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Asian stocks down on US worries 
Hong Kong, March 9
An investor gazes at a share price board in Tokyo on Monday. Japanese share prices fell 87.07 points to close at 7,086.03 points, the lowest level in more than 26 years as fears deepened about the health of Asia's biggest economy. Japan's Nikkei average struck a 26-year low on Monday and other Asian markets slipped on worries about the fate of General Motors and US banks, while the yen edged up in a slight reversal of its broad slide.

An investor gazes at a share price board in Tokyo on Monday. Japanese share prices fell 87.07 points to close at 7,086.03 points, the lowest level in more than 26 years as fears deepened about the health of Asia's biggest economy. — AFP 

Satyam begins sale process
CBI gets custody of Raju brothers
Hyderabad, March 9
Inching towards finding a strategic investor, the fraud-hit Satyam Computer Services today announced the commencement of the bidding process to sell 51 per cent stake in the company through global auction.

Monitor family-run businesses: ADB
New Delhi, March 9
With Satyam scandal and the ban on Wipro by the World Bank driving away some potential customers, an Asian Development Bank-sponsored study today highlighted the need for close monitoring of family-run businesses in India.



This handout image shows the logo for Merck & Co, Inc. US pharmaceutical giants Merck and Schering-Plough announced their merger on Monday in a stock-and-cash transaction valued at $41.1 billion. The combined company will bear the name Merck after the transaction is completed. — AFP 


EARLIER STORIES



Managing director and CEO of Mercedes-Benz India, Wilfried Aulbur (L) and director for sales and marketing Mercedes India, Debashish Mitra pose with a new Mercedes M-Class car at its launch in New Delhi
Managing director and CEO of Mercedes-Benz India, Wilfried Aulbur (L) and director for sales and marketing Mercedes India, Debashish Mitra pose with a new Mercedes M-Class car at its launch in New Delhi on Monday. The car is priced at Rs 54 lakh. Tribune photo: Manas Ranjan Bhui

Mobile tariffs set to fall
Termination charges cut by 33 pc
New Delhi, March 9
Call charges over your mobile phones are set to come down over the next few days with the telecom regulator TRAI today slashing the domestic termination charges by 33 per cent. Termination charges are paid by one operator to another on whose network the call ends.

Vedanta eyes more buyouts
New Delhi, March 9
After clinching Asarco's buyout deal at $1.7 billion, NRI billionaire Anil Agarwal-led Vedanta Resources is looking at more acquisitions in mining in view of lower valuations of these assets due to slowdown.

Andhra IT industry beats recession blues
Hyderabad, March 9
Despite the global recession, the software exports from Andhra Pradesh continued to grow during the first three quarters of the current financial year.

SAT stays SEBI order on Shankar Sharma 
Mumbai, March 9
The Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT) today stayed market regulator SEBI's order against Shankar Sharma, director of brokerage firm First Global.

Global markets lost $50 tn in 2008: ADB 
New Delhi, March 9
Financial markets across the world lost a whopping $50 trillion, including $9.6 trillion in the developing Asian market, which were the hardest hit by the global economic crisis, a latest ADB report said.

Reliance keen on reviving pumps 
New Delhi, March 9
Reliance Industries is seeking partnership with state-run fuel retailers IndianOil, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum for reviving its shut petrol pumps and boost aviation refuelling business.

Rupee loses 17 paise 
Mumbai, March 9
The Indian rupee today depreciated by 17 paise to close at 51.87/89 against the greenback on bearish equity markets amid sustained capital outflows and dollar-buying by foreign banks. A stronger dollar overseas also weighed on the rupee. The dollar was higher against other major currencies in Asian trade today.

OVL seeks more time for Nigerian oil blocks
New Delhi, March 9
ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) has sought more time from the Nigerian government to decide on takeover of two highly prospective deep-sea oil blocks in the African nation as approval for its $291 million investment decision may have to wait till general elections are completed.







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Asian stocks down on US worries 

Hong Kong, March 9
Japan's Nikkei average struck a 26-year low on Monday and other Asian markets slipped on worries about the fate of General Motors and US banks, while the yen edged up in a slight reversal of its broad slide.

The drop in stocks, led by automakers and financials, sparked gains in the yen and government bonds. Oil prices jumped for a second day on expectations of more OPEC supply cuts.

Japan's broad TOPIX index touched a 25-year intra-day low as the country's shares fare the worst among Asian markets, while the Shanghai Composite index slid as investors locked in profits on blue-chip companies after a rally this year of nearly 20 per cent.

In contrast, European indexes were set to rise at the start of trade, financial bookmakers said.

Asian stock markets have held up better than others in the United States and Europe on expectations that households and governments in the region have more scope to keep spending because they are less indebted.

Hopes that China will do everything it can to keep the economy chugging at an 8 per cent annual growth rate have also underpinned Asian stocks.

Asia strategist at BNP Paribas in Hong Kong, said that Asian equity markets were unlikely to outperform in an environment where the collapse in exports is showing few signs of abating.

Figures on Monday showed Japan suffered its biggest current account deficit on record in January on plunging shipments abroad.

The MSCI index of Asia-Pacific stocks outside Japan dipped 0.2 per cent following a slight rise in the US S&P 500 on Friday despite dismal data showing US unemployment surging to a 25-year high in February.

Stocks slumped globally last week on renewed concerns about the impact of the crisis in the United States as the government stepped in with another lifeline for insurer AIG and GM's auditors raised doubts about its ability to avoid bankruptcy.

Seoul's KOSPI index bucked the trend and climbed 1.6 per cent. But a 13 per cent slide in shares of HSBC before an expected rights issue this week dragged Hong Kong's Hang Seng down 2.7 percent.

Foreign investors have been persistent sellers of Asian stocks, one of the factors knocking regional currencies lower.

Fund tracker EPFR Global said that Asia ex-Japan equity funds saw the biggest outflows among emerging market regions in the week ending last Wednesday, seeing $1.09 billion yanked out — the most in 20 weeks.

Overall $10.4 billion was pulled out of global stock funds followed by EPFR Global.

Oil prices gained 83 cents to $46.35 a barrel, gaining nearly 7 per cent in the past two trading sessions on expectations OPEC will cut supplies further. But gold dipped $4.25 an ounce to $935.40.— Reuters

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Satyam begins sale process
CBI gets custody of Raju brothers
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, March 9
Inching towards finding a strategic investor, the fraud-hit Satyam Computer Services today announced the commencement of the bidding process to sell 51 per cent stake in the company through global auction.

The bidders for Satyam will have to register their Expression of Interest (EoI) in participating in the bidding by March 12 and the deadline for putting in the financial bids is March 20.

“Commencing today, all interested bidders should register their interest in participating in the bidding process,” the company said in a statement.

The government-appointed board of Satyam will not stipulate a minimum floor price as the requirement has been waived by the capital market regulator SEBI.

Bidders will have to submit a detailed EoI with proof on the availability of funds of at least Rs 1,500 crore. The selection process will be overseen by a former Chief Justice of India or a former Supreme Court judge appointed by the company.

Based on the EoIs, eligible bidders will be shortlisted and given access to certain business, financial and legal diligence materials relating to Satyam, provided they have executed a non-disclosure and non-solicitation agreement, a stand-still agreement and a 'no-claims' undertaking.

Once the bidder is selected, it will have to submit the subscription amount and funds for open offer, in an escrow account, within four days.

The SEBI had on March 6 gave its nod to Satyam to sell the majority stake to a strategic investor.

Meanwhile, a local court here today sent Satyam's disgraced founder chairman B Ramalinga Raju, his younger brother and former managing director Rama Raju and three others to CBI custody for seven days from tomorrow.

Apart from Raju brothers, the CBI will interrogate the company’s former chief financial officer V Srinivas and global auditing firm Price Waterhouse's partners S Gopalakrishnan and T Srinivas in connection with the Rs 7,800-crore accounting fraud in the software giant.

Scrip up 16%

New Delhi: The company found a positive response from two key suitors — L&T and Spice Corp.

Shares in Satyam jumped as much as 16 per cent, valuing the company at about $630 million, way behind the $7 billion valuation it commanded last year. Shares of the beleaguered company closed at Rs 48.75, up 15.80 per cent. Engineering and construction firm Larsen & Toubro Ltd, which is a 12 per cent shareholder in the company, said it hopes to bid.

"We expect we will (bid for Satyam). We are a contender," spokesman D Morada told PTI. He said the bidding has no link with L&T's shareholding. These are two separate issues. Spice group chairman B K Modi said his company would bid for Satyam. "We are going to bid. It is a good start and we will bid before Thursday (March 12, when prospective bidders are to register)," he said. — PTI

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Monitor family-run businesses: ADB

New Delhi, March 9
With Satyam scandal and the ban on Wipro by the World Bank driving away some potential customers, an Asian Development Bank-sponsored study today highlighted the need for close monitoring of family-run businesses in India.

"The Satyam scandal in India highlights the need for sound enforcement of more rigorous accounting standards. A particular area for close study is monitoring of family-run businesses," said the ADB report on Impact of Global Economic Slowdown on South Asia.

It said the recent bad press from India following the scandal surrounding Satyam Computer Services and the business ban on Wipro by the World Bank would have driven away some potential customers.

The suggestion by ADB report came as Satyam Computer Services fell into a rough weather after its founder chairman B Ramalinga Raju confessed to fudging of accounts. To revive the company, the government dismissed its board and replaced it with the new one. The new board is currently in the process of finding a strategic investor.

Also, India's third largest software exporter Wipro was recently debarred for four years from doing business with the World Bank on charges of offering improper benefits to the Bank staff. — PTI 

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Mobile tariffs set to fall
Termination charges cut by 33 pc
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 9
Call charges over your mobile phones are set to come down over the next few days with the telecom regulator TRAI today slashing the domestic termination charges by 33 per cent. Termination charges are paid by one operator to another on whose network the call ends.

The regulator has reduced the termination charges on local calls to 20 paise a minute from existing 30 paise.

Termination charge for all types of domestic calls like fixed to fixed, fixed to mobile, mobile to fixed and mobile to mobile has been reduced to 20 paise per minute from 30 paise per minute, TRAI said in a release.

These initiatives are expected to pull down the existing call rates in the country, which at 50 paise per minute is lowest in the world. The new operators such as Datacom, Unitech, Shyam-Sistema and Loop Telecom, among others, were demanding 0-10 paise per minute termination charge whereas the existing GSM operators were opposing any reduction in the charges, fearing their revenue would take a hit.

However, the international calls made from overseas into the country would be costing more now as the regulator has increased the termination charge for incoming international call to 40 paise from existing 30 paise per minute.

The authority expects that the service providers would pass on this benefit in the form of lower tariff for outgoing international calls, the release added.

The ceiling on carriage of domestic long-distance calls has been retained at 65 paise per minute. TRAI expects the non-reduction of this ceiling to encourage national long-distance operators to expand into rural areas.

Reacting to the changes, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) Director General TV Ramachandran said the revised termination charge of 20 paise per minute did not appear to have factored in all costs associated with the termination of a mobile call.

He stated that as per the calculations based on international best practices, the three-year forward looking MTC was calculated to be around 35 paise per minute and it was inexplicable how the value of 20 paise per minute had been determined.

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Vedanta eyes more buyouts

New Delhi, March 9
After clinching Asarco's buyout deal at $1.7 billion, NRI billionaire Anil Agarwal-led Vedanta Resources is looking at more acquisitions in mining in view of lower valuations of these assets due to slowdown.

"... this is the time (to buy mining firms) because in resource sector it is really difficult to acquire ... in this distress if anything comes of our line then we will look at it and I think things will come ... but at the same time we are very cautious," Vedanta Resources chairman Anil Agarwal told PTI in an exclusive interview.

Sterlite Industries, the Indian arm of London-based Vedanta Resources, last week entered into a deal to buyout America's third largest copper producer Asarco for $1.7 billion. Going-ahead with its buyout plans, Agarwal said if such acquisitions take place it would be mainly in Central and South America, Canada and Australia.

With Asarco in its fold, India's leading copper producer Sterlite, is slated to be amongst the world's top three blue metal firms in the world with the combined annual capacity expected to double to 1.2 million tonnes by next year.

"This (Asarco) acquisition is in line with our strategy of leveraging our existing skills to become a diversified global copper producer and creating long-term value for shareholders," Sterlite chairman Anil Agarwal had said.

Vedanta Resources has operations primarily in India, Africa and Australia and is undertaking a massive capacity expansion at all its premises aimed at becoming the world's fifth largest metals and mining firm.

In India, the London Stock Exchange-listed firm operates through its flagship firm Sterlite Industries, which has controlling stake in leading metal and mining firms such as Hindustan Zinc, Balco, Malco, Sesa Goa. — PTI

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Andhra IT industry beats recession blues
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, March 9
Despite the global recession, the software exports from Andhra Pradesh continued to grow during the first three quarters of the current financial year.

The software exports were pegged at Rs 27,650 crore up to third quarter ending December 31, 2008, as against Rs 26,000 crore for the whole of last fiscal, Secretary of the Union Ministry of Information and Communication Technology Jainder Singh said here.

Speaking after presenting the annual awards of Hyderabad Software Exporters Association (HYSEA) here yesterday, he said the IT sector contributed 52.09 per cent to the total exports from AP which has been performing consistently on exports front.

Five Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) sub-centres were opened at Visakhapatnam, Kakinada, Vijayawada, Warangal, and Tirupati. The promotion of the industry in tier-II cities yielded exports worth Rs 500 crore, Singh said.

The official appreciated the initiatives of the state government in promoting IT sector. Out of the 50 IT SEZs (Special Economic Zones) in the country, 36 have already been notified and they could create 100 million sq ft of space for the industry, Singh said.

The total IT business in India was projected to be at $60 billion out of which $47 billion would be exports alone. The Indian IT companies had opened 400 development centres in 200 cities across 55 countries, he said.

Overall, the IT sector was set to grow at 16-17 per cent, against 30 per cent last year. The state IT Secretary Ajay Misra said the government would stand by the industry in the hour of recession. 

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SAT stays SEBI order on Shankar Sharma 

Mumbai, March 9
The Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT) today stayed market regulator SEBI's order against Shankar Sharma, director of brokerage firm First Global.

Admitting the appeal by Shankar Sharma, Justice N K Sodhi observed, "Operation of the impugned order should remain stayed during the pendency of appeal." The case is to come up for final hearing on April 13.

SEBI on February 13 this year issued an order banning Sharma from taking part in trading activities for one year for allegedly indulging in fictitious trading in some securities that led to a crash in 2001 on the Bombay Stock Exchange.

The charge against Sharma was that First Global, in which he was a director, and Vrudhi Confinvest India, which was 100-per cent owned by him and another accused Devina Mehra, indulged in creation of large artificial volumes in 10 securities, which depressed prices of these shares in 2001.

On March 3, 2001, immediately after presentation of Budget, when the accused allegedly indulged in fictitious trading, the benchmark Sensex on BSE crashed, wiping out an estimated Rs 35,000 crore in market capitalisation. — PTI 

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Global markets lost $50 tn in 2008: ADB 

New Delhi, March 9
Financial markets across the world lost a whopping $50 trillion, including $9.6 trillion in the developing Asian market, which were the hardest hit by the global economic crisis, a latest ADB report said.

The global financial turmoil which sliced the value of the worldwide financial assets by as much as $50 trillion, has cost the developing Asian markets as much as 9.6 trillion dollar last year.

The Asian Development Bank stated that Asia was hit harder than other parts of the developing world because the region's markets have expanded much more rapidly.

"This is by far the most serious crisis to hit the world economy since the Great Depression. While this crisis originated in the US and some European countries, by now no region or country is insulated. I am afraid things may get worse before they get better," ADB president Haruhiko Kuroda.

However, I remain confident that Asia will be one of the first regions to emerge from it, and it will emerge stronger than ever before, Kuroda added. Further, ADB said that a recovery can now only be envisaged for late 2009 or early 2010.

"Most emerging market economies, including in developing Asia and Latin America are at a crossroads, and the next 12 to 18 months will be very difficult," the study stated.

However, no destruction of physical and human capital bodes well for a strong recovery, possibly more cautious and sustainable, after the adjustments in the financial markets are worked through over the next year or so, the report added.

The ADB estimates measure the losses in equity and bond markets, including those backed by mortgages and other assets, and the depreciation of many currencies against the US dollar.

Meanwhile, it does not include financial derivatives such as credit default swaps that further multiplied the size of the financial markets.

Besides, value of financial assets to GDP in developing Asia has risen to 370 per cent of GDP in 2007 from 250 per cent of GDP in 2003.

In Latin America, the ratio only rose by 30 per cent, with the result that estimated losses on financial assets were a much lower 2.1 trillion dollar, or 57 per cent of GDP.

The data provides clear proof of the close connections between markets and economies around the world, leaving few, countries immune to financial or economic fallouts elsewhere.

The report also stated that the world financial markets are closely interconnected and the impact of the world financial collapse on emerging economies is proof of the same.

Even as Asia and Latin America have diversified their investment and trading partners, effect of slowdown on exports, finance and investment is earthshaking, it added. — PTI 

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Reliance keen on reviving pumps 

New Delhi, March 9
Reliance Industries is seeking partnership with state-run fuel retailers IndianOil, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum for reviving its shut petrol pumps and boost aviation refuelling business.

Reliance has written to three retailers seeking partnership in both fuel retailing and aviation services businesses, industry sources said.

The company had shut all of its 1,432 petrol pumps in the country a year ago after sales dropped to almost nil as it could not match the subsidised price offered by public sector competition.

Reliance is keen on reopening these outlets with PSUs help. The company may want the state-run firms to supply petrol and diesel to its retail outlets as the only-for-exports status for both its refineries at Jamnagar in Gujarat makes it prohibitive for it to sell fuel domestically.

A company spokesperson did not return call for comments.

Jamnagar-1 is an export-oriented unit while Jamnagar-2 is an SEZ refineries. The EoU status of 660,000 barrels per day Jamnagar-1 will end in March 2010 and supplying fuel domestically from it would attract double excise and customs duties, jacking up rates by Rs 9-10 a litre.

A source said the state-run firms have not responded to the proposal by Reliance, which may want to retain ownership and operatorship of the petrol pumps.

Reliance, which entered the high-growth aviation fuel segment in 2007 and has presence at 14 airports in India, may want an infrastructure sharing arrangement with the PSUs who are a dominant jet fuel re-fueller at airports. — PTI

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Rupee loses 17 paise 

Mumbai, March 9
The Indian rupee today depreciated by 17 paise to close at 51.87/89 against the greenback on bearish equity markets amid sustained capital outflows and dollar-buying by foreign banks. A stronger dollar overseas also weighed on the rupee. The dollar was higher against other major currencies in Asian trade today.

In fairly active trade at the Forex market, the domestic unit opened steady at 51.70/72 a dollar from Friday's close of 51.71/72 and moved in a range of 51.55 and 52.02. It finally settled at 51.87/89.

Looking at the firm dollar overseas, foreign banks were believed to be buyers, expecting a further rise in the US currency.

Sluggish equity markets also put pressure on the rupee as the Indian benchmark Sensex ended down by 165.42 points or 1.99 per cent while most of the Asian indices also displayed weak trends at close today.— PTI

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OVL seeks more time for Nigerian oil blocks

New Delhi, March 9
ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) has sought more time from the Nigerian government to decide on takeover of two highly prospective deep-sea oil blocks in the African nation as approval for its $291 million investment decision may have to wait till general elections are completed.

OVL last month sought an extension of the 60-day deadline set by Nigeria for payment of signature bonus for taking 60 per cent stake in blocks 321 and 323 as Oil Ministry declined to take its proposal to the Cabinet before new government takes over in May-end, industry sources said.

The company had in August 2005 won blocks 321 and 323, which hold inplace reserves of two billion barrels each, committing $485 million in signing amount. — PTI

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BRIEFLY

Mumbai
Kalpataru bags Rs 385-cr pipeline project
:
Kalpataru Power Transmission on Monday said it has bagged a Rs 385-crore contract from HPCL-Mittal Energy joint venture for an oil pipeline project. "Under the contract, the company would lay nearly 550 kilometers long pipeline of Mundra-Bhatinda Pipeline project for crude oil transportation between the two cities," Kalpataru said in a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange.— PTI

HCL-Nautilus Hyosung tie-up: HCL Infosystems, the domestic arm of the HCL group, on Monday announced its tie-up with Korean ATM major Nautilus Hyosung for co-production and selling of multi-function Automatic Teller Machines (ATM). Addressing newsmen here, HCL Infosystems COO J V Ramamurthy said the tie-up included possible exports to other countries with Nautilus Hyuosung using India as a hub.— UNI

New Delhi
Gold extends losses
:
Extending loses gold prices fell by another Rs 40 to close at Rs 15,375 per 10 gram in the bullion market here on Monday on selling by stockists influenced by weakening global trend. Silver followed suit and lost Rs 300 to settle the day at Rs 21,800 per kg as selling remained unabated as the metal prices continued to slide in overseas market.— PTI

SC notice to British Airways: The Supreme Court has issued notice to the British Airways on a petition filed by the income tax department alleging that the airline has failed to deduct TDS on various allowances paid to its employees. — PTI

Dubai
Mumbai-Kuwait flight
:
Jet Airways on Monday announced new direct flight between the Arab nation and Mumbai. The airlines will operate new flight aboard a state-of-the-art Boeing 737-800 aircraft from March 29, a statement said.— PTI

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