The Munjal group’s electric vehicles business is about to make a big acquisition overseas. The company Hero Eco is all set to buy Ultra Motor of the UK. But it’s not known how much the deal is worth. Ultra Motor also makes electric vehicles. Hero Eco claims the acquisition will make it the biggest manufacturer of two-wheeler electric vehicles in the world. Ultra Motor is a loss-making company, so Hero Eco plans to invest Rs450 crore over the next five years to turn the company around.

A maintenance worker cleans solar panels manufactured by Tata BP Solar India Ltd. at NDPL Keshavpuram power station in New Delhi

Switching gears, Tata Motors is offering a free upgrade for Nano cars. The company is offering to replace the starter motors on older Nanos with the new 2012 version. That will mean a total of about one hundred thousand cars. Tata Motors launched the 2012 edition of the Nano in November. The company insists the upgrade is not due to any safety concerns. But last month it had offered Nano customers the option of retro-fitting a safety feature after some cars caught fire.

In other news, the period of rising interest rates may slowly be coming to an end. On Thursday, a public sector lender slashed its minimum lending rate. Union Bank cut its base rate by 10 basis points to 10.65%. RBI has hiked it policy rate by 350 basis points since March of 2010. And banks have reacted by increasing their rates. But RBI has since indicated its monetary tightening may be out on hold.

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Food inflation has fallen to its lowest in almost six years. India’s food price index rose just 0.24% in the period to 17 December. In the week before, it had gone up 1.81%. Onion prices fell nearly 60% during the week on a year-on-year basis. And potatoes became some 34% cheaper.

India and Japan have struck a currency swap deal that could provide the rupee some relief. The agreement was signed during a one-day visit to Delhi by Japanese Yoshihiko Noda. Wednesday’s deal could be worth up to 15 billion dollars and help shore up India’s currency.

And finally, while 2011 may have brought cheer in many sectors, it’s been a disappointing year for Indian markets. The Sensex closed 0.6% lower on Friday, which was 2011’s last trading session. At the end of a tumultuous year, it stood at 15,454.92, down 24.6% for the whole year. It was the first annual decline in the Sensex in three years. But analysts are hoping 2012 will bring a rebound, thanks to lower interest rates and better global conditions.

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