Court allows further probe into palmolein case

The case relates to alleged corruption in the import of palmolein from Malaysia at exorbitant rates, which allegedly caused a loss of Rs2.32 crore to the exchequer in 1991-92

Thiruvananthapuram: In a decision fraught with political significance, the vigilance court here today allowed a plea from prosecution to further investigate the palmolein import graft case, reports PTI.

The prosecution in a petition filed earlier this month had sought court direction for further probe into the case contending that some more persons were likely to become accused in the case.

The move was seen as an attempt to implicate opposition leader Oommen Chandy, who was finance minister in the UDF ministry headed by late K Karunakaran, which cleared the palmolein import deal in 1992, which led to the case.

The case related to alleged corruption in the import of palmolein from Malaysia at exorbitant rates, which allegedly caused a loss of Rs2.32 crore to the exchequer in 1991-92.

The accused in the case included then food minister TH Musthafa and former Central Vigilance Commissioner PJ Thomas, who was food secretary during the period.

Mr Musthafa's advocate had recently moved a petition before the court that like the concession given to Mr Chandy, the then minister of finance, his client should also be absolved from the case.

The charge-sheet in the case was filed by the vigilance and anti-corruption bureau in 2003.

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Oil down on demand concerns from quake-hit Japan

According to analysts, there could be some demand disruptions due to the Japanese earthquake in the short-term, but the lost nuclear power capacity is expected to boost imports in the near-term

Singapore: Oil fell in Asian trade today on concerns demand from quake-hit Japan would be affected, reports PTI.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April, dipped $1.28 to $99.88 per barrel while Brent North Sea crude for April delivery lost $1.39 to $112.45, analysts said.

"In the short term, there might be some demand disruptions due to the Japanese earthquake, but there will be an increase in fuel oil imports due to the lost nuclear power capacity, which will be supportive of fuel oil prices in the near term," said Chen Xin Yi, commodities analyst for Barclays Capital.

Crude futures fell immediately last week in reaction to Friday's massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake off Japan, unleashing a tsunami that battered the country's northeast coast and stretched across the Pacific.

Traders worry that the disaster will affect energy consumption in Japan, the world's third-largest economy.

Tokyo shares fell sharply in opening trade today as investors remained jittery over the economic consequences from the biggest earthquake in Japan's history and the devastating tsunami.

Shares fell 5.42% in a post-quake sell-off as the key index sank below 10,000 to its lowest levels since November. The Nikkei index fell 556.06 points shortly after opening to 9,698.37.

Meanwhile, investors are also keeping a nervous eye on the unrest in Libya where rebels continue to battle forces loyal to leader Moamer Gadhafi.

Qatar's energy minister Mohammed Saleh al-Sada had said on Sunday that the world oil output was sufficient despite the unrest in Libya which had slashed the country's crude production.

Libya was producing 1.69 million barrels per day (bpd) before the unrest, according to the International Energy Agency. Of this 1.2 million bpd was exported, mostly to Europe but with China and the United States also major customers.

Oil giant Total said on Friday that the unrest has cut Libya's output by 1.4 million bpd to under 300,000. The price of oil on world markets has soared since the mid-February outbreak of the anti-government uprising.

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Nippon Life to acquire 26% stake in Reliance Life for $680 million

The transaction pegs the total valuation of Reliance Life Insurance at approximately Rs11,500 crore, or $2.6 billion. Reliance Life is the largest among the 22 private life insurers in India having sold over 7 million policies so far

New Delhi: Japanese insurance firm Nippon Life Insurance Company will acquire a 26% stake in Reliance Life Insurance for $680 million, reports PTI.

"Nippon Life Insurance will invest an aggregate value of Rs3,062 crore ($680 million) to acquire a 26% strategic stake in Reliance Life Insurance," the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG) firm said in a statement today.

The transaction pegs the total valuation of Reliance Life Insurance at approximately Rs11,500 crore ($2.6 billion), the statement said, adding that the transaction is subject to necessary regulatory approvals.

Nippon is the 6th largest life insurer in the world and the top private life insurer in Asia and Japan.

Commenting on the development, Reliance Capital chairman Anil Ambani said, "At this time, our thoughts are with the people of Japan, bravely facing an unprecedented natural catastrophe. We pray for strength to the country, its people and our new partners in the entire Nippon Life family, to overcome the trauma of the tragic loss of life and devastation caused by this calamity."

Reliance Capital currently holds a 100% stake in Reliance Life.

"We both share the same passion and philosophy and, together, we believe we can develop a strategic partnership to help Reliance Life Insurance become a world-class insurance company in India," said Nippon Life Insurance president Kunie Okamoto.

As per the current rules, a foreign entity can hold up to 26% stake in an Indian insurance firm. Reliance Capital wholly owns Reliance Life, a business it acquired from AMP Sanmar in 2005.

Reliance Life is the largest amongst the 22 private life insurers in India in terms of the number of individual policies sold. The company has sold over 7 million policies through its network of nearly 1,250 offices and over 2,15,000 advisors.

Reliance Life managed assets of over Rs17,000 crore ($3.7 billion) as of 31 December 2010.

Commenting on the deal, Reliance Capital CEO Sam Ghosh said, "As a strategic partner, Nippon Life will bring vast experience, expertise and global best practices in areas of product development, underwriting, investment management, distribution, customer relationship management and risk management."

Shares of Reliance Capital were up 6.40% at Rs538.75 on the Bombay Stock Exchange in morning trade.

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