Benazir assassinated; talks with pak in limbo

Updated: Dec 31 2007, 05:27am hrs
Pakistani Opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was killed in a gun and bomb attack after a rally in Rawalpindi on Thursday, her party said. Bhutto, 54, died in a hospital in the city. Police said a suicide bomber fired shots at Bhutto as she was leaving the rally venue in a park before blowing himself up. The man first fired at Bhutto's vehicle. She ducked and then he blew himself up, said police officer Mohammad Shahid. Police said 16 people had been killed in the blast.

Meanwhile, India Inc watched cautiously as the fallout to the assassination of Bhutto unfolded on Friday. The Indian government said political uncertainty in the neighbouring country could stall trade talks between the two countries. And in a kneejerk reaction, Indian Railways decided to suspend all passenger and goods train services to Pakistan.

That apart, Standard & Poors Ratings Services on Friday said Pakistans sovereign credit ratings could be lowered, if the assassination of Benazir Bhutto precipitates heightened levels of violence and political turmoil. A further weakening of Pakistans institutions, in conjunction with rising levels of violence and disorder would lead to a rating downgrade, said the rating agency.


* Economy

The government has allowed all trusts to invest in securities, including shares and bonds of listed companies. The move will give a boost to the already-booming equities market as a large number of trusts, such as schools, temples and private hospitals having huge resources will be able to invest their funds in the market. Trusts had a corpus of nearly Rs 25,000 crore at the beginning of the decade. The Cabinet has agreed to move an amendment in certain provisions of the Indian Trusts Act, 1882 in the next Parliament session. This amendment will enable the government to notify a class of securities eligible for investment by trusts.

* Corporates

ONGC will develop a war chest of $20 billion to acquire stakes in major oil and gas properties abroad. Chairman & managing director RS Sharma said the company would shortly announce some deals. Sharma said he expected to finalise agreements in Turkmenistan, Iran, Latin America and western Africa. The companys overseas hunt received a shot in the arm when its joint-venture company with steel baron LN Mittal, ONGC-Mittal Energy Ltd.

* Markets

Private limited companies may soon be able to issue bonds for private placement at par with public limited firms. This would expand the size of the debt market with many attractive issues that are currently restricted to only a few investors.

* Pension

Newly appointed Indian pension fund managers will set a new global benchmark for the lowest administrative expenses in the business. The new fund managers, SBI, LIC and UTI MF, have agreed to manage pension funds worth Rs 2,000 crore and charge an administration cost of three to five basis points.