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Today's Hot Stories - April 07, 2010

10 Headlines for Today

(1) Krishna calls for more Chinese support on UNSC seat, terror
(2) Chidambaram leaves for Chhattisgarh
(3) N. Korea sentences American to 8 years of hard labour
(4) Indian Railways to lease real estate assets, eyes Rs 600 cr
(5) No immediate interest rate hike, says SBI
(6) Nissan recalls over 25,000 cars in Japan over gas pedals
(7) Chennai Super Kings beat Mumbai Indians by 24 runs
(8) Messi magic crushes Arsenal's Champions League dream
(9) Another first for Mourinho as Inter ease into semis
(10) Antenna failure hampers crew’s shuttle inspection

5 Stories for Today

(1) Keep Jha, Johri out of Gujarat riots probe: SC
(2) Quake hits Indonesia, triggers tsunami alert
(3) Singh brothers quit Religare board
(4) Godrej to acquire Megasari of Indonesia
(5) Finance Ministry likely to seek cabinet nod for CIL divestment by April-end

(1) Keep Jha, Johri out of Gujarat riots probe: SC

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Special Investigation Team (SIT), probing 2002 Gujarat riot cases, to keep two senior IPS officers from Gujarat — Geetha Johri and Shivanand Jha — out of the riot investigations till further orders.

The apex court also fixed April 28 for considering whether there was a need to continue with the SIT headed by former CBI director R K Raghavan in the wake of allegations levelled against it.

The direction came from a bench comprising Justice D K Jain, Justice P Sathasivam and Justice Aftab Alam while hearing an application moved by an NGO, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), making various allegations against SIT and its members and seeking stay of the trial in 10 riots cases. The court will hear on April 19 the question of stay.

The bench also directed that Raghavan's report submitted to the SC, as a rejoinder to these allegations, and other papers, be given to the Gujarat government and amicus curiae Harish Salve.

(2) Quake hits Indonesia, triggers tsunami alert

A 7.7 earthquake shook Indonesia’s northwest island of Sumatra early Wednesday, prompting a brief tsunami warning and sending residents rushing for higher ground. There were no immediate reports of widespread damage.

The quake struck at 5.15 am (3.45 am IST) and was centred 200 km northwest of the coastal town of Sibolga in Sumatra at a depth of about 50 km, the U.S. Geological Survey said. It had earlier said the quake measured 7.8.

“So far no damage or casualties have been reported and the situation is under control,” Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf said.

The Indonesia Meteorology and Geophysics Agency and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Honolulu issued tsunami warnings following the quake, but lifted them two hours later.

At least five strong aftershocks measuring up to 5.2 were recorded, the meteorology agency said.

The quake, which struck as people in the region were preparing for morning prayers, caused panic in North Sumatra’s capital of Medan, 215 km from the epicentre, and other cities in the region. Electricity was cut in Medan, Banda Aceh — the provincial capital of Aceh, and other areas.

People in several cities along the southeastern coast of Sumatra as well as Sinabang on Simeulue island and Gunung Sitoli on nearby Nias island poured into the streets and rushed to higher ground after the quake.

Rumours about a tsunami panicked villagers living near the beach. They ran away on motorbikes and cars or by climbing the hills. There was panic and chaos everywhere.

Residents in Sibolga said the shaking lasted more than a minute and utility poles in the area were knocked down.

The quake was felt as far away as the outskirts of Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur, about 500 km away. There were no reports of damage there.

A 2004 tsunami triggered by a magnitude-9.2 earthquake in the same part of Indonesia killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries on the Indian Ocean basin.

(3) Singh brothers quit Religare board

Religare Enterprises has revamped its top-level management by appointing a new Chairman and CEO after its promoters - Malvinder Mohan Singh and his younger brother Shivinder Mohan Singh - voluntarily exited the board to devote more time to their healthcare business.

Mr. Malvinder has relinquished his position as Chairman of the firm, while Mr. Shivinder has quit as director. It has appointed Sunil Godhwani as Chairman and Managing Director, while Sachindra Nath will be the new Chief Executive of the financial services firm.

Making the announcement here, Mr. Malvinder said the step was taken with a view to segregating the management from ownership and, thereby, creating value for shareholders.

“Mr. Shivinder and I will continue to focus on building a global healthcare delivery business for ourself…,” he said.

He also announced the induction of Mr. Shachindra Nath and Chief Financial Officer Anil Saxena on the board. Three more new members with global experience in asset management, investment and commercial banking would be inducted later, he added.

As per the arrangement, Mr. Malvinder said he would focus on global healthcare opportunities and would associate more closely with the recently-acquired Parkway Holdings in his capacity as its chairman.

“My own focus will be driven on the international aspect of the healthcare side and for Fortis, we would use Parkway as a vehicle for international growth,” Mr. Malvinder said.

On the other hand, Mr. Shivinder, who is the Managing Director of Fortis, will focus on the board to make Fortis Healthcare a world-class institute.

(4) Godrej to acquire Megasari of Indonesia

Godrej Consumer Products Ltd (GCPL) on Tuesday entered into an agreement to acquire the PT Megasari Makmur Group and its distribution company in Indonesia for an undisclosed amount.

The Megasari Group manufactures and distributes a wide range of household products including household insecticides, wet tissues and air fresheners. Its products are category leaders in the Indonesian market.

GCPL Chairman Adi Godrej said that in sales terms, the Megasari Group had a turnover of Rs.550 crore last year and that the acquisition would be completed in 4-6 weeks.

In a statement, Mr. Godrej said, “the Megasari Group provides us a strong platform to establish a significant foothold in Indonesia, which is among the largest consumer markets in Asia. Given Megasari Group's leading position in household product categories in Indonesia and the Godrej Group's strong presence in this category in India, we believe this acquisition will provide significant synergies and create value for shareholders.'' The investment provides GCPL a foothold in the third largest consumer market in Asia (after China and India) and Indonesia shares a similar demographic and economic profile as India. With a market size of around $345 million, it is the fourth largest household insecticides among the emerging markets, after China, India and Brazil with a per capita spend on household insecticides almost thrice that of India. The business provides a platform for launching other Godrej home care and personal care products in Indonesia.

As part of the integration plan, GCPL said, the Megasari Group's current management team will continue to be involved with the companies.

The Godrej Group will put in place a cross functional team consisting of current Megasari employees and Godrej's team from India. The cross-functional team will be led by Naveen Gupta who has spent eight years in Godrej Sara Lee's International Operations. Megasari Group was established in 1996 and has factories West Java, Indonesia.

(5) Finance Ministry likely to seek cabinet nod for CIL divestment by April-end

The Ministry of Finance may seek the Union Cabinet’s approval for the proposed 10 per cent stake sale in state-owned Coal India Ltd (CIL) by the end of this month, a senior Coal Ministry official said.

“The proposal is with the Department of Disinvestment under the Finance Ministry. They will place it before the Cabinet for approval may be by the end of this month,” Additional Coal Secretary Alok Perti told on the sidelines of the India Energy Congress 2010.

The government expects to mop up Rs 12,000 crore from disinvestment in the country’s largest coal producer, which would be part of the its effort to raise about Rs 40,000 crore through stake sale in 2010--11.

The government at present holds 100 per cent equity in the country’s largest coal producer and is likely to sell 63.13 crore shares in the IPO.

“The IPO is targeted in August,” Mr. Perti added. Out of the proposed 10 per cent stake sale, 9 per cent of the government’s equity could be channelised towards the IPO and rest is proposed to be given to its nearly 4 lakh employees.

On the appointment of a regulator for the coal sector to overseas mining activities, proposed auctioning of blocks, coal pricing among others, Mr. Perti said government is seeking views from different ministries on the subject and could seek Cabinet nod for the appointment next month.

“We have circulated cabinet notes (for Coal regulator) to different ministries particularly the Law Ministry. It could be taken up by the Cabinet by the middle of May,” he said.

Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal had said in February the sector would get a regulator by mid-March, after the government introduced the subject to Parliament during the Union Budget 2010.

Mr. Perti further said that India may move to a mechanism of linking coal prices to its gross calorific value from the present system of pricing the fuel based on its ash content.

“We are evaluating such a move. No timeframe could be given at present,” he said.

At present, domestic coal is priced based on its ash content, the more the ash content the less would be the price and vice-versa.

Gross Calorific Value system would link the prices to the amount of heat generated by burning a kilo of coal and not on the ash content, which is a global practice.

Mr. Perti said, the gap in prices between the highest grade and the lowest grade would get reduced.”

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