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Mukesh Ambani-led RIL has served legal notice to Moneylife for allegedly lowering the prestige of Reliance Industries among the conglomerate's friends and well-wishers
Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) has served a legal notice on Debashis Basu, editor and publisher of Moneylife, Moneywise Media Pvt Ltd and Sucheta Dalal, managing editor of Moneylife, for publishing articles "Congress gift to Reliance: RIL sole beneficiary of anti-dumping duty on PTA" () and "Ambani ki dukaan?"
The notice, sent by legal services firm Khaitan & Co also accuse Moneylife of "lowering the prestige of RIL among the conglomerate's friends and well-wishers".
The notice, while referring Ms Dalal, the managing editor of Moneylife as 'reporter', accuses her of "validating highly objectionable parts from the book "Gas Wars - Crony Capitalism and the Ambanis" in her article 'Ambani ki dukaan?'. Interestingly, the notice referes to the book as 'Pamphlet' at all places, including notices sent to the writers and publishers of the book.
"...you have entered into a deliberate attempt to slander our client's name and reputation by publicizing a highly-objectionable Pamphlet titled "Gas Wars - Crony Capitalism and the Ambani's dukan" by one Paranjoy Guha Thakurta alongwith Subir Ghosh and Jyotirmoy Chaudhuri written, published and distributed with the explicit purpose of making slanderous and baseless allegations against our client (Pamphlet) by validating its highly-objectionable parts in your piece 'Ambani ki dukaan?' on 14 April 2014 at 4.01pm and repeated the injury to our client in the 1 May 2014 edition of Moneylife on pages 16 and 17. In this article you have mixed the wholly unrelated issue of PTA described in para 1-15 of this legal notice with the machinations and the slander inherent in the said Pamphlet. Our clients reserve the right to include for colluding with the said authors of the Pamphlet for the same as the distributor of their canards," the notice from Khaitan & Co says.
Last week, the same lawyer firm issued notices to the authors and distributors of the book "Gas Wars - Crony Capitalism and the Ambanis". The notices also accuse e-distributors of the book, Authors Upfront and Feel Books Pvt Ltd as well as Flipkart and Amazon of being party to a "common conspiracy" to "ensure the defamation of our clients for personal gains". Also included among those served notice is Deepshikha Shankar, event manager for the Foundation of Media Professionals, who had in her personal capacity forwarded the e-invite for the book release function to several people, says a report from Times of India.
Over the past two years, Reliance has been the target of attacks by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan, but they have never been served any legal notice.
In fact, TV news channels, owned by the RIL group itself broadcast the press conferences of Kejriwal and Bhushan LIVE several times, in which the latter have made serious allegations about Reliance. “I find it quite perplexing. If you felt that you have been defamed by what Prashant Bhushan and I said, then we are the real culprits and, if you had to send a defamation notice, it should have been to us. The TV channels merely broadcast what we said,” Kejriwal was quoted as saying in a English translation of the letter posted on the AAP website. Its not clear whether large media groups like TV18, in which RIL has substantial interest, have also received any such notice, since their TV channels had also carried the press conferences of Kejriwal.
Earlier in February this year, Kejriwal, while speaking at a rally, repeatedly cited two bank account numbers claiming that they belonged to Ambani brothers, Mukesh and Anil. This was done as part of challenging Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi to get black money back from Swiss banks.
However, all the Mukesh Ambani-led conglomerate did was issue a press release refuting the allegations made by Kejriwal, blaming it on mythical ‘vested interests’. "It is being reiterated that neither Reliance Industries nor Mr Mukesh Ambani have or had any illegitimate accounts anywhere in the world. The continued tirade of baseless allegations being made by AAP against us appears to be instigated by vested interests," the company had said. (Reliance refutes Kejriwal's allegations terming it as 'baseless')
Seperately, EAS Sarma, former secretary of the Government of India (GoI), had demanded an independent investigation into the whole gamut of showering one largesse after another on RIL that would unravel the hidden links in this web of improprieties. (Set up SIT to investigate showering of one largesse after another on RIL, says Sarma )
The former secretary had written several letters to the PM and petroleum ministry on the improprieties committed by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in dealing with RIL’s gas project in Krishna Godavari (KG) Basin in Andhra Pradesh.
Last week, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, former governor of West Bengal, called Reliance Industries as 'parallel state', which exercised power brazenly over natural and financial resources, says a report from Times of India. Quoting Mr Gandhi, the report says, "We used to talk of black money as a parallel economy and so it continues to be. But Reliance is a parallel State. I do not know of any country where one single firm exercises such power so brazenly, over the natural resources, financial resources, professional resources and, ultimately, over human resources as the company of the Ambanis". The former governor was speaking at the 15th DP Kohli Memorial Lecture that had over 3,000 officials from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the audience.
From what we know, none of these parties have been served legal notice by Reliance Industries.
Hindustan Unilever’s net profit during the March quarter grew to Rs872.13 crore on low input costs and growth in domestic business
Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), company reported a 11% higher fourth quarter net profit on lower input costs and growth in its domestic consumer business.
For the quarter to end-March, the FMCG company, a unit of Unilever, said its standalone net profit rose 11% to Rs872.13 crore from Rs787.20 crore, while total revenues, including sales, increased 10% to Rs7,094.10 crore from Rs6,465.81 crore, same period last year.
“Against the backdrop of a challenging environment, we have delivered another year of competitive and profitable growth. We stepped up investment behind our brands and innovations, whilst driving cost savings and operational efficiencies with even greater rigor. Looking ahead, we are confident that our strategy is on track to deliver sustainable long term growth and margin improvement,” Harish Manwani, chairman of HUL said in a statement.
The company said during the quarter, its domestic consumer business grew at 9% with 3% underlying volume growth. “The operating context during the quarter remained challenging with slowing market growth and high competitive intensity. Firm input costs were managed through a mix of judicious pricing and cost savings. Brand investments were sustained at competitive levels with higher advertising spend being offset by lower promotional activities,” HUL added.
Soaps and detergents segment
Skin Cleansing delivered double digit growth, aided by a step up in price growth as judicious pricing actions were taken to manage input cost inflation. Growth was broad based across brands with the liquids portfolio seeing accelerated growth.
In Laundry, growth was led by the premium segment with Surf maintaining its double digit growth momentum and Rin delivering good growth on the bars portfolio. Wheel growth stepped up on the back of its re-launch in the last quarter. Comfort Fabric Conditioners continue to lead market development with sustained high growth. Vim led the performance in Household Care.
Skin Care grew well in a soft market. The re-launch of Fair & Lovely, with the new ‘Best Ever Formula’ and supported by a focused activation plan, is yielding positive results. Ponds had a good quarter at the premium end while Lakme and Dove sustained their robust performance. The Facial Cleansing portfolio registered broad based growth driven by innovations launched in previous quarters.
Hair Care sustained volume led double digit growth with Dove delivering another strong performance and Clinic Plus doing well. TRESemmé, which saw the addition of a new Split Remedy variant, continued to make very good progress.
In Oral Care, significant investments were made to sustain our competitiveness in the category. While Close Up grew in the quarter, Pepsodent was impacted by the high promotional intensity in the market. Actions are underway to step up performance.
Colour Cosmetics maintained its strong innovation led growth momentum across both Lakme and Elle 18. Lakme continues to strengthen its position in premium make up driven by a range of exciting and contemporary offerings.
Tea sustained double digit growth on the back of stepped up volumes. Taj Mahal, Red Label and 3 Roses grew in double digits, driven by a strengthened mix and focused in-market activities. The thrust on leading market development for tea bags saw flavoured and green tea bags more than double sales in the quarter. In Coffee, Bru Gold continued to perform well.
Packaged foods segment
Kissan registered another robust quarter with growth accelerating on both Ketchups and Jams, driven by impactful activation while Knorr growth continued to be led by Instant Soups which more than doubled volumes. Ice Creams saw strong growth arising from the selling in of Magnum which was extended to 4 other cities, and sharper in-market execution on Kwality Walls, ahead of the season.
For the 12 month to end-March, HUL said its net profit increased 1.87% to Rs3,867.49 crore from Rs3,796.67 crore, its total revenues grew 8.56% to Rs28,019.13 crore from Rs25,810.21 crore a year ago period.
HUL has declared a full year final dividend of Rs7.50 per share.
HUL closed Monday flat at Rs580.60 on the BSE, while the 30-share benchmark too ended the day flat at 22,631.
For more stock results, check out this page
There is the fear that a total ban on mining of iron ore in Odisha would practically cripple the iron and steel industry in the country
Odisha is India's largest iron ore producer, accounting for nearly 45% of production of 145 million tonnes. Besides iron ore, it is also the large producer of chrome and bauxite. There is the fear that a total ban on mining of iron ore in Odisha would practically cripple the iron and steel industry in the country.
It is generally believed that more than 100 illegal mining operations are being carried out in Odisha leading to environmental degradation. It may be recalled that the Supreme Court lifted the ban on iron ore mining in Karnataka a few months ago, and the industry is limping back, though normalcy will take a few months more to achieve. In the meantime, only a few weeks ago, iron ore mining operations in Goa was lifted, though with conditions, where the industry feels that it would be a good six months or so before some semblance of normalcy can be expected there. As reported in Moneylife earlier, there are chances that the cap of 20 million tonnes may be increased taking into consideration the overall impact in the country.
Today, Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, on behalf of NGO Common Cause will seek a temporary ban on Odisha mines that do not have clearances. It may be borne in mind that a total ban would hurt the domestic industry and lead to needless imports; and even if this should occur, it would be atleast 60/90 days before imported ore can reach India, during which time, the steel industry would suffer, and thousands would be unemployed, for no fault of theirs!
The state government is expected to meet the Central Empowered Committee that has been appointed by the Supreme Court to decide what interim orders could be issued.
MB Shah Commission recommendations, it may be recalled, seeks a closure of all illegal mining operations. Penalties imposed on defaulters be directed towards welfare of tribals and villagers. Petition also seeks for a CBI probe into mining and for restoration of revegetation and natural surroundings. Besides, it seeks all mined ores to be traced electronically and sold through e-auctions!
Based on the petition submitted by Prashant Bhushan, NGO Common Cause, the Supreme Court has given four weeks to both central and state governments to file their replies. It has also directed the Court appointed Central Empowered Committee to prepare and submit an interim report on mining in Odisha and also submit a list of miners who have been operating in the State without proper environmental and forest clearances. On all these matters, the Court will be hearing the case today for the interim order.
India's largest FDI of Rs52,000 crore covering the POSCO Steel plant, to be set up to produce 12 million tonnes of steel at Jagatsinghpur is stuck for the last eight years due to regulatory hurdles and delays in land acquisition. The Centre has asked the state government to resolve these issues without delay!
In the case of Jindal Steel & Power Ltd, the Odisha Directorate of Mines has ordered the closure of Sarda Mines Private Ltd's Thakurani mines, owing to expiration of environmental clearance, as on 1st April 2014, effectively cutting off supplies to JSPL, which sources all the iron ore produced in these mines!
It may be noted that JSPL was sourcing these iron ore fines for its 5 million tonnes pellet plant at Barbil in Odisha and lumpy ore for its 3 mt steel plant at Raigad in Chhatisgarh. Luckily for JSPL, it has adequate stocks on hand and the inventory is estimated at 15 million tonnes, which will be presumably transported to the pellet plant, until the formalities are completed.
One other issue that would also need government assistance is the clearance for companies working on "deemed leases". If the state government gives preference to original lease holders, the industry may be relieved but if new bidding process is to be held, this would be time consuming and may delay the starting of the mining operations, once they come to a stop.
India's export of iron ore fines has gone down to 16 million tonnes in 2013 against 108 mt in 2010. Compare to this poor performance, Australia exports 600 million tonnes, while Brazil runs second at 300 million tonnes.
Now the issue at stake is not how much India can export. What is of paramount importance is to keep the Indian steel industry going. We must remember that it took months when mining activity came to a stand still in both Karnataka and Goa. As we mentioned before, Karnataka has not yet realised its full potential, while Goa would take another six months or so before some activity can be seen, since a lot of formalities have to be completed for the existing mine owners, particularly those who have proper documentation and clearances. Of course, it is imperative that illegal mining activity must be stopped; but those with the least "lapses" in terms of compliance of formalities should be permitted to commence their operations.
A total ban would affect the industry and thousands employed, besides loss of revenue for the country.
(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.)