Opening Bell 21 December | Global cheer for Asian markets

Opening Bell 21 December | Global cheer for Asian markets

Mumbai: Government policy may once again take the centre stage after the Cabinet on Tuesday evening approved its own version of a historic Lokpal bill, reports the Times of India. Protestor Anna Hazare promptly slammed the bill setting the stage for another confrontation with the government. Earlier in the day, the government extended the winter session of parliament by three days to pass the landmark anti-corruption bill. Hazare’s team said that he would go on a three-day hunger strike from Dec 27.

Asian markets were also riding higher following firm gains on Wall Street. Exporter and technology shares were leading the gains on renewed global optimism, reports MarketWatch. The Nikkei Stock Average advanced 1.4%, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 2% and China’s Shanghai Composite was up 1%.

Back in India, Bharat Petroleum Corp is planning to spend around 10,000 crore over the next five years to develop oil and gas blocks, reports the Wall Street Journal. India’s second-biggest state-run refiner is expanding its upstream business to secure crude supplies and hedge against price risks. BPCL imports around 60% of its crude requirements. By expanding its exploration and production business it may be able to reduce dependence on imports and boost profitability. The company reported a net loss of 5,791 crore in the first half of FY12.

Ashok Leyland is increasing its stake in the UK bus maker Optare Plc to 75.1% from the current 26% subject to shareholder approval, reports the Business Standard. The company management said that they are aiming to be among the top five bus manufacturers globally. In July 2010, Ashok Leyland acquired a 26% stake in Optare for around $7.5 million.

On Tuesday, the Network 18 media company and Reliance Industries denied reports that the oil & gas conglomerate is looking at advancing its foot hold in the competitive media industry by acquiring a stake in the Network 18 media group.

But, in another development, Delhi-based Abhey Oswal Group, with interests in petrochemicals, fertilisers and entertainment, bought a 14.2% stake in NDTV (New Delhi Television) for 24.24 crore, reports Business Standard. Oswal Green Tech acquired the stake from Merrill Lynch Capital Markets and Nomura Capital via bulk deals at 26.60 per share. NDTV posted a net loss of 10.7 crore in the September quarter.

The local power sector may face tough times ahead due to rising cost of imported coal along with a depreciating rupee causing power companies to default on their payments said rating agency Fitch, reports Reuters. Fitch expects that the average cost of power generation could rise to 4.41 from 2.29 per kilowatt hour because most of the companies are relying on imported coal due to coal shortage in India. The companies may not be able to pass on higher fuel costs to customers leading to unviable projects.

The airline industry is finding it difficult to fly high as the airlines are losing around 1,300 or $25, on average every time a passenger boards an aircraft in India. The Indian aviation industry is set to post a record loss of $2.5 billion this fiscal year, according consulting firm Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation although air traffic has grown in double digits. This is because of high fuel cost and a depreciating currency. Banks that have lent to these airlines may take a hit next year if they are not able to recover the money, said analysts.

Lenders have okayed a debt restructuring plan for GTL Group which comprises of three companies - GTL Ltd, GTL Infrastructure and Chennai Networks Infrastructure, reports the Business Standard. The combined debt of the three companies stood at 16,200 crore. Promoters have retained management control, offered personal guarantee and transferred ICICI Bank’s exposure from GTL to the books of CNIL. The repayment tenure has also been extended to 10-15 years.

Lastly, Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Group is trying to get more women in leadership positions in his conglomerate, reports the Economic Times. Before moving out from Bombay house and handling his responsibilities to 43-year-old Cyrus Mistry, Ratan Tata is focusing on gender diversity. At various companies across the group, young women are being selected for leadership roles in the company.