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Ratings Fetch Him A Downgrade

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After surprising the world by lowering the rating of US debt, Standard & Poor's president Deven Sharma has stepped down from the post. He will become an advisor to McGraw-Hill, which owns S&P, and  be re-placed by Citibank COO Douglas Peterson. S&P's 5 August downgrade had shaken markets across the world, leading to a giant fall in US equity prices, and inviting the ire of the US government. S&P, however, says Sharma's exit has little to do with the issue. Meanwhile, McGraw-Hill is facing pressure from shareholders such as Jana Partners to split S&P into four parts for "underperforming its potential".

A Booster Shot
In line with its aggressive strategies, Aventis Pharma is buying Universal Medi-care's nutraceuticals business in India. Aventis is the listed arm of Sanofi. The deal will see transfer of 750 Universal employees to Aventis, and will add 10 per cent to Aventis's turnover.

Docking In Cash
In an effort to undertake a dredging project in this fiscal, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust plans to raise around Rs 1,500 crore by issuing tax-free infra bonds. The money will fund the first phase of the Rs 5,500-crore project at the biggest container port in the country.

Challenging Times
Mahindra Satyam is logging into a legal battle. The IT services major is moving the Andhra Pradesh high court challenging the Income-Tax department's demand of Rs 2,114 crore for the assessment years 2002-03 and 2007-08. A few days ago, the tax department had disallowed exemptions claimed by Mahindra Satyam.

Growth Signs
Small is big in India's job circuit. A recent study by industry body Assocham shows Tier 2 towns have seen a job growth of over 200 per cent (y-o-y) in July, beating concerns of a slowdown in services and exports. According to the study, 13,776 jobs came up in small towns in July, with Chandigarh, Lucknow, Vadodara, Jaipur and Patna topping the job creators' list.

The Hazare Effect
Anna Hazare's ongoing fast in Delhi has given a fillip to news channels. Reports citing data from research firm TAM show viewership has nearly doubled in the week ending 20 August. The share of Hindi news channels went up by 87 per cent, while English news channels saw a 74 per cent rise in viewership.

Foreign Money 
In the past two fiscals, the government has allowed firms to raise funds worth Rs 60,950 crore through external commercial borrowing or foreign currency convertible bonds for infrastructure projects. Telecom companies raised the most, at Rs 37,700 crore (61 per cent), followed by the power sector at Rs 17,100 crore.

Compensation Blues
Even though nearly 45,000 Verizon workers resumed work this week, the two-week-long strike against cuts in benefits has fuelled a surge of 5,000 new jobless claims in the US, with the market looking weak after stripping out those effects. Last week, 8,500 Verizon workers filed for insurance, compared with 12,500 the week before.

Not Bonding Well
Much to the dismay of her fellow EU chiefs, German Chancellor Angela Merkel once again rejected the idea of joint, euro zone bonds to restore confidence. She says they offer no incentive for budget consolidation and reforms. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, too, joined Merkel. "Euro bonds can be imagined one day, but at the end of the European integration process," he said.

Seeds Of Change
Seeds giant Monsanto has set up a $10-million fund to encourage young scientists to develop technologies for wheat and rice in India. Monsanto says inadequacy of research is affecting the productivity of grains.

Google Fine
The US Justice Department slapped a fine of $500 million on Google for allowing pharmacies in Canada to advertise unlicenced drugs to US patients.

Compiled by Jinoy Jose P.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 05-09-2011)