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Today's Hot Stories-July 8, 2009

10 Headlines for Today

(1) Manmohan Singh blames developed nations for economic slowdown
(2) 1128 incidents of Naxal violence this year: Report
(3) Chinese President Hu Jintao cuts short a visit to Italy's G8 summit and returns to Beijing amid ethnic violence in Xinjiang
(4) China, Russia to push for new global currency at G8 summit
(5) Firefox launches mountain bicycle for Rs 91,000
(6) Banks can avail of Rs 10000 crore in next 6-7 months: IIFCL
(7) Toyota will not host Japanese Grand Prix
(8) Roger Federer's Wimbledon triumph has seen him regain the world number one spot from arch-rival Rafael Nadal
(9) Sri Lanka beat Pakistan by 50 runs in first cricket Test match
(10) First direct evidence of lightning 'detected on Mars': Astronomers

5 Stories for Today

(1) N-deal with India to boost US security: Senator
(2) Indonesians voting for president
(3) Standard Chartered FY09 profit rises 12% to Rs 1907 crore
(4) Maytas Infra out of Hyderabad Metro project
(5) India's undrawn external loan amounts to Rs 95487 crore: Pranab

(1) N-deal with India to boost US security: Senator

The US concluded the landmark civil nuclear deal with India on the premise that a strong and enduring partnership with New Delhi would enhance America's national security and economy, a top Senator said.

"With this pact, our country embraced a policy based on the premise that the national security and economic future of the United States would be enhanced by a strong and enduring partnership with India," said Lugar, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a Congressional hearing for Tim Roemer, the US Ambassador nominee for India.

However, the implementation of this historic deal would depend much on the next US Ambassador to India, he said.

"Although the agreement has been concluded, its success will depend greatly on the diplomatic work overseen by our next ambassador," the top lawmaker said, adding "Roemer's national security experience will be put to excellent use as Ambassador to India."

In 2008, the United States and India concluded the landmark US-India Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, he said, adding that it was one of the most important strategic diplomatic initiatives undertaken by the United States in the last decade.

(2) Indonesians voting for president

Indonesians are voting in the country's second direct presidential election since the overthrow of the Suharto regime in 1998.

Opinion polls have given incumbent President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono a comfortable lead over his rivals.

He faces challenges from former president Megawati Sukarnoputri and outgoing Vice-President Jusuf Kalla.

More than 250,000 police and 20,000 soldiers have mobilised across the Indonesian archipelago.

Security is reported to be especially tight in the provinces of Aceh, in the far west, and Papua, in the far east, both of which have experienced unrest in recent years.

About 176 million people have registered to vote at more than 500,000 polling stations. The first polling stations opened in Indonesia's easternmost region, Papua, on Wednesday morning.

Unregistered voters will also be able to use their identity cards to cast a ballot, after the Constitutional Court relaxed rules on voter registry on Monday.

The decision followed a complaint by Mr Kalla and Mrs Megawati, who said millions of people had been left off voter lists.

In a reaction to the ruling, Mr Yudhoyono called on voters to make the election a success.

Ms Megawati appealed to Indonesians to vote with a "clear and honest mind."

"We are convinced that we can create a better future," she was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

Mr Yudhoyono, a 59-year-old former general, was elected in Indonesia's first direct election in 2004, defeating then-President Megawati.

He has been boosted by the success of the economy and a corruption-free image, correspondents said. Some opinion polls have suggested that he could surpass the 50% of votes needed to avoid a second round run-off in September.

Support for his Democratic Party surged to more than 20% at parliamentary elections in April.

(3) Standard Chartered FY09 profit rises 12% to Rs 1907 crore

Standard Chartered Bank India reported a profit after tax (PAT) of Rs 1907 crore for the financial year ended March 31, 2009, an increase of 12% over last year. The bank’s total income grew 22% to Rs 8747 crore, backed by a 33% growth in non-interest income. “The wholesale bank has performed strongly, while consumer bank has benefited from a shift to a more customer-centric business model.” said Neeraj Swaroop, Regional Chief Executive, Standard Chartered Bank India & South Asia.

Standard Chartered has continued to invest in India, which was the second-largest profit contributor to the group in 2008, said it's India & South Asia CFO Anurag Adlakha. “Over the year to March 2009, the group has invested $527 million through a combination of sub-debt infusion and profit retention,” Mr Adlakha said. As of March 31, 2009, Standard Chartered Bank’s Indian business had a capital adequacy ratio of 11.6% as per Basel II norms.

In an interview, Mr Swaroop said that there was a concern that interest rates may go up because of the high fiscal deficit. “I think there is a concern because, with the large government borrowing programme, clearly long-term yields have hardened. They will probably remain in that level. So we should see a steeper yield curve with long-term rates tending to be where they are,” he said.

However, Mr Swaroop expects the central bank to keep the market flush with liquidity to facilitate government borrowing. “Right now, there is a huge amount of liquidity in the market. But it could get mopped up by the government borrowing programme. At this point of time, I would expect that RBI would keep liquidity flush to be able to meet the borrowing programme. So I think liquidity will remain high,” he said.

(4) Maytas Infra out of Hyderabad Metro project

Nearly four months after the Maytas Infra-led consortium failed to achieve financial closure and give performance guarantee, the state government was forced to end its unprecedented generosity and cancel the concession agreement with the group on the Rs 12132-crore Hyderabad Metro Rail project.

“Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy reviewed the situation today morning with the officials and decided to terminate the agreement,” Municipal Administration Minister Anam Ramnarayan Reddy announced to the media. A government order (GO) terminating the concession agreement between Maytas Metro Limited and the state government was issued later on.

“We waited this long because Maytas had promised to give Rs 30,000 crore to the state, an offer that was not made by any other consortium. Because of this, we gave them time till July 6 though the deadline expired on March 17. Maytas Chairman K Ramalingam met the Chief Minister on Monday evening and sought some more time which was rejected by Rajasekhara Reddy,” the minister said.

With Maytas finally out of the way, the state government is now desperately exploring alternatives to put the jinxed project back on the rails whose execution plunged into further uncertainty due to the fact that Maytas Infra is promoted by the Satyam scam-tainted B Ramalinga Raju family. On the plus side, the state has Rs 71 crore (bid security amount of Rs 60 crore and bid offer amount of Rs 11 crore) which Maytas has forfeited for not achieving financial closure. “The chief minister will hold a meeting on July 13 and take a decision as how they will move forward on the project,” Ramnarayan Reddy said.

Among the options that are open is central government-state government joint project. The union urban development ministry headed by S Jaipal Reddy is pushing for the state to take up this option on the lines of the Delhi and Bangalore Metros. This would imply the centre and the state having equity of 25% each. The remaining 50% would be raised through funding from financial institutions like Japanese International Cooperation Agency.

(5) India's undrawn external loan amounts to Rs 95487 crore: Pranab

India's undrawn external loan from multilateral agencies like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank amounted to huge sum of Rs 95,487 crore by March this year.

The information was given by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee during Question Hour in Rajya Sabha.

The undrawn amount from the World Bank and ADB alone was Rs 57,202 crore against the sanctioned loan of Rs 1,19,783 crore.

The country had to pay the commitment charges of Rs 113.21 crore in 2008-09 and Rs 122.64 crore in 2007-08.

Mukherjee said while the government was trying to reduce these charges, they were inevitable and all the countries taking assistance from the multilateral agencies have to bear this.

"This money is kept in liquid," by these agencies and there is not much choice before the borrowers but to pay these charges, he said.

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