As 2014 draws to a close, it is time once again for our annual study of companies which have delivered the maximum wealth for their shareholders over the past 10 years. The 30-stock Sensex soared to above 28,000 from around 6,000 in a decade. That works out to a return of nearly 17% per annum. Sadly, most Indian savers avoid investing in stock markets, dismissing stock investing as akin to gambling. Many, who did, as mutual fund redemptions show, would have exited after the market-crash of 2008. A few investors who braved the volatile market conditions over the past 10 years were rewarded. The markets, over the past decade, delivered huge returns on the back of India’s huge consumption growth. Not surprisingly, among our list of top 500 wealth creators were companies from the consumer products, foods & beverages and auto sectors. Turn to our Cover Story to know which stocks were the top wealth creators.
From top wealth creators to wealth destroyers: investing in badly managed businesses can lead to erosion of your wealth. India has a history of several such companies. Is SpiceJet headed the same way as Kingfisher Airlines? Sucheta, in her Crosshairs column, asks some tough questions about the dubious bailout pushed by the aviation ministry.
Technology is delivering more and more services today; have consumer protection laws kept pace? Not exactly. Sucheta, in her Different Strokes section, writes on the ecommerce businesses of Uber, Flipkart and so on and the consumer issues they bring to the fore.
Over the pasts one year, Moneylife Foundation has grown by over 3,100 members, and now boasts a total of over 30,100 members. We have started five helplines that give direct and specific assistance to people, free of charge. Your donation to the Foundation allows us to act as a watchdog for financial issues that affect all of us. To contribute to our efforts, go to moneylife.in/mlf-donation.html and help us take up your issues, become stronger and remain independent in the years to come.
It can cause what is known as ‘popcorn lungs’, a rare and life-threatening bronchiolitis, which is also irreversible
Traditionally, Indians make their roti with corn flour, children relish these boiled, while older children and adults enjoy roasted corns with a variety of masalas, such as lemon, hot chilly powder, salt and so on. From these traditional bites, we have progressed to ready-made popcorn pouches that can be "roasted" in a microwave.
Recent reports indicate that a microwave may not be a healthy way to prepare popcorn. It appears the problem starts with microwaving the popcorn in its specially made pouches. The heating process vapourises the diacetyl in the bag which can cause Alzheimer's disease and damage the lungs! It can cause what is now popularly known as "popcorn lungs", also known as bronchiolitis obliterans, which is a rare and irreversible life-threatening disease.
Bronchiolitis Obliterans is caused by the inhalation of diacetyl fumes which causes scarring in lungs. Sufferers of popcorn lungs have difficulty in exhaling and this can at times become fatal. It appears that when it is severe, only a lung transplant can save the patients' life and some former popcorn factory workers reported to have died while waiting for transplants.
Because of the public uproar in 2007, major popcorn makers announced their plans to drop diacetyl in a phased manner. These were Weaver Popcorn Company, ConAgra Foods Inc, American Popcorn Company and General Mills Inc.
According to the Seattle Post Intelligence, as many as 3 billion bags of microwave popcorn are sold every year. Many leading companies, including Orville Redenbacher, Act II, Pop Secret and Joly Time have removed diacetyl from their microwave formulas. We should remember that regular popcorn machines are not the same as microwaves.
It may be noted that, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, there is concern about another chemical called "perfluorooctanoic acid" or PFOA which is used to line microwave bags to make them fire resistant. This same synthetic chemical is found in Teflon pots and pans, PFOA is dangerous because it can persist in the environment and in the human body for long periods of time, and this has been labelled as a "likely carcinogen" by the US EPA.
It is important that consumers must read the instructions on the popcorn bags and only those which are free from these chemicals can be used without fear. Or else, the traditional option of "makki-ki-roti" and "sarson-ka-saag" is always available.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)
Will we see a pre-Budget rally soon or further swoon?
Last fortnight, I had written...