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INTERNATIONAL

Apr 17 - 23, 2000

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

World markets plummet

Asia: Tokyo stocks fell in Thursday morning trading, led by heavy selling of high-tech issues after the U.S. Nasdaq composite index plunged seven per cent.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 average index dropped 377.01 points or 1.81 per cent to 20,456.20 by midday.

The capital-weighted TOPIX index fell 3.27 per cent to 1,650.52, hurt by losses in heavyweight high-tech stocks.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell over two per cent after Thursday's open following Nasdaq's dive. The benchmark index fell 2.02 per cent or 334.07 points to 16,243.02 after the open.

In Taiwan, the benchmark Weighted index opened 2.58 per cent lower before clawing back. The index was down 165.2 points, or 1.67 per cent, at 9,746.19.

Singapore market held up relatively well, with the 55-stock blue chip Straits Times Index down only 1.36 per cent, or 29.06 points, at 2,103.98 after about an hour of trade.

Europe: Europe's major markets fell at the close Wednesday after spending most of the session in positive territory, but Wall Street's opening declines prompted another pummeling for technology, telecom and media companies. Paris and London fell half a per cent while Frankfurt was flat.

The blue-chip CAC 40 in Paris, a leading gainer in recent sessions, fell 33.89 points, or 0.54 per cent, to 6,227.53, after advancing as much as 1 per cent earlier. London's FTSE 100 index, the benchmark for Europe's biggest stock market, fell 0.5 per cent to 6,350.8, after being up as much as 1 per cent in morning trading.

In Frankfurt, the Xetra Dax was barely changed, up just 0.41 point, or 0.01 per cent, at 7,443.07, while the SMI in Zurich, weighted toward relatively stable drug and financial stocks, advanced 1 per cent, or 79.1 points, to 7,550.6.

The FTSE Eurotop 300, an index of Europe's biggest companies, rose 0.3 per cent.

Mergers

Chase—Fleming: U.S. commercial bank Chase Manhattan agreed to acquire privately held U.K. investment house Robert Fleming Holdings for $7.7 billion in cash and stock.

BP—Richfield Co: The U.S. Federal Trade Commission Wednesday voted unanimous, but preliminary approval of BP Amoco Plc's purchase of Atlantic Richfield Co., with final approval expected soon, a source familiar with the situation said.

UnileverSlim-Fast Foods: Consumer goods conglomerate Unilever set the table for the quintessential Jack Sprat and his wife, striking separate deals to acquire U.S. diet-food specialist Slim-Fast Foods and novelty ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc.

Lucent—TeraBeam: Lucent Technologies and privately held TeraBeam Networks said they will enter into a broadband venture to create and develop a high-speed Internet network.

Allianz—Dresdner: Allianz, Germany's largest insurer, attempted to repair some of the damage to its image caused by the collapse of merger talks between Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank, but said it had received "no concrete bids" for its 5.4 billion stake in Dresdner.

NAB—MLC: National Australia Bank (NAB) announced plans to pay A$4.56 billion ($2.72 billion) in cash for MLC, the insurance and asset management arm of real estate and financial service company Lend Lease.

Vodafone—Mannesmann: European Union antitrust regulators approved Vodafone AirTouch's $173 billion acquisition of German telecom operator Mannesmann, attaching conditions that analysts said would not significantly damage the world's biggest mobile-phone company.

Thomson—C&N Touristic: Britain's largest travel business Thomson Travel rejected an increased $2.3 billion takeover offer from Germany's C&N Touristic, insisting that an increase of 11.5 per cent from the original bid still undervalued the company.

Singapore Airlines—Virgin Atlantic: Just two weeks after closing its deal to buy 49 per cent of Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Airlines has spent US$70 million to purchase an 8.3 per cent stake in Air New Zealand.

Alcan Aluminium—Pechiney SA: Alcan Aluminium Ltd said that it remained in discussions with Pechiney SA on a new merger plan to be submitted to European antitrust regulators.

Pearson—Bertelsmann: British media company Pearson and Germany's Bertelsmann said they would merge their broadcasting arms to create an integrated media player valued at 20 billion ($19 billion) with plans to expand aggressively in Europe and North America.

Results

AMD: Advanced Micro Devices reported a first quarter profit of $1.15 a share.

Goodyear: Goodyear Tire & Rubber reported a profit of 40 cents a share.

Rambus: Rambus Inc. posted a better-than-expected fiscal second-quarter profit of 15 cents a share.

Ariba: Ariba Inc. reported a second-quarter net loss of $126 million, or 6 cents a share.

Altera: Altera Corp. reported a first quarter profit of 36 cents a share.

Seagate: Seagate Technology Inc. announced first-quarter revenue of $1.573 billion with pro forma net income of $46 million, or 20 cents per diluted share.

Redback: Redback Networks Inc. reported first-quarter revenue of $34.2 million. The company's net income for the period ended March 31, 2000 was $5.6 million, or 5 cents per share.

J.P. Morgan: J.P. Morgan & Co. posted a stronger-than-expected profit of $628 million, or $3.37 a diluted share.

Genentech: Genentech Inc., maker of the breast-cancer drug Herceptin, reported first-quarter earnings of $74.7 million, or 28 cents a diluted share.

Delphi Automotive: Delphi Automotive Systems, the world's largest auto parts maker, reported earnings of $322 million, or 57 cents a share.

GM Hughes: GM Hughes, a GM tracking stock, reported first-quarter losses of $76.6 million.

E*Trade: No. 2 U.S. Internet brokerage E*Trade Group reported a small profit of $1.3 million, or nil per share.

Dow Jones: Dow Jones & Company, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, earned $79.2 million, or 88 cents a diluted share.

Fannie Mae: Fannie Mae, the biggest U.S. buyer of home mortgages, reported first-quarter earnings of $1.06 billion, or $1.02 a diluted share.

Enron: Global energy company Enron Corp. reported first-quarter earnings of $338 million, or 40 cents a diluted share.

IMF: World growth strong

The global economy is expected to power ahead this year, fuelled by demand from the United States for goods and services produced abroad by countries that are in significantly better fiscal shape than previously forecast, the International Monetary Fund said Wednesday.

In its semi-annual World Economic Outlook, the Washington-based agency said world economic growth should exceed 4.2 per cent this year, above the 3.5 per cent growth it projected in its last outlook released in October. The IMF also projected that world output will expand by 3.9 per cent in 2001.

Rebounding growth among Asian, European and Latin American countries in the wake of 1997's Thai currency crisis and 1998's Russian debt debacle are proving more robust than previously expected, the agency said, fuelling global growth at a far faster rate than predicted six months ago.

Oil prices continue slide

Crude oil prices fell Monday, with May futures trading at a four-month low on the New York Mercantile Exchange, amid speculation that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will increase production above the current quotas.

In New York, May oil futures last traded down 70 cents at $24.34 a barrel. In London, May Brent crude on the International Petroleum Exchange (IPE) fell $21.96, down 62 cents, after setting a new five-month low of $21.90.

Senate passes $1.83 trillion budget

The Senate voted on a $1.83 trillion budget package that will not only provide a spending blueprint for the federal government's next fiscal year, but also marks distinctions between the two main parties that are certain to provide a framework for debate in the presidential campaign come fall.

President Bill Clinton quickly denounced the Republican-written budget, saying it "combines bad fiscal policy and a flawed economic strategy."

"It undermines our efforts to strengthen Social Security and Medicare, makes it harder to pay off the debt, and rests on dramatic cuts in education, law enforcement, the environment, and efforts to promote peace and national security," Clinton said. "Let's put this empty political document aside and work together to keep America on a responsible fiscal course that meets our nation's long term challenges."

"Overall, this is a good budget for this year," Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici said earlier in defence of the measure. "We're in a presidential election and next year a new president will tell us what he wants. If it's a president of the Republican party, a President Bush, we will be seeking different priorities."

"The Democrats voted against this budget resolution, and it wasn't so much on the issues we wanted to have taken care of," said Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who serves as the ranking member on the Budget Committee. "Listening to the debate, each of us wants to protect Social Security in different ways. One can observe that we both want to do something about Medicare, but in different degrees and in different ways."

The Senate passed the non-binding resolution by a vote of 51-45, but not without including numerous "sense of the Senate" resolutions by which members sought to set spending priorities for individual projects — sometimes in the neighbourhood of billions of dollars.

U.K. holds interest rates

The Bank of England held the U.K.'s key interest rate at 6 per cent Thursday, as expected, though economists believe it will still raise rates this quarter to try to check rising wage costs and house prices. The pound fell to $1.5860 following Thursday's decision, from $1.5882 before the announcement. It was unchanged against the euro at 0.6067 per euro.

Oracle Japan seeks $7.5bn

Oracle Corp. Japan, a unit of the world's second-largest data software firm, aims to raise 797.6 billion ($7.5 billion) in one of Japan's biggest ever share offerings when it debuts on the Tokyo Stock Exchange later this month.

Oracle Japan is already listed on Tokyo's over-the-counter market and plans to offer 9.7 million new shares at 82,222 each, at the upper end of an expected price range. Oracle Corp. (ORCL: Research, Estimates) currently owns 85 per cent of Oracle Japan, which is boosting its share capital by around 11 per cent.

Microsoft expands cable

Software giant Microsoft Corp. is buying a 60 per cent stake in Japan's No. 2 cable television operator, Titus Communications Corp., taking its push into high-speed Internet access to a small but growing market.

Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash., said late Friday it was buying the stake in Titus from cable company MediaOne Group Inc (UMG: Research, Estimates)., which is merging with AT&T Corp. Terms of the Microsoft deal were not disclosed. Other Titus stakeholders include Japan's Toshiba Corp. and Itochu.

UK targets automakers

The British government vowed Monday to cut the cost of new cars in the U.K. after a long-awaited official report said prices are inflated to the tune of 1 billion ($1.64 billion) a year by anticompetitive industry practices.

The government's offensive, drawing on report by the Competition Commission, is the latest blow to a European auto sector hit by overcapacity and fierce competition. The U.K. is Europe's third-largest market for new cars after Germany and Italy.

Nasdaq index suffers 2nd worst point loss

The Nasdaq composite index on Monday suffered its second worst single-day point decline ever, with most of the drop coming in the late afternoon.

Nasdaq's technology-laden composite index closed down 258.28 points, or 5.81 per cent, at 4188.17. Nasdaq's drop on Monday also ranked in the top 10 one-day per cent declines.

About 1.44 billion shares were traded, one of the lightest trading days year to date.

The market's daily trading volume has averaged about 1.81 billion shares a day this year. It reached a new daily record on April 4, when volume totalled 2.9 billion shares.

The Nasdaq 100 index of top stocks dropped 293.27 points, or 6.83 per cent, to close at 3998.26.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 75.08 points at 11186.56.

Nasdaq has tumbling 17 per cent since March 10, when it hit a record high of 5048.62 For the year, the Nasdaq composite index is still up 2.9 per cent, as opposed to the Dow's decline of 2.7 per cent.

Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia in e-commerce pact

The world's top three mobile phone manufacturers, Sweden's Ericsson, Motorola of the US and Finland's Nokia said on Tuesday they would team up to develop an open and common industry framework for secure mobile electronic transactions.

They said the move was designed to propel the growth of e-commerce. The three industry heavyweights said they would integrate security and transaction applications into a mobile terminal platform.

Fed's Meyer sees risks

Federal Reserve Governor Laurence Meyer said there was a huge risk of overheating in the booming U.S. economy, further fuelling conviction on Wall Street that the central bank is leaning toward raising interest rates further in the months ahead.

"The balance of aggregate demand and sustainable supply and the distinct possibility that labour and product markets will tighten further suggest an unacceptable risk of overheating and, therefore, higher inflation in the future," Meyer told the Toronto Association for Business and Economics in Toronto.