Isnin, 26 Disember 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

U.S. considering travel request from Yemen's Saleh

Posted: 26 Dec 2011 07:14 PM PST

HONOLULU (Reuters) - The U.S. government is trying to decide whether to let Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh travel to the United States for medical treatment, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Monday.

Yemen's outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh speaks during a news conference in Sanaa December 24, 2011. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

Saleh was injured in a June assassination attempt that forced him into a hospital in Saudi Arabia, and transferred power to his vice president last month after months of protests that brought the Gulf country to the brink of civil war.

Earnest declined to say when a decision on whether to allow Saleh into the United States would be made, and denied a New York Times report that the embattled Yemeni president's petition was accepted and he could arrive at New York-Presbyterian Hospital as soon as the end of this week.

"U.S. officials are continuing to consider President Saleh's request to enter the country for the sole purpose of seeking medical treatment, but initial reports that permission has already been granted are not true," Earnest said in Hawaii, where President Barack Obama is vacationing.

Earlier on Monday, an Obama administration official said Saleh's office had contacted the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa to say the Yemeni leader wanted to get specialized care in the United States to treat injuries sustained in the assassination attempt.

The attempt on Saleh's life came after he tried to duck the power-transfer accord brokered by Gulf Arab nations, sparking street battles that devastated parts of the capital.


Hundreds of people were killed during months of protests seeking Saleh's ouster. The political deadlock reignited simmering conflicts with separatists and militants, raising fears that Yemen's al Qaeda wing could take a foothold on the borders of Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter.

Allowing Saleh, who ruled Yemen for more than three decades, to get treatment in the United States could undercut Obama's message of supporting pro-democracy movements across the Arab world and condemning crackdowns on protests like those seen recently in Syria.

Embattled world leaders often travel to politically neutral Switzerland for medical care.

On Saturday, just hours after his forces killed nine people who had demanded he be tried for the killings of demonstrators over the past year, Saleh said he would leave Yemen and give way to a successor. He did not say when he would go.

Saleh suggested he would undergo medical tests in the United States but characterized the trip as one of temporary exile.

"I will go to the United States. Not for treatment, because I'm fine, but to get away from attention, cameras, and allow the unity government to prepare properly for elections," Saleh said. "I'll be there for several days, but I'll return because I won't leave my people and comrades who have been steadfast for 11 months."

Obama's top counterterrorism official, John Brennan, called Yemen's acting leader on Sunday to stress the need for Yemeni forces "to show maximum restraint" with protests, Earnest said.

In his phone conversation with Yemeni Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, Brennan also appealed for all sides of Yemen's political transition to avoid "provocative acts that could spur further violence."

Hadi told Brennan he would do his utmost to prevent further bloodshed, Earnest said, adding both officials agreed it was important to stick to the transition path leading to Yemen's February 21, 2012, presidential election.

"Mr. Brennan told Vice President Hadi that the United States remains a strong and fervent supporter of the Yemeni people in their quest to realize their richly deserved aspirations for security, political stability, representative government, and economic prosperity," Earnest said.

Hadi has urged Saleh's foes and loyalists to commit to a truce.

(Editing by Doina Chiacu)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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China official says Wukan protest shows rights demands on rise

Posted: 26 Dec 2011 06:04 PM PST

BEIJING (Reuters) - The senior Chinese official who helped defuse a standoff with protesting villagers has told officials to get used to citizens who are increasingly assertive about their rights and likened erring local governments to red apples with rotten cores.

Zhu Mingguo, a deputy Communist Party secretary of southern Guangdong province, last week helped broker a compromise between the government and residents of Wukan village. Ten days of protests over confiscated farmland and the death of a protest organiser drew widespread attention as a rebuff to the stability-before-all government.

Speaking to officials about Wukan and other protests, Zhu said these were not isolated flare-ups, the Guangzhou Daily, the official paper of the provincial capital, reported on Tuesday.

"In terms of society, the public's awareness of democracy, equality and rights is constantly strengthening, and their corresponding demands are growing," Zhu told a meeting on Monday about preserving social stability, the paper said.

"Public consciousness of rights defence is growing, and the means used to defend rights are increasingly intense," said Zhu. "Their channels for voicing grievances are diverse, and there is a tendency for conflicts to become more intense."

Zhu also cited protests by migrant factory workers who complained about ill-treatment. These areas where unrest erupted had won praise as "advanced units" - showcases of growth and harmony, noted Zhu.

Not so, he said.

"In these areas there were many problems that were not swiftly identified, and when they erupted, the consequences were even more serious," said Zhu, referring to the response by local officials.

"Like apples, their hearts were rotten even if their skins were red, and when the skins broke, there was a real mess."


Red is the colour of the ruling Communist Party, and Zhu's comments reflected debate within it about warding off risks of unrest from an increasingly unequal and diverse society.

In recent days, Chinese courts have jailed two dissidents for nine and 10 years respectively, underscoring the government's determination to silence critics whom it fears will channel discontent into organised opposition to one-party rule.

That concern is magnified by preparations for a party congress in late 2012, when the central leadership will retire and make way for a new generation.

Zhu put much of the blame for the recent unrest on local administrators. In Wukan, he said, officials had sold off more than two thirds of the village land, without providing for residents' welfare.

"Now, where are the state cadres who remember that farmers don't have land for their food?" Zhu told the meeting. "When do they think of the hardships of ordinary people."

"If these complaints had been dealt with sooner, would they have ever caused such a big ruckus?"

The protests in Wukan ended after officials made concessions over the seized farmland and the death of a village leader, Xue Jinbo, whose family suspects he was beaten in custody.

Villagers denounced local officials as corrupt and heartless throughout their months-long dispute, which erupted in rioting in September. But they ended up welcoming province officials led by Zhu as brokers who finally stepped in to forge compromise.

The officials agreed to release three men held over the land protest in September, when a government office was trashed, and to re-examine the cause of Xue's death, protest organisers said.

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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PIP implants sold to Dutch firm under new name

Posted: 26 Dec 2011 03:44 PM PST

AMSTERDAM/MARSEILLE (Reuters) - Potentially dangerous breast implants made by a now-defunct French company were sold to about 1,000 Dutch women under a different name, a Dutch health official said Monday, broadening a scandal that could already affect some 300,000 women worldwide.

Plastic surgeon Denis Boucq displays a silicone gel breast implant manufactured by French company Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) in a clinic in Nice December 26, 2011. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

Dutch health authority spokeswoman Diane Bouhuijs said a Dutch company had bought implants made by France's Poly Implant Prothese, which went bankrupt in 2010 after French health authorities shut its doors and is now under investigation, and sold them in the Netherlands rebranded as "M-implants."

"We estimate that some 1,000 women in the Netherlands have those implants. We have advised them to consult their physician," Bouhuijs said.

She declined to disclose the name of the Dutch company.

The rebranding of PIP implants potentially expands the scope of the health controversy in which PIP, once the third-largest maker of breast implants in the world, stands accused of using industrial-grade instead of medical-grade silicone in some of its prostheses. They were sold in a number of European and Latin America countries.

The company's founder, Jean-Claude Mas, was able to charge lower prices for the implants using the non-approved silicone.

Health authorities have cited no evidence of increased cancer risk due to the PIP implants but have said they have higher rates of rupture that could cause inflammation and irritation.

While the French government has urged the 30,000 women in France with PIP implants to have them removed, other countries including Britain and Brazil say that women should visit their surgeons for checks.

Health spokeswoman Bouhuijs did not say how long M-implants were sold in the Netherlands before they were banned in March 2010, along with PIP-labelled implants, as in France.

In early 2010 Dutch authorities launched an investigation into breast implants which is still going on, Bouhuijs said.

France's drug and medical device regulator, AFSSAPS, was closed Monday due to the holidays, so Reuters was unable to ascertain whether health authorities knew about the M-implants.


Mas's lawyer Yves Haddad told Reuters Monday that his 72-year-old client is in poor health but ready to respond to any court summoning.

No one has been charged in the case, but sources say a Marseilles court could soon announce fraud charges against four to six ex-PIP employees. An investigation into involuntary homicide is going on, following the death from cancer in 2010 of a woman who had PIP implants.

Haddad denied that Mas was in hiding, reiterating that he was still in southern France's Var region.

"He's currently in very bad health because he has just undergone a difficult surgery that prevents him from walking," Haddad said.

The news that Mas had recently been operated on was confirmed by a second source, who cited a vascular problem.

"He is worried by the importance this matter is taking on. He is angry at those who pointlessly add to people's suffering,"

Haddad said.

Haddad denied reports that Mas was a former butcher, saying that before founding PIP in 1991 he worked for more than 15 years as a medical sales representative for Bristol Myers.


French plastic surgeon Patrick Perichaud, who implanted over 600 women with prostheses made by PIP between 2001 and 2009, defended the devices, saying their rupture rates were no higher than other makers' products.

Perichaud told Reuters PIP was at the forefront of breast implant technology in the past two decades. Whereas other implant makers made saline prostheses that had to be filled once inside the breast, PIP introduced a pre-filled version, he said.

In 2001, after a 10-year ban of silicone implants was lifted in France, PIP was the first to make asymmetrically shaped implants whose look was more natural than competitors', he said.

"This made for very natural-looking breasts, and allowed me to put the prostheses in front of the muscle and not behind it, like we had to do often before," said Perichaud, who is based in the southern city of Toulon.

The cost of the implants was 610 euros ($800). He said the patients bought the implants directly from PIP and that he as a surgeon did not get any financial incentive to steer clients toward the company.

The current breast implant health scare was "more psychological than scientific" he said, adding that no concrete link had been made between PIP implants and cancer.

"Breast cancer affects one in ten women, even one in eight, so if 30,000 patients received PIP implants, statistically that would make 3000 cancers," he said.

Since the start of the PIP scandal in 2010, Perichaud has re-operated on 148 women to remove the implants at issue.

(Additional reporting by Alexandria Sage and Sophie Louet; writing Alexandria Sage; editing by Geert De Clercq)

Related Stories:
Latin American women fret over scandal-hit implants

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Sports

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Azizul raises hope of higher gold haul in Asian meet

Posted: 26 Dec 2011 03:14 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: The presence of track cyclist Azizulhasni Awang will boost Malaysia's hopes of improving on the single gold-medal haul in the Asian Cycling Championships at the Cheras Velodrome in Kuala Lumpur in February.

Malaysia last hosted the Asian meet in 2006 and two-time World Championships silver medallist Azizul, who is making a comeback after his career-threatening calf injury at the start of the year, has the chance to kickstart what will be an important season to him on a perfect note.

Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) deputy president Datuk Naim Mohamad said Azizul is coming back to Kuala Lumpur from his Melbourne training base to compete in the Asian meet from Feb 8-18.

The road disciplines will be held in Putrajaya with the Asian junior meet running concurrently.

"Coach John Beasley now wants Azizul and the rest of the Melbourne-based cyclists like Josiah Ng and Fatehah Mustapa to compete in the Asian championships as it will be a good gauge of their physical form after a month of intensive training.

"They will skip the third leg of the World Cup in Beijing next month but will go for the final round of the World Cup in London, which will be held on the newly built velodrome hosting the Olympics later in the year. "Azizul should put up a stronger challenge at the Asian championships compared to his two earlier outings in the World Cups in Kazakhstan and Cali as we expect him to be back at his previous best before the calf injury.

"We hope Azizul can regain his Asian title in the keirin or sprints. There's also extra incentive as the winner of the individual disciplines earns direct qualification to the World Championships in Melbourne in April," he said.

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Happy ending for paddler Sock Khim after starting year on low note

Posted: 26 Dec 2011 03:13 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: Paddler Ng Sock Khim may have started the year on a low note but she is bidding goodbye to it on a high.

The 26-year-old, representing Kedah, claimed her third women's singles crown at the National Table Tennis Championships in Ipoh over the weekend with a hard fought 4-3 win over fellow national player Chiu Soo Jiin.

It was a most satisfying triumph for Sock Khim, who also won in 2007 and 2008, as she only returned to training in October after undergoing a career-saving knee operation six months earlier.

Sock Khim, who led the women's team to their first-ever bronze medal at the New Delhi Commonwealth Games, came down with the injury while playing at the national championships last year and her condition took a turn for the worse early in the season. She opted to go under the knife and was forced to give up the chance to feature in the recent Indonesia SEA Games.

"It wasn't the first time I tore my knee ligament.

"I had my first knee injury two years ago just before the Laos SEA Games and had to opt out then as well," she said.

"The injury is more serious the second time around.

"I had to decide between either going for surgery or not playing competitively anymore.

"Having the operation meant a long rehabilitation period and missing the SEA Games for the second time. But there was no avoiding it if I wanted to continue playing with the national team.

"I'm glad that it has all worked out fine. I'm thrilled to win my first competition after being out for so long," said Sock Khim, who fought her way to a surprise silver at the 2007 SEA Games in Korat.

Regaining her national title has whetted Sock Khim's appetite and she is eager to make up for lost time by winning more honours next year.

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Coaches and former internationals can still play part in 1Mas

Posted: 26 Dec 2011 03:15 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Former internationals and accredited coaches can still play a part in the 1Mas programme by setting up their own coaching sub-centres to help develop the game at grassroots level.

There are currently 15 centres of excellence — all the states have one while Kedah has two — under the programme. The plan is to increase the number of sub-centres to cover more areas in the country.

Former internationals can get involved through the "outsource" initiative which will provide the backing for these sub-centres although they are not part of the official programme.

Currently, there are three such centres — two in Pahang (Jerantut and Karak) and one in Penang — operated by state coaches. The Jerantut centre is run by M. Gopalkrishanan and S. Balachander while Kunam Sargam is in charge in Karak. The Penang centre, based at the Penang Free School and the SRJK Ramakrishna, has Yap Gark Soo and M. Thayalan as the coordinators.

1Mas director Lim Chiow Chuan hopes others will follow suit. He said former internationals and coaches can learn more about the outsource initiative through the official website or the secretariat at the National Hockey Stadium.

"This is a good way for former internationals to give back to the game. We offer them equipment, coaching allowances and help with the pitch rental so that the centres can cater to the training needs of the kids. We will also send the coaches for courses and will visit them to evaluate their training programmes and offer suggestions."

Currently, former internationals are mainly either national, state or club coaches. There are just a handful who coach kids on their own initiative.

Malaysia Hockey Confederation (MHC) Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah recently said that more effort should be put into the development of the game at the lower levels.

"It is for the states to ensure that their coaches help nurture new talent. They can do this through the 1Mas programme," he said.

It is left to be seen if any of the former internationals or coaches will take up the challenge in the coming year.

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The Star Online: Business

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Vietnam's rice exports at record high, talks on to export more to M'sia

Posted: 26 Dec 2011 04:28 PM PST

HANOI: Vietnam's rice exports this year jumped 4.36 percent from 2010 to a record high of 7.19 million tonnes, the Agriculture Ministry said on Monday, beating previous industry projections.

Vietnam is in talks with Malaysia to sell 200,000 tonnes of 5 percent broken rice, which could bring its rice exports in 2012 to Malaysia to 500,000 tonnes, the Vietnam Economic Times newspaper reported on Monday.

Based on a floor price of $500 a tonne for the 5-percent broken variety set last week, the deal would be worth $100 million, free-on-board basis.

Malaysia is Vietnam's third-largest rice buyer after Indonesia and the Philippines.

It has taken delivery of 464,500 tonnes of Vietnamese rice in the first 11 months, up 30.6 percent from the same period last year, Vietnam's Agriculture Ministry data show.

Total Vietnamese Rice export revenue rose 14 percent from last year to an estimated $3.7 billion, the ministry said in its monthly report on Monday.

Vietnam, the world's second-largest rice exporter after Thailand, had been expected to export around 7 million tonnes of the grain this year, after shipping a record 6.83 million tonnes in 2010.

The higher revenues came after Asian rice prices were boosted by a Thai government purchasing scheme while Southeast Asia's floods led to a food shortage, the report said.

It estimated Vietnam produced a record 42.3 million tonnes of paddy in 2011, up 5.8 percent from last year, coffee output rose 5 percent from 2010 to nearly 1.17 million tonnes and rubber output rose 8 percent to 811,600 tonnes.

Vietnam is the world's largest robusta coffee producer.

It is the fourth-largest natural rubber exporter after Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Coffee exports in 2011 are estimated at 1.22 million tonnes, or 20.33 million 60-kg bags, up only 0.2 percent from 2010, the agriculture ministry said.

Vietnam's rice output in 2012 is expected to remain steady at this year's record levels of around 42 million tonnes of unhusked grain, a government minister has said, which could help ensure supply in Asia and soften food prices.

The country has set an initial target to export between 6.5 million and 7 million tonnes of rice in 2012. - Reuters

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Malaysia-Market factors to watch Tuesday Dec 27

Posted: 26 Dec 2011 04:17 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Following is a list of events in Malaysia as well as news stories and press reports which may influence financial markets.


> Cargo surveyor Societe Generale de Surveillance issues Dec 1-25 Malaysian palm oil exports after 2.30pm (0630).

> Permodalan Nasional Bhd announces dividend payout for Amanah Saham Nasional Scheme at Menara PNB, Kuala Lumpur at 10.00 am (0200).

> Lion Industries Corp Bhd holds AGM at Office Tower, Jalan Nagasari, Kuala Lumpur at 11.00am (0300).


* Malaysia's benchmark stock exchange edged up 0.3 percent on Friday ahead of the long Chirstmas weekend, led by gains in British American Tobacco and oil and gas to auto distributor UMW Holdings.

* The S&P 500 turned positive for the year and closed out its third week of gains in four on Friday as equities extended their rally after a string of unexpectedly strong economic data.

* Wall Street stocks rose on Friday and oil prices edged up as upbeat data reinforced a slightly better outlook for the U.S. economy, curbing a bid for safe-haven U.S. Treasury debt.

# Malaysian crude palm oil futures climbed to a near three-week high on Friday on shortcovering ahead of the weekend that was driven by upbeat U.S. data and prospects of lower output triggered by heavy rain fall in parts of Malaysia.


> Cairn to start Sri Lanka oil exploration 2nd phase

> Malaysia seeks 200,000 T rice from Vietnam-newspaper

> Abraaj made "significant profit" on Acibadem deal - CEO

> Malaysia's Khazanah buys into Turkey's Acibadem

> Inflation and monetary policy in Southeast Asia

> Petronas in talks with oil majors for petchem tie-up

> Indonesia plans coal, base metals export tax in 2012

> Myanmar scraps taxes on overseas labourers

> Singapore's Ascott denies Malaysia REIT listing report

> Australia offers to reopen Sth Pacific asylum centres

* Emerging Asian currencies rose broadly on Friday in thin trading ahead of the year end after encouraging data from the United States sparked buying in risky assets.

* Most Southeast Asian stock markets edged higher on Friday, poised for slight gains on the week amid strength in commodities-related stocks supported by signs of a strengthening U.S. economy.

The following factors are likely to influence Malaysian palm oil futures and other vegetable oil markets on Tuesday.


* Malaysian crude palm oil futures climbed to a one-month high on Friday on shortcovering ahead of the weekend that was driven by upbeat U.S. data and prospects of lower output triggered by heavy rain fall in parts of Malaysia.

* Wheat reached a fresh five-week high on Friday, while soybeans and corn posted modest gains as the grains extended winning streaks heading into the holiday weekend.

* Oil prices rose for a fifth straight day on Friday, on concerns about potential supply disruptions in Iran and Iraq and recent signs of a strengthening U.S. economy.


* Wall Street stocks rose on Friday and oil prices edged up as upbeat data reinforced a slightly better outlook for the U.S. economy, curbing a bid for safe-haven U.S. Treasury debt.


> Malaysia's Dec 1-25 palm oil exports down 11.6 pct-ITS

> Lack of rain could hurt Argentine soy - exchange

> So. Brazil crops to see rain; drier weather next week


>Cargo surveyor Societe Generale de Surveillance issues Dec 1-25 Malaysian palm oil exports on Tuesday.

DIARY - Malaysia



RAWANG, SELANGOR - Seacera Group Bhd holds EGM at Perangsang Templer Golf Club, Templer Park Resort, Rawang at 0900am (0100). * SHAH ALAM - Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin launches Bionexus partnership network at Universiti Teknologi Mara, Puncak Alam campus, Shah Alam at 1000am (0200).

KUALA LUMPUR - LFE Corp Bhd holds AGM at Lot 43117, Off Jalan Balakong, Balakong, Seri Kembangan at 1000am (0200).

KUALA LUMPUR - Lion Industries Corp Bhd holds AGM at Office Tower, Jalan Nagasari, Kuala Lumpur at 1100am (0300).


SUBANG JAYA - Farlim Group (M) Bhd holds EGM at Holiday Villa, Subang Jaya at 1000am (0200).

MALACCA - Huat Lai Resources Bhd holds EGM at PT 1678, Mukim of Serkam, Merlimau, Melaka at 1000am (0200).

KUALA LUMPUR - F5 Networks' media luncheon cum product launch at Urban Spoon Restaurant, Plaza Damas, Jalan Sri Hartamas at 1130am (0330). - Reuters

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Japan relaxes decades-old arms exports ban

Posted: 26 Dec 2011 04:15 PM PST

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan relaxed Tuesday its self-imposed decades-old ban on military equipment exports, Kyodo news agency reported, in a move that will open up new markets to its defence contractors and help the nation squeeze out more out of its defence budget.

Kyodo said the government's security council agreed to the relaxing of the ban to allow Japan take part in joint development and production of arms with other countries and supply military equipment for humanitarian missions.

The rule adopted in 1967 banned sales to communist countries, those involved in international conflicts or subject to United Nations sanctions.

It later became a blanket ban on exports and on the development and production of weapons with countries other than the United States, making it impossible for manufacturers to participate in multinational projects.

The move could allow companies such as Mitsubishi Heavy to join the development of Lockheed Martin's F-35 which Tokyo picked last week as its next frontline fighter, planning to buy 42 machines at an estimated cost of more than $7 billion.

Although Japan is the world's sixth-biggest military spender, it often pays more than double other nations for the same equipment because local export-restricted manufacturers can only fill small orders at a high cost.

Removing the ban would stretch its defence purse further as military spending in neighbouring China expands.

This year, Beijing raised military outlays by 12.7 percent. That included money for its own stealth fighter, the J-20, which made its maiden flight in January.

In contrast, Japan's defence budget has been shrinking from year to year in past years as ballooning costs of social security and servicing its growing debt pile squeeze other spending.

Given fiscal restraints, Tokyo is keen to make its defence program more efficient to maintain its military capability in the face of China's nascent and growing uncertainties in the region.

The relaxation of the ban, that has been modified in the past to allow sharing of military technology with the United States, could also be a boon for Japanese manufacturers -- the strong yen weighing on their civilian exports and weak domestic demand and budget constraints restricting growth at home.

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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Bollywood rediscovered heroes in 2011

Posted: 26 Dec 2011 12:32 AM PST

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Bollywood struck gold in 2011, revving up lacklustre box offices in India with help from its leading men who wooed audiences back to cinemas after a dismal 2010.

Domestic revenues hit 19.25 billion rupees this year, up from 14.5 billion rupees in 2010, and an unprecedented four films crossed the billion rupee milestone. Two of those blockbusters starred actor Salman Khan.

The solid performance contrasted sharply to the previous year when there were hardly any hits.

"Audiences and filmmakers have gone back and discovered stories that are close to our Indian roots," said Sanjeev Lamba, Chief executive of Reliance Entertainment, which produced two of the year's biggest blockbusters -- "Bodyguard" and "Singham".

"Bodyguard", in which Khan plays a personal security guard to a rich man's daughter and ends up falling in love with her, was the most successful Bollywood film, raking in more than 1.5 billion rupees at domestic box offices.

"Singham" told the story of a right-minded police officer who stands up to a corrupt politician and was accompanied by romance, drama and high-octane action.

Both "Bodyguard" and "Singham" were panned by critics but loved by audiences. And both featured strong central characters, harkening back to the 1980s and early '90s in Bollywood when films were centred on the hero and his defeat of a villain in a battle of good versus evil.

"Audiences have always loved the dilemmas of the hero, a little bit of action, some drama and some romance," Lamba said. "We had a lot of that this year."

Other themes were successful, too.

Offbeat films like "The Dirty Picture", based on the life of a soft-core porn star, proved to be sleeper hits and took industry analysts by surprise. Together with the likes of "Singham" and "Bodyguard", these smaller films proved audiences have an appetite for both mass market and niche-oriented work.

"It is not that more people are watching movies, but that the same audience is watching more movies," said Shailesh Kapoor of Ormax Media, a firm that specialises in film market research.


But widely-hyped movies like superhero film "Ra.One" were a let-down.

In spite of a publicity blitzkrieg, actor Shah Rukh Khan's film did not live up to expectations with around 1.2 billion rupees in net box office. That was just a bit more than its official budget of a billion rupees. Industry estimates put the film's cost at over 1.5 billion rupees.

Aside from that, for the most part, Bollywood managed to keep its purse strings in check, with production houses learning that budgeting a film right is half the battle.

"Balaji Motion Pictures made 'The Dirty Picture' at a budget of less than 300 million rupees but have chosen themes and subjects which are interesting, and (they) publicised their films so well that audiences have felt compelled to watch them," said industry analyst Vajir Singh.

Big studios like Reliance and UTV also have changed their business models, preferring to co-produce films rather than acquire them after completion. Last year, Reliance suffered losses after two big-ticket acquisitions, Mani Ratnam's "Raavan" and Hrithik Roshan-starrer "Kites" flopped at box offices.

"This year, all our films have been co-productions or our own productions and we have seen the successes," Lamba said.

"We prefer to be creatively involved from the beginning of the project rather than coming in at the end in an acquisition scenario."

Indian audiences also warmed up to Hollywood blockbusters including "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" and "The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn" -- something that wasn't seen until just a few years ago due mainly to Bollywood's dominance of the box office.

"These days, the box office collections of good Hollywood films can rival those of a Bollywood film," said Sunil Punjabi, chief executive of the Cinemax chain of multiplexes.

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"Mission: Impossible" cruises to top of box office

Posted: 25 Dec 2011 09:44 PM PST

LOS ANGELES (Reuters): "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" cruised to No. 1 at box offices on Sunday, even as major new movies opened on Christmas Day which may change top 10 results when final numbers are tallied.

The new Tom Cruise movie rang up an estimated $26.5 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales over the three-day weekend, according to studio estimates, after expanding from a limited release in Imax and other large-screen theaters last week.

Paramount Pictures, which released the movie, said it expects a four-day tally of slightly more than $40 million by Monday, when final estimates are reported. The film's cumulative ticket sales are expected to reach just over $72 million after Monday.

Indeed, the weekend box office race truly will finish on Monday because Christmas day annually is among the most crowded days in theaters and on Sunday, director Steven Spielberg's widely-anticipated "War Horse" makes its debut along with another newcomer, thriller "The Darkest Hour."

Hollywood's major studios loaded the release schedule last week heading into the holiday, expecting the films to play well between now and New Year's Eve while parents and kids are away from work and school. As a result, a clear picture of how the movie studios fared this Christmas season awaits the full week of box office reports.

Meanwhile, over the weekend Warner Bros' "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" took the No. 2 spot on U.S. and Canadian (domestic) box office charts with $17.8 million, according to Sunday's estimates. Cumulative ticket sales for "Sherlock" after two weeks now stand at roughly $76.5 million.

Another holdover from last week, family comedy "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked" squeaked into No. 3 with $13.3 million, pushing its total domestic ticket sales to $50.3 million after two weeks in theaters.

Following it were a trio of last week's newcomers, widely-anticipated "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," family film "The Adventures of Tintin" and comedy "We Bought A Zoo."

"Dragon Tattoo" landed at No. 4 on Sunday with $13 million, a hair behind the chipmunks, and a Sony spokesman cautioned the studio's figure could change when Sunday's figures are final.

"Today and tomorrow should be our strongest days of the holiday frame," the spokesman said, noting that the studio did not have a Monday estimate.

"Dragon Tattoo" now has estimated total domestic ticket sales of $21.4 million since its debut.

"Tintin," another Spielberg film released by Paramount, landed at No. 5 over the weekend with $9.1 million. The studio sees it rising to $14.3 million after Monday. Total ticket sales by Monday are seen at $22.3 million since its debut.

Finally, another new entry this weekend, the comedy "We Bought a Zoo," landed at No. 6 with $7.8 million.

Paramount Pictures is a unit of Viacom Inc.

Warner Bros. is part of Time Warner Inc.

"The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" was released by the movie studio division of Sony Pictures Entertainment, a unit of Sony Corp.

Chipwrecked" and "Zoo" were both released by film divisions of 20th Century Fox, a unit of News Corp.

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