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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Microsoft withdraws offer for Yahoo

SAN FRANCISCO: Microsoft Corp walked away from its bid to buy Yahoo Inc on Saturday after the Internet company turned down its offer to raise the price by $5 billion to $47.5 billion.
Microsoft's offer was for $33 a share but Yahoo would not lower its demand below $37, Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said. The software company initially bid $31 per share for Yahoo more than three months ago.
"We believe the economics demanded by Yahoo do not make sense for us, and it is in the best interests of Microsoft stockholders, employees and other stakeholders to withdraw our proposal," Ballmer said in a statement.
Analysts say Yahoo has overplayed its hand and they expect the Web pioneer's shares to fall as much as 30 percent to $20 levels when Nasdaq trading resumes on Monday. The stock rose nearly 7 percent to $28.67 on Friday on hopes of an agreement between Microsoft and Yahoo.
"Wow. I'm shocked Yahoo wasn't more reasonable. The stock will probably go down at least $5 on Monday. It is surprising that Ballmer walked away instead of trying a hostile bid at $33," said Walter Price, a senior portfolio manager at RCM fund management company in San Francisco, which had 21 million Microsoft shares and 2 million Yahoo shares as of the end of December.
Laura Martin, a senior analyst at Soleil Securities, said she expected a number of shareholder lawsuits against Yahoo.
"The Yahoo guys want too much money for their company. We think $33 a share is fair in the context of the weakening economic environment and adverse advertising trends," she said.
"They've prioritized employees over shareholders in the hopes that someday they can create more than $8 billion of value, even if they have no track record of doing so," she said. Some Wall Street analysts also have said Microsoft could pull its bid as a negotiating strategy aimed at putting pressure on Yahoo to eventually accept a future offer.

Google deal next week?
Yahoo Chairman Roy Bostock said in a statement the company believed from the beginning that Microsoft's offer undervalued it, and the board was "pleased that so many of our shareholders joined us in expressing that view.
" He said Yahoo was pursuing "strategic opportunities" but gave no details. Yahoo has courted possible deals with Time Warner Inc's AOL Internet division or News Corp's MySpace online social network, and tested a search advertising partnership with Google Inc. A partnership with Google may be announced as early as next week, a person with knowledge of discussions told Reuters.
"With the distraction of Microsoft's unsolicited proposal now behind us, we will be able to focus all of our energies on executing the most important transition in our history so that we can maximize our potential to the benefit of our shareholders, employees, partners and users," Yahoo co-founder and Chief Executive Jerry Yang said in a statement.
Jordan Rohan, founder of digital media advisory firm Clearmeadow Partners, said Yahoo could name Time Warner as a partner or buy AOL to put a positive spin on the situation, but neither option would give as good a payoff to shareholders.
"Yahoo management and board overplayed its hand. Shareholders were cheated out of a victory," Rohan said. "I think Yahoo forgot what it felt like to have a share price under $20. They may be reminded soon.
" Ballmer cited Yahoo's Google plans as one reason Microsoft was walking away rather than mounting a hostile offer.
"We regard with particular concern your apparent planning to respond to a 'hostile' bid by pursuing a new arrangement that would involve or lead to the outsourcing to Google of key paid Internet search terms offered by Yahoo today," Ballmer said in a letter to Yang, made public on Saturday. "In our view, such an arrangement with the dominant search provider would make an acquisition of Yahoo undesirable to us."
Really walking?
Microsoft wants to buy Yahoo to gain a stronger foothold in its battle with Google, which is expanding rapidly into the software maker's own turf with new Web-based applications.
Technology analysts say Microsoft may not really walk away from Yahoo, and Saturday's move could parallel Oracle Corp's strategy in winning over BEA Systems Inc. Oracle pulled its offer in October 2007, leading BEA shares to fall 6 percent. Despite the tough talk, the companies reached an agreement in January this year.
Although Microsoft has not succeeded in sealing a deal, tough talk by Ballmer has already brought Yahoo to the negotiating table.
According to a person familiar with Microsoft's thinking, Yahoo's advisers said initially it would not negotiate with Microsoft for anything less than $40 a share. But amid threats by Microsoft to launch a hostile takeover, Yang suggested a price of $38 a share, the person said. On Saturday, Yang and Yahoo co-founder David Filo met Ballmer and Microsoft's Platforms & Services Division President Kevin Johnson in Seattle, where they communicated that Yahoo's board was willing to cut a deal at $37 a share, although the two co-founders remained committed to a dollar more per share, the source said.
Price was not the only stumbling block, another person familiar with the discussions said.
Microsoft had also failed to respond adequately to antitrust regulatory concerns that Yahoo raised at several meetings, said the source who was not authorized to speak on the record. Yahoo also wanted "value-certainty" assurances the value of Microsoft's offer would remain the same when the deal, if it did get done, closed, the person said.

US eats 5 times more than India per capita

Even as the world spins into a global food crisis, a popular theory — voiced by the likes of US President George W Bush and secretary of state Condoleezza Rice — is that the Chinese and Indians are responsible.
The 'logic': due to zooming incomes, they are eating more, causing worldwide shortages. But is that true? Due to their huge populations, countries like India and China may appear to consume gigantic amounts of food.
But the real elephant in the room that nobody is willing to talk about is how much each person gets to eat. And the answer will shock many. Total foodgrain consumption — wheat, rice, and all coarse grains like rye, barley etc — by each person in the US is over five times that of an Indian, according to figures released by the US Department of Agriculture for 2007.
Each Indian gets to eat about 178 kg of grain in a year, while a US citizen consumes 1,046 kg. In per capita terms, US grain consumption is twice that of the European Union and thrice that of China.
Grain consumption includes flour and by conversion to alcohol. In fact, per capita grain consumption has increased in the US — so actually the Americans are eating more. In 2003, US per capita grain consumption was 946 kg per year which increased to 1046 kg last year. By way of comparison, India’s per capita grain consumption has remained static over the same period.
It’s not just grains. Milk consumption, in fluid form, is 78 kg per year for each person in the US, compared to 36 kg in India and 11 kg in China. Vegetable oils consumption per person is 41 kg per year in US, while Indians are making do with just 11 kg per year.
These are figures for liquid milk, not for cheese, butter, yogurt and milk powders which are consumed in huge proportion in the more advanced countries. A significant proportion of India’s population is vegetarian, and so, this is all the food that they get, apart from vegetables and pulses. But the source of carbohydrates and fats is mainly derived from food grains and oils. As far as meat consumption is concerned, the US leads the world in per capita consumption by a wide margin.
Beef consumption, for example, is 42.6 kg per person per year, compared to a mere 1.6 kg in India and 5.9 kg in China. In case you are thinking that perhaps Indians might be going in for chicken, think again. In the US, 45.4 kg poultry meat is consumed every year by each person, compared to just 1.9 kg in India. Pork consumption is negligible in India, while it is a major item elsewhere. In the European Union, 42.6 kg pork is consumed per person every year, while in the US, 29.7 kgs are consumed. Pork is a staple for Chinese, and so over 35 kg are consumed per person per year. And, we are not talking about various other types of meat, like turkey. All these comparisons are for powerful economies, whether of the west or the east.
But the story would not be complete without mentioning the plight of Africa, where foodgrain consumption in 2007 was a mere 162 kg per year for each person, or about 445 grams per day. Don’t forget they are not getting any meat or milk products out there.
Perhaps, it is time to include the lifestyle choices of the West in the whole feverish debate on how to tackle the global food crisis. These figures are collated by the US Department of Agriculture. US per capita grain consumption rose from 946 kg in 2003 to 1046 kg last year. India’s per capita

Raj targets North Indians, Big B

Despite the police’s admonitions and legal threats against him, Raj Thackeray, chief of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), on Saturday issued a diktat to his supporters to take action whenever they encountered "injustice". At a massive rally at Shivaji Park, he said, "That north Indians are living in Mumbai is because of our mercy. Let it be known." ( Watch )
He said north Indians wanted to take over the state and their ‘chhat pujas’ were meant to be a show of strength. "I declare here today that no other day except Maharashtra Day will be celebrated in Maharashtra," he told the cheering crowds.
"Arrest me for this if you can," he dared the police. He told MNS leaders to shed their complacence and advised his supporters to "take action" whenever they felt necessary. "Don’t wait for instructions," he said.
Thackeray also stepped up his tirade against the Hindi media, Medha Patkar—who has moved the Human Rights Commission against his remarks—Amitabh Bachchan and Abu Asim Azmi. "If Azmi distributes sticks to north Indians, I will distribute swords to Maharashtrians," he said, adding that he had decided to take on the "dadagiri" of north Indians.
He warned that north Indians who did not speak Marathi and did not respect Marathi culture would be driven away. He added that those who were lecturing him about the constitution should remember that its architect was a Maharashtrian. Raj then donned the scholar’s cap to read out excerpts from Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s writings about the selection of Hindi as the national language. His said Dr Ambedkar had warned that the "predominance" of Hindi was dangerous for the integration of India.
Thackeray stated that so far, all Presidents of India who hailed from the south, had chosen not to deliver their public addresses in Hindi. "They stuck to English, or their own native languages. That’s why they survived," he said. Leaders of north Indian states like Mayawati and Amar Singh, when visiting Mumbai, would use slogans such as ‘Uttar Pradesh to jhanki hai, Maharashtra abhi baaki hai" (UP is only a demonstration, Maharashtra is yet to be won). He said this was proof that they wanted political control of Maharashtra.
"I have foiled that conspiracy. That is why they are incensed." Raj said he was afraid that the north Indians wanted to take control of the BMC in which there were 24 corporators from the north out of a total of 227. "How dare they pass resolutions in Hindi?" he thundered. He who says ‘Shivaji Maharaj ki jai’ is a Maharashtrian, Raj noted. He also reeled off figures of central government departments in which Maharashtrians

Naxals 'very active' in rural India: US report

NEW DELHI: Leftist extremist groups are "very active" in wide areas of impoverished rural eastern and Central India, the US State Department has said.
The Maoists also operate in parts of southern India, the State Department said in its latest annual report on terrorism.
It said hundreds of people were killed in conflicts between the government and various Leftist extremist groups, such as Naxalites and the Communist Party of India (Maoists), and also in internecine war.
"The Government of India is very concerned over the threat from Leftist extremist groups to internal stability and democratic culture," it said.
The report mentioned that there were at least 971 Naxalite attacks in the first seven months of 2007 which, it said, was approximately equal to that of the entire previous year.
"The Leftist extremists are highly active across a wide swath of India, including the states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.
They were also active in some areas of Orissa, Maharashtra and Karnataka," the report said. Referring to numerous attacks in the north eastern region, particularly in Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura and Meghalaya, the US State Department said ethnic and linguistic separatist groups were responsible for the incidents.
The report said several proscribed terrorist groups operated in the north east, including the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) and the People's Liberation Army (PLA). It said at least 850 people died in conflicts between dozens of insurgent groups and security forces and in bloody conflicts between themselves.
"Lack of security, remoteness and terrain combined to prevent the government from providing security and other basic services in many of the areas in which the Leftist extremist and northeastern separatist groups operated," it said.
The report said both types of groups increased the level of sophistication of attacks this year by using satellite phones and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). The State Department said in some districts these groups took control of a large proportion of the territory, making it impossible for government service providers to enter the area.
"Infighting, particularly among groups in the northeast may have slowed the increase in the attacks, but poverty and isolation combined to make the rural, mountainous and forested areas of India vulnerable to both the Maoists and those who claimed to be fighting for liberation in the northeast," it added.

After N-deal, Left puts government to Iran pipeline test

Ahead of the joint meeting on the India-US civil nuclear deal next week, the Left has said that the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline's fate will prove how independent India's foreign policy is under the present dispensation. "If the pipeline deal goes through, then we will know we have an independent foreign policy," Communist Party of India leader A B Bardhan said.
"If the pipeline deal does not go through, it would mean the American pressure has won," Bardhan declared, while alluding to American opposition to the three-nation gas pipeline.
Washington suspects that if the pipeline takes shape, it will bring India and Iran closer and defeat its larger campaign to isolate Tehran over its suspected nuclear weapon programme.
Bardhan spoke approvingly about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's brief visit to India last week that saw the two sides give a political push to the much-delayed $7.5 billion pipeline that will bring Iranian gas to India through Pakistan.
"Oil ministers of India, Pakistan and Iran have been asked to submit their final reports on the pipeline to their respective leaders," Ahmadinejad announced here after talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The Iranian president struck an upbeat note on the pipeline, saying he was hopeful of finalising it soon. The Left parties have accused the Congress-led government of compromising its independent foreign policy when it voted against Tehran twice at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2005 and 2006. The Left, which opposes the India-US nuclear deal, has charged the government with jeopardizing its ties with Iran for the sake of the nuclear deal.
Ahead of Ahmadinejad's visit, the government - making it clear that it was bowing to the US - told the White House that India did not need any guidance from any country to conduct its relations with Iran.
New Delhi's rebuff to Washington was meant to underline New Delhi's commitment to an independent foreign policy and assuage Left parties, which have made India's ties with Iran an issue, ahead of the UPA-Left meeting on the nuclear deal May 6.

Bardhan confirmed that the Left parties - the CPI, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), Forward Bloc and the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) - have been invited by the government to a meeting of the joint panel formed last year to address their concerns on the nuclear deal. "We have been invited for the meeting.
Let's see what happens. Our position is well known," he said. The Left parties virtually hold veto over the stalled nuclear deal, which seeks to reopen doors of global civil nuclear commerce after a gap of three decades. They have approved the government's pact with the IAEA before the deal can go forward. "There is little likelihood of any breakthrough at the UPA-Left meeting," a reliable official source said.
"We will continue our discussions and are trying to address their concerns." India has to cross two hurdles - finalizing a safeguards pact with the IAEA and a change in Nuclear Supply Group (NSG) guidelines - before the deal can become operational after the US Congress ratifies it.

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