Need to Know | Fortis India names heads of equity, fixed income

Need to Know | Fortis India names heads of equity, fixed income

Mumbai: The Indian mutual fund arm of Belgian-Dutch financial group Fortis has appointed Sameer Narayan as head of equity and Alok Singh as head of fixed income, the firm said in a notice on Tuesday.

The duo replace K.C. Reddy, who quit the firm as chief investment officer in November. Narayan and Singh have been managing funds for Fortis Investment Management (India) Pvt. Ltd since September 2006 and February 2005, respectively.



Rajesh Saxena to be Amex’s new India head

Mumbai: American Express on Tuesday said it was appointing Rajesh Saxena as chief executive officer for American Express Banking Corp. (AEBC), India. Saxena will head the country executive team and directly manage the international consumer card and small business services, leading the company’s marketing, acquisition, product development and insurance areas, the bank said in a statement.

Saxena will be based in Gurgaon and report to John Steward, executive vice president, ICSS, World Markets.

An 18-year veteran of consumer and retail banking, Saxena joins from Citibank where he most recently headed sales and marketing, Citi Cards, in Japan.

—Staff Writer


India, Australia sign pact to recognize CAs

New Delhi: The country’s apex accounting body, The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, or Icai, on Tuesday signed a pact with the Australian chartered accountancy entity CPA for mutual recognition of each others professionals, a move that will enable Indian CAs to practise there.

The agreement will be effective from 1 April and will help Indian chartered accountants practise with ease in Australia after they fulfil the formalities for being a member of CA Australia.

Icai had signed similar agreement with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales.



Ashok Leyland slashes spending on truck slump

Mumbai: India’s second-biggest truck maker Ashok Leyland Ltd will cut spending plans by as much as 39% and review a venture with Nissan Motor Co. as a slowing economy saps demand for commercial vehicles.

The company expects to spend Rs2000 crore ($410 million) in the three years starting 1 April compared with an earlier plan for Rs3,300, chief financial officer K. Sridharan said in an interview on Tuesday. The truckmaker may also cut the capacity of a new plant due to open next year, he added.

Ashok Leyland joins larger rival Tata Motors Ltd in slashing spending on new factories and facilities after slowing demand for commercial vehicles led to an 84% plunge in profit last quarter. Honda Motor Co. and other automakers are also delaying expansion in India as a cooling economy damps car and truck sales. The Chennai-based truck maker has delayed its venture with Nissan by between six and eight months.

Ashok Leyland gained 0.58% to close at Rs13.96 on the Bombay Stock Exchange. The stock has fallen 7% this year.



3 interviewed for RBI deputy governor’s post

New Delhi: Chiefs of three public sector banks, including Bank of India chairman T.S. Narayanasami, on Tuesday appeared for interview for the post of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) deputy governor.

Besides Narayanasami, chairman and managing directors of IDBI Bank Ltd (Yogesh Agrawal) and Canara Bank (A.C. Mahajan) appeared before the search committee headed by RBI governor D. Subbarao, persons familiar with the matter said.

The search panel was formed to shortlist candidates for the post that was left vacant by V. Leeladhar, who retired in December. Shortlisted names would be referred to the appointments committee of cabinet headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The post is expected to be filled this month, these persons said.

RBI has four deputy governors and Leeladhar was in charge of of banking operations and supervision.

The interview was originally slated for the last week of January but was postponed due to the demise of former President R. Venkataraman.

Narayanasami first became the chief of Andhra Bank in April 2004. Then, he moved to Indian Overseas Bank and finally to Bank of India in April 2007.

Agarwal was managing director of State Bank of India before joining IDBI Ltd in 2007, while Mahajan served as the chief of Allahabad Bank before moving to Canara Bank last year.


India allows duty-free raw sugar imports

New Delhi: India has allowed duty-free imports of raw sugar for domestic sale, a move that will raise purchases from Brazil and squeeze many domestic mills but may ease prices ahead of elections.

The widely expected decision by the world’s top sugar consumer was keenly awaited by the sugar trade around the world amid expectations that the country would buy 1.0 to 1.5 million tonnes (mt) of sugar, supporting prices.

Commerce minister Kamal Nath said on Tuesday that the government had approved the new import regime, called “tonne to tonne" by officials and traders.

This allows duty-free imports for local sale on the condition that a similar quantity of refined sugar is exported within two years.

It replaces the earlier policy, called “grain to grain", under which the importer was obliged to refine the imported consignment and export it.

“Yes, it has been allowed," Nath told reporters when asked if the change in policy had been approved.

Farm minister Sharad Pawar said last month that domestic sugar output was expected to fall 32% to 18mt in the year to September.



Balrampur Chini sees output falling by 38%

Mumbai: Balrampur Chini Mills Ltd expects its sugar output to fall 38% in the year to September 2009 on lower cane availability, which is likely to boost prices of the sweetener in the period, managing director Vivek Saraogi said.

Its sugar production may fall to 500 million kg in 2008-09 sugar year from 810 million last year, Saraogi said. The firm estimates India’s total output to drop to 16 million tonnes (mt) in 2008-09 from 26.3mt a year ago.

“There is a pressure on availability of cane. Sugar production is seen falling from 26mt to 16mt... we are seeing a 40% drop," he said on an earnings conference call on Tuesday.



‘Export sector may shed 1.5 mn jobs by March’

New Delhi: India could lose up to 1.5 million jobs in the export sector in the six months to March, the commerce secretary said in an interview broadcast on Tuesday.

With major markets for Indian goods such as the US and Europe struggling, many importing companies have scaled back their orders.

“If these projections continue... it’s quite likely that you can expect another five lakh (500,000) losses before 31 March," G.K. Pillai told the NDTV news channel after announcing that one million jobs had gone since August.

Exports for January were down more than 20%, continuing a trend of negative growth that began in October when exports tumbled for the first time in three years. India could still export $175 billion dollars worth of goods in the present fiscal year, down from the previous government estimate of $200 billion, Pillai said.

The Federation of Indian Export Organisations has said the job losses could be far worse, predicting the global economic slowdown would see at least 10 million Indians in the export sector become unemployed by March.

Pillai warned that some exporters, especially in the worst-hit textile and jewellery industries, would not survive.

“Some element of closures will take place. By the end of this year there will be a tremendous consolidation," he said.

India has unveiled a range of incentives for businesses in two economic stimulus packages since December but has so far rejected a large-scale bailout of any sector as has happened in the US.



FDI cap issue on various sectors unresolved

New Delhi: The empowered group of ministers (eGoM) on Tuesday night left unresolved the controversial issue of changing the formula that determines ceiling on foreign direct investment in different sectors.

“There are still some anomalies left ... we will have another meeting," commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath said after the eGoM meeting.

According to persons familiar with the matter, there were inter-ministerial differences on the proposal of the department of industrial policy and promotion that, if cleared, would have allowed foreign partners to lift the cap in sectors such as telecom and insurance.

Besides Pranab Mukherjee and Nath, telecom minister A. Raja and corporate affairs minister Prem Chand Gupta are members of the eGoM.



India to offer 100 blocks for oil exploration in Mar

Bagru (Jaipur): Unperturbed by the global economic crisis, India will launch next month its biggest ever auction of oil exploration blocks with about 100 areas likely to be offered for bidding.

“Next month, we will come out with the next round of bidding with about 100 blocks," petroleum secretary R.S. Pandey said at the function organized to inaugurate Mundra-Delhi pipeline.

Pandey said the round seven of New Exploration and Licensing Policy (Nelp) saw a maximum number of blocks being awarded and Nelp VIII will be even larger. “In Nelp VII, we signed contracts for 44 oil and gas blocks."

Later talking to reporters, he said the government was keen to keep economic activities alive during the global downturn so that the investments take place. “It is more important in slowdown that we generate maximum economic activity," he said.

Pandey, however, said there could be resource crunch for international oil companies due to global credit squeeze. “The major investments in Nelp blocks come only after four-five years of exploration. And we think things will improve by then," Pandey added.

Under the first six rounds of Nelp, a total investment of $8.3 billion (Rs40,504 crore) in exploration of oil and gas was committed, out of which about $4.5 billion has already been incurred on exploration and $1.4 billion on development of discoveries.

A further $1.5 billion exploration spend is budgeted for Nelp VII.

So far, 68 oil and gas discoveries in 19 blocks with in place reserves of 500 million tonnes of oil and oil-equivalent gas had been established.

With exploration development efforts made under Nelp, natural gas production in the country is likely to be doubled from its present level of about 80 million standard cubic metres per day by the end of 11th Plan.



Nuclear Power Corp to buy Areva’s reactors

New Delhi: State-run monopoly operator of atomic energy plants Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd plans to buy reactors from Areva SA, Sudhinder Thakur, executive director at Nuclear Power said.

The two companies will sign a preliminary agreement in New Delhi on Wednesday for Areva’s 1,650-megawatt EPR light water reactors that may be set up at Jaitapur in the western state of Maharashtra, Thakur said by telephone from Mumbai.

Final contracts may be signed later this year. Nuclear Power plans to initially set up two EPR reactors in western India and may increase the number to six to form a nuclear park, he said.

India needs to import technology and fuel to increase nuclear power output almost tenfold and end shortages of as much as 18% during peak-hour demand. The government expects to generate 63,000MW of nuclear power by 2030, compared with 4,120MW now, after a three-decade, international ban on atomic trade with India was lifted in September. India and the International Atomic Energy Agency signed an agreement on Monday that gives international inspectors access to the country’s 14 civilian nuclear reactors.



Free cellphones to fight Maoists in Jharkhand

Ranchi: Authorities in insurgency-hit Jharkhand are distributing free mobile phones to villagers to provide information about Maoist rebels, officials said.

The heads of about 220 villages in the eastern state of the country have been provided with a mobile phone each and users are provided with a list of police numbers to call as part of the latest strategy to fight Maoist insurgency.

“The idea of distributing mobile sets is to strengthen our network system in remote villages," Sudhir Kumar, police chief of the state’s East Singhbhum district, a Maoist hotbed, said. “We are getting a good response."

Villagers say the mobile phones are a useful tool in the fight against the Maoists. “One night we saw a few Maoist rebels roaming around our village. We used our mobile to pass on information," said Antu Hembrom, a village headman. “Police reacted fast and the rebels were arrested."



Pak summons its envoy in India for consultation

Islamabad:Pakistan’s high commissioner to India Shahid Malik arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday for consultations to finalize the country’s response to the Indian dossier on the Mumbai attacks, which is expected to be handed over this week.

Pakistan’s response is in its final stage and is being vetted by the foreign and interior ministries so that it can be handed over to India, diplomatic and other sources said. Malik arrived here on Tuesday morning following summons from the foreign office to return to help finalize Pakistan’s response.



Sri Lanka needs truce to save civilians: Caritas

Sydney: Sri Lanka’s army and Tamil Tiger rebels must declare a ceasefire to allow aid agencies to help more than 250,000 civilians trapped by fighting in the north, the aid group Caritas Australia said. Unless we can get access soon, this could quickly become a massive humanitarian catastrophe, Jack de Groot, the group’s chief executive officer, said in an emailed statement on Tuesday.

Caritas and the International Committee of the Red Cross have called on the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to allow civilians to leave conflict zones.

Civilians are caught in the Wanni and Mullaitivu districts in Sri Lanka’s north where the army has driven the Tamil rebels from its bases and is trying to end the group’s 26-year fight for a separate Tamil homeland.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government has declared safe zones for civilians and accuses the LTTE of bringing artillery into the areas. The LTTE has blamed the army for carrying out indiscriminate shelling of civilians in the zones.



SC stays cap on credit card interest rate

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed a consumer court order that capped interest rates charged by credit card companies at 30%.

The decision would allow credit card issuers to charge any interest rate they deem proper till the final verdict is pronounced.

Credit card issuers, including HSBC, Citibank, American Express and Standard Chartered, had moved the apex court against the order of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.



DLF shares at record low on fund-raising plans

Mumbai: Real estate developer DLF Ltd fell to a record low after the stock was downgraded to underperform by Macquarie Research on concern that its fund-raising plans lack clarity.

The 12-month stock price target for DLF was cut by 62% to Rs125, analyst Unmesh Sharma wrote in a note to clients on Tuesday. The New Delhi-based developer fell 13.2% to Rs132.85, the lowest since its trading debut in July 2007, at the close in Mumbai.

DLF, India’s worst performing benchmark stock this year, plans to cut home prices by 20% to revive demand that has stalled after bank credit slowed and economic growth faltered in Asia’s third largest economy. The developer, which posted a 69% decline in quarterly profit on 31 January, also plans to raise Rs2,000 crore in debt this quarter.

DLF plans to extend maturity on Rs4,000 crore of short-term debt, vice-chairman Rajiv Singh said on Monday. DLF Assets Ltd, controlled by Singh’s family, will also aim to raise as much as Rs2,500 crore from selling stakes, he said. DLF Assets buys commercial space from DLF Ltd.

Separately, shares of Unitech Ltd on Tuesday declined by 1.37% to close at Rs28.90 on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) when the BSE realty index, an index of 14 realty stocks was down by 7.58% amid rumours that the company has sold a 26% stake in the company to a clutch of private equity investors.

On Sunday, ‘The Economic Times’ reported that Unitech was in talks with TPG Axon, SUN Apollo and Bergruen Holding to sell about 20-26% of its equity. Mint could not independently verify this. Unitech’s stock fell by 8.86%to close at 29.3 on Monday.

—Bloomberg / Staff writer


Firms need not disclose shares pledged in 2008

Mumbai: Promoters of publicly traded Indian firms who have raised personal loans by pledging shares to lenders will have to start reporting such transactions to stock exchanges from the quarter ending 31 March. India’s capital markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India, or Sebi, on Tuesday made this mandatory from the last quarter of fiscal year 2009 by amending the equity listing agreement.

The Sebi circular, however, said, the report for quarter ending March, June, September and December 2009 “may not contain details for pledged shares for the corresponding quarter of the previous year".

Earlier, in a press meet after its board meeting on 21 January, Sebi chairman C.B. Bhave had said that details on promoters pledging shares to raise loans would be sought for the December quarter even though he did not specify the starting date for periodic declarations.

Following Sebi’s announcement, many companies including Asian Paints Ltd, Godrej Consumer Products Ltd and MindTree Ltd had voluntarily disclosed share pledging details on bourses.

“By asking promoters to submit data on pledged shares from the quarter ending March, Sebi is actually giving them time to square-off transactions in next two months," said the head of equity research at a foriegn brokerage who did not want to be identified.

The promoters can also take the transactions one level up to a holding company level as they cannot be compelled to disclose such deals if the holding company is not a listed entity.

On 19 January, Mint reported that nearly $15 billion (Rs73,200 crore) worth of promoter shares have been pledged as collateral with lenders, according to a dozen senior executives from the broking, banking and non-banking finance firms.

These executives said that such transactions had also been struck offshore with large global banks, and facilitated by private bankers, while in some cases funds were moved using an illegal money transfer systems

—Nesil Staney


Varun Shipping gains on equity changing hands

Mumbai: Varun Shipping Co. Ltd, an Indian carrier of oil and gas that counts BP Plc. among its clients, gained to the highest in a month in Mumbai trading after 13% of its equity changed hands in a single transaction.

The shares climbed 4.7% to Rs49, the highest since 5 January, but closed down 0.64% at Rs46.25 on the Bombay Stock Exchange. The trading volume was almost 78 times the three-month daily average.



SAIL may miss steel production target

New Delhi: State-run Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) may miss its production target of 13 million tonnes of saleable steel in the year ending 31 March, chairman S.K. Roongta said on Tuesday. “We may fall slightly short of that," he said, adding demand was improving. The world’s fifth-largest steel producer said it will advance its target for steelmaking capacity by eight years.



Gopalaswami, Chawla appear together

New Delhi: Chief election commissioner N. Gopalaswami and election commissioner Navin Chawla on Tuesday appeared together in public for the first time after the controversy over the recommendation for Chawla’s removal became public and political parties said the Election Commission should not give an impression of division at the top.

The occasion was a meeting convened by the commission to elicit views of national and state political parties before firming up the schedule for the coming Lok Sabha polls.