Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Michael Schumacher is back; Schumacher to replace Massa

Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher is making a sensational return to Formula One.The German driver who quit F1 after securing a record seven time championships, will replace the injured Felipe Massa who will out for the rest of the season due to a fatal multiple skull fracture.Michael Schumacher may have retired almost three years ago, but he continues to be in the thick of things in Formula One.Michael is still fit enough to drive a Formula One car.With no proper replacement for Massa and the chances of Fernando Alonso debuting for Ferrari in a month's time being unlikely, Ferrari has requested Michael to race again.

German driving legend Schumacher still works for Ferrari as an advisor, but after Massa's shocking injury in Hungary he will now get back behind the wheel once again.The 28-year-old Massa was hit in the helmet by a loose part from another car and crashed into a protective tire barrier at 120 mph during qualifying Saturday at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Schumacher has some time to prepare as the F1 season takes a summer break, but he should once again line up on the grid at the European Grand Prix. So,we all can see Schumi behind the wheels in Spanish GP which is on August 23.
Michael Schumacher has also confirmed the news and has said "I was meeting this afternoon with Stefano Domenicali and Luca di Montezemolo and together we decided that I will prepare myself to take the place of Felipe. Though it is true that the chapter Formula 1 has been closed for me since long and completely, it is also true that for loyalty reasons to the team I cannot ignore that unfortunate situation. But as the competitor I very much look forward to facing this challenge."He will take up a fitness test to assess his body condition. He has 3 weeks to prepare himself for the F1 challenge.

PM Manmohan Singh: Trust, but verify

The Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh clarified the government's stand on the latest Indo-Pak joint statement in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt earlier in the month during the NAM(Non-aligned Movement) summit.There was a huge uproar back in India as a strong reaction to loosely packed joint-statement. Many diplomats in India believed that it was a huge mistake to include the problem of Baluchistan in the joint-statement.The PM clarified that there was no dossier exchanged in reference to Baluchistan.But, experts believe there was no need to point to Baluchistan which after all is an internal matter of Pakistan and India has absolutely nothing to do with it.The PM has said that the composite dialogue with Pakistan will not begin until and unless Pakistan brings the terrorists who headed the 26/11 Mumbai attacks to book. Quoting Ronald Regan's words, PM said that we must trust Pakistan but verify and scrutinise its actions. We can choose our friends,our enemies, but we cannot choose our neighbours. So, we have to find a way to deal with Pakistan.PM also wanted Pakistan show in letter and spirit that they are serious about terror.He also took a dig at the BJP, that UPA does not need any lessons from BJP about dealing with Pakistan.

On the Nuclear Enrichment status(ENR) raised by the G8 countries in L'Aquila,Italy that these processes can be transferred only to those countries which are a signatory of NPT(Non-Proliferation Treaty), the PM said there was no need to worry and that India will not sign NPT in its present form. The PM said that India has got a clean and specific deal from the NSG and that this position was even endorsed by French President Nicholas Sarkozy.He also said India has signed bilateral nuclear deal for construction of nuclear reactors with France,US and Russia.As regards to the end-user agreement with the USA, he said its just a composite bilateral agreement for procuring defence equipments and that it will expedite the closure of defence deals with United States of America.

BMW to exit Formula one

BMW is to withdraw from Formula One at the end of the season. The German carmaker is the second major manufacturer to pull out of the sport in the space of eight months after Honda's withdrawal in December.BMW have had a poor campaign with drivers Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica giving the team just eight points this season from ten Grand Prix to leave them eighth in the nine-team constructors' championship.The team, who gave former world champion Jacques Villeneuve his last drive in the sport and in Robert Kubica fielded its first ever Polish driver, have emerged over the past two years as the closest challengers to McLaren and Ferrari.The team finished third last season behind Ferrari and McLaren-Mercedes.Their only Grand Prix win as BMW Sauber came when Kubica won in Canada in 2008, while he also achieved the team's only pole position in Bahrain in 2008.Bernie Ecclestone, the commercial rights holder of Formula One, says BMW's failure to challenge for the world title is behind the announcement. The team have fallen short of expectations and the future of Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfield, the two BMW drivers are in jeopardy due to BMW's withdrawal from F1.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Felipe Massa injured in an accident;Hamilton wins Hungarian Grand Prix

Brazilian driver Felipe Massa was injured when a spring from fellow Brazilian Barrichello's car struck his helmet during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix, with the Ferrari driver then hitting a tyre wall.Massa remains in a stable condition in Budapest after undergoing emergency surgery on Saturday to repair a fractured skull in the wake of this freak accident.Injured Formula One driver Felipe Massa can now communicate "actively" and is able to move his hands and legs.Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton was back on top of the podium after claiming his first victory since October's Chinese Grand Prix.
The world champion took the chequered flag in a Hungarian Grand Prix overshadowed by Felipe Massa's accident.Kimi Raikkonen was second and Mark Webber third to close the points gap on Jenson Button, who was seventh, but Sebastian Vettel was forced to retire.Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali dedicated Kimi Raikkonen's second place in Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix to Felipe Massa.Domenicali, who immediately after the race left the track to see Massa, said: "We dedicate the result to Felipe. At this time all our thoughts are with him and his family, and I think this sentiment also applies to those who are close to him and to fans all over the world."Massa's accident came days after Formula Two driver Henry Surtees, was killed in a freak accident during a race at Brands Hatch.

Renault have been suspended from next month's European Grand Prix in Valencia following the wheel loss suffered by Fernando Alonso in Hungary.

Hungarian Grand Prix
Final positions after 70 laps
1 L Hamilton- McLaren
2 K Raikkonen -Ferrari
3 M Webber -Red Bull

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Free insurance schemes for 1 crore families in Tamil Nadu

Nearly one crore families in Tamil Nadu, with an annual income of Rs 72,000 or less will benefit from the Tamil Nadu Government's new insurance scheme.Each family can avail treatment for critical ailments — around 51 identified procedures — up to Rs.100,000 at private and pay wards of government hospitals.The state government would pay the premimum of Rs 500 per annum for all the families from its pocket.The insurance is offered by the city-based health insurer Star Health and Allied Insurance Company Ltd. It has tied up with more than 150 public and private hospitals across the state.A biometric smart card will be issued to the beneficiary. The card would carry the photo of head of the family. Details of dependents would be available in the database.Chief Minister K. Karunanidhi requested Union Health Minister,Ghulam Nabi Azad to waive the Rs.48 crore service tax paid by the state government on the Rs.517 crore payout towards the insurance premium under the Kalaignar Insurance Scheme.At a time, when even US is fighting for a comprehensive health care system, the implementation of this Insurance scheme is quite laudable. While other states are struggling and working hard to give their citizens basic amenities like food and shelter, insurance schemes from TN is the right example in growth and development. But the trick lies in execution and if executed properly, the poor and needy will be the biggest beneficiary out of this visionary scheme.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi also announced that, after his death his house at Gopalapuram will be converted into a charitable hospital for the poor and downtrodden.

Now, withdraw cash from debit cards at retail shops, petrol stations

Every store that accepts debit cards could soon become an ATM. The next time you run out of cash, you needn’t go scouting for an ATM. All you need to do is take your debit card to the nearest shop, swipe it and withdraw cash.As a further step towards enhancing the customer convenience ,the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has decided to permit cash withdrawals at point-of-sale (POS) terminals.

You can withdraw up to Rs 1,000 in a day. Also, you don’t need to purchase anything from the shop to avail this facility.In case the facility is being availed along with the purchase of a product, the receipt generated shall separately indicate the amount of cash withdrawn. For this, the swipe machines, or point-of-sale (PoS) terminals, will have to be upgraded and it may take around a month for the service to go on stream. The move will particularly benefit customer in smaller towns and rural areas, which have few ATM machines.
At present the cash withdrawal facility using plastic cards is available only at automated teller machines (ATMs). This will help crowd out people at the ATM's and also make use of many retail shops, petrol stations, hotels and restraunts and big budget shops who have this wipe sysytem installed in their shops.However, customers (i.e) general public may have to pay a fee of 2-3%.The processing fee will be split between the bank and the shop owner.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Can India effectively leverage its Demographic dividend ?

The buzz word these days in chambers across the knowledge-hungry societies is the so called "Demographic Dividend" which will favour India in the near and medium term. The term "Demographic Dividend" essentially means that the percentage of working class people is high among the total population such that it favours an accelerated economic growth. This perhaps is seen to be a new dimension to India's oldest resource namely the "Human Resource". Population density and its growth was perceived to be India's biggest bane until a few years ago. Thanks to huge boom in services sector and economy as a whole in the last decade or so, people began to talk about the huge potential in India's large population. Add to this, today India is one of the youngest nations in the world.

This is an unique and favourable transitive stage in a country's demographic make-up which comes once in many decades, maybe once in a century. This essentially means less dependants(read "retired senior citizens and children below 15 years) and more people in the working age between 20-45. This is due to falling fertility rates(the average number of children born to a woman) in India from about 4.8-5.3 in the 70's to about 2.3 today.

So, people spend less on child care as there are less number of children and simultaneously the average wages and savings becomes higher. This leads to higher spending for a safer lifestyle and the growth of children in healthy environment.Parents are under less strain to provide for many children.The government can then concentrate purely on economic growth rather than wasting money in subsidies and low quality education. Eventually, the population growth rate also stabilises and signs of those happening in India could be seen as early as 2030.

The other side of this story could actually act as counter to economic growth. If, the government doesnot fuel growth now and create jobs for many young people who come out from their education every year, then we cannot effectively take advantage of this demographic dividend. The second point is as economy grows, healthy lifestyle will also grow and so the average life-expectancy(average number of years a man could live) will also increase. This leads to an increase in retired dependants who may not have a role to play in economic growth of a country.Another dreaded scenario is that the educated umemployed youth turning to evil ways like terrorism and domestic violence.

So, if we donot take stock of the situation and strive for producing enough oppurtunities for producing skilled youth labour and jobs for them, the old evil of high population will come back to haunt us once again. At a time when many countries like America, UK and Europe are going through a downturn and has a huge dependant population in their ranks, this is probably the best oppurtunity for India to spread its wings and fly high. The next decade will be very crucial and determine how well India has leveraged its demographic dividend. This will go a long way in shaping India's quest for becoming a worthy super power and sustain itself in the world's economic map.

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Friday, July 17, 2009

TCS beats Q1 FY10 estimates; variable pay to be paid in full

Country's largest software exporter TCS reported nearly 19 per cent growth in consolidated net profit for the first quarter of the current fiscal at Rs 1,533.94 crore.Its revenue for the same period stood at Rs 7,207 crore -- up 12 per cent YoY.In terms of verticals, the quarter under review saw some stability in the core BFSI segment with the US leading the trend, while the UK and Europe are expected to stabilise in subsequent quarters, notes the management. In manufacturing, the speed of demand recovery will depend on overall economic recovery. The media and retail verticals continue to grow from new deals as well as ramp-ups of large deals closed in FY09.

On the hiring front, utilisation in Q1 FY09 was 79.2 per cent (excluding trainees) and 71.3 per cent (including trainees). There was a gross addition of 2,828. The attrition rate in Q1 was 11.5 per cent. At the end of Q1, the total employee strength of the company was 1,41,642. Foreign nationals formed 8.3 per cent of the total employee base and 30 per cent were women.The variable component of employees in Indian payroll will paid in full along with july salary.
TCS also added 26 new clients(lowest in 6 years), and net addition were down by 2000 odd employees though gross addition was 2312 associates. EPS growth was up 15% to RS.7.83 from Rs.6.81 last quarter. The board approved a dividend of Rs.2 per share.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Andrew Flintoff retires from test cricket

Andrew Flintoff will retire from Test cricket at the end of the ongoing Ashes series against Australia.The 31-year-old will bow out at the end of this summer's Ashes series against Australia after failing to overcome a series of injuries which have plagued his career.He will though continue to make himself available for selection for One-Day Internationals and International Twenty20 fixtures.

Well, I am not sure it is that much of a blow for England cricket team. They have spent most of the time since 2005 without Flintoff. They haven't won many games with him since that period and his performances since 2005 have been quite modest. So, while it is always a blow to lose a player of quality, I am not so sure it is a massive blow for England. His announcement will come as little surprise to anybody close to the England side, who have watched Flintoff struggle time and again to recover from injuries.

Flintoff will always be remembered for his displays during the Ashes in 2005., where his performances with bat and ball were the key to England's stunning success.The burly Lancastrian dismissed suggestions that his impending Test retirement would overshadow the remainder of the series.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Balloning Fiscal deficit: Will it affect you ?

Pranab Mukherjee, finance minister of India presented what many believed to be a lousy budget with no definitive approach towards important issues like disinvestment, financial sector reforms and even deregulation of petrol and diesel prices. The argument in favour of FM was that budget is not neccesarily the place to chalk out plans for reforms or disinvestment strategy. These market-centered announcements may even come later through the course of the Congress's regime. Point well taken.

But, the most dreaded and the one which could come back to haunt the FM and the people is the fiscal deficit. The projected fiscal deficit for this financial year is 6.8% and when you add the state fiscal deficit which is 3.8% and some revised expenditure through the year, it ballons out to nearly12.5-13% and more worrisome is the revenue deficit at 3%. Revenue deficit is the deficit caused by higher cost of running government, its debt and things like pay commision hikes. According to FRBM act(Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management), the union government has financial obligation to keep the fiscal deficit below the accepted levels of 3-4%. But these are tough and unprecedented times. A deeper economic recession and the resultant negative growth of the private sector has left the central government with little headroom for spuring economic growth or atleast maintain it at present levels. That is precisely why the government has announced three stimulus packages. Stimulus packages are essentially more spending by the government in job-oriented infrastruture projects, farm loan waivers, tax cuts, interest rate deduction and giving more subsidies. The idea is to put more money in the common man's pocket and encouraging him to spend more. This in turn will spur growth due to domestic demand. At a time, when export market is hit by a deep recession in developed countries(US and Europe in particular), fiscal stimulus are the only way the government can arrest the economic growth from nose diving.

But, everything comes at a cost. These stimulus packages need greater government spending and so the government borrows money from the central banks(like the RBI) and many foreign financial instituitions.Also, at a time of recession, due to less industrial growth, the tax collections from both the corporate and individuals citizens are comparitively lesser. So, this is the cause of balloning fiscal deficit and what does it have to do with ordinary citizen like you and me?

As fiscal deficit increases and the government borrowing from RBI hits new high, interest rates increases which will crowd out the private sector from large scale investment. Cascading effect is more job losses, less spending and low growth. Also, high fiscal deficit will force international credit rating agencies like S&P, IMF to downgrade India credit rating. This only adds to more pain as these are the main criterion with which foreign financial institution plan investment and lend credit to Indian MNC's.

So, its very vital to contain the Fiscal deficit and get the country back to normal growth. Many other countries like America and UK have high fiscal deficit in tune to about 15% and 9% respectively. But they have far deeper crisis than what we do. We have to be careful so that we don't fall into a painstaking downturn like the developed countries. This is perhaps why, the markets nosedived nearly 10% last week, the fact that there was no proper roadmap to contain and bring back the fiscal deficit to acceptable levels(maybe 3-4%).The FM did say that the fiscal deficit will come down to 4% by FY 2012. But there was no mention of any plan how he will bring them down.

This is such a risky and tough period which may well decide whether we get back to sub-8% growth rates or languish to a paltry sub-4% levels which will disastrous for the whole nation, you and me included. Hope Finance Minister's listening.....

Friday, July 10, 2009

Infosys Q1 2010 results: Beats expectation;revenues down by 5%

Infosys declared its first quarter results showing that there has been a five per cent fall over fourth quarter results of 2008-09.Infosys counts on Goldman Sachs, Philips Electronics, BT Group Plc and Australia's top phone company Telstra Corp among its clients. The Group has posted consolidated net profit after tax & minority interest of Rs 1527 crores for the quarter ended June 30, 2009 as compared to Rs 1302 crores for the quarter ended June 30, 2008.

Profit after tax is the net profit earned by a company after deducting expenses like interest, depreciation and tax.

Infosys rupee EPS guidance has been downgraded to Rs.94.59 to Rs.96 from the previous guidance of Rs.96 to Rs.101. Revenues for the whole year is estimated at Rs.21,452 crores to Rs.22,343 crores.The revenue from the top client BT is down from 5.3% to 4.6%.New client addition for the quarter is 27. All the revenue and EPS guidance are at the presumpotion that dollar stays between Rs.47.91-Rs.50.72 in the exchange rate.The utilisation is at 67% including trainees and at 70.4% ecluding trainees. Company has actually offloaded 945 employees and thus the net additions is in the negative.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Microsoft warning: Security hole in Video ActiveX control

Microsoft has warned of a flawed software in Internet Explorer that hackers can exploit to take over some computers. The vulnerability affects Internet Explorer users whose computers run the Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 operating systems.If a victim visits an infected website, hackers can remotely take control of their machine.

Microsoft said it was working with partners to patch the weakness in ActiveX Video Control involved in capturing, recording or playing video and is also a main component of Windows Media Center.Microsoft advised users to deactivate ActiveX Video Control until a fix is available.

However, the good news might be that the buggy ActiveX Control doesn't affect any major functionality in IE.At worst, the ActiveX Control bug, which affects several versions of Windows, including Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, allows attackers to infiltrate a user's system to download malicious code, typically information-stealing Trojans.Attackers taking advantage of the vulnerability could install programs; view, change or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights.

Microsoft said in its advisory that it was working on a fix for the bug, which will either be released in its monthly Patch. Internet Explorer versions 6 and 7 are at risk, but people running IE 8 are not vulnerable.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Budget 2009: Cheers from aam admi;bloodbath at markets

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Monday raised the income tax exemption limits in his Union Budget 2009-2010 speech. He proposed to increase the income tax exemption limit for senior citizens by Rs 15,000, for women and others by Rs10,000 each, while keeping the corporate tax rate unchanged. The exemption limit will now be Rs 240,000 for senior citizens, Rs190,000 for women and Rs 160,000 for others.The good news is that 10% surcharge on income above Rs 10,00,000 has been removed.

The most welcome change is the complete removal of the Fringe Benefit Tax (FBT). As the FBT provisions were felt to be too onerous and generated a huge administrative burden on corporates, there was a pressure to abolish the same.However, Minimum Allocation Tax (MAT) on book profits has been increased from 10 percent to 15 percent.Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee asked state governments to remove hurdles to speed-up infrastructure implementation and tried to bring liquidity back to the cash-strapped builders.
He also set a goal to increase the investment in infrastructure to more than 9 percent of GDP by 2014.Market tanked almost 950 points in sensex and 280 points in Nifty.

The government is committed to provide Rs 100 a day as wages under National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) Allocations have been hiked by 144% to Rs.39,100 crore in the proposed Union Budget.The Finance Minister also said allocation for Bharat Nirman programme is being hiked by 45 per cent. The project covers six schemes, including rural roads, drinking water and sanitation in villages.

The finance minister said the government would soon publicise a draft food security (guarantee) bill and seek comments from everybody before finalising the bill. In its election manifesto earlier this year, the Congress had promised 25 kg of rice or wheat a month at Rs.3 per kg to families below the poverty line.

Federer becomes world number 1

After four hours and 16 minutes on the centre court at Wimbledon, a time when play often soared to regal heights even as the sun dipped, the great man finally became the most successful Grand Slam champion of all time.
The 5-7, 7-6(6), 7-6(5), 3-6, 16-14 victory in the men’s singles final of the 123rd championships on Sunday saw Federer ease past the greatest Wimbledon champion of modern times.He surpassed Pete Sampras's total of 14 major titles by defeating Andy Roddick in five sets.Federer’s victory – a gruelling success – secured his sixth title at the All England Club and took him once more to the top of the world rankings ahead of the injured Rafa Nadal, who beat him at the same stage last year. In terms of sheer tennis brilliance, it may trail last year's thriller, but the drama was something else, as both players went toe-to-toe like gladiators - the onlooking Russell Crowe must have been proud and India's own gladiator sportsman Sachin Tendulkar spending his precious little time viewing this great match.

For Federer, the only question remaining is whether, at 27, he is already the best tennis player in history. Certainly, the previous owner of the Grand Slam career record was in agreement.
"In my book, Federer is the greatest," Sampras said, who still has the edge in Wimbledon titles with seven to Federer's six. "I have to give it to him. The critics say Laver, and Nadal has beaten him a few times at majors. He's won all the majors, he's won 15 now, he's going to win a few more here. So in my book he is the best." Sampras agreed.

Rahul Dravid back in One day scheme of things

Rahul Dravid finds himself back in the ODI reckoning after the former captain was today named in India's 30-member probables list for the Champions Trophy. The All-India Senior Selection Committee met at M A Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Monday to select the following thirty players as probables for the series.A veteran of 333 ODIs, Dravid has not featured in India's ODI squad since playing his last one dayer against Australia in Nagpur.

Irfan Pathan’s international career has suffered a big setback as the selectors omitted the Baroda all-rounder from the list of 30 probables.Explosive Karnataka opener Robin Uthappa was the other surprise exclusion from the list.Senior cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, who had opted out of the just-concluded West Indies tour, returns to the side as do the injured duo of Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan.

Probables for Champions trophy: M S Dhoni, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Abhishek Nayar, Ishant Sharma, Zaheer Khan, R P Singh, Praveen Kumar, Harbhajan Singh, Pragyan Ojha, Ravindra Jadeja, Dinesh Karthik, Munaf Patel, R Ashwin, M Vijay, Amit Mishra, Ajinkya Rahane, Dhawal Kulkarni, S Badrinath, Ashish Nehra, Virat Kohli, Bhuvneshwar Kumar Singh, Wridhiman Saha, Pankaj Singh.