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Chiaroscuro

     Print Edition: September 18, 2011

CORPORATE

  • Anna Hazare's campaign against financial corruption and his demand that no one should be exempt from the law gripped the public imagination. The corporate world is not immune: big companies fear that the political paralysis will affect decision-making. Many young executives have also joined the crowds thronging to Hazare. But small and medium enterprises, or SMEs, say most corruption cases are an outcome of complex laws that make it easier for them to bribe babus if they want to focus on running their businesses. Business Today captures the sentiments.
  • Talking of corruption, in the trials of those accused in the 2G spectrum sale scam, former Telecom Minister A. Raja and DMK chief Karunanidhi's daughter and MP Kanimozhi want Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to testify that there was no loss to the exchequer on account of government allotting wireless spectrum in 2008.
  • GVK Power and Infrastructure finally exercised its first right to buy stake held by Siemens in Bangalore International Airport Ltd, or BIAL, even though it hated the price it had to pay. It had no option: Singapore's Changi International and the Tatas were eyeing the Siemens stake. GVK paid Rs 614 crore for a 14 per cent slice, increasing its stake to 43 per cent. Siemens still has 26 per cent. The deal values BIAL at Rs 4,384 crore.
  • The Income-Tax department wants Mahindra Satyam to pay Rs  2,114 crore for assessment years 2002/03 and 2007/08 when founder B. Ramalinga Raju, since ousted, allegedly orchestrated finanical fraud. The current management is contesting the claim, as the taxman has not excluded what was paid earlier on fictitious income by Raju's management.
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  • Just ahead of the launch of its much-awaited compact car Brio, Honda has slashed the price of its premium hatchback Jazz by up to Rs 1.62 lakh. Jazz, now priced at Rs 5.50 lakh, is pitched against Hyundai's i20, Maruti Suzuki's Swift and Volkswagen's Polo, among others. Despite discount schemes, Jazz's sales had dipped to about 250 units a month from 500 at launch.
  • In a blow to real estate developers and a victory for consumers who are given the short end of the stick, Competition Commission of India, or CCI, has imposed a Rs 630 crore penalty on India's largest real estate developer, DLF, for "abuse of market dominance and unfair trade practices". The penalty amounts to seven per cent of the average annual turnover of Rs 9,006 crore over the last three years. CCI ordered DLF to desist from "unfair conditions" in its agreements with buyers in Gurgaon.
  • It's chips down for the famed Hewlett-Packard. The largest technology company by revenue will no longer make smartphones and tablet computers, and will spin off the personal computer business. CEO Leo Apotheker feels HP cannot cater to both consumers and corporations. HP will continue to sell servers and other equipment to business customers. The revamp will cost an estimated $1 billion. But the news cost HP $16 billion in marketcap, as shareholders gave a thumbs-down to Apotheker's decision and his vague comments.
  • Google is acquiring Motorola's cellphone business, Motorola Mobility Holdings, for $12.5 billion. Motorola makes phones that run on Google's Android operating system. Armed with this purchase, Google will take Apple head on in mobile telephony.
  • Charismatic Apple CEO Steve Jobs has resigned. Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook will be his successor. Jobs will now be the chairman of Apple's board. Cook has handled Apple affairs earlier on three occasions when Jobs took medical leave in 2004, 2009 and in early 2011. Cook has to keep the popularity of iPhone, iPad, and other products going with new innovations.
ECONOMY
The government will not sell shares in the companies it owns until market conditions are favourable, says Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. At stake is its earlier plan to raise Rs 40,000 crore in the current fi nancial year by such share sales. So far, it has raised Rs 1,162 crore by selling a fi ve per cent slice in Power Fin Corp. The decision will affect the plans of Hindustan Copper and Steel Authority of India. Oil and Natural Gas Corp has already had to postpone its follow-on public offer three times. Cashrich domestic institutional investors are stocking up on blue chips and mid-cap stocks. Mutual funds have bought shares worth Rs 1,584 crore in August. Food infl ation rose to 9.8 per cent for the week ended August 13, on the back of dearer onions and fruits. Seeing a different picture, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had expressed confi dence that headline infl ation would come down to six per cent by the year-end.

Aa3
Downgrade of Japan's credit rating by Moody's. The rating agency has blamed Japan's large budget deficits and debt since the 2009 global recession. Tokyo promptly announced a $100 billion credit facility to deal with the rise in yen and help exports.

MARKETS
In a fortnight of twists and turns, Coal India had briefly toppled Reliance Industries as the country's most valuable company in terms of market capitalisation. Another public sector major, Oil and Natural Gas Corp, had also pipped Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance to occupy the second slot. But at the time of going to press, RIL, which has topped the market valuation charts for over four years, had retained its numero uno slot. Teaser loans are back again. First off the block, ICICI Bank is offering home loans with a choice of fi xed rate for either one or two years, at differential rates for various slabs. Under the two-year offer, the rate will be 10.75 per cent for loans up to Rs 25 lakh. Separately, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has asked the government-owned banks to refrain from increasing the equated monthly instalments to help borrowers.

COMING UP

Come October, the dream of watching a Formula 1 race in India will become a reality. Bharti Airtel has bagged the title sponsorship of the Grand Prix. The 3.19-mile track in Greater Noida is all spruced up and geared for spectators, and 30 per cent of them expected to land from overseas, according to Formula 1 Group CEO Bernie Ecclestone. Let the race begin.

The auction world is gearing up for the sale of actor Richard Gere's collection of 110 guitars in New York on October 11. The proceeds will be spent on humanitarian causes around the world.

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