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BW Businessworld

Some Sparkles...

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It's not all gloom on the economy front. If the latest  HSBC manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI) is any indication, there is optimism in the air. It shows the  manufacturing sector grew at its fastest pace in eight months in January thanks to a surge in factory output. The PMI, famed for its accuracy, moved to 57.5 from 54.2 in December and 51 in November. HSBC explains that this shows a rebound in manufacturing on the back of fresh stocks and orders from businesses. It also signals firm demand from local and foreign clients. Naina Lal Kidwai, country head for India and director at HSBC Asia-Pacific, says several sectors continue to perform even through the downturn, and IT services and consumer product firms "hold up pretty well." But the rebound will be complete only when sectors such as infrastructure rise up, she says.

...But It's Gloom For Unilever
Consumer goods giant Unilever sees a difficult year head. Emerging markets, which account for more than half its business, see slackening growth and demand in Europe and North America remain flat, it says. Unilever's volumes have risen at the slowest pace in almost three years.

No Kids Play
It is final and official now. Walt Disney has fully acquired media and entertainment firm UTV Software Communications. UTV has fixed an exit price of Rs 1,100 per share, and Disney will start delisting UTV's shares after 6 February, the company has informed stock market regulator Sebi.

BUY OUT: Walt Disney acquires UTV Software Communications (Bloomberg)

A Macro Help
Troubled microfinance firm SKS Microfinance finds a saviour in Small Industries Development Bank of India. The apex lender has given Rs 100 crore in term loan to SKS. Banks have almost stopped funding microfinance firms (MFIs) from Andhra Pradesh after the state clamped down on MFIs in October 2010. SKS had posted a Rs 428 crore loss in the third quarter.

Foreign Alliance
European cargo airline Farnair Switzerland has bought a substantial stake in Bangalore-based Quikjet Cargo Airlines. Quikjet has Tata Capital as one of its key investors.

Big Buys
Binani Industries is going places. The holding company of the $1.6-billion Braj Binani Group has bought Belgian fibreglass major 3B for e275 million ($360 million or Rs 1,796 crore). The buy offers Binani full ownership of 3B's operating capacity of 1,50,000 tonne per annum. This is the third such global acquisition of the group in six years. Last year, the group had bought US's composite maker CPI.

Pill Recall
American pharma major Pfizer has recalled more than one million packets of birth control pills citing certain packaging flaws. Pfizer says it is a "voluntary recall" as it found out that inactive or placebo pills may have been placed out-of-order in some packs. Pfizer says it believes only 30 packs had such packaging problems.

Future Pulse
According to Fitch, the rate of expansion in India's healthcare sector will be slower due to the wide gap between demand and supply. That said, the sector will continue to secure investments in 2012, says Fitch Ratings's annual report 2012 Outlook: India Health Care.

WORK ON: The HSBC PMI index signals manufacturing growth (Bloomberg)

Sony's Troubles
Sony Corp's new chief Kazuo Hirai might have a difficult road ahead. The electronics giant is likely to forecast a fourth straight annual loss. In many markets, Sony has lost ground to rivals Apple and Samsung. The Sony board hopes Hirai, who revived its PlayStation gaming business, can make a difference. He will replace Howard Stringer on 1 April.

Food Fall
A World Bank report says prices of food, energy and crude oil will fall in 2012 owing to slackening global economic growth. 

Fund Raise
The Airports Authority of India has sought approval from the finance ministry to raise Rs 3,000 crore through tax-free infrastructure bonds next fiscal. The demand comes as part of its proposal for the budget.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 13-02-2012)