Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Lodha Sells Rs 500 Crore Worth Flats in 9 Days at Mumbai High Rise

Premium realty player Lodha Group has registered bookings to the tune of over Rs 500 crore for an ultra-luxurious residential project in the metropolis, three years after it was reopened for booking on November 29.

The company's iconic 117-storey project, 'World One Tower' is located in south-central Mumbai.

"After three years, bookings have reopened for a limited window. Despite challenging environment, we have received record bookings of around Rs 500 crore from November 29 to date," Lodha Group managing director Abhisheck Lodha said today.

The bookings will close on December 14.

Nearly 75 per cent of the civil construction has been completed. The project is expected to be completed in 2016.

Lodha had announced the project in 2010. Initially, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had opposed the project, citing security concerns.

"But now we have all the necessary approvals in place and expect this project, once completed, to generate revenues to the tune of over Rs 5,000 crore," he said.

The Mumbai-based realty major is developing 3 and 4 BHK apartments, which are likely to fetch in the upwards of Rs 70,000-80,000 per sq ft. Lodha is also developing two other towers - World View and World Crest - on the land parcel spread over 17.5 acres.

India's GDP Growth May Surpass China in 2 Years: Kotak Life

India's GDP growth is likely to recover in the next financial year 2015-16 and may surpass China's growth by 2016-17, Hemant Kanawala, head of equity at Kotak Life Insurance, told NDTV.

"The Indian GDP is likely to recover in FY16. We are expecting that growth will recover above 6 per cent next year and by CY16 (Calendar Year 2016) or FY17 India is likely to surpass GDP growth of even China. India is likely to emerge one of the fastest growing economies among the emerging markets," he said.

India's growth has been stuck at sub-5 per cent for the last two fiscals - its worst ever performance in 25 years. While China's economy grew by 7.7 per cent in the last fiscal, India grew at 4.7 per cent.

"The expectation is Chinese growth will come off...for FY17 or CY16, which investors globally see, Indian GDP is likely to be in the range of 7 per cent whereas China is likely to go below that as of now, this is what the current estimates suggest," he said.

The Reserve Bank of India or RBI sees India's GDP growth at 5.5 per cent in FY15. The World Bank pegs it at 5.6 per cent.

Investors expect FY16 GDP in the range of 6-6.5 per cent, Mr Kanawala said. "But the exact GDP in March 16 is likely to be between 6.5-7 per cent," he added.

The International Monetary Fund or IMF expects China's growth to slow down to 6.5 per cent sometime in 2016, while the World Bank sees China's growth slide to 7.1 per cent in 2016.

Kotak expects the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to lower interest rates next year, which it believes will propel growth.

"If inflation remains lower, then there will be greater ability of RBI to lower interest rates, which is one of the first requirements for the economy to recover and grow faster," Mr Kanawala said.

Wholesale inflation in October cooled to a 5-year low of 1.77 per cent, helped by fall in food and fuel prices; while retail inflation eased for the third straight month to 5.52 per cent.

Faster clearance of projects which are stalled and reforms on land and labour will be the key to India's growth recovery, Kotak said.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Rise and Rise of India

The world’s second most populous country is aiming to eclipse China as the next industrial superpower

With its chronic blackouts, crumbling roads, and other -infrastructure woes, India should have no appeal for John Ginascol. A vice president at Abbott Laboratories, Ginascol is responsible for ensuring that the com-pany’s food-products factories run smoothly worldwide. He can’t afford surprises when it comes to electricity, water, and other essentials. “People like me,” he says, “dream of having existing, good, reliable infrastructure.”

“[India's] the only country that has the scale to take up where China is leaving off”

Yet Abbott has just opened its first plant in India, and Ginascol says there haven’t been any nightmares so far. In October, the company began production at a $75 million factory in an industrial park in the western state of Gujarat. The factory is producing Similac baby formula and nutritional supplement PediaSure, which Abbott plans to sell to the growing Indian middle class. The plant will employ about 400 workers by the time it’s fully up and running next year. As for India’s infrastructure, Ginascol has no complaints. The officials in charge of the park “were able to deliver very good, very reliable power, water, natural gas, and roads”, he says. “Fundamentally, the infrastructure was in place.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is hoping other executives will be similarly impressed with the ease of manufacturing in his country. Before Modi took charge in New Delhi, he headed the state government in Gujarat, and during his 13 years in power there he made the state an industrial leader. Manufacturing accounts for 28 percent of Gujarat’s economy, compared with 13 percent for the country as a whole, and a touch less than the 30 percent figure for manufacturing titan China.

In an attempt to build India’s industrial base nationwide, Modi is pushing the Make in India campaign, designed to attract foreign investment by highlighting the ongoing changes. “We have to increase manufacturing and ensure that the benefits reach the youth of our nation,” Modi tweeted after the initiative’s 25 September introduction. By now he’s eased restrictions on foreign investment in property projects and begun an overhaul of the railroad system.

In the year ahead the prime minister’s campaign may gain momentum, thanks to the shifting fortunes of India and neighbouring China. The Indian economy, which slumped badly in 2012 and 2013, will likely grow 6.3 percent next year, in part because of investor confidence in Modi. By 2016, the country’s growth rate of 7.2 percent will surpass China’s 7.1 percent, says CLSA senior economist Rajeev Malik.

Well before the arrival of Modi, Indian leaders had talked about promoting manufacturing. The slowdown in China, however, could make a big difference this time. China became an export powerhouse because of its vast pool of low-wage workers, but it’s no longer so cheap to manufacture there. Pinched by -double-digit increases in China’s minimum wages, many companies are looking for low-cost alternatives. Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia are attractive, but they lack the deep supply of workers available in India.

“It’s the only country that has the scale to take up where China is leaving off,” says Frederic Neumann, a senior economist with HSBC. Vietnam and Indonesia? “Neither one is big enough to take up the slack,” he says, leaving India with a “golden opportunity”.

The hourly labour cost in India for manufacturing averages 92¢, compared with $3.52 in China, according to Boston Consulting Group. But, says Anil Gupta, a professor at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, India hasn’t come close to matching China’s investments in the roads, ports, and power networks that companies want. “Lousy infrastructure essentially eats up any advantage the country may have on the labour front.”

Local leaders allied with Modi are trying to change that. In Madhya Pradesh, the state government is creating 27 industrial areas while promising to improve infrastructure and make labour laws and land acquisition regulations more investor-friendly. Passing new labour laws that make it easier to hire and fire is especially important.

On the diplomatic front, Modi has adroitly taken advantage of the rivalry between Japan and China: After recent meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping, he won commitments for almost $57 billion in investments in India. China pledged $20 billion, and Japan about 4 trillion yen ($35.5 billion). Much of the money will be used to build a giant industrial corridor between Delhi and Mumbai featuring high-speed trains and superhighways. The goal, University of Maryland’s Gupta says, is to turn the area into the equivalent of southern China’s Guangdong province, which built special economic zones to -transform China into an -exporting power. India’s leaders “have the political ducks lined up” to make that happen, he says.

For Investors, India Remains Favorite Emerging Market

Kudos to new prime minister Narendra Modi. Thanks to him and Reserve Bank of India chairman Raghuram Rajan, India is the global fund managers favorite emerging market.

Despite a temporary bump in its growth trajectory, London-based investment firm Schroders says India is the best of the big emerging markets for investors.

“The emerging markets are a concern and our earnings outlook for three of the four BRICs is negative, but India is the only bright spot in our view,” writes Alex Tedder, head of global equities for Schroders. He said India, “has an exciting investment story, with exceptional demographics and a vibrant private sector. Although the economy and the market have both done well in 2014, we think they have further to go.”

The Wisdom Tree India (EPI) exchange traded fund is up 33.2% this year while the MSCI Emerging Markets Index is down 0.7% year to date ending Nov. 30.

The Modi government’s policy initiatives have been encouraging, including a stream lining of government bureaucracies. Local infrastructure companies remain a favorite as Delhi continues to tout plans to build much-needed infrastructure in the poorest of the BRIC nations.

Tedder said the Indian consumer should also receive a welcome boost from lower energy prices and reduced inflationary pressure.

India’s growth hit a temporary snag in the second quarter, which runs from July to September for India. GDP grew 5.3% compared to the same period a year ago, beating the consensus forecast of 5.1%. However, this growth follows 5.7% yearly growth in the first quarter.

With this latest data, released to the market last week, India’s first half of fiscal year 2014-15 stands at 5.5% compared to 4.7% last year.

Barclays Capital said on Nov. 28 that India’s GDP should expand this year by 5.7%, ending in April. India’s growth is expected to hit 6% next fiscal year.

The second quarter growth slowed down was largely due to weaker industrial production.

India Promises to 'Fast-Track' $12 Billion Rafale Deal: Sources

The French and Indian defence ministers agreed to press ahead with negotiations on the sale of 126 Rafale fighter jets to India, both sides said on Tuesday, after slow progress cast doubt on the estimated $12 billion or about Rs. 74,400-crore deal.

Under the deal, the first 18 planes will be made in France and shipped to India, while the remaining 108 will be produced by state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.

France's Dassault Aviation has been trying to clinch the deal to sell India since New Delhi chose the company over other foreign plane manufacturers in 2012. But disagreements over cost and work-sharing have slowed talks, while India's weak economy has stretched government finances.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar met his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian in the capital on Monday. Mr Parrikar allegedly said the deal "would be resolved in a fast-track manner."

"It was decided that whatever differences still existed would be resolved in a fast-track manner" an Indian defence ministry spokesman told news agency AFP.

French company Dassault Aviation won the right in 2012 to enter exclusive negotiations with India to supply 126 fighters after lodging a lower bid than rival firm Eurofighter.

India, the world's top weapons importer, is in the midst of a $100-billion defence upgrade programme and experts say it urgently needs the jet fighters to maintain a combat edge over nuclear rival Pakistan.

Friday, November 21, 2014

How GST Will Change the Face of Indian Economy

Indian truck drivers clock an average of 280 km per day, much below the world average of 400 km per day and far below the 700 km the average truck driver in the US does every day. The underperformance of Indian truckers has less to do with bad roads and less fancy trucks and more about prevailing archaic laws.

Truck drivers in India spend 60 per cent of their time off roads negotiating check posts and toll plazas, says UBS Securities, which has also found that there are 650-odd check posts in the country and 11 categories of taxes on the road transport sector.

Since road traffic accounts for 60 per cent of freight traffic in India, the slow movement of trucks across states leads to productivity loss. According to UBS, if the distance covered goes up by 20 per cent per day, Indian truck productivity would improve by 12 per cent.

Higher productivity would cut the need for buffer stocks; reduce the loss of perishable goods, cut down the need for many warehouses, etc.

Analysts say the implementation of the goods and services tax(GST) could provide the kind of productivity boost illustrated above. Gautam Chhaochharia, head of India Research of UBS Securities, explains the benefits of GST,

1) Unified market: The GST will cut down the large number of taxes imposed by the central government (eg. central VAT or excise duty, services tax, central sales tax on inter-state sales, etc.) and states (VAT on sales, entertainment tax, luxury tax and octroi and entry taxes levied by municipalities). This will lead to the creation of a unified market, which would facilitate seamless movement of goods across states and reduce the transaction cost of businesses.

2) Lower incentive to evade tax: Currently, companies have to pay taxes on entire underlying value of the product/service, but under GST, companies in a chain will have to pay tax only on the value-addition. So, the actual tax paid will likely be small and reduce the incentive for evasion.

3) Widen tax base: GST will give credits for all taxes paid earlier in the goods/services chain incentivising tax-paying firms to source inputs from other registered dealers. This will bring in additional revenues to the government as the unorganised sector, which is not part of the value chain, would be drawn into the tax net. Besides, states will be allowed to tax services (as opposed to only the central government) under the GST.

According to the National Council of Applied Economic Research, government's tax revenue will increase by about 0.2 per cent because of GST implementation, while GDP growth could go up by 0.9-1.7 per cent. Exports will also get a boost as they are zero-rated for taxes and also because the fall in cost of manufactured goods and services under GST will increase the competitiveness of Indian goods and services in the international market, UBS says.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday said that ensuring the passage of the constitutional amendment Bill in Parliamentary will be a priority for the government. The government will also need the consent of 50 per cent of states to implement GST by April 2016.

However, a consensus is still missing on the final GST tax rates and recommendations vary from 16 per cent to 27 per cent.

Mangalyaan Among Best Inventions of 2014: TIME Magazine

Mangalyaan has been named among the best inventions of 2014 by Time magazine which described it as a technological feat that will allow India to flex its "interplanetary muscles."

"Nobody gets Mars right on the first try. The US didn't, Russia didn't, the Europeans didn't. But on September 24, India did. That's when the Mangalyaan... went into orbit around the Red Planet, a technological feat no other Asian nation has yet achieved," Time said about Mangalyaan, calling it "The Supersmart Spacecraft."

Mangalyaan is among the 25 'Best Inventions of 2014' listed by Time magazine that are "making the world better, smarter and-in some cases-a little more fun."

Developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation, the Mars spacecraft cost India just US $74 million, less than the budget for the multi-Academy Award winning science fiction thriller film Gravity. Time said at that price, the Mangalyaan is equipped with just five onboard instruments that allow it to do simple tasks like measure Martian methane and surface composition.

"More important, however, it allows India to flex its interplanetary muscles, which portends great things for the country's space programme and for science in general," Time said.

The list also includes inventions by two Indians for developing an exercise space for prisoners in solitary confinement and a tablet toy for kids.

Nalini Nadkarni, forest ecologist and college professor helped develop the 'Blue Room' with Snake River Correctional Institution in Oregon for inmates in solitary confinement, who for 23 hours a day see nothing but a tiny, white-walled cell, an experience some research suggests heightens mental illness and makes prisoners prone to suicide attempts and violence.

Last year, officials began letting some of them spend their free hour in a first-of-its-kind Blue Room, an exercise

space where a projector plays video of open deserts, streaming waterfalls and other outdoor scenes. Nadkarni says the imagery is designed to calm prisoners, "much in the way we walk through a park" to relax.

Former Google engineer Pramod Sharma developed 'Osmo', a tablet toy that gets physical. Sharma got the inspiration when he saw his daughter playing with the iPad, but did not want her to be glued to the tablet all day long.

The toy, which debuted in October, has helped Osmo raise US $14.5 million in capital and is now being sold in the Apple Store.

The other inventions are a reactor developed by aerospace company Lockheed Martin that could realize nuclear fusion,

Apple's smart watch that besides telling time, can send messages, give directions, track fitness and make wireless payments and Microsoft's Surface Pro 3, a "hybrid" that bundles laptop into a 12-inch tablet and can run desktop apps.

Friday, November 14, 2014

World's 'most complicated' Patek Philippe gold watch sells for record $24.4 million

The most "complicated" handmade watch in the world has been sold at auction for an historic $24.4 million.

The Henry Graves Supercomplication timepiece, made by the luxury watchmaker Patek Philippe in 1933 for the prominent banker Henry Graves, was sold at Sotheby's in Switzerland.

The sale smashed the world record for the most expensive watch ever sold at auction, which was previously held by the same watch. In 1999, it was sold to Sheikh Saud Bin Mohammed Bin Ali Al-Thani of the Qatari royal family, for $11 million.

The watch was released in 2014 to coincide with the 175th anniversary of the Swiss watch maker. The sale has benefited from the boom in Patek Phillippe auction values over the last 15 years.

The term "complication" is a technical one, and refers to any aspect of a watch that offers a function that is not simply telling the time.

The timepiece -- which has been called "the most important watch in the world," "one of the wonders of the world," and "the collector's holy grail" -- boasts 24 such complications.

These include grande and petite sonnerie (chimes), which emulate the bells of Westminster; a record of the phases and age of the moon; sunrise and sunset indications; a "perpetual calendar" that makes automatic adjustments for month and year; and a celestial map of the New York sky.

The watch was made by Patek Philippe for Henry Graves, a prominent banker, in 1933.

The celestial map alone is a remarkable feat of engineering. It charts the precise spacing and density of the stars, and rotates at the same pace as the sky as it would have appeared from its owner's Fifth Avenue apartment.

The watch is comprised of 900 individual parts, and, according to Sotheby's, is the most advanced timepiece ever made without the assistance of computers. It was last wound in 1969, yet remains in perfect working order.

The Supercomplication was made as the result of a friendly competition between Graves, a member of a well-known banking family, and James Ward Packard, the luxury automobile manufacturer, to see who could produce the most impressive timepiece.

Packard's attempt was a pioneering feat. It was the first ever watch to feature a sky chart, which included 500 golden stars and was centered above his home in Ohio.

You are talking about one of the most collectible pieces ever put up for auction, if not the most collectible.

Larry Pattinelli, Patek Phillippe

However, it contained just 10 complications, making Graves' timepiece the undisputed winner with 24.

One of the Supercomplication's more obscure features is a sidereal time dial, which tracks the Earth's rate of rotation in relation to fixed stars. A "sidereal day", which is used by astronomers, lasts for 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4.1 seconds. It is unclear whether Graves had any use for the functionality.

"It's amazing that they did all that without computers," says Larry Pattinelli, the president of Patek Phillippe. "You are talking about one of the most collectible pieces ever put up for auction, if not the most collectible."

The Supercomplication took Patek Phillipe eight years to produce, from its commission in 1925 to delivery in 1933. The identity of the new buyer is unknown.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Alibaba Singles' Day Sales Surge Past $8 Billion

E-commerce giant Alibaba's Singles' Day sales broke through the $8 billion mark late on Tuesday, illustrating the buying power of the Chinese consumer and the importance of the event in the retail calendar.

The live sales figure on Alibaba Group Holding Ltd's giant screen at its sprawling Hangzhou campus surged past 2013's record high to the CNY 50 billion ($8.16 billion, roughly Rs. 50,200 crores) mark with almost three hours left on the clock as Chinese and overseas shoppers bought heavily discounted online goods.

The recent U.S. listing, just eight weeks ago, seemed though to quieten company leaders.

Jack Ma, the normally chatty executive chairman, shied away from the main media events, limiting himself to an interview with state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV).

The shopping day, similar to Cyber Monday and Black Friday in the U.S., comes less than eight weeks after its public share listing in New York, which set its own $25 billion record (roughly Rs. 1,54,000 crores).

Alibaba turned the Singles' Day celebration, a Nov. 11 Chinese response to romantic holidays like Valentine's Day, into an online shopping festival in 2009. It copyrighted the "Double 11" term three years later after recognising its commercial potential.

"You're seeing the unleashing of the consumption power of the Chinese consumer," Joe Tsai, Alibaba Group's executive vice chairman, told reporters.

"We really are witnessing history here because we are seeing the shift of the economy from focused on the state sector to consumption."

Alibaba did 35 billion yuan in business during last year's festival, and Tech research firm IDC predicts this year's total gross merchandise volume (GMV) will reach $8.62 billion (roughly Rs. 53,000 crores).

Boosting the numbers
Less than 18 minutes into this year's "11.11 Shopping Festival", GMV had already hit $1 billion.

The numbers are boosted by Alibaba's "pre-sales initiative". Merchants advertised Singles' Day prices as early as Oct. 15, taking deposits for the items but only processing full payments and shipping the goods on Singles' Day itself.

Though the 27,000 vendors that take part can boost their sales and gain customers by being featured on Alibaba's Singles' Day shopping sites, some have complained that discounts and cut-throat corporate rivalry undercut the benefits.

Analysts also said Alibaba's GMV will be driven by order cancellations during Singles' Day being delayed until Wednesday on, its online retail site.

"Tmall will not let you cancel Singles' Day orders until the following day, because they want to be able to talk about the GMV number and the enormous target," said Mark Natkin, managing director of Beijing-based Marbridge Consulting.

Pole position
While rivals such as Inc, Suning Commerce Group Co Ltd and Wal-Mart Stores Inc's Yihaodian have all gotten in on the Singles' Day act, Tsai was bullish about Alibaba's pole position.

"I don't think any other company in China can create a day like this," he said.

Chinese online retailer said on its official Twitter account that orders in the first 16 hours of Singles' Day had more than doubled compared with last year.

China's Xiaomi Technology Co Ltd, the world's third-largest smartphone maker, which also uses the Singles' Day festival to boost turnover, said on its official Weibo account its sales had so far surpassed CNY 1.4 billion (roughly Rs. 1,400 crores), and as of Tuesday evening it had sold more than 1 million handsets.

The "11.11 Shopping Festival", which Alibaba says is the world's biggest 24-hour online sale, began with just 27 merchants in 2009 offering deep discounts on the company's Tmall site to boost sales during an otherwise slack period.

This year's festival is global, reaching shoppers in more than 200 countries, the company said.

Oklahoma Oilman's Billion-Dollar Divorce is One of Largest Ever

During his nearly 50 years as an Oklahoma oilman, Harold Hamm has done everything on a huge scale. The chief executive and majority shareholder of Continental Resources, he owns the largest piece of the greatest oil discovery of our age, in the shale-rich plains of North Dakota. His net worth has been pegged at more than $18 billion by Forbes, making him the 24th richest man in the country.

Now another superlative can be added to Hamm's outsize career: He is paying one of the biggest divorce settlements in history.

After a secretive, nine-week trial, a judge in Oklahoma City has ruled that Hamm, 68, must pay nearly $1 billion to his ex-wife, Sue Ann Hamm. With the bang of a gavel, she has joined the ranks of the wealthiest women in the United States.

Or rather, she will join those ranks over time. The judgment requires Harold Hamm to pay his ex-wife about $320 million, or one-third of the total settlement, by the end of 2014. The rest is to be paid in chunks of at least $7 million a month. For a little perspective, that figure is slightly larger than last year's salary of the chief executive of U.S. Steel.

The settlement looks economy-class compared with the $4.8 billion that the Russian oligarch and "fertilizer king" Dmitry Rybolovlev paid his ex-wife, Elena, this year. But the payment is large enough that the presiding judge in the case, Howard Haralson, placed a lien on 20 million shares - or more than $ 1 billion - of Harold Hamm's Continental stock.

Hamm, who has described himself as "more hardheaded than other people," did not have a particular document that is all but standard now whenever tycoons wed: a prenuptial agreement. Barring future fiascos, this will surely stand as the costliest decision of Hamm's life. He has already paid his ex-wife roughly $25 million since the case was filed in 2012, the ruling stated.

Messages left with Continental Resources and with a lawyer for Sue Ann Hamm were not returned.

Harold Hamm was just another middle-age multimillionaire when he married Sue Ann Hamm, his second wife and a woman a decade his junior, in 1988. At the time, she was a lawyer at Continental and Harold Hamm was just beginning to snap up roughly 1 million acres of land leases in North Dakota, Montana and parts of Canada in what is the Bakken formation.

The Bakken turned out to be a rich underground trove. The question at the center of the divorce trial was what exactly led Hamm to it and his epochal fortune - expertise or dumb luck?

Under Oklahoma law, the answer matters. The money a spouse earns while married can be part of a divorce settlement if it is made through skill. If, on the other hand, the increase is attributable to "changing economic conditions, or circumstances beyond the parties' control," as the state's Supreme Court put it in a 1995 case, then that money is off the table.

The law put Hamm and his lawyers in an odd spot. They had to argue that one of the country's singular entrepreneurs, an up-from-nothing wildcatter, had essentially stumbled into his billions. This seemed like a tough sell. Hamm was once quoted as saying that "My biggest advantage is that I was born with no advantage."

As Hamm sought to poor-mouth his prowess, his company followed suit. Continental's proxy filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission for years have praised Hamm for "his leadership and business judgment." Not anymore. As Reuters wrote in September, that phrase was excised in the company's most recent proxy, along with a reference to Hamm as "one of the driving forces" behind Continental.

Haralson did not seem to buy this just-lucky account of Hamm's accomplishments. In arriving at the settlement terms, the judge cited Hamm's "skills and efforts" and said his leadership spurred an "increase in value for Continental." He also called Hamm "an expert in the oil field service business" and even after this ruling, Hamm remains one of the richest. As a fraction of his net worth, the settlement leaves him with many billions to spare.

Aside from the final judgment, little of the proceedings have been public. All but three days of the trial were held in a room at the Oklahoma City county courthouse with a handmade "Do Not Enter" sign attached to the door. Most of the voluminous filings in the case were placed under seal by the judge, who ruled in early August that "confidential financial information" about Continental could be revealed in the proceedings that might harm the company.

But enough about the case has come to light to make clear that it did not stint on drama. In a 2013 filing, Sue Ann Hamm accused her husband of infidelity, and seven years ago - after she had moved out of their home and to another city - she began documenting his extramarital behavior on audio and video tapes. Lawyers for Harold Hamm would later demand those tapes as a way to prove that the two hadn't lived as husband and wife for a long time.

Filings by Harold Hamm's lawyers stated that the union had been loveless for more than a decade, a "marriage in name only." Sue Ann Hamm's lawyers retorted in a filing of their own that "nothing under Oklahoma law suggests that a loveless marriage does not qualify as a marriage for the purposes of property division issues."

The settlement is a rare setback for a man accustomed to success on his own terms. Hamm is the 13th and youngest child of sharecroppers, and he moved with his parents from job to job as a child. "We went wherever the cotton was good," he told National Review last year.

His interest in the oil business started when he was a teenager, living in Enid, Oklahoma, with a job at truck stop called the Potter Oil Co. In 1967, he parlayed the proceeds from his truck hauling business into a tiny oil drilling company and struck a 75-barrel-an-hour gusher on his second try.

When he turned his attention to the Bakken formation, in the mid-'80s, other companies had already tapped into it and moved on. Hamm thought that was a mistake, and fracking and horizontal drilling would prove him right.

His hunches and persistence led not just to a vast windfall, but notoriety. He was named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world in 2012. He and Sue Ann Hamm were photographed at a gala celebrating the occasion at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Mitt Romney, during his run for president, named him his chief energy adviser.

Harold Hamm has two adult daughters with Sue Ann Hamm, Jane and Hillary. His first marriage, to Judith Ann Hamm, ended when she accused him of having an affair with Sue Ann.

Much of the judge's ruling is given over to a lengthy inventory of the Hamm's considerable holdings, which include a $17.4 million ranch in Carmel Valley, California, a $4.6 million home in Nichols Hills, Oklahoma, as well as homes in Enid and Branson, Missouri. There is also a hangar at an airport and shares of an assortment of companies, many of them worth multiple millions. Then there is Orbit Gas Storage, which was given a "value of zero" in the ruling.

Hamm was granted that apparently worthless entity by the judge, who painstakingly divvied up everything else. He awarded livestock, farm equipment and home furnishings from the California ranch to Sue Ann Hamm but gave Harold Hamm two horses, Star and Uno. The judge even addressed a last-minute request from Harold Hamm for "certain family pictures, a few books, guns, shotguns, some pictures, geode in quartz display, and his hand tools" in the Nichols Hill residence. Harold Hamm was awarded all of it, with one exception.

"Respondent's request for the geode in quartz display," the judge wrote, without explanation, "is denied."

Friday, November 7, 2014

Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II Launched; Priced at Rs. 4.5 Crore

Rolls-Royce has launched the Ghost Series II starting at Rs. 4.5 crore (ex-showroom pan India). The car was first seen at the Geneva Motorshow and now has made its way into India. For Rolls-Royce, India is an extremely important market, not as important or big as China though, but still. The company already has 5 dealerships across India and has plans to expand it further in the years to come.

The Ghost Series II gets subtle changes to the exterior and interior and a few additions to the options list. The attention is drawn straight away by the rectangular LED headlamps which replace the round main headlamps. There are also 21-inch alloys along with new paint shades and a new rear bumper.

The Series II also gets new seats with reworked electronic adjustments and heating options. The rear seats have been subtly re-angled to augment communication with fellow passengers. The instrument cluster gets marginal changes but there is a new infotainment system with 10-inch multimedia screen with a touchpad controller that makes its way inside the car.

There will be occasions when you might want to get behind the wheel of this one and it won't disappoint. At the heart is the same 6.6-litre V12 engine which churns out 563bhp and 780Nm. Mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the Ghost Series II will hit a top speed limited to 250km/h and accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 4.7 seconds.

You might think that 4.5 crores is a lot of money but Sven Ritter, GM Rolls-Royce Asia Pacific says, "We are bringing the car to India because there definitely is a demand and we want to fulfill it. People in India love our cars."

Bill Gates Needs 218 Years to Spend His Wealth by spending $1 Million a day

A recent report by international NGO Oxfam says it would take Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates nearly 218 years to spend his entire money, if he spends $1 million (Rs. 6 crore) per day.

Drawing the spotlight at the rising inequality of wealth, Oxfam estimates that the richest 85 people on the planet owned as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity. "Between March 2013 and March 2014, these 85 people grew $668 Million (Rs. 4000 crore) richer each day," the report said.

The report however praised Bill Gates for his philanthropic efforts, saying, "The decision of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet to give away their fortunes is an example to the rest of the world's billionaires."

The report ranks Bill Gates as the second richest in the world, pegging his wealth at $80 billion (Rs. 4.8 lakh crore). "In reality though, he would never run out of money: even a modest return of just under two per cent would make him $4.2 million (25 crore) each day in interest alone," adds the report.

The Microsoft cofounder is ranked next to the Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, for whom it would take 220 years to spend his entire wealth, says the report.

Titled 'Even it Up: Time to End Extreme Inequality' the report analyses economic inequality across the world.

Also drawing attention to the economic inequality in India, the report says, "Despite being a country ravaged by poverty, the number of billionaires in India has soared from two in the mid-1990s to 65."

"The net worth of India's billionaires would be enough to eliminate absolute poverty in the country twice over," it adds.

20 Crore Brides Will Need 20 Crore Saris: PM Modi to Varanasi's Weavers

Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered a canny business plan for weavers in his Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi today - making the famous Banarasi sari available for the weddings of the "20 crore girls who will get married in the next few years."

He also asked the weavers to use opportunities offered by e-commerce to tap a global market and to modify the industry to do that effectively.

"Every mother wants a Banarasi sari for her daughter on their wedding day... 20 crore girls will get married in the next few years. So 20 crore saris will be needed. Such a big market waiting for you," the PM told weavers, adding, that an assured market meant they must increase production and ensure quality, good design and service.

"Everyone in the world knows about Varanasi's textiles. You must strategically plan to reach the global consumer," Mr Modi said, adding that the textile sector provides vast employment to the poorest and needs comprehensive vision and modern technology. He promised he would ensure that there is no dearth of funds for various projects.

Most of the Varanasi's 40,000 weavers are Muslims who have engaged in the traditional craft, now floundering, for generations. In his election campaign the Prime Minister had promised to improve their lot with modern technology, branding, designing and marketing.

Today, as he laid the foundation for a Rs.200 crore Trade Facilitation Centre, he said this was the beginning of his dream for Varanasi. "I believe in doing things rather than making tall claims. You have expressed faith in me and showered me with love," the PM said.

This is Mr Modi's first trip to Varanasi since he took over as Prime Minister.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The $95-Million View in New York

It's a $95-million view from the tallest residential tower in the Americas. But the newest addition to Manhattan's iconic skyline has attracted a cloud of controversy.

Still under construction and with US flags pinned patriotically to its shell, 432 Park Avenue soars above Midtown, casting a shadow over Central Park and designer boutiques on Madison Avenue.

At 1,396 feet (425.5 meters) the tower by Uruguayan "starchitect" Rafael Vinoly is higher than the 1,250-foot Empire State Building -- but eclipsed by One World Trade Center, which rises to 1,776 feet including a 408-foot antenna.

The Los Angeles-based developers CIM Group have already sold the top penthouse for $95 million and 50 percent of the apartments, which start at $17 million, before opening in Spring 2015.

The view -- marketed as a helicopter view -- offers vistas that stretch from Central Park to the Atlantic Ocean and Connecticut.

And it's not alone.

A string of super-tall, super-luxury buildings have sprung up and are still in development changing the city skyscape forever.

"They appeal to a very specific buyer pool and that buyer pool has proven to be very aggressive and very deep," said Robert Knakal, one of New York's top real estate brokers and chairman of Massey Knakal Realty Services.

But not everyone's happy.

A recent op-ed in the New York Observer complained about "hellish experience," "dynamite blasts" and "incessant screeching" endured by residents and office workers from mega projects in development.

'Ghost ships'

Opponents complain that city regulations provide no public review process in Midtown, that historic buildings are being demolished in their wake and that billionaires squeeze everyone else out.

"I think it's very controversial," said Alex Herrera, director of technical services at The New York Landmarks Conservancy. "We have never seen anything like this before."

The 1920s Drake Hotel, where Frank Sinatra, Muhammed Ali, Judy Garland and Jimi Hendrix stayed, was torn down to make way for 432 Park Avenue.

Herrera calls mega towers "ghost ships" -- bought as investments by international billionaires, who visit only a couple of weeks a year and so tall that they cast shadows across Central Park.

In a few years, 432 Park Avenue will be eclipsed as work progresses on a taller tower being built by developers Extell round the corner on West 57th Street.

Extell has already built a 90-storey condo designed by famed French architect Christian de Portzamparc on the same street.

Master piano makers Steinway and Sons are leaving West 57th Street next year after selling their 1925 flagship showroom, where Rachmaninoff practiced, to JDS Development Group for $46 million.

"It's definitely changing our skyline and it's certainly changing the character of 57th Street, which used to be a very quaint street of art galleries and piano stores," said Herrera.

"Now, it's a street of billionaires who don't really live there."

City voters last year elected Democrat mayor Bill de Blasio on a ticket of greater equality after income gaps widened during the 12-year tenure of billionaire-philanthropist Michael Bloomberg.

Fuels local economy

De Blasio has an ambitious affordable housing plan in the wake of middle class professionals leaving Manhattan and while an estimated 21 percent of New York city residents live in poverty.

Neither is New York a capital city and while historic buildings are preserved, it's a business city driven by profits.

Herrera wants 57th Street landmarked to protect the other historic buildings. "What we're looking for is a balance," he said.

But Knakal insists there is a balance and credits the city planning commission with doing an "excellent job" on zoning.

And even if billionaire residents, don't stay all year, they still pay real estate taxes and don't consume public services, he says.

"Folks who are residing in those apartments probably spend more money and inject more dollars into the local economy than the average New Yorker does in the whole year."

But members of the public are at best divided over the expansion. Many say the super rich have earned their right to live and buy whatever they want, seeing the skyscrapers as a status symbol.

Others feel alienated by the overt display of wealth pushing out public sector workers and creative workers on tighter budgets.

"I think it's absolutely ridiculous to spend that kind of money to live there," said wealth advisor Lawrence Bogar, who works in the city but lives across the river in New Jersey.

"You could spend the money on far better properties."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Snapdeal, Ola Cabs to Raise Funds From Japan's SoftBank

SoftBank said Tuesday it would invest $627 million (roughly Rs. 3,800 crores) in Snapdeal, becoming the largest shareholder in India's leading online marketplace as the Japanese mobile carrier strengthens its presence in the fast-growing market.

The deal was expected to be completed by the end of November, said a SoftBank spokeswoman in Tokyo.

"With this investment, the SoftBank group will become Snapdeal's largest shareholder," she said, without disclosing further details.

Snapdeal is India's fastest-growing and largest e-commerce website, with more than 25 million registered users and over 50,000 business sellers.

The New Delhi-based company, which has annual sales of $1 billion (roughly Rs. 6,100 crores), has raised $350 million (roughly Rs. 2,150 crores) since its founding in 2010.

But after the latest round of funding from SoftBank and others, Snapdeal's valuation will rise to an estimated $2 billion (roughly Rs. 12,200 crores) with SoftBank as the single largest investor.

"Snapdeal is thrilled and honoured to have SoftBank as a strategic partner," co-founder and chief executive Kunal Bahl said in a statement.

"We are confident we will further strengthen our promise to consumers and create life-changing experiences for one million small businesses in India."

(Also See: Snapdeal Can Become the Alibaba of India, Says SoftBank CEO)

Other investors in Snapdeal, which is backed by eBay, include Indian tycoon Ratan Tata, Singapore state-owned investment company Temasek and asset management firm BlackRock.

SoftBank, which made headlines last year after its more than $21 billion (roughly Rs. 1,28,500 crores) takeover of US wireless giant Sprint, said the Snapdeal acquisition was aimed at boosting its presence in the booming Indian online market.

"We believe that India is at a turning point in its development and have confidence that India will grow strongly over the next decade," SoftBank chairman Masayoshi Son said in a statement.

"As part of this belief, we intend to deploy significant capital in India over the next few years to support development of the market," he added.

Son met India's Telecoms and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad during a visit to New Delhi on Monday, as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

India's online retail industry, valued at $1 billion just two years ago, is expected to hit $32 billion (roughly Rs. 1,95,900 crores) in sales in 2020, according to retail consultancy Technopak.

Separately, SoftBank also said Tuesday it would jointly invest $210 million (roughly Rs. 1,300 crores) in India's ANI Technologies, better known as Ola Cabs, which provides a marketplace connecting consumers and taxi drivers through mobile apps, the web and call centres.

"Ola's current shareholders will join the investment but SoftBank will take the lead," another SoftBank spokeswoman said, without elaborating.

SoftBank is a holding company that boasts more than 1,300 subsidiaries and affiliates involved in a range of mobile communications, fixed-line communications and Internet services.

It holds about one-third of Chinese online giant Alibaba and has said it would probably book a gain of about $4.6 billion (roughly Rs. 28,100 crores) from the firm's initial public offering, which raised a record $25 billion (roughly Rs. 1,52,900 crores) last month.

For SoftBank, Snapdeal is 'India's Alibaba'

Indian retail player Snapdeal, which has coughed up $627 million (Rs. 3,824 crore) from Japan's SoftBank in the largest single tranche investment in Indian e-commerce, says it will use the money to invest in its technology infrastructure.

"It's not about the amount of money we have in the bank or the valuation, it's about how we spend it. We're a technology firm, we want to create a life changing experience for 1 million small businesses in India giving them a market-place to sell within a matter of an hour," Kunal Bahl, co-founder and CEO of Snapdeal, told NDTV in an exclusive interview.

Snapdeal already claims to have 25 million users and 50,000 merchants selling on its online platform.

Japan's SoftBank is the single largest shareholder in, the world's biggest e-commerce firm. After this deal, SoftBank will now be the largest shareholder in Snapdeal too. "Masayoshi Son at Softbank must have seen in Snapdeal what he saw in Alibaba 15 years ago. Our philosophy of enabling small businesses to sell on our platform resonated with SoftBank," Mr Bahl told NDTV.

The investment values Snapdeal at over $2 billion (Rs. 12,200 crore), coming just four months after its rival Flipkart raised over $1 billion (Rs.6,100 crore) from a clutch of investors valuing it at over $7 billion.

Talking about the exponential valuation that Indian online firms are getting, Mr Bahl said, "Valuation is just a number. It is not a chase for more money, more valuation or more profits, the chase should always be how can we move the needle for the country."

Indian e-commerce will grow from $5-6 billion (Rs. 30,500-36600 crore) to over $100 billion (Rs. 6.1 lakh crore) in the next 7-8 years, Mr Bahl added.

"Our business model is very similar to Alibaba's...where Alibaba generated 5 billion dollars of EBITA last year. The notion that e-commerce companies don't make money is absolutely not true... Globally, the largest and most profitable businesses are pure marketplaces like ours," Mr Bahl said.

Online players like Snapdeal, Flipkart and Amazon have been engaging in marketing and price wars. Snapdeal ran a print media campaign offering promotional discounts to counter the much-hyped Big Billion Day sale by its rival Flipkart earlier this month. Flipkart was later forced to issue an apology to its customers for the glitches, which include prices being pushed up, cancellation of orders and inadequate product stocks.

Talking about the inability of online players to keep pace with rising demand, Mr Bahl said, "This year the growth in e-commerce was not foreseen by anyone including us. The growth has been nothing short of exponential. The infrastructure is lagging a bit vis-a-vis the growth in actual orders getting placed on e-commerce sites. It is a temporary phase... Give it a few months or a year. I am pretty sure all our third-party logistics partners will build up necessary capacities."

Mr Bahl featured in the Fortune list of '40 under 40' most powerful people in business, making him one of the most successful young entrepreneurs in the world. But, he says, he hasn't forgotten his roots. "I feel as paranoid about our business as I did when Rohit (Rohit Bansal, co-founder and COO, Snapdeal) and I first started from the basement of the furniture market in Delhi. We haven't forgotten where we came from. I tell my team it's important to be aggressive, thoughtful, purposeful but also very humble."

Airbus And Tata Team Up to Bid For New Planes For Air Force

Europe's Airbus and Tata Sons have bid for a multi-billion dollar contract to replace the Indian Air Force's ageing fleet of AVRO cargo planes, as New Delhi looks to boost the role of the local private sector in modernising its armed forces.

Under the bid, estimated by analysts to be worth at least $2 billion or Rs. 12,200 crore, Airbus' Defence and Space unit and Tata's Advanced Systems would replace the 56 AVRO jets with Airbus' C295 transport planes, the European manufacturer said on Tuesday.

Airbus would supply the first 16 planes in "fly away" condition from its own assembly line, while the subsequent 40 would be manufactured and assembled by Tata Advanced Systems in India.

They would be the first military planes built by an Indian private company on Indian soil, with current manufacturing dominated by state-run Hindustan Aeronautics.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government have raised the foreign investment limit in defence since coming to power in May, and are moving to clear a backlog of military equipment orders and close the gap on strategic rival China.

The goverment has said it will prioritise companies which have pledged to manufacture within India.

Indian companies such as Tata, Larsen & Toubro and Mahindra Group are spending billions of dollars to build arms, as they look to win a chunk of the $250 billion that analysts estimate India will spend on defence kit over the next decade.

The government first issued a tender for a foreign supplier and Indian private firm to replace the Avro jets in May 2012, but a lack of interest from potential bidders and ministerial infighting led to a series of delays.

India is trying to replace much of its outdated fleet of military planes. The biggest contract is a $15 billion deal with France's Dassault Aviation to buy 126 Rafale fighter jets, which is still to be finalised.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

6 Made-in-India Submarines for Navy for 53,000 Crores

The Defence Acquisition Council of India today cleared defence deals worth Rs. 80,000 crore. The deal includes the acquisition of six conventional submarines to augment the aging and depleted submarine fleet and two midget submarines -- also known as 'Swimmer Delivery Vehicles' - which are used for special operations.

Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'make in India' campaign and the overall policy to build and strengthen the fledgling Indian defence industry, all six boats will be made in Indian shipyards. The Indian Navy - the end users - will identify shipyards that can acquire the technology from foreign manufacturers and build the boats on schedule. The process of identifying the shipyards will be completed in the next two months. There are seven shipyards in India, including four government yards. The Indian exchequer will shell out an estimated Rs. 53,000 crore for the six boats.

Clearing the procurement, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley said, "National security is of paramount concern for the government and all hurdles and bottlenecks in the procurement process should be addressed expeditiously."

The midget submarines weigh less than 150 tons and are smaller than conventional submarines. They can carry between 8 to 24 fully armed commandos, who are ejected through the torpedo tubes some miles away from the target, from where they can swim towards their target, complete the mission and swim back; this is why they are also called 'Swimmer Delivery Vehicles'.

Sources told NDTV that the six conventional submarines will have Air Independent Propulsion Systems which allow the boats to run the diesel engines underwater to charge ships' batteries, allowing them to stay underwater for longer durations. Besides, they will also have stealth features, which essentially mean that the boats will have greater ability to suppress noise.

The Indian Navy will also get 12 more Dornier Aircraft. These will be built by the Bangalore based defence Public Sector Unit - Hindustan Aeronautic Limited - at a total cost of Rs. 1,850 crore. Dorniers are issued for maritime surveillance and the Navy has a fleet of 40 Dorniers.

Apart from this, the Indian Army will also be buying the third generation Anti-Tank Guided Missiles for Israel. The 8000 Spike ATGM missiles and 300 launchers will come at a cost of Rs. 3,200 crore. The Army will also get about 360 odd Armoured Personnel Carriers built by the Ordinance Factory Board for about Rs. 2,000 crore.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How PM Modi's Digital India Will Empower the Postman

In the age of e-mails, the postman could be relevant again.

As part of its Digital India programme, the Narendra Modi government plans to tie up with major e-retailers like Flipkart, Snapdeal and Myntra for them to use the postal department's services to deliver consumer goods in remote areas of the country.

Minister of Communication and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad is expected to meet Sachin and Binny Bansal, the founders of e-commerce giant Flipkart soon to hold detailed discussions. He will also meet other e-tailers.

In preliminary conversations, government sources said, the companies have raised concerns like how the postman will be tracked real-time - a must-have in effective e-commerce - who the single-point contact will be and also efficiency in a department not famous for its timely delivery.

Right now, the postal department can only track a parcel from one centre to another. The government has said it is ready to upgrade technology at post offices, including arming postmen with mobile phones, to address some of these concerns.

The Modi government expects its digital impetus to reach broadband services to far-flung rural areas. The postal department's wide network connects far-flung areas of the country. It employs more than 4.5 lakh people.

Earlier this month Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had met both PM Modi and Mr Prasad on his first visit to India and offered to help connect the country's remote villages to the Internet. He said he was excited about Mr Modi's Digital India initiative and the opportunity it offered.

In August this year, the textile ministry had announced an agreement with Flipkart to provide an online marketing platform to handloom weavers in the country to boost the sector and boost manufacturing in the country.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Top-Secret Space Plane Lands on California Coast

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, CALIFORNIA: A top-secret space plane landed Friday at an Air Force base on the Southern California coast.

The plane spent nearly two years circling Earth on a classified mission. Known as the X-37B, it resembles a mini space shuttle.

It safely touched down at 9:24 am Friday, officials at Vandenberg Air Force Base said.
Just what the plane was doing during its 674 days in orbit has been the subject of sometimes spectacular speculation.

Several experts have theorized it carried a payload of spy gear in its cargo bay. Other theories sound straight out of a James Bond film, including that the spacecraft would be able to capture the satellites of other nations or shadow China's space lab.

In a written release announcing the return of the craft, the Air Force only said it had been conducting "on-orbit experiments."

The X-37B program has been an orphan of sorts, bouncing since its inception in 1999 between several federal agencies, NASA among them. It now resides under the Air Force's Rapid Capabilities Office.

The plane that landed Friday is one of two built by Boeing. This is the program's third mission, and began in December 2012.

The plane stands 9. 1/2 feet (2.9 meters) tall and is just over 29 feet (almost 9 meters) long, with a wingspan under 15 feet (4.5 meters). It weighs 11,000 pounds (4,989 kilograms) and has solar panels that unfurl to charge its batteries once in orbit.

The Air Force said it plans to launch the fourth X-37B mission from Cape Canaveral, Florida, next year.

Rafale Fighters India is Buying Can't Match Chinese Fighters: Russian Envoy

The French Rafale Fighter aircraft that India is planning to buy, in what is being billed as the largest defence purchase by the country - "will be swatted like mosquitos in an August night," says Russian Ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin.

Mr Kadadin also claimed that Sukhoi-27 - aircraft manufactured in Russia that are supplied to China's People's Liberation Army (Air Force )- are far more capable and advanced than the Rafale fighters.

Incidentally, Russian-made MiG- 35, as well as US-made F-16s & F- 18, Swedish-made SAAB Gripin and French-made Rafale were the key competitors for the defence contract. After a long and detailed evaluation, the IAF had selected the French-made Rafale Fighter jets to replace its ageing and depleting fleet. The deal is likely to cost India a whopping $23 billion.

Going on to question India's strategic forays with the Unites States and the erstwhile 'Western Bloc', the Russian Ambassador said the US has "transferred zero technology to India".

He cited the BrahMos Missile, a supersonic cruise missile jointly developed and produced by India and Russia, the Sukhoi-30MKi that is now being licensed and produced in India, and the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant as examples of critical technology transferred by Russia to India.

Russia, historically, has been a key strategic partner of India and the main supplier of weapon systems. But, in the last decade, India has increasingly looked towards Israel and US to meet its defence requirements. The shift, no doubt, has peeved Russia.

These issues are likely to dominate the summit-level talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. President Putin is scheduled to visit India on December 11.

Russia is expected to push India to source conventional submarines from them. Submarines are key to the strategy of "Sea Denial" - preventing warships of adversaries from accessing specific areas in the sea. India has only eight functional conventional submarines.

India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile Nirbhay to be Test-Fired Today

INTEGRATED MISSILE TEST RANGE, BALASORE, ODISHA: India will test its potent nuclear-capable cruise missile 'Nirbhay', a state-of-the-art missile developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) today if all goes well. The scientists are forging ahead with the crucial test, to be conducted from the Integrated Missile Test Range in Balasore, Odisha, despite the coastal region of the state being hit hard by Cyclone Hudhud. (10 must-know facts about Nirbhay)

Nirbhay (which means fearless) is very manoeuvrable and can fly at tree-top level, making it difficult to detect on radar, and strikes targets more than 700 km away carrying nuclear warheads, giving India the capability to strike deep into enemy territory.

Very soon when India's own satellite navigation fleet is fully deployed, Indian cruise missiles will start using signals from the Indian space system giving the country that extra edge.

Unlike other ballistic missiles like the Agni, Nirbhay has a wing and pronounced tail fins. It launches like a missile and in early flight the small wings get deployed. It then flies like an aircraft and can even hover near the target, striking at will from any direction.

On its maiden flight on March 12, last year, Nirbhay had to be terminated, when the missile deviated from its course about 20 minutes after launch. As the missile went off its flight trajectory, its engine was cut off to bring it down to ensure coastal safety. It fell near the coast; the DRDO said no one was injured.

The Nirbhay is a sub-sonic cruise missile and gives India the capacity to launch different kinds of payloads at different ranges from various platforms at a very low cost. It can be launched from a mobile launcher. The missile has a fire-and-forget system that cannot be jammed.

India has had the capability to make ballistic missiles for some time now and has made tactical missiles of different capacity. But it had not mastered a cruise missile yet and DRDO scientists worked very hard on the Nirbhay.

The US had deployed cruise missiles very effectively during the Gulf War.

The Nirbhay is India's answer to America's Tomahawk and Pakistan's Babur.

Here are 10 must-know points about India's Nirbhay or ‘fearless missile’:

It is a sub-sonic cruise missile. 

It blasts off like a rocket, but then unlike a missile, it turns into an aircraft. Unlike other ballistic missiles like the Agni, Nirbhay has wings and pronounced tail fins.
In early flight after launch, the rocket motor falls off and the small wings get deployed.

At this point a gas turbine engine kicks in and it becomes like a full aircraft.
The Nirbhay is very maneuverable and can fly at tree-top level making it difficult to detect on radar.
Once near the target, it can even hover, striking at will from any direction.

It can strike targets more than 700 km away carrying nuclear warheads, giving India the capability to strike deep into enemy territory.

It gives India the capacity to launch different kinds of payloads at different ranges from various platforms at a very low cost. It can be launched from a mobile launcher.

The missile has a fire-and-forget system that cannot be jammed.

It is India's answer to America's Tomahawk and Pakistan's Babur missile. The US had deployed cruise missiles very effectively during the Gulf War.

India has made ballistic missile and tactical missiles of different capacity, but is yet to master the making of a cruise missile.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

World's First Production Ready Flying Car Coming Soon

Ever dreamt of a car that could fly and take you away from horrendous traffic jams on the streets? Well, flying cars are set to be a reality pretty soon, thanks to Mr Stefan Klein, who invested 20 years on the project. After working rigorously for years, Mr Klein - the chief engineer and co-founder of AeroMobil - has come up with a prototype called the AeroMobil 2.5. After successfully testing the AeroMobil 2.5 prototype for take-off, flight and landing, the company will unveil the world's first production ready flying car, the AeroMobil 3.0, on October 29, 2014 at the Pioneers Festival in Austria.

AeroMobil has been working on the flying car concept since 1990, and according to the company, its first model looked quite bizarre and was impractical for regular use. This, the company says, was "a singal to improve the concept of the flying car in a way to become an integral part of the regular road traffic."

Powering the AeroMobil 3.0 is a Rotax 912 engine that has a range of 700 Kms while flying and 875 kms on road. Interestingly, the flying car has been claimed to consume 15 litres per hour for flying, and 12.5Km/l while driving. The claimed top-speed of the car is 200Km/h in air and 160Km/h on road, whereas the take-off speed is 130Km/h.

For the curious cats out there, the wings fold into the rear seat behind the driver during car mode. That said, the company feels that the design of the car still needs work, so more improvements will be made to the car in order to make it perfectly suitable for both, flying in the air and driving on the road.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Indians Join Wave of Foreign Investors in Condos and Homes in the U.S.

Arun Kumar owns three apartments in New Delhi, where he has carved out a comfortable life as part of India's rapidly expanding middle class. Not long ago, he also became a global landlord, picking up an inexpensive three-bedroom house and a duplex nearly 8,000 miles away, in St. Louis.

For Kumar and other affluent Indians, U.S. real estate is a security blanket. Faced with what some have considered a bubble in real estate prices in major Indian cities and a sometimes jittery Bombay Stock Exchange, they are joining a wave of buyers from other countries who see the recovering U.S. housing market as one of the best places to put their money these days.

The wealthy elite from China, Latin America and elsewhere have bought pieds-a-terre in glassy towers in Manhattan, luxury condos in Miami and homes along the West Coast. Law enforcement investigations have found that some foreign investors are using U.S. real estate holdings, at least in part, to hide cash and other assets from authorities in their home country.

But many less-than-superrich foreign investors just want a safe place to put extra savings, and their investments tend to be much less grandiose than the trophy properties that have drawn most of the attention. And for Indians in particular, who long trusted in gold to protect their wealth, U.S. real estate offers a "very, very attractive destination," said Subir Gokarn, director of research at Brookings India in New Delhi.

Jed Kolko, chief economist at Trulia, an online marketplace for residential real estate, said the most popular property searches for people from India were in and around Silicon Valley, where technology firms heavily recruit from India; in the Boston and Philadelphia areas near universities that have numerous students from India; and in suburban areas of New Jersey and in Queens, where there are established Indian-American communities.

In an echo of the late 1980s, foreign investment in U.S. real estate has taken off again. A survey from the National Association of Realtors estimates that from April 2013 to March of this year, total sales to international clients were about $92.2 billion, a 35 percent increase over the previous 12 months. The figure includes purchases by recent immigrants.

Foreign buyers now make up 7 percent of total existing-home sales of $1.2 trillion, according to the survey. Of those, Indians represent 6 percent of the purchases, spending $5.8 billion, up from $3.9 billion over the same period a year ago and on par with buyers from Britain.

Canadians have long bought U.S. property and still do so in big numbers, with purchases centered for the most part in Arizona, Florida and more recently in Las Vegas. Canada still accounts for the largest share of buyers, but China is the fastest-growing source of clients, according to the Realtors' group.

And Chinese buyers are bigger spenders. Their real estate purchases in the United States nearly doubled from last April to last March, increasing to $22 billion from the previous period. They accounted for nearly a quarter of all international sales in the current period.

"Most people who can come here, they are pretty wealthy," said Grace Tian, a broker with Realty Mark Associates in Philadelphia who often works with Chinese clients.

In contrast, buyers from India are a more eclectic group. These include parents living in India who buy apartments for students attending college, making sure the units have concierge service and an extra bedroom so they can visit for extended periods, several real estate agents said. After the students leave college, the parents often keep the apartment and rent it out.

"It's a good investment in their eyes, and it can be a better deal instead of them paying dorm costs or renting somewhere else," said Michael DiMella, a managing partner with the Charlesgate Realty Group in Boston whose Indian clients have bought near Northeastern University.

Irene Barnaby, a broker with Weichert Realtors in Jersey City, said her Indian clients generally spent about $600,000 to $800,000 on condos. Some buyers pay cash because traditional banks won't give them mortgages without a credit history in the United States. But she has also created relationships with smaller banks that will lend money to her clientele.

"They can get exactly what they want in this area," Barnaby said.

Padmanabhan Palani, president of the condo association board at the 443-unit James Monroe tower, said the area is comfortable for many people just arriving from India or elsewhere in Asia because it resembles the high-rise districts of Mumbai and Hong Kong. Plus, he said, his building is close to the train station.

"In a snowstorm, 100 meters is very important in how far you walk," said Palani, who came to the United States 12 years ago on a work visa for a technology job and is now a permanent resident.

Some U.S.-based brokers are capitalizing on the growing interest from Indians.

Myron Von Raesfeld, a real estate agent in the heart of Silicon Valley, said his firm started working with technology companies in 1999 to offer seminars teaching immigrants with H-1B work visas the intricacies of the U.S. real estate market.

He now offers the seminar at 80 companies, in part to keep ahead of the competition. "Realtors are becoming very astute at this foreign wave," he said.

Indian real estate agents are also getting in on the action. Vikram Somani, owner of Property Hunters in Mumbai, has turned to the U.S. market, noting that title insurance is available and the buying process is far more organized.

Rohit Prakash, president of American Full House in Austin, Texas, is recruiting brokers like Somani to round up Indian clients. His firm, created four years ago, arranges limited liability partnerships helping his clients overcome tax issues and red tape that otherwise would apply to foreign investors.

"There's a sexiness to say I own property in the U.S., a little bit of bragging rights," Prakash said. "But for them to know how to go about how to do this, they were clueless."

One of his clients is Kumar, who bought his St. Louis properties sight unseen, spending about $100,000 for a three-bedroom single-family home and a two-unit house.

So far the investment hasn't been as good as Kumar had hoped. One of the units sat empty for longer than expected, and a roof had a problem that needed to be fixed.

"I'm hopeful this year it will be better," said Kumar, who is considering buying property in Silicon Valley in the future. "In any case, I was looking at investment in the USA for the long term."

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Facebook Founders Are the Youngest Billionaires in Forbes List

Three out of Forbes' 11 youngest billionaires of America are founding members of Facebook, two of them 30-year-olds.

Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, 30, is the youngest billionaire in the Forbes 400 richest Americans list of 2014. His Harvard University roommate and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg who is just eight days older is the second youngest billionaire on the list.

Mr Moskovitz, who left Facebook in 2008 to start software firm Asana is worth $8.1 billion dollar according Forbes' estimates. Facebook CEO Mr Zuckerberg's fortune is more than four times his former roommate's at $34 billion.

Sean Parker, founding president of Facebook completes the trio for the 'social network' at fifth position on the list with a net worth of $3 billion. Mr Parker had also founded online music firm Napster.

Out of the 400 people on Forbes' list of the richest in the United States in 2014, 11 are under the age of 40.

Another 30-year-old who makes it to the list is Elizabeth Holmes, founder of California-based blood testing company Theranos. Ms Holmes, who had dropped out of Stanford University to start her venture from money saved for college, is the third youngest billionaire on the list.

Rounding off the list of the top five, is 31-year-old energy pipeline heir Scott Duncan with a net worth of $7 billion.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Airbus to help develop first supersonic business jet

How would you like to trim three hours off the current commercial jet flight time between Paris and Washington, D.C.?

Or two hours and 48 minutes off the flight between New York and Sao Paulo?

Or two and a half hours between Tokyo and Singapore?

With its Aerion AS2 supersonic business jet, the Nevada-based Aerion Corporation aims to do just that.

Now it has a gigantic new partner to help it realize those ambitions: Airbus.

The two companies announced this week that they'll collaborate on technologies and "capabilities in design, manufacturing and certification" to advance the development of the AS2.

"This is a major step forward for Aerion," said Aerion chairman and principal investor, Robert M. Bass in a statement. "It puts us solidly on track toward our objective of certifying the world's first supersonic business jet in 2021."

"This agreement accomplishes two major objectives," said Aerion CEO Doug Nichols. "It provides validation from the industry leader in aerospace innovation, and it decisively kicks the program into high gear. Each company will benefit."

Aerion was founded in 2002 with the intention of commercializing supersonic aviation technology.

Expertise from Airbus' Defence and Space Division

Using its proprietary supersonic laminar flow technology, Aerion says the AS2 will fly at Mach 1.6 (1,217 mph).

The Airbus group's Defence and Space Division will provide technical and certification support to Aerion, with its engineers working with the company in Nevada.

According to the U.S.-based aviation consulting firm Leeham Company, the aircraft's engine partner hasn't yet been announced.

Aerion says the AS2's newly designed wings reduce overall drag by 20%, allowing for lower fuel consumption and longer range.

Its 30-foot-long cabin is forecast to seat up to 12 passengers in business-style comfort.

All seats can be berthed to sleep four on overnight flights.

The projected price of the AS2 is more than $100 million.

Aerion hopes to begin test flights by 2019.

Race to develop supersonic biz jets

A handful of companies are developing private supersonic business jets.

Boston-based Spike Aerospace's S-512 Supersonic Jet is designed to fly at Mach 1.6, while seating 12 to 18 passengers.

The company says the plane will fly from London to New York in three hours and from Los Angeles to Tokyo in six hours.

UK-based HyperMach is developing the SonicStar, a business jet it claims will be capable of reaching Mach 4 (about 2,600 mph, or almost twice the speed of the Concorde), and which it says will be able to make the flight from New York to Dubai "in the time it takes to watch an inflight movie."

The company has said the plane could enter production in the 2020s.

The world's only supersonic passenger jet service ended in October 2003 when British Airways retired the Concorde from service.

The Concorde had a cruising speed of 1,350 mph, more than twice the speed of sound. A typical London to New York flight took a little less than three and a half hours, as opposed to about eight hours for subsonic flights.

Modern commercial long-haul jets typically cruise at speeds between 480 and 560 mph.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Card Payment Network RuPay Sees Boost From Government Banking Scheme

A government drive to expand banking services in India is giving a boost to home-grown card payment network RuPay, which expects to quadruple the number of users by March and make debit cards more acceptable in a nation where cash is still king.

Started in 2012 by a company owned by 10 local and foreign banks, RuPay competes with global payment firms Visa Inc and MasterCard Inc for the few customers in Asia's third largest economy able to afford a debit or credit card.

As of July, banks issued just under 435 million payment cards in India, a nation of 1.3 billion people. Most were debit cards.

RuPay's share of daily card transactions, however, remains small compared to the global firms, which are more established, offer both debit and credit cards and are accepted by more retailers. RuPay currently offers only debit cards.

RuPay users account for just 1.5 per cent of daily card transactions of almost one million at retailers, said A.P. Hota, chief executive of the National Payments Corp of India (NPCI), which runs RuPay.

Hota told Reuters the payments network was set to grow rapidly from the government's so-called financial inclusion scheme, which aims to ensure the majority of households has a bank account within months.

Under the scheme launched late in August, Indians who open a bank account for the first time automatically get a RuPay card.

Hota said the number of RuPay users has now almost doubled from 23 million at the end of July.

By March next year, he expects that number to rise to 160 million, with more than 60 per cent of the increase coming from the government scheme.

"Jan Dhan itself would provide a big opportunity for the domestic card brand to be a formidable force," said Hota, referring to the financial inclusion scheme, Jan Dhan Yojana, which means People's Wealth Scheme.

"(RuPay Card transactions are) just a drop in the ocean at the moment. But drop by drop we are increasing our size."

NPCI is also trying to lure more customers by charging banks lower fees than Visa and MasterCard, Hota added.

Visa and MasterCard did not reply to Reuters' requests seeking comment.

NPCI's shareholders include India's biggest bank, the State Bank of India, and foreign lenders Citibank and HSBC. The Reserve Bank of India bank has a nominee on its board.

The organisation plans to launch RuPay cards that will be accepted overseas through a partnership with Discover Financial Services, Hota said, and is also in talks with Japanese card network JCB about a partnership.

RuPay had aimed to issue credit cards by March 2015, but those plans have now been delayed by the government scheme, Hota said. "Rural acceptance of the Jan Dhan cards will be our priority," he added.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Apple Is Back, Better Than Ever

Four times before in its history, at media events planned with military precision, Apple introduced a new invention that radically altered how the technology industry conceived of its future. The company hopes it did that again for a fifth time on Tuesday by unveiling the Apple Watch, a stylish smartwatch that is the company's first advance into a new product category since it created the iPad in 2010.

Yet in some ways, the most consequential headline at the event went unannounced. The biggest news was about the old Apple: It's back, and it's more capable than ever.

Any question about how well Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive, is managing the reins of the world's most valuable company will most likely be put to rest after Tuesday's profusion of product announcements at the Flint Center in Cupertino, California, where Steve Jobs first showed off the Macintosh in 1984.

The announcements included two large-screen iPhones and a new electronic payment system that allows users to make purchases at stores through their phones.

Apple, under Cook, looks every bit as daunting to rivals as it did under its iconic co-founder, Jobs.

Both the new watch and the payment system, Apple Pay, appear to be of a level of polish that suggests the company still possesses the capacity to invent new products and services that can define an entire industry. And the two iPhones will most likely prove that Cook can still do what has long been Apple's bread and butter: incrementally improving its top-performing products in ways that keep them just ahead of rivals.

But more important is that Apple, under Cook, is operating at a scale it never achieved under Jobs. It is creating more new hardware and software, and tying all of its products together more seamlessly than most of its rivals. In responding to customer demand to offer bigger phones, and in granting outside developers deeper access to its mobile operating system, Cook has also signaled a slightly more open philosophy at Apple. The firm is not as ideologically rigid about how people use its products as it once was.

It remains to be seen whether Apple can make good on all of the promises it made on Tuesday. Its new phones will be out this month, and its payment system will be operational in October. The Apple Watch will not be in stores until next year.

After a hack last month that resulted in the leak of several celebrities' private photos from their online Apple accounts, the company's push to persuade people to use its devices to engage in commerce and to track their health may face skepticism.

Price is also a persistent question: From its phones to its new watch, which starts at $349, Apple is selling a digital lifestyle at a cost that exceeds that of many of its rivals.

Yet many users won't balk at paying for the convenience and prestige of using Apple's products.

Apple set out to solve two problems with its media event, the importance of one of which Cook had been telegraphing in earnings calls for years.

First, it needed to make something - anything - new. One persistent criticism of Cook is that while he has been an able steward of Apple's finances, he lacks the capacity to bring forth the kind of industry-defining new products for which Jobs was famous. Cook is "a master of spreadsheets, not innovation," as Yukari Iwatani Kane, a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal, put it earlier this year in a book that became the high-water mark for Apple criticism.

Never mind that this assessment of Cook often rang hollow, and seemed to deeply misunderstand how Apple operates. Though it has cultivated a reputation for frequently reinventing everything, what's most remarkable about Apple's history isn't how many totally novel devices it has released, but how few.

Since the 1980s, Apple has invented four new computing platforms - the Mac, the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad - that have been revolutionary. But in each of the intervening periods between new platforms, Apple looked remarkably similar to the company under Cook. Each year it put out slight, useful updates to existing products, features that were cheered by customers while roundly jeered by the tech press as yet more unimpressive incrementalism.

The ultimate success of Apple's smartwatch, and its lasting utility to users, won't be known for months or years to come. But its introduction ought to squash the charge that the company - and Cook - can't invent anything new.

At first blush, the devices look to be following in the footsteps of the original iPhone or iPad, which were not brand-new ideas but were just superior versions of what other products already did.

As Cook described it, the smartwatch will perform functions similar to those of the many wrist devices that Apple's competitors, including Samsung, have released over the last few years. At its most basic, the Apple Watch is a quick interface to your phone, allowing you to respond to messages or look up directions at a glance. It also tracks your activity, allowing you to monitor your workouts and daily level of activity.

Still - at least as Apple demonstrated it - what the watch does, it does better than its competitors, with more impressive hardware and a software interface that looks easier to use. The device is stunning to look at, with a variety of faces and watchbands that bear more in common with luxury jewelry than with gadgets. That's far more than can be said of many ungainly watches and fitness bands that many other companies have put out.

Left unstated was any word on battery life, which has been a major shortcoming for other smartwatches. If it needs to be charged daily, or worse, in the middle of a day, users may resist.

Apple's second aim at its media event was to shore up a persistent weakness in its iPhone lineup. While it commands the vast majority of the profits in the smartphone industry, Apple, in the last few years, has been losing some high-end business to rivals with bigger devices, especially its main competitor, Samsung, which has long been the leading purveyor of giant phones.

Apple had historically held out against the wave of giant phones. Jobs called them "Hummers," referring to the large sport utility vehicle, and insisted that "you can't get your hand around" large phones.

Now, though humanity has not been granted a new set of monster paws, Apple has relented. Its new phones are both wider and taller than any previous iPhones. The larger 5.5-inch model is positively gigantic, a device on which one would look fairly foolish trying to make a phone call.

You can call this Apple's capitulation to market demand. You can also call it savvy. In one stroke, Apple has undercut one of the main reasons for Samsung's ascendance at the high end of the smartphone market. That's not a bad outcome for a device that was almost an afterthought at its launch event.