Big B, Akshay Kumar, Rajkumar Hirani’s fearless January

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For the first time in many years, Bollywood  will witness some big ticket releases with huge star-power all in the month of January, generally considered a ‘jinx’ for the industry.

Bollywood Dhamaka 2016 – From megastar Amitabh Bachchan, action hero Sunny Deol, superstar Akshay Kumar to filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani, all are set to release their films in the first month of 2016, leading to many clashes at the box office.

The year will begin with “Wazir”, starring Bachchan and actor Farhan Akhtar. The high voltage drama-thriller is produced by filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra and helmed by “Shaitan” director Bejoy Nambiar.

“Wazir” will clash with the social-drama “Chauranga”, produced by Onir and starring actor Sanjay Suri, Tannishtha Chatterjee among others.

It will be followed by “Ghayal Once Again”, releasing on January 15, which has been directed, written and produced by Deol. It is the sequel to the 1990 super-hit action drama “Ghayal” and will mark the comeback of Deol who starred in the iconic role of amateur boxer Ajay Mehra.

The date will also mark the return of actress Juhi Chawla, who will make a come back after two years with “Chalk n Duster”. The film, which brings life of two teachers, also stars veteran actress Shaban Azmi, Zarina Wahab and Divya Dutta.

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The Friday post these two films will witness another clash at the box office with Akshay’s “Airlift” and the adult comedy “Kyaa Kool Hai Hum 3”, releasing on January 22.

Based on the evacuation of Indians based in Kuwait during the Iraq-Kuwait war, “Airlift” marks Akshay’s second consecutive release in January after his last year’s espionage-drama “Baby”, while “Kyaa Kool Hai Hum 3” is the third instalment in the hugely popular adult-comedy series “Kyaa Kool Hai Hum”.

It stars actors Tusshar Kapoor, Aftab Shivdasani among others.
The last Friday of the month will end with yet another

adult-comedy clashing with a big-star film. Sunny Leone starrer “Madtizaade” and R Madhavan’s “Saala Khadoos” will release on January 29.

Produced by Rajkumar Hirani, “Saala Khadoos” is a bilingual sports drama film helmed by debutant Sudha Kongara. The film features Madhavan as a hard task-master boxing coach and also stars boxer Ritika Singh.

“Mastizaade” stars Leone in a double role and also features actor Tusshar Kapoor and Vir Das.

The year 2015 saw many releases in January too, from Arjun Kapoor’s “Tevar”, Bipasha Basu’s “Alone” to Ayushmann Khurrana’s “Hawaizaada”. But it was only “Baby” which was successful.

In the past, few films have worked at the box office during January which is considered a lull period as viewers are still in the holiday mood.

In January 2014, it was only superstar Salman Khan’s “Jai Ho” that worked decently at the box office and was the solo big release.

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While in 2013 it was “Race 2” which was successful among other releases like “Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola”, “Inkaar” and “Akaash Vani”.

With January, 2016 offering an attractive line up of films for the audiences, it will be interesting to see if the star-studded month can finally break the jinx and deliver good at the box office.

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Pakistan, India cannot live like enemies: Nawaz Sharif

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Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has invited India to hold talks with the country on all issues, saying that the two neighbours cannot live like enemies.

According to the Dawn, Sharif said that India and Pakistan need to resolve all issues in a comprehensive way.

His statement came while he was addressing a foundation stone-laying ceremony for the western route of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project here on Wednesday.

The route will cover Zhob-Mughal Kot (N-50) and Qila Saifullah-Wagum (N-70).

Sharif also said that National Security Adviser Nasser Janjua had held meetings with Indian officials to discuss issues and conflicts between the two countries.

Record El Nino, climate change drive extreme weather

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Deadly extreme weather on at least five continents is driven in large part by a record-breaking El Nino, but climate change is a likely booster too, experts said.

The 2015-16 El Nino, they added, is the strongest ever measured.

“It is probably the most powerful in the last 100 years,” said Jerome Lecou, a climate expert at the French weather service Meteo France, noting that accurate measurements have only existed since the mid-20th century.

Flooding and mudslides unleashed by torrential rains have killed at least 10 people and driven more than 150,000 from their homes in Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay in recent days.

In central and southwestern United States – where temperatures in Texas are forecast to drop from a balmy 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit) Saturday to zero (32 F) on Monday – clashing weather fronts have given rise to snow-packed blizzards, freezing rain and a spate of tornadoes that have claimed at least 43 lives.

Across the Pacific, meanwhile, wildfires in Australia fanned by high temperatures and super-dry conditions have engulfed more than 100 homes outside Melbourne, with hundreds more threatened.

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Across south and southeast Asia, monsoon rains essential for life-sustaining crops have been limited, while drought in eastern Africa means millions will require food aid, especially in Ethiopia, according to Oxfam.

“The role of El Nino on much of what we are seeing around the planet is obvious,” said Herve Le Treut, a climate scientist and director of the Pierre-Simon Laplace Institute, which is a federation of French research centres.

El Ninos, which emerge every four to seven years on average and run from October through January, are triggered by a shift in trade winds across the Pacific around the equator.

Warmer surface water that normally accumulates in the western Pacific moves to the east, leading to heavier rainfall along the west coast of the Americas and drier-than-usual conditions in Australasia and southeast Asia.

This year’s El Nino is the most powerful ever measured, surpassing the one in 1997-98, both in terms of ocean surface temperature – up by more than 3C (5.4F) – and the surface area affected, said Lecou.

As was true in 1998, this year’s super El Nino will have contributed to making 2015 the warmest on record, worldwide.

But the reverse may also be true, with climate change boosting the power of cyclical El Nino events.

RCom, Aircel to pare debt to Rs 20,000 cr ahead of merger

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The three-way merger between Reliance Communications (RCom), Aircel and MTS (brand of Sistema Shyam) is on course to create a formidable company, with best-in-class spectrum and reasonably strong financials.

Even as the entities have written to the Competition Commission of India(CCI) for approval, both RCom and Aircel are working on lowering their debt, which they have agreed to cap in the new entity at Rs 20,000 crore.Sistema Shyam has agreed to settle its liabilities ahead of the merger with RCom.

After the sale of its tower and fibre assets, RCom’s debt is expected to come down to Rs 10,000 crore, which will be transferred to the merged entity. Aircel, too, is planning to bring down its debt to Rs 10,000 crore from the present Rs 26,000 crore. Sistema Shyam will also pay off its Rs 4,153 crore debt. Experts said the company would have found it difficult to incur capital expenditure if the debt of the combined entity remained elevated. Emailed questionnaires to Aircel and RCom remained unanswered.

Investment bankers said at Rs 20,000 crore, the debt to Ebitda (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) ratio of the new company would be 2.5 because the operating income of the new entity could be Rs 7,800 crore. RCom’s current Ebitda is Rs 7,000 crore, which includes income from tower assets and the wireless business. The wireless Ebitda is Rs 4,000 crore, which will come to the new entity along with that of MTS.

If the new entity generates the Ebitda it estimates, then its net debt/Ebitda ratio will be better than the incumbents.

Currently, Bharti’s debt/Ebitda ratio stands at 2.8, while that of Idea is 3. RCom’s debt to Ebitda ratio is 5.3.

According to Religare Institutional Equities, if the deal materialises, “RCom’s revenue market share would almost double from eight per cent to 15 per cent.” The new entity will have three primary shareholders. RCom is expected to have a 50 per cent stake, Aircel 40 per cent and MTS 10 per cent. Given that MTS has already done its deal with RCom, it will have 9-9.5 per cent in what will be left of RCom after the demerger of the wireless business.

Investment bankers said after the demerger and asset sale, RCom would be a debt-free company with an operating income of Rs 1,500 crore. The new RCom will house the enterprise business, data centres and global fibre optic network.

Consolidation in India’s telecom sector, according to PwC, can be outright, like the MTS-Reliance merger, or via spectrum trading/sharing deals, like the Idea-Videocon deal announced recently. Investment bankers said outright purchase assets was unlikely because it would be very expensive and come with a lot of regulatory payouts.

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Under merger and acquisitions guidelines set by the government, the acquirer has to pay to liberalise the spectrum of the company it is acquiring. Since this is a merger, RCom and Aircel are expected to pay their respective dues to liberalise their spectrum. Given this is a merger of three entities, the government will have to be paid regulatory charges to liberalise the administered spectrum.

The department of telecommunications is in the process of raising a demand notice of Rs 5,600 crore on RCom to liberalise its administered spectrum in the 800 MHz band in 12 circles. RCom will fund this through internal accruals. It will have to pay Rs 6,800 crore to liberalise its spectrum in the 800 MHz band in all 15 circles and Rs 2,900 crore for 1800 MHz spectrum. However, this may not be done immediately and RCom may take a call at a later stage depending on the business scenario.

Aircel, too, was in the process of liberalising its spectrum by paying the DoT regulatory charges, sources said. The

MTS spectrum

(in 2100 MHz and 2300 MHz) does not need liberalising because it was bought in auction and will be used to shift RCom’s CDMA subscribers. Charges payable to DoT to liberalise Aircel’s spectrum are estimated to be Rs 7,013 crore (in 900 MHz and 1800 MHz). This is for a period from January 1 till expiry of the license.

This three-way merger is expected to be a win-win for all players as it will provide the new entity a pan-India footprint, say analysts. The new entity will have 19.3 per cent of the industry’s spectrum holdings and will be the second largest player in terms of subscribers (200 million).

According to Navin Kulkarni of PhillipCapital, “The deal is a win-win for all players and will create a strong telecom player. However, with a revenue market share of 15 per cent, the new company will still be behind Idea, which has a revenue market share of 19 per cent.”

According to experts, this merger will enable RCom to prevent loss of GSM subscribers in markets where it could not renew its 900 MHz licence (Assam, Bihar, Northeast and West Bengal). In markets like Himachal Pradesh and Odisha, RCom will be able to use its newly acquired 5 MHz spectrum in the 1800 MHz and 900 MHz bands for 3G/4G by moving its GSM subscribers into Aircel’s 1800 MHz spectrum. The merged entity will be able to have 10 MHz of continous spectrum in four markets for improved 3G download speeds (Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Kolkata and Odisha). The merged entity will also have a pan-India 3G footprint in the 2100 MHz band except four markets (Gujarat, Haryana, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh West) and 4G footprint in 10 of the 22 markets.

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The merger will also derisk RCom from imminent licence expiry. Most of RCom’s 800/1800 MHz licences are expiring in the next five years, and Aircel’s licences have another 9-10 years, except Tamil Nadu which is expiring in three years.

WHAT THE DEAL MEANS

FOR THE NEW ENTITY

  • New entity will be the second-largest telecom company on the basis of subscribers (202 mn)
  • Company to hold 19.3% of spectrum
  • Company to generate Ebitda of Rs 7,800 crore
  • With revenue of Rs 32,000 cr, firm to be No. 4 in terms of revenue market share (15%)
  • New company’s debt to Ebitda ratio to be 2.5

FOR RCOM

  • The new RCom becomes entirely debt-free entity
  • RCom to manage enterprise, global fibre optic and data centre businesses
  • RCom to generate Ebitda of Rs 1,500 cr annually

FOR AIRCEL

  • Gets a pan-India footprint through its 40% stake in the new entity
  • The merged entity will have a pan-India 3G footprint in 2100 MHz band, except in Gujarat, Haryana, Maharashtra, UPW, and 4G footprint in 10 of the 22 markets
  • Allows the company to exit the Indian market through consolidation

Iconic Marathi poet Mangesh Padgaonkar passes away

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Iconic Marathi poet and Padma Bhushan recipient Mangesh Keshav Padgaonkar passed away here today after a brief illness. He was 86.

Born on March 10, 1929 in Vengurla, Sindhudurg district in Maharashtra, he received a Master of Arts degree in Marathi and Sanskrit from the University of Bombay.

He taught Marathi at Ruia College for some years, and then during the 1970-1990 period served as an editor at the US Information Service, both in Mumbai.

Along with poets Vinda Karandikar and Vasant Bapat, Padgaonkar was part of many poetry recitation programmes that were held in Maharashtra in 1960s and 1970s. He has also written lyrics of many Marathi film songs.

Sung by Arun Date, his songs “Ya Janmawar, Ya Jaganyawar Shatada Prem Karawe”, “Bhatukalichya Khelamadhali” and “Shukratara Mand Wara” are well known.

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In 1983-84, he also penned University of Pune’s theme song “Punyamayee De Amha Akshar Vardaan”. It was Pu La Deshpande who had asked Padgaonkar to write this song in one day.

It was then composed by music director Bhaskar Chandavarkar.

In 2012, he was also honoured with ‘Jeevan Sadhana Gaurav Puraskar’ by University of Pune for his contributions in the field of literature.

He was President of the 2nd Vishwa Marathi Sahitya Sammelan held in Dubai in 2010 and organised by the Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Mahamandal.

Padgaonkar had 40 publications to his credit. The US Library of Congress has acquired 31 of his publications. He has written a collection of essays and published it under the title ‘Nimbonichya Zaadamage’.

Padgaonkar translated works of Mirabai and published a book ‘Mira’ in 1965. He also translated works of Kabir and Surdas in Marathi alongwith Shakespeare’s plays ‘The Tempest’, ‘Julius Ceasar’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

His translations of ‘Bible: The New Testament’ was published in 2008. Along with translating the famous works of other authors, Padgaonkar also wrote forewords to these books wherein he has commented on the original authors, their styles of writing and literature of respective eras.

Padgaonkar also published his experiences of poetry writing in the book “Shodh Kavitecha”.

Padgaonkar received several awards, including the Sahitya Academy Award in 1980 for his collection of poems Salam, the MP Literary Conference Award in 1956, and the Maharashtra State Award in 1953 and 1955.

In 2008, Padgaonkar was awarded with Maharashtra Bhushan Award.

Breast cancer drug can be useful for other types of cancer

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Researchers have recently found that a new oral drug for breast cancer named, Palbociclib, has potential to combat other types of cancer as well.

Scientists from University of Pennsylvania said that Palbociclib targets the rapid division of tumor cells by inhibiting the activity of the enzymes CDK4 and CDK6, which propel cell division and increase in number in most cancers. It is the first CDK4/6 inhibitor to be approved for the treatment of breast cancer.

Lead author Amy S. Clark said that all living cells undergo cell division and Palbociclib has a unique capacity to halt the cell division process, therefore it has potentially broad applicability.

Clark added that pairing Palbociclib with other anti-cancer therapies such as endocrine therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy can create a powerful combinatorial effect with real promise for addressing a variety of cancers.

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Researcher Peter J. O’Dwyer said that this drug has minor effects on normal cells other than neutrophils. In tumors, it can cause shrinkage, or more commonly, arrest of growth.

Also, combining Palbociclib with other anti-cancer agents is feasible, and early results in myeloma and some solid tumors have led to more definitive studies.

In both breast and other cancer trials, Palbociclib has been shown to be safe with once-daily dosing, and its main adverse effect is reversible neutropenia, an abnormally low count of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that helps fight infections. The lower their neutrophil count, the more vulnerable patients are to infectious diseases. In such cases the drug is temporarily discontinued and reintroduced at a lower dose.

The research is published in the journal ‘JAMA Oncology.

India successfully test-fires long-range surface-to-air Barak-8 missile

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The Indian Navy on Wednesday successfully test-fired the long-range surface-to-air missile, Barak-8, from onboard INS Kolkata.

The missile system is being jointly developed by IAI, DRDO, Israel’s Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure, Elta Systems, Rafael and other companies.

The Ministry of Defence expressed jubilance over this quantum jump in air defence capability of the Indian Navy.

In a series of tweets, the Defence Ministry said, “Indian Navy achieves a significant milestone in enhancing its anti missile defence capability. Successfully test fires long range surface to air missiles from INS Kolkata. Aerial targets destroyed at extended ranges.Quantum jump in air defence capability of Indian Navy. LRSAMs being fitted in capital warships progressively.”

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Two missiles were fired yesterday and today on high speed targets, during naval exercises being undertaken in the Arabian Sea, a Defence spokesperson said.

This is a significant step towards Indian Navy’s transformation into a force capable of projecting power in its area of interest, the spokesperson added.