Two IPOs have just failed, possibly because the “market help” was not available. The bigger issue is why are the regulators so silent, given that we have had such a huge IPO scam in 2005 which involved banks, depositories and brokers?
Yesterday, (Two failed IPOs show that manipulators have withdrawn from the game, for now ), we had highlighted the rot in the IPO (Initial Public Offering) process.
Manipulators get to work once the stock is listed. They rig the shares, liquidate their entire stake and walk out. If they are not involved, average issues (not the Coal India variety) find it hard to sell. The manipulators are able to mobilize tens of thousands of retail applications. And the exchanges and the market regulator? They are in their ivory towers and have no clue about any of this. In fact, they seem not to be interested either.
Why is this rigging still going on? Haven't the regulators learnt from the IPO scams of 2003 and 2006? The negligence on the part of the market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), has become more evident from the fact that even today, smaller IPOs are relying upon these market manipulators to 'succeed'.
In the past, SEBI has taken action but it seems to have led to no change. When the regulator started scanning an entire spectrum of IPOs launched over 2003, 2004 and 2005, it ended digging up wagonloads of dirt and probably prevented a larger conspiracy to completely hijack the market. SEBI had barred brokerage firms like Karvy and Indiabulls from the market. It had also directed HDFC Bank and IDBI Bank not to open new demat accounts for share transactions.
Following are some actions that SEBI has taken in the past:
• 24 entities banned from primary and secondary market, including Indiabulls and Karvy
• Quasi-judicial proceedings against Karvy Depository Participant (DP) and Pratik DP, banned from the market
• 12 DPs told not to open fresh demat accounts, including HDFC Bank, IDBI Bank, Central Bank, ING Vysya Bank, IL&FS and Motilal Oswal; 15 more under scrutiny, including ICICI Bank, Citibank, and Standard Chartered.
• 85 financiers barred from the market.
The regulator also pulled up NSDL (National Securities Depository Limited) and CDSL (Central Depository Services (India) Limited) for 'grave management lapses'. The findings revealed contributory negligence on the part of the depositories and their managements.
As per SEBI's order, the promoters of NSDL and CDSL were directed to take all appropriate actions including revamping of management which clearly had allowed matters to come to such a sorry pass.
In the interest of attracting more investors to the stock market, SEBI needs to ensure that companies do not use IPOs as a one-time, fund-raising exercise with a plan to avoid accountability and compliance through the best available delisting opportunity.
Earlier, SEBI had said that certain entities had cornered shares reserved for retail applicants in the name of fictitious entities in the IPOs of Yes Bank and Infrastructure Development Finance Company (IDFC).
Apart from the Yes Bank fraud, SEBI reportedly had definite data about two IPOs where retail allotments were rigged, but market observers believe the scam was far bigger. The Yes Bank and IDFC cases were only the tip of the iceberg.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), to curb this malice, had sought an explanation from banks in which benami accounts were unearthed in the IPO scam. The RBI had fined three banks for violation of ''know your customer'' (KYC) norms relating to loans against shares and investing in IPOs. These three banks were HDFC Bank (slapped with the highest penalty of Rs 25 lakh), followed by ING Vysya Bank (Rs10 lakh) and IDBI Bank (Rs 5lakh).
The retail investor continues to become more disenchanted every day. Our investor population has already nosedived from around 20 million to just about eight million.
The trend in almost all recent IPOs indicates that investors are disgusted with the high valuations and have shunned the primary market. This is why lesser-known issues need the help of manipulators. So restoring the confidence of retail investors and growing the investor base ought to be the challenge before all the concerned regulators. But the opposite is more likely to happen-the retail investor may actually become extinct, looking at the manipulation that takes place with any IPO issue.
Senior lawyer Ashok Saraogi has said that since Speak Asia is offering reward points for filling up surveys as an additional benefit, it can withdraw these if its contracts with its clients ends. Notably, not a single official from Speak Asia was present during the press conference called by its legal advisor in Mumbai
Speak Asia (SpeakAsiaonline.com) may stop sending surveys and thus paying money through reward points to its panellists anytime and whenever it feels so.
Mumbai-based senior advocate and Speak Asia's legal advisor Ashok Saraogi, said, "The company is not selling any surveys to panellists but e-zines to its subscribers. Surveys are offered as additional benefit and can be withdrawn anytime if the company's contract with clients comes to an end."
Speaking at a press conference today in Mumbai, Adv Saraogi claimed that Speak Asia is selling its magazine over the Internet, which is allowed under the existing law in India and the company is in the publication business. For the survey business, the company caters to around 50-60 clients, he claimed, without giving out any names. Although Adv Saraogi said that he is a legal advisor for Speak Asia, not a single official from the company was present at the press conference.
There are some news reports about the ownership of Speak Asia which claim that the company is owned by Podium Ring International, a Virgin Islands registered entity and not by Harinder Kaur aka Haren as she is known to all the panellists. Denying the media report, Adv Saraogi said, "Mr Haren and his wife own majority stake in Speak Asia. Its chief executive for India, Manoj Kumar, also holds some stake in the company."
When asked about the bankers of Speak Asia or the lenders used by the company for banking, Adv Saraogi said the company has accounts with ICICI Bank and ING Vysya Bank. However, he could not tell under which names the accounts are opened. Since Speak Asia is not registered nor has any know your customer (KYC) compliance; no bank would open an account using the company's name.
According to Moneylife's investigations, Speak India Network Marketing P Ltd, a registered entity in Mumbai, with Indian directors and Speak India Online, are collecting money from survey panellists and have accounts in ICICI Bank, ING Vysya Bank, State Bank of India and a dozen others. (Read more: The Speak Asia money trail ).
All the people who have enrolled with Speak Asia believe and have been claiming that they are getting money for filing out surveys. Some even said that they have not even heard about the e-zine, for which the company collects Rs11,000. Even the website of the company, the only place where it exists besides Singapore, says it is Asia's largest online survey company.
Adv Saraogi, however, says that the company's main product is the e-zine and survey and other activities are "side-products." Asked why then the company's site shows only the survey as the product, Adv Saraogi said, "Jismein jyaada paisa milta hai wohi dikhate hain (We display the products which gives us more money). Any company would like to show its best selling product and hence Speak Asia site shows surveys."
At present, Speak Asia does not offer any refund in case of cancellation of subscription, but Adv Saraogi said he would tell Speak Asia within a week, to allow discontinuation of subscription.
We learn from our investigations and this has been confirmed by Speak Asia officials, that the company is not registered in India and does not have any establishment or office in the country.
This makes it difficult to start proceedings against it, in case somebody wants to file a case. It becomes difficult to file a case in any police station as the company does not have any address in India and hence the police might refuse to lodge a complaint. According to Adv Saraogi, in such cases, one can file a case from whatever location he or she is present and has accessed the website. Police can register a complaint based on the IP address location, he said.
Adv Saraogi added that he would suggest to Mr Haren and his wife, the majority owners of Speak Asia Online Pte Ltd, to set up a permanent establishment in India.
Speak Asia, which claims to sell subscriptions for an e-zine called 'Surveys Today', issues electronic payment receipts. Adv Saraogi said that the receipts should be issued in the parent company's name. However, when pointed out that Speak Asia has been issuing payment receipts under different names, like Online Surveys Today, Haren Ventures Pte Ltd (HVP), the legal advisor said, people use names of subordinates or subsidiaries to lower tax burdens.
He even cited an example saying that he may ask his client to issue payment in his
subordinate's name, in case he owes some dues to his junior to lessen his own tax burden.
According to media reports, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has started an investigation into Speak Asia and is working together with the RBI and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). Similarly, Bharatiya Janata Party's national secretary, Kirit Somaiyaa, has filed a case against Speak Asia with the Economics Offences Wing (EoW), in Mumbai.
However, Adv Saraogi claimed that as per his knowledge, there is no case registered against Speak Asia anywhere in the country and they have not received any intimation either from EoW or any other authorities.
Mumbai-based Adv Saraogi is a senior lawyer famous for handling mostly criminal cases. He had defended extradited gangster Abu Salem in the 1993 serial blasts trial a few years ago. After the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, he had even shown his willingness to defend one of the terrorists, Amir Ajmal Qasab, but later dropped the plan after agitations by the Shiv Sena. Last year, he had won a case against Sanjay Dutt over a financial row with producer Shakeel Noorani, which resulted in the attachment of the film star's house and office in Bandra.
In other case, Adv Saraogi also helped yesteryear's film star Manoj Kumar to remove a scene from 'Om Shanti Om' which the thespian had objected to. Shah Rukh Khan, producer of the film, complied.
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The fall will resume if Nifty closes below 5,450. Above that, the resistance is at 5,580
Yesterday we had suggested that if Nifty closes above 5,450, there could be a rally. The Nifty traded above 5,450 throughout the say and closed above it. If Nifty stays above 5,450, there is a chance the rally may extend to 5,510 and further to 5,580. If the market goes down, the first support is at 5,300. However, the bias is negative.
The Sensex and Nifty opened at 18,200 and 5,451, respectively. A fall in food inflation for the week ended 7th May and a decline in global crude prices supported the gains. Capital goods, auto and banking sectors were in demand in early trade.
The market hit the intra-day low at the start of the day itself, after which it was inching higher except for a small dip following reports that the government has hiked the contribution of upstream oil companies toward fuel subsidies to 38.8% for FY10-11. The intra-day low was at 18,161 and 5,433.
The fall was soon arrested and the indices once again started on their upmove boosted by the key European bourses opening higher. The post-noon session saw the market meeting its intra-day high, which happened to be a three-day high, at 18,429 and 5,518. The market settled with decent gain for the second day in a row. The Sensex rose 185 points to close at 18,326 while Nifty rose 58 points to close at 5,486. The advance-decline ratio on the National Stock Exchange was a positive 799:593.
Among the broader indices, the BSE Mid-cap index closed 0.61% higher and the BSE Small-cap index gained 0.49%.
BSE Capital Goods (up 2.31%, BSE Auto (up 1.37%), BSE Healthcare (up 1.34%), BSE Power (up 1.32%) and BSE Realty (up 1.31%) were the major sectoral gainers. On the other hand, BSE Fast Moving Consumer Goods (down 0.85%) and BSE PSU (down 0.01%) were the losers in the sectoral space.
Larsen & Toubro (up 3.57%) continued to hog the limelight, emerging as the top Sensex stock for the second day. Other main gainers were Cipla (up 3.22%), Bajaj Auto (up 3.05%), Tata Steel (up 2.76%) and Reliance Infrastructure (up 2.73%). The losers were led by ITC (down 1.82%), ONGC (down 1.17%) and State Bank of India (down 0.24%).
In a move that may spook Oil and Natural Gas Corporation's (ONGC) planned public offering, the government has hiked the contribution of upstream oil companies toward fuel subsidies to 38.8% for 2010-11 fiscal.
Of the Rs78,159 crore revenue that retailers lost on selling diesel, domestic LPG and kerosene below cost in the 2010-11 fiscal, upstream firms ONGC, Oil India and GAIL India have been ordered to contribute Rs30,296.7 crore, or 38.8%, sources in the know of the development said. ONGC has been ordered to chip in Rs24,892.43 crore, while OIL will provide Rs3,293 crore and GAIL Rs2,111.24 crore.
Markets in Asia settled mixed on the last trading day of the week as Japanese investors were worried about the recovery of the disaster-stricken economy. Stocks in Seoul gained after a steep fall in the previous session. On the other hand, uncertainty over China's economic outlook remained an overhang for the market.
Meanwhile, Tokyo Electric, commonly known as Tepco, posted a net loss of 1.25 trillion yen for the year ended in March, compared with a profit of 133.8 billion yen a year earlier. The loss, the biggest in Tepco's 60-year history, reflects costs to scrap damaged nuclear reactors at Fukushima Daiichi and a write-off of deferred tax assets with compensation payouts likely to depress profits for many years.
The Shanghai Composite shed 0.04%, the KLSE Composite lost 0.19%, the Nikkei 225 declined 0.14%, the Straits Times fell by 0.13% and the Taiwan Weighted was down 0.63%. On the other hand, the Hang Seng gained 0.16%, the Jakarta Composite rose 0.34% and the Seoul Composite advanced 0.76%.
Back home, foreign institutional investors were net sellers of stocks worth Rs34.41 crore on Thursday. On the other hand, domestic institutional investors were net buyers of equities worth Rs132.34 crore.