Cement stocks are trading positive with Madras Cement, Chettinad Cement and India Cement leading the gains. As per a leading financial daily, cement prices in the southern region continued to remain firm despite slowdown in demand during the monsoon season which is yet to come to an end in the region. Production curtailment by leading cement producers in the region kept cement prices buoyant in the region. Reportedly, prices have climbed up to the highest levels for the calendar year 2011. Madras Cement reported a 28% YoY jump in topline in September 2011 quarter backed by higher realizations. During 1HFY11, its sales grew by 18% YOY and net profit surged by 102% YoY. In contrast, cement prices in the northern markets have softened by Rs 5-10 per bag due to slowdown in construction activity with the onset of peak winter season. North-based cement player, Shree Cement reported significantly lower sales and profits in September 2011 quarter on a quarter-on-quarter basis.
Auto stocks are mostly trading positive with Mahindra & Mahindra the biggest gainer. However, Ashok Leyland is trading weak (down 3.2%). As per a leading financial daily, Ashok Leyland has received board approval to increase its stake in Optare Plc, a British bus manufacturer to 75.1%. The company had initially acquired 26% stake in Optare in July 2010 with long term strategic partnership in mind. The additional 49.1% stake will be acquired for over Rs 300 m. With this acquisition, the company will have access to Optare's technology, including modern range of city buses and it expects to boost growth opportunities in the global bus market. For this, the company has opted for refinancing, as per which the company will be facilitating a credit-line to support Optare's re-banking options. Besides, it will provide improved working capital facility for the business. To reach 75.1%, the company will place new shares, thus raising new equity.