Companies & Sectors
Rajasthan ACB files FIR against directors of private firm, UltraTech Cement
Rajasthan ACB has registered case of fraud and corruption against four directors of a private company, three directors  of UltraTech Cement and senior  officials of its mining department in a case of lease transfer in Nagaur district
 
The Rajasthan Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has filed a first information report (FIR) against senior officials from the Mines Department, former shareholders of Gotan Limestone Khanji Udyog Pvt Ltd and three directors of UltraTech Cement, for alleged illegal transfer of a limestone mine in Gotan area in Nagaur district.
 
The FIR was filed on a complaint by BJP leader Kirit Somaiya against Ram Vallabh Chauhan, Suresh Chauhan, Ramesh Chauhan and Ram Avtar Chauhan, all former shareholders of Gotan Limestone Khanji Udyog Pvt Ltd, its present directors CK Birla, Rahul Mahnot and MB Aggarwal (all three directors of UltraTech), the Director of Mines and Geology and other concerned officials of the department, an ACB official said.
 
The matter is related to the leas of 1,000 hectares of land near Dhanapa village in Nagaur district, which in 1984 was allotted to partnership firm Gotan Limestone Khanij Udyog. Its partners, formed a private limited company, Gotan Limestone Khanji Udyog Pvt Ltd in March 2012 and got the lease transferred, despite the rule that lease of natural resources cannot be transferred or sold or sub-leased, under political influence during the previous regime, complainant Somaiya had alleged in his complaint submitted in May this year.
 
"After the lease was transferred, the company sold its stake to UltraTech in August 2012. The four shareholders (Chauhan brothers) resigned and three directors of the UtraTech Cement (CK Birla, Rahul Mahnot and MB Aggarwal) took over. This way, the lease was sold to UltraTech Cement under a conspiracy and the Mines department officials facilitated it," Somaiya alleged.
 
After verification of the facts and examining papers, the FIR was registered against the accused under relevant sections of the IPC and the Prevention of Corruption Act, according to the ACB official.

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Why Kumar Birla’s rumoured exit from Living Media is no surprise
Kumar Birla had called media a 'sunrise sector’ in 2012 with one the best opportunities for ‘value creation'. We had disagreed, calling it a messy, unprofitable and sunset sector
 
Aditya Birla group, which in May 2012 bought 27.5% stake in Living Media India Ltd, a holding company of TV Today Network, claiming media as a 'sunrise sector' is planning to exit from the Aroon Purie-controlled media group, say media reports. This would not be a surprise for the readers of Moneylife. More than two years ago when Kumar Birla had invested in Living Media, declaring that media was a sunrise sector, we were deeply sceptical of the move and how this (the deal) will play out. Immediately after the deal, Moneylife had said that Kumar Mangalam Birla's investment was not in a 'sunrise' but in a messy, unprofitable and sunset sector
 
In May 2012, IGH Holdings Private Ltd (IGH), an investment company of industrialist Kumar Birla-led business conglomerate bought 27.5% stake in Living Media. Living Media is largest stakeholder in TV Today Network with its 57.02% stake. TV Today Network manages broadcasting assets of the group, including Aaj Tak and Headlines Today along. Living Media’s original business is printing (Thomson Press) and its publishing business with India Today as the flagship publication.
 
In their filing before the Competition Commission of India (CCI), both the companies have said that the said purchase of shares of Living Media by IGH may go up to a maximum of 49%, and the proposed acquisitions and valuation adjustments would be completed within six months from the end of FY2015-2016.
 
In a regulatory filing in May 2012, Kumar Mangalam Birla was quoted as saying, “the media sector is a sunrise sector from an investment point of view. I believe that Living Media India offers one of the best opportunities for growth and value creation.”
 
According to media sources, the Aditya Birla Group has invested over Rs350 crore to buy the stake, thus valuing Living Media at about Rs1,250 crore to Rs1,400 crore at that time. On 18 May 2012, the day when the deal was announced, TV Today Network closed at Rs54 on the BSE. Next trading day i.e. on 21st May, it hit the upper circuit of 20%, to close at Rs64.80. On Monday, 18 August 2014, TV Today Network was trading at around Rs153 to Rs159 on the BSE.
 
As per the details provided by the companies to CCI, there were certain conditions preceding the share subscription and purchase agreement (SSPA) which related to certain transfer to and from Living Media, pursuant to which some businesses of Living Media, including Thomson Press (India), its subsidiaries and some other businesses would be hived off.
 
After such transfers, the subsidiaries and associate firms of Living Media would include TV Today Network, ITAS Media, Today Retail Network, Today Merchandise, Harper Collins, Mail Today Newspapers, India Today Online, Universal Learn Today, Integrated Databases India and Automotive Exchange Pvt Ltd.
 
After the transaction, IGH would have had certain statutory rights in Living Media, along with the contractual rights of the shareholders agreement.
 
We had mentioned in 2012 that media is hardly a business. The economics of the media business in India has completely been vitiated over the past decade or so. It is not a business where the more efficient thrive. It is not a business which is delivering improved quality of products and services to masses. Indeed, many of the better media companies are financially crippled today because the competition for advertising revenues is too intense. So, why doesn’t the supply of media products and companies shrink? Because poor quality media companies are not pushed to the wall and do not go out of business. Their losses are supported by politicians and businessmen for their own vested interests.
 
Over the past two years, since the Aditya Birla group bought stake in Living Media, there have been multiple changes across the media. US media giant Turner Broadcasting System, which had surprised all by acquiring Imagine TV from NDTV, abruptly shut it down on 11 April 2012, in less than two years. Anil Ambani group reduced its stake in TV Today Network to 4.5% from 14.9%, while Oswal Greentech, promoted by Abhey Oswal, bought 14.2% stake in NDTV. However, the biggest deal was between Raghav Bahl and Reliance Industries Ltd. Bahl, the promoter of Network18 Media and Investments Ltd and TV18 Broadcast Ltd, in July 2014 sold majority and controlling stake to Independent Media Trust (IMT) a subsidiary of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL).
 
According to Moneylife, none of these investments and exits was based on hard commercial considerations but on other considerations, ranging from influence-peddling to suspected hawala deals. If Kumar Birla had entered the media business with a commercial intent, probably he found the reality quite different from what he had imagined. Or, his entry or exit too was for reasons other than commercial. 

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COMMENTS

singaraju

3 years ago

You are talking about the past & present of Indian media sector - yes, messy & unprofitable. But you totally failed to notice the changes taking place. Investing is about the future not past - you are driving looking into rear-view mirror, not wind shields. Sorry for your poor analysis, you are missing something big. You better reserve your right to regrets!

MOHAN SIROYA

3 years ago

I only say, "Der Aayad Durust Aayad". Those houses who re still controlling Media, needless to say as already said by Sucheta, have other vested interests than the Commercial angle.

Prem Bajaj

3 years ago

Birla Group getting out of media. Ambani Group expanding and establishing its positions... is three something to all of this.

3 Reasons why labour market is hindering India’s growth
According to Morgan Stanley, current labour laws in India incentivize firms either to remain small, employing fewer workers, or to use capital- intensive approaches. No wonder, the share of India’s manufacturing sector in GDP of is one of the lowest among EMs
 
India’s track record in terms of creating productive jobs has been slow so far. One of the key issues stifling productive job growth is labour market regulations in the country. In addition, multiplicity of laws, rigidities in the system and trade unions play a major role in holding back India's labour market environment, says Morgan Stanley in a research report.
 
"Labour regulations in India are seen to be complex, rigid, time-consuming, and one of the main impediments to job growth in the organized sector. However, it is important to note that most labour regulations are seen to stifle job growth in the manufacturing sector. The services sector (mainly IT/ITES, retail comes under a different) has largely escaped stringent government, administrative requirements. Moreover, labour laws also create segmentation in the labour force – ultimately, the labour provisions meant to safeguard worker interests are applicable only to the much smaller organized labour force, which is about 16% of total. Thus, majority of the workers in India are not covered by regulations that are needed to protect their interests," the report says.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Labour law is a concurrent subject under the Indian constitution, which implies that both the central government and state governments have the right to formulate laws on the subject. This has resulted in multiplicity of laws, at times with overlapping jurisdictions. Currently there are 44 central laws and about 160 state laws on the subject (ILO, 2013). Many of the laws are archaic, dating to pre-independence – creating an urgent need for an overhaul of the laws to attune them to present realities. 
 
Indeed, there are multiple laws governing a single area. For instance, there are 19 laws governing conditions of work and industrial relations, 14 laws on social security and labour welfare, etc. Here we have only mentioned the central laws applicable to these areas. 
 
According to Morgan Stanley, a fallout of the cumbersome labour law structure is that the organised sector has remained small, accounting for only 16% of the total employment and the bulk of labour force is employed in the unorganised sectors.
 
In addition, Morgan Stanley says, the regulations are also viewed as increasing rigidities in the labour market, owing to restrictive conditions on hiring and laying off workers, closure of plants, and dealing with trade unions.
 
"Though India does not have the provisions for collective bargaining, the emergence of various trade unions leads to bargaining at an individual firm level. Moreover, the most pressing issue faced by industry is that trade unions tend to get associated with/backed by different political parties, leading to politicization of trade unions and making it difficult for employers and employees to resolve the issues," the report added.
 
Comparing labour regulations in India with other countries, Morgan Stanley says, most other nations do not have a stringent requirement of prior approvals and consultations (hire and fire practice), apart from Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The report says there is dire need to reform labour laws, especially related with trade unions.
 
Under Indian law, there is scope for multiple trade unions in a single factory – e.g., a company with 700 workers can have 70 trade unions. In most other countries, the requirements for minimum membership for trade unions to be recognized are higher than those in India, reducing the scope for multiplicity of unions. 
 
Morgan Stanley says, it believes India needs to amend provisions,  which allow outsiders to be office bearers. Currently one-third of the office bearers or five (whichever is less) can be outsiders. India also needs to introduce a strike ballot such that a strike can be called only if it is supported by a qualifying majority. Moreover, under the Industrial Disputes Act there is no provision to give advance notice for a strike unless industries are mentioned under public utilities, contrary to the general practice in many countries. Thus,  there is a need to amend this to introduce a mandatory advance notice for all firms, it added.
 
Indian policy makers are slowly paying attention to the fact that tight labour market regulations are having a negative impact, especially on manufacturing sector job growth. There has been a lot of discussion of this, yet governments have stopped short of making any full-fledged changes to the laws to reduce the rigidities in the system, Morgan Stanley says.
 
From the early days of its formation, the new government has been making announcements of its intention to boost manufacturing sector jobs. Indeed, Prime Minister Narendra Modi again made a firm commitment on the need to work towards boosting manufacturing exports in his speech on Independence Day.
 
Morgan Stanley said, apart from amending the laws, the state governments will need to initiate effort to bring about a change in attitude among local field officers and inspectors who are in charge of enforcement of labour laws.
 
A comprehensive review and restructuring of labour laws is required to make them more attuned to the present economic realities. "We believe that the central and state governments have recognized the need to initiate labour law reforms in order to boost manufacturing sector jobs. So far the governments have taken a piecemeal approach – but there now appears to be serious effort by the central government and some of the state governments to revive the manufacturing sector," the report says.
 
Morgan Stanley says it is cautiously optimistic about amendment to labour laws by the Central Government, since getting approval in the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) for some sensitive changes could be a challenge with a lack of majority for the ruling coalition. It says, "We are more optimistic about state governments going ahead with meaningful labour law reforms. The recent amendments to labour laws by Rajasthan are a case in point."

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