Bourses pull up over 100 companies on media reports in '07

Written by Agencies | New Delhi, December 31: | Updated: Dec 31 2007, 22:25pm hrs
When India Inc and investors were busy minting money on the bourses through 2007, it was also keeping the market authorities busy scanning all price-moving rumours and pulling up concerned companies, which included big names like Reliance, Tata and even a host of state-run firms.

The country's two leading stock exchanges -- the Bombay Stock Exchange and National Stock Exchange -- issued over 250 notices to more than 100-listed entities over published media reports that had the potential to affect the share prices, but bourses were not informed in advance.

Baring a few, these reports led to a sharp surge in the share prices of the concerned companies, even though on most occasions, the companies downplayed the reports in their replies to the notices issued by the bourses.

However, the stock exchanges continued doing their duty religiously in the interest of investors, while asking for clarifications whenever needed and also advising investors to keep away from rumours and focus on fundamentals before investing in stocks.

Even on the last day of the year, the BSE continued this drill by issuing an investor-interest alert on the front page of a leading daily, asking the investors to "do a thorough evaluation before investing in any security".

"Be careful about stocks that show a sudden spurt in price or trading activity without a change in the fundamentals of the company. Do not get misled by recommendations in newspapers, electronic media, websites. Do not get swayed by promises of high returns." it said.

Both BSE and NSE continued to issue such alerts, as well as notices to the firms mentioned in various media reports, asking for their clarifications, but the market continued to soar new heights, as if undeterred by such alerts.

While the total invested wealth on the bourses soared by close to Rs 35,00,000 crore to an all-time high of more than Rs 70,00,000 crore at the end of the year, the companies against whom such notices were issued accounted for almost Rs 10,00,000 crore of the total market cap gain during the year.

Just about 10 such companies, including three IT firms that also belonged to an overall weak sector on the bourses during the year -- TCS, Wipro and Tech Mahindra -- saw their market value declining in 2007.

However, the rest saw their fortunes soaring on the bourses, with surge of more than five times in some cases.

The year 2007 started with a notice issued to state-run IFCI Ltd on reports that the company might induct a foreign bank or a local bank as a strategic investor.

In its reply on January 2, IFCI said, "In this connection we have to state that our Board of Directors are contemplating various options for future of IFCI. However, currently there is no specific proposal under consideration of IFCI's board."

However, as the year progressed, it saw a hectic bidding war emerging for 26 per cent of IFCI, but it rejected all the bids in the last month of the year and now again the reports are surfacing about IFCI restarting the stake-sale process.

During the year, IFCI saw its market value soaring from just about Rs 775 crore to well above Rs 5,000 crore.

Another first such notices of the year was to Mercator Lines on reports that it was mulling a Singapore listing.

The reply said that Mercator Lines did not issue any official release on the matter and "nothing has been firmed up and the news item appears to be based on the rumours."

Again as the year progressed, Mercator Lines got listed in Singapore and its market valued rose from Rs 657 crore to more than Rs 3,500 crore. The bourses issued at least three notices to IFCI and two to Mercator Lines.

Other major companies to whom such notices were issued "in order to verify the accuracy or otherwise of the information reported in the media and to inform the market place so that the interest of the investors is safeguarded," included companies belonging to Mukesh and Anil Ambani groups, Tatas, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Deccan Aviation, Raymond, Videocon, United Breweries Group, Mahindras as well as public sector firms like ONGC, SBI, SAIL and BHEL.

While RIL got three such notices, Anil Ambani group's REL and RNRL got three and five notices respectively. Tata group got ten for companies like TCS, VSNL, Tata Tea, Tata Motors and Tata Investment. Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers, Jai Corp, Bhushan Steel, DS Kulkarni, HFCL, Escorts, Rajesh Exports, Matrix Labs, NIIT and Financial Tech also got more than one such notices.

Another media report that later turned out to be true but was initially denied by the concerned companies, was about Deccan Aviation merging with UB Group's Kingfisher Airlines.

In its reply, Deccan had said on November 21, "We wish to inform you that, no proposals relating to merger of Kingfisher Airlines with the company, has been considered by the Board of Directors of the company as on date."

In one of the most talked-about such notices, the bourses asked Reliance Industries and Anil Ambani group's RNRL in November about the reports that RIL might buy out RNRL.

While RIL and RNRL first replied that they did not comment on speculative media reports, later the speculation was denied vehemently by RIL.

In November, another report denied completely was about SBI looking to acquire UCO Bank and Dena Bank.

In one of the recent notices, bourses asked state-run PGCIL about reports it was in talks with Zee group for a joint venture towards its foray into entertainment business and PGCIL denied the reports.