Sucheta Dalal :Action On Black Friday (5 March 2001)
Sucheta Dalal

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Action On Black Friday (5 March 2001)  

Stock market circles are stumped at one of the names that has been listed as part of the bear cartel that cause the index to drop 176 points last Friday. This is a rare brokerage firm which, apart from a couple of famous aberrations, expresses concern for investor rights and 'investors yatchs.' Headed by a brash, articulate, irreverent and intelligent duo, which prides itself on its research and its strong opinions, the firm is also known among market circles for its proximity to the Finance Minister's fund manager daughter-in-law. SEBI's investigation into the firm's Friday operations is now the subject of a lot of black humour. The stock market is indeed a place where operators locate quick business opportunities and making a killing whenever there is a chance. But it is unlikely that the first family of finance will be amused at the 177-point budget day rally being neutralised by a 176 point hammering aided by close friends. The Indian system simply does not work that way.

The 26th Floor
WHEN SEBI chairman D R Mehta met stock exchange officials on Friday, he was clearly rattled about the leak of confidential information, which led to massive bear hammering after the budget - but he would mention no names. At one point of time, he reportedly snapped at the BSE officials and asked them why they found it necessary to constantly run up to the 26th floor of the stock exchange building. For the uninitiated, that floor houses the BSE President's office and the its boardroom. BSE officials mumbled a quick reply, but the SEBI chief's question has triggered off speculation about whether the regulator and the finance ministry will finally recognise the need to put the exchange in charge of independent and professional managers.

Lobbying for Dy Governor
SOME journalists and bureaucrats have the knack of using each of their jobs to prepare for the next one - this could be a high profile posting or a career in politics. One such bureaucrat who made it easy for several industrialists to get loans cleared by financial institutions is now lobbying for a change. For a while, sources said that he was aiming to enter politics; but he is now gunning for the post of Deputy Governor at the Reserve Bank of India. Naturally, all his industrialist friends are rooting for him. Though he is in the race for the first Deputy Governorship which falls vacant (there are two more vacancies in the offing and there is some pressure for granting extensions) his lobbyists hope to help him wrangle charge of the Board of Financial Supervision. Then he would continue to be helpful even if the crackdown on bad loans begins.

Ignoring willful defaulters
PREDICTABLY, bank unions are furious at the union budget, which threatens to undermine their clout and is perceived as anti-worker and anti-middle class. What makes them more angry is that the budget talks about reducing bad loans, but ignores their demand to publish the names of willful defaulters. Last year the unions defied banking secrecy laws and published the defaulters' list, but the action was ignored and it made no difference to the recovery process. The union argue that the publication of a regularly updated list would shame at least a few defaulters to pay up.

Goodbye Tara?
STAR TV's Indian language channel launched under the name Tara is reportedly up for sale. The multi-language Tara is headed by Rathikant Basu, the high profile former Doordarshan chief and later bossman at Star TV; and each language section is also headed by a high profile star. Inside sources say that Basu along with management consultant visited the Sony chief a few weeks ago to explore the possibility of a buy out. It is a pity, says our source, that the brand equity of Tara does not equal the individual or the combined brand value of its individual language heads. It would be recalled that Tara-Marathi has Shoba De as its content head, Tara-Gujarati's editorial face is Mallika Sarabhai. There is also Tara Bengali and TAra Punjabi headed by formidable power-ladies.

The Bachchan Brand
Remember ICICI's high profile and expensive tie-up with Amitabh Bachchan following his KBC success? After an initial outdoor campaign, the institution has curiously failed to use Mr Bachchan as its mascot. However, for those who thought that ICICI was having second thoughts abut the deal, it officers says that a brand new audio-visual campaign is set to hit television around March 10. It couldn't be better timed. Market rumour has it that ICICI is expected to provide for bad loans in a big way this year and it would need all the magic that Bachchan can work for its image.

-- Sucheta Dalal