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May 1st, 2009


Third round of polling concludes

Policeman assits an old lady coming out from polling booth

Polling for the third round of the staggered Lok Sabha elections in India, held in 107 constituencies spred acrosss nine states and two union territories concluded peacefully on April 30. Over 144 million voters were eligible to exercise their franchise at 165,000 polling stations.

Long queues were seen outside polling booths in Sikkim, where elections were underway for the 1 Lok Sabha and 32 assembly constituencies. There were more women than men in the queues which started forming even before the polling centres opened at 7 am. Young voters, many of them exercising their franchise for the first time, were also seen lining up with great enthusiasm.

At the Paljor Nangyal Girls Senior Secondary school booth in Gangtok, was 95-year-old Tirath Ram Oberoi. "When I vote, I feel the same way as I did when India became independent. By voting we contemplate and facilitate change, a change for the better," he said, beaming through his wrinkled face.

Eighteen-year-old Anugraha Saharaja, who voted for the first time, said: "My parents accompanied me here today but they did not tell me whom to vote for, it is my decision. This is my birthright and I am proud to be exercising it."

A polling officer applying the indelible ink on a voter's finger

Poll officials said the initial turnout was even better than in previous elections, when 80 percent of the voters exercised their franchise.

In Jammu & Kashmir, tens of thousands in the Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency voted on April 30. Nearly 15 percent of Anantnag's 1.16 million electorate had voted by noon across the southern Kashmir constituency despite a shutdown called by the separatists to stall the electoral process, officials said.

Anantnag is the first of the three Lok Sabha constituencies in the Kashmir Valley to go to the polls. Voting in Srinagar is scheduled for May 7 and in Baramulla on May 13.

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Tech Mahindra bags Satyam, top bidder at £0.79 a share

Satyam Computer Services- Hyderbad -based company

Satyam Computer Services, the Hyderabad-based company on April 22 found itself on the threshold of a new life, with a unit of Tech Mahindra emerging as the highest bidder to acquire a controlling stake in it.

At its winning bid of £0.79 a share, Venturbay Consultants, a special purpose vehicle floated by Tech Mahindra, will be aquiring a 31 percent stake in Satyam. Including the open offer that would have to be made subsequently - (whose minimum price would be the bid price) - it would pay £39.6 billion for a 51 percent stake in Satyam.

The winning bid constitutes onetenth of the share price at which Satyam traded about a year ago.

The second highest bid at £0.62 came from engineering conglomerate Larsen & Toubro, which already holds a 12 percent stake in the company. The third bid was for £0.27 a share by private equity firm WL Ross & Co.

In March, the Satyam board had initiated the process of inviting strategic investors to take over the company. Satyam's accounts are still in the process of restatement, and this would take a few months longer, said Deepak Parekh, Satyam board member. Two accountancy firms have been appointed for this purpose.

"We cannot release anything on that front right away. However, whatever privileged information we had in the data room (which was shared with the bidders) could be made public to the shareholders of Satyam. However, this is completely at the discretion of the winning bidder," said Parekh.

Tech Mahindra can assume management control from the moment it pays up the initial subscription amount. Matters such as retention of staff, or retention of Satyam itself as an independent company would be the choice of the ultimate buyer. "However, asset stripping would not be allowed. The buyer cannot sell the assets of the company in a piece-meal manner," said Parekh. The buyer is also free to bring in a strategic partner.


 

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Global publishers eye India to beat recession

Recession-hit readers in the U.S. and Britain are spending less and less on books, forcing English language publishers to eye overseas markets, India in particular, to stay afloat.

While the U.S. and Britain are still the largest markets for English language publishers, growth has petered out. The U.S. market was worth an estimated $24.3 billion in 2008 while sales in Britain were about £three billion. But last year, book sales by volume in the U.S. dropped 6 percent compared to 2007, while in value terms the drop was 2.5 percent. In Britain, the volume was down by 4 percent and value by 6 percent.

In contrast, the demand for English language books is booming in the third largest market - India, which has been growing at about 10 percent a year for several years.

Research by UK Trade & Investment, which used the London Book Fair in April to encourage British publishers to export more, and the Publishers Association estimates that the market was worth about 1.25 billion in 2007, with publishers estimating that English language books contributed about half that amount, reports The Guardian.

In comparison, the Chinese market was worth about £7 billion in 2007, but its English language market is smaller than India's and British exports to the country are worth only about 10 million pounds. No wonder India - with an estimated 350 million people who know English - spells good news for publishers hit hard by the financial crisis.

Random House, for example, has said the record-breaking first print run of 6.5 million copies of The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown's sequel to The Da Vinci Code, will include over half a million for overseas territories, including India and South Africa, a record for a new fiction title. "India is an incredible growth market at the moment," Alistair Burtenshaw, the exhibition director of the London Book Fair, was quoted as saying. It provides fascinating business opportunities in almost all sectors, and that's absolutely the case in publishing."

The Guardian noted that the London Book Fair coincided with a growing push by Western publishers to ramp up their operations in India. Hachette is also joining the ranks of Penguin, HarperCollins and Random House by publishing its first book in India - My Friend Sancho by Amit Varma.

Publishers are also noticing a new mainstream culture that has transformed book-reading from the preserve of an educated elite into a cerebral leisure activity for India's emerging chattering classes.

 

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