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Today's Hot Stories - July 29, 2009

10 Headlines for Today

(1) Lok Sabha adjourned after protests over price rise of essential commodities
(2) No proof against Hafiz Saeed in 26/11 attacks: Pakistan
(3) About 200 boys were rescued by Pakistan army from Taliban camps in the Swat valley where they were being trained to become suicide bombers
(4) Reliance Power to raise over Rs 20,000 crore to fund power projects
(5) Kotak Mahindra Bank Q1 profit zooms 72% to Rs 257 crore
(6) Deutsche Bank Q2 net profit up 68% to 1.1 billion euros
(7) RIL names Yusuf Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja brand ambassadors
(8) FIH President Leandro Negre warned Hockey India that if they don't hold elections till October, the Indian team will be barred from the 2010 World Cup
(9) Cristiano Ronaldo notched his first goal for Real Madrid in a 4-2 victory over Liga de Quito in the Peace Cup
(10) A study on failing memory has found that HIV infection and chronic alcoholism damage brain function

5 Stories for Today

(1) I am guilty till proven innocent: Omar Abdullah
(2) US, China agree to fight global warming
(3) Grasim reported a 61% jump in net profit to Rs 1080 crore
(4) EADS net profit up 76% in second quarter
(5) Wockhardt to sell entire nutrition business to Abbott

(1) I am guilty till proven innocent: Omar Abdullah

J&K CM Omar Abdullah didn't go to meet governor N N Vohra first after he left the assembly. He drove back home, drafted his resignation — which is apparently so worded that it can be said to be ambiguous about his insistence on immediate resignation — and reached Raj Bhavan with state finance minister Abdul Rahim Rather and political advisor Devendra Rana to hand it in.

Vohra is said to have reasoned with the 39-year-old Chief Minister, urging him not to act emotionally. He is learnt to have told him that he would not accept the resignation until the allegation was probed and determined one way or the other and Omar should carry on with his work until then.

Omar has finally agreed to stay on provided a clear time frame is given for the probe. The CM hasn't made a statement after that but he bared his mind — and anguish — in the assembly: "I know it's a false allegation. But I want to resign until I am cleared of this false charge. I cannot work till I am proved innocent. This is a blot on my character. Under the law, one is innocent until proven guilty. But that's for routine crimes. Since the allegations raise questions on my morality, I consider myself guilty until proven innocent."

His resignation letter is said to be a little more nuanced. It said, "I will be grateful if you could inquire into the allegations against me in a time-bound manner and. if you are satisfied that there is any basis in these allegations please accepts my resignation immediately."

His tormentor Muzaffar Beig appeared unmoved by the drama. Reacting to the CBI’s denial of his claim, he said, ‘‘the agency is trying to cover up the issue as it has been doing since it was formed.’’

He added PDP leaders named in the CBI list had been denied party tickets in 2008 assembly elections. Beig said Farooq Abdullah’s name, too, figured in the list as entry No. ‘C-38’.

Already the CBI has arrested G M Mir and Raman Mattoo, both ministers in the former PDP government, besides Iqbal Khandey, the former principal secretary to the former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed.

Meanwhile, Vohra has reached Delhi to discuss the simmering crisis with government leaders.

(2) US, China agree to fight global warming

The United States and China are trying to set aside differences and work together to fight global warming.

Officials from both countries signed a document that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says will create a platform for cooperation and dialogue on climate change.

The signing ceremony came on the second day of high-level talks between the two countries.

The countries are the world's largest producers of climate-altering pollution. The United States wants China to join it in reducing emissions. China says it will make cuts, but is wary about agreements that would hinder its development.

Clinton said this week's talks provide a way to "move forward'' ahead of a global climate change conference in Copenhagen in December.

(3) Grasim reported a 61% jump in net profit to Rs 1080 crore

Grasim, an Aditya Birla Group company, has reported a 61% jump in net profit to Rs 1080 crore in the first quarter ended June 30, 2009, on an extraordinary gain of Rs 336 crore arising from the sale of its sponge iron business. Driven by a 23% growth in its cement business, consolidated revenues for the quarter rose 15% to Rs 5123 crore compared to Rs 4,448 crore in the corresponding quarter last year.

Cement production grew by 23% at 4.91 million tonnes. A total capital outlay of Rs 4,160 crore has been earmarked for the cement business (including the outlay of Rs 2,055 crore at subsidiary company, UltraTech), which would be spent over the next two years.

(4) EADS net profit up 76% in second quarter

Airbus parent company EADS NV said that second-quarter net profit rose 76 percent as the European planemaker delivered more aircraft and charges for its delayed A400M military transport eased.

Shares rose as European Aeronautics Defense and Space Co. said Airbus still plans to deliver as many planes as last year, even as the recession hurts customer airlines.

Net profit was $297 million in the April to June period, up from euro 118 million reported a year earlier but below analysts' forecasts.

Shares were up 5.3 per cent at euro 13.38 in Paris morning trade. EADS warned that it may take "substantial negative'' hits to future profits from the delayed A400M military transport program, which it is renegotiating with governments.

EADS missed a March 31 contractual deadline for the first flight, and it could have to repay as much as euro5.7 billion ($8 billion) to governments if the project were canceled.

At the end of June, Airbus had delivered 254 aircraft this year, compared with 245 in the first half of 2008.

In a statement, EADS said it expects Airbus to win 300 new gross orders this year while keeping aircraft deliveries stable at the 2008 level, including 14 A380 super jumbos.

This despite the woes of the airline industry which the International Air Transport Association says could lose $9 billion globally in 2009.

EADS said its second half earnings before interest, tax, goodwill and exceptional items will be positive but will fall compared to the first half level of euro888 million, due to higher research costs and foreign exchange rate impact.

The company said its net cash position "remains solid'' at euro 8.1 billion. At the end of the previous quarter, EADS had cash reserves of euro 8.7 billion, compared with euro 9.2 billion at the end of last year.

(5) Wockhardt to sell entire nutrition business to Abbott

Deal may be worth Rs 625 crore, CDR divestment requirement met. Wockhardt Ltd, which recently undertook a debt restructuring scheme, has signed an agreement to divest its non-core nutritional business to Abbott, a global healthcare company.

Sources said the deal was worth close to $130 million (Rs 625 crore). A Wockhardt spokesperson declined to confirm the size of the deal.

The company said the transaction was subject to customary closing conditions and various approvals, and would be closed in the second half of 2009.

The company’s nutrition business includes some of the major child care brands, such as Farex, Dexolac and Nusobee infant formulas, and Farex weaning cereal. The adult protein supplement, Protinex, is a segment leader in the vitamin and health supplement category.

Wockhardt had acquired Dumex India, along with its two products, Protinex and Farex, from Royal Numico NV of The Netherlands for an undisclosed amount in 2006. At that time, Protinex and Farex, both well-known nutrition brands in the country for over 50 years, had a combined annual sales of Rs 60 crore.

“At Wockhardt, we invested and nurtured to build valuable brand equity for these heritage brands and it was time now for a specialised nutrition-focused company, as Abbott, to be able to leverage its full potential in the global markets,” said Wockhardt Chairman Habil Khorakiwala.

Wockhardt’s over Rs 3,400 crore debt was restructured by its lenders in June. As per the corporate debt restructuring (CDR) scheme, it has to divest its non-core assets at an estimated value of Rs 790 crore, within the next six years. It had already mobilised close to Rs 300 crore from the recent sale of its loss-making German subsidiary, Esparma, to Mova GmbH and the animal health division to Vétoquinol, a French veterinary care company.

With these sales, the company is likely to go slow on sale of other assets it had put on the block, including its plans of divesting the proposed stake sale of its hospital chain, as the CDR package approved by its lenders have taken care of the company’s immediate financial commitments.

The company is also looking at divesting a 32-acre dairy and milk processing unit in Punjab which the company inherited from its acquisition of Dumex India and part of 250 acres in Aurngabad. Wockhardt’s promoter, Habil Khorakiwala, was also planning to divest less than 26 per cent stake in Wockhardt Hospitals, which has 12 hospitals, for a valuation of Rs 800-1,200 crore. But the company may wait for more time to get good valuations, said sources.

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