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Today's Hot Stories - July 28, 2009

10 Headlines for Today

(1) Heavy rains lash Delhi; 10 killed in Noida
(2) INS Arihant launch a destabilizing step: Pakistan
(3) US-China relationship to shape 21st century: Obama
(4) Castrol India Q2 net profit up 56% at Rs 128 crore
(5) RNRL to take QIP route to raise Rs 3k crore
(6) Tata Motors’ net profit up 58% at Rs. 514 crore
(7) Sania wins ITF Lexington tourney
(8) Ibrahimovic in Barcelona for five years
(9) Sunil Gavaskar has been appointed Chairman of the high-powered Cricket Improvement Committee (CIC) of the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) for two years
(10) Swine flu cases in India rises to 454

5 Stories for Today

(1) Three convicted of 2003 Mumbai blasts
(2) Hu Jintao sent a congratulatory message to Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou following the latter’s election victory
(3) Glenmark’s Q1 consolidated revenue up 18% to Rs 544 crore
(4) BGR Energy bags two orders worth $80.5 million from Iraq
(5) Nabard sanctions Rs 307.49 crore loan

(1) Three convicted of 2003 Mumbai blasts

A special POTA court convicted three persons of carrying out bomb blasts at the Gateway of India and the Zaveri Bazaar here on August 25, 2003, killing 52 people and injuring 184.

This is the biggest judgment in a terror-related case since 100 people were convicted of the 1993 serial blasts two years ago.

Judge M.R. Puranik announced that Haneef Sayyed (46) and his wife Fahmeeda (43) from Marol and Ashrat Ansari (32) from Juhu Galli would be sentenced on August 4.

The three were held guilty of carrying out a bomb blast in a bus at Ghatkopar on July 28, 2003, which killed two people and injured 60, and of planting a bomb, which however did not explode, in a bus in the Santa Cruz Electronics Export Processing Zone.

They were convicted under Sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 427 (damaging property) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.

They were also convicted under Sections 3 (damaging property) and 4 (damaging property by fire or explosive) of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act; Sections 3 (causing an explosion to endanger life) and 4 (making an explosive to endanger life) of the Explosive Substances Act; and Sections 5 and 9B (licence for the use of explosives) of the Explosives Act.

The alleged mastermind of the blasts, who claimed to be a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative, had turned approver. The prosecution on Monday filed an application for his discharge from the case.

Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam called the conviction a blow to the LeT. He said this could be the last case to see convictions under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, since repealed.

The prosecution examined 103 witnesses and the defence, four. Hailing the verdict, Investigating Officer Suresh Walishetty said it was the fruit of their hard work.

Defence lawyer Sushan Kunjuraman said: “I am shocked and surprised by the convictions. The prosecution’s case was very weak. Neither did the LeT ever take responsibility for the blasts nor did the prosecution prove that the accused were LeT operatives. The ones who assembled and handed over the explosives have been discharged, while the planters have been held guilty. We will appeal against this judgment.”

The three convicted were nailed by the testimony of taxidriver Shivnarayan Pandey, whom they had hired on the day of the blasts. Mr. Walishetty said: “His testimony was our clinching evidence. We will now ask the Public Prosecutor to demand maximum punishment.”

Investigations revealed that the blasts were carried out by members of the Gujarat Muslim Revenge Force to avenge the communal riots in the State in 2002. Two other accused — Ansari Ladoowala and Hasan Batterywala — were discharged from the case after a POTA review committee gave them a clean chit in 2005. The 16-year-old daughter of Sayyed and Fahmeeda was also an accused, but was later acquitted.

The police claimed that Nasir Ahmed, one of the conspirators, was killed in an encounter in September 2003. However, the couple and Ashrat Ansari were acquitted under Sections 5 and 6 (making or possessing explosives under suspicious circumstances) of the Explosive Substances Act. “These are very minor offences,” said Mr. Nikam. The accused were LeT operatives and had committed serious offences. “We will [therefore] argue for the highest punishment.”

(2) Hu Jintao sent a congratulatory message to Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou following the latter’s election victory

For the first time in six decades, the leaders of China and Taiwan exchanged direct contact in what is the clearest sign yet of a thawing in the relationship between the two estranged neighbours.

Chinese President Hu Jintao sent a congratulatory message to Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou following the latter’s election victory as chief of Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party.

Mr. Ma has been a vocal supporter of improving ties between Taiwan and China, and political analysts said his election could now pave the way towards possible reconciliation.

“I hope our two parties can continue to promote peaceful cross-Strait development, deepen mutual trust, bring good news to compatriots on both sides and create a revival of the great Chinese race,” said Mr. Hu in a telegram.

While China does not recognise Taiwan’s independence, the two neighbours have been ruled separately since 1949, when Mao Zedong’s Communist Party drove the KMT and its leader Chiang Kai-shek to Taipei. Since then, relations have been frosty.

China claims sovereignty over the island, and Taiwan’s claim to independence is only recognised by around two dozen countries, mostly Pacific islands.

Economic relations between China and Taiwan have vastly improved since Mr. Ma was elected President in May 2008, after standing on a platform focused on improving Taiwan’s business ties with China.

Last year, flights across the Taiwan Strait were launched, following which more than 4 lakh Chinese have visited Taiwan.

Political analysts said Mr. Ma’s assumption of the control of both the ruling KMT and the government could now allow him to further push his agenda of bringing Taiwan closer to China. While exchanges have taken place between the Chinese Communist Party and the KMT, government representatives have not met.

While Mr. Ma said he would continue pushing for closer commercial ties, he has ruled out meeting Mr. Hu in their capacities as Heads of State. Public opinion in Taiwan on reunification with China remains sharply divided, and Mr. Ma said such a meeting would not occur until a national consensus had been forged.

Nevertheless, Chinese media strongly welcomed his election victory, expecting further improvement in ties between the neighbours.

His election would “inject a new momentum into the developing relations between Taiwan and the mainland,” said State-run China Daily in an editorial, echoing much of the sentiment of the Chinese press.

“Doubling as chief of KMT and island leader, he could draw more support for his cross-Straits policies.”

The reaction was much more lukewarm in Taiwan, where some fear Mr. Ma plans to expand his powers and limit the reach of the KMT to push through his China-friendly policies faster.

“Taiwan is now a full-fledged democracy and for Ma to revert to the authoritarian practice of interlocking party-state leadership seems inappropriate,” said the Taipei Times.

“The room for independent political thinking and action by KMT lawmakers will likely be curtailed drastically.”

(3) Glenmark’s Q1 consolidated revenue up 18% to Rs 544 crore

Glenmark’s consolidated revenue for the quarter rose 18% to Rs 543.6 crore against Rs 460.8 in the year ago period even as forex losses and high interest costs led to a drop in net profit for the quarter ended June 30, 2009. The company’s consolidated net profit for the first quarter was at Rs 53.4 crore compared with Rs 115.3 for the previous corresponding quarter.

Glenn Saldanha, CEO & MD of Glenmark Pharma, told news agency: “We have grown operating profits to Rs 150 crore at the EBITDA level, and that is a pretty healthy growth overall. Between the operating level and PAT, there are two major impacts. One is forex losses. We had a forex loss of about Rs 34 crore and that is purely on account of revaluation of the assets. It is not really a cash loss. The second aspect is our interest cost, which has gone up because of the increased debt burden on the company.”

Glenmark has debt of Rs 1900-2000 crore on its books, and is looking at various options to raise cash. The existing cash flow from the company’s business, which is to the tune of Rs 300-400 crore, will go towards repayment of debt.

“In addition, we are looking at various fund-raising options, both in the parent, as well as Glenmark Generics, the subsidiary, for which we had planned an IPO last year. So, I think all that capital will go towards debt repayment. Before the end of this year, we are pretty confident that we will bring down the debt very significantly,” Mr Saldanha told news agency. Glenmark stock closed at Rs 264.20 on Monday, down 2.55% from its previous day close in a flat Mumbai market.

Glenmark is looking at different options to raise money at the level of the parent company. “Whether it is an FCCB or a QIP, or different options and different structures there of, we are not clear right now whether we will only raise capital in the generic subsidiary, or will it be the parent and generic subsidiary and what form of capital,” he added. At its board meeting on Monday, the company also approved raising of funds of $250 million through issue of equity shares, GDRs, ADRs, FCCBs or a QIP.

Despite the challenges it is facing, the company stands by its guidance of about 17% growth for FY10. “We continue to maintain that we will have a net profit of between Rs 300 and 400 crore coming out of the base business, and we have been well on line to achieve that. For the remaining part of the year, the focus will be to launch new products across operating branded generics markets, reduce costs and improve working capital across operating markets,” Mr Saldanha said.

The company continues to be excited about the US generics market. “We will continue to file ANDAs and launch new products to grow that business organically. On the drug discovery programme, topline results on Phase II B COPD studies are expected in the second quarter for our lead molecule Oglemilast,” he added.

The company’s speciality formulation business recorded revenue of Rs 304.9 crore as against Rs 222.7 crore for the quarter of the previous year, registering a growth of 37%. Revenue from the generics business was almost stagnant at Rs 238.7 crore.

(4) BGR Energy bags two orders worth $80.5 million from Iraq

Power equipment supplier BGR Energy Systems said it has bagged orders worth $ 80.5 million (nearly Rs 387.83 crore) from State Company for Oil Projects, Iraq for development of two gas fields.

The company has received the contract in the international competitive bidding process, the filing added.

The scope of work includes engineering, procurement and supply of key utilities (gas generators, water system plant and fire and gas detection), it added.

Shares of BGR Energy Systems today closed at Rs 360.95 on the BSE, up 2.48 per cent from previous close.

(5) Nabard sanctions Rs 307.49 crore loan

Nabard has sanctioned an Rs 307.49 crore loan under the Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIFD) to the West Bengal government, including Rs 257 crore under RIDF XV and Rs 50 crore towards cost escalation of earlier tranches.

"A portion of the fund will go into development of infrastructure for marketing agriculture and rural produce as well as proper storage and sale. Nabard has sanctioned Rs 22.35 crore which will go into development of market complexes in 9 districts including Burdwan, Cooch Behar, Darjeeling, Hooghly, Malda, Nadia, North 24 Parganas and East Midnapore," said Nabard in a release made on Monday.

This investment is expected to generate recurring employment of 886 jobs per year and non-recurring employment of 9.15 lakh man days. Additionally, 74,900 farmers in 560 villages are expected to benefit from this infrastructure.

Other projects sanctioned include 50 rural road projects (Rs 89 crore), 1286 minor irrigation projects (Rs 80 crore), 28 flood protection and soil erosion projects (Rs 38 crore), boundary walls for 1104 schools (Rs 20 crore and, fish market (Rs 4.76 crore) and one joint forest management project (Rs 2.85 crore).

About Rs 89 crore has also been sanctioned for construction and improvement of 50 rural road projects totaling 302 km in 14 districts.

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