Friday, July 31, 2009

Youtube Hindi launched as reported earlier by Brandfaqs

Youtube Hindi was launched on schedule on July 30 as reported earlier by us. In the bid to grab the Hindi language Internet users in India, Google has been focussing on Indic language inclusion in its portfolio for a long time and Blogger & Gmail Indic transliteration were some such initiatives.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

UCO Bank reports higher net profit

State-owned UCO Bank posted a net profit of Rs.178.85 crore for the quarter ended June 30, compared to Rs.133.44 crore for the first quarter of the previous year.

"Total income has increased from Rs.19,991.60 million (Rs.1,999.16 crore) for the quarter ended June 30, 2008 to Rs.25,836.80 million (Rs.2,583.68 crore) for the quarter ended June 30, 2009," the bank said in a statement Thursday.

Emirates Airline becomes world's largest Boeing 777 operator

The Emirates Airline, the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has become the world's largest operator of Boeing 777 planes with the arrival of its 78th aircraft of 777-300ER series configured for long distance journeys, WAM news agency reported Thursday.

Emirates, which still awaits the delivery of another 28 Boeing 777s, is also the only airline to operate every model of the 777 family that include Boeing 777-200s, -200ERs, -200LRs, -300s, -300ERs and freighters.

According to Tim Clark, president of the airline, the Boeing 777s are the backbone of the airline's fleet that fly to six continents from its hub, Dubai.

"The 777 is an excellent aircraft in terms of operating economics, and importantly, the new technologies incorporated within enable us to fit it out with the latest onboard systems and passenger amenities," said Clark.

"We have configured these aircraft to give us maximum flexibility in terms of route deployment," he added.

Marty Bentrott, Boeing's vice president of sales for the Middle East, Central and South Asia, said: "The 777 is the world's most successful twin-engine, long-haul airplane and Emirates has contributed significantly to the program's success."

"With suppliers around the world contributing to and benefitting from 777 production, Emirates' investment toward building the world's largest Boeing 777 fleet has played a role in maintaining and strengthening the global aviation manufacturing industry," Bentrott added.

Emirates received its first 777, a Boeing 777-200, in 1996. Its current 777 fleet comprises three -200s, six -200ERs, 10 -200LRs, 12 -300s, 45 -300ERs, and two 777 freighters. In total, Emirates operates 137 an all-wide body fleet of Boeing and Airbus aircraft to 99 cities in 60 countries on six continents.

The airline's long-range 777s have also been equipped with its very latest onboard products including private suites in First Class, lie-flat massage seats in Business Class, and ergonomically designed seats in Economy Class.

Nestle India net up 33.8 percent

Food products major Nestle India Thursday reported a 33.8 percent increase in net profit to Rs.162 crore for the quarter ended June 30 as compared to Rs.121 crore in the like period last fiscal.

The total income surged 16.8 percent to Rs.1,218 crore from Rs.1,042 crore, the company said in a regulatory statement.

The company's net sales increased 16.8 percent.

The domestic sales increased 19.7 percent on account of both volumes and realisations, while exports dipped 13.5 percent on account of lower exports to Russia and Bangladesh.

Reliance Infrastructure net up 25 percent

Power utility and infrastructure major Reliance Infrastructure, part of the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, Thursday posted 25 percent increase in net profit to Rs.317 crore ($66 million) for the quarter ended June 30.

The company's total income increased 7 percent to Rs.2,446.3 crore in the first quarter of the current fiscal, compared to Rs.2,290.29 crore in the same quarter a year ago.

While the electrical energy division contributed Rs.1,880.49 crore to the total income, the engineering and construction segment accounted for Rs.565.84 crore.

Reliance Infrastructure, which has interests in areas spanning power generation, distribution, cement, ports and airports as well as roads and highways, has an order book position of Rs.20,075 crore.

Earnings per share stood at Rs.58 per share in the first quarter as against Rs.43.2 in the corresponding period last year. The company's net worth on a stand-alone basis stood at Rs.12,172 crore.

Reliance Infrastructure has firmed up plans for a major foray into cement production and expansion of airports across the country, the company said.

The group has emerged as the highest bidder for the privatisation of all five regional airports in Maharashtra at Nanded, Latur, Yavatmal, Baramati and Osmanabad.

Microsoft Releases Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 for Manufacturing

Microsoft today announced the release to manufacturing (RTM) of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, the next versions of its flagship desktop and server operating systems. This signals the completion of the development phase and industry partners including OEMs and Independent Hardware Vendors (IHVs), are now readying products in time for the worldwide general launches of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. Windows 7 will be available by October to customers across the world, with current Windows Volume License customers, MSDN subscribers and TechNet subscribers getting first access in the coming weeks itself.

With Windows 7, Microsoft is delivering a foundation for exceptional customer experiences across applications, services and devices. Windows 7 enhances PC manageability and introduces compelling new experiences, delivering an operating system that is nimble, highly reliable, more secure, optimized for today's powerful hardware and able to easily connect with the devices people use today. It reflects an evolved approach to engineering that weaves customer and partner feedback more closely into the development process. Windows 7 delivers innovative new features while focusing on preserving application and device compatibility.

Key time lines


When they will receive Software images of Win 7


Next 2 days

ISV (Independent software vendor) and IHV (Independent hardware vendor)

August 6th, 2009

Developers with MSDN Subscriptions

August 6th, 2009

Volume License (VL) customer with an existing Software Assurance (SA)

7th August, 2009

Microsoft Partner Program Gold/Certified Members

August 16th, 2009

Volume License customers without a SA license

1st September, 2009

Microsoft Action Pack Subscribers

August 23rd, 2009

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Stocks slump on Yahoo

Stocks slipped Wednesday, as investors soured on news that Yahoo was partnering with Microsoft and mulled a weaker-than-expected reading on durable goods orders.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) lost 46 points, or 0.5% around two hours into the session. The S&P 500 (SPX) index fell 6 points, or 0.7%. The Nasdaq composite (COMP) gave up 11 points, or 0.6%.

In addition to the day's news, Wall Street was also vulnerable to a pullback in the wake of a big two-week rally that lifted the Dow and S&P 500 by more than 11% and the Nasdaq by 12%.

The rally was sparked by a series of better-than-expected quarterly results. But with more than half of the S&P 500 companies yet to report, investors are showing a little caution.

Microsoft-Yahoo: The tech bellwethers have finally completed a 10-year search deal that takes aim at Google's dominance in the online market.

Yahoo (YHOO, Fortune 500) will use and promote Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500)'s Bing search engine on its site. In exchange, the company will keep 88% of the revenue from all search ad sales for the first five years. Yahoo will also have the right to sell ads on some Microsoft sites.

However, investors expressed some disappointment that Yahoo will not receive an upfront payment, sending its shares down by 11%.

Microsoft attempted to buy Yahoo outright for $47.5 billion last year, but was rebuffed by the company. Microsoft shares gained 1% Wednesday.

Google "interested" in Microsoft-Yahoo deal

Search engine giant Google Inc said it was "interested" in Microsoft's 10-year search deal with Yahoo (YHOO.O: Quote, Profile, Research) announced on Wednesday, adding that competition was usually good for online users.

"There has traditionally been a lot of competition online, and our experience is that competition brings about great things for users," said Google spokesman Adam Kovakovich.

"We're interested to learn more about the deal," he said in an emailed statement.

Google made a search ad deal with Yahoo in June 2008 but scrapped it because of objections from the Justice Department.

Advertisers had hotly opposed it, fearing Google and Yahoo's dominance of the market could mean higher prices. Yahoo initially struck the deal with Google as a way to fend off an unsolicited takeover bid from Microsoft.

Microsoft had lobbied hard against the Google/Yahoo partnership.


माइक्रोसॉफ्‍ट कार्पोरेशन और याहू गूगल के खिलाफ एकजुट

दुनिया में सॉफ्टवेयर दिग्गज कंपनी माइक्रोसॉफ् कार्पोरेशन और याहू प्रतिद्वंद्वी सर्च इंजन गूगल इंक के खिलाफ लामबंदी करते हुए 'ऑनलाइन रिसर्च एवं विज्ञापन भागीदारी' पर सहमति जताई है।
पूरे मामले से परिचित सूत्रों का दावा है कि इस संबंध में आधिकारिक घोषणा अगले 24 घंटों के भीतर कर दी जाएगी।

सूत्रों के अनुसार माइक्रोसॉफ्‍ट इसके लिए याहू को कोई भुगतान नहीं करेगा। समझौते के अनुसार दोनों कंपनियाँ प्राप्त राजस्व पर भागेदारी करेगी। हालाँकि याहू और माइक्रोसॉफ्‍ट ने इस संबंध में फिलहाल टिप्पणी करने से इनकार कर दिया है। दोनों कंपनियाँ कई महीनों से ऑनलाइन मार्केट पर बातचीत कर रही थी, जिससे पर गूगल का पूरी तरह से कब्जा है।

माइक्रोसॉफ्‍ट ने पिछले साल याहू का अधिग्रहण करने का प्रयास किया था, लेकिन उसके 47.5 अरब डॉलर के प्रस्ताव को याहू निदेशक मंडल ने ठुकरा दिया। इसके बाद याहू ने गूगल के साथ ऑनलाइन रिसर्च का करार किया, जो नियामक संस्था की जाँच में फँस गया।

माइक्रोसॉफ्‍ट और याहू के प्रस्तावित समझौते के मुताबिक माइक्रोसॉफ्‍ट का नयस बिंग सर्च इंजन याहू पर की गई खोज को गति देगा, जबकि याहू विज्ञापन के प्रबंध में माइक्रोसॉफ्‍ट की प्रौद्योगिकी का इस्तेमाल करेगा।

माइक्रोसॉफ्ट-याहू गूगल के khilaphayekajut

दुनिया में सॉफ्टवेयर दिग्गज कंपनी माइक्रोसॉफ् कार्पोरेशन और याहू प्रतिद्वंद्वी सर्च इंजन गूगल इंक के खिलाफ लामबंदी करते हुए 'ऑनलाइन रिसर्च एवं विज्ञापन भागीदारी' पर सहमति जताई है।
पूरे मामले से परिचित सूत्रों का दावा है कि इस संबंध में आधिकारिक घोषणा अगले 24 घंटों के भीतर कर दी जाएगी।

सूत्रों के अनुसार माइक्रोसॉफ्‍ट इसके लिए याहू को कोई भुगतान नहीं करेगा। समझौते के अनुसार दोनों कंपनियाँ प्राप्त राजस्व पर भागेदारी करेगी। हालाँकि याहू और माइक्रोसॉफ्‍ट ने इस संबंध में फिलहाल टिप्पणी करने से इनकार कर दिया है। दोनों कंपनियाँ कई महीनों से ऑनलाइन मार्केट पर बातचीत कर रही थी, जिससे पर गूगल का पूरी तरह से कब्जा है।

माइक्रोसॉफ्‍ट ने पिछले साल याहू का अधिग्रहण करने का प्रयास किया था, लेकिन उसके 47.5 अरब डॉलर के प्रस्ताव को याहू निदेशक मंडल ने ठुकरा दिया। इसके बाद याहू ने गूगल के साथ ऑनलाइन रिसर्च का करार किया, जो नियामक संस्था की जाँच में फँस गया।

माइक्रोसॉफ्‍ट और याहू के प्रस्तावित समझौते के मुताबिक माइक्रोसॉफ्‍ट का नयस बिंग सर्च इंजन याहू पर की गई खोज को गति देगा, जबकि याहू विज्ञापन के प्रबंध में माइक्रोसॉफ्‍ट की प्रौद्योगिकी का इस्तेमाल करेगा।

Microsoft-Yahoo Deal

Yahoo, Microsoft reach search and ad partnership
Internet search firm Yahoo and software giant Microsoft have reached a 10-year deal in which they hope to tackle the online dominance of Google, media reports said Wednesday.

Under the terms of the deal, Yahoo will use Microsoft's new search engine on its sites and handle some advertising sales for Microsoft. The two companies will share search-related advertising revenue.

"This agreement comes with boatloads of value for Yahoo, our users, and the industry, and I believe it establishes the foundation for a new era of Internet innovation and development," Yahoo Chief Executive Officer Carol Bartz was quoted as saying by the Wall Street Journal.

Google controls some 65 percent of the US Internet search market, with Yahoo ranked a distant second with 19.6 percent and Microsoft third with 8.4 percent.

Microsoft almost bought Yahoo for $47.5 billion last year, but the move was scuttled at the last minute by Yahoo co-founder and chief executive Jerry Yang, who later resigned following widespread criticism.

Microsoft has since refused to revive the buyout offer, but Yang's successor, Bartz, confirmed in May that the two companies were holding talks on search collaboration.

The agreement would come just weeks after Microsoft launched its new search engine, Bing, which has been widely praised as a worthy competitor to Google.

NIIT net dips 42 percent

IT training service provider NIIT Ltd Wednesday reported 42 percent dip in net profits to Rs.9.9 crore for the quarter ended June 30 as against Rs.17 crore in the like period last year.

However, the company recorded one percent increase in its net revenue to Rs.261 crore from Rs.259.5 crore, NIIT said in a statement.

"Forex volatility adversely affected profit from operations as well as the share of associates' profits," NIIT chairman Rajendra S. Pawar said.

School learning solutions reported strong growth in revenues. During the quarter, NIIT received mandate to provide computer aided education across 1,870 government schools in Gujarat.

"The school learning solutions showed healthy growth of 43 percent with 1,984 new schools added in the quarter," said P. Rajendran, chief operating officer of NIIT.

Central Bank to raise stake in housing finance arm

State-run Central Bank of India plans to raise its stake in its housing finance arm Centbank Home Finance, a top official said here Wednesday.

The bank is planning to acquire the stakes of its two partners - Special Undertaking of UTI (SUUTI) and Urban Development Corp Ltd (HUDCO) - in Centbank Home Finance, S. Sridhar, chairman and managing director of Central Bank, said.

"We are planning to buy out the two partners but NHB (National Housing Bank) will remain," Sridhar told reporters on the sidelines of a programme.

SUUTI holds 9 percent in Centbank Home Finance while HUDCO has 16 percent and NHB has 16 percent.

At present, Central Bank holds a majority 59 percent stake in the housing company.

The restructuring is aimed at making the housing company supplement Central Bank's presence in home finance in a better way, Sridhar said.

"The change in stakeholding will happen in the next six months," he added.

The bank plans to raise Rs.700 crore through tier I capital and Rs.350 crore through tier II this current fiscal, Sridhar added.

Microsoft, Yahoo ink deal to counter Google

Tech giants Microsoft and Yahoo reached a long-awaited partnership Wednesday in a bid to challenge Google, which holds a 65 percent market share in online search.

Under a 10-year deal, websites from both companies would use Microsoft's Bing search engine, which could now integrate Yahoo's considerable trove of search technology.

Yahoo, in turn, would handle worldwide sales of premium search-related advertising for both companies.

In exchange for becoming Yahoo's sole search provider - and gaining access to its massive traffic - Microsoft would pay its partner 88 percent of the search revenues generated on Yahoo sites.

"This agreement comes with boatloads of value for Yahoo, our users and the industry, and I believe it establishes the foundation for a new era of Internet innovation and development," said Yahoo chief executive Carol Bartz in a statement.

According to Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer, the deal will allow Microsoft to "create more innovation in search, better value for advertisers and real consumer choice in a market currently dominated by a single company".

And in a dig against online search market leader Google, the companies said in a joint statement that "advertisers no longer have to rely on one company that dominates more than 70 percent of all search".

A Yahoo-Microsoft partnership would mean about 28 percent of Internet searches would be performed on their combined platform, according to figures from ratings firm comScore Inc.

That would still be less than half of the about 65 percent market share of Google Inc., which has long dominated the search space.

Last year, Microsoft attempted to buy Yahoo for more than $45 billion, an unsolicited bid Yahoo rejected, but the Redmond, Washington-based software giant has long had Yahoo's search business at the top of its wish list, and the two had reportedly been in discussions for months.

Yahoo estimated the deal would add $500 million to its annual operating profit, as well as saving it around $275 million in expenses related to developing and maintaining its own search technology.

Jet Airways to launch Mumbai-Riyadh flight Aug 6

Private carrier Jet Airways will launch flight from Mumbai to Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh from Aug 6, the airline said Wednesday.

"The airline will launch four services a week on the Mumbai-Riyadh sector - on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays," Jet said in a statement.

Riyadh will be Jet's second destination in Saudi Arabia as it has already launched services to Jeddah. Jet flies to six other cities in the Gulf.

The airline would fly the state-of-the-art Boeing 737-800 aircraft on the Mumbai-Riyadh route.

Jet chief executive Wolfgang Prock-Schauer said the launch of flight to the new sector would further reinforce the airline's position as a leading carrier in the Indo-Gulf sector.

Jet will also launch daily service to Dubai from Hyderabad, its fifth daily service to the Gulf, and to Bangkok from Mumbai from Aug 16.

In addition the airline will also launch Kochi-Sharjah flight from Sep 1.

United Spirits net rises 54 percent

Liquor major United Spirits has posted a 54 percent hike in net profit at Rs.179.06 crore in the quarter ended June 30 as against Rs.115.93 crore in the like period last year.

The total revenue stood at Rs.1,248.06 crore in the quarter, up 17 percent from Rs.1,067.12 crore reported in the year-ago period.

The company attributed the increase in sales to first time consumers, who had attained a legal drinking age.

"These first time consumers are now entering at mid price points as against low price points," it said in a regulatory statement.

A drop in prices of fuel and a reduction in excise duties resulted in cost of packaging go down. The company also spent less during the quarter on marketing activities.

CIAL announces 10 percent dividend

Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL), the fourth largest airport in India, Wednesday announced a divided of 10 percent up from eight percent given last year.

A top CIAL official told IANS that the decision was taken at the board of directors meeting held late Wednesday evening under the chairmanship of Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan.

"The annual general body meeting of CIAL has been fixed for Sep 28 and also the audited accounts for the last fiscal reveal a profit of Rs.57 crores," said the official.

The profits of CIAL grew from Rs.47.12 crore in 2007-08 to Rs.57 crore in the last fiscal.

About 10 domestic and 16 international airlines operate from CIAL and in the last fiscal 3.5 million passengers used the airport.

CIAL is the first airport outside the ambit of the Airports Authority of India and was formed as public limited company with equity participation from the Kerala government, financial institutions and a large number of non-resident Indians (NRIs), a majority of whom are Malayalis based in the Middle East.

UAE bank ropes in British business school to educate staff

The National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) Wednesday signed a key partnership agreement with Britain's ifs School of Finance to deliver diploma courses in banking and finance for its employees, WAM news agency reported.

The partnership with the ifs School of Finance, one of the world's leading providers of professional banking and financial services qualifications, will enable NBAD's employees to benefit from an excellent foundation in banking and from which to progress their careers, said Michael Tomalin, the chief executive of the UAE bank.

"NBAD is constantly looking to attract, develop, and retain the brightest banking professionals and this partnership with ifs will ensure that our talents will be given every opportunity to develop their banking and financial skills," Tomalin said.

Ehab Anis Hassan, NBAD's chief human resources officer, said: "Continuous learning and development is one of the core values of NBAD's corporate culture since it enables the staff to contribute effectively to developing innovative, efficient and secure products and services to allow our customers enjoy the most convenient banking experience."

Martin Day, dean of higher education at the ifs School of Finance, expressed his pleasure over the deal with NBAD and said: "This agreement brings together a global leader in financial education and Abu Dhabi's foremost financial services provider, and marks a real milestone for both institutions."

"Students in Abu Dhabi will now be able to benefit from a rigorous and engaging course, supported by excellent learning materials that will give them a firm foundation in banking on which to build in the future," he added.

NBAD, which is ranked as one of the top 50 safest banks in the world, currently operates across eleven countries on four continents. The bank has one of the largest branches and ATM networks in the UAE and the largest overseas network of all the UAE banks. It employs more than 3000 employees of more than 50 nationalities.

Reliance Power posts Rs.100 crore net profit

Reliance Power has posted a net profit of Rs.100.56 crore ($21 million) for the quarter ended June 30 as against Rs.59.7 crore reported in the like period last year.

The total income has increased to Rs.144.24 crore from Rs.77.67 crore, the company said in a statement.

The company posted a consolidated net profit of Rs.263 crore for the quarter as compared to Rs.61 crore reported in the corresponding period last year.

Hinduja Foundries posts Rs.10 crore loss

Hinduja Foundries, part of the diversified Hinduja Group, has posted a net loss of Rs.10.44 crore in the quarter ended June 30 as against a profit of Rs.4.57 crore in the like period last year.

The company's turnover for the first quarter stood at Rs.67.03 crore as compared to Rs.125.20 crore a year ago, a fall of 46 percent.

The demand for tractors segment is now better and the demand for commercial vehicles is picking up, said V. Mahadeven, managing director of Hinduja Foundries.

AIG pulls out of National Housing Bank's mortgage company

American International Group (AIG), the insurance giant bailed out by the US government, has pulled out from a proposed joint venture with National Housing Bank (NHB), a top bank official said here Wednesday.

Earlier, AIG had agreed to pick up 41 percent stake in a proposed mortgage guarantee company in which NHB will have a majority 43 percent stake.

"AIG has withdrawn from talks due to the economic slowdown and so we have started looking for a new partner for the mortgage guarantee outfit," S. Sridhar, chairman and managing director of the bank, told reporters here.

He said talks are at advanced stage and a new partner would be inducted in the next three-four months.

Asian Development Bank and International Finance Corp had also agreed to pick up 8 percent stake each.

However, Sridhar said: "There would be realignment in the shareholding of the partners depending upon how much the new partner agrees to pick up."

Reliance Natural Resources net surges 7.4 percent

The Anil Ambani-led Reliance Natural Resources Ltd (RNRL) Wednesday reported 7.4 percent surge in its net profit to Rs.17.2 crore ($3.5 million) for the quarter ended June 30 as compared to Rs.16 crore in the like period last year.

Total income increased 24 percent to Rs.115.4 crore from Rs.92.9 crore, the company said in a regulatory statement.

Earlier in the day, RNRL chairman Anil Ambani said his company had served notice to both the petroleum ministry and Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) seeking an early settlement of the ongoing dispute between the two companies.

"The honourable Supreme Court will be requested to take up the matter for final hearing on September 1," Ambani said, adding a petition on these lines will be moved in the court Thursday and hoped the government would back this initiative.

Last month, the Bombay High Court had asked RIL to supply 28 million units of gas from Krishna-Godavari basin to Reliance Natural Resources for 17 years at $2.34 per unit, after assigning 12 million units to the state-run power utility NTPC.

RIL challenged the verdict in the Supreme Court, which heard the case July 20 and fixed Sep 1 as the next date of hearing. It also asked all parties to file their replies on the government position on the matter by then.

According to Anil Ambani, the resolution of the gas dispute was also important as it was holding up power projects of at least 12,000 MW at a time when the country was facing acute shortage of electricity.

Tata Steel net profit dips 46 percent

Steel major Tata Steel's net profit fell 46.93 percent in the quarter ended June 30 to Rs.789.83 crore ($163 million) from Rs.1,488.4 crore in the like period last year.

Total income of the company decreased 8.16 percent to Rs.5,661.89 crore during the quarter from Rs.6,165.14 crore a year earlier.

The earnings per share stood at Rs.9.61 as compared to Rs.18.11 in the year-ago period.

A major drop in earnings was seen in the company's ferro alloys and minerals business with revenues dropping to Rs.357.32 crore from Rs.828.62 crore in the first quarter of 2008-09.

Hero Honda net jumps 83 percent

Two-wheeler major Hero Honda Motors Wednesday reported 83 percent jump in profits to Rs.500 crore ($103 million) for the quarter ended June 30 as compared to Rs.272.8 crore in the like period last year.

The total income surged 33.7 percent to Rs.3,864 crore from Rs.2,890 crore, the company said in a regulatory statement.

Hero Honda's total turnover grew to Rs.3,822.4 crore in the quarter from Rs.2,851 crore a year ago, reporting a growth of 34 percent.

The company sold a million vehicles for the first time in a quarter, taking the sales volume up by 25 percent, while the industry grew by 12 percent, the statement said.

"We are delighted to report our best quarter ever, with the highest revenue and earnings in Hero Honda's history," said Pawan Munjal, chief executive and managing director of Hero Honda Motors.

With over 59 percent market share in the domestic motorcycle market and with sales of over a million units in the quarter, the robust topline growth has largely contributed to the strong bottomline performance, Munjal added.

The company has also signed up with the International Hockey Federation (IHF) to be the title sponsor of men's hockey World Cup in March 2010, to be held in Delhi.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Volkswagen to take over Porsche

The board of the giant German carmaker Volkswagen agreed Thursday to to forge a new global automotive powerhouse by mounting a two-step 8-billion-euro, ($11.4 billion) takeover of the legendary sports vehicle group Porsche.

Announcing the agreement, Volkswagen (VW) chief Martin Winterkorn said the way was now free for the creation of an integrated VW-Porsche group with the sports carmaker to remain an independent brand.

The new combined VW-Porsche group would be "a major force" in the world car business.

Meeting in Stuttgart, the VW supervisory board decision turns the tables on Porsche, which had been forced to abandon an audacious bid to acquire VW after wracking up about 10 billion euros in debt in a David-and-Goliath battle to buy Europe's biggest carmaker.

The prospect of Volkswagen now seizing control of Porsche came in the wake of the luxury sportscar maker's announcement Thursday that its chief, Wendelin Wiedeking was stepping down after opposing VW's takeover ambitions for Porsche.

The Volkswagen decision to back the takeover plan represents a major victory for its supervisory board chairman Ferdinand Piech, after the protracted merger battle triggered a power struggle among the two families controlling Porsche and VW.

Under the VW takeover plan, the Wolfsburg-based motor vehicle group is expected to pick up an initial 49.9-percent stake in Porsche and then buy the rest at a later date at a total cost of about 8 billion euros.

The ownership of the new merged VW-Porsche group would be split between a more-than-50-percent stake held by the current controlling clans - the Porsche and Piech families.

Another 19 percent stake would then be held by the Qatar Investment Authority and about 20 percent would be in the hands of the German state of Lower Saxony, where Volkswagen is based.

Under the integration plan, VW and Porsche would together forge a carmaker with 10 brands.

This includes VW's nine brands from premium saloons such as Lamborghini and Bentley through to its more mass market brands such as Skoda and its flagship Volkswagen. Porsche will be the 10th brand in the new group.

But analysts say the VW takeover push has left open several key questions including the details of the link between the new VW-led carmaker and the oil-rich Qatar.

Held in Porsche's hometown of Stuttgart in southern Germany, the VW board meeting followed an all-night extraordinary session of the Porsche board, which gave the green light to talks aimed at securing a deal worth up to 5 billion euros with Qatar.

This could enable the state-owned Qatar Investment Authority to buy a stake in Porsche SE, the group's holding company, which Porsche said would help lay the foundations for integration moves with VW.

In addition, the Porsche board meeting approved a plan to raise 5 billion euros in capital.

Microsoft profits decline

Software giant Microsoft Corp has reported sales of $13.1 billion for the latest quarter, well below Wall Street expectations of more than $14 billion.

The PC market has dwindled for three straight quarters.

The company, based in Redmond, Washington, saw profits for the fourth quarter of its budget year drop 29 percent amid falling demand for its Office software package and Windows operating system.

"The economy continues to be challenging, and we need to lift our game to another level," chief financial officer Chris Liddell said.

United Breweries net profit up 54 percent

Liquor major United Breweries's net profit increased 54.09 percent to Rs.355.5 crore for the quarter ended June 30 from Rs.225.9 crore in the same period a year ago.

Total sales by the company stood at Rs.5,564.5 crore during the period under review, growing by 17.24 percent from the previous corresponding quarter's figure of Rs.4,746.2 crore.

Interest charges paid went up in the first quarter to Rs.170.7 crore from Rs.127.1 crore.

Earnings per share stood at Rs.1.39 from Rs.0.87 in the corresponding previous period.

Air India awaits Boeing Dreamliner's takeoff

Boeing Co. has reported better-than-expected second-quarter results but failed to answer when will its troubled 787 Dreamliner, 27 of which have been ordered by Air India, fly for the first time.

Boeing has determined how to fix a 787 wing-body problem, discovered in late May, but it still doesn't know how long the modifications will take, according to Chairman and Chief Executive Jim McNerney cited by the Wall Street Journal.

Problems on the Dreamliner, which was Boeing's hottest-selling commercial aircraft ever, already have pushed the first deliveries of the plane back nearly two years and cost the company millions of dollars in penalties and concessions to customers.

During its earnings conference call, analysts pressed McNerney and Chief Financial Officer James Bell for additional details on the programme's timetable and the cost impact on the programme and the company at large, the Journal reported.

"The delays are obviously putting pressure on the programme's profitability," said Bell. So far, the company has indicated the programme has been profitable, though analysts are looking for signs that Boeing could take a charge in the coming quarters once it updates cost estimates, the leading US financial daily said.

The company left intact its projection for 2009 earnings to come in at $4.70 to $5 a share but said that could change based on an updated analysis of the 787's costs.

Many airlines have planned their business models around the 787, which promises fuel-efficiency and maintenance-cost savings. The lack of a firm delivery timetable has thrown off their ability to plan everything from future routes to when they retire aging aircraft.

For the second quarter, Boeing reported net income of $998 million, or $1.41 a share, up 17 percent from $852 million, or $1.16 a share, a year earlier.

That beat analysts' expectations of $1.21 a share. The prior-year results included 22 cents a share in charges. Revenue was up 1.1 percent to $17.15 billion. Revenue at the company's Integrated Defence Systems Unit rose 9 percent to $8.7 billion.

Hindustan Construction net increases 22 percent

Operating profits of construction major Hindustan Construction Co (HCC) rose 22 percent to Rs.112 crore for the first quarter this fiscal, as compared to Rs.91 crore posted in the year-ago period.

The company's turnover increased 8 percent to a little over Rs.964 crore from Rs.895 crore in the corresponding period the previous fiscal, the company said in a regulatory statement Friday.

"HCC has shown robust growth despite the economic slowdown. We expect substantial increase in the order book given the increased government focus on infrastructure development in the coming months," said HCC chairman and managing director Ajit Gulabchand.

HCC's order book improved 50 percent to Rs.15,412 crore.

Ericsson also bidding for Nortel's wireless business

Sweden's Ericsson has entered the bid to acquire the next-generation wireless business of Nortel.

Toronto-based Nortel, which is selling its various divisions as part of its liquidation plan, will auction its wireless business Friday in New York.

Till now, Nokia Siemens Networks and America's MatlinPatterson Global Opportunities Partners were the two bidders, with Canada's BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM) shut out because of its refusal to sign non-disclosure agreements with Nortel.

The BlackBerry maker has said it is ready to offer $1.1 billion to Nortel for its wireless unit, much higher than Nokia Siemens's starting offer of $650 million and MatlinPatterson's $725 million.

Confirming that it is bidding for Nortel's wireless business, the Swedish telecom giant refused to say how much it is offering to Nortel.

However, reports here put Ericsson's offer at $730 million, making it the highest bidder.

"We will pursue the opportunity to the point that it makes sense,'' Ericsson spokesperson Kathy Egan told the Canadian Press.

"It's an interesting opportunity and we're always looking for ways to create value for Ericsson,'' she said.

Ericsson, which has been a long-time rival to Nortel in the global market as a supplier to phone companies, has a research and development centre in Montreal.

Nortel has not revealed the names of any other bidders for the court-supervised auction Friday. The 127-year-old Nortel, which was once the global telecom equipment maker giant, has been operating under bankruptcy protection since January after posting a $5-billion loss last year.

Metro accidents happened due to unskilled labour

Lack of skilled labour may have contributed to the recent accidents at Delhi Metro construction sites that claimed seven lives, a senior government official said here Friday.

"The real crisis is that enough number workers with right skills are not available in the construction industry. Unskilled labourers may have been responsible for the incidents at the construction sites of Delhi Metro," said Ajay Shankar, secretary at the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP).

He was speaking at a conference of industry department officials from states organised by the PHD Chambers.

DIPP is a central government agency that assists entrepreneurs and industrial promoters in setting up new ventures.

There were three accidents in less than two weeks at various construction sites of the Delhi Metro.

Shankar called for unique identification professional cards for skilled labourers.

The conference emphasised the need to create better infrastructure and said giving tax holidays would not help industries.

"We need concrete policy for industrial development for attracting new investments. Tax holiday does not help the industry in a long run," said Satish Bagrodia, president of the PHD Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Microsoft wants to be part of unique identity project: Gates

Terming the unique identity project as a "great initiative", Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates Friday said the software giant wanted to partner with India in the ambitious project that will give a unique identity number to each of its citizens.

"Microsoft wants to be a part of the unique identification project," Gates told a conference organised by the IT industry lobby, National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom).

"I am very excited about the project. It is a great initiative. We need to make sure that every data is accurate. From a mobile phone number to anything," he said.

Gates added that he would meet Nandan Nilekani, who heads the Unique Identification Authority of India, Friday night to discuss the details of the project.

Gates is in Delhi to receive the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development on behalf of the Gates Foundation.

The foundation is being recognised for "pioneering and exemplary philanthropic work around the world and in India in health".

Gates, however, pointed out that the applications in banking and healthcare is yet to come up in a big way.

Talking about India' infrastructure, Gates said: "Lack of roads is a big problem. India needs more roads which means more investment, something on the lines of Green Revolution of late 1960s."

According to him, the government's information and communication technology (ICT) projects for students "are yet to reach the level required".

"How different is education today?", he asked.

Reliance Industries net profit dips 11.5 percent

The net profit of oil-to-petrochemicals major Reliance Industries dropped 11.5 percent to Rs.3,636 crore ($759 million) for the quarter ended June 30, compared to the Rs.4,110 crore it netted in the corresponding period last fiscal.

In a regulatory statement Friday, the company also said it has clocked a turnover of Rs.33,309 crore ($7 billion), an increase of 22.6 percent from the Rs.43,050 crore it earned in the year-ago period.

Bill Gates sheldom logs out

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates Friday said he seldom logs out, rarely feels drained and finds social networking sites irritating.

"I am a 24-hour technology person," said Gates, on a visit here for overseeing the philanthropic activities of the foundation he has formed with his wife Melinda.

"I am not that big at text messaging and I am impressed with the young people doing that," he said at a conference on using technology for transformation here.

However, Gates said, he reads random articles in silence whenever he feels drained.

Calling social networking sites "irritating", Gates said he is flooded by "friend requests" everyday on Facebook.

"I get 10,000 friend requests everyday. It gets so irritating."

To this, Minister of State for Communication and IT Sachin Pilot, who shared the dais with the Microsoft co-founder, asked jokingly: "How many Bill Gates are there on Facebook?"

Gates is in India to receive the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development on behalf of his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, being recognised for "pioneering and exemplary philanthropic work around the world and in India in health".

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sun Direct ties up with IBM India

Direct-to-home (DTH) service provider Sun Direct has tied up with software major IBM India to implement and manage customer relationship management services, it was announced Tuesday.

"As we continue our aggressive growth plans, we will rely on IBM to help us tackle key issues surrounding billing and customer relationship management, as well as develop ways to get better insights to customer behaviour," Tony D'Silva, chief operating officer of Sun Direct, said.

Earlier, Sun Microsystems was providing these services to Sun Direct.

The city-based company, which has over three million subscribers, is planning to expand its subscriber base to 10 million by 2010.

The financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

Rediff.Com Reports Results for the 1st Quarter

"A sequential growth in overall revenues for the quarter ended June 30, 2009 of 11% in US Dollar terms (7% in Indian Rupee terms) makes us cautiously optimistic but it is important to note that on a year-on-year basis revenues are lower than in the corresponding quarter in the previous year by 40% in US Dollar terms (31% in Indian Rupee terms). India revenues were up 15% quarter over quarter (40% lower on a year-on-year basis) in US Dollar terms. The economic environment for online advertising in India continues to be challenging. Indian advertisers in the credit card, home loan, online travel, jobs, matrimony, shopping and real estate segments who normally account for about half of all online advertising in India continue to face difficult business conditions" said Ajit Balakrishnan, Chairman and CEO,

"We have recently completed a number of initiatives to strengthen our business and enhance our user base. We have enforced a common data model and adopted a RESTful architecture across all our services. Key benefits of this are improved performance and scalability and ease of adding newer features to existing products to keep pace with this fast evolving industry. Our services are now accessible with equal ease over both PC and Mobile Phone. We have improved our Search technology and have introduced social and collective intelligence features across all our services.

These and other initiatives will likely require us to increase our investments in product development and brand building over the next two to three quarters. We thus expect an increase in our operating expenses from current levels by an average of about $1.0 to 1.5 million per quarter over this period. We believe that these investments are necessary to grow our user base and preserve our leadership position in the Indian online space and secure the long term future of our business."

Monday, July 20, 2009

Only three operators can offer 3G services in Delhi

Only three telecom operators can roll out third generation (3G) services in Delhi due to a spectrum crunch, Communications and IT Minister A. Raja said Monday.

"Delhi has only 15 Mhz of spectrum available making it possible only for three telecom operators to offer such services," Raja told Lok Sabha in a written reply.

The minister also told parliament that an Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) had been constituted to look into matters concerning 3G spectrum auctions, scheduled to happen this year.

Each telecom operator (successful bidder) will be allocated 5 MHz of 3G spectrum once the auctions are over.

In Delhi, only two private players will be able to offer this high-end services as one slot is already reserved for the state-run telecom operator Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL).

The minister said West Bengal will get only 10 MHz of spectrum, while Gujarat will have 15 MHz.

Such a crunch may lead operators to make crazy bids to acquire spectrum in maximum number of telecom circles, industry officials worry.

The government is expected to earn about Rs.35,000 crore from the 3G auctions.

HDFC Bank cuts lending rate by 25 basis points

The country's second largest private lender HDFC Bank Monday cut its benchmark lending rate by 25 basis points to 15.75 percent.

"The benchmark prime lending rate has been reduced to 15.75 percent per annum with effect from July 20," the bank said on its website.

"The cut in lending rate follows the reduction in the fixed deposits rate effective from May 18."

The bank had reduced its lending rate 50 basis points to 16 percent in December 2008.

DishTV hikes price of set-top box by Rs.100

The country's leading direct-to-home (DTH) service provider DishTV Monday hiked the price of set-top boxes (STB) by Rs.100 each, passing on a rise in customs duty to customers.

Now the STBs will cost Rs.1,590.

"It was a necessary step due to increase in input cost as there has been an escalation in the cost of STBs due to 5 percent increase in customs duty on the import of STBs," said Salil Kapoor, chief operating officer of DishTV.

The government imposed a 5 percent customs duty on STBs in the union budget for 2009-10.

"The business model of DTH is based on subsidy and the component cost has also gone up considerably due to the rise in dollar exchange rate in the last one year," Kapoor added.

Three telecom operators under government scanner

he government has sought clarification from three private sector telecom operators for not reporting income from selling handsets along with their connections, a union minister said Monday.

"The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has sought clarification from Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Esar and Idea Cellular for not showing income from bundling handsets along with connections, for the purpose of calculating revenue share payable to the exchequer," Minister of State for Communications and IT Gurudas Kamat told the Lok Sabha.

Kamat said the operators have said that they were not selling handsets directly and hence "there is no revenue earned under this head".

However, the special audit, ordered by the government last week to check whether leading private telecom players misreported their revenues, will take the issue into account, the minister said.

Hearing on Reliance gas dispute adjourned to Sep 1

The Supreme Court Monday adjourned till Sep 1 its hearing on a row between Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries and his brother Anil's Reliance Natural Resources over natural gas supplies and asked the two parties to reply to the government stand on the matter.

Commencing the hearing on the petition filed by Reliance Industries that challenges the verdict of the Bombay High Court last month on gas supplies from Krishna-Godavari Basin, off the Andhra Pradesh coast, the apex court declined to pass any interim order.

Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan issued notices to power firms such as GMR, GVK and Gautami Power that sought to intervene in the matter on concerns over the impact on the supplies if the fuel is diverted to Reliance Natural Resources at lower rates.

The Bombay High Court had asked Reliance Industries to supply 28 million units of gas to Reliance Natural Resources for 17 years at $2.34 per unit, after assigning 12 million units to the state-run National Thermal Power Corp.

It was also decided during Monday's hearing to club all petitions in this regard when the case comes up before a three-member bench to be set up. The government has sought to join the case as an intervener, amid opposition by Anil Ambani's firm.

"The court said it wants to hear the case with three judges. So it set Sep 1 as the next date. There were no observations, no directions," said Ram Jethmalani, who is appearing as a lawyer on behalf of Reliance Natural Resources.

"One thing is very clear -- the Supreme Court is concerned by the importance of this case," said Harish Salve who appeared on behalf of Reliance Industries and maintained that the court had not stopped Reliance Industries from selling gas to other parties.

"The interpretation doesn't change after the hearing. In fact, let's be clear. I told the court that the arrangements in place would continue. The court said we have not stopped you," Salve said.

He said the crux of the case was whether a family arrangement that was meant to bring parity between two brothers should override sovereign policies when natural gas is now being sold for $4.20 per unit and one party still wants it for $2.34 per unit.

The senior counsel also maintained that the pact between the two brothers could not be broken into bits and pieces. "The agreement said it is subject to company approval, it is subject to government approval. It expressly said so."

But in the reply to the law suit filed by Reliance Industries, the Anil Ambani-led firm has said the petroleum ministry has no role to play in the private gas sharing dispute, certainly not as a party to the row, and that the government will not lose any revenue.

"The petroleum ministry filed the affidavit blatantly and openly in support of Reliance Industries. This affidavit should, therefore, be struck off the records of the Supreme Court," the company said.

What is the Reliance gas dispute all about?

The raging dispute being heard in the Supreme Court between the companies belonging to the two Ambani brothers, Mukesh and Anil, mainly concerns the supply and pricing of natural gas from the Krishna Godavari basin.

At the core of the dispute is how valid is a family pact reached between the two brothers, brokered by their mother Kokilaben when the Reliance empire was split a few years ago, in deciding the price of gas in which the government, too, has claimed a share.

The fields, off the Andhra Pradesh coast, were won by Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries, and are one of the biggest discoveries made in Asia in recent years. Anil Ambani wants a part of the gas for his group's power plants, based on the family pact.

But the ministry of petroleum and natural gas is not happy with the price at which Anil Ambani has asked for the gas -- between the time the family pact was reached in 2005 and now, hydrocarbon prices have more than doubled.

The government, based on the recommendations of a committee led by the present Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, had recommended the price of natural gas from the Krishna Godavari basin at $4.21 per unit.

Last month, the Bombay High Court asked Reliance Industries to supply 28 million units to Reliance Natural Resources for 17 years at $2.34 per unit after assigning 12 million units to the state-run National Thermal Power Corp.

Reliance Industries has challenged this verdict in the Supreme Court, even as the ministry of petroleum and natural gas has joined the dispute as part owner of the gas, and has called for the family pact to be declared null and void.

This stand has been contested by Reliance Natural Resources. It says the dispute has been depicted as one with the government, rather than one between the two companies, adding the government actually has little role to play in it.

All parties have filed their respective affidavits and stated their positions in the Supreme Court before Monday, which was the date fixed for commencement of hearing on what has turn out to be a high-profile corporate battle.

Microsoft India Launches 'Online Services' for Indian businesses

Businesses of all sizes, especially small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) can now save upto 50 percent of their IT-related costs with the launch of Microsoft Online Services. Microsoft India has also announced a free trial period of two-months for the range of services, which include e-mail, collaboration, conferencing and productivity capabilities. Starting immediately, date customers can try the offering at at no charge, allowing them to experience the potential impact Online services can have on their businesses before the commercial launch in October 2009.

4 steps to cost saving with Microsoft online services

Step 1 - log on to
Step 2 - Choose country and log in with Live id
Step 3 - Add chosen services to shopping cart
Step 4 - After you are notified that your service is set up, use your service.

Modelled on the 'pay-as-you-go' approach, Online Services provide affordability, enhanced productivity, and freedom from hassles of IT deployment. Online Services will allow businesses to stay in touch with customers, associates and teams across geographic boundaries round the clock and provide instant access to information, thereby enhancing efficiency and reducing costs.

"Over 80 percent of the businesses in India are SMBs that are increasingly looking to use world class IT for better business productivity. With tools such as email and collaboration becoming increasingly a must-have in this segment, the pay-as-you-go affordability and freedom from IT administration, Microsoft Online Services offers the much needed respite from financial and logistical hurdles. We encourage businesses to make the best of the free trial opportunity we are launching - and experience the powerful impact of Microsoft Online Services.' said Mr. Sanjay Manchanda, Director, Microsoft Business Division.

"This launch also marks the second phase of Microsoft software plus services vision following the tremendous success we have seen of our hosted offerings including Hosted Exchange and Hosted ERP among Indian enterprises". he added.

Commenting on the launch, Mr. Mohammad Saif, Deputy Director, Consulting - ICT Practice, Frost & Sullivan, South Asia & Middle East said, "Lower TCO and capital expenditure, rapid deployment cycle, and a wide variety of offerings by various global vendors have constituted the driving force for on-demand softwares in India. Increasing awareness about the delivery model and flexibility of trial version have helped in allaying the apprehension of customers and is expected to play a major role in the growth of the on-demand software market, which is expected to grow from the current level of $40 Mn to $800 Mn by 2015, with SME fuelling the growth."

Microsoft Online Services is a part of Microsoft software plus services strategy which provides flexibility and choice of accessing and using software on premise and on Internet as a service. As part of the Microsoft Online Services product family, Exchange Online (for e-mail) and Office SharePoint Online (portals and collaboration) are available separately or as a suite together with Office Live Meeting (for conferencing), Microsoft Exchange Hosted Services and Microsoft Office Communications Online (for instant messaging and presence).

In the coming months, Microsoft Online Services will also provide significant opportunities to a huge ecosystem of partners that will sell, customize and provide consulting, migration and managed services for Microsoft Online Services to Indian small and medium businesses.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

49 per cent FDI in print media safe: Ambika Soni

With the media reeling under the financial crunch, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni has backed increasing FDI (foreign direct investment) in print media to 49 per cent, saying "it is safe".

"I think it is a good suggestion," Soni said in an interview when asked about her views on increasing FDI in print media from 26 per cent to 49 per cent.

"We already have 26 per cent FDI. A large number of newspapers and the entire journalist fraternity is for the infusion of more capital into print media so that they can have better working conditions, and the media is facing a financial crunch," she said.

"I feel 49 per cent is safe. It would not give control to someone from outside," she said.

Soni, however, stressed that the government will consult all stakeholders before taking this crucial decision. "But this is something about which I would like to talk to those who are not of the same view," she said.

Soni's remarks indicated the UPA government's interest in raising the FDI ceiling in print media from 26 percent to 49 per cent as recommended by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in its recent report.

The 49 per cent FDI, as proposed by TRAI, also covers foreign institutional investors. TRAI has also recommended a raise in the ceiling for cable networks from the existing 49 percent to 74 percent and for FM radio, from the existing 20 percent to 49 percent.

The proposed hike in FDI is being opposed by some media houses, but the government is looking at the issue afresh in the light of the capital crunch that small and medium newspapers are facing.

Nissan bets big on India for global operations

Japanese auto giant Nissan Motor Co is betting big on India not only for manufacturing cars for domestic and overseas markets but also for sourcing components for its global operations.

Nissan will be rolling out three different variants of its hatchback and sedan models, as well as a multipurpose vehicle (MPV), from five plants across the world, one of which is coming up at Oragadam, 55 km from here.

According to Nissan general manager (communications) Fernando Menezes, the company plans to have India as its global sourcing hub for components not only for those models but also for vehicles made elsewhere.

Menezes said Nissan is exploring what components could be sourced from India.

The other plants are located in Thailand and China while the locations of the remaining two are yet to be decided.

"The idea is to roll out one million vehicles, that is, 25 percent of the company's current annual sales, from the five plants," said Menezes.

"Sixty percent of the components that go into the three models are interchangeable providing a huge competitive component sourcing opportunity," Menezes told IANS.

All the three global models built on a single platform are expected to roll out of the Indian plant next May.

The company plans to ship out 110,000 units from the Indian plant from 2011 onwards and later increase the export to 180,000 units to more than 100 countries.

Under the single platform formula, the basic or core design and bulk of the components remain the same across several models, but changes are made in some areas to offer a differentiated product.

Automobile manufacturers the world over, including India's Tata Motors, have started following the single platform model to reduce design and manufacturing cost, said V.G. Ramakrishnan, senior director of Automotive and Transportation Practice at business research and consultancy Frost and Sullivan.

Citing the case of Tata Motors that launched Indica, Indigo and Indigo Marina built on the same platform, Ramakrishnan said: "The chassis and some other components may be tweaked based on the need."

Ford India's diesel Ikon is powered by the same engine that powered its Fiesta diesel, while Tata Motors' Indica Vista uses Fiat's engine.

Nissan's Menezes declined to spell out whether the three models will be powered by the same engine, saying: "The engine will depend on what an individual market demands. Other than the engine there are many parts in a vehicle that are interchangeable."

He said the proposed cars will be lighter and more fuel-efficient but will not have Nissan's newly developed fuel injection systems for small capacity petrol engines.

The hatchback that will be rolled out next May will replace Nissan's existing March (sometimes called Micra) model.

Referring to the upcoming plant in India, Menezes said 70 percent of the construction work has been completed.

A major chunk of the 350 billion yen ($3.72 billion) that Nissan will invest on expansion will be in its Indian plant owned by Renault Nissan Automotive India, a 50:50 joint venture the Japanse company has with French car maker Renault.

The joint venture was supposed to roll out 200,000 cars on an investment of Rs.4,500 crore by each partner.

Renault has suspended its Indian investment since then owing to the economic slowdown, but Nissan is going ahead with its India plans.

Meltdown makes Indian firms smarter

A dramatic meltdown after boom years globally has made Indian firms smarter in employee engagement and talent management, which will help it grow faster when recovery begins, predicts a study by global consulting firm Deloitte.

"Indian companies across sectors are trying to make the best of tough times and preparing for growth opportunities when the economy picks up. Unlike in the West where firing is the norm, our study shows Indian firms are focussing on talent management and cost cutting," Deloitte director P. Thiruvengadam told IANS.

A cross-industry dipstick survey on employee engagement in recessionary times by Deloitte's human capital advisory services found Indian firms were in a wait-and-watch mode without retrenching, but trying to balance both employee and operational costs.

Of the 130 firms approached for the survey, 65 participated, including 22 multinationals.

"Companies are focussing on their ability to attract, develop and retain top talent to remain viable and competitive in the short and long terms. Though campus offers have trickled down, selective hiring is taking place. Employees are being involved in cost management, quality and client servicing," Thiruvengadam said quoting the findings.

Of the participant firms, 44 percent represented TMT (technology, media and telecom), 27 percent manufacturing, seven percent FMCG (fast moving consumer goods), five percent pharma and 27 percent others.

The study found companies implementing metrics to determine return on investment on human resources. Investment in proprietary knowledge and technological upgrade is continuing, albeit slower than during the boom times.

"Lower attrition has turned out to be a boon, as firms are able to retain talent by setting higher performance benchmarks, with stringent measures and quarterly monitoring. By recruiting consultants and freelancers, firms are able to save on employee benefit costs," Thiruvengadam said.

The eight-week survey said companies were substituting lucrative bonus and international travel with opportunities for advancement and flexible working hours to retain employees.

"Smart firms have turned inward, consolidating operations, rationalising requirements and optimising resources to ride the slowdown," Thiruvengadam said.

The survey also found companies were not cutting back on training programmes but only reducing training costs. The focus is on empowering employees with multi-skills to handle different tasks and building a strong leadership pipeline.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

BlackBerry to pay $267 million to settle patent lawsuit

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd (RIM) will pay $267.5 million to California-based Visto Corp to settle a patent infringement lawsuit.

Visto, which is a wireless e-mail company, had slapped the lawsuit on RIM in a Texas court for patent infringements in 2006.

In its lawsuit, the US company had said that RIM was using its technology without authorisation. Visto's software is used Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom AG's T-Mobile and Sprint Nextel Corp.

But RIM hit back, saying that Visto's patents involved no new inventions. It also filed its counterclaim, leading to a war of lawsuits between the two companies in the US, Canada and Europe.

But RIM and Visto reached an agreement Thursday, with the BlackBerry maker agreeing to pay $267.5 million to settle the case and use Visto's patents in the future.

"The key terms of the settlement involve RIM receiving a perpetual and fully-paid license on all Visto patents, a transfer of certain Visto intellectual property, a one-time payment by RIM of US $ 267.5 million and the parties executing full and final releases in respect of all outstanding worldwide litigation,'' said a statement by the BlackBerry maker here.

The global wireless giant said the settlement will be completed by July 20, 2009.

This is the second time in three years that RIM has to pay a huge amount to settle a patent dispute with another company.

In 2006, the Waterloo-based Canadian giant had paid a whopping $612.5 million to settle a patent dispute with NTP Inc., a Virginia-based patent-holding company.

It had filed the lawsuit against RIM in 2001, claiming that the BlackBerry maker used its patents without authorization to create the push e-mail platform on its smart phones.

After a five-year legal battle, RIM paid $612.5 million to the American company "in full and final settlement of all claims against RIM, as well as for a perpetual, fully-paid up license going forward.''

Compensate for delay to re-credit failed ATM transaction: RBI

India's central bank Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has asked banks to pay account holders a compensation of Rs.100 per day if they delay in re-crediting the amount of a failed ATM transaction beyond 12 days.

"It is mandatory for the banks to reimburse the customers, the amount wrongfully debited on account of failed ATM transactions within a maximum period of 12 working days," the RBI said in a notification.

It also made it compulsory for banks to re-credit customer's account automatically on the 12th day after the failed transaction, without the customer having to make a claim, and told banks to extend the scope of audit to cover cases of delay in reimbursing the customers in these cases.

RBI said it has received complaints against banks violating its instructions and different banks had put in place different cut-off limits for cash withdrawals for other bank customers.

If the banks fail to do so in the stipulated period, they would have to pay a fine of Rs.100 per day from the 13th day onwards, said the notification. The penalty amount will also be credited on the same day when the bank pays back the debited amount for the failed ATM transaction to the customer, the notification said.

The RBI notification also said that the issuer bank is entitled to claim such compensation from the acquirer bank, if the later is responsible for the delay. Also, the ATM network operators will have to compensate the banks for any delay on their part.
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