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Upfront

Print Edition: Dec 25, 2011

In a breather for corporate executives embroiled in the 2G scam, the Supreme Court nod led to a spate of bail applications being accepted. The lucky ones include Unitech Wireless MD Sanjay Chandra, Swan Telecom Director Vinod Goenka and Reliance ADAG's Hari Nair, Gautam Doshi and Surrendra Pipara. DMK MP Kanimozhi, too, managed bail. A. Raja has not moved court as yet.

CORPORATE
Mukesh Ambani's bid to buy Bharti Group's equity in two insurance ventures with French group AXA has fallen through. According to a Reliance Industries statement, the parties could not agree on the long-term vision and joint governance of the ventures. Separately, Reliance plans to raise over $1 billion in foreign currency convertible bonds. It is likely to use the proceeds from the 10-year bonds to fund its shale gas ventures in the United States, and for investments related to its Jamnagar refinery.

Car makers, caught in a sluggish market, finally had something to cheer about. November saw much-needed growth, spurred mainly by new models. Hyundai's sales increased 10.97 per cent to 35,000 units over the same month last year. Tata Motors' domestic passenger vehicles sales stood at 27,737 units, up 80.81 per cent. There was no respite for market leader Maruti Suzuki, though. It reported a 19 per cent fall in sales to 82,870 units.

Despite the slowdown, Hero MotoCorp, the world's biggest twowheeler maker, decided to raise wages across the board. Hero's factories are in the same Gurgaon-Manesar industrial belt which has Maruti's new plant, the scene of crippling strikes through this year.

Ranbaxy Laboratories launched the generic version of the world's largest selling drug, Lipitor, in the US. Moving quickly after Pfizer's patent on the drug expired, Ranbaxy got the nod from the US Food and Drug Administration to make and sell atorvastatin, the chemical name for Lipitor. The cholesterol-reducing medicine fetched $10 billion in global sales in 2010. Ranbaxy has also roped in Israel's Teva Pharmaceuticals to maximise its gains - which could touch $600 million - during the 180 days of exclusivity the latter enjoys.

Air India's financial restructuring plan is ready to take off. A consortium of lenders, including State Bank of India, IDBI & Bank of Baroda, broadly cleared the plan. The government is considering a package of about Rs 30,000 crore for the airline over 10 years.

Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook said it planned to raise about $10 billion in an initial public offering. This would value the world's largest social-networking site at more than $100 billion.

It is not just in India; high fuel costs are hurting airlines elsewhere, too. American Airlines, the third-largest US carrier, and its parent AMR, filed for bankruptcy protection to cut labour costs. AMR has assets of $24.72 billion and liabilities of $29.55 billion.

ECONOMY
The Indian economy expanded at its slowest pace in over two years in the July-September quarter. The gross domestic product grew by 6.9 per cent in this period, compared with 8.4 per cent a year ago. Hard days are ahead, warned Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Global rating agency Standard & Poor's affirmed an investment grade with a 'stable' outlook for 10 Indian banks, including State Bank of India, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Axis Bank and IDBI Bank. This comes soon after S&P downgraded as many as 15 large banks globally, including Bank of America, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs.

Political tremors were felt in Kerala and Tamil Nadu over a dam. Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy asked Tamil Nadu to lower the water level of the Mullaperiyar Dam, for safety reasons - the structure is more than 100 years old and the region where it is located has seen several tremors lately, at least 20 since July. Tamil Nadu moved the Supreme Court accusing Kerala of whipping up a "fear psychosis".

$58 bn Estimated remittances to India, making it the highest recipient, in 2011, according to a World Bank report. Remittances to developing countries are likely to rise by a fifth to $351 billion this year.

74.4% The fiscal deficit increased to Rs 3.07 trillion (1 trillion equals 100,000 crore), or 74.4 per cent of Budget estimates, in the first seven months of 2011/12 compared with 42.6 per cent during the same period last year.

0.78 paise Reduction in petrol prices per litre by state-owned oil marketing companies. This is the second cut in less than a month.

MARKETS

At least 25 companies, mostly real estate and power firms, have called off their initial public offers, or IPOs, in 2011 faced with a sluggish market. They were expected to raise Rs 31,000 crore to fund expansion plans, according to brokerage firm SMC Global Securities. The companies had obtained the approval of market regulator SEBI, but could not launch their IPOs within the validity period of one year from the date of approval.

The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority, has stipulated that only those life insurers which have completed 10 years of operations will be allowed to float IPOs. There are 24 life insurance companies in India with total assets worth Rs 13 trillion. Less than a dozen of them are eligible, but they too may tap the market only after conditions improve.

Coming Up
The Auto Expo 2012, beginning on January 7 in New Delhi, will showcase at least 60 new vehicles, and more than 1,000 in all. In the global line-up are BMW Mini, Bugatti, Audi and Mercedes Benz. Sports utility vehicles and super bikes, including Triumph and Harley Davidson, are expected to steal the show. India's largest car maker Maruti will exhibit its new SUV.

The Reserve Bank of India will come out with its third quarter review of the monetary policy for the current fiscal year on January 29. The apex bank's review may signal another interest rate hike to tighten money supply to contain rising inflation.

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