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Opinion

Indian stock market: From NPLs to IPL

The Indian stock market is in free fall, but on the sub-continent that story has had to take second billing to the forthcoming Indian Premier League 20/20 cricket tournament set to take place in April.

The tournament – the critics say it’s a great sell-out – will involve many of the world’s leading players and will generate millions of dollars for the players, the organizers, the holders of the television rights and, of course, the owners of the eight franchises participating. Those franchises were sold in an auction in January to an illustrious list of mostly Indian business moguls, actors and investors.

The commercial world was there in force, with Reliance Industries’ Mukesh Ambani snapping up the flagship Mumbai franchise for $112 million, and Vijay Mallya, controller of a beer-to-airlines group that also owns Scotch distillers Whyte and Mackay, winning the rights for the Bengaluru (Bangalore) team. The IPL will also be guaranteed a perfect crossover between two of the country’s favourite pastimes – cricket and high camp – after Bollywood’s favourite son, the actor Shah Rukh Khan, secured the Kolkata franchise for $75 million.

Two names, however, were conspicuous by their absence. The first was Anil Ambani (Mukesh’s brother), the billionaire owner of numerous companies including Reliance Power, which in February made the worst debut ever for a Mumbai stock sale. The second was Deutsche Bank’s head of global markets, Anshu Jain, who had made much of his hopes of running a key IPL franchise. Jain had partnered with more than 50 entrepreneurs to take part in the franchise frenzy – he allegedly bid for more than one team, including Mumbai and Kolkata.

Yet he still came up short, despite making much of his exalted position as the captain of Deutsche’s in-house cricket team. Bank spokespeople have been careful to distance themselves from the galling loss of face. "He made the bid on his own – it was nothing to do with us," says a bank spokesman. With well-paid friends like that on your side, who needs enemies?

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