Europe extends losses
European markets fell Friday, extending the losses recorded over the
past few sessions. Most of the region's technology, media and telecom stocks took a
drubbing following the latest in a series of sharp declines on the tech-heavy Nasdaq
market in the U.S. Thursday.
London's benchmark FTSE 100 index slipped 0.65 per cent to 6,403.3 with
Vodafone AirTouch (VOD), the index's biggest component, down more than 1 per cent. In
Paris, the CAC 40 blue chip index fell more than 1.6 per cent to 6,214.15, while
Frankfurt's electronically traded Xetra Dax lost 1 per cent to 7,563.22.
Switzerland's SMI an index heavily weighted towards
financial-services and drug shares and without a big technology component rose 0.3
per cent to 7,563.22.
The pan-European FTSE Eurotop 300, a broader index of the region's
largest stocks, fell 0.75 per cent to 1,604.43, with its computer, media and telecoms
segments all down more than 2.5 per cent.
Asian markets slip
Asia's major equity markets mostly fell Friday, though losses were mild
in contrast to the big declines recorded on the technology-laden U.S. Nasdaq market in its
latest panicky session Thursday.
Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei 225 ended down 104 points, or 0.51 per cent,
at 20,3337.32 as gains among financial and auto shares tempered sharp falls in the tech
sector. The session was the last one of the financial year for 1999/2000, which closed
with a year-on-year rise of 28.4 per cent on the Nikkei. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng ended
down just 0.35 per cent at 17,406.54 after sliding as low as 17,107 in morning trade.
Singapore's Straits Times bucked the regional trend with a gain of 0.75 per cent to
2,132.59, rebounding from a loss earlier in the day.
Tokyo's Nikkei index rose almost 2 per cent in the week as a whole. The
Hang Seng dropped 2 per cent, and the Straits Times index was down 1.1 per cent from last
Seoul's Kospi index closing down 3.3 per cent at 860.52 as investors
bailed out of semiconductor manufacturers such as Samsung Electronics. The index's decline
for the week was also about 3.3 per cent.
Sydney's All Ordinaries ended 1.93 per cent lower at 3,133.30, with
telecom shares hit hardest. The index lost 3.5 per cent on the week and is at its lowest
level in four weeks.
Taiwan's TAIEX index retreated 0. 78 per cent to close at 9,854.95,
with a surge in financial stocks partly countering falls among its tech components. The
index still ended the week almost 4 per cent higher than its close last Friday.
The Set 50 in Bangkok ended 0.73 per cent ahead at 400.32, for a 0.8
per cent decline on last Friday's close. Kuala Lumpur's KLSE Composite closed 0.3 per cent
ahead at 974.38 and the JSX index in Jakarta shed 1.4 per cent to end the session at
583.28. Manila's PHS Composite ended 0.95 per cent lower at 1,681.95.
Mergers & Acquisitions
French engineering firm Alstom said it would
buy Swiss partner ABB's 50 per cent share in their power systems joint venture for 1.25
billion ($1.19 billion) in cash.
TPSA: The Polish government announced Friday that France Telecom
and Telecom Italia have submitted bids in the rescheduled sale of state-controlled telecom
South African bank Nedcor closed in on
takeover target Standard Bank Investment Corp. (Stanbic) Friday after a court ruling that
keeps the country's competition authority out of the hostile, four-month battle.
OpenTV Corp., which makes software for
digital interactive television, said it will buy Internet consultant and software provider
Spyglass Inc. for about $2.5 billion in stock, or just over $122 per Spyglass share.
French diversified utility Vivendi is in
talks to merge its fast-growing media assets with Canada's Seagram and U.S. cable operator
Cox Communications to create a $100 billion communications group, according to a report
AT&T Corp. is negotiating to buy a
stake in Net2Phone Inc., a provider of cheap long-distance calls over the Internet, people
familiar with the discussions said Thursday.
BellSouth Corp. and SBC Communications
will likely announce a merger agreement between their U.S. cellular phone businesses, a
source familiar with the negotiations said Thursday.
Nationwide Mutual InsuranceGartmore:
Mutual Insurance agreed to pay £1.03 billion ($1.64 billion) in cash for the Gartmore
fund management arm of Royal Bank of Scotland, well above the expected sale price.
QantasANZ: Australia's Qantas Airways on Monday launched a
bid for a stake in regional rival Air New Zealand in a deal that would thwart Singapore
Airlines' plan to invest in the carrier.
Japan jobless hits record
Japan's unemployment hit a record high in February and is set to climb
further, but consumer spending broke a half-year downturn, keeping hopes alive that the
economy is limping toward a sustainable recovery.
The jobless rate rose to 4.9 per cent, up 0.2 per centage point from
the previous month, after holding steady for months, the government said Friday.
China, EU market-opening talks end without deal
European trade negotiators have left Chinese officials sitting at the
bargaining table for the second time in as many days, saying it is not currently possible
to reach a WTO-entry deal.
The failure of the talks led by EU Trade Commissioner Pascal
Lamy and Chinese Foreign Trade Minister Shi Guangsheng could prevent China from
entering the 135-member World Trade Organization this year.
"Although the four days of talks were held in a constructive
spirit, with positive movement on both sides resulting in a certain narrowing of
difference on the outstanding issues under negotiation, conclusion of a bilateral
agreement was not possible at this stage," Lamy said in a statement.
"We are hopeful we will be able to finalize a deal in the coming
period," Lamy said. EU officials said no date had been set for further talks. Lamy
and Shi had been expected to provide a high-level political push to secure an agreement.
Telekom in new cable sale
Deutsche Telekom AG agreed Friday to sell 65 per cent of its cable
television system in the German state of Hesse to U.K. investment firm Klesch & Co.
for an undisclosed sum, the latest step in the German telecom giant's auction of its
regional cable assets.
French unemployment falls
French unemployment fell in February to levels last seen in spring
1992, official data showed Friday, bolstering government hopes of pushing the jobless rate
below 10 per cent.
PetroChina IPO priced low
PetroChina on Friday fixed the price of stock in its initial public
offering at HK$1.28 per H share, near the low end of the range it previously indicated,
said the joint coordinator of the sale of shares in China's largest oil and gas producer.
Greenspan sees risks
Sharp gains in stock prices and the paper wealth that has created for
Americans is leading to a developing imbalance in the U.S. economy that is threatening to
spark faster inflation and derail the record expansion, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan
Greenspan said Thursday.
Intel gets $600m tax break
Intel Corp. on Thursday said the U.S. Internal Revenue Service has
ended a review of its tax returns through 1998 resulting in adjustments that will cut its
first-quarter tax provision by $600 million, or 17 cents a share.
Swisscom cuts 3,000 jobs
Swisscom on Friday announced plans to cut 3,000 jobs over the next
three years, as Switzerland's dominant telecommunication company reduces costs in an
increasingly competitive market.
Nasdaq short circuits
Technology stocks fell sharply Thursday as investors dumped some of the
year's best-performing shares amid concerns that lofty growth prospects don't justify
In one of the most volatile trading days on record, the Nasdaq
composite index tumbled as much as 289 points before recovering somewhat to close down
186.78, or 4 per cent, to 4,457.89.
The drop in the Nasdaq the fourth decline in as many days, left
the tech-heavy index 11.6 per cent below its high set March 10, past the 10 per cent mark
Wall Street deems a correction.
The Dow fell 38.47 to 10,980.25 and the broader S&P 500 shed 20.60
ECB leaves rates on hold (Box)
The European Central Bank left its key interest rate unchanged at 3.5
per cent Thursday, as expected, leaving the euro no stronger than before the announcement.
While the euro has weakened against other major currencies, setting a
record low against the yen Wednesday, economists said that raising rates would have had a
The ECB already this year has raised its rates in two quarter-point
hikes, with members remaining sanguine about the euro's steadfast refusal to move back
above parity with the dollar.
Cell phone firms tap Japan
Vodafone Airtouch, British Telecom and Japan Telecom, jockeying to land
mobile-phone licenses in Japan, jointly agreed Thursday to raise ¥700 billion ($6.6
billion) to develop the next generation of high-speed cellular phone service in Japan.
The investment builds on a three-year joint venture linking the
companies, and will involve the purchase of stakes of 50 per cent or more in nine regional
J-Phone companies. British Telecom spokesman Jon Salmon said the companies would sell
shares in Tokyo in May to raise the ¥700 billion. The move comes as companies maneuver
for position in Japan's cellular phone market, which is dominated by NTT Mobile
Communications Network, better known as NTT DoCoMo. The partners are among the companies
gearing up for Japan's third-generation mobile phone licensing process, set to start on
Roche 1999 profit up 15%
Swiss drug maker Roche Holding on Thursday announced a 15 per cent rise
in 1999 profit. Profit excluding one-time items rose to 5.03 billion Swiss francs ($3
billion) from 4.39 billion francs a year earlier.
Asian reaction to OPEC
In Asia, the recent rise in oil prices raised fears that the region's
fragile economic recovery could be jeopardized. OPEC's decision to boost production has
eased those fears. But analysts say it could be two years or more before Asian consumers
reap the benefits.
Japan may join jet deal
Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries may join the European consortium
building the world's largest passenger aircraft, DaimlerChrysler chief Juergen Schrempp
DaimlerChrysler, Europe's biggest automaker, acquired control of
Mitsubishi's auto arm Monday, paying 2.1 billion ($2 billion) for a 34 per cent stake.
Schrempp said the deal could open up business opportunities with other Mitsubishi
Microsoft, AT&T and BT in wireless collaboration
British Telecommunications Plc , AT&T Corp and Microsoft Corp said
on Thursday they will cooperate on wireless Internet services for their customers around
The companies said in a joint statement that they expect to start
trials of some of the services this autumn with commercial rollout planned for soon after
The three already collaborate in wireless technology, but Thursday's
news brings Microsoft onto a firmer footing in wireless data. Despite its dominance in the
desktop personal computer market, it has lagged behind in wireless.
Based on Microsoft's platform for mobile data services, the companies
said the services they will develop could be used on AT&T and BT's existing networks
as well as their planned high-speed systems for future wireless data.
AT&T will use EDGE or Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution
networks, which will help bring US networks up to new generation standards in Europe. BT
will use the UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications Systems) standard, the more
sophisticated step to next-generation mobile services.
Money laundering 'hit list' targets 31 countries
Some 31 countries are under investigation for possible inclusion on the
first official "hit list" of global money-laundering centres, an FATF official
The 28-member Financial Action Task Force on money laundering is
considering a list of countries for possible inclusion on the hit list, and "31 does
appear to be the correct number," an FATF spokesman said.
The magazine L'Expansion said in its issue dated March 30 that the FATF
had started out with a potential "black list" of 66 countries but that this had
now been narrowed down to 31.
The original list included 21 European countries, among them FATF
members Britain and Switzerland, who essentially named each other for political reasons,
the magazine said.
Both of these had now been taken off the list, the FATF spokesman said.
He said he could not identify the 31 countries now being reviewed, but
the majority of them are not members of the FATF.
The original list had been whittled down to 31 jurisdictions considered
"the more urgent cases," and the FATF would be discussing the problem with them
and seeking their views, the FATF spokesman said.
The FATF last month published a list of 25 criteria for identifying
jurisdictions not cooperating in the fight against money-laundering and detailed possible
sanctions against offenders.
These included as an "ultimate recourse" the possibility of
restricting or even banning all financial transactions with such jurisdictions.
The FATF is hoping to have a preliminary list of non-cooperative
countries ready in time for a meeting here in June.