. .



INTERNATIONAL

Apr 03 - 09, 2000

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

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 Friday.

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

Alstom—ABB: 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 operator TPSA.

Nedcor—Stanbic: 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—Spyglass: 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.

Vivendi—Seagram: 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 published.

AT&T—Net2Phone: 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—SBC near: 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 Insurance—Gartmore: U.S.-based Nationwide 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.

Qantas—ANZ: 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 sky-high prices.

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 to 1,487.92.

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 negative impact.

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 April 3.

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 said Tuesday.

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 companies.

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 world.

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 that.

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 said.

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.