Saturday, December 20, 2008

Walk-in jobs at TCS for doctorates in computer sciences

At a time when job offer letters to campus recruits are few and far between, India's software giant Tata Consultancy Services Limited (TCS) has declared that it will recruit all doctorates in computer science without any interview.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the PanIIT 2008, a conference of the Indian Institute of Technology alumni here Saturday, TCS CEO and managing director S. Ramadorai declared: "We will hire Ph.D. degree holders in computer science over the next five years."

He said the move was expected to enthuse more students to pursue doctoral studies in the subject.

Source: Agencies

Internet's underground economy is worth $5 billion

Internet fraud has become a multi-billion dollar business with thieves stealing bank account information and credit card numbers and then selling them online.

Hi-tech thieves who specialize in card fraud have a credit line in excess of $5bn, research by the world’s largest maker of security software, Symantec, suggests .

Symantec calculated the figure to quantify the scale of fraud it found during a year-long look at the internet’s underground economy , according to reports.

Credit card numbers were the most popular item on sale and made up 31% of all the goods on offer. Coming in second were bank details which made up 20% of the items being offered on criminal chat channels. The $5.3bn figure was reached by multiplying the average amount of fraud perpetrated on a stolen card, $350, by the many millions Symantec observed being offered for sale. Similarly, the report said, if hi-tech thieves plundered all the bank accounts offered for sale they could net up to $1.7bn.

Symantec said it was likely that many of the cards offered for sale were invalid or cancelled and bank accounts closed but it added: “These figures are indicative of the value of the underground economy and the potential worth of the market.”

Credit card numbers have proved so popular among hi-tech thieves because they are easy to obtain and use for fraudulent purposes. Many of the methods favoured by cyber criminals, such as phishing schemes, database attacks and magnetic strip skimmers, are designed to steal credit card information , it said.

The existence of a ready market for any stolen data and the growing use of credit cards also helped maintain their popularity, it said.

“High frequency use and the range of available methods for capturing credit card data would generate more opportunities for theft and compromise and, thus, lead to an increased supply on underground economy servers,” said the report.

The price card thieves can expect for the numbers they offer for sale also varied by the country of origin. US card numbers were the cheapest because they were so ubiquitous — 74% of all cards offered for sale were from the US. By contrast numbers from cards issued in Europe and the Middle East commanded a premium because they were relatively rare.

Source: Agencies

Net blackout in Mideast and South Asia

Breaks in three submarine cables which link Europe and the Middle East have disrupted Internet and international telephone services in parts of the Middle East and South Asia.

The disruption reduced Egypt's Internet capacity by about 80 percent. Technicians were restoring some capacity by diverting communications traffic through the Red Sea, said a Communications Ministry official, who asked not to be named.

Residents said Internet service was either non-existent or very slow. The gravity of the outage, caused by breaks in cables in the Mediterranean off Italy, varied from area to area and according to the service provider.

In Pakistan, Internet service provider Micronet Broadband said its customers were facing degraded Internet services because of "issues" on the SMW-3, SMW-4 and FLAG lines.

In January, breaks in undersea cables off the Egyptian coast disrupted Internet access in Egypt, the Gulf region and south Asia, forcing service providers to reroute traffic and disrupting some businesses and financial dealings.

Several Egyptian residents said late on Friday that it was impossible to call the United States but calls to Europe appeared to be going through.

In Pakistan, Micronet engineer Wajahat Basharat said on Saturday Internet traffic was congested and slow and some of it was being diverted to other routes.

"Significant outage”
The International Cable Protection Committee, an association of submarine cable operators, said it was "aware of multiple submarine cable failures in the Eastern Mediterranean area that may be affecting the speed of Internet communications on some routes."

It said in a statement on its website it did not know what had caused the problem.

Stephan Beckert, an analyst with the U.S.-based telecommunications market research firm TeleGeography, said the three affected cables were the most direct route for moving traffic between Western Europe and the Middle East.

"If those three cables were cut and are completely out, it would be a fairly significant outage," he said.

"It is going to cause problems for some customers. It's certainly going to slow things down," Beckert said, adding that he did not believe financial institutions would be hit hard.

"Generally speaking we find that they are extremely painstaking about making sure that they have redundant capacity," he said.

Officials with AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications, the two largest U.S.-based carriers, said that some customers in the Middle East had lost all service, while others were experiencing partial disruptions on Internet connections.

Verizon had rerouted some of its traffic by sending it across the Atlantic, then the United States, across the Pacific, and on to the Middle East.

A New York Stock Exchange spokesman said he was unaware of any disruptions in trading. Exchanges CME Group, and IntercontinentalExchange said they had no disruption in their trading on Friday.

Source: Agencies

Mobile phone sales set to slide in 2009!

An IDC report Says the impact of economic crisis on mobile phone market may not continue past 2009.

Technology research firm IDC said in a report that the global mobile phone sales are set to slide for the first time since 2001 as a result of the global economic crisis.

The report forecasts that total mobile phone volumes would be 1.9 per cent lower in 2009 than the 2008 levels, said a press release.

In 2001, the shipments had declined 2.3 per cent. Over the past several years, the mobile phone market has enjoyed double-digit annual growth due to an increased emphasis on emerging markets.

However, emerging market growth has been steadily slowing as these markets mature, the release said. IDC now expects worldwide growth to be just 7.1 per cent in 2008 before slipping into negative growth in 2009.

A number of major industry players, including component suppliers, handset makers, and operators have announced their concerns about handset volumes in 2009.

Most have indicated that they expect a year-over-year decrease due to the flagging global economy, the release added.

The report stated that it did not expect the downturn to continue past 2009, with the market in 2010 showing signs of revival as the economic recovery takes effect. "Converged mobile devices remain a much sought-after option for many consumers," noted Ramon Llamas, senior analyst, Mobile Devices Technology and Trends.

He added that users have come to realize what these devices can do beyond voice telephony, especially when it comes to running applications. In response, handset vendors have been building the product and applications portfolios to catch this wave of opportunity.

Will oil, gas spending drop in 2009?

Global spending on oil and gas exploration and production will shrink 12 per cent to $400 billion in 2009 as the steep slide in energy prices and tight credit markets reverse a six-year trend of rising budgets, analysts at Barclays Capital said on Friday.

Those spending cuts threat to curtail growth in oil and gas output, potentially supporting energy prices that have been in a freefall since hitting peaks in July. A steady stream of energy companies have been announcing budget cuts for 2009 as the price of oil slumped this week to its lowest levels in 4-1/2 years, and Barclays said that could be pushing spending even lower than its report showed.

Another analyst agreed, saying companies were being prudent during the economic crunch to protect cash reserves they had built up during the four-year run-up in energy prices. "My guess is the (report) is probably overstating what is going to be spent," said analyst James Halloran of National City Private Client Group, which manages $26 billon in assets.

Analysts said that while the drop in spending threatens to slow down growth in world energy production, the impact depends on how the smaller budgets are used. "It may be that a combination of higher utilization of more efficient rigs and lower costs of drilling will equal or more than compensate for the decline in the absolute amount of capital devoted to upstream expenditures," said Edward Morse, chief economist at LCM Commodities.

He added that oil firms may be negotiating with their suppliers and contractors to lower project costs. The soft energy market has also darkened the world oil supply picture by leading OPEC to announce three rounds of cuts that would trim 4.2 million barrels per day of oil production, or 5 percent of global output.

Spending in the United States is expected to show the sharpest drop, falling 26 percent to $79 billion from the 2008 mark of $106 billion, Barclays analysts James Crandell and James West said in their semiannual report based on a survey of oil and gas companies.

In the United States, Chesapeake Energy, the largest US natural gas producer, is expected to cut spending by 51 percent, the analysts said, while Devon Energy is likely to cut by 44 percent, EOG Resources by 34 percent and SandRidge Energy by 78 percent.

Oil prices peaked above $147 a barrel in July, but have tumbled more than 75 percent since then to trade near $35.75 a barrel as economic weakness hits fuel demand. Shares of oilfield service companies face the greatest risks from the cuts in spending, since it is their drilling rigs, maintenance operations and other activities that energy producers reduce when budgets are slashed.

But those stocks have already been battered, Halloran said, and may see only a limited impact from new reports of spending cuts. The Philadelphia Oil Service index, which includes companies like Schlumberger Ltd, Halliburton Co and Transocean Ltd, has fallen 68 percent since July.

Still, the Barclays analysts said they recommended shares of Weatherford International, Halliburton, Cameron International, Oceaneering International, Tidewater, Dril-Quip, Core Laboratories NV as the best sector bets.

Regions under pressure

Overall, companies' Canadian spending budgets will fall 23 percent to $22 billion, the lowest level since 1999. Husky Energy is likely to cut its spending 47 percent in Canada, while Devon's budget there will fall 71 percent, Talisman Energy by 47 percent and EnCana Corp by 16 percent.

Spending in the United States by Exxon Mobil, the world's largest publicly traded oil company, is likely to drop 17 percent, or $450 million, to $2.15 billion, while its Canadian budget will shrink 14 percent to $375 million. Its spending elswhere will rise 14 percent to $14.98 billion.

The overall drop in spending outside North America is expected to be a more moderate 6 percent to $300 billion. Russia, the UK North Sea, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela were expected to see some of the sharpest spending declines, while the rest of the Middle East, North Africa and Mexico were likely to post increases.

In 2008, spending rose about 22 percent globally, the analysts said. The analysts said the budget forecasts were based on average prices of $58 per barrel for oil and $6.35 per thousand cubic feet for natural gas.

Source; Agencies

Finally bailout approved: Automakers to get $17.4 bn

Citing danger to the national economy, the Bush administration approved an emergency bailout of the US auto industry on Friday, offering $17.4 billion in rescue loans in exchange for concessions from the deeply troubled carmakers and their workers.

The government will have the option of becoming a stockholder in the companies, much as it has with major banks, in effect partially nationalizing the industry.

At the same time, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said Congress should release the second $350 billion from the financial rescue fund that it approved in October to bail out huge financial institutions. Tapping the fund for the auto industry basically exhausts the first half of the $700 billion total, he said.

President Bush said, "Allowing the auto companies to collapse is not a responsible course of action." Bankruptcy, he said, would deal "an unacceptably painful blow to hardworking Americans" across the economy.

One official said $13.4 billion of the money would be available this month and next, $9.4 billion for General Motors Corp. and $4 billion for Chrysler LLC. Both companies have said they soon might be unable to pay their bills without federal help. Ford Motor Co. has said it does not need immediate help.

Bush's plan is designed to keep the auto industry running in the short term, passing the longer-range problem on to the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama.

Bush said the rescue package demanded concessions similar to those outlined in a bailout plan that was approved by the House but rejected by the Senate a week ago. It would give the automakers three months to come up with restructuring plans to become viable companies.

If they fail to produce a plan by March 31, the automakers will be required to repay the loans, which they would find very difficult.

"The time to make hard decisions to become viable is now, or the only option will be bankruptcy," Bush said. "The automakers and unions must understand what is at stake and make hard decisions necessary to reform."

He said the companies' workers should agree to wage and work rules that are competitive with foreign automakers by the end of next year.

And he called for elimination of a "jobs bank" program — negotiated by the United Auto Workers and the companies — under which laid-off workers receive unemployment benefits and supplemental pay from their companies for 48 weeks. If they remain laid off beyond that, they move to a jobs bank in which the company provides about 95% of their pay and benefits. Until the most recent contract, people could remain in the jobs bank for years. Early this month, the UAW agreed to suspend the program.

Under terms of the loan, GM and Chrysler must provide the government with stock warrants giving it the option to buy GM and Chrysler stock at a specific price.

In addition, the automakers would be required to agree to limits on executive pay and eliminate some perks such as corporate jets.

Paulson said that with the help for the carmakers, the government will have allocated the first half of the largest government bailout program in history.

He said he was confident that the Treasury Department, Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. have the resources to address a significant market crisis if one should occur before Congress approves the use of the second half of the rescue fund.

Paulson said he would discuss the process with congressional leaders and Obama's transition team "in the near future.

Source: Agencies

Is Google earth Map giving geography lessons to terrorists?

Google Earth is the seventh popular Internet application tool but it is being growingly misused by terror groups to have the first glimpse of sensitive places to plot attacks without moving an inch.

Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist Fahim Ahmed Ansari, arrested by Uttar Pradesh Police in Feburuary this year with maps and details of the spots hit during the recent terror attacks, in his statement had conceded that his masters showed him the maps on Google Earth to pin-point the specific targets.

The interrogation report of Fahim, who was trained at the Baitul Mujahideen camp in Pakistan in his statement said that a top Lashker commander 'Kahasa' asked him to show the spots in Mumbai on the Google Earth. "I was shown the map of Mumbai in Kahasa asked me to point out places in Mumbai he noted down and marked those places in the map," he told interrogators, adding, "I was first asked about my residence location and in-laws location in Mumbai."

Sensitive places like offices of Commissioner of Police and DGP, Gateway of India, Navy Nagar, Colaba, Taj Mahal Hotel, Mantralaya, Wankhede Stadium, Race Course, Church Gate Railway Station, Stock Exchange Building, BARC, Kalina Army Gate and other such spots were located and marked on the Google Earth Map.

Fahim, along with Sabauddin, were brought to Mumbai and remanded to police custody till December 31. They are being questioned to ascertain whether they had provided the minute details to Lashkar terrorists to help them plan the terror strike here on November 26.

Source; Agencies

Friday, December 19, 2008

Consolidation, BC, Virtualization Top the CIO List

A survey commissioned by HP said that majority of technology decision makers are currently implementing or planning to implement in 2009 consolidation (95 percent), business continuity (93 percent) and virtualization (91 percent) projects.

Today s CIOs are challenged to control costs and achieve returns on technology investments. According to the study, respondents named reducing operational costs (31 percent) as their top driver for 2009 DCT spending. Enhancing security (29 percent) followed as a close second.

However, in both cases decision makers said that technology needs, more than business needs, are prompting the investments. This may limit their ability to achieve both short-term and long-term business benefits such as reduced costs, mitigated risks and accelerated growth.

CIOs who approach DCT initiatives with a focus on business needs can significantly reduce time to value for today s technology investments while laying the foundation for future growth, said John Bennett, worldwide director, Data Center Transformation Solutions, HP.

Most organizations are transforming their data centers through independent projects instead of taking a broad, integrated approach. The new research indicates that 20 percent of technology decision makers are initiating a complete transformation, while the remaining 80 percent are implementing individual transformation projects without an overall DCT strategy.

When asked to indicate what projects they would implement independently to achieve specific technology goals, respondents named the following:

# Automation 64 percent
# Green IT 60 percent
# Operations management 59 percent
# Virtualization 59 percent
# Business continuity 58 percent

All of these projects have the potential to also achieve business goals. By taking a comprehensive approach and aligning these autonomous projects to an overall DCT strategy, an opportunity exists for CIOs to maximize the value of their transformation initiatives, the survey said.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Motorola bosses take 25% pay cut

Motorola Inc, the second-biggest US seller of mobile phones, will freeze US pension plans and reduce executive salaries to help cope with the economic slump.

Co-Chief Executive Officers Greg Brown and Sanjay Jha are taking a 25 per cent cut in base salary in 2009, Motorola said in a statement. Employees in many markets won’t get a raise, and the company will temporarily stop making matching contributions to US workers’ retirement investment accounts.

Jha, hired in August to lead the wireless device division, seeks to turn around a unit that has posted operating losses of $2.8 billion since the start of 2007. He tapped Google Inc to supply software for phones after losing market share to Samsung Electronics Inc and Apple Inc, whose iPhone 3G topped Motorola’s Razr in the third quarter as the most popular US phone.

“Turnarounds are always hard to execute on, and a bad economy makes them tougher,” said Tavis McCourt, an analyst at Morgan Keegan & Co in Nashville. “I’d be shocked if this is all they do in 2009.”

The pay cuts and pension freeze will help Motorola add to the $800 million in annual costs savings it announced in October, including 3,000 job cuts, the company said.

Worldwide mobile-phone sales will drop 13 per cent next year, the first decline since 2001, as economic growth slows, analysts at Citigroup Inc said in a research note.

Motorola, based in Schaumburg, Illinois, rose 5 cents, or 1.1 per cent, to $4.46 at 12:07 pm in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares had dropped 73 per cent this year before today.

Source: Agencies

Indians to experience low salary hikes likely in 2009

Anticipating a decline in its business performance in 2009, India Inc is likely to cut back on the planned salary increase in the coming year, while most firms want to avoid huge job cuts, a latest survey says.

Majority of companies in the country are trying to be selective in planning the workforce, compensation and benefit cuts for 2009, while they anticipate a decline in their company's business performance next year, according to global HR consultancy Mercer.

The survey revealed that as much as 83 per cent of companies expect salary increases in the coming year to be lower than originally planned by them. The responses indicate that the companies are planning to look closely at holding down the level of compensation increases in 2009.

However, only 19 per cent of survey respondents are considering the more drastic step of freezing 2009 salaries at 2008 figures.

The results for companies in India generally match survey findings from other parts of the world. In China, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States as well between 20 and 30 per cent respondents believe that the 2009 bonus payout would be reduced from those originally planned.

"India grew on the back of her knowledge and people -centric industries such as financial services, information technology and retail, among others. However, primarily due to employee costs having risen in India at double-digit rates since 2003, cost structures have been coming under severe strain," Mercer Consulting (India) country leader Padma Ravichandar said.

Most companies in India plan to avoid significant workforce reductions, but they do not plan significant hiring either, the survey revealed.

Nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of companies surveyed revealed that a significant reduction in workforce was unlikely even as only one in four firms expect to continue their hiring activities at or above replacement levels.

This current situation should be perceived as a cooling-down period in terms of talent costs. This is a levelling act which may help India remain cost competitive in the long run. In the near term, the adverse impact of business sentiment seems all pervasive, Ravichandar added.

Over 80 per cent of respondents expect their company's business performance to decline in 2009, the Mercer survey noticed.

Further, corporate India expects mergers and acquisitions to be severely affected in the next year, with fewer than seven per cent of survey respondents expecting increased M&A activity.

Mercer's survey, conducted in early November, collected responses from over 100 human resource and finance professionals in India, as part of more than 1,000 responses from around the world.

Source: Agencies

TCS to tie up with Ferrari for Formula One

Tata Consultancy Services announced on Thursday that it has entered into a partnership with Ferrari F1 car for the 2009 Formula One season.

The clarification from TCS came following reports that Tata branding would appear for the first time on the scarlet Ferraris of Felippe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen fighting for world championship honours in 2009.

"Building on our existing long-term relationship of over 3 years, Tata Consultancy Services has entered into a historic agreement with Ferrari for an enhanced technology and marketing partnership. As part of the deal, the Tata logo will be displayed on Ferrari FI car for the 2009 Formula One season," a TCS spokesperson said in a statement.

Tata Consultancy Services was the first Indian company to enter the Formula One arena in 2005 when it became the technology partner of Ferrari, the spokesperson added.

Ferrari head honcho Luca di Montezemolo, who had declared brand the Tata will appear on the Ferrari for the first time, had not mentioned which of the Tata brand would appear - the Tata group, or the Tata Motors.

It is in the backdrop this report that TCS has made the official announcement regarding its Formula One Tie up. TCS has supplied many major programmes and solution in the design, manufacture and operation of many sports cars including F1.

Fiscal year 2010 to be more challenging, says RBI chief

Next year will be a more challenging year than this has been but the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will continue to do everything possible to lessen the domestic effects of the global financial crisis, its chief said.

In speech released on Thursday, RBI Governor Duvvuri Subbarao said the outlook for India and the world remained uncertain and the path of the global crisis and its resolution remained unclear.

While the central bank had a roadmap, it was not possible to deploy it all in one go.

"It would be our endeavour to adapt this roadmap to the evolving global developments and implement it flexibly and pragmatically," he said.

"Our approach, as indeed of every prudent central banker around the world, has been to 'cross the river by feeling the stones'."

Subbarao said India's economic fundamentals remained strong, but developments in the real economy, financial markets and global commodity prices pointed to a period of moderating growth and declining inflation.

"The year 2009-10 will be more challenging than the current one," he said.

"The RBI will continue to be on vigil and do everything possible within its mandate to mitigate the impact of the crisis on the Indian economy."

Since mid-October, the central bank has lowered its key lending rate by 250 basis points to 6.5 percent to shield the economy from the spillover of the global credit crisis.

It has also aggressively slashed banks' reserve requirements to shore up growth, which many expect to slow to 7 percent in the fiscal year which ends in March from 9 percent in 2007/08.

The government bond market is widely expecting interest rates to fall again soon, with the benchmark 10-year bond yield dropping 30 basis points on Thursday to 5.50 percent.

Subbarao noted inflation had been declining for the four weeks before he spoke, pointing to a faster-than-expected reduction in the pace of rising prices, while a recent cut in state-set fuel prices should further ease inflation pressures.

Data on Thursday showed India's wholesale price index, its most widely watched inflation measure, rose 6.84 percent in the 12 months to Dec. 6, sharply below the previous week's 8 percent and lower than a Reuters estimate of 7.49 percent.

Source: Agencies

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Madoff crambles out to find friends following scam

Bernard Madoff, the longtime Wall Street executive accused of cheating investors around the world out of $50 billion, scrambled to find friends or relatives to guarantee his bond on Tuesday and keep him out of jail.

In Massachusetts, where the disgraced investor long cultivated a loyal group of wealthy individuals, the state's chief securities regulator subpoenaed Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities and Cohmad Securities Corp, a firm that marketed Madoff investment products.

The two firms must hand over the names and addresses of all local residents who let Madoff invest their money by December 29. They must also deliver notes, emails, meeting agendas related to investments made since 2000, William Galvin, the state's Secretary of the Commonwealth, said on Tuesday.

In New York, Madoff, who was arrested last week, has not yet fully met the conditions of his $10 million bond, according to court papers. He must find three co-signers to guarantee the bond.

If he fails to meet all the conditions, prosecutors could seek to have the 70-year-old Madoff jailed, pending trial. A court hearing was set for Wednesday on bail matters after a Tuesday hearing was postponed.

Madoff, a former chairman of the Nasdaq Stock Market, faces up to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $5 million if convicted.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which has been accused of missing red flags about Madoff's investment business, is asking its internal watchdog to probe the agency's conduct in the case.

SEC Chairman Christopher Cox said he was "gravely concerned" by the agency's "apparent multiple failures over at least a decade" to thoroughly investigate allegations or seek formal authority to pursue them.

As more banks, hedge funds and wealthy investors around the world realize they fell victim to a man long respected on Wall Street for the steady returns that his funds produced year after year, their outrage has grown.


"The names and sizes of those exposed to Bernard Madoff keep growing and most remarkable of all is the concentration of investments made by funds of hedge funds which promise their clients a diversified portfolio," said Philippe Bonnefoy, chairman of the asset allocation committee at Cedar Partners, an investment adviser.

A fund of hedge funds is a basket of funds selected by the manager to spread around risk.

New York Law School sued Ascot Partners LP, an investment firm, general partner J. Ezra Merkin and auditor BDO Seidman LLP on Tuesday over investments with Madoff.

Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co acknowledged its exposure to Madoff after a hedge fund unit invested heavily with him. Tremont Holdings Inc's Rye Investment Management unit lost roughly $3 billion, nearly all of the money the unit managed, people familiar with the matter said.

Madoff is also closely tied to Carl Shapiro, a 95-year-old Boston philanthropist who gave much of his fortune to the city's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the city's Museum of Fine Arts.

Austria's Bank Medici, a closely held bank serving wealthy clients, also said it was affected by Madoff's scheme, but declined to give a total for its losses.

At the same time, prosecutors and regulators asked people who suspect they lost money to Madoff to come forward.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in New York, which is prosecuting the Madoff case, set up a website for investors who may have been victimized. It also posted an FBI hotline number, 212-384-2359, for investors to call.


Investors were asked to gather any documents related to their Madoff investments and to check the website and others set up by the SEC, the trustee of Madoff's brokerage business and the court-appointed receiver in the case.

Lawyers worried that many of the financial statements that Madoff's firm mailed to clients were not accurate, and that it will take months to sift through the papers.

"This is a mess and it will take much longer than normal," said Douglas Hirsch, a partner at law firm Sadis & Goldberg, describing the work facing the trustee appointed to oversee the liquidation of Madoff's firm.

The Securities Investor Protection Corp, a nonprofit organization that provides limited insurance on investors' accounts, was named as trustee on Monday.

Madoff, who was well-known on the charity ball circuit and supported cancer and diabetes research, also gave about $238,200 to political candidates, parties and committees, mostly Democratic, since 1991, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political giving.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, received $12,000, while U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, received $10,000 over the years, the Center found.

The impact of Madoff's alleged fraud may be felt most severely among hedge funds. For example, the Credit Suisse/Tremont Hedge Fund Index fell 4.15 percent in November, far more than the preliminary 0.7 percent decline reported last week.

Standard & Poor's said it will review public sector entities, such as universities, that invested with Madoff, to see whether their ratings should be cut as a result of their likely investment losses.

Source: Agencies

Indian unorganized retail sector to grow to $496 bn in four years

The unorganized retail sector is expected to grow at about 10 percent per annum to reach $496 billion in 2011-12 despite the steady expansion of organized retailers, a study released Wednesday said.

The report on the impact of organized retail on small shop owners, released in parliament by the Delhi-based think tank Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (Icrier), said the retail business in the country would grow at 13 percent annually from $322 billion in 2006-07 to $590 billion in 2011-12.

The unorganized retail industry was valued at $309 billion in 2006-07.

However, given the relatively weak financial state of the unorganized retailers and the space constraints on their expansion prospects, this sector alone will not be able to meet the growing demand, the report said.

Hence, the organized retail that now constitutes a small four percent of the total industry is likely to grow at a much faster pace of 45-50 percent per annum and quadruple its share in total retail trade to 16 percent by 2011-12, the Icrier said.

However, the Icrier added that small shop owners in the vicinity of organized retailers have experienced a decline in their volume of business and profit after the entry of bigger players.

According to the report, consumers have gained with the entry of organised retailers and their overall spending has also gone up.

While all income groups saved through organized retail purchases, the report revealed that lower income consumers saved more.

Moreover, the report said farmers benefit significantly from the option of direct sales to organized retailers.

Profit realisation for farmers selling directly to organized retailers is about 60 percent higher than that received from selling in local markets.

The study made certain recommendations like facilitation of cash-and-carry outlets, like Metro, for selling farmers' produce to unorganized retailers.

It also urged for encouraging cooperatives and associations of unorganized retailers for direct procurement from suppliers and farmers.

Also, simplification of the licensing and permit regime for organized retail and a move towards a nationwide uniform licensing regime in the states to facilitate modern retail have been recommended.

Source: Agencies


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Has Arun Sarin declined Yahoo CEO job?

Former Vodafone Group Plc Chief Executive Arun Sarin has decided not to pursue the CEO job at Yahoo Inc, the Financial Times reported, citing people close to him.

Yahoo had been interested in having Sarin succeed Jerry Yang, according to those people, the Financial Times wrote on Monday, but Sarin is expected to say he does not want the job.

Sarin is looking at alternative roles at other US public companies as well as at a private equity firm, the Financial Times wrote, citing those people as saying.

Yang said in November that he would step down as chief executive as soon as Yahoo's board finds a replacement.

The Financial Times quoted Yahoo as saying the company does not comment on rumors or speculation.

Source: Agencies

Will the IT slowdown last 1.5 yrs?

Uncertainty in India's export-focused software sector will continue for the next four to six quarters due to deepening global economic turmoil, the sector's lobby group said.

"At this point in time, we're getting mixed signals," Som Mittal, president of the National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom), told reporters on the sidelines of a technology conference.

"Very clearly, the decision-making is slow at this time."

In September, Nasscom said it would revise its growth projection for the sector, which was forecast to expand 21-24 per cent to about $50 billion in the year to March 2009

Source: Agencies

Is Alcatel-Lucent all set to hire 1000 in India?

Even after announcing 1,000 job cuts globally, Alcatel-Lucent is bullish on the Indian telecom market and plans to hire about 1,000 people by next year.

"The job cut was announced at a global level and we have not been told of any job losses in India (operations). We have about 70,000 employees globally and 1,000 jobs being cut are less than the attrition that one sees.

However, I would like to hire another 500-1,000 people in the next one year for India operations," Alcatel-Lucent India President Vivek Mohan told the media.

The company had recently announced its plans to reduce the number of managers by about 1,000 and the number of contractors by another 5,000 as a part of its restructuring initiatives.

The company is in discussion with other firms for deployment of low-cost WiMax devices in the country.

Source: Agencies

Over 65,000 jems and jewellery workers may be laid-off

The cgems and jewellery industry has already laid-off 65,000 workers and might be forced to lay-off a like number in the next two months, an industry official said on Tuesday.

"The Indian gems and jewellery sector was forced to lay-off 65,000 workers between August-October. Due to the ongoing economic slowdown and slump in demand, there could be a further lay-off of 65,000 workers in the next two months," Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council's (GJEPC) Chairman, Vasant Mehta, told reporters here.

The sector has also been afflicted by a significant dip of 34.25 per cent in exports in November, Mehta said.

There was a danger of many units shutting down, he warned, adding that by January, the exact number of units closing down would be known.

India's gems and jewellery sector contributes 55 per cent of the world's export in terms of value and over 75 per cent by carats and number of pieces.

In November, the sector witnessed a decline in exports by 34.25 per cent at USD 987.10 million from $1,501.27 million during the year-ago period, he said.

"At the manufacturing level, exports of cut and polished diamonds are down by 20.18 per cent as compared to the same period last year," he said.

The gems and jewellery industry witnessed a drop of over 20 per cent in its order books during April-October as compared to the same period last year.

The situation could be much worse in November and December, he said.

Source: Agencies

Ten financial frauds that shook the world!

Madoff’s alleged fraud has apparently shook the world. More so because it is stated to the world’s biggest financial fraud till date.

However, it is interesting to know that despite increasingly stringent legislation aimed at combating fraud and increased enforcement efforts by government agencies, the world is hardly seeing any reduction in the number of financial frauds. Instead it is increasing by the day.

Here we take a look at some of the world’s top financial frauds:

1) Madoff fraud

New York hedge fund manager and Wall Street legend Bernard Madoff has been charged with what could be the largest Ponzi scheme in history. Madoff had apparently planned to carve up his last $३००m (थ्२००m) between friends, family and employees before making the shocking confession that his investment prowess was really the result of one of the world's biggest ever frauds.

But, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the ७०-year-old could not implement his plan before his huge pyramid scheme - whose १०-१२% annual returns had attracted top-flight investors around the globe - collapsed with losses of at least $५०bn.

The alleged victims span from the super rich, to pensioners and powerful financial institutions, to local charities. Some investors claim they've been wiped out, while others are still likely to come forward. Among the world's biggest banking institutions, Britainङs HSBC Holdings PLC, Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC and Man Group PLC, Spainङs Grupo Santander SA, Franceङs BNP Paribas and Japanङs Nomura Holdings have reported to have fallen victim to Madoff's alleged $५० billion Ponzi scheme.

2) Enron

As a result of the massive fraud at Enron, an energy company based in Houston, Texas, shareholders lost tens of billions of dollars. Many Enron executives, Enronङs accounting firm and certain bank officials were indicted. Andrew Fastow, Enronङs former finance chief, testified that many of the banksङ transactions were contrived, deceptive deals done solely to create the false appearance of profits and cash flow.

Kenneth Lay, the founder of Enron whose spectacular implosion in २००१ lead to one of the biggest fraud cases in history, was convicted of fraud for duping investors over the health of Enronङs finances before it plummeted into bankruptcy. Prosecutors accused Lay of pocketing over थ्४० million of investors' money, and Lay was charged with ११ counts of securities fraud.

3) Charles Ponzi

It was one of the biggest swindlers in US history. In one of Charles Ponzi’s early scams around 1920, he offered investors a 50% return on their money in 45 days, or a doubling of their money in 90 days. By February 1920, Ponzi’s best-known scam had taken in $5,000, by March, he was up to $30,000.

At that time Ponzi began hiring agents to expand his swindle. By pushing his impressive high rate of return, he could often persuade would-be investors to send money. In May 1920, he was up to $420,000 and by July 1920, he was up to millions.

About 40,000 people invested about $15 million all together; in the end, only a third of that money was returned to them. Ponzi was indicted on 86 counts of mail fraud and sentenced to five years in prison in 1920.

4) Parmalat

A massive financial scandal involving Italy’s largest food company Parmalat underscored the fact that corporate fraud was not just an American problem. With the disappearance of about $10 billion in declared assets, the scandal was one of the largest in corporate history.

Parmalat collapsed in December 2003 under 14 billion euros ($27 billion) of debt, after uncovering a 4 billion euro hole in its accounts. Some dubbed the episode ‘Europe's Enron’. It is currently estimated that at least $17 billion of Parmalat funds have simply disappeared and cannot be accounted for.

5) Barings

A lethal mix of massive fraud and malfeasance led to the collapse of Barings PLC in February १९९५. In February, the oldest merchant bank in Britain collapsed because of massive trading losses run up by Nicholas Leeson, २८, a trader whose bosses believed was running a riskless yet highly profitable arbitrage operation in Singapore.

Rather than the large profits the management of Barings thought were being posted in Singapore, the Bank of England's report showed that Leeson's operation lost money almost from the beginning. By the end of १९९३, those losses totaled थ्२० million, rising to more than थ्२०० million by the end of १९९४ and escalating to थ्८२७ million ($१.३ billion) by the end of February.

6) Alves dos Reis

Alves dos Reis was a Portuguese criminal who perpetrated one of the largest frauds in history, against Banco de Portugal in १९२५, often called the Portuguese Bank Note Crisis. Reisङs fraud had enormous repercussions on the economy and politics of Portugal. By the end of १९२५, Reis had managed to introduce escudo banknotes worth थ्१,००७,९६३ at १९२५ exchange rates into the Portuguese economy, which was equivalent to ०.८८% of Portugalङs nominal GDP at the time.

The Portuguese currency, escudo, was fiscally disturbed and lost much of his credibility. After the scheme was found out, the Bank of Portugal ordered the withdrawal of all ५०० escudo banknotes. When Reis's fraud became public knowledge in December १९२५, it brought about a crisis of confidence in the Portuguese government. Reis was finally tried in May १९३०. He was convicted and sentenced to २० years in prison.

7) Hedge fund Amaranth

Branded as the biggest hedge fund collapse in history, Amaranth lost $6 billion of investor’s money in one week alone. Amaranth Advisors, the US-based hedge fund whose investments were hit by a misplaced bet on gas prices, saw its losses reach about $6bn in 2006. The firm sold its portfolio of energy trades and off-loaded other assets in a bid to stave off collapse. Amaranth invested most of its funds on trades that bet the longstanding trend in rising natural gas prices would continue.

However, natural gas prices dropped sharply. According to media reports, the firm and its former head trader Brian Hunter's poor bets on the price of natural gas triggered those losses. As Amaranth's losses mounted, the fund's bankers called in their loans, forcing the fund to sell more assets to avoid defaulting. The collapse in the fund's value raised major questions over the lack of adequate risk management controls at Amaranth, and wider concerns over lax control of hedge fund managers.

8) Jerome Kerviel

The French trader blew billions in catastrophic gambles on the stock market. Jerome Kerviel, ३१, began his reckless dealings after a succession of personal tragedies. The trader was left devastated by the sudden death of his father Charles a year ago and then, while still grieving, his wife of two years walked out on him.

The double heartbreak sparked the beginning of a chain of events which allegedly culminated in one of the worldङs largest frauds in the beginning of २००८, with monumental losses of थ्३.६ billion for Franceङs second largest bank Societe Generale.

9) Bernard Ebbers

Bernard Ebbers, the former CEO of WorldCom, was found guilty in March 2005 for his role in the huge accounting scandal that led to the largest bankruptcy in US history at that time. A federal jury in New York, on its eighth day of deliberations, convicted Ebbers on all nine counts that he helped mastermind a $11-billion accounting fraud at WorldCom, now known as MCI.

Ebbers, 63, had been charged with one count of conspiracy, one count of securities fraud and seven counts of filing false statements with securities regulators.

10) Long Term Capital Management

The brightest star in the financial world, it was a hedge fund that was too big to fail. Built by legends of Wall Street and two Nobel laureates, it spiralled to ever greater heights, commanding unimaginable wealth.

Therefore, when it fell to earth in September 1998, it shook the world. Long Term Capital Management lost more than 90% of its capital and cost loss of at least $4 billion.

Source: Economic Times

More banks reveal exposure to Madoff

Banks and investment funds across the world lined up on Monday to admit investing billions of dollars in the companies of Bernard Madoff, whom US authorities accused of masterminding a massive fraud.

Britain’s HSBC was the latest bank to join the growing list, saying it had exposure of around $1 billion, making it one of the biggest victims of the alleged $50 billion fraud. Royal Bank of Scotland and Man Group in the UK, Japan’s Nomura and France’s Natixis also said they were hit by the worldwide scandal.

Financial companies, reeling after a year of enormous writedowns on bad credit assets, have so far tallied up more than $10 billion in direct and indirect exposure to the possible fraud by Madoff, the 70-year old trader who was arrested on Thursday. “There is a broader danger here for the industry,” an equity analyst said.

“This huge fraud, supposedly in blue-chip funds, is going to make people nervous, and you’ve already seen massive redemptions,” the analyst said. Shares in France’s Natixis were down 4.7% after it said it had as much as E450 million ($605 million) of exposure to the fiasco. The wider DJ Stoxx banking index was 0.9% lower.

US prosecutors and regulators have accused Madoff, a former chairman of the Nasdaq Stock Market, of running the fraud through his investment advisory business, which managed at least one hedge fund. Man Group, the world’s largest listed hedge fund manager, said it was exposed to Madoff through its fund of funds business RMF, which has $360 million invested in funds directly or indirectly sub-advised by Madoff. BNP Paribas and Santander detailed potential losses on Sunday, and others joined at the start of the trading week, with Italy’s UniCredit showing exposure of around E75 million.

RBS said its potential loss could amount to some £400 million ($595 million), if it assumed that the value of its assets in Madoff’s firm were nil.

Its exposure to the scandal was through trading and collateralised lending to funds of hedge funds invested in the group, the bank said in a statement.

Hedge funds are already struggling after a year that has badly damaged their boast that they can make money whichever way the market turns.

Source: Agencies

Google would not threaten net neutrality

Google Inc said on Monday it is committed to principles of equal network access, after a report said it approached Internet carriers with a proposal to create a "fast lane" for its content.

Google's telecom and media counsel in Washington said in a company blog that the search powerhouse offered to place its servers within the facilities of Internet service providers, making its data closer to consumers and therefore more easily accessed.

But the company's Richard Whitt said the offers did not violate so-called net neutrality -- the principle that phone and cable companies the operate data pipelines should treat all traffic equally.

Google was responding to a Wall Street Journal report on Monday that its practices would put at risk its stance on network neutrality.

The company said providers should be able to bolster access speeds through co-location and caching, both techniques that ease data traffic, as long as they do so without discrimination.

"However, they shouldn't be able to leverage their unilateral control over consumers' broadband connections to hamper user choice, competition, and innovation," he said.

The net neutrality debate has pitted Internet service providers such as AT&T Inc. against content companies such as Google and Microsoft.

The ISPs say they need flexibility to manage the ever-growing traffic on their networks without government interference, while content companies worry the ISPs hold the power to impede or slow traffic.

Many believe net neutrality will gain momentum under president-elect Barack Obama, who backs the principle.

Public interest defenders

Several prominent net neutrality backers came to Google's defense and cast doubt on the Wall Street Journal report.

"The practices described in the article, known as 'caching,' are commonplace and have been for many years," said Gigi Sohn, president of the advocacy group Public Knowledge.

"We in the public interest community are pleased to be working closely with our friends in industry, and those friends include Google," she added.

Josh Silver, executive director of advocacy group Free Press, said the group is "skeptical that Google is truly engaged in a nefarious plot to undermine the open Internet -- the company denies it, and we look forward to all of the facts coming to light."

He added that if any company was planning to "secretly violate" the principle of network neutrality, it would face strong opposition from the Internet community.

The Journal report had said one major cable operator in talks with Google said it has been reluctant to forge a deal because of concerns it might violate Federal Communications Commission guidelines on network neutrality.

Source: Agencies

Monday, December 15, 2008

Qualcomm to launch Rs 10,000 laptop

San Diego-based wireless communications major Qualcomm will introduce its small laptop, Kayak, primarily used for accessing Internet services, in India priced at Rs 10,000 in the second half of next year.

"We will introduce Kayak Internet access platform in second half of next year and this device leverages 3G chipsets as well. The main USP is it can compute in low power scenario like India. It will cost about Rs 10, 000," Qualcomm Senior Vice-President and India head Kanwalinder Singh told reporters.

In Kayak prototype Qualcomm has designed a device capable of bringing the Internet over cell phone data networks to areas that may lack wired Internet service from cable and telephone providers.

The US-based firm, pioneer of CDMA technology, has already launched Kayak PC alternative globally.

Kayak is a reference design for building low-cost wireless-computing devices designed to fill the niche that exists between desktop PCs, which require landlines or separate accessories for connectivity and Internet-capable wireless devices.

Kayak uses Qualcomm's dual-core mobile station modem chipsets to provide both computing and connectivity, he said.

"We see developing markets like India seeking connectivity as inevitable and believe that concepts such as Kayak that leverage 3G wireless will be a key to success in helping these areas join the global online community, Singh added.

Qualcomm is pushing its phone processors into PC territories such as desktop computers after adding computing features like e-mail and web browsing onto cell phones.

Source: Economic Times

$50 bn Madoff victims include super rich to charities

From a Jewish youth charity in Boston to major banks as far afield as Zurich, the list of investors who say they were duped in one of Bernard L Maddoff Wall Street's biggest Ponzi schemes is growing.

Around the world, investors who sunk cash into veteran Wall Street money manager Bernard Madoff's investment pool spent the weekend calculating how much exposure they might have. The 70-year-old Madoff, well respected in the investment community after serving as chairman of the Nasdaq Stock Market, was arrested Thursday in what prosecutors say was a $50 billion scheme to defraud investors.

One thing was clear in the fallout from his arrest: The alleged victims span from the super rich, to pensioners and powerful financial institutions, to local charities. Some investors claim they've been wiped out, while others are still likely to come forward.

"There were a lot of very sophisticated people who were duped, and that happens a great deal when you've had somebody decide to be unscrupulous," said Harvey Pitt, a former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, a regulator in charge of monitoring investment funds like the one Madoff operated.

"It isn't just the big investors," he said. "There's a lot of charitable and foundation money involved in this, which is the real tragedy."

Charities across the country are expected to be directly affected by the collapse of Madoff's investment fund. The assets of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC were frozen Friday in a deal with federal regulators and a receiver was appointed to manage the firm's financial affairs.

One of the largest financial scams to hit Wall Street has investors wondering if they'll ever get their money back.

In Boston, the Robert I. Lappin Charitable Foundation, a charity that financed trips for Jewish youth to Israel, said on its Web site Sunday that the money for its operations was invested with Madoff.

"The money needed to fund the programs of the Lappin Foundation is gone," it said. "The foundation staff has been terminated today."

New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg, one of the wealthiest members of the Senate, entrusted his family's charitable foundation to Madoff. Lautenberg's attorney, Michael Griffinger, said they weren't yet sure the extent of the foundation's losses, but that the bulk of its investments had been handled by Madoff.

Lautenberg's foundation handed out more than $765,000 to at least 100 recipients in 2006, according to the most recent listing on Guidestar, which tracks charitable organization filings.

The foundation helps support a variety of religious, educational, civic and arts organizations in New Jersey and elsewhere, and its contributions range from a gift of than $300,000 to the United Jewish Communities of MetroWest New Jersey to a $2,000 donation to a children's program at the Hackensack Medical Center.

Source: Agencies

After credit crisis world now rattled by Madoff scandal

European investors face billions of dollars losses in the wake of disclosure of "Ponzi" scheme run by Bernard Madoff, now being investigated by the American authorities.

European banks, including Spain's Grupo Santander SA and France's BNP Paribas, were quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying that their clients and shareholders face billions of euros of losses on investments, underscoring the global reach of the alleged Ponzi scheme run by the veteran New York money manager.

A ponzi scheme is a type of securities fraud where the promoter makes some sort of false or misleading statement about an investment (often including a guaranteed high rate of return) and pays off older investors with newer investors money.

Santander, the eurozone's largest bank by market value, said its clients had an exposure of 2.33 billion euros ($3.1 billion) to Madoff's investment funds, mainly through its Optimal Strategic US Equity fund.

The company, which has been relatively unscathed from global financial crisis, said it had hired Madoff's firm to execute the Optimal fund's investments. Santander vowed to "undertake the legal actions which may be needed to defend the interests of investors."

The Journal reported that BNP, France's largest bank by market value, said it could lose as much as 350 million euros as a result of the alleged fraud.

However, the bank said it has no investment of its own in the hedge funds managed by Bernard Madoff Investment Services. BNP Paribas, however, said it is exposed to these funds through its trading business and lending to hedge funds that had invested in Madoff's funds.

The losses, the Journal said, could prove particularly embarrassing for banks' private-banking businesses, which charge high fees to wealthy investors in return for what is supposed to be superior advice and due diligence.

More than two billion euros belongs to institutional investors and international clients of Santander's private-banking business, which provides services to wealthy individuals, it was quoted as saying. The remaining 320 million euros belongs to private-banking customers in Spain, where the bank is based.

Most of the European banks' exposures were on client investments they managed, rather than on the banks' own balance sheets, it said, adding that it's not yet clear how much, if anything, investors in Madoff's funds may be able to recover.

Exposures to Madoff's funds have also emerged among a growing number of smaller European private banks.

In a letter posted on its website, the Swiss private bank Reichmuth and Co said its clients had an exposure of some 385 million Swiss francs to Madoff funds.

The bank said Reichmuth Matterhorn, a fund that invests in other hedge funds, faced a potential loss of about 8.6 per cent on its exposure to Madoff. That amount represented about 3.5 per cent of the 11 billion Swiss francs Reichmuth & Co. has under management, the bank said, the Journal reported.

Source: Agencies

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Concern voiced over employability of tech students!

A Parliamentary Committee has voiced concern over "employability" of students passing out of technical institutions in the country,saying the expected response from the industry is "simply missing".

Despite several initiatives taken for meaningful interaction between industry and academia for mutual benefits specific to technical education system, linkages between industry and technical institutions continue to remain weak, the Committee said.

The anticipated response from the industry is simply missing and the variety of initiatives has failed to evolve the desired level of participation of the industry, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on HRD said in its report on the functioning of All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE).

It was an accepted fact that technical education comprising almost all the disciplines has to have a well- established linkage with the industry both in terms of its proper growth and job opportunities to the students, the report said.

"Over the years, although there has been tremendous expansion in the number of technical institutions, employability of students passing out of such technical institutions remains a matter of serious concern," it pointed out.

Tie-up with industry associations such as CII, FICCI, ASSOCHAM, NASSCOM and with entrepreneurship promoting agencies have failed to take off, the Committee, headed by senior Congress MP Janardan Dwivedi, said.

The report said that AICTE's admission that monitoring was required to ensure good response of all the existing schemes indicated the "dismal state of affairs in this most vital area".

"The need of the hour is to initiate a meaningful dialogue with the representatives of the industry so as to have the real understanding of their requirements and remove the existing bottlenecks," it said.

Not impressed by the AICTE's reported move to set up another committee for reviewing the Industry-Institute Partnership Schemes, the report said, "undoubtedly, the Council will have to play the role of coordinator and facilitator between the industry and institutions."

In view of the need to foster public/private partnership and harness private sector resources, AICTE should holistically examine its existing rules, regulations and procedures to further this objective, it said.

The Committee has also sought a report within three months from AICTE on the action taken by it in this regard.

Source: Agencies

Geneva banks lost more than $4 billion to Madoff, says a report

Geneva-based banks and investment funds have lost more than 5 billion Swiss francs ($4.22 billion) in the alleged $50 billion fraud by former Nasdaq chairman Bernard Madoff, Swiss newspaper Le Temps reported on Saturday.

Union Bancaire Privee (UBP), a leading bank for investment in funds of hedge funds, has lost about 1 billion Swiss francs, said Le Temps, which spoke to various unnamed banking sources for its article.

A spokesman for UBP said the bank had no comment with regards to the article. UBP had 127 billion Swiss francs of assets under management at the end of June.

Geneva-based private bank Benedict Hentsch said on Friday its exposure to Madoff products was 56 million francs, or 5 percent of its asset under management.

The bank merged three months ago with alternative investment specialist Fairfield Greenwich Group, which has invested $7.5 billion or half of its assets in one of the funds set up by Madoff.

Le Temps quoted one of Benedict Hentsch's partners as saying he and another partner were rushing to New York to break the agreement with Fairfield.

The EIM Group, active in hedge funds, has said it is affected by $230 million or about 2 percent of its $11.5 billion assets under management, the paper reported. No one was available to answer phone calls at the bank and there was no reply to a request for comment via email.

Le Temps also said that Notz, Stucki & Cie, a group that offers portfolio management for wealthy individuals, has also been hit by the Madoff scandal. No one was available to answer phone calls at the bank and a phone message was not returned.

The vast majority of Geneva-based family offices have also been touched by the Madoff scandal, the newspaper said. Benbassat & Cie had invested 1.1 billion francs in the Madoff funds, Le Temps said. Telephone calls to the bank were not answered an email message was not returned.

Private bank Syz & Co told Le Temps that its 3A fund was not exposed to Madoff. But it did not give details about a possible direct exposure of its private banking clients, the paper said.

Bank Pictet & Cie said it had "never chosen any of the funds linked to Bernard Madoff in our hedge funds investment strategy."

Thierry Lombard, of private bank Lombard Odier Darier Hentsch, was quoted as saying: "the Madoff universe has never been on our list of in-house funds nor in any of the open architecture funds."

Private bank Mirabaud said: "We have an exposure of a few millions, not of tens of millions."

Source: Agencies

Is oil price heading towards $25-30 a barrel?

Global investment banks Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs, which had earlier this year forecast oil prices would surge to USD 200 per barrel level, now foresee it slipping to USD 25-30 level, while Indian analysts anticipate a strong resistance at 40 dollars.

After hitting a peak of over 147 dollars in July this year, crude oil prices have declined sharply and are currently trading near 45 dollars level.

Goldman Sachs' commodity research team in its latest research note has predicted that the oil price might slip to 30 dollars per barrel level in the next three months.

Meanwhile, the firm's energy equity research team, led by Arjun Murti, said in another report that it is cutting its forecast for 2009 to 45 dollars, from 80 dollars previously, due to global economic slowdown.

Murti, who is known as 'oil guru', had shot to fame for rightly predicting a spike in the price to USD 100 when it was trading at around USD 40 level. Later in May, Murti forecast a spike to 150-200 dollars level in the next 6-24 months.

In an interview with the stock market weekly Barron's in June, when oil price were hovering at about 135 dollars, Murti had said that oil prices might fall below 75 dollars, but after 20 years.

The latest report from Murti's team has, however, said that there was a possibility of prices falling below USD 40 level shortly.

Indian analysts, however, see a strong resistance to the oil prices slipping below USD 40 level and do not foresee any possibility of USD 25-30 level.

"Crude oil prices may not fall below 40 dollar a barrel. Rather it will consolidate at 40 dollar a barrel level," Kotak Commodoties Vice President Si Kannan said.

Source: Agencies

What can you do with 3G services In India?

With 3G, the next-gen mobile service launched in Delhi, your handset becomes an all-purpose device. Here’s what all you can do and what it offers.

* Browse Internet and send, receive large emails including graphics. 3G also enables faster movie downloads.

* Make video calls and videoconference (possible on 3G to 3G calls).

* Get streaming TV on phone screen with pause, record features. MTNL’s IPTV network currently offers 4 channels, will expand to 10 channels in 10 days and 40 in 2-3 weeks.

* Remote access footage from CCTV (could also help police and in traffic management).

* Play interactive games on Net sites, access bank accounts and shop online.

* Get high-speed Web navigation, maps.

* 3G services give mobile users high-quality voice transmission and access to high-end data applications on their mobile phones.

2G vs 3G
3G represents the next step in the evolution of mobile telephony, offering markedly greater capacity and efficiency than the current 2G systems.

While 2G is focused on voice, 3G supports high-speed data of at least 144 kbps enabling broadband Internet access on the mobile, and "triple play" features like mobile TV and converged communication services.

Similarly, 3G will allow operators to enhance their capacities for voice traffic as well. Currently, key operators are facing severe 2G spectrum crunch in top 20-30 cities which is hampering their future growth. As the government has indicated that it has limited spectrum left for 2G services.

Also, while 3G is good for data services, it is also three times more efficient than current technologies in packing in subscribers.

Top speed
* 2G -- 10kb/sec

* 3G -- 2mb/sec

Time taken to download a 3-min MP3 song
* 2G -- 31 to 40 minutes

* 3G -- 11 secs to 1.5 min

How much will it cost?
MTNL will release tariff plan after a month. It’s only servicing corporate clients at the moment and will rely on their feedback before commercial launch.

Source: Times of India

ISRO, Russian Space Agency join hands for Indian Man Mission

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Russian Space Agency have joined hands to share critical equipments for the Indian Man Mission to the Moon.

India and Russia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to promote joint activities in the field of human space flight programme during the visit of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last week.

"Under the MoU, both countries will jointly build spacecraft for the Indian manned mission," said S Satish, spokesperson of ISRO.

As per the MoU, an Indian astronaut will embark on a mission to space in a Russian spacecraft within the next five years, ahead of ISRO's maiden human space flight scheduled for 2014 or 2015.

"We have well laid our plans and of course manned mission are in our plan and programme. May be manned mission for the government approval, comes immediately, around 2014 or 2015, will be the targeted launch date," added Satish.

Recently, ISRO achieved benchmark success when the Chandrayaan-1 (India's moon mission) was successfully launched on October 22, by PSLV-C11.

This success allowed India to join the elite lunar club which Russia, the USA, Japan, China and European Space Agency are already members.

India is also planning to launch the satellite 'Aditya' to study the sun by 2012 and it also hopes to send an astronaut into space by 2012.

Source; Agencies

Obama stimulus package could reach $1 trillion

President-elect Barack Obama's team is considering a plan to boost the recession-hit US economy that could be far larger than previous estimates and might reach $1 trillion over two years, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.

Obama aides, who were considering a half-trillion dollar package two weeks ago, now consider $600 billion over two years "a very low-end estimate," the newspaper said, citing an unidentified person familiar with the matter.

The final size of the stimulus was expected to be significantly higher, possibly between $700 billion and $1 trillion over that period, it said, given the deteriorating state of the U.S. economy.

Officials with Obama's camp have declined to comment on media reports about the size of the boost his administration might seek to give the economy through increased public spending and tax cuts.

Obama is due to take office on January 20.

Battered stock market investors around the world have taken heart from previous indications of how Obama's administration may seek to kickstart growth in the world's largest economy.

Obama has promised he will launch a massive public works program to help lift the U.S. economy out of recession.

The president-elect is likely to be briefed by his aides on the outline of the stimulus plan next week with a view to getting it passed by Congress by the time he is sworn in next month, the Journal said.

Economists have previously said they expect Obama to quickly sign a multi-year spending package that could be worth up to $750 billion, or almost 5 percent of U.S. gross domestic product.

The administration of President George W. Bush has been given authority by Congress to spend up to $700 billion in taxpayer money to rescue the nation's banking system.

The money was originally set aside to buy up toxic mortgage-backed securities but is now being used to recapitalize banks and induce them to lend more freely.

Source; Agencies

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