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Today's Hot Stories - July 24, 2009

10 Headlines for Today

(1) Leaders’ security will not be cut: Indian Government
(2) Mumbai is all set to face the highest tide of the season which will hit its shores today
(3) China holds key to climate change deal: UN Chief Ban Ki-moon
(4) Tata Motors and Fiat were discussing plans to bring Nano to Latin America
(5) British Queen loses 75 million pounds due to economic recession
(6) Vishvanathan is the MD & CEO of SBI Capital
(7) Lance Armstrong will quit Astana and race for Team RadioShack in 2010 Tour de France
(8) Pakistan omit Shoaib Akhtar from Champions Trophy squad
(9) Justin Langer became the highest-scoring Australian batsman in first-class cricket when he overhauled Sir Donald Bradman's career total of 28,067 runs
(10) India's Supreme Court has released $2.3 billion of frozen funds to be used to boost forest density and wildlife habitats, the ministry of Environment and Forest said

5 Stories for Today

(1) Unique ID numbers in 12-18 months
(2) Obama defends health reform plan
(3) Microsoft Q4 net profit falls 17% at $3.045 billion
(4) Bristol-Myers to buy Medarex for $2.4 billion
(5) Union Bank net profit rises 94% to Rs 442 crore

(1) Unique ID numbers in 12-18 months

High-profile Information Technology expert and Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani on Thursday took charge as Chairman of the newly created Unique Identification Authority of India (UIAI) and promised to roll out the first set of unique identification numbers within 12-18 months.

Speaking to the media at his office in Yojana Bhavan here, he said: “In the next 12 to 18 months, we will be issuing the first set of unique identification numbers. The Finance Minister [Pranab Mukherjee] in his budget speech has said that the ID numbers would be issued in 12-18 months. We take that as a very strong direction and commitment. So we intend to abide by that.”

Mr. Nilekani clarified that the Authority’s job would not be to issued cards but only create a database of the identity of people. “We are not going to be issuing cards. We are going to be issuing numbers. We are going to issue a unique identification number for each person. Our intention is to give everybody a unique number to each person. We will have to do it with some kind of biometric identification,” he said.

The Cabinet-ranked chief of the UIAI said these numbers would provide an identity to citizens, help them in reaping the benefits of various government schemes and also facilitate other activities such as opening bank accounts and obtaining electricity connection.

“We will have a very simple database, which provides biometric and demographic identity details like name, number, date of birth, very basic things,” he said. Various government departments might use the database for different purposes.

“So the people who are in the public distribution system will use the number to authenticate whether an individual is eligible to get some subsidies like kerosene or food or whatever.”

With an allocation of Rs. 120 crore for the current fiscal, Mr. Nilekani noted that his first task would be to set up a team by picking up the best talent available from the government as well as the private sector to prepare the residents’ database.

(2) Obama defends health reform plan

U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday strongly defended his ambitious plan, calling it vital for recovering from the worst recession to hit the U.S. since the great depression.

“Even as we rescue this economy from a full-blown crisis, we must rebuild it stronger than before. And health insurance reform is central to that effort,” said Mr. Obama at a prime time news conference at White House, aimed at taking his case for health reforms to the people.

Mr. Obama’s nationally televised press conference comes as he has been facing criticism from the opposition Republicans for his decision to overhaul the health care system.

“This is not just about the 47 million Americans who have no health insurance. Reform is about every American who has ever feared that they may lose their coverage if they become too sick, or lose their job, or change their job,” said Mr. Obama.

“It’s about every small business that has been forced to lay off employees or cut back on their coverage because it became too expensive. And it’s about the fact that the biggest driving force behind our federal deficit is the skyrocketing cost of Medicare and Medicaid,” he asserted. Mr. Obama warned that if the spiralling health care costs are not controlled, the U.S. will not be able to control its deficit.

“If we do not reform health care, your premiums and out-of-pocket costs will continue to skyrocket. If we do not act, 14000 Americans will continue to lose their health insurance every single day. These are the consequences of inaction. These are the stakes of the debate we’re having right now,” he said.

(3) Microsoft Q4 net profit falls 17% at $3.045 billion

Microsoft Corp posted a steeper-than-expected 17 percent drop in quarterly revenue and said its business continued to be hurt by the weak global PC and server markets, sending its shares down 8 percent and hurting broader stock futures.

The world's largest software maker, whose operating systems power the vast majority of the world's personal computers, offered little hope for a turnaround in technology until next year, despite recent optimism from others in the sector.

"We still see conditions being challenging for the balance of this calendar year," Chief Financial Officer Christopher Liddell said in a telephone interview.

"At least sequentially, we are seeing a little bit of growth. While things are not necessarily getting better, they may have bottomed out," said Liddell.

Microsoft reported fiscal fourth quarter net profit of $3.045 billion, or 34 cents per share, compared with $4.297 billion, or 46 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.

Profit excluding items was 38 cents per share for the quarter ended June 30, beating analysts' average forecast of 36 cents per share according to Reuters Estimates.

Sales fell 17 percent to $13.1 billion, missing analysts' average estimate of $14.48 billion. Annual sales of the company's Windows operating system -- its first and most important business -- fell for the first time on record.

"They were really light on revenue. I hope they'll highlight that on the call, give more clarity. I would hope in the call they're going to tell us where the dollars are," said Kim Caughey, senior analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group.

The company is preparing to bring out the latest version of its operating system, Windows 7, on Oct. 22. Liddell said that release would not, on its own, spark a recovery in PC sales.

Microsoft's shares fell 8 percent to $23.44 in extended trading, after closing up 3 percent at $25.56 on NASDAQ, contributing to losses on stock futures across the board.

(4) Bristol-Myers to buy Medarex for $2.4 billion

US drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb Co said it will pay $2.4 billion to acquire Medarex Inc, a biotechnology company that has been helping it develop a promising treatment for melanoma since 2005.

Medarex's expertise in making antibody-based drugs could help Bristol-Myers as it strives to regain its stature as one of the world's leading players in the oncology market, and to develop treatments for immunologic conditions such as arthritis, lupus and psoriasis.

The agreed offer of $16 a share represents a 90 per cent premium to Medarex's closing share price on Wednesday of $8.40 per share on Nasdaq.

Bristol already owns a 2 per cent stake in Medarex, through its four-year-old partnership with its neighbor in Princeton, New Jersey.

Medarex has developed so-called "transgenic" mice with human immune systems that are able to generate fully human antibodies that can be used as drugs.

"The premium is not out of whack when you look at the scarcity value of this technology and the appetite for biotech companies right now," a source familiar with the deal said. "It's a small deal in size but a large deal in terms of the potential scope they gain with this science."

Bristol-Myers and Medarex are developing one of the mouse-generated antibodies, called ipilimumab, as a treatment for patients in late stages of melanoma -- the most deadly form of skin cancer. There are now no highly effective treatments for it.

In three mid-stage clinical trials, 30 to 42 per cent of patients with metastatic melanoma treated with ipilimumab were still alive after two years, which Bristol-Myers said established a survival benefit.

The companies are now conducting a larger late-stage trial, requested by US regulators, designed to show an unequivocal survival benefit.

The partners are also conducting a mid-stage trial of ipilimumab among lung cancer patients and a late-stage study of it against advanced prostate cancer.

Medarex's technology has been used to develop several recently approved medicines, for which the company receives royalties.

They include Johnson & Johnson's Simponi (golimumab), approved in the United States for rheumatoid arthritis and J&J's Stelara, and recently cleared in Europe to treat psoriasis. A Medarex antibody is also the basis of Ilaris, a Novartis AG treatment for children with an inflammatory disease caused by rare genetic mutations.

"Medarex is one of the grand-daddies of the antibody research field, and it has finally come of age," said Steve Brozak, an analyst at WBB Securities.

Bristol-Myers spokesman Brian Henry said Medarex is testing 10 other drugs in clinical trials, some with other large drug makers.

"This deal will give us (full) rights to ipilimumab and broadly position Bristol-Myers for long-term leadership in biologics," Henry said, referring to complicated biotech drugs that are typically given by injection.

"This deal clearly expands our opportunities in oncology and immunology," Henry said.

Medarex and a company called Abgenix were the first to develop transgenic mouse systems.

Abgenix was acquired by Amgen in December 2005 for $2.2 billion in cash plus the assumption of debt. Abgenix gave Amgen full ownership of panitumumab, now known as Vectibix, an approved treatment for colorectal cancer.

It also removed the necessity of Amgen to pay a royalty to Abgenix on future sales of denosumab, a bone drug that is now considered Amgen's big hope for the future.

Other companies that specialize in monoclonal antibodies include Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc, Seattle Genetics (SGEN.O), which has multiple collaborations, and Immunogen Inc.

Bristol-Myers said its purchase of Medarex has been unanimously approved by the boards of both companies and is expected to close in late August.

(5) Union Bank net profit rises 94% to Rs 442 crore

A rise in non-interest income enabled Union Bank of India record a 94% rise in net profit at Rs 442 crore in the quarter ended June 2009 compared with Rs 228 crore in the previous quarter.

Speaking to media, CMD MV Nair said: “The immediate area of concern is net interest margin (NIM). But we expect it will improve from second quarter onwards as a substantial portion of deposits raised in the past two years will be repriced.” Currently, he expects the bank’s NIM to improve to 3% from 2.03%.

Advances on a y-o-y basis rose 26% to Rs 96,026 crore and total deposits rose 34% to Rs 1,43,889 crore. The bank has targeted credit growth of 25% and deposits growth of 23% for this year.

Mr Nair also announced that the bank plans to appoint a consultant for initiating best HR practices in the bank. The bank’s non-interest income rose 118% to Rs 529 crore.

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