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It’s Time To Pocket Handsome Dividends

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That's a big exit. US banking behemoth Citigroup has sold its 9.98 per cent stake in housing finance provider HDFC for $1.9 billion (more than Rs 9,500 crore). Citi is the single largest shareholder in HDFC, and the sale gives Citi a profit of $722 million (Rs 3,550 crore, after tax). The move is expected to help New York-based Citi shore up capital globally. The stake sale was struck at Rs 657.56 a share — a discount of six per cent to HDFC's closing price on 23 February. In June last year, Citi had sold 1.5 per cent in HDFC for $160 million. "We remain deeply committed to India," says Pramit Jhaveri, CEO of Citi (India). Citi first invested in HDFC in 2005, but the largest chunk came in 2006 when it bought 9.3 per cent from Standard Life for $673 million. The investments were made during the stint of its former global chief, Chuck Prince. Under his watch, Citi picked up 4.62 per cent in Shanghai Pudong Development Bank in 2003, and 20 per cent in Guangdong Development Bank in 2006. Earlier in 2004, it had taken over South Korea's KorAm Bank.

No Kidding
Now, there is a twist in the tussle. SS Kothari Mehta & Co, the Delhi High Court-appointed auditor in the Lilliput Kidswear and promoters wrangle, has expressed inability to complete its job. It says the firm is not cooperating with it. Lilliput is India's largest kidswear brand and its private equity investors Bain Capital and TPG had charged promoter Sanjeev Narula with fudging books.











IN RED: Arun Sawhney, CEO, Ranbaxy








$500 mn Settlement fee Ranbaxy paid in December to US drug regulator FDA to lift a drug import ban


Bitter Pill
A weaker rupee and troubles with US regulators have taken their toll on Ranbaxy Laboratories' books. The pharma major posted a Rs 2,983 crore net loss for the quarter ended December 2011 over the year-ago period. Ranbaxy had posted a net loss of Rs 97 crore in the same period a year ago. In December, Japanese Daiichi Seiko-owned Ranbaxy had paid USFDA $500 million to lift a ban on import of drugs from some of its factories in India.

A Whopping Bill
Liabilities on employee retirement benefits of BSE-100 firms grew by 45 per cent to Rs 290,000 crore last fiscal from Rs 200,000 crore a year ago, shows a study by risk management consultancy Towers Watson. Unfunded employee benefit liabilities have more than doubled to Rs 58,000 crore as on 31 March 2011.

New Battle
Telecom major Econet Wireless is seeking at least $3.1 billion in damages from Bharti Airtel in a dispute over ownership of its arm Airtel Nigeria. The move follows a Nigerian court ruling on 30 January that termed Airtel's ownership of Airtel Nigeria is void because co-founder and 5 per cent shareholder Econet was not consulted on the transfer of shares to Bharti. But Airtel says it is not aware of any such move.

Union Issue
Anil Agarwal-promoted mining major Vedanta Resources is likely to finish the merger of two of its key arms Sesa Goa and Sterlite Industries. This will give birth to a Rs 40,000-crore metals player. In September 2008, Vedanta had made a similar move, but had to withdraw as many of its investors protested.

For The Jaguar
Tata Motors will double investments in its Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) brands to £1.5 billion a year, even as it warned that it will be a challenge to sustain high margins at its key profit generator. Generating high revenues, JLR has driven the company's growth in recent quarters.











TAKE A CUT: AT&T's CEO Randall Stephenson
(Bloomberg)

Paying Dearly
He failed and he has to pay. So feels the AT&T board. The largest phone company in the US has asked CEO Randall Stephenson to take a $2.08 million pay cut for 2011 as he had failed to successfully complete the acquisition of T-Mobile. Instead of $20 million or more, Stephenson will take home $18.7 million.

Throwing Peanuts
Salary increases in India are projected to be 11.9 per cent in 2012, according to HR consultancy Aon Hewitt. The projections for 2012, in the 16th Annual India Salary Increase Survey, were marginally lower against the actual increase of 12.6 per cent in 2011.

Down, Down, Down
Well, it's far from over. The euro zone's economy is heading into its second recession in just three years, says the EU executive. It warns that economic output in the 17 nations sharing the euro will contract 0.3 per cent this year.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 05-03-2012)