Companies & Sectors
Steel prices are going up on speculation, but poor demand may limit further rise

The chief economist from the ministry of steel feels that the current price movement is due to mere speculation, and raging inflation in the country may reduce demand, which in turn will arrest further rise

After hiking prices thrice in just two months, Indian steelmakers may not go in for more price hikes, as demand is seen to be subdued in the coming quarters due to high inflation in the country. Raw material prices may also witness some correction.

"There could be a slight upward movement in steel prices, but prices would not sustain due to lack of demand for the metal, as there is a speculative rise and speculative fall. There could also be pressure from rising inflation in the country,"
Dr AS Firoz, chief economist at the Economic Research Unit of the Ministry of Steel, told Moneylife.

Since January, Indian steelmakers increased their product prices thrice in the wake of surging prices of raw materials, particularly coking coal, in the international market.

Currently, long steel prices at the Ghaziabad market are hovering at around Rs27,000 a tonne. However, prices were around Rs29,000 a tonne in the last week of January.

"We are seeing very high volatility in long steel prices. Prices of long steel are falling as demand is less for the product," a senior official from the steel division of the National Commodity & Derivatives Exchange Ltd (INDEX) told Moneylife (preferring anonymity).

"Whatever the price hikes we have seen, it's just because of a sharp rise in coking coal prices in the international market. The price hikes are not driven by demand. Somehow, prices may sustain till the end of this quarter as recovery from the floods in Queensland (Australia) is not cleared. From the first quarter of the next financial year, prices would surely remain under pressure," an analyst from a Mumbai-based research firm told Moneylife.  

Prices of coking coal in the international market have been surging everyday as the supply from the largest coking coal-producing region-Queensland-has been disrupted due to the floods. Mining & shipments have been severely affected due to the floods in the region.

Coking coal prices have crossed the $350/tonne level in the spot market. Market experts expect that the contract prices (for the next quarter) of coking coal would be sealed at around $300 a tonne.

"Steelmakers have been caught in a crucial situation. They cannot increase prices regularly, citing surging raw material prices, as it would derail demand from their consumers," said the analyst.

"If the situation improves soon, coking coal prices would come down and it may pull down prices the steel," added the analyst from the Mumbai firm.

On the anticipation of rising prices, many dealers and buyers have piled up their inventories. Now as demand is not so impressive, buyers would be prefer to reduce the inventories, rather than buying new stocks in the months to come.


The gathering IPL storm—mad rush for eyeballs and attention

Marketers and the media are investing heavily in the Cricket World Cup and the IPL which is billed as the third largest televised event

At the onset of summer in India, businesses are busy readying themselves to celebrate an early monsoon. The forecast suggests a heavy storm that should result in a flood of eyeballs which promises an avalanche of sales.

The ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 is barely a few days away. But even before a ball has been bowled, there is a pitched battle going on among business groups vying for the attention of a captive audience. It's estimated that over one billion viewers will witness the sporting spectacle from their homes in different parts of the globe, which makes it the third largest televised event. A similar number of viewers are expected to watch the fourth season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) that follows soon after the Cricket World Cup. It's an unparalleled season for the media and marketers who are aiming to do thousands of crores of business in the three-month period.

Agencies are rubbing their hands with glee, designing optimal packages for clients, to garner and retain attention through the mega cricket carnival. Amid the euphoria, caution is usually the last virtue. Even by conservative estimates, it is expected that Indian and international businesses will fork out a whopping Rs750 crore to bring their brands to bear on the sub-conscious of the fanatic cricket fans as they remain glued to the action.

The protagonists in this campaign are 13 major sponsors of the World Cup-Pepsi, Hero Honda, Sony India, Nokia, Reliance Mobile, LG, Reebok, Emirates, Pantaloon, Maruti Suzuki, Philips, Yahoo and Castrol. There will be myriad other organisations, the support cast, who will either hop onto the bandwagon or simply run an ambush trick to score some cheeky singles on the cheap. The stadia sponsors of the World Cup-Reliance Communications, LG, PepsiCo, Reebok, Hero Honda, Emirates, Yahoo, Castrol and Money Gram-are reported to have doled out Rs1,200 crore for in-stadia advertising.

The event will be broadcast on the ESPN-STAR platform with 49 matches played between 19th February and 2nd April. Yahoo is operating the official website for the event and there will be many others that will  dedicate their websites to deliver content over the internet and through mobile phones across the world. It is believed that a 10-second spot would cost anywhere between Rs400,000 and Rs500,000 depending on the scale and volume of the advertising package.

Castrol's Giriraj Bagri reeled off interesting numbers. "92% of Indian males are involved with cricket in some form or other, and it is a favoured pastime for 48% of the Indian population," he said. The lubricants maker is expected to spend upto 30% of its annual advertising budget during the Cricket World Cup.

Adding an interesting dimension to the tale, is the fourth edition of the IPL that will run from 8th April to 22nd May, taking off almost as soon as the World Cup ends. The IPL is a prime media property today, returning TRPs in excess of 5. In contrast the World Cup matches are expected to be rated in the region of 2.5, with the semi-finals and finals clocking a higher rating. It is no wonder then that a 10-second spot on the IPL costs advertisers over Rs550,000. A staggering Rs1,000 crore will likely exchange hands in this season's 10-team event that will have 74 matches.

Set Max has exclusive rights for the IPL broadcast. Rohit Gupta, head of sales at Set Max, averred, "We have already sold 75% of our inventory. We have signed on 10 sponsors for the matches and another six for Extra Innings," the wrapper show before and after the action. The key sponsors for the IPL are Pepsi, LG, Hyundai, Vodafone, Cadbury, Videocon, Godrej, Tata Photon and Havells. And some of them have paid out more than what the sponsors of the World Cup have.

The primary reason for a greater interest in the IPL lies in the T20 format that appeals to a broader audience, especially in India. With the entire match over in just three hours, it has turned into a family pop-corn event, unlike the 50-over format that attracts a predominantly male audience.

Spot sales have been relatively slower for the World Cup, with media buyers choosing to play watchfully. Of course a great deal will depend on how well India does in the early stages. A successful campaign for the Indian team could queer the pitch for the mega event, but in the interim it is advantage IPL. The annual jamboree is estimated to draw ad-spend in the region of Rs1,000 crore, a 20-25% jump over that for the World Cup.

The Indian team has been in good form and this augurs well for media houses that have already bought space. Sachin Tendulkar will take a bow from limited overs internationals at the end of this tournament, and India's presence in the knock-out stages could see a spike in prices for at least the matches in which the team features.

Irrespective of the choice of event, this season of cricket promises to turn into a summer of delight for advertising agencies, media buyers and corporate kingpins, as they navigate through the tricky maze of opportunity and promise-with wallet in hand, a prayer on the lips and hope in their eyes. Advertisers will do well to hedge long and buy now rather than wait for the frenzy that will certainly follow with each Indian victory.

For the insatiable fans, advertisements will be an unwelcome intrusion between overs and wickets. But it is an inevitable commercial drill that will be thrust upon the unsuspecting lot at uniform intervals. The hapless viewer can only hope that the advertisements do not begin even before the over has been completed.

(The writer is a business consultant to large clients on financial processes, process re-engineering and improvement.)


Corporation Bank employees criticise top brass in the open

The bashing of the top management is actually happening in the bank’s in-house publication. So what is brewing in the organisation?

Field staff going against the top brass is something which every organisation witnesses from time-to-time. But when the bashing happens in the in-house publication itself, it hints at something truly serious.

The front page editorial of the current issue of "Officers Voice", the monthly journal of the Corporation Bank Officers' Organisation (CBOO), reflects the mistrust that the field level employees have for the top management.

The employees have blamed the top brass for formulating faulty policies that have not only inconvenienced the staff, but also led to the erosion of the customer base in several areas.

Is it just another case of boss-bashing? Corporation Bank is not doing too badly. In 2008, Corporation Bank made a profit of Rs735 crore with an increase of 37.1% over last year. In 2010, the bank made a profit of Rs1,170 crore-a rise of 31.1%. It is estimated that 2011 will show a profit of Rs1,386 crore, which will mark an 18.4% increase. For the next fiscal, the estimated profit-according to the bank's report- will be Rs1,427 crore, which will mark only a 3% increase over the present year.

Will this be sustainable?

The article says, "Of late it is felt that the top management is seldom bothered about the problems at (the) field level; whether it is providing (the) required manpower at the branches or changing business policy decisions."

The item provides several examples of bad decisions: Despite the opposition from the CBOO, in 2006, the management introduced verticals and created the post of 'field general managers' without specifying their responsibilities. Soon after, the decisions were reversed with the change in management, making the exercise futile.

The new 2008 leadership increased the minimum balance amount and extended the minimum period for savings accounts called 'Corpclassic Accounts'. The move was aimed at boosting the bank's portfolio.

However, the CBOO had already pointed out that other banks were offering better options in that area, but the management did otherwise.

"The result was a large number of customer complaints leading to closure of several accounts," says the editorial. By the time the decision was reviewed, the damage was done.

Then, interest rates on senior citizens' deposits were suddenly reduced to a rate lower than what the competitor banks were providing. "The operational staff found it difficult to convince customers. This sudden reduction made senior citizens switch over to other banks and a number of branches lost their depositors as well as sizable deposits."

Again, the reversal came too late.

The recent debacle was the decision to withdraw the automobiles provided to a number of branch heads. It was argued that while expenses were increasing, there was no growth in business, so those managers who had failed to achieve eight out of 12 parameters would be deprived of the service.

The management, however, got more cars at their disposal. As expected, this resulted in a rift between branch heads and the top management. The article says, "Never was the achievement of business parameters a precondition for such a facility nor it was informed to them while extending it. If performance is the criteria, the withdrawal should have begun from the top as they are also equally responsible for the performance."

The rift, the CBOO points out, will take a long time to mend.

Even today, the employees allege, the management refuses to discuss issues affecting business at the field level and review its decisions. New branches are opened everyday with staff deputed from nearby branches on the opening day and later reverted back... and the branch manager is left to deal with the business by himself.

Technological upgradation has not happened either, despite repeated appeals.

"All the above instances lead to one question: whether the top management does not think about the consequences of its decisions", asks the editorial. While the answer is anybody's guess, it can be safely assumed that this polarisation is going to come at a price.




6 years ago

Refreshing to see employees criticise their management constructively in public. I see a great future for such an organisation, if the management listens to useful criticism and responds positively rather than concentrate on how to punish the critics. The latter would be a typical loser's mentality, much in evidence in our public life.


6 years ago

Going on opening branches, without providing required staff, taking unilateral decisions pertaining to customers and staff without consulting them or getting a feedback from them, turning a blind eye to the repercussions thereof, on the bank and its business, does not augur well for any bank. We are proud our banks withstood the tsunami of sub-prime mortgages, which swept the banks worldwide. By putting all pressure on the staff, far beyond their human capacities, and endurance, are we inviting a new tsunami for our Public sector Banks? How can the banks prevent mistakes happening, and frauds taking place, when the staff are hardly able to complete the routine. Better we wake up before it is too late!

Nagesh KiniFCA

6 years ago

Pray what are the nominated Officer and Workmen Directors on the Board doing? Why did they not speak up? Re. taking away the cars for not meeting with performance criteria is justified. It should apply at the head office level too.
I write this post because of my attachment to Corporation, because my forefathers were amongst its founders and I continue to hold shares and naturally want to see it grow.


TR Bhat

In Reply to Nagesh KiniFCA 6 years ago

Dear Mr Kini,
As an ex employee I learn that the officer director has been raising his voice of dissent and some are recorded in the minutes. But often the minutes do not record the reasons for dissent. What is the role of govt and RBI directors?
T R Bhat

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