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FEB. 25, 2007
 Cover Story
 BT Special
 Back of the Book

Trading with ASEAN
In the recent Indo-ASEAN summit, ASEAN was, for the first time, on the defensive. India has agreed to bring down its negative list of imports to 490 items in the free trade agreement with the 10 ASEAN nations. But India’s step towards free trade was not matched by the ASEAN nations, as more than 1,000 items still figure in the negative list of the ASEAN. In 2005-06, India’s total trade with ASEAN was at $22 billion (Rs 99,000 crore), against just $7 billion (Rs 31,500 crore) in 2000-01.

Exchange Deal
Indian markets are on a roll. Global stock exchanges and financial institutions’ interest in the Indian stock exchanges goes to show the long-term growth potential of India Inc. The year has started on a positive note. The NYSE and three global financial institutions have each picked up a 5 per cent stake in the NSE. The deal will open exciting vistas in global co-operation for the NSE, and at the same time could improve the fortune of smaller exchanges in the country.
More Net Specials
Business Today,  February 11, 2007
New Destination?
Is R. 'Sesh' Seshasayee on his way out at Ashok Leyland? Neither Seshasayee nor the company would comment, but BT learns that the 59-year-old CEO of the Chennai-based commercial vehicle manufacturer may have decided to call it a day after spending 31 years with it-the last 10 as its top man. Another source says that Sesh won't be retiring immediately but only in 2009 when his contract expires. Considered one of India's finest executives, Sesh has been responsible for turning a plain vanilla truck and bus manufacturer into a global player, with acquisitions in the Czech Republic and a manufacturing unit in Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE. Over the last few years, Sesh emerged as an industry champ, first as the President of SIAM, and then of top industry lobby, CII. COO Vinod Dasari, who joined Leyland from Cummins, is tipped to be the successor.

Power Dip

Weeks after L. Madhusudhan Rao stunned power sector watchers by bagging the ultra-mega power project at Sasan, he was in for some surprise himself. The Bermuda-registered partner, Globeleq, that Rao's company Lanco Infratech had teamed up with to bid for the 4,000 mega Watt project (cost: Rs 16,000 crore), seemed to want out. However, Rao, 40, says he is not surprised. "Globeleq, being more of a fund, has investments in a lot of power projects around the world and it is doing an asset sale at the moment. This is a normal process as they need to do that and re-invest," says the Hyderabad-based Rao. He adds this does not mean they are exiting Sasan. Therefore, there will be no impact on the project and that Lanco will "keep it alive". It would be a pity if things unravelled. Lanco's aggressive bid (a 'levelised' tariff of just Rs 1.19 per unit) was taken as a vote of confidence in a sector dogged by power theft and bankrupt state electricity boards.

Purple Patch

Anil Ambani seems to have hit a purple patch in February. In fact, he had three reasons to celebrate on the second day of the month-it was his 15th wedding anniversary; but that isn't why he's being featured here. That day, his flagship Reliance Communications crossed the magical Rs 1,00,000-crore mark in market capitalisation, becoming, in the process, the seventh Indian company to do so. That was also the day when it emerged that Reliance Mutual Fund had leapfrogged to the pole position in the Indian MF industry with assets under management of Rs 39,019.94 crore, well ahead of second-placed UTI MF's corpus of Rs 37,535.07 crore. The younger Ambani, 47, who is also in the race for acquiring Hutchison Essar, must be hoping that his lucky streak continues at least for the rest of this year.

Wary Banker

First it was HDFC's Deepak Parekh who sounded the fog horn over soaring real estate prices. Now, it's another industry heavy weight, ICICI Bank MD & CEO, K.V. Kamath, who is voicing his concern. "We feel the property market has overheated in select cities," Kamath, 59, told a newswire. As a result, he said, his bank had become selective about disbursing home loans. That's worth taking seriously. After all, ICICI Bank has been the most aggressive player in the retail loans market, with over Rs 50,000 crore locked up in retail mortgages. Let us not wish for a real estate crash, but hope that Kamath's caution helps cool the frenzy in the market.

Action Time

After sitting tight for five months following his first investment in Emcure Pharmaceuticals, Blackstone India's Chairman & Managing Director, Akhil Gupta, seems to have developed a serious taste for media firms. To start with, he has invested $275 million (Rs 1,237.5 crore) in Ramoji Rao's Ushodaya Enterprises, which owns Eenadu, ETV and Ramoji Rao Film City, valuing the Hyderabad-based group at over $1 billion (Rs 4,500 crore). There's also talk of Gupta, 54, mulling investment in NDTV Networks. "I would not like to comment on it, but you are free to speculate," he says, helpfully. But he does say that his third investment will also be a privately-held company with a strong growth plan. "The investment could be between $20 million and $2 billion," he says. Well, this is Blackstone after all.

Winds of Change

For Tulsi Tanti, being global doesn't mean only global acquisitions. It also means giving his wind energy business a global face. Ergo, less than a year after his wind power company Suzlon Energy purchased Belgium-based Hansen Transmission for Rs 2,511 crore, Tanti, 43, has tapped GE Consumer & Industrial CEO and President (for EMEA), Andre Horbach, as the CEO of Suzlon's global operations. Horbach will be based out of Suzlon's new group management office in Amsterdam. Evidently, Tanti is in a mood to professionalise his Pune-based company in a big way, and is looking to hire a President for the India operations. But this post is likely to be filled by an Indian. With Rs 35,000 crore in Suzlon market cap, of which his share is worth Rs 2,800 crore, Tanti has realised that it pays to differentiate between ownership and management.