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Upfront

Print Edition: March 3, 2013

AIR SHOW

  • Nearly 700 companies from 78 countries exhibited their wares at the biennial Aero India exposition in Bangalore, to woo India, the world's biggest importer of weaponry. However, global defence vendors Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Eurofighter and Saab did not showcase their flagship combat aircraft.


CORPORATE

  • After telecom giants Vodafone and Nokia, it is now the turn of Shell to face the taxmen. The income tax office has slapped a notice on the Anglo-Dutch oil company, claiming it had underpriced a share sale to its parent company in 2009. The tax department has proposed an adjustment of Rs 155 billion. Shell has termed the demand inaccurate and said it plans to challenge the order.
  • There is no end to the Sahara Group's troubles with the market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi). Now, the Supreme Court has said that Sebi is free to freeze the accounts and seize properties of two Sahara Group companies - Sahara India Real Estate Corp. Ltd and Sahara Housing Investment Corp. Ltd - for defying court orders by not refunding Rs 24,000 crore to investors.
  • A handful of Indian software product firms has formed a think tank, called the Indian Software Product Industry Round Table (iSpirt). Sharad Sharma, Chair of the NASSCOM Product Forum, and Bharat Goenka, Managing Director of Tally Solutions, are part of the new group.
  • "We will look to impact and shape policy, open up the small and medium business market for software product companies, and do merger and acquisition connects," Goenka told BT. The software product industry is estimated to be worth $1.81 billion.
  • Indian banks recorded a sluggish growth in the April to December 2012 period. While advances grew 7.6 per cent compared to 10.4 per cent a year earlier, deposits rose 7.1 per cent as compared to 10.8 per cent a year ago. Corporate demand may pick up in the last two months of 2012/13.
  • Sebi has given conditional approval to United Spirits's stake sale to Diageo plc. This should lead to an infusion of cash into the debt-ridden UB Group. Vijay Mallya's Kingfisher Airlines, also from the same group, has reported a third quarter loss of Rs 755.17 crore as compared to Rs 444.26 crore in the corresponding period a year ago.
  • Dell founder CEO Michael Dell
    The fate of India's biggest foreign investment, the POSCO project in Odisha, continues to hang in the balance. The state government's land acquisition drive for the Korean company's $12 billion project, which was conceived in 2005, has come to a halt due to local opposition.
  • Dell Inc. has reached a $24.4 billion deal to take itself private. Michael Dell, who started the company in 1984 in his dorm room at the University of Texas, will continue to lead the company as Chairman and Chief Executive.
  • In the first federal enforcement action against a credit rating agency over allegedly illegal actions related to the recent financial crisis, the US government has launched a civil lawsuit against Standard & Poor's and its parent, The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc., over mortgage bond ratings.


ECONOMY

  • Banks were approached for debt restructuring in a record 126 cases during 2012, for a total amount of Rs 84,000 crore (over $15 billion). During the October to December 2012 quarter, 25 cases were referred for corporate debt restructuring for an aggregate amount of over Rs 20,000 crore, according to data available with the CDR cell of bankers.
  • India's services sector grew at its fastest pace in 12 months in January 2013, thanks to an increase in new business orders, according to the HSBC Purchasing Managers Index. The HSBC Services Business Activity Index rose to 57.5 in January, up from 55.6 in December 2012.
  • The government is expected to spend Rs 36,800 crore on IT products and services in 2013, an increase of 10.5 per cent over 2012, according to research firm Gartner. This is against revenue of Rs 33,300 crore in 2012, which included spending by government organisations on internal IT (including personnel), hardware, software, external IT services and telecommunications.
  • Thirty-seven players were bought in the IPL-6 auction, which saw $11.8 million spent. In an otherwise low-key affair in Chennai, Mumbai Indians beat stiff bidding by Hyderabad Sunrisers to snap up Australian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell for a whopping $1 million. Players bought in this auction are available only for the tournament in April. Team compositions are slated to undergo a major change next year.
  • $1 trillion: Global Internet retail sales crossed this magic figure for the first time in 2012. North America took the top slot for ecommerce in 2012, with a growth of 13.9 per cent and $364 billion in sales. The Asia-Pacific region is expected to take the top slot with 30 per cent growth in 2013, according to research firm eMarketer.
  • $615 mn: The fine paid by Britain's Royal Bank of Scotland to settle charges that it had manipulated the Libor interest rate benchmark. This will be the second-largest penalty in the probe, involving over a dozen banks. Barclays has already paid $450 million in fines for manipulating Libor.


MARKETS

  • The government sold a 9.5 per cent stake in NTPC, the country's largest power producer, as part of its drive to raise Rs 27,000 crore in the current fiscal year by selling shares in profitable public sector firms. It had raised over Rs 10,000 crore by selling stakes in NMDC, HCL, National Buildings Construction Corporation and Oil India.
  • A Reserve Bank of India panel has a prescription to cure the craze for gold demand. It has suggested limiting gold imports, having a gold bank, allowing unlimited lending against gold by banks and the levy of a higher import duty. Soaring demand for gold has contributed to pushing the current account deficit to a record 5.4 per cent of the GDP.


COMING UP

  • The board of Etihad Airways, the Abu Dhabi-based airline, will take a final call on investing in Jet Airways. Etihad and Jet are currently in talks and the former may pick up a 24 per cent stake in the latter for about Rs 1,600 crore.
  • The Budget Session of Parliament will begin on February 21 and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram will present the Budget on February 28. The session, which will stretch over seven weeks, will have a month-long break from March 22 to April 22 and will conclude on May 10. The Railway Budget will be presented on February 26 and the Economic Survey will be tabled the next day.


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