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N Prasad of Matrix Lab arrested for sweetheart deal with Jagan Reddy

According to CBI, Prasad invested several hundred crores of rupees in companies floated either by YSR Reddy or his son, Jaganmohan Reddy and paid huge premium for the shares, which was nothing but a quid pro quo deal

Nimmagadda Prasad alias Matrix Prasad, touted as entrepreneur with a golden touch in the pharma industry, has been arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the alleged disproportionate assets case involving YS Jaganmohan Reddy. Mr Prasad allegedly invested Rs500 crore in different businesses of the Member of Parliament (MP) from Kadapa and president of YSR Congress.

The CBI, in its charge-sheet filed in the disproportionate assets case, alleged that Mr Prasad invested huge money in Jagan's business ventures as a quid pro quo for the benefits he secured from the then YS Rajasekhara Reddy (YSR) government.

He is charged with investing Rs100 crore in Jagati Publications that publishes Sakshi Telugu daily, besides putting in another Rs244 crore in Bharati Cements and Rs200 crore in Carmel Asia, all floated allegedly by Jagan.

The then government headed by Jagan's father (late) YS Rajasekhara Reddy allegedly allotted 15,000 acres of land in Prakasam and Guntur districts to Matrix Enport, the company owned by Prasad, for development of the Vadarevu-Nizampatnam Port and Industrial Corridor. Till date the project, initiated in 2007, has not made any progress. Under the YSR government, it was common in Hyderabad for politicians to sell stakes in companies controlled by them to big businessmen at a premium. In return for investing in these front companies, the businessmen got hold of natural resources (like iron ore) or land for infrastructure projects. This is exactly what seems to have transpired in this case too.

According to the CBI, three companies started by Mr Prasad bought shares in Jagan's companies by paying huge premium. The companies, Gilchrist Investments Pvt Ltd, Alpha Villas Pvt Ltd and Alpha Avenues Pvt Ltd bought shares in Jagan's companies at a premium of Rs350 apiece for a share with face value of Rs10. This is a quid pro quo deal, feels the CBI.

Mr Prasad, better known as Matrix Prasad, was touted to have a golden touch in the pharma sector. In 2000, he bought a small company for Rs3 crore and in 2009, sold his stake for Rs570 crore, a at a whopping 18,900% gain, something unheard of in any business. In the same year, he bought Herren Drugs and Pharmaceutical, a sick unit and renamed it as Matrix Laboratories. In the next six years till 2006, he bought Medicorp Technologies, Fine Drugs and Chemicals, Belgium-based Docpharma, China-based McChem Group and a controlling stake in Concord Biotech.

His first moment of huge success came in 2006, when he sold his 71.5% stake in Matrix Labs to US-based Mylan Laboratories for Rs800 crore. This was one of the biggest merger and acquisition (M&A) deals at that time. Mr Prasad received big money for a successful pharma business, but went on to diversify into cement, power, media, and infrastructure and hospitality businesses-ostensibly with political support.

Mr Prasad owns or has big stakes in Indu Projects, MAA Television Channel, software firm Infotech Enterprises, Care Hospitals and voice-enabled email provider NowPos.

Along with him Congress MP Chiranjeevi, his brother-in-law Allu Aravind and Telugu actor Akkineni Nagarjuna too have stakes in Maa Television. Last week, the Income Tax Department, found Rs35 crore unaccounted cash from the residence of Chiranjeevi's son-in-law Vishnu Prasad in Chennai.

What is surprising is YSR Congress, the political outfit floated by Jagan, has alleged that this money was part of quid pro quo to effect merger of Chiranjeevi's Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) with Congress. Last year in August, PRP was merged with Congress and the Tollywood actor-turned-politician is waiting for a berth in the Union Cabinet.

Last year, the CBI raided premises of Matrix Prasad's various companies in Hyderabad and other parts of Andhra Pradesh during the inquiry into assets of YSR Reddy, with whom the entrepreneur shared very close relations.

The CBI is also scrutinising companies of both Mr Prasad and Jagan and their investments. Several promoters in these companies started by the two are said to be same.

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Welspun wins $225 million solar project in Madhya Pradesh

The project will cost about $225 million and will be set up on barren tract of land in Mandsaur and Neemuch district of Madhya Pradesh in 18 months

New Delhi: Welspun Group, one of the country's largest solar power developer, has won a 125 MW solar photovoltaic project in Madhya Pradesh, a top company official said on Wednesday, reports PTI.

"We bid Rs8.05 per unit to win the 125 megawatts (MW) out of 200 MW that was auctioned by the Madhya Pradesh government," Welspun Energy Ltd Managing Director Vineet Mittal said.
 
After the formal award of the project, Welspun Solar Madhya Pradesh Pvt Ltd will put up one solar photovoltaic project of 100 MW and another of 25 MW capacity.

Mr Mittal said the project will cost about $225 million and will be set up on barren tract of land in Mandsaur and Neemuch district of Madhya Pradesh in 18 months.

The project would be funded in 75:25 debt-equity ratio, he said adding typically, a solar power project costs Rs9-10 crore per MW. "Solar energy will become a game-changer and I expect it will reach grid parity by 2015," Mittal said.

Grid parity means solar power tariff equalling that of thermal power. Madhya Pradesh conducted the auction through 'reverse bidding' process under which it would award projects to those who offer to sell power at the best (least) rates.

It received bids for 430 MW for its tender for 200 MW, from 12 developers like Azure (which submitted a bid for 5 MW), BGR Energy (10 MW), Essel Infra Properties (30 MW) and IL&FS (50 MW).

Mumbai-based Alpha Infraprop Pvt Ltd submitted the lowest bid of Rs7,900 per megawatt-hour, or Rs7.9 per unit, for 20 MW of capacity. This is about 13% lower than the global average for a photovoltaic project using crystalline panels.

Simplex Infrastructure Ltd and Acme Tele Power Ltd (ATPL) followed with bids of Rs9.59 per unit and Rs12.45 a unit.

Mr Mittal said Welspun Energy plans to add about 250 MW in the new and renewable energy projects during current fiscal. By 2015-16, it is targetting a portfolio of 1,750 MW, 60% of which will be wind energy and remaining 40% solar power projects.

It currently operates 30 MW of solar power plants in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan and recently bagged a 50 MW solar power project in Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) bidding.

The company plans to set up solar photovoltaic farms with a total capacity of 100 MW in Andhra Pradesh and has signed agreement to set up 500 MW of wind power projects in the state.

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Air India begins international operations; pilots want government to initiate talks

As the stir by the pilots entered the ninth day, the Airlines curtailed and clubbed many of its flights to the US and Europe to stabilise international operations

New Delhi: In an attempt to restore normalcy, Air India on Wednesday began international operations to the US and Europe as part of its contingency plan even as striking pilots asked the government to initiate preliminary talks, reports PTI.

As the stir by the pilots entered the ninth day, the Airlines curtailed and clubbed many of its flights to the US and Europe to stabilise international operations.

"We have put in force our contingency plan and started operating our international flights, which were affected for the past eight days causing great inconvenience to our customers. Slowly, we hope that our operations would normalise," said an Air India official.

The national carrier operated Delhi-Paris-New York (JFK) and Delhi-Frankfurt-Chicago flight early this morning while it would be operating Delhi-Shanghai and Delhi-London as per schedule.

"We have merged Mumbai-London and Mumbai-Shanghai flights with the Delhi-London and Delhi-Shanghai flights. We are operating these flights with Boeing 777 ER aircraft so we won't have problem accommodating the passengers," the official said, adding this will bring relief to many of our passengers who were anxious about their flights status.

Most of our passengers are those who have booked tickets months ago for their journey, he said, adding if situation permits then the airline may open its bookings for ultra-long flights, which have been suspended till tomorrow.

"We have deployed Airbus 320 aircraft for our short haul flights to Bangkok, Singapore and other destinations," he said.

In another development, the striking Air India pilots asked the government to at least initiate preliminary talks. "The government should at least being preliminary talks. We are ready for talks but they should formally invite us for talks to resolve the issue," Jitendra Awhad, chief of Indian Pilots Guild told PTI in Mumbai.

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