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Infosys’ Q3 net up 33%
Not averse to acquiring Satyam’s clients, says CEO
Bangalore, January 13
The Satyam fiasco and the banning of Wipro Technologies by the World Bank dominated a press conference called by the software giant Infosys here today to present its third quarters results.

Satyam Saga
Police raids PwC office
Hyderabad, January 13
Sleuths of the Andhra Pradesh police’s CID wing today conducted a raid on the office of the global auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) here in connection with the Satyam scandal.

TCS bags WB projects handled by Satyam
Washington/New Delhi, January 13
In an unusually delayed disclosure, the World Bank said it has awarded Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) a chunk of the projects that were earlier given to Satyam Computer.

Allow futures trading in Satyam: PIL
New Delhi, January 13
A lawyer, claiming to be a victim of the volatile trading in shares in the wake of uncertainty over Satyam Computers, today filed a PIL in the Supreme Court, seeking declaration as illegal all transactions that had taken place a day before the prices crashed on January 7.



EARLIER STORIES




This file picture shows high-rise buildings in a financial district of Hong Kong. Hong Kong was on Tuesday named the world's freest economy for the 15th year in a row by the US think-tank Heritage Foundation, with North Korea and Zimbabwe at the bottom of the rankings.
This file picture shows high-rise buildings in a financial district of Hong Kong. Hong Kong was on Tuesday named the world's freest economy for the 15th year in a row by the US think-tank Heritage Foundation, with North Korea and Zimbabwe at the bottom of the rankings. — AFP
The publishing house 'Berliner Verlag' is pictured in Berlin on Tuesday. British-based newspaper publisher Mecom is selling its German operations to Germany's M. DuMont Schauberg for 152 million euros ($204 million) in cash, to reduce debt which has hammered the company's stock.
The publishing house 'Berliner Verlag' is pictured in Berlin on Tuesday. British-based newspaper publisher Mecom is selling its German operations to Germany's M. DuMont Schauberg for 152 million euros ($204 million) in cash, to reduce debt which has hammered the company's stock. — Reuters

Basmati Export
India losing market share to Pak
Chandigarh, January 13
The high-tax structure on basmati rice exports has spelt doom for rice exporters in the region. With the basmati from Pakistan being available at $300 per metric tonne less than Indian basmati, India is losing its market share to Pakistan.

ICAI panel to look into Satyam fiasco
New Delhi, January 13
Chartered accountants body ICAI today constituted a six-member special committee to look into the entire gamut of the Satyam fiasco and identify the persons involved in the matter.

M’rashtra wants state officials to run Dabhol plant
Mumbai, January 13
The Maharashtra government has decided to flex its muscles regarding the running of the Dabhol power plant, formerly set up by Enron. The state government is demanding that a bureaucrat appointed by it is put in charge of running of the plant. In addition, it is demanding that officials from Maharashtra Power Generation Company, the state-owned utility, be put in charge of running the plant.

RIL asks govt to free fuel pricing
New Delhi, January 13
Reliance Industries (RIL), which had shut down all of its petrol pumps last year because of huge losses, today asked the government to free retail fuel pricing to provide a level-playing field to its PSU competition.

Ukraine blocks gas supplies to Europe
Moscow, January 13
Ukraine today blocked the transit of Russian natural gas to Europe via its territory, hours after Moscow resumed the pumping of gas, dashing the hopes of millions of European consumers hit by bitter winter.

SBI fund for infra projects
Ahmedabad, January 13
The country's largest public sector lender, State Bank of India, today entered into an agreement with the Gujarat government to create a Rs 5,000-crore fund for investing in equity of infrastructure projects.







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Infosys’ Q3 net up 33%
Not averse to acquiring Satyam’s clients, says CEO
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, January 13
The Satyam fiasco and the banning of Wipro Technologies by the World Bank dominated a press conference called by the software giant Infosys here today to present its third quarters results.

Infosys, according to the company representatives, put up an all round performance in the quarter ending December 31, 2008. The company made a net profit after tax of Rs 1,641 crore during the quarter, showing a growth of 33.3 per cent over the corresponding period in the previous year and 14.6 per cent over the quarter ending September 30, 2008. Earning from each Rs 5 share of the company shot up to Rs 28.66 (basic) and Rs 28.63 (diluted), showing a growth of more than 33 per cent over the corresponding period last year and more than 14 per cent over the quarter ending September 30, 2008.

The company will hire 27,000 employees over the remaining period of the current financial year and the next financial year, and would also honour all offers made by it to freshers during campus recruitment drives.

But, while the press conference was convened by the Infosys to talk about its achievements despite the “difficult times” characterised by the global meltdown, the Satyam saga and the four years World Bank ban on Wipro Technologies, took the centrestage with reporters putting up various questions related to Wipro and Satyam to the Infosys representatives.

Answering a question, Infosys CEO S Gopalkrishnan said personally he was against the government bailing out the beleaguered Satyam Computers by pumping in funds. “There are many other ways of rescuing the company. For instance, a bank loan can be arranged”, Gopalkrishnan said.

On the controversy with regard to Infosys refusing to hire Satyam employees, he said they had decided against hiring Satyam employees so that the employees stuck to Satyam when it was in a crisis. Mohandas Pai, human resources director, also reiterated the point and said the decision had been taken in the interest of Satyam. “We respect the employees. They have integrity”, Pai said.

This, however, is not the Infosys policy regarding Satyam’s clients. Gopalkrishnan said while Infosys was not proactively trying to break into Satyam’s client base, it had nothing against accepting offer from a company which was earlier hiring Satyam Computers for its work. The Infosys CEO said his company and Satyam were having a number of common clients and some of these companies had started approaching Infosys for giving works assigned to Satyam. “We are treating each of these as new business proposals and judging them on merit,”Gopalkrishnan said.

On the banning of Wipro Technologies by World Bank for four years for giving undue benefits to World Bank staff, V Balakrishnan, Infosys chief financial officer, gave a guarded reply. “Wipro has already explained its position”, he said. Asked whether Infosys also sold shares to the staff of its clients, he said, “we have no directed share programme”. 

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Satyam Saga
Police raids PwC office
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, January 13
Sleuths of the Andhra Pradesh police’s CID wing today conducted a raid on the office of the global auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) here in connection with the Satyam scandal.

During the raid at the PwC office in the upmarket Jubilee Hills area, the police seized several documents pertaining to the fraud-hit IT company.

The raid was conducted on the basis of the information provided by Satyam's former chief financial officer V Srinivas, who is now lodged in jail along with the company’s founder-chairman B Ramalinga Raju and his brother and managing director Rama Raju. Srinivas told investigators that the auditors never pointed out any deficiencies in the accounts.

“Based on the PwC’s audit findings, I used to take comfort and certify the accounts. The auditors never pointed out any deficiencies in the accounts,” Srinivas said in his statement to the CID.

The role of the global auditing firm came under scanner after Ramalinga Raju resigned on January 7, confessing to a massive fraud in the company to the tune of Rs 7,100 crore.

The market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is also probing the involvement of PwC in the scam. A team of SEBI officials have also checked the records at the PwC office here.

Meanwhile, a Satyam spokesman today denied media reports that its former interim CEO Ram Mynampati had been arrested in connection with the scandal.

“Ram is in United States to meet the clients and to assure them of continuity in business,” the spokesman said. Ram had spoken to the three-member new board of the company yesterday through video conference. The police sources said that he would be interrogated after his return here.

Ram, the senior-most employee of the company who was on the board of directors since 2006, addressed a press conference here on January 8 along with other top executives and had denied any knowledge of the fraud.

The new board, constituted by the Union government, told the media yesterday that he was no longer the CEO or board member but would continue to be an employee of the company.

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TCS bags WB projects handled by Satyam

Washington/New Delhi, January 13
In an unusually delayed disclosure, the World Bank said it has awarded Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) a chunk of the projects that were earlier given to Satyam Computer.

The bank had barred Satyam from doing business with it for eight years beginning September 2008, months before the IT company was shaken by a Rs 7,800-crore accounting fraud at home.

"We have hired Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) to do much of the IT work that Satyam used to do," a World Bank spokesperson told PTI.

The projects were awarded to TCS the same month through competitive bidding — an indication that the bank is not specifically targeting Indian IT companies.

The bank recently disclosed names of companies worldwide that have been barred from doing business with it for violating fraud and corruption guidelines. The list of companies included India's third largest software exporter Wipro and another company, Megasoft.

When contacted, a TCS spokesperson said, "We bagged the contract from World Bank a long time back... early September last year." — PTI 

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Allow futures trading in Satyam: PIL
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, January 13
A lawyer, claiming to be a victim of the volatile trading in shares in the wake of uncertainty over Satyam Computers, today filed a PIL in the Supreme Court, seeking declaration as illegal all transactions that had taken place a day before the prices crashed on January 7.

A Bench, headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, however, declined the plea of the petitioner, M L Sharma, for an early hearing and said it would be taken up in the normal course.

According to the PIL, the share prices of Satyam Computers had soared on January 6 following a deliberate information that the company had planned to buy back shares, but the shares crashed to Rs 30 following chairman Ramalinga Raju's resignation and admission to fudging of financial figures.

The petitioner has named market regulator, SEBI, and the National Stock Exchange (NSE) as respondents, who according to him, failed to take proper action. He has also sought futures trading in Satyam stocks in the interest of the investors.

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Basmati Export
India losing market share to Pak
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 13
The high-tax structure on basmati rice exports has spelt doom for rice exporters in the region. With the basmati from Pakistan being available at $300 per metric tonne less than Indian basmati, India is losing its market share to Pakistan.

It is learnt that the exports of basmati rice from India to Saudi Arabia and Europe has come down by 65 per cent since last year. The figures available for August-October 2008 reveal that the quantum of basmati exports to these countries was just 60,000 metric tonnes, as compared to 1,70,000 metric tonnes during the same period last year. The fall in exports is inspite of a bumper crop this year. Rice exporters claim that the low demand for Indian basmati in the global market has led to a huge inventory with the rice exporters. Not only have the exports taken a beating, but the buyers are also re-negotiating the prices agreed to earlier, so as to exploit the situation to their advantage, adding to exporters suffering.

Vijay Setia, president of the All India Rice Exporters Association, said so far nine parties in the West Asia and European Union have refused to take delivery of rice consignments, which were in the pipeline. “The main reason for the basmati rice exports taking a beating is that the Indian variety is very expensive, as compared to the variety from Pakistan. Compared to Pakistan, Indian rice exporters have to shoulder an extra burden of Rs 8,000 per tonne as export duty, which was imposed in April last year,” he said.

The hike in Minimum Export Price (MEP) to $1,200 per tonne by the government in April last year, too, has added to the woes of the basmati exporters. “Not only is there a MEP on export of basmati, but we are also supposed to pay Rs 8,000 per MT as export duty. Though the Government of India has been assuring us that this MEP will be reduced and the export duty will be waived off, but the issue has now been pending for a long time. As a result, Indian exporters now have Rs 5,000 crore inventory lined up with them,” he said.

As a result of this, basmati farmers have not received their payments from the commission agents as well as rice exporters. It is learnt that 60 per cent of payments are pending with the commission agents and rice exporters. It is only after the basmati exports resume that the farmers will get their dues.

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ICAI panel to look into Satyam fiasco

New Delhi, January 13
Chartered accountants body ICAI today constituted a six-member special committee to look into the entire gamut of the Satyam fiasco and identify the persons involved in the matter.

The special committee will be headed by ICAI vice-president Uttam Prakash Aggarwal and submit its report on the Satyam auditing issue on February 11, a spokesperson of the regulator said.

ICAI council members — S L Dogra, Amarjeet Chopra, Subodh Aggarwal and Akshay Gupta — are members of the special committee. Government nominee K R Maheshwari, a banker and chartered accountant, is the sixth member.

The terms of the reference of the committee include looking into the entire gamut of the Satyam fiasco and helping/coordinating with the investigation being carried out by various agencies. — PTI 

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M’rashtra wants state officials to run Dabhol plant
Shiv Kumar/Tribune News Service

Mumbai, January 13
The Maharashtra government has decided to flex its muscles regarding the running of the Dabhol power plant, formerly set up by Enron. The state government is demanding that a bureaucrat appointed by it is put in charge of running of the plant. In addition, it is demanding that officials from Maharashtra Power Generation Company, the state-owned utility, be put in charge of running the plant.

The plant is now run by the Ratnagiri Gas and Power Private Ltd, a special purpose vehicle, in which the state government, the National Thermal Power Corporation, Gas Authority of India Ltd and financial institutions hold stakes.

Maharashtra politicians are unhappy that central bureaucrats running the plant have been tardy in getting the power plant on stream. With elections imminent, the pressure is on the government to improve power supply in the state. Though the plant has a capacity to generate 2,160 MW of power, only about 650 MW of power is being generated due to technical problems and shortage of gas.

Maharashtra's power minister Sunil Tatkare said issues with General Electric that supplied machinery for the plant has been sorted out and the plant would be put on stream in phases. The state government wants 1,160 MW of power from this plant during the coming summer when demand is at its peak.

Another proposal by the state government is to modify equipment in the plant so that it can run on natural gas. The state government wants to source gas from the Reliance Industries KG basin facility as production begins later this year.

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RIL asks govt to free fuel pricing

New Delhi, January 13
Reliance Industries (RIL), which had shut down all of its petrol pumps last year because of huge losses, today asked the government to free retail fuel pricing to provide a level-playing field to its PSU competition.

The government should use only fiscal measures to moderate retail rates in times of high international crude oil prices and extend fuel subsidies, which are currently available only to state-run firms, to private companies as well, said P Raghavendran, president of Reliance's refinery business.

"Removal of government controls is much more critical than a simple statement that the private sector can come in," he said, adding, the company would reopen its outlets only when it gets a level-playing field.

The Mukesh Ambani-run company had shut all of its 1,432 petrol pumps in March 2008 after it failed to compete with public sector companies, who sold fuel at rates much lower than their cost, as they got government subsidies.

However, with the fall in international oil prices, margins on both petrol and diesel have turned positive. State-run oil companies Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum are making a neat profit of Rs 9.10 a litre on petrol and Rs 3.70 per litre on diesel.

Essar Oil, the second-largest private fuel retailer, has reopened about 1,000 petrol pumps since September, when international crude oil prices began declining.

Raghavendran suspected that unless administrative controls were dismantled, the government may again impose price caps on petrol and diesel PSU retailers sell if the international crude oil prices were to rise again.

Such caps would again force the private sector competition out. "Getting in and getting out frequently is not viable for consumers and it is not viable (even) from the company's point of view," he said. — PTI 

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Ukraine blocks gas supplies to Europe

Moscow, January 13
Ukraine today blocked the transit of Russian natural gas to Europe via its territory, hours after Moscow resumed the pumping of gas, dashing the hopes of millions of European consumers hit by bitter winter.

State-run Gazprom energy's vice- chairman Alexander Medvedev said that Ukraine pipeline system has failed to carry Russian gas westwards after Moscow resumed supplies at 0700 GMT after a deal had been struck on insistence of the European Union.

Gazprom had cut off the European supplies on January 7 after accusing Ukraine of stealing gas in transit for domestic requirements. The supplies were stopped on the first day of New Year in the absence of contract for the 2009.

"This morning Gazprom began the implementation of the plans for the resumption of gas supplies to Europe. Ukraine has blocked all our gas transit efforts," Medvedev was quoted as saying. — PTI 

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SBI fund for infra projects

Ahmedabad, January 13
The country's largest public sector lender, State Bank of India, today entered into an agreement with the Gujarat government to create a Rs 5,000-crore fund for investing in equity of infrastructure projects.

"We have signed an MoU with the Gujarat government to create a fund of Rs 5,000 crore to invest in equity of infrastructure project," SBI chairman O P Bhatt said.

This will be over and above the deployment of Rs 30,000 crore in SMEs, he said. The investment comes close on the heels of an announcement made by Bhatt yesterday at the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors' Summit. — PTI 

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BRIEFLY

Rupee at 5-week low
Mumbai
: The rupee on Tuesday crossed the crucial 49-level and ended at a five-week low of 49.12/14 against the greenback, cheaper by another 29 paise on growing fears of capital outflow amid a continued slide in local stocks. The domestic currency has lost 84 paise in two days after a smart recovery to 49.28/29 a dollar on January 9. — PTI

GAIL’s investment plan
New Delhi
: State-run gas utility GAIL India Ltd will invest Rs 5,000 crore in the next 3-4 years to set up a CNG corridor across the country, company chairman U D Choubey said on Tuesday. "We have identified 230 cities for retailing compressed natural gas (CNG) to automobiles and pipe cooking gas to households," he said.— PTI

ONGC to invest $5.3 b by 2013
New Delhi
: ONGC will invest $5.3 billion in developing gas finds in two of its eastern offshore Krishna Godavari basin blocks to produce 25 million standard cubic meters per day of gas by 2013. "The Directorate General of Hydrocarbons has approved our appraisal plan for the gas discoveries in deep-sea block KG-DWN-98/2. We plan to drill six appraisal wells to assess the potential and delineate the discoveries," a company official said.— PTI

M&M launches 'Xylo'
Nashik
: Leading automobile maker Mahindra & Mahindra on Tuesday launched Xylo, a multi-purpose vehicle, targeting high-end consumers. Priced lesser than Innova 'Xylo E2', the basic model, would come at Rs 6.78 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi, and 'Xylo E8', the advanced version, is priced at Rs 8.40 lakh.— PTI

Gold tumbles by Rs 350
New Delhi
: Gold prices crashed to lose Rs 350 at Rs 13,150 per 10 gram in the national capital on Tuesday on hectic selling by stockists sparked by a weak global trend and drying up of retail buying. Silver also tumbled by Rs 570 to Rs 17,920 per kg. The metal suffered heavy losses after its prices dropped in London for the third straight day as the dollar strengthened against the euro and oil prices slipped, reducing the metal’s appeal as an alternative investment and hedge against inflation.— PTI

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