'Black Monday' sees bloodbath on the bourses

MUMBAI: "Black Monday"! "Bloody Monday"! Even as the Indian stock market witnessed one of the worst plunges in its history, twice forcing regulators to halt trading, one tribe of people who had a field day were the wordsmiths.

Wiping out a market cap of over Rs 1,240 billion, the Sensex's steep decline is the second largest after the 1992 stock scam when it collapsed by nearly 570 points or over 12 per cent.

However, the Sensex recovered smartly in late deals to close at 4506, down a whopping 11 per cent. The Nifty also shed 194 points to close at 1389.Expectedly, media scrips also suffered huge losses. There were two exceptions though in the form of Zee Telefilms and Gemini Communication, both of which made some gains.

Zee gained at the end of the day. It bounced back from a low of Rs 102 to Rs 125 in the intra-day trade and finally settled at Rs 120.65, up 6.44 per cent over its previous close. Over 132.7 million Zee shares were traded.

Queried as to what could be the reason why Zee managed to buck the trend as it were, a merchant banking source said that the scrip was one that had not made any real gains during the upswing that the markets had seen in the last few months. The source was of the view that since the scrip had anyway been hovering near the Rs 100 mark, there was resistance to it's going lower than that.

The "senseless" fall of the Sensex could not have come at a worse time for Dr Prannoy Roy's New Delhi Television Limited (NDTV). The news broadcaster has received the listing and trading approval from BSE and NSE and its shares were expected to start trading from tomorrow (18 May). learns that the trading in NDTV scrips has been now postponed to Wednesday, 19 May. The ceremonial opening gong is scheduled for 9:50 am.

Ironically, NDTV was the biggest gainer from these elections as far as perceptions and market share ramp up were concerned. The tidal wave that has hit the bourses will likely push down the opening share price of the NDTV scrip majorly. By how much is what Dr Roy and company will be watching with trepidation.

Taken cumulatively, the loss in market capitalisation over the last two days of trading (Friday and today) works out to a mind-boggling RS 2,260 billion. So severe was the bloodbath on the bourses that brokers in Mumbai took to the streets at Dalal Street shouting slogans deriding the Sonia Gandhi-led Congress Party and its key ally, the Left Front.

It was not just Sonia and the communists that got the brokers hot under the collar though. The media was also targeted. Mediapersons and television crew were threatened outside the Bombay Stock Exchange by about 200 people and ordered to move their OB vans and equipment away.

The agitators were angry with the mediapersons "for presenting a wrong picture during elections and exit polls".

They said that distorted media reports had led to panic on the bourses. "Your exit poll results has ruined us and the statement of communist leaders on television channels have driven away FIIs. Why do you call these communist leaders to your television studios? These communists have driven away investment from West Bengal. What have they given the country?" shouted a broker.

"Why are your satellite television vans and reporters here? Get out of here. We have lost everything and you have come to report and make money out of our sorry plight," one angry stock broker was quoted in a media report as saying.

"Why do you want to know my name? You will come to know tomorrow as many of the brokers would have committed suicide by then. Read the newspaper then," shouted another.

The agitators threatened to damage the OB vans if they were not moved away. Somebody from the mob even spat on a female reporter of a TV channel covering the demonstration.

As the situation grew tense, most OB vans were moved away from the BSE building. The police soon arrived at the scene in force, fearing that the situation would get out of hand and cleared Dalal Street after telling the brokers and reporters to get out from the BSE building.

Investors were also angry with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), which, they said, was not doing what was required to correct the situation. "Has it (Sebi) stopped functioning," some of them wondered.

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