ASK Investment Launches Rs 500 Crore Real Estate Fund - Private Equity firm ASK Investment Holdings has launched its Rs 500 crore real estate fund. According to ASK’s management, the real estate advisory business will complement its existing wealth management business, apart from growth opportunities existing in the domestic property market. The fund is focusing on the top seven cities in the country, and is looking to invest mainly in the residential market with a focus on 200 fundamentally strong real estate developers. ASK is also looking at investing in projects that are already underway or are about halfway. It plans to exit through sale of self liquidation of assets rather than a public offering. (The Economic Times)

Orissa Sponge promoter Hikes Stake by Converting Pledged Warrants Into Shares - Orissa Sponge promoter Prashant Mohanty has converted 30 lakh warrants, pledged with a finance company into shares, thus raising his stake in the company by 11% to 26.8%. The warrants were converted even as their ownership is now being contested in two different courts. This was done to avoid a situation where a court’s stay on conversion beyond June 2009 would have led to automatic lapse of the warrants. This, in turn, would have restricted the promoter’s plan to increase stake in Orissa Sponge, which is a takeover target of three separate groups that have already announced separate open offers to acquire the firm. (The Economic Times)

Merck Buys Schering-Plough for $ 41.1 Billion - US based Merck and company on Monday said it is acquiring Schering-Plough for $ 41.1 billion in a cash and stock deal, to create a $47 billion drug major. The deal comes just soc weeks after Pfizwer Inc gobbles rival firm Wyeth for a record $ 68 billion. Schering-Plough shareholders will get 0.57share of Merck and $10.50 in cash for each share they own. This values Schering-Plough at #.61 a share, a 43% premium to Friday;s closing price. Merck shareholders would hold 68%of the combined company. The impact of the deal will be limited in India since both the companies are significant players individually in India. (The Economic Times)

SBI in Tie Up with Diebold for ATM Expansion - State Bank of India (SBI) has placed an order for the largest automated teller machine (ATM) expansion project in the country. After the expansion is complete, SBI’s total ATM network will have grown to nearly 12,000 installations. Late in 2008, SBI proposed the largest ATM bid ever in India for 4,000 ATMs and awarded the majority of the contract to Diebold. As part of the contract Diebold, the global leader in integrated financial self-service delivery, is providing SBI with its full-function model D450 ATM, which is specially designed for the Indian market. The contract also includes ATM site preparation and managed services. Currently, Diebold provides managed services solutions for more than 3,500 of SBI’s ATMs across India. (The Economic Times)

Infosys to Hire 20,000 Engineering Graduates at 8.3% Higher Salary - India’s second-largest software company Infosys will be inducting almost 20,000 engineering graduates this year at over 8.3 % higher salary from what was offered last year. The pay package has also been increased from Rs 3 lakh per annum to over Rs 3.25 lakh per annum for those joining in June this year. Such measures, according to the firm, will help it get the best talent even during this slowdown, to provide better training and prepare them for the projects. The offer letters and dates of joining have been sent to 20,000 freshers (2008-09), and the process of joining will start from June this year. Last year, Infosys recruited almost 18,000 (2007-08) engineering graduates. (The Economic Times)

HLL Lifecare to Set Up 100 Hospitals Across India by 2013 with Acumen Fund - HLL Lifecare has entered into a joint venture with Acumen Fund USA to set up 100 hospitals providing high quality service at affordable rates across India by 2013. The joint venture company is a 50:50 equity partnership between HLL Lifecare and Acumen Fund, a non-profit philanthropy venture fund. Currently there are six Life Spring Hospitals that are working in Andhra Pradesh under the joint venture. In the next fiscal, another 6 hospitals will be set up in Andhra Pradesh, four in Maharashtra eight in Karnataka. By 2011, there would be 30 and by 2013, the number would touch 100. The highlight of these hospitals is that a normal delivery would cost just Rs 1,499 which includes the entire cost of medical care and two days of hospitalisation. Caesarean deliveries would cost Rs 5,999, including five days in the hospital. (The Hindu)

IFMR Capital in a Deal with Equitas for Micro Lending - IFMR Capital, a Chennai-based non-banking finance company (NBFC), has entered into an agreement with Equitas Micro Finance India Pvt. Ltd for offering micro credit. The two companies said in a joint statement on Monday that they have signed a securitisation structure for lending and repayment of funds with principal amount of Rs15.7 crore. The underlying loan portfolio comprises priority sector urban micro loans originated by Equitas with maturity in October 2010. The securities will be backed by microfinance loan receivables originated by Equitas. Equitas has also provided a first loss facility by way of cash collateral equal to 11.7% of the principal amount of the portfolio, which will cover any shortfall in loan repayment. (

Allahabad Bank to Raise Rs 1,000 Crore Through Bonds - Allahabad Bank, one of the oldest banks in the country, is planning to raise Rs 1,000 crore through bonds by the end of this month. Out of this, the bank intends to raise Rs 900 crore through tier-II bonds, and Rs 100 crore through tier-I bonds. The Kolkata-based bank is planning to raise Rs 500 crore by way of upper tier-II bonds, Rs 400 crore through subordinated bonds in the lower tier-II category, and Rs 100 crore though innovative perpetual debt instruments (IPDI), which falls in the tier-I capital. The bank’s capital adequacy ratio (CAR) stood at 12.20 per cent as on December 2008. (Business Standard)

Star Union Dai-ichi Life Insurance to Pump in Rs 100 Crore More - Star Union Dai-ichi Life Insurance Company, a joint venture life insurance company promoted by Bank of India, Union Bank of India and Dai-ichi Mutual Life Insurance Company, Japan, is planning to pump in an additional capital of Rs 100 crore in 2009-10. The proposed infusion is to support the company’s expansion plan and meet the target of Rs 500 crore premium in 2009-10. the additional capital of Rs 100 crore would take the total capital of the company to Rs 250 crore.The proposed infusion will help the company reach its premium target of Rs 500 crore in 2009-10. (Business Standard)

Dunlop in Talks with Banks for Working Capital Loan  - Pawan Ruia-controlled Dunlop India is looking at tying up with the banks for a working capital loan worth Rs 50 crore to start production at its Sahagunj factory, which reopened on Friday after a three months work suspension. Though the company had said that it is in the process of tying up with two or three banks for supplying it a working capital loan of Rs 50 crore, it has not revealed the names of the banks. (Business Standard)

Tata Sons Pledges Additional 5.27% in Tata Motors - Mumbai-based Tata Motors, India’s largest vehicle manufacturer, has declared that its parent company, Tata Sons, has pledged a further 5.27% in the company, taking its total pledge to 13.42%. Tata Sons has pledged 24 million equity shares in the company. This is in addition to what Tata Son’s earlier pledge of 37.2 million shares in Tata Motors. The transaction took place on March 4, when the closing price of Tata Motors stood at Rs 143.10. Tata Motors did not disclose the amount raised by Tata Sons. However, the market value of the pledged shares based on the closing price of March 4 stands at Rs 344 crore. (Business Standard)

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