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BEL scouting for R&D, telecom partners

Our Bureau

Bangalore , April 12

BHARAT Electronics is on the look out for acquiring or partnering with suitable R&D houses and civil telecom technology companies to complement its technology base.

Some serious scouting is on for possible product areas such as multiplexers and switching equipment while BEL has not finalised anything concrete, according to top BEL officials here on Tuesday.

The Chairman and Managing Director, Mr Y. Gopala Rao, told an annual news conference that this was an attempt to diversify and supplement its market and technology base while remaining focussed on the Defence market that generated around 80 per cent of its 2004-05 revenue of Rs 3,223 crore.

The moves, he said, would enhance the 1,200-strong engineering R&D talent of the company, which has also set sights on a Rs 5,000-crore sales revenue by the year 2007-08.

BEL has finalised and got in-principle approval for acquiring the radar antenna business of the Ghaziabad-based PSU, Central Electronics Ltd (CEL).

CEL makes the phased control modules in antennas that account for 20-30 per cent of the radar cost, according to Mr S.C. Khanna, Director, Commercial and Management Services.

On the Defence front, BEL is in talks with a French company for a tie-up to make critical components used in the hand-held thermal imagers meant for the Army.

BEL has also signed an MoU with French company Gemplus to acquire technology and set up a manufacturing facility meant for smart cards for a Home Ministry project.

BEL is close to completing a Rs 6-crore multi-purpose national identity card (MNIC) project that covers 3 million people across 13 States.

The electronic data will be personalised in the proposed citizen identity card.

On the broadcasting front, low-key campaigns for boxes branded `BEST' (Bharat Electronics Set Tops) have started in print and TV media while BEL has appointed dealers for countrywide sales.

Three of the four STB versions - for DTH, free-to-air and cable broadcasts - are ready and the fourth, for selective and occasional viewing, is being developed. The set-tops are priced around Rs 4,000 each.

The product that was showcased nine months ago, promises to drive the Defence PSU's civil segment business this year with anticipated sale of five lakh sets for the DTH segment.

Mr Gopala Rao said the set-tops have got their first export order from Italy for 100 DTH pieces.

For the fiscal year 2005-06, BEL expects to make a sales turnover of Rs 3,600 crore, or a growth of 12 per cent over the just ended year. Exports are also looking up to reach $20 million this year.

The company has opened the fiscal 2005-06 with a comfortable order book of Rs 6,010 crore. The Indian Army has placed a Rs 275-crore order for 944 ALNS units or the indigenously designed advanced land navigation systems.

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