Ashok Leyland to hike prices of commercial vehicles soon

The Hinduja Group company has said that it is considering hiking the prices of its products before March due to rising commodity prices

The Hinduja Group-promoted Ashok Leyland Ltd on Wednesday said that it would hike prices of its commercial vehicles (CVs) shortly due to rising input costs, reports PTI.

"Commodity prices are going up and we are already considering hiking the prices of our products. It will happen shortly, before March," Ashok Leyland's managing director R Seshasayee told reporters in New Delhi at the 10th Auto Expo.

He, however, said that there has been a surge in demand for CVs in the last two quarters and the company expects to close this fiscal at a total sales of about 62,000-63,000 units.

When asked about the sales prospects for the next fiscal, he said, "It (growth) should be in double digits."

Mr Seshasayee also said that the government must not withdraw the stimulus package provided by it in the wake of the economic downturn.

He said excise duty reduction, especially in the CV segment, should not be treated as stimulus. The government has cut excise duty on CVs to 8% in phases to spur growth.

"The CV (segment) deserves lower excise duty, therefore that must continue," he said.

Ashok Leyland also said that it would execute orders received from 21 state transport bodies for supply of buses by 31st March this year under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewable Mission. Of the 11,000 orders placed by different state bodies, the company got 51% orders.

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    Blackstone’s Byron Wien announces the top ten surprises for 2010

    Byron Wien has been giving his predictions about the US economy, financial markets and politics every year since 1986. According to critics, he has a good feel for the economy and for politics with a slightly bullish bias and it is this bias which blindsided him when it came to the housing bubble

    Byron R Wien, vice chairman, Blackstone Advisory Services, who has been giving his predictions about the US economy, financial market and politics since 1986, has unveiled his ten surprises for this year making 2010 the 25th year of his predictions.

    Mr Wien began the tradition in 1986 when he was the chief US investment strategist at Morgan Stanley. He joined The Blackstone Group in September 2009 as a senior advisor to both the firm and its clients in analysing economic, political, market and social trends. Here is a list of his predictions and surprises for 2010.

    The Surprises of 2010

    1. The United States economy grows at a stronger than expected 5% real rate during the year and the unemployment level drops below 9%.  Exports, inventory building and technology spending lead the way. 

    2. The Federal Reserve decides the economy is strong enough for it to move away from a zero interest rate policy. In a series of successive hikes beginning in the second quarter, the Federal funds rate reaches 2% by year-end.

    3. Heavy borrowing by the US Treasury and some reluctance by foreign central banks to keep buying notes and bonds drives the yield on the 10-year Treasury above 5.5%.  Banks loan more to corporations and individuals and pull away from the carry trade, thereby reducing demand for Treasuries. President Obama says, “The suits are finally listening”.

    4. In a roller-coaster year the Standard and Poor’s 500 rallies to 1,300 in the first half and then runs out of steam and declines to 1,000, ending where it started at 1,115.1.  Even though the economy is strong and earnings exceed expectations, rising interest rates and full valuations present a problem. Concern about longer term growth and obligations to reduce leverage at both the public and private level unsettle investors.

    5. Because it is significantly undervalued on a purchasing power parity basis, the dollar rallies against the yen and the euro. It exceeds 100 on the yen and the euro drops below $1.30 as the long slide of the greenback is interrupted. Longer term prospects remain uncertain.

    6. Japan stands out as the best-performing major industrialised market in the world as its currency weakens and its exports improve. Investors focus on the attractive valuations of dozens of medium-sized companies in a market selling at one quarter of its 1989 high. The Nikkei 225 rises above 12,000.

    7. Believing he must be a leader in climate control initiatives, President Obama endorses legislation favourable for nuclear power development. Arguing that going nuclear is essential for the environment, will create jobs and reduce costs, Congress passes bills providing loans and subsidies for new plants, the first since 1979. Coal accounts for about 50% of electrical power generation, and Mr Obama wants to reduce that to 25% by 2020.

    8. The improvement in the US economy energises the Obama administration. The White House undergoes some reorganisation and regains its momentum. In the November Congressional election, the Democrats only lose 20 seats, much lesser than expected.

    9. When it finally passes, financial service legislation, like the healthcare bill, proves to be softer on the industry than originally feared. There is greater consumer protection, more transparency, tighter restriction of leverage and increased scrutiny of derivatives, but the regulatory changes for investment bankers and hedge funds are not onerous. Trading volume and merger activity increases; financial service stocks become exceptional performers in the US market.

    10. Civil unrest in Iran reaches a crescendo. Ayatollah Khameini pushes out Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in favour of a more public relations adept leader. Economic improvement becomes the key issue and anti-Israel rhetoric subsides. Talks with the US and Europe begin but the country remains a nuclear threat. Pakistan becomes the hotspot in the region because of the weak government there, anti-American sentiment, active terrorist groups and concerns about the security of the country’s nuclear arsenal.

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    IL&FS Investsmart to discontinue insurance broking business

    IL&FS Investsmart Insurance Brokers will surrender its insurance broker licence to IRDA following its decision to exit the insurance broking business

    Financial services provider HSBC InvestDirect (India) on Wednesday said that its subsidiary IL&FS Investsmart Insurance Brokers Ltd (IIIBL) will discontinue the insurance broking business, reports PTI.

    The board of directors at their meeting held on 5th January have approved to discontinue the insurance broking business by IIIBL, HSBC InvestDirect (India) said in a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange.

    The company would surrender its insurance broker licence to the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA).

    HSBC InvestDirect (previously known as IL&FS Investsmart Ltd), owns 45% in IIIBL. "This is with a view to align the business with the long-term strategy of HSBC InvestDirect," the company said.

    HSBC InvestDirect (India) provides varied range of services through its subsidiaries to individual and corporate customers.

    In 2008, HSBC had acquired a 73.2% stake in IL&FS Investsmart, a leading retail brokerage house in India.

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