Finance & Economy

  • Now it's the turn of Citibank
    • Amid reports that Citibank has handed over pink slips to 37 of its top performers in India, the outlook for the bank appears to be bleak. The bank is looking at all options, including selling parts of the company or a merger with another firm. It has lost about 80% of its market capitalization in the last one year on Wall Street.
    • Investors are worried that further losses could threaten the bank's future. Saudi Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal's decision to buy about $350m (£236m) of its shares on Thursday did not calm investors' nerves.
    • Citigroup has lost more than $20bn in the past year because of the global financial crisis. The bank has reported four straight quarterly losses and some analysts believe the bank will not return to profitability until 2010.
    • Citigroup is one of nine financial institutions receiving funds from the US government's bail-out programme.
  • Good editorial comment in the context of private petroleum companies' contemplation to return to petro retailing:
    • Given the huge volumes in oil, we surely need competitive, market-determined prices for petro-products as a matter of routine, and not merely as and when global crude prices soften. So now is the time for the Centre to firm up long overdue reforms in the oil sector and depoliticise oil pricing. What is required is doing away with the perverse system of administered prices — with its open-ended subsidies and giveaways — on petro-goods such as diesel and petrol, and cooking gas and kerosene.
    • The point is that oil products are largely and overwhelmingly used by the non-poor and their retail prices do need to reflect scarcity value. Instead, the extant policy has been to generally disallow price revision — shoring prices of crude notwithstanding — and offer bonds to public sector oilcos as IOUs. But since the oil bonds would necessarily need to be redeemed from the general budget, it means diverting scarce funds meant for social development and the like. It makes no sense to fritter away resources in consumption subsidies: it would only rev up oil guzzling. The way ahead is for the Centre to drive home the message that reckless oil subsidies are doing long-term damage to the fisc and compromising our oil security as well, by adversely stultifying returns for the oilcos. Given the huge under-recoveries — and the declining rupee — there may be no case yet to lower domestic oil prices. But once oilcos begin posting reasonable margins, oil prices need to be decontrolled. This is the best time to do it as global oil prices are expected to move in a much narrower range for at least a year or two, thus providing some stability to oil company balance sheets.
  • Does India stand a chance as a global aerospace power?
    • Ian Thomas, President of Boeing India feels so. Do read his piece that appeared in today's ET. You will be convinced. But India has to fight its way there. It won't happen just like that, he warns.
  • National Treasury Management Agency taking shape?
    • Following the announcement made in this year's budget, the government appears to have done the spade work for establishing the NTMA.
    • This is one news report that you should read in full. No excerpt is possible.
    • I will leave you with a question. What is the conflict of interest that RBI faces in managing government's debt?
  • Why would Japan be interested in making India a hub of its investments?
    • There is a marked surge in Japan Inc's interest in India. Many believe that it may just be a precursor of a wave of big-ticket Japanese investments in export-oriented manufacturing in the country. This article argues that this is consistent with Japan's geopolitical strategy to limit exposure to China.
Technology & Computing
  • Know what is touted as the successor to 3G?
    • Long Term Evolution - LTE. It is the natural evolution of 3GPP GSM and WCDMA networks. It is also an evolution candidate for 3GPP2 CDMA networks. LTE is a new paradigm in access, with a new modulation technique, OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplex), and antenna technology, MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output).
    • OFDM splits the information into multiple narrowband subcarriers, allowing each of them to carry a portion of the information at a lower bit rate, which makes OFDM a very robust modulation, particularly in multipath scenarios, like urban areas.
    • MIMO technology creates several spatial paths on the air interface between the network and the subscriber; so these paths can carry the same or different streams of information, allows an increase in either the coverage (due to higher Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) at the receiver) or the user data throughput.
    • Umm. Too technical? Just remember that it offers improved modulation and antenna technology.
  • Hillary Clinton to be Obama's Secretary of State?
    • It is true that Hillary met Obama and discussed about a possible position in the Obama administration, a week or so ago. Now the media is rife with rumours that she will be announced as the Secretary of State following clarity about dealing with her husband's business deals. The process had been complicated by concerns that Bill Clinton's private business dealings with foreign governments and companies could create conflicts for his wife. If everything goes as reported the announcement is to be made on November 27.
  • Angola-gate scandal
    • The scandal is about illegal arms sales to Angola worth US$790m in 1993-2000, during that country’s civil war, by a French businessman, Pierre Falcone, and his Russian-born associate, Arcady Gaydamak, in which numerous French and Angolan officials allegedly received pay-offs and gifts worth US$56m. Both Mr Falcone and Mr Gaydamak deny any wrongdoing.
    • Investigations have been going on for the past 7 years.
    • While Mr. Falcone is already in prison, though for unrelated charges, the progress made by the French judiciary in the case is causing lot of embarassment and headache for the French President. Besides, the revelations coming out of the inestigative process are threatening French business interests in Angola, which is Africa's largest oil producing country.
    • What does Bofors look like before this?
  • American troops to withdraw from Iraq by 2011?
    • As the U.N. resolution mandate for US to operate in Iraq is expiring by the year end, Iraqi government and the US had to negotiate an agreement for US troops's orderly pull out from Iraq.
    • Iraqi government has approved a "withdrawal agreement" according to which the American forces have to pull out of Iraqi towns and cities by the end of June next year, and to leave Iraq altogether by December 31st 2011.
    • The agreement has been negotiated for the past one year. Many in Iraq and neighbouring Iran want a faster American troop withdrawal.
    • The American President-elect Barack Obama has actually promised a 16-month deadline for withdrawal of troops during his election campaign.
    • But Iraqis have started protesting against the agreement. Thousands of people -- most of whom are backers of anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr -- streamed into Baghdad's Firdous Square waving Iraqi flags, hoisting posters with portraits of the cleric and carrying signs scorning the agreement.
Entertainment industry
  • Madonna's divorce
    • It really saddens me no end that Madonna's marriage with Guy Ritchie should come to an end. In the entertainment industry it is very rare for people to find partners who are a good match -- not just in terms of looks, age or money; but in terms of 'capability' or being at a 'comparable' level. Their marriage is one such that looked perfect. Alas it is also coming to end with their filing for divorce.
    • Let us hope that both of them will be able to live through this ordeal and get on with their lives well.
    • I am a fan of Madonna -- a fan for all that she embodies. The music, the renegade behaviour in her early days, the looks, the ability to stay fit in spite of advancing age, the spiritual outlook, the broad-mindedness that she possesses (look at the way she adopted children from Africa?) and the works. Parkour included. Remember the game? She popularized it in one of her songs.
Language lesson
  • Stultify (verb)
    • Prove to be of unsound mind or demonstrate someone's incompetence
      "nobody is legally allowed to stultify himself"
    • Cause to appear foolish
      "He stultified himself by contradicting himself and being inconsistent"
    • Deprive of strength or efficiency; make useless or worthless
      "Their behaviour stultified the boss's hard work"