Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Open societies. Closed markets?

There is enough wealth behind him — $7.2 billion was the last estimate by Forbes, where he was ranked 71 among the world’s wealthiest people in 2006 — to get a topline audience in any country. So, it wasn’t surprising to see India Inc sitting up. Soros didn’t quite deliver — instead of the money manager par excellence sharing his investment strategies in the global space, the 75-year-old self-made billionaire-philanthropist talked about subjects as diverse as global warming, George Bush, open societies and his theory of reflexivity.
Soros wants more. Within his greatly successful financial and philanthropic mind there lurks an eagerness to be accepted as a thinker. Many successful women and men live through life and decide the coordinates that have got them their success, try and transplant those coordinates onto others.Unfortunately, it requires more than success to be able to theorise; not many are able to cross the line from ‘successful businessman/investor/philanthropist’ to ‘successful thinker’.

Opinion in The Indian Express, December 20, 2006

Friday, December 15, 2006

It’s never a steel

The undertone among Indian analysts examining the India-based Tata Steel fighting the Brazil-based Companhia Siderurgica Nacional (CSN) in order to acquire the UK-based Corus Group is veering mildly on irrational patriotism laced with irrational exuberance. That an Indian company is there, slugging out billions, negotiating its long-term strategic interests with short-term financing, dealing with private equity majors and global banks to raise equity or debt, while sitting on what looks like a global auction of the Sistine Chapel, is heady.
The pin stripes point to Tata Steel’s potential wealth erosion — higher interest payments will eat into profits, equity dilution will lower EPS; either way, stock prices will fall. And they have: between October 20 when the deal was announced and yesterday, the share price of Tata Steel fell 14.2 per cent in a market that rose 1 per cent.

Opinion in The Indian Express, December 15, 2006

Friday, December 1, 2006

A bill noble and flaccid

The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens’ Bill 2006 that is likely to be tabled within the next 10 days is just a lot of noise. By no reckoning will this one Bill be able to better the lives of the elderly. If intent is missing, no law, rule, regulation can bring any change in the way children mistreat their elderly parents. The not so well off will abandon the past (parents) in favour of the present (themselves) and the future (children). The well off will continue to mirror their poorer brethren and perhaps go a step further, try and squeeze properties and other financial and non-financial assets out of their parents before laying out the path to their graves; many, as we all know, have already turned the lives of their parents, who are no longer seen as economic agents, into living hell that only the Final Journey can soothe.
With about 76 million Indians above the age of 60 today and expected to rise to 112 million by 2016, largely due to rising life expectations and better healthcare, the figure though small in percentage terms when compared with other countries, is large in absolute terms. To put it in perspective, the number of Indian elderly a decade from now will be more than the entire population of Mexico, Philippines, Vietnam, Egypt or Turkey; it will be six times more than Australia and two-fifths of US. The scale of the problem, no doubt, is humungous and India is fortunate to have a demographic advantage today — a third of India’s population was below 15 years in 2000 — an advantage that will ensure that just 12 per cent of India will be over 60 years in 2025 and not a third as in Germany, a fourth as in the US or a fifth as in China.

Opinion in The Indian Express, December 01, 2006