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A volatile day for the markets
Thu, 15 Jul Closing

Indian markets closed on a weak note for the second consecutive day. Today's weakness was largely owing to selling in stocks from the energy and realty sectors. FMCG and IT stocks however bucked the trend and closed strong. On the broader BSE, one stock lost for every one that closed in the positive.

The BSE Sensex and NSE Nifty closed with losses of around 30 points (0.2%) and 5 points (0.1%) respectively. However, mid and small cap stocks bucked the trend. Both the BSE Midcap and BSE Smallcap indices closed up by 0.1% each.

Most other key Asian markets also closed weak, led by China (down 1.9%), Hong Kong (1.5%), and Japan (1.1%). European markets have also opened the day in the negative.

Telecom stocks closed mixed today. While gains were seen in Idea Cellular and MTNL, selling pressure marked trading in Reliance Comm and Bharti Airtel. Bharti probably bore the brunt of profit booking after the sharp run it has seen over the past few days. The company's management yesterday organized a conference call to discuss the finalization of the Zain Africa deal. The company plans to launch its brand in Africa in October, and has set some aggressive targets for the next 1-2 years. One of them is to increase the subscriber base to 100 m, from 42 m currently. The management also targets Zain's revenues to touch US$ 5 bn over this period, from around US$ 3.6 bn as of now.

The company is also pushing fast on the regulatory front. It is aiming for infrastructure sharing among telecom operators, which will reduce its cost of roll out and also lead to a faster increase in its volumes (minutes of usage). Overall, Bharti is eyeing an investment of US$ 1.5 bn to expand the African business over the next 2-3 years. The biggest chunk of this will be spent in Nigeria.

Stocks of oil marketing companies (OMCs) closed weak today, led by BPCL, HPCL, and IOC. These companies have been blamed by Reliance Industries for forming a cartel while bidding to supply aviation turbine fuel (ATF) to national carrier Air India. Reliance has in fact filed a case against them with the Competition Commission of India (CCI). The company has blamed that this cartelization restricts entry of private players like itself that are in no position to compete with state-run firms on pricing.

Banking stocks closed mixed today. While gains were seen in Axis Bank and Kotak Bank, others like ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank recorded selling pressure. Gains in Axis bank followed a good set of numbers recorded by the bank for the first quarter ended June 2010. The bank has posted a 31% YoY growth in net profits during the quarter, despite just a 14% YoY growth in interest income. This gain in profits was largely on account of a fall in the bank's interest expenses, which were down 3% YoY during the quarter. The bank's capital adequacy ratio at the end of the quarter stood at 14.5%, lower than 15.8% as at the end of March 2010. Its net NPAs to advances, at 0.35%, stood at the same level as the previous quarter.

Stocks of Indian pharma companies also closed a mixed bag. Gains were seen in Indoco Remedies and Dr. Reddy's. On the other hand, Cadila and Wockhardt closed in the red. As per reports that just came out, Sun Pharma has finally managed to gain the upper edge in its long drawn battle with Taro. It may be recalled that the company had announced its intention to acquire the Israel based Taro Pharmaceuticals in May 2007 for a consideration of US$ 454 m. Not just that, given that Taro was into losses and on the verge of bankruptcy, Sun Pharma had infused US$ 60 m into the company.

Since then, however, the promoters of Taro refused to go ahead with the deal. Also, Taro failed to publish its accounts for a couple of years. Now a US District Court has come out with a verdict in favour of Sun Pharma. The court has rejected Taro's claims based on allegations that Sun Pharma had failed to make adequate disclosures concerning the tender offer. Even if Sun Pharma does manage to acquire this company, it will have a task on its hands trying to turn around its fortunes. This is despite the company having successfully turned around many of the acquisitions that it had made in the past.

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