The Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) has cleared Swedish clothing major H&M's Rs 720-crore proposal to set up single-brand retail stores in India as also Swiss building materials company Holcim's proposal to restructure its India operations.

The two approvals were part of the 14 foreign direct investment proposals cleared by FIPB on Wednesday. FIPB, however, did not take up British telecom major Vodafone's proposal to buy out minority partners in its Indian telecom venture, an official said. H&M, or Hennes & Mauritz GBC AB, plans to open 50 retail stores in India.

Earlier this year, the government had approved a bigger investment by another Swedish retailer IKEA. The government had last year raised the FDI limit in single-brand retail to 100% from 51%, subject to certain minimum sourcing from local vendors. H&M had moved its proposal in April this year, but lack of clarity over certain issues had delayed a decision.

Holcim, the world's fourth-largest cement maker, received FIPB nod to merge its holding firm Holcim India with Ambuja Cements. Holcim has majority stakes in two leading Indian cement makers - ACC and Ambuja Cements.

Holcim had in July announced a plan that would make Ambuja Cements the flagship company of the group. It would also acquire Holcim's 50% stake in ACC. ACC and Ambuja would, however, operate as independent entities and remain listed on stock exchanges. The proposal would have to be approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs as the investment involved is more than Rs 1,200 crore.

FIPB did not take up a proposal by Vodafone to acquire full ownership of its India operations as some of the stakeholder ministries had not sent their comments. Department of telecom, department of industrial policy and promotion, department of economic affairs, and the ministries of home and external affairs have to give their views on the deal.

Vodafone Group had last month said it would invest Rs 10,141 crore to raise stake in its India unit to 100%, becoming the first foreign telecom company to use the relaxation in the FDI rules.

Vodafone is India's second-biggest telecom company by subscribers. The government had in August eased the FDI rules for many sectors including telecom, raising the foreign investment limit for the sector to 100% from 74%.

The UK-based Vodafone had entered India in 2007 by buying Hutchison Whampoa's mobile phone business for around $11 billion. It currently owns 64.38% stake in Vodafone India directly and another 20% indirectly.

Piramal Enterprises holds about 11%, while the balance is held by financial investors including Analjit Singh, who is Vodafone India's non-executive chairman. The proposal was moved through CGP India Investments, an indirect Mauritian subsidiary of Vodafone International Holdings BV. It is expected to be taken up by FIPB at its next meeting, the date for which is yet to be finalised.

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