investment plan over 5-yr period — Growth strategy covers outlays for acquisitions

The board of directors of ITC Ltd, at its meeting here on Saturday, approved the company's business plans for the projected five-year period ending 2009-10, envisaging a total investment of Rs 14,000 crore.

The large investment-led growth plan will cover all the company's businesses, namely FMCG (including cigarettes) and the new businesses, hotels, paperboards, paper & packaging and agri-business. It is stated that apart from capital expenditure for organic growth, the investment plans include outlays towards acquisitions, both in India and abroad.

Significantly, bulk of the investments, according to the company's official statement released here on Saturday, would go towards upgradation of technology in the tobacco business, creating new production facilities for the foods and garments businesses, expansion of the ITC Welcomgroup chain through addition of hotels in key locations and consolidation of the company's leadership position in the paperboards/paper business with the addition of a new integrated pulp and paper facility.

Commenting on the company's business plan, the Chairman, Mr Y.C. Deveshwar, said here "quite apart from the positive growth signals in the economy, the board's decision was driven by our aspiration to contribute significantly to the national effort of investment-led job creation''.

According to the official note released by the company here, in the context of improving the macro-economic fundamentals, the ITC board envisages significant prospects for all businesses of the company. He said the investment plan aimed at positioning each of the businesses in the ITC portfolio as a leader in its respective market.

It is stated that investments are also planned for expansion of ITC's pioneering e-choupal rural sourcing/distribution network and for setting up the rural hypermarket chain under the `Choupal Sagar' store brand.

The board has also reviewed progress towards the `Triple Bottom line' objectives and set targets in each of the specific areas for the plan period. The board has also cleared plans to create sustainable livelihoods across the company's value chains, and has approved appropriate resources to scale up social development initiatives including those towards sustaining ITC as a `Water Positive' organisation. A major objective was to attain `Carbon Positive' and `Zero Solid Waste' status by 2010, it is pointed out.

`Wait and watch' on excise

It is not known whether the ITC board at its meeting had also taken a view on the pending excise matter, wherein the Government decided to use the ordinance route to recover the alleged excise dues from the company even after the Supreme Court gave a verdict in favour of ITC. Asked on this, the company spokesman declined to comment.

While admitting that the ball was still in the Government's court, especially after the purported expiry of the ordinance period (as Parliament would be re-convened only on April 10, 2005), industry sources felt the final word in the matter was yet to come.

Informed sources say that it was now a period of "wait and watch", rather than one of courtroom battles all over again.

It may be recalled that the company had made a pre-deposit of Rs 350 crore against the total demand of Rs 803 crore for alleged excise evasion during the period between 1983 and 1987.


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