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Nov 22, 1999

  1. International
  2. Finance
  3. Industry
  4. Policy
  5. Trade
  6. Gulf

Global aluminium shakeout hits Australia

The global aluminium shakeout has reached Australia with Capral becoming the second local producer this week to consider a sale of its smelting business.

Australia is the world's largest producer of bauxite and alumina and fifth largest producer of aluminium, but has so far sidestepped the merger mania among industry heavy hitters in Europe and North America.

Capral Aluminium Ltd chairman Jeremy Davis said the company planned to split its downstream fabricating and distribution divisions.

Korea's bonds end lower ahead of Q3 GDP data

Expectations that South Korea's gross domestic product data due next week will show high growth in the third quarter spurred concerns of rising inflationary pressure that pushed down bond prices on Friday.

The benchmark three-year government bond yield ended up one basis point on the day at 8.60 percent as traders squared positions ahead of the release of the GDP data next Monday.

Taiwan says investment in China hurt by tensions

Taiwan on Friday reported a sharp fall in indirect investment in China and attributed the slump in part on persistent political tensions with its rival.

The Taiwan cabinet's Investment Commission said the value of indirect investments in mainland China for the first 10 months of this year fell 21.6 percent from the same 1998 period.

The commission said it had approved 396 investment projects worth a total US$1.018 billion between January and October. The total number approved in the period fell 28.9 percent.

Taiwan bans direct trade and investment with mainland China but Taiwan firms invest via third countries, mainly Hong Kong.

The commission attributed the decline to Taipei-Beijing tensions and a worsening investment climate on the communist mainland, especially for investors from Nationalist-ruled Taiwan.

HK banks leave deposit rates unchanged

The Hong Kong Association of Banks said on Friday it had decided to leave deposit rates unchanged at 3.75 percent.

The group last raised deposit rates by 25 basis points on August 27.

OSCE leaders sign landmark security accord

Leaders of 30 nations signed a landmark arms control treaty for Europe after Russia climbed down and agreed to allow an international political and humanitarian role in Chechnya.

The leaders began the second day of a European security summit by signing the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, updating limits on armed forces and heavy equipment set at the end of the Cold War in 1990.

President Bill Clinton signed for the United States and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov for Russia after President Boris Yeltsin flew home early, having told fellow leaders on Thursday they had no right to criticise Russia's military onslaught on "bandits and killers" in Chechnya.

In a bid to increase pressure on Moscow to end its operation in the rebel Caucasian republic, Clinton said in a statement he would not submit the treaty for ratification until Russia had reduced troop levels in the North Caucasus region.

The CFE treaty sets limits for tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery pieces, combat aircraft and attack helicopters. Russia has admitted it has breached them in Chechnya.

"Russia has pledged that it will comply with the flank provisions of the adapted treaty by reducing its forces in the North Caucasus. This must be done as soon as possible," Clinton said in the statement.

After Yeltsin's show of defiance on Thursday, Moscow yielded to Western pressure and agreed for the first time in its seven-week military campaign to give the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe both a political and a humanitarian role in the breakaway area.

Russia also agreed to invite the chairman of the OSCE, Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek, to visit the region to seek avenues for a political resolution.

OECD upbeat about world economy

The world economy is bouncing back fast from two years of crises and should grow by a healthy three per cent or more in coming years as Europe, Japan and the former Asian Tigers pick themselves up, the OECD said.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said in a semi-annual report it had increased its global growth forecast for 1999 to three per cent from 2.4 per cent and it predicted an acceleration to 3.5 per cent in each of the following two years.

The report said the deflationary risk from crises that spread from Thailand in 1997 to many other emerging markets last year seemed to have receded.

U.S. interest rate rises were now needed to combat renewed inflation risks and ensure a "soft landing" after eight years of expansion in the world's powerhouse economy, it said.

The Paris-based think-tank upgraded its U.S. growth forecast slightly — to 3.8 per cent for l999, 3.1 per cent in 2000 and 2.3 per cent in 2001 — and said the Federal Reserve should crank up rates progressively between now and the end of next year.

Mergers & Acquisitions

Saab—Celsius: Swedish defence group Saab AB agreed to buy its rival Celsius AB for five billion crowns ($600 million), in a bid to create the largest Nordic arms maker as consolidation in Europe gathers speed.

Gucci—Sanofi: Gucci said it reached agreement with Artemis S.A. to buy Sanofi, owner of Yves Saint Laurent, for $1 billion. Included in the agreement are Yves Saint Laurent's fashion business, its cosmetics and perfumes business as well as the Roger & Gallet brand.


Daihatsu: Profits at Japanese minivehicle maker Daihatsu Motor Co Ltd said its parent only current profits, which exclude earnings from subsidiaries or affiliates, shot up 224.6 per cent in the six months to September from a year earlier to 8.17 billion yen ($77.8 million).

ConSors: German on-line brokerage ConSors, one of the few listed Internet firms in the black, beat analysts' forecasts as it reported nine-month pre-tax profits 61 per cent higher than the full 1998 figure. ConSors Discount-Broker made 39.4 million marks ($20.80 million) in the first nine months of 1999.

Toys R Us: Leading specialty toy retailer Toys R Us Inc reported a 55 per cent jump in third-quarter earnings on strong sales of video games. The company said earnings excluding changes for the quarter ended October 30 were $31 million, or 13 cents per share, compared to $20 million or 8 cents per share, in last year's third quarter.

Isuzu: Japan's Isuzu Motors Ltd said net losses swelled to a record high in the six months to September.

The parent company's net loss swelled to a record half-year figure of 26.9 billion yen ($256 million) from 2.3 billion yen from the same period last year.

Dell: Dell Computer Corp said third-quarter net profits, excluding a charge, were $483 million. Dell said net income for the third quarter ended in October rose 21 per cent to $483 million, or 18 cents per share, compared with $384 million, or 14 cents per share.

China strikes deal with U.S. for WTO entry

China and the United States reached a breakthrough deal, paving the way to Beijing's entry into the World Trade Organisation and throwing open a vast market of 1.2 billion consumers.

U.S. President Bill Clinton said the deal created "unprecedented opportunities for American farmers, workers and companies to compete successfully in China's market".

Now he faces a tough battle to steer the agreement through a Republican-led Congress deeply suspicious of China.

After six days of gruelling talks —and critical intervention by Premier Zhu Rongji—the final document was signed by U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky and Chinese Trade Minister Shi Guangsheng.

Shi hailed what he called a "win-win" agreement and said he hoped China could join the WTO this year, a goal that has eluded Beijing for 13 years.

"If there's a will there's a way," state radio quoted President Jiang Zemin as telling Barshefsky after the signing of an agreement that offers a badly needed boost to fragile China-U.S. relations.

WTO-driven liberalization will constitute China's most radical reform since then paramount leader Deng Xiaoping launched his "open door" economic policies in 1978.

Negotiators raced the clock to hammer out a deal to secure China's entry before a November 30 deadline, when ministers of the WTO's 134 members meet in Seattle to launch a new trade round.

Although China still needs separate agreements with the European Union and other key trading partners—and significant differences remain to be bridged in those talks—diplomats in Beijing said they were confident others would fall into line behind the Americans fairly quickly.

Caspian oil, gas pipeline deals signed

The United States secured a major economic and political foothold in the turbulent Caucuses region with the signing of two multi-billion dollar accords to run oil and gas pipelines from the Caspian Sea through Turkey and on to world markets.

When completed, the pipelines will lessen the dependence of former Soviet republics on Russia, which currently controls the oil and gas riches of the region, and will also cut out Iran.

"These agreements are truly historic," U.S. President Bill Clinton said after witnessing the signing ceremony. "They will advance the stability and the prosperity of a region critical to the future of the entire world."

Oil prices hit highest level in nine years

Oil prices hit a nine-year high after the world's leading oil producers vowed to maintain deep supply curbs until April, despite warnings that global stockpiles are shrinking sharply ahead of winter.

Brent blend crude futures for January touched $25.07 a barrel, up 53 cents a barrel — the highest since January 1991 when allied forces expelled Iraqi troops from Kuwait.

Opec oil ministers from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela and non-Opec Mexico, after a meeting in Riyadh reiterated their commitment to maintain supply limits until the end of next March.

But the trio — the architects of a production cutting accord which has removed nearly five million barrels per day (bpd) from world oil markets — made no mention of extending their agreement beyond March.

"We looked at the oil market situation, inventories, expected commitment to keep our (output cut) agreement until March 30," Mexican Oil Minister Luis Tellez said.

US trade leadership dented: New Zealand

A $9 billion aid package for farmers and recent restrictions on lamb imports have 'dented' the leadership role of the United States heading into a new round of world trade talks, a New Zealand official said.

'We're well aware that it's the US that can really make things happen (in trade negotiations) because of your economic strength,' Malcolm Bailey, a special agricultural trade envoy, told reporters.

But compared to its 'robust' support for free trade in the past, 'I think it would be fair to say, and I wish no offence at all in saying this — the US has been somewhat timid in its approach' to the upcoming talks, Bailey said.

US House okays $385bn budget bill

The US House of Representative approved a $385bn budget package for fiscal 2000 after the White House agreed to a small across-the-board spending cut.

Final approval of the budget still awaits Senate action, which is being blocked by Senator Herb Kohl, Democrat of Wisconsin, because of a provision that allows dairy farmers in northeastern states to charge more for milk than their counterparts in other region.

The House approved the package 296-135 after congressional and White House negotiators agreed to cut spending in all areas by 0.38%.

Wrangling over the budget included contentious issues such as paying back dues to the United Nations and support for the International Monetary Fund's debt relief programme.

Bonds to raise $71bn

The Japanese government will issue 7.5 trillion yen ($71bn) in bonds to finance its latest economic stimulus package, Finance Minister Kiichi Miyazawa said.

Bonds will pay for a record 43% of the budget for this financial year to March 2000, Miyazawa said.

Tax income was expected to fall short of initial expectations by 1.4 trillion yen, he said. Japan's government announced an 18-trillion-yen ($170bn) package on Nov 11, part of which will have to be financed by the supplementary budget.

DHL signs $60m deal

The worldwide Express giant announces the signing of a deal in excess of $60 mln to purchase two purpose-built Boeing 757 freighters from Awas.

Intel launches family of 15 new processors

Intel Corp Monday unveiled 15 new Pentium processors, including a lightning-fast 733 megahertz version in a bid to reclaim its position as the maker of the world's fastest microprocessors from rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

Earlier this month, AMD scored an unusual coup against its Silicon Valley rival by launching a 700 megahertz version of its new Athlon chip family, unseating Intel whose fastest processor on the desktop was a 600 megahertz Pentium III.

Hyundai Pipe in talks on $250 mln foreign funds

South Korea's Hyundai Pipe Co. has been in talks with foreign investors to seek $250 million in funds by the end of the year in an effort to improve its financial status, a company official said on Friday.

"We expect to hold a signing ceremony with Japan's Marubeni Corp for $50 million in investment on November 25," said the official.

The company has been talking with Japanese and European steel makers via a French bank to attract the remaining $200 million, he said.