Many deals likely during PM's UK trip

Several mega business deals between Indian and UK companies are expected to be signed during the three-day visit.

india Updated: Oct 09, 2006 12:15 IST

Several multi-million pound contracts between British and Indian companies are expected to be signed when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attends the first UK-India investment conference on Tuesday.

The conference, organised by the Department of Trade and Industry, is also expected to be attended briefly by the British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The Indian delegation will include Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath, who will hold meetings with Trade Secretary Alistair Darling.

On Tuesday, retail giant Tesco is expected to announce plans to enter the Indian retail market in partnership with Bharti Enterprises. Other companies attending the event are Standard Chartered, and Cairn Energy, which will this week release details of its Indian subsidiary's imminent IPO on the Bombay Stock Exchange.

According to media reports, Blair is expected to urge Singh to relax laws that prevent British companies doing business in India. Blair is expected to lobby particularly hard on behalf of supermarkets such as Tesco. Foreign groups that sell multiple brands, such as supermarkets, are not allowed to operate in India.

A Tesco spokesperson told The Independent: "We have a research project under way and will be coming to a conclusion as to what we do or don't do (in India) at the end of the year. So far so good, but it's early days. It's also not possible for foreign companies to own retail assets at the moment."

The newspaper reported that Blair and the other UK business leaders present at the talks will also urge Singh to go further in relaxing restrictions on foreign investment. Retail banks face difficulties opening branches in India, and there are limits on the level of foreign ownership of local banks.

Representatives from Barclays Capital, the mobile phone company Orange, the Indian conglomerate Tata and leading Indian business chambers are expected to be present at the talks.

First Published: Oct 09, 2006 12:15 IST