July 2008


Citigroup CEO Vikram S Pandi is severely embarrassed after the bank he took control of last December had to write down US$202 million on the value of Old Lane, a hedge fund of which Pandit was a co-founder. Citi bought Old Lane for US$800 million, a purchase that brought Pandit into the group. Citi will restructure Old Lane after “substantially all” its outside investors withdrew their money.

The Bangladeshi government has stopped coal imports from India, citing their high sulphur content. The government has stipulated the coal should not contain over 1% of sulphur to protect the environment, but coal from India has well over 2% of sulphur. Local coal traders say the ban will lead to more firewood being cut for brick kilns and end up creating more damage to the environment.

Wipro, India’s third-largest software firm, has initiated a second round of top management changes, following the appointment of Suresh Vaswani and Girish Paranjpe as joint CEOs of Wipro Technologies, the company's global IT arm. Many senior Wipro managers did not take well to the appointment and the company is reorganising its structure to accommodate the wishes of the disaffected quarters.
The Telecommunication Sub-committee of Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry has claimed that the decision by the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) to reduce the duration of a minimum unit call from five minutes to two will raise the cost of doing business by 2.5%. It also claimed that of the 1.1 million subscribers of PTCL, 24,000 phones are out of order, and urged the telco to provide better services.
The overseas investment arm of India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) reportedly secured a 23% in Russia’s Sakhalin III project in the oil-rich far eastern part of the country. It will pay an initial US$300 million fee for drilling operations. The entire investment could amount to billions. ONGC is buying its stake from Russian company Rosneft, which owns 70% of the project. The balance 30% is owned by China National Petroleum Corporation.
Major Indian telecom network company GTL is said to have acquired Essar Telecom Infrastructure, which owns telecom broadcasting towers, for US$1.5 billion. The purchase will increase GTL’s tower presence by 50% and consolidate its position as an independent infrastructure provider. Essar is selling the business to focus on cellular operations.
Reliance Globalcom of India will invest US$500 million in 2008/09 to provide Internet access in developing countries. The company is run by Anil Ambani, younger of the two feuding Ambani brothers.
Mahindra Tractors has launch a slew of new models, including some that can run on alternative fuels such as CNG and LPG.
Tata Steel has secured Supreme Court approval to mine some 2,500 hectares of the Bailadila forest block at the southern tip of the central eastern state of Chhattisgarh. Tata wants the Naxalite ore for its steel plant in the state but its mining permit was overturned by a Delhi high court in February.
Eight mobile phone companies and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority have been summoned to appear before a standing committee of the Senate to answer charges of unauthorised issue of SIM cards. There are said to be 7.5 million SIM card issued by the companies that are used in crimes, and a further 35 million SIM cards issued without documentation.
Lakshmi Mittal, who got his start running a steel company in Indonesia, is looking to invest up to US$10 billion in three projects in Indonesia’s steel and related mining sectors through his ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel concern.    
Citing high raw material costs, ArcelorMittal has sent a letter to US automakers and other American customers, with whom it has contracted to supply steel, to introduce a near-unprecedented US$250-a-tonne surcharge on prices it had agreed to supply the metal. Steel prices have nearly doubled to US$1,000 a tonne in a year.
Six SriLankan Airlines flights were cancelled in early May. The cancellation of flights from Chennai, Trivandrum, Bangalore and Delhi, as well as the Male and Dubai flights that were to depart from the Bandaranaike International Airport, was officially due to “an operational matter”, but sources in Sri Lanka say it was the result of pilots going on strike as they demanded a pay hike.
Iran’s Consul General to Pakistan Saeid Kharazi says the huge IPI gas pipeline project between Iran and Pakistan will soon get off the ground. The project, to pump gas from Iran into Pakistan, has been delayed by reservations from the United States and India.
The 51-49 joint venture between iconic Italian fashion brand Giorgio Armani and Indian property major DLF for breaking into India’s wholesale and retail markets under various Armani brands has been approved by the Indian authorities.
Ashok Leyland, the flagship company of the sprawling conglomerate owned by the four Hinduja brothers, is building a new plant in Uttarakhand that can produce 50,000 vehicles, as well as expanding its capacity in Ennore. It will also invest in new engine development in partnership with AVL of Australia.
Blackstone, the US hedge fund, has made its first foray into the booming Indian property market by paying US$18 million for a small stake in Synergy Property Development Services, a project management and construction company in Bangalore. Observers say this will serve as a springboard for the fund to look for bigger deals.
Pakistan’s Planning Commission has formed a committee to push ahead a project aimed to establish hatcheries for crop-friendly insects to fight the mealy bug, an insect that has done great harm to cotton, a major Pakistan product.
Saab Gripen, one of the six contenders in the $10-billion deal to supply India with medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA), plans to sign up Hindustan Aeronautics and the Tata group to produce components for its Gripen fighter jets.
Apple Inc has launched its operations in Lahore in partnership with local firm Raffles Systems, an event officiated by Anne W Patterson, the US Ambassador to Pakistan, who termed it as a “landmark of American investors’ confidence” in Pakistan.
Mumbai is heading towards terrible air congestion as bureaucratic hurdles delay the construction of a second airport until at least 2013, says GV Sanjay Reddy, managing director of Mumbai International Airport. Passenger traffic at Mumbai grew 16.3% to 25.8 million in the year to March and is expected to grow at the same rate – or even faster – in the coming years.
Dr Reddy's Laboratories, the NYSE-listed Indian pharmaceutical giant, has entered a definitive agreement to acquire BASF’s pharmaceutical contract manufacturing business and related facilities in the US. Dr Reddy will fund the acquisition via internal cash and committed credit facilities.
Torrent, a large Indian group that is a leading player in the pharmaceutical and power sectors, has made an interesting decision – it will focus more on its power business, which it sees as having the greater potential for growth. Some top-ranking officials in Torrent Pharmaceutical have recently been moved to Torrent Power Ltd.


First Published: 
July 2008


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lee han shihLee Han Shih is the founder, publisher and editor of asia! Magazine.

[email protected]

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