Saturday, January 31, 2009

Google Crashes: Says "This site may harm your computer" error with every search

To my surprise, every search result was flagged as "This site may harm your computer" - the tag line reserved for sites believed to contain malwares. This error message started to show with every search result around 8:20 IST.
It is around 8:
50 as i write this post but there is still no respite from the error. This is getting difficult to open websites from Google search results. The only way to open a webpage is to copy and paste the link in address instead of clicking in Google Search results.

Gujarat to increase number of CNG stations to 300

The Gujarat government will increase the number of compressed natural gas (CNG) stations in the state to 300 from the present 120 as part of its initiatives to promote clean fuel, Minister of State for Energy and Petrochemicals Saurabh Patel said here Saturday.

Speaking at the concluding day of the 'Oil and Gas Conservation Fortnight' (OGCF-2009) campaign, Patel said: "Eco-friendliness of natural gas is beyond doubt. As the demand is increasing, the number of CNG stations in the state would be increased to 300 to fight global warming."

The OGCF, a nationwide campaign jointly carried out by the state-run Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA) and public sector oil companies for promoting fuel efficiency in the country, began Jan 15 and concluded Saturday.

The event is being organised every year since 1991.

Unitech profit dips 94 percent

Infrastructure major Unitech Ltd Saturday said its profit after tax dipped 94.71 percent to Rs.195 million (Rs.19.5 crore/$4 million) for the quarter ended Dec 31 as against Rs.3.69 billion in the year-ago period.

The company's total income stood at Rs.3.25 billion in the third quarter, a drop of 61.16 percent from Rs.8.48 billion in the corresponding period last year, an official statement said.

The consolidated net profit of the group dropped 74.12 percent to Rs.1.36 billion in the quarter under review from Rs.5.26 billion a year ago.

The statement added that the group's consolidated net income saw 56.48 percent year-on-year decrease to Rs.5.07 billion from Rs.11.65 billion.

Aviation fuel price cut by 4 percent

Three days after the government announced reduction in petrol, diesel and cooking gas prices, state-run oil companies Saturday slashed the price of aviation turbine fuel (ATF) by four percent.

The ATF price in New Delhi will go down Rs.1,208 per kilolitre to Rs.30,288 from Saturday midnight, an Indian Oil Corp official said.

Similarly in Mumbai, the ATF price decreased Rs.1,271 per kilolitre to Rs.31,176.

The ATF price reached Rs.71,028.26 per kilolitre in New Delhi in August last year, owing to record price of crude oil in the international market at $147 per barrel.

The ATF price was increased by over 3 percent Jan 16 after eight successive cuts since last September.

Positive end to week's trade

Indian equities markets ended in the positive terrain Friday despite weak global markets, with a key index finishing 2.04 percent over its previous close.

The sensitive index (Sensex) of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) pulled the shutters down at 9,424.24 points, 2.04 percent or 187.96 points higher than its previous close.

The S&P CNX Nifty index of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) also closed higher at 2,874.8 points, 1.8 percent up over its last close of 2,823.95.

The BSE midcap index was up 1.31 percent, while the BSE smallcap index gained 1.08 percent over its previous close.

Of the 13 sectoral indices on the BSE, realty and metal indices gained the most, implying significant buying of these stocks.

Among major gainers on the Sensex were Jaiprakash Associates (up 9.63 percent to Rs.76.25), DLF (up 7.39 percent at Rs.177.20) and Hindalco (up 6.51 percent at Rs.49.05).

Top losers were Sun Pharma (down 6.1 percent at Rs.1,073.45), BHEL (down 2.6 percent at Rs.1,320.45) and Tata Motors (down 0.6 percent at Rs.149.65).

In Asian markets, a key Japanese index, the Nikkei of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, closed down 3.12 percent at 7,994.05.

However, the Hang Seng, a key index of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, ended 0.94 percent higher than its last close.

In US markets, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 2.7 percent lower than its previous close, while the Nasdaq composite fell 3.24 percent from its last close.

Tata Motors net plummets 153 percent; Biggest loss in seven years

The country's third largest passenger car maker and the biggest commercial vehicle manufacturer, Tata Motors, Friday said it posted a net loss of Rs.2.6 billion (Rs.263.26 crore/$58.5 million) in the third quarter of 2008-09, down 153 percent from that posted in the corresponding period last fiscal.

The automaker incurred an operating loss of Rs.1.23 billion during the period against a profit of Rs.6.37 billion in the corresponding quarter last fiscal.

“The automotive sector in India suffered severe contraction in demand, arising from major financial and other market upheavals. This exacerbated the lack of liquidity and unavailability of consumer finance,” the company said in a statement.

Tata Motors sold 98,760 vehicles during the quarter, reflecting a drop of nearly 32 percent from the 144,608 units sold in the corresponding quarter last year.

Unaudited results showed the company was plagued by higher operating costs, with the dip in sales revenue exceeding the fall in expenditure by over 8 percent. The loss due to revaluation of foreign exchange borrowing stood at Rs.2.27 billion.

“The contraction in freight movement in many segments of the industry led to a massive drop of 61 percent in the M&HCV (medium and heavy commercial vehicle) segment demand,” the company said.

The sale of its stake in Tata Teleservices for Rs.478 million was reflected in the balance sheet for the quarter.

The company, however, did not make any provisions for expected loss due to relocation of its small car facility from Singur in West Bengal to Sanand in Gujrat.

“Based on the management's assessment of the cost and benefits in connection with the relocation of the project from Singur to Sanand, and pending a detailed evaluation of the options relating to Singur facility, no provision is considered to the carrying cost of capital work in progress,” the company stated in the balance sheet.

Regulators waiting for their turn

Regulator's wait to question Rajus continues

The market regulator will have to wait at least for 10 more days to question disgraced Satyam Computer founder B. Ramalinga Raju and his brother B. Rama Raju in the Rs.70-billion (Rs.7,000-crore/$1.43-billion) accounting fraud as the Andhra Pradesh High Court Friday adjourned the hearing on its petition to Feb 9.

Justice Seshasayana Reddy Friday heard initial arguments on the plea by Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), seeking permission to record statements of the Raju brothers.

The court issued notices to the two Rajus and Chanchalaguda prison superintendent where they are lodged. They have to respond by Feb 9.
Solicitor general of India Goolam E. Vahanvati, appearing for SEBI, sought an ex-parte interim order to allow the regulator to interrogate the Rajus, but the judge did not accept this.

"The judge said he will not pass the order without hearing them (the Rajus and the prison superintendent)," Vahanvati told reporters. "This request will also be considered on February 9," he said.

The court is likely to hear arguments Feb 9 on the maintainability of the writ petition and consider the request for interim order.

SEBI roped in India's top law officer after the sixth additional chief metropolitan magistrate dismissed its similar petition last week.

The market watchdog had moved the High Court Wednesday challenging the order of the lower court. Justice Reddy, who began the hearing Thursday, asked the solicitor general to argue the maintainability of the petition.

The judge wanted to know why the writ petition was moved under Article 226 of the Constitution when an alternative remedy (provision under section 397 of the Criminal Procedure Code) was available to challenge the lower court's order.

The solicitor general argued that the order of the lower court was in violation of fundamental right and the principles of natural justice and that there was an error of jurisdiction.

Vahanvati also argued that SEBI was a statutory body and should be allowed to record statements of the accused as the interests of tens of thousands of investors were involved.

SEBI wanted to record statements of the Raju brothers for alleged violations of security laws, including fraudulent and manipulative practices.

SEBI's petition said there were several allegations including a strong likelihood of insider trading prior to Jan 7, when Ramalinga Raju confessed to the massive fraud.

Though it is more than 20 days since the scam came to light, the market regulator has had no access to the key accused to record their statements. SEBI had summoned them Jan 9, but they sought a day's time leading to the adjournment of the proceedings till Jan 10.

"In a strange coincidence, they were arrested (by the CID) on January 9 night," SEBI said adding that they were remanded to judicial custody that was being extended from time to time.

A SEBI lawyer had earlier gone on record that Rajus were trying to avoid grilling by the market watchdog.

Swadeshi Bachao: Obama calls for "Buy American" provision

A "Buy American" provision in President Barack Obama's $819 billion stimulus plan that bans the purchase of foreign construction materials for public works projects has set off a heated debate about its efficacy.

The contentious provision in the bill as passed by the US House of Representatives Wednesday would, with some notable exceptions, ensure that only US-produced iron and steel be used for construction.

It expands on a 76-year-old federal law. The Senate, which is likely to take up stimulus next week, would go even further, effectively requiring that any products and equipment be American-made.

"The Buy American provision will help stimulate our own economy," Democrat Byron Dorgan, who wrote the provision, told CNNMoney. "When taxpayer dollars are used, we should urge that money to support the things be produced here at home."

Critics argue the proposal appears to fly in the face of a G-20 agreement reached in November, when world leaders decided not to raise new trade barriers in 2009.

Many economists also argue that a Buy American provision could actually backfire, slowing economic growth instead of helping expand the American job market.

"It's not a good time to initiate protectionist measures in any shape or form," Kurt Karl, head of economic research at Swiss Re was cited as saying.

"It hurts growth, because if you force one side to go with domestic production only, then that precludes them from getting less expensive materials from overseas."

The economy is already reeling, and will soon enter the 15th month of a recession. A major drop in trade could cause a one percent drop in gross domestic product, according to Karl.

"We believe it invites reciprocal restrictions on US exports," Peter O'Toole, a spokesman for General Electric, which gets half its of revenue from abroad was cited as saying.

"When you take competition out, it drives prices up. We're in a globalized world - we can't turn back the clock."

But a host of politicians believe the Buy American provisions have appropriate safeguards to ensure stimulus spending is not wasted on expensive materials and the US economy does not suffer long-term consequences.

Dorgan for one said his support for the bill comes down to fulfilling President Obama's promise of creating up to 4 million American jobs.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Maytas director C.S. Bansal quits

C.S. Bansal Friday resigned as director of Maytas Infra Limited, the firm promoted by disgraced founder and former chairman of Satyam Computer Services B. Ramalinga Raju and his family.

Maytas Infra, at a board meeting here Friday, reviewed the developments in the wake of the massive fraud in Satyam admitted by Ramalinga Raju on Jan 7.

The listed company in a notification informed the BSE and the NSE that B. Narasimha Rao has been appointed additional director of the company with effect from Jan 30.

Bansal, however, will continue to perform his duties as president, transportation and oil and gas sector, it said.

"The board reviewed recent developments and decided to meet again shortly to review operations on track."

"The board while expressing satisfaction on the efforts to provide information to all government agencies on their inspection, advised the employees to extend full support and cooperation in this regard."

The Hyderabad-based infrastructure company is one of the two realty firms that are run by the two sons of Ramalinga Raju, who is the chief promoter with 36 percent equity holding.

The aborted bid to acquire the two firms - Maytas Infra and Maytas Properties - for $1.6 billion (Rs.79.2 billion/Rs.7920 crore) by Satyam led to unprecedented crisis in the global software major, resulting in a spate of resignations by four directors and Ramalinga Raju subsequently.

The letter, signed by B. Teja Raju, vice-chairman of Maytas and son of Ramalinga Raju, also informed the BSE and the NSE that the board accepted the resignations of R.C. Sinha as chairman and independent director, and that of P.K. Madhav as a whole-time director and CEO.

Sinha's resignation was announced by the company on Jan 8. He, however, had put in his papers on Jan 7 when Ramalinga Raju quit admitting Rs.70 billion (Rs.7,000 crore/$1.43 billion) accounting fraud in Satyam.

Madhav resigned as CEO and whole-time director on Jan 19 following his arrest in connection with a criminal case of defrauding depositors of Nagarjuna Finance Limited, the firm he was earlier associated with.

US economy suffers biggest slowdown in 26 years

The US economy suffered its biggest slowdown in 26 years in the last three months of 2008 as consumer spending recorded the worst slide in the post-war era, a trend that's likely to continue in the coming months.

Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation's economic activity, fell at an annual rate of 3.8 percent in the fourth quarter, adjusted for inflation, according to official figures released Friday.

That's the largest drop in GDP since the first quarter of 1982, when the economy suffered a 6.4 percent decline. But the pace of contraction was less than forecast, with a buildup of unsold goods cushioning the blow.

As consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of overall economic activity, without the jump in inventories, the decline would have been 5.1 percent, the Commerce Department said.

Hit by tight credit and soaring job losses, Americans slammed the brakes on spending in the quarter and consumer spending fell at a 3.5 percent annual rate, with spending on big-ticket durable goods plunging at a 22 percent pace.

But it wasn't just consumers pulling back. Fixed investment in equipment and software, taken as an indication of business spending, plunged at an annual 28 percent rate. And consumers and businesses outside the United States also had less demand for US goods, as exports fell at nearly a 20 percent annual rate.

Economists warned that the less severe than expected drop in GDP was due to a number of factors that suggested more weakness ahead.

"When the economy is dropping fast it is hard for firms with plummeting sales to halt inventory accumulation," Robert Brusca of FAO Economics was cited as saying by CNN. He said since companies are likely to respond to the excess inventories by slashing production at the start of this year, GDP will be weaker in the next few quarters.

In addition, prices for goods and services fell more than expected during the quarter. That limited the decline in GDP, which is adjusted lower to account for inflation.

The prices paid by consumers during the quarter fell at an annual 5.5 percent rate in the quarter, due primarily to lower gas prices. That's the biggest such decline in that key price measure since the Commerce Department started calculating it on a quarterly basis in 1947.

Business this week:

Pfizer agreed to pay $68 billion for Wyeth. The acquisition, one of the biggest ever in the drugs industry,
raised expectations of more consolidation. Around a third of the deal will be funded by debt, the remainder by stock and cash reserves. Coming amid the worst financial crisis in decades, the announcement provided stockmarkets with some welcome relief from the steady beat of glum news.
Pfizer was, however, among a number of companies that announced huge job cuts. The total ran to tens of thousands, including 65,000 in America in a single day. The International Labour Organisation, a UN agency, forecast that the number of unemployed people in the world would be higher by 18m this year than in 2007, but if its “worst-case scenario” came to pass the figure could be 50m.
The IMF’s chief economist said 2009 would be the world economy’s worst year since 1945. The fund reduced its forecast of global GDP growth to 0.5%, from the 2.2% it predicted last November. The United States’ economy is expected to shrink by 1.6%, the euro area’s by 2% and Japan’s by 2.6%. The IMF predicts that Britain’s economy will be the worst performer among big industrial nations, contracting by 2.8%. Boeing confirmed it was shedding 10,000 workers when it reported a $56m net loss for the fourth quarter. A long strike by machinists hurt production, which could suffer further if airlines cancel or defer orders during the downturn. Boeing recorded 662 net commercial-aircraft orders in 2008 (behind Airbus’s 777 net orders), down sharply on the 1,413 it scored in 2007.

Simply staggering
John Thain’s departure from Bank of America continued to reverberate. Mr Thain stepped down as head of the bank’s global banking and wealth management division after it emerged that Merrill Lynch, which he once led, made a $15 billion loss in the fourth quarter, causing BofA to ask for more state aid to fund its acquisition
of the Wall Street firm. It also surfaced that Merrill accelerated some $4 billion in bonuses to staff before the completion of the government-backed takeover.
Meanwhile, Mr Thain admitted that spending $1.2m on refurbishing his office last year was “a mistake in the light of the world we live in today”. A $1,400 waste-paper basket was on the list of new items.
New York state’s comptroller said that bonuses paid by Wall Street firms to their New York City employees
(residents and commuters) fell by 44% in 2008, costing the state $1 billion in lost tax revenues and the city
Nomura’s quarterly loss of ¥343 billion ($3.7 billion) was its biggest since it adopted American accounting standards in 2001. The Japanese brokerage was hit by a triple blow: absorbing Lehman Brothers’ European and Asian business, which it bought after the investment bank’s demise; exposure to the collapse of Icelandic banks; and costs associated with Bernard Madoff’s alleged Ponzi scheme.

Proactive action
Santander offered to recompense private-banking clients who lost money in one of its funds that invested with Mr Madoff and said it would fork out €1.4 billion ($1.8 billion) in compensation. Observers were unsure if this would stop investors from suing the Spanish bank; a class-action lawsuit had just been lodged in a Florida
court. Santander is the first financial company to offer to settle claims resulting from the Madoff scandal.
ING’s chief executive resigned when the Dutch bank said it expected a big quarterly loss and would seek further government assistance.

ConocoPhillips reported a $31.8 billion net loss for the fourth quarter, mostly related to charges it took on writing down exploration and production assets it bought in 2006 and on its investment in Russia’s Lukoil (Conoco’s adjusted earnings were $1.9 billion).
Sony’s profit plummeted in the last three months of 2009. The Japanese electronics giant is on course to make a record annual loss.
Some £2.3 billion ($3.2 billion) was extended in loan guarantees to Britain’s car industry. The government stressed it was not a bail-out. Unions and business leaders said it was not enough, considering the vast sums of public assistance given to the country’s banks.

About to be pecked to death?
Investors responded positively to Yahoo!’s quarterly earnings. The internet company made a net loss of $303m; without charges and write-downs, it turned a profit of $238m. Carol Bartz, the new chief executive, said she was contemplating the future of Yahoo!’s search business, which Microsoft is interested in buying, but reflected that “this is not a company that needs to be pulled apart and left for the chickens.”

Copyright © 2009 The Economist Newspaper

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Yahoo! India launches 'UnCANNIES'

Yahoo! India, the leading Internet company invites all creative minds to post their best work on ‘Uncannies’, an online portal designed to identify the most creative work in the field of advertising. Creative agencies as well as individuals from print, television, radio, outdoor and the online medium can post their work on the Uncannies website

“An excellent creative speaks for itself. Uncannies from Yahoo! India brings together all creative minds of the industry to share their best advertising work. It’s also a great platform to discover fresh ideas and showcase top talent in advertising,” said Nitin Mathur, Director – Marketing, Yahoo! India.

In order to take part in this contest, participants must submit their individual entries directly onto the contest website Entries close on 28th February’ 2009. All shortlisted participants will be notified via email when their entry gets featured on the site for voting. Entries can be at an individual or agency level, with a maximum of 200 entries per person.

All participant entries will be judged by an independent panel of experts from the advertising industry. Users will also get a chance to rate the shortlisted creative for the entire contest duration. However, the expert panel’s decision would be final. Top 3 winners will walk away with an Apple iPhone each, while the next top 100 participants will get interesting Yahoo! merchandise as consolation prizes.

Fog engulfs capital, no take-offs from airport

Heavy fog blanketed many parts of the capital Thursday, throwing air traffic completely out of gear as morning flights were cancelled due to poor visibility.

As a result of the northwesterly winds blowing over northern India, the mercury dipped and fog engulfed Delhi, meteorological officials said.

“The fog started descending at the airport (Indira Gandhi International Airport) at 2.30 a.m. and the visibility dropped below 50 metres,” an official at the airport met department told IANS.

All the outbound flights were cancelled due to heavy fog.

“No flights have taken off this morning and inbound flights are also delayed. The visibility will improve by noon as the fog lifts,” the official added.

The minimum and maximum temperature also registered a decrease with a chilly morning greeting the denizens of the capital.

“The minimum temperature recorded was eight degrees Celsius and maximum 23.4 degrees Celsius. During the past few days, the minimum and maximum temperatures have been hovering above nine degrees Celsius and 25 degrees Celsius,” an official with the Indian Meteorological Department said.

Are there more Satyams out there?

The confessional letter written by Ramalinga Raju in the first week of 2009 about the massive fraud perpetrated at the country's fourth largest software company, Satyam, has opened a Pandora's box. The scam by Raju and his family could ultimately emerge as the mother of all corporate frauds in this country as even the initial investigations are revealing all kinds of manipulation.

The story of greed will rope in many players apart from Raju and his family members as clearly this level of fraud needed many more associates to continue over a period of six or seven years. The reputed multinational accountancy firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), has already fallen in the police net with two of its leading executives having been arrested in Hyderabad. As the investigations continue, there is no doubt more big fish will get caught in this complex web of intrigue woven by Raju.

Shocking as these revelations are, one must pause for a moment and have a look at the overall state of corporate governance in the country. Veiled hints have been thrown by industry representatives that this may not be the only company that is manipulating accounts for the benefit of the public.

It is well known that even some of the largest corporates in the country have set up many shell companies for purposes of investment. These companies operate in the stock market at the behest of their parent companies, though ostensibly there is no link between them. There has never been any concrete proof of manipulations or scams though there has always been speculation in corporate circles about these companies.

But the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) does not seem to have taken the initiative to delve deeper into these issues even though many of the parent companies play a major role in determining the movement of the stock markets.

It is also tacitly acknowledged and accepted that family-owned concerns operate on an ethical code different from that of professionally managed companies. Of course, many family businesses have professionalised their managements over the years like the Goenkas and some segments of the Birlas. In the past, however, it was one of Indian industry's worst kept secrets that the 'lalaji' companies, as they were known, had developed fudging of the accounts into a fine art.

The scenario changed drastically after economic reforms were launched in the 1980s and 90s. A liberalised economic environment led to the rise of many corporates being set up in a professional manner by first generation entrepreneurs. Sunrise industries like computers and software were among the sectors where such corporates stole the limelight. HCL and Infosys were among this lot and the rise of Satyam seemed to be a mirror to these success stories of the software sector.

In fact, the idea that Satyam could be like any of the "lalaji" companies of the past would have been pooh-poohed as Raju had built up an impregnable public image of being yet another Narayanamurthy or Azim Premji. No wonder then that warnings issued by people as eminent as Delhi Metro chief E. Sreedharan or former finance secretary E.A.S. Sarma about the possibility of Satyam being involved in fraudulent activities was never taken seriously by the authorities.

What has made the Satyam issue even more grave is the involvement of a highly respected accounting firm like PwC in the whole affair. Incidentally PwC is already being probed in some other cases including that of the Global Trust Bank. The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India is understandably shaken over the affair which has cast a pall over this entire sector.

But it has also recognised that the auditors of the scam-hit company have not done their job. If they had, it would not be possible for Raju to have hidden the fact that the company's profits of Rs.7,000 crore/70 billion ($1.43 billion) were non-existent. It is thus high time that SEBI and other regulatory agencies like the Registrar of Companies investigated accounting practices not just in Satyam but the whole host of other corporates that may still be doing "creative accounting" and thereby defrauding shareholders.

Right now, the new board of directors is struggling to keep the company afloat and ensure that the thousands of employees are not thrown out of work. On this aspect, it must be pointed out that even the number of employees is now being doubted with some media reports indicating that the head count may be about 40,000 rather than the 53,000 officially on the rolls. In any case, the numbers are large and the new board of directors has brought about a collective sigh of relief with their announcement that salaries will be paid on time.

It is to the credit of the new board that they are trying to act as swiftly as possible while allaying the fears of the employees. Boston Consulting Group has been brought in as a management adviser which is likely to give some support to the new directors who have a gigantic task on their hands. Apart from dealing with employees, they also have to give a comfort level to the many customers who have decided to retain their loyalty to the firm. Simultaneously, they are evaluating prospects of selling off the company to the several suitors.

While the future of Satyam and its employees hang in the balance, the larger question of the credibility of the IT sector is creating unease among most of the key players. Infosys, for instance, is trying to highlight greater transparency by providing details of its bank deposits to its directors. There is a growing apprehension that the spotless reputation of such corporates will be affected by the Satyam scam. Their fears are to some extent justified as both domestic and foreign customers are bound to view the Indian IT sector with some suspicion after the Satyam scandal.

A tremendous initiative to highlight the high standards of corporate governance in this sector will be needed. Indian industry as a whole now needs to introspect and ensure that the levels of corporate governance are raised dramatically so that more such scandals do not smear its name in future. In addition, regulators like SEBI and the Registrar of Companies are not blameless and need to act more aggressively against all kinds of manipulation that is even now continuing in many segments of the corporate world in this country.

Indians wake up to fuel price cut good news

Indians woke up to some pleasant news Thursday with the prices of fuel being cut further as the government allowed its state-run petroleum retail companies to cut the prices of petrol, diesel and cooking gas late Wednesday night.

Petrol will now be cheaper by Rs.5 a litre, diesel by Rs. 2 and cooking gas by Rs.25 per cylinder.

That would make revised prices of these fuels in Delhi Rs.40.62 for a litre of petrol (down from Rs.45.62), Rs.30.86 for diesel (down from Rs.32.86) and Rs.279.70 per 14.2 kg LPG cylinder (down from Rs.304.70).

“I have two college-going sons with bikes. This cut will help me save at least Rs.500 to Rs.700 every month which is quite a relief as prices of vegetables are still quite high,” said Rajani Sharma, a homemaker from Sadiq Nagar in South Delhi.

The further downward revision of fuel prices comes in the wake of softening global crude prices with the Indian basket of crude plummeting to $35.83 per barrel Dec 24 from a peak of $142 per barrel on July 3.

Transporters, however, are unlikely to be satisfied with the cuts announced, as they had gone on an eight-day nationwide strike demanding at least a Rs.10 per litre cut in diesel prices.

Ashok Leyland turnover slides 44 percent

India's second largest commercial vehicle manufacturer Ashok Leyland has seen its turnover fall 44 percent in the quarter ended Dec 31 last year, compared to the corresponding period the previous year.

The company closed the third quarter with revenue of Rs.10 billion and a net profit of Rs.188.68 million, as against Rs.18 billion and Rs.1.2 billion, respectively, the previous year.

The company sold 8,011 vehicles during the period under review, as against 18,965 the corresponding quarter the previous year.

According to company managing director R. Seshasayee, demand continues to be depressed on account of "uncertainties".

IMF lowers India growth to 5 percent as global economy plummets

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has lowered India and China's growth projections for 2009 to 5 percent and 6.75 percent respectively as it forecast world growth falling to its lowest level since World War II.

"We now expect the global economy to come to a virtual halt," said IMF Chief Economist Olivier Blanchard as IMF Wednesday released an Update to its World Economic Outlook together with an update to its Global Financial Stability Report.

World growth is projected to fall to just 0.5 percent in 2009, its lowest rate in 60 years, with financial markets remaining under stress and the global economy taking a sharp turn for the worse, sending both global output and trade plummeting, the IMF said in its latest assessment of the world economy.

Advanced economies will experience their sharpest contraction in the post-war period, the Update said. The IMF expects real activity to contract by around 1.5 percent in the United States, 2 percent in the euro area, and 2.5 percent in Japan.

Though more resilient than in previous global downturns, emerging and developing economies will also suffer serious setbacks. For example, growth is expected to slow to 6.75 percent in China and 5.1 percent in India, it said.

While growth projections for India for 2009 have been lowered by 1.2 percentage points than predicted last November, its growth rate is still expected to go up to 6.5 percent in 2010, only .03 points lower than that forecast earlier.

In the case of China, the growth projections for 2009 have been lowered by 1.8 points, but its growth rate is expected to go up to 8 percent in 2010, 1.5 points lower than that forecast earlier.

Global growth is projected to rebound in 2010 to 3.0 percent after falling sharply to just 0.5 percent in 2009, when measured in terms of purchasing power parity. The 2009 world growth forecast has been revised downward by 1.7 percent compared with the last IMF projection last November.

Despite wide-ranging policy actions by governments and central banks around the world, financial strains remain acute, pulling down the real economy, the IMF said.

The Update echoed comments by IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn that a sustained economic recovery will not be possible until the banking sector is restructured and credit markets are unclogged.

The crisis in financial markets-which began in 2007 among sub-prime mortgages in the United States but has to spread to other markets and to much of the rest of the world-has resulted in a global recession that also continues to worsen.

Blanchard also stressed that there is no "one-size-fits-all" policy mix.

Some countries have more fiscal and monetary space than others.

"In this respect, it is welcome that some emerging economies now have more space for policy easing than in previous downturns and are making use of it," he said.

Satyam not a red flag to global investors: Kamal Nath

Maintaining that fraud-hit Satyam Computer Services Ltd was an aberration, Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath, however, indicated that regulatory mechanism in India may be strengthened to prevent such a recurrance.

This single incident should not be viewed as a "red flag" by the global investors community, he said in an interview to BBC Hardtalk, adding the (economic) edifice of India is based on its performance over the last 10-12 years.

He said there has been huge investments from all parts of Europe and the United States, and the investors are not looking at the Satyam episode as a red flag. But at the same he said regulatory mechanism could be strengthened based on onging investigation in Satyam.

Asked whether the Satyam swindle would dampen investor sentiment across the world, he said around 60 per cent of the Fortune 500 companies are invested in India. "I think it's (because of) the confidence that they have in India ....".

Over Rs 7,800-crore Satyam swindle is being investigated by Serious Fraud Investigation Office(SFIO) which has also been tasked to probe its subsidiaries - Maytas Infra and Maytas Properies- to find out whether funds from the IT major were siphoned off to these companies, run by sons of Satyam's founder B Ramalinga Raju.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Anil Ambani group bags third ultra mega power project

The Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group was Wednesday awarded its third ultra mega power project, set to come up at Tilaiya in Jharkhand with an investment of over Rs.12,000 crore (Rs.120 billion/$2.4 billion).

"We have been awarded the Tilaiya project. We bid the lowest per unit cost of Rs.1.77. We will generate 4,000 MW," a senior official of Reliance Power told IANS after a high-powered committee named his company the winner.

Besides Reliance, four other companies had bid for the project. These included the state-run utility NTPC, Jindal Power, Lanco Infratech and Sterlite Energy. They were among the 11 that had met the pre-bid criteria, officials said.

The government had previously awarded three ultra mega power projects - two to Reliance Power at Sasan in Madhya Pradesh and Krishnapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and one to Tata Power at Mundra in Gujarat.

With the Tilaiya project also under its kitty, Reliance Power has a portfolio to generate over 30,000 MW of power in the country. The group is now developing as many as 14 medium and large-sized power projects, company officials said.

Of these, projects in western India will account for 12,220 MW, north for 9,080 MW, east for 4,000 MW, northeast for 2,900 MW and in the south for 4,000 MW.

The group's 7,480-MW project to be located at Dadri in Uttar Pradesh, not far from the national capital, is expected to be the world's largest gas-fired power project at a single location, officials said.

No bail for Satyam Rajus, former CFO

Satyam Computer's disgraced founder B. Ramalinga Raju, his brother B. Rama Raju and former chief financial officer Vadlamani Srinivas will remain in jail as a court here Wednesday dismissed their bail plea in the Rs.70-billion (Rs.7,000-crore) accounting fraud case.

S. Bharat Kumar, lawyer for the Rajus, said his clients would challenge the court order.

"There are options for us to renew the bail application before the same court or the next higher court. We will take a decision on this in the next two days," Bharat Kumar said after the sixth additional chief metropolitan magistrate D. Ramakrishna rejected the bail plea.

The three have been in judicial custody which expires Jan 31.

"The court order is on merits, on whatever arguments made by the defence counsel and the prosecution," public prosecutor Ajay Kumar told reporters outside the court complex.

The magistrate reserved for Thursday orders on the police appeal for custody of Gopalakrishna Raju, former general manager of SRSR Advisory Services floated by the Raju family to manage their stake in Satyam.

He will also rule Thursday on Gopalakrishna Raju's bail plea. During the arguments, the prosecution opposed the plea on the ground that all sections applicable to Ramalinga Raju, Rama Raju and Vadlamani Srinivas also applied to him.

The prosecution also argued that Gopalakrishna Raju was acting as custodian of the property of Ramalinga Raju, and tried to conceal land documents after the arrest of the former Satyam chairman.

Seeking police custody of the accused for seven days, the prosecution told the court that his custodial interrogation would throw more light on the documents recovered so far. After hearing the arguments, the magistrate posted both the petitions for orders Thursday.

The court will also hear Thursday the arguments on the bail pleas of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) partners S. Gopalakrishnan and Srinivas Taluri. They were arrested last week for alleged complicity with the accused.

The court Tuesday heard the arguments on the bail pleas of Ramalinga Raju and Vadlamani Srinivas. The prosecution had opposed them on the ground that the accused could tamper with evidence and their release on bail could hamper investigations.

Ramalinga Raju was arrested Jan 9, two days after he confessed to the country's biggest corporate scam of Rs.70 billion. His brother Rama Raju was also arrested the same day.

Vadlamani Srinivas was picked up a day later.

Monday, January 26, 2009

IOL Netcom joins the league of IPTV providers

IPTV (Internet Protocol television) is a method of distributing television content over IP (Internet Protocol) that enables a more customized and interactive user experience.
IOL IPTV brings you IP-based Next Generation technology, combining the best features of television and broadband. By subscribing to our IPTV services you will get high quality Video, Voice and Data on a single network.

With us you can watch what you want, when you want! Not only will you have greater control over the programs you choose to watch, you will also get breathtaking picture quality and superior sound effects. No wonder IPTV provides you with greater value and superior quality!

IOL IPTV Services:
• TV Channels:
200+ TV channels from Star, Sony, Zee Turner and many more.
• Video On Demand:
Choose to view your favorite Bollywood, Hollywood and Regional movies across various genres from our extensive library.
• Pay Per View:
Spend according to your usage and control your expenses.

IOL IPTV offer 176 channels including all the popular English, Hindi and Regional language channels.

IPTV Plans

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Idea Cellular Limited: Q3 Results

Idea Cellular Limited (Idea) today announced its unaudited results (limited review) for the 3rd quarter (Q3) and nine months ended December 31, 2008.

Revenues for Idea's 13 operating service areas for Q3 at Rs. 26,209 mn, grew by 13.9% on a QoQ basis and by 53.2% on a YoY basis.

The EBITDA for the 11 Idea service areas in Q3 enhanced to Rs 7,570 mn compared to Rs 6,446 mn in Q2, representing a margin improvement from 28.1% to 29.4%. However, Q3 captures the impact of Mumbai and Bihar launches for the entire quarter, whereas Q2 had the impact only of Mumbai for 5 weeks. Consequently, Total EBITDA margin declined marginally from 26.4% to 26.0%, even though Total EBITDA increased by 11.9% from Rs 6081 mn in Q2 to Rs 6,805 mn in Q3.

On a consolidated basis, Revenues for Q3 at Rs. 27,311 mn, grew by 18.5% on a QoQ basis. The EBITDA at Rs 6,974 mn showed a growth of 14.9% on a QoQ basis. Consolidated PAT for Q3 was Rs 2,195 mn as against Rs 2,562 mn on a standalone basis. The consolidated PAT is depressed by Rs 367 mn on account of the consolidation of Idea's 41.09% shareholding in Spice Communications from 16th Oct 08 and on account of Idea group's 16% shareholding in Indus Towers.

On 5th Dec 08, an affiliate of Providence Equity Partners has invested Rs. 21 bn in Aditya Birla Telecom Limited (ABTL) by way of subscription to 1.925 mn Compulsorily Convertible Preference Shares to be converted into 16.14% of equity share capital of ABTL post conversion.

Idea, including service areas of Punjab, Karnataka and Bihar, added 4.03 mn subscribers during Q3 taking its subscriber tally to 38.01 mn, reflecting a national market share of 11.0%.

Idea, along with Spice and ABTL, now holds GSM spectrum for every service area in India.

Note: Consolidated results incorporate, inter alia, ABTL (a 100% subsidiary) which comprises of Bihar service area operations and a 16% shareholding in Indus Towers; and Idea's 41.09% holding in Spice Communications w.e.f. 16th Oct'08. Figures of past periods have been regrouped, wherever necessary. Finance & Treasury charges represent Interest & Financing cost net of investment income and forex gains/losses.

Satyam's Raju diverted Rs.74 bn for personal gain: Prosecutor

Disgraced Satyam Computer Services founder B. Ramalinga Raju and former chief financial officer Vadlamani Srinivas will remain in police custody till Friday evening, a court ruled Thursday, as prosecutors said Raju had diverted Rs.74 billion (Rs.7,400 crore/$1.48 billion) from his company for personal wealth.

The crime investigation department (CID) of Andhra Pradesh police sought from the court two days' extension of custody of Raju and Srinivas, which ended Thursday.

But the court agreed to one-day extension - from 4 p.m. Thursday to 4 p.m. Friday - after hearing arguments of the public prosecutors and lawyers for Raju and Srinivas.

Earlier in the day, Ramalinga Raju's brother Rama Raju, the third accused, was taken to Chanchalguda central jail as the CID did not seek extension of his custody. Ramalinga Raju and Srinivas remained in court for nearly six hours and were taken back to the CID office after the magistrate's order.

The bail plea of the three defendants will be heard Friday.

The court is also likely to pronounce Friday its ruling on the petition of market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to record statements of the Raju brothers.

All the three accused, whose judicial custody ends Friday, would be presented before D. Ramakrishna, sixth additional chief metropolitan magistrate, who is also likely to give his ruling on the plea for special status to the accused in jail.

During the hearing, public prosecutors said Raju diverted Rs.74 billion from the company for personal wealth, forged HDFC Bank documents to show non-existent bank balance of Rs.33 billion (Rs.3,300 crore/$660 million), and purchased thousands of acres of land under fictitious names.

"It is a multi-dimensional case involving fudging of figures, forging, benami land deals and transfer of shares," prosector Ajay Kumar told the court.

He said Satyam had only 40,000 employees and not around 53,000 as claimed by Ramalinga Raju. "Every month Rs.200 million (Rs.20 crore) was being withdrawn in the name of non-existent employees," Kumar said.

"We want to find out in whose names the funds were diverted and where the entire money has gone and this is not possible without their interrogation."

The banks with which Raju had dealings have sought one day more to verify Satyam documents to see which are forged.

"There are several glaring instances of forgery. A letter supposed to be from HDFC Bank is forged. This has been confirmed by HDFC Bank to CID," the prosecutor said.

"Investigation has revealed that money has been used to buy land in Hyderabad and other places. About 400 (land) transactions have been found. Thousands of acres of land have been bought in these benami transactions," the prosecutor said.

"The entire world is watching us. The image of the country is at stake because of this multi-dimensional case involving fictitious bank deposits, fudging of figures, benami land deals and transfer of shares," the prosecutor submitted to the court.

He said Ramalinga Raju transferred shares in the names of his brother B. Suryanarayana Raju and their mother Appala Narsamma.

Opposing the extension of police custody, Raju's counsel S. Bharat Kumar told the court that CID had deployed hidden cameras and used closed-circuit television during interrogation.

He said the police have seized all documents and interrogated the two for four days, and that there was no ground for extending the period of police custody.

Talking to newsmen later, Bharat Kumar said none of the accused confessed to the CID that they had diverted Satyam money, or resorted to forgery and benami land transactions.

"Whatever the CID public prosecutor said in the court was not supported by any evidence. Even the CID petition before the court does not talk of any such confession," he said.

"Slumdog Millionaire" gets ten Oscar nominations

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," a drama in which Brad Pitt plays a man who ages backward, led the field of Oscar contenders with 13 nominations, organizers said on Thursday (January 22).

"Slumdog Millionaire," the tale of an impoverished orphan's improbable victory on an Indian television game show, followed with 10, while the Batman sequel "The Dark Knight" and the gay-rights saga "Milk" each landed eight. "Benjamin Button," "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Milk" will vie for best picture at the 81st annual Academy Awards on February 22, alongside "The Reader" and "Frost/Nixon."

The nominations for "Benjamin Button" included best actor for Pitt, best director for David Fincher, best supporting actress for Taraji P Henson and best adapted screenplay. As expected, late Australian actor Heath Ledger was nominated for his supporting role as the villainous Joker in "The Dark Knight."

Ledger died of an accidental prescription-pill overdose exactly a year ago, at the age of 28. The other nominations for "Dark Knight" were in technical categories. Meryl Streep, 59, already the all-time acting Oscar record holder with 14 nominations, landed her 15th with "Doubt," in which she plays a vindictive nun. Kate Winslet received one nomination, taking her career total to six. This time, the 33-year-old British actress was cited for her lead role as a former Nazi prison guard in "The Reader."

Bharti Airtel Limited Q3FY 2009: Rural Coverage Crosses 4 Lac Villages; Revenues Exceed Rs 9,600cr

Highlights for Third Quarter ended December 31, 2008

-- Overall customer base at 8.83 crore
-- Highest ever-net addition of 82.82 lakh customers in a single quarter
-- Market leader with a market share of all India wireless subscribers at 24.7%
-- Total Revenues of Rs. 9,633 crore (up 38% Y-o-Y)
-- EBITDA of Rs. 3,945 crore (up 33% Y-o-Y)
-- Cash Profit of Rs. 3,755 crore (up 30% Y-o-Y)
-- Net Income of Rs. 2,159 crore (up 25% Y-o-Y)

Bharti Airtel Limited (Bharti Airtel" or 'the company") today announced its audited US GAAP results for the third quarter and nine months ended December 31, 2008. It has once again maintained its strong growth momentum.

The consolidated total revenues for the quarter ended December 31, 2008 of Rs.9,633 crore grew by 38% and EBITDA of Rs. 3,945 crore grew by 33% on a year on year basis. The net income for the quarter ended December 31, 2008 was Rs. 2,159 crore, a growth of 25% over last year.

Bharti had 8.83 crore subscribers, as on December 31, 2008, an increase in the total subscriber base of 54% over the corresponding period last year and maintained its leadership position through an improved market share of all India wireless subscribers at 24.7% as on December 31, 2008, up from 23.6% corresponding to the same period of last year.

Commenting on the results and performance, Mr. Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman & Managing Director, Bharti Airtel Limited, said "Bharti Airtel continues to lead the telecom growth story adding customer and revenue market share despite intense competition. Bharti's strategy of extensive roll out ahead of competition, especially in new villages, has yielded rich dividends. Our launch in Sri Lanka has received a huge response and despite coming in as the 5th operator we hope to be in a leadership position in the coming years. The customer response to the launch of our world class DTH and IPTV services has been encouraging. Bharti Airtel is well placed to capitalize on the huge telecom opportunity that India offers."

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Satyam episode blot on India's corporate image: PM

The Rs.70 billion ($1.43 billion) financial scam in Satyam Computer Services is a “blot” on corporate India's image, and the government was determined to unravel the “plot” and punish the guilty, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Saturday.

He urged all Indian corporate leaders to look closely into their operations so that fraudulent activities were as effectively prevented as is humanly possible.

“The Satyam episode is a blot on our corporate image. It indicates how fraud and malfeasance in one company can inflict suffering on many and can also tarnish India's image more broadly,” the prime minister said.

“The government is determined to unravel the full nature of the fraud and punish those involved under the due process of law,” he said at The Economic Times Awards function at the Trident Hotel here, attended by who's who of India Inc.

Satyam is facing a major financial mess and a serious threat in continuing its operations because of the Rs.70 billion fraud admitted last week by its founder and former chairman B. Ramalinga Raju.

Manmohan Singh urged all Indian corporate leaders to look closely into their operations to ensure that their systems were fully operational and fraudulent activities were as effectively prevented as is humanly possible.

“Corporate leaders and managements hold positions of trust for shareholders, workers, and other stake holders. Their actions have reputational impact much beyond the reputation of their companies,” he said.

“I seek your support in setting the highest standards for Indian industry so that the world can say that we emerged from the Satyam scandal stronger and more credible,” the prime minister said.

“I have no doubt we can do it.”

Earlier, Commerce Minister Kamal Nath took a stand far milder than that of the prime minister. He said the scam at Satyam Computer Services was an isolated case and did not tarnish the image of Indian corporate sector in any way.

"India Inc has established its credentials. One delinquency cannot be taken as a slur on the entire Indian corporate sector," the minister said during an opening panel discussion.

"The credibility of the Indian corporate sector, as I see it worldwide, is well respected. The transparency is well recognised, well established," he said, as Manmohan Singh and Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan listened keenly.

"The premise that one Satyam episode has painted the Indian corporate in bad light - this is not the case."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Class Action against Satyam Computer Services

Pomerantz Haudek Block Grossman & Gross LLP ( ("Pomerantz") has filed a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, against Satyam Computer Services Limited ("Satyam")(NYSE:SAY) and certain officers of the Company. The class action, (Case No. 09-CV-00337) was filed on behalf of purchasers of the American Depository Receipts ("ADRs") of Satyam between January 6, 2004 through January 6, 2009, inclusive (the "Class Period"). The Complaint alleges violations of Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (15 U.S.C. Sections 78j(b) and 78t(a)) and Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder.

In addition to Satyam, the complaint names as defendants the admitted ringleader of this fraud, former Chairman B. Ramalinga Raju; his brother, B. Rama Raju, the Company's former Managing Director and CEO; and the former Chief Financial Officer, Srinivas Vadlamani. All of these individuals have been arrested by the Indian authorities for their complicity in this fraud.

The complaint alleges a multi-year massive fraud by these defendants, which has been admitted to by defendant Raju, in which these individuals cooked Satyam's books by, among other things, concocting $1 billion of cash that didn't exist, and overstating revenues and profits. The egregiousness of the fraud is evident from Raju's admissions in a letter to the Satyam board. Raju admitted that for the second quarter 1998 alone, Satyam reported $555 million in revenues when the actual number was $434 million; $136 million in profit when the correct number was only $12.5 million; and a reported hefty $1.1 billion in available cash, when it had a mere $66 million. Raju acknowledged that the fraudulent scheme "simply reached unmanageable proportions," which he likened to "riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten."

The complaint further alleges that disclosure of this stunning fraud materially impacted the price of the Company's ADRs. Indeed, trading in the Company's ADRs was briefly halted after the fraud was revealed, and the ADRs are now currently trading between $1 and $2, a precipitous drop from the Company's 52-week high of $29.84.

If you purchased or acquired the ADRs of Satyam during the Class Period, you have until March 9, 2009 to ask the Court to appoint you as lead plaintiff for the class. Lead plaintiffs must meet certain legal requirements. Shareholders outside the United States may join the action. If you wish to review a copy of the Complaint, to discuss this action, or have any questions, please contact Shaheen Rushd ( of the Pomerantz Firm at 888.476.6529 (or 888.4-POMLAW), toll free. Those who inquire by e-mail are encouraged to include their mailing address and telephone number.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Deepika Padukone is the most searched celebrity on Yahoo! India Search in 2008

Yahoo! India, the leading internet company announced the most popular searches, themes and trends as part of its 2008 Year-ender Special (, as told through the searches conducted by millions of users. Among the top people searches, Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone emerged a clear winner.

These most searched words in 2008 not only represents the top ten searches across categories, but also shows that users even search for information that affect their daily life including the economy, government organizations and controversies.

“Extreme proliferation of information and paucity of time is fuelling the human desire to get the right answers faster than ever before, prompting them to look for newer search experiences. People are showing a strong preference for a search experience, which integrates relevant text, images, and video content information from across the web onto a single search results page,” said Gopal Krishna, VP and Head of Audience – Emerging Markets, Yahoo!

“These search trends provide greater insight on consumer search behaviour, which in turn helps in making the right information available to people more quickly and easily," Gopal added.

Mobile users continued their online activities even when they were on-the-go. The top searches on Yahoo! oneSearch, the company’s award-winning mobile search product, was ‘Cricket’ followed by ‘Katrina Kaif’ and ‘Asin’, the lead actress of popular Bollywood film Ghajini.

“Users are increasingly searching for information on a mobile device. Yahoo! oneSearch is designed for the needs of a mobile user, intuitively returning results grouped around the user's query intent. For instance, when users search for cricket, Yahoo! oneSearch returns the latest scores, schedules, team profiles, roster, news, images and links to the cricket teams’ websites,” said Vishal Maheshwari, Senior Director – Connected Life, Yahoo! India.

Top Searches

  1. Indian Railways
  2. Deepika Padukone
  3. Cricket
  4. Deepika Padukone
  5. Sixth Pay Commission
  6. Singh Is King
  7. Google

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Rolta says biz in order as shares plunge

Rolta India Ltd on Tuesday said all its businesses and operations were in order in a clarification issued after the software service provider's shares crashed nearly 60 percent to a 3-½ year low.

"The company categorically states that all its operations and business are in order and there are no new developments which have taken place that have any material impact on the company's operations," the company said in a statement to stock exchanges.

Shares had crashed on speculation stocks pledged by promoters have been sold by creditors, which was denied by Chairman Kamal Singh on television.

There was also speculation that foreign funds had sold stake in the software firm, which could not be confirmed immediately. As of December-end, foreign institutional investors held 35.3 percent in Rolta, according to data with the BSE.

"They have not informed us of anything," Chairman and Managing Director Kamal Singh told CNBC-TV18 news channel when asked if any foreign funds had informed him of a share sale.

Rolta Shares & Stocks Pvt has a 2.6-percent stake in Rolta which are pledged to meet its working capital needs, Singh said. However the banks with whom the shares are pledged have not sold these shares, he added.

"We have reconfirmed from all the bankers," said Singh, naming Axis Bank, Union Bank of India and Indian Bank as creditors. "They have all confirmed nothing has been sold."

"Question of selling doesn't arise because we have not drawn any substantial money against these shares," Singh, who is also the company's managing director, said. "Right now nothing has been used out of them. Nothing has been sold out of them."

Rolta shares, which dropped to a 3-½ year low of 42.40 rupees on the speculation, quicky recouped some of its losses on the clarification but still closed 17.7 percent lower at 87.15 rupees in a weak Mumbai market.

Rolta's board is scheduled to meet on Jan. 19 to consider the company's results for the quarter-ended December.

India's 10 Best Technology Product Startups Headstart Launches with Honeywell a "Startup Collaboration Platform"

HeadStart & Compute 2009 an annual conference focused on technology and innovation was organized by HeadStart Foundation & Association of Computing Machinery. Kallol Borah Founder & Director, HeadStart Foundation announced the names of the ten best product technology startups in India. The selected startups are CashNxt,Entrip, SnappyFingers, Alertpedia, Verismo, IndusGeeks, WisdomTap, TringMe, Artin Dynamics, MeshLabs.

Honeywell announced its participation in HeadStart’s Industry- Startup Collaboration Platform .It combines online and offline media to let startups and corporatism jointly identify, pursue and execute business. This collaboration platform opens a new chapter in the innovation ecosystem for the first startups to have an opportunity to directly access large corporates as it reduces sales cycles and enlarges opportunity for them.

Speaking on the occasion, Harsha Angeri Director Strategy and New Initiatives, Honeywell said,”Honeywell thrives on innovation to meet its customer needs globally. In today’s world, innovation can come from various avenues & it is imperative for global companies to establish a network of sourcing mechanisms to access this. A structured platform for startups to showcase innovations & work with Honeywell on its customer’s pain points will create a new value stream for both.”

Dr Vishy Poosala, Head of Bell Labs India, Alcatel-Lucent, while speaking on entrepreneurship within corporates, said ”Companies - big and small - have to continue to innovate year-after-year, or they will fall prey to others, most likely to the two anonymous entrepreneurs working hard in a garage somewhere in Bangalore or Sunnyvale”.

Also addressing the media, Business Development Director Philips, Mr Naveen Kulkarni said “New ventures are no more restricted to start-ups alone. Philips has a strong focus on corporate venturing and innovation is the mantra. This is so more relevant in healthcare where innovative solutions are made up of complex pieces ranging from electronics to specialised medical domain expertise and it is almost like putting pieces in a jigsaw puzzle except that there is nice gating process to ensure success be it a spin-up or spin-in.”

Giving his perspective on the venture capitalist scenario;Mr. Harish Gandhi, Executive Director Canaan Partners, “The start-up ecosystem has been developing rapidly in the past couple of years. While in India we are no-where near the kind of ecosystem that exists in Silicon Valley, the basic building blocks of mentors, incubators and investors are coming together just fine. Companies like HeadStart are going beyond simply bringing together start-ups and investors, and are attempting to bring about closer integration with researchers and corporates which is crucial for the sustenance and growth of innovation.”

HeadStart &Compute event brought together all the stakeholders of the innovation ecosystem - entrepreneurs/startups, corporate adopters of new products and technology, venture capitalists and angel investors, researchers and academia, industry professionals - at one place to showcase innovation and network.

Last years funded companies were benefited by access to investors & funding eg, Mango Technologies also public visibility & profiling in media eg:TringMe and access to prospective customers.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

YSR wants institutional investors to take over Satyam management

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy Sunday said the institutions and companies having stake in Satyam Computer Services could be named to the company's board to take over the management of the crisis-ridden IT firm.

The chief minister made the suggestion even as he welcomed the three-member board constituted by the central government to oversee the functioning of the beleagured company.

YSR, as the chief minister is called by his friends and supporters by his initials, called for making immediate and "permanent management structural changes" to protect the interests of 53,000 employees of the company.

"This three-member committee is supposed to manage the affairs during the period of transition before the new board takes over," the chief minister told reporters.

"To my understanding, almost 95 to 96 percent shares in the company are being held by various financial institutions and different organisations and companies. These organisations, I am sure, will come together and form some sort of a board or structuring and they will ultimately take over the management of the company," he said.

Reddy, however, said the state government has limited role in the matter.

"The government of India is more experienced in these sorts of things. Managing company affairs is not state government's purview. The central government have separate ministry and in their own wisdom they have formed this committee, which will look into all aspects," he said.

Earlier, Minister of Corporate Affairs Premchand Gupta in Delhi announced a three-member board comprising former Nasscom chief Kiran Karnic, chairman of HDFC Deepak Parikh and former member of SEBI (Securities and Exchange Board of India) C. Achuthan.

"The company's order books should be saved and customers' confidence should be restored to protect the future of 53,000 IT engineers, 50 percent of whom are from Andhra Pradesh," the chief minister said.

"We are trying and taking all needful steps in coordination with the government of India see to it that the future of the IT professionals is saved and money of shareholders in salvaged."

"Whatever help the government of India wants, we are too willing to give," Reddy said when asked whether the state government would also nominate members to the board.

While stating that crime branch-criminal investigation department (CB-CID) inquiry into the fraud doesn't prevent inquiry by other law enforcement agencies, the chief minister said. if necessary, the state government would refer the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

"Instituting a CB-CID inquiry doesn't prevent the department of company affairs, SEBI or any other legal enforcement agency to act from booking cases, or get the custody of the accused for interrogation," the chief minister said.

He claimed Ramalinga Raju and his brother Rama Raju were arrested Friday night after he directed the police to register a suo moto case of fraud against the brothers.

Satyam's Raju spent first night in jail like ordinary prisoner

Once in the list of the richest Indians, disgraced founder and former chairman of Satyam Computers B. Ramalinga Raju and his brother B. Rama Raju spent Saturday night in the Chanchalguda jail and slept on the floor along with 26 other prisoners accused of petty crimes like theft.

The Raju brothers, who have been remanded to judicial custody till Jan 23 by a magistrate, will be treated like ordinary undertrials. Prison authorities said there would be no special treatment for them.

The high-profile remand prisoners, involved in a Rs.70 billion fraud in the company, slept on groundsheets and were provided with woollen blankets in the admission barrack of the jail.

They were brought to the jail after 6 p.m. and by that time the supper for prisoners had already been served. When jail authorities asked if they wanted dinner, they said they were not hungry.

The former Satyam boss and his brother will be shown no VIP treatment. There will be no homemade food for them and they will be served jail food thrice a day along with other inmates, said a prison official.

Each will be eligible for 650 gm of rice thrice a day along with 250 gm of vegetable curry and 125 gm of 'daal'. They will also be served tea twice a day.

The Rajus are likely to be shifted to the barracks on Monday after the court hears their bail petition. However, they will be segregated from those accused in violent offences like murders, dacoities and robberies. They are likely to be lodged in separate barracks meant for prisoners facing 'soft' cases like cheating.

The Rajus will be in the company of other high-profile prisoners like Venkateshwara Rao, former chairman of Krushi Bank, K.S. Raju, chairman of Nagarjuna Finance Limited (NFL), and a former director of NFL P.K. Madhav. All three were also accused of swindling huge amounts of money of depositors.

The prison authorities have been given clear orders by the higher-ups that they should not show special treatment to the Rajus. Even jail superintendent M. Chandrasekhar was transferred a day before the Rajus were remanded to judicial custody in the wake of allegations that inmates K.S. Raju and P.K. Madhav were given special treatment. The two were shifted to a hospital recently on medical grounds.

On the request of Ramalinga Raju's lawyer S. Bharat Kumar, the magistrate has issued orders to the jail authorities to constantly monitor his health. "His blood pressure is fluctuating and he needs medical treatment," said Bharat Kumar.

Immediately after the Rajus were brought to the jail, the authorities asked him whether he required any medical examination, but he declined.

They have been charged with criminal breach of trust, criminal conspiracy, cheating, falsification of records and forgery.

Ramalinga Raju Wednesday resigned as chairman of Satyam, India's fourth largest IT services company, while admitting to the massive fraud. His brother Rama Raju also quit as the managing director.

They were arrested by the Crime Investigation Department (CID) Friday night. The CID officials grilled them for over 18 hours at the state police headquarters to collect evidence against them.

"Googling damages the planet"

Performing two Google searches from a desktop computer can generate the same amount of harmful carbon dioxide as boiling an electric kettle for a cup of tea, according to new research quoted Sunday.

A typical search generates about seven grammes of CO2 whereas an electric kettle generates about 15 gm, The Sunday Times quoted a Harvard University physicist as saying.

“A Google search has a definite environmental impact,” says Alex Wissner-Gross, whose research due out soon.

The newspaper said Google is “secretive” about its energy comsumption and carbon footprint, and refuses to divulge the locations of its data centres.

“However, with 200 million internet searches estimated globally daily, the electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions caused by computers and the internet is provoking concern,” the newspaper said.

A recent report by information technology analysts Gartner said the global IT industry generates as much greenhouse gas - which contribute to global warming - as the airlines industry.

The Google system, which sends search queries to several competing servers that may be thousands of miles apart, “minimises delays but raises energy consumption".

Wissner-Gross has submitted his research for publication by the US Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and has set up a website .

“Google are very efficient but their primary concern is to make searches fast and that means they have a lot of extra capacity that burns energy,” the physicist said.

Google said, “We are among the most efficient of all internet search providers.”

Government announces three-member board for Satyam

The government Sunday named a three-member board, including former Nasscom chief Kiran Karnic and Deepak Parikh, chairman of HDFC, to oversee the functioning of scam-tainted Satyam Computers.

Minister of Corporate Affairs Premchand Gupta told reporters here that the board, whose third member will be C. Achuthan, former member of SEBI (Securities and Exchange Board of India), will ensure that Satyam continues to function in the "interest of the company and its shareholders". The IT bellwether has been hit by a Rs.70 billion fraud perpetrated by its founder B. Ramalinga Raju.

Gupta said the board will meet immediately and other members will be included later.

"Having considered all aspects, the government has decided to reconstitute the Satyam board, with experts in different fields," he said.

"Such a board will provide the necessary vision and accountable leadership for the company in the hour of crisis."

"It would restore credibility, customer confidence and employee morale," Gupta said.

He said the board would function independently and make its "own assessment and take appropriate decisions".

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Google Gets A New Favicon

Generally when a site changes its favicon (the tiny image that typically appears next to the URL in your browser) nobody really notices or cares. Unless you're Google.

Back in June the company unveiled a brand new stylized 'g' icon with a blue background. It was sleek, but a big departure from the classic G logo that everyone was familiar with. The blue icon made appearances elsewhere, too, and can now be seen on the Google iPhone Mobile App.

Now it looks like the company has switched again, this time to a logo that incorporates the same stylized lowercase g, but one that also includes the company's classic yellow/blue/green/red color scheme.

Marrisa Mayer, the company's Vice President, Search Products & User Experience had this to say last time the company made a change:

"The reason is that we wanted to develop a set of icons that would scale better to some new platforms like the iPhone and other mobile devices. So the new favicon is one of those, but we?ve also developed a group of logo-based icons that all hang together as a unified set."

Satyam's disgraced Raju brothers jailed till Jan 23

Satyam Computers disgraced founder B. Ramalinga Raju and his brother B. Rama Raju were Saturday sent to jail till Jan 23, a day after they were arrested for a Rs.70 billion (Rs.7,000 crore) financial fraud in the company.

The duo were produced before the VI Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate D. Ramakrishna around 5 p.m. Saturday.

"The magistrate has ordered judicial custody (for the Raju brothers) till Jan 23," lawyer for the brothers S. Bharat Kumar told reporters outside the magistrate's house in West Maredpally area. They were produced in the magistrate's residence as Saturday is a court holiday.

The brothers have been charged with cheating, criminal conspiracy, forging, criminal breach of trust, among other things.

They will be lodged in Chanchalguda jail in the old city of Hyderabad.

The magistrate rejected their lawyer's plea to permit Ramalinga Raju to get admitted to a hospital in view of his ill-health.

"Please permit my client to be admitted to a hospital," Bharat Kumar pleaded.

Declining this, the magistrate directed the jail authorities to monitor Raju's health constantly and provide all medical help.

The brothers will be lodged in separate cells in the Chanchalguda jail.

The 54-year-old Ramalinga Raju and his brother were arrested late Friday after they surrendered before Andhra Pradesh Director General of Police S.S.P. Yadav following registration of a criminal case against them.

The arrest came two days after Ramalinga Raju confessed Wednesday to the country's biggest financial fraud of Rs.70 billion and resigned as chairman of the company he started in 1987.

His brother Rama Raju, who was the managing director of the company, also resigned the same day.

Quick prima facie case against the Rajus must: Auditors

If justice has to prevail, the government should establish a prima facie case against Satyam Computer's former chairman B. Ramalinga Raju and his brother B. Rama Raju, who is also the company's former managing director, say auditors here.

"There is a confession by Ramalinga Raju saying that the cash that was supposed to be there is not there. It would have been a matter of time for Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to get the bank balance details of Satyam Computer Services or its associates to ascertain the existence, non-existence or withdrawal of the cash," S. Santhanakrishnan, central council member of Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, told IANS.

According to him, a preliminary enquiry report could have been prepared in three days after questioning bankers.

"As a matter of fact, a prima facie case could be established within 72 hours of the confession," he said from Dubai.

Another auditor, preferring anonymity, said no auditor will certify the bank balance - fixed, savings or current account - without seeing the fixed deposit receipt or the passbook.

"It should be probed whether banks acted as a party to the financial fraud confessed by the former Satyam Computer chairman."

V. Murali, another member of ICAI's central council, said the institute's Financial Reporting Review Board has issued a notice to PriceWaterhouse Coopers (PWC), the statutory auditors for Satyam Computer Services.

"We have also called for the working papers. The reply is awaited. It is a basic lesson in auditing that a company should convert large cash balances into fixed deposits at the year-end. It is crucial to see the books as to what happened in Satyam Computer Services after March 31, 2008," Murali said.

The working papers on how the bank reconciliation statement was prepared is expected to throw more light on the whole episode.

Murali said the investigating agencies should also question officials of Satyam's accounting department.

Added Santhanakrishnan: "The government or SEBI (Securities and Exchange Board of India) should now stipulate that listed companies be subjected to joint audit and there should also be rotation of auditors.

"The rotation will ensure independence of the auditors. If both joint audit and auditor rotation are there, no audit firm will dance to the tunes of the company management to dress or cook up the accounts," he added.

The auditor also said the Indian banking system could witness similar financial scandals in the days to come with the government scrapping the bank audit panel system and permitting the chairman of a bank to appoint the internal auditor.

"The government's move is retrograde and will expose the financial sector to graver risk as witnessed in the Satyam Computer Services episode. The Indian banking system has not experienced any major financial scandal mainly because of audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), and also because of the internal auditors appointed from the panel," he said.

BREAKING NEWS: Satyam Computers' B. Ramalinga Raju, brother B. Rama Raju sent to jail till Jan 23.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Government asks Satyam to appoint new directors within seven days

The government Friday announced that it has asked scam-tainted IT bellwether Satyam Computers to appoint new directors within seven days.

"The government has aked Satyam Computers to appoint new directors within next seven days," said Prem Chand Gupta, minister for company affairs.

The company's existing directors will have no powers until the board is reconstituted.

"The company law board has already issued an order to the existing directors of the board restraining them from exercising their functions and the order becomes effective immediately," the minister added.

Investors and customers of the troubled IT giant have been watching the government closely and waiting for some quick action from the market regulator as well.

"The SEBI office at Hyderabad has already taken action which includes seizure of documents of the company and the ministry of corporate affairs has already sent a team of officers who are now inspecting Satyam's eight group companies," said Gupta.

On issues of gross violation of corporate governance norms by the company, Gupta said: "The Satyam case in an aberration, the government is determined to take all possible actions under the law to bring to book all those persons who are responsible for betraying the faith of lakhs of shareholders, employees and customers within and outside the country."

As the enormity of the scandal broke out, role of auditors of the company, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) came under the scanner. "Action has already been initiated by the Institute of Charted Accountants of India (ICAI) against the auditors of the company," added Gupta.

Satyam chief B. Ramalinga Raju has been asked to appear before SEBI at 4 p.m. Saturday to answer the summons served on him in connection with a Rs.70-billion accounting fraud.

After government pressure, oil strike called off

A strike by public sector oil firms that almost crippled India was called off after three days Friday evening, soon after the government warned that the strikers would be sacked if they did not resume work.

"Yes, we have called off our agitation," Sanjay Varshney, one of the vice presidents of the Oil Sector Officers Association (OSOA) that launched the strike Wednesday, told IANS.

Saturday and Sunday have also been declared working days at the state-owned energy companies in a desperate bid to restore normalcy across India after thousands of fuel stations ran out of stock, paralysing road traffic in many places and hitting hard refineries.

There were signs of the strike coming apart since Friday afternoon with staffers of energy firms starting to resume duty in batches after warnings of mass dismissals.

Attendance at Bharat Petroleum (BPCL) rose 40 percent, those at Oil India (OIL) withdrew from the strike, and employees of Indian Oil Corp (IOC) in the southern region resumed work.

The OSOA, the umbrella body of about 45,000 employees of over a dozen state-run energy firms, were demanding higher salaries.

A few hours before the strike ended, Petroleum Minister Murli Deora asserted that the protest was set to end.

“The illegal strike seems to be over. In the whole country, the situation has improved,” the minister said.

“Near-normal situation is expected in BPCL by evening. The IOC (Indian Oil Corp) Panipat refinery will start output later today while the Mathura refinery will start operations within 12 hours,” he said. “The government is confident the strike will be called off within next six to 12 hours.”

Deora, who rejected talks with the strikers if they did not resume work, Friday morning sought the Territorial Army's help to end the impasse.

The crisis management group of the cabinet met in the morning and decided that the government would not bow to the strikers.

Petroleum ministry Secretary R.S. Sharma warned striking employees to call off the strike or face the axe.

“There are only two options before you: join work immediately or face arrest under ESMA (Essential Supplies Maintenance Act) or NSA (National Security Act)," Pandey said.

Maintaining that “there is no pleasure in dismissing people”, Pandey said that strikers could also face dismissal from service.

And to show that it was no idle threat, the Oil and Natutral Gas Corp (ONGC) sacked 64 employees. IOC and GAIL India (formerly Gas Authority of India) axed three staffers each, he said.

According to Pandey, only a third of IOC outlets were operational across the country. For BPCL it was a little over 65 percent while at 95 percent it was the highest at Hindustan Petroleum, whose employees had not joined the strike.

Both Deora and Pandey asked the people to stop panic buying.

During the day, fuel-starved autorickshaws, taxis and private vehicles went off the roads in India's financial capital Mumbai, putting millions to hardship. The situation was only marginally better in New Delhi, where road traffic thinned by evening as scores of petrol and diesel pumps ran out of stock.

As panic mounted all over the country with motorists jostling for what little was available in petrol stations, Home Minister P. Chidambaram said: "Strong action would be taken and I believe strong actions are being taken. If someone from the army has to be called, they will be called."

Indo-Asian News Service

Oil strike hits India hard, government says it is ending

A strike in public sector oil firms that has hit India hard "seems to be over", Petroleum Minister Murli Deora said Friday, as the fuel shortage sparked panic across the country.

On the third day of a nationwide strike by about 45,000 employees of 13 companies, shortages of petrol and diesel stranded many thousands of small and big vehicles in towns and cities.

Fuel-starved autorickshaws, taxis and private vehicles remained off the roads Friday in India's financial capital Mumbai, putting millions to hardship. The situation was only marginally better in New Delhi, where road traffic thinned by evening as scores of petrol and diesel pumps ran out of stock.

The Oil Sector Officers Association started an indefinite strike Wednesday in support of higher salaries.

But the government took a tough stand, threatening strikers with arrest if they did not report to work immediately.

Minister Deora, who had earlier accused the officers of blackmailing the country, asserted Friday evening: "The strike has not been withdrawn but it seems to be over."

The crisis management group of the cabinet met in the morning and decided that the government would not bow to the strikers.

A defiant Home Minister P. Chidambaram said: "If someone from the army has to be called, they will be called."

As panic mounted all over the country with motorists jostling for what little was available in petrol stations, Chidambaram said: "Strong action would be taken and I believe strong actions are being taken."

The threat appeared to be having its effect.

By evening, more and more officials got back to work, the authorities said, and the government was able to hold out hope that supplies to petrol pumps, power stations and refineries would normalise by the weekend.

Deora appealed to people to stop panic buying.

Petroleum ministry Secretary R.S. Pandey warned the strikers to get back to work or face arrest under the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) and even the National Security Act (NSA).

At the same time, he said the strike had been withdrawn in the Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL), one of the three big public sector oil companies. Officials in Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL) did not join the strike.

At Indian Oil Corp (IOC), the biggest of the public sector firms, officials in south Indian branches started returning to work by evening.

IOC chief Sarthak Behuria hoped that the situation in the firm would normalise by Sunday. Officials in Oil India Ltd also returned to work, Pandey said.

By then enough damage had been done all over the country.

Thousands of petrol and diesel pumps ran dry and cooking gas distributors stopped taking orders for fresh supply. Some power stations and refineries also shut down as natural gas supplies failed.

In some areas, blacked-out residents could not run their generators due to lack of diesel.

Early Friday, the Federation of All India Petroleum Traders said that the petrol stocks in the national capital would be over by evening.

According to the federation, 60-70 percent of petrol pumps had already gone dry in the city.

Indo-Asian News Service

Air Force readies air-to-air refuellers to face fuel crisis

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has readied its squadron of IL-78 midair refuellers to supply aviation fuel in case the strike by employees of public sector oil firms cripples the aviation sector, an official said here Friday.

"The six IL-78 aircraft have been kept ready to deal with a crisis situation if the need arises," a senior IAF official said.

The IL-78 squadron is based at Agra. A fully loaded IL-78 aircraft carries 60 tonnes of fuel and can refuel two airbuses.

The official added that the strike has not so far affected commercial flights.

The Oil Sector Officers' Association (OSOA), an umbrella body of employees of public sector oil companies, has called the strike in support of its demand for a wage hike.

'Oil sector crisis to improve by Monday'

The oil sector crisis is expected to improve over the weekend as some striking officers have started returning to work, a senior industry official said here Friday.

“The situation is coming back to normal and things will improve over the weekend. Normalcy in supplies should happen by Monday,” Indian Oil Corp (IOC) chairman Sarthak Behuria said at a press conference.

“Some officials in south India are already back,” he added.

The Oil Sector Officers Association (OSOA), which represents about 45,000 employees across 14 state-owned energy firms, went on strike from Jan 7 morning, demanding higher wages.

According to the association, the government's claim that the pay revision for the oil sector employees was between 55 percent to 139 percent was false, and that the hike was only 17 percent.

FAQs on the oil strike

Frequently asked questions on the oil employees' strike:

Q: Who all are involved?

A: Employees of 13 public sector energy companies, including majors such as Indian Oil Corp, Bharat Petroleum, Oil and Natural Gas Corp and GAIL India (previously Gas Authority of India Ltd).

The Oil Sector Officers Association (OSOA) - the umbrella organisation representing 45,000 officers in 14 public sector oil and gas companies - called the strike from 6 a.m. Wednesday.

11,000 Hindustan Petroleum Corp officers have not joined the strike.

Of total 17 public sector owned refineries, four have shut shop, remaining 13 are running at 60 percent capacity utilisation.

Q: What do they want?

A: wage hike. OSOA claims that the average wage hike is only 17 percent and the government was hoodwinking the people by saying that it was between 55 to 149 percent.

Q: Employees of which 13 companies are on strike?

A: Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC), Oil India Corp (OIL), Indian Oil Corp (IOC), Chennai Petroleum Corp Ltd (CPCL), Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL), GAIL (India) Ltd. (GAIL), Bongaigaon Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd (BRPL), Engineers India Ltd. (EIL), Mangalore Refinery & Petrochemicals Limited (MRPL), IBP Ltd, Kochi Refineries, Numaligarh Refinery (NRL), Balmer-Lawrie.

Q: What is the fallout of the strike?

A: Petrol pumps are running dry resulting in serpentine queues at HPCL petrol pumps, while those operated by private retail company Essar Oil have seen a spurt in demand.

Refineries are not working across Koyali (Gujarat), Haldia (West Bengal), Panipat(Haryana) and Mathura (Uttar Pradesh).

Q: How many people, sectors are hit?

A: Vehicle owners, public transport and school children who use school buses, plus power, steel and fertiliser plants that need gas and oil supplies. The aviation sector too has been hit. Aditya Birla Nuvo had to shut down its fertiliser plant in Uttar Pradesh.

Q: What is the government doing to resolve the situation?

A: Petroleum Minister Murli Deora has begun conducting talks with the Territorial Army to break the impasse.

The government has also invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act(ESMA) and started arresting trade union officials. ONGC has sacked 54 striking employees.

The country's two private refiners, Essar and Reliance Industries, have been asked to meet any shortfall that state-owned oil companies may face.

Q: Any solution in sight?

A: IOC says staffers in south India have returned to work. The government says crisis will be over by Monday.
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