Expo 2000 launched in
German President Johannes Rau opened the 30th world's fair, Expo 2000,
outside the north German city of Hanover Thursday, ceremoniously cutting a ribbon as a
barrage of coloured balloons floated into the sky.
Welcome to the world exhibition, said Rau as drums rolled and he cut
the red ribbon to let the first visitors in to the sprawling park with exhibits from 173
nations and 14 international organizations.
Those who come to visit us should find a hospitable and tolerant
Germany, open to the world, said Rau.
The central theme of the international exhibition,
Man-Nature-Technology A new world rising, seeks to present an optimistic approach
to the problems of the world and their solution.
Laid out on a sprawling 160-hectares (about 400 acres) site, which has
some of the airs of a fantasy megapolis, the fair will last for 153 days until October 31.
For the reunited Germany, the event is an important showcase to the
rest of the world.
This is the first time that Germany has hosted a world exposition, and
its leaders are conscious that this honour and privilege coincides with both the
dawn of a new millennium and the maturing of a new Germany, economically strong and
politically more confident, after the 1990 reunification.
Rau said he hoped the fair with its exhibits showing how differrent
cultures are preparing for the future, will help people look ahead with hope and not
A total 173 nations and 14 international organisations are officially
present at the world's fair, each with their own stands and pavilions, from the modest to
'Ugly side of globalization'
Malaysia's deputy premier sounded a warning on Wednesday against
"the ugly side of globalization" and the power of the Internet.
The danger is that we become servants to the process of globalization
and to the power of the Internet, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said in his closing speech to an
Asia-Europe business conference.
The danger is that sovereign governments that derive their legitimacy
from their citizens are superseded by people and corporations that are not accountable to
Mahathir warns against mega mergers
Mega-mergers in the world's oil industry will leave "midget"
Asian players helpless against giant competitors, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad slammed the wave of oil
company mergers, saying the new global giants were the tools of rich nations to "
invade " developing countries.
In his trademark slashing style, Mahathir accused foreign oil titans of
teaming up to monopolise the global industry and harm smaller nations' state oil firms.
Opening a two-day Asia Oil and Gas Conference, Mahathir said a wave of
mega-mergers had led to the creation of "giant entities dominating and dictating to
the industry. "
"Over the last three years, we have seen a few of such
mega-mergers: BP and Amoco, Exxon and Mobil, Total Fina and Elf, and then BP Amoco and
Arco," he said.
"We see a return of oligopoly, only the oil companies are many,
many times bigger and richer than before."
The premier said U.S. industrialist John D. Rockefeller had
"almost complete monopoly" of the oil business until the U.S. government halted
it through an anti-trust act and broke up his company into several smaller entities.
"The offsprings of the Rockefeller monopoly are coming together
again. They are in fact, teaming up with the other oil majors to form an even tighter
oligopoly," he said.
"Together they can control the production, refining, marketing and
also the relatively new petrochemical industries."
Mahathir said the new alliances led to an uneven playing field for
Asian players, mostly made up of national oil companies which he described as
"midgets of the world."
Japan joins market mirth
Asia's major markets closed higher Thursday, with Japan's leading
technology stocks gaining ground while Singapore and Hong Kong remained upbeat despite a
drop for the U.S. Nasdaq composite a day earlier.
Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei 225 average advanced 361.85 points, or 2.2 per
cent, to 16,694.30, as some investors jumped back into stocks in the belief recent
declines in top Japanese technology shares have taken them to unjustifiably low levels.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closed up 227.33 points, or 1.6 per cent,
at 14,941.19, boosted by a surge in demand late in the day as leading telecommunications
firms headed higher.
Singapore's Straits Times index added 42.13 points, or 2.4 per cent, to
close at 1,837.26.
South Korea's KOSPI index, one of the region's top performers in recent
days, rose 0.9 per cent while Taiwan's Weighted index dropped 1.1 per cent.
In other markets, Jakarta's battered JSX fell another 3.1 per cent,
while Manila's PHS composite fell 0.6 per cent. In Bangkok, the SET index climbed 0.5 per
cent, while Malaysia's KLSE composite in Kuala Lumpur fell 0.8 per cent, trimming its loss
late in the session.
OECD: Europe's booming
Europe's 11-member common-currency zone is enjoying its best growth in
over a decade and is set to start reducing its millions of unemployed, the Organization of
Economic Cooperation and Development said Tuesday.
But the region faces a stiff challenge to keep up this tempo, said the
OECD in its latest economic outlook. It warned that structural reform and the prudent use
of government revenues will be crucial to prevent a modest boom becoming a damaging bust.
A sustained slide in the 18-month-old common currency has given
European exports a significant shot in the arm.
The OECD estimates that the region can thank the weak euro for around
one per centage point of its growth in 1999 and 2000.
Mergers & Acquisitions
France Telecom agreed Tuesday to buy
U.K. mobile-phone operator Orange from Vodafone AirTouch in a long-anticipated deal worth
£26.9 billion ($40.3 billion) in cash, stock and assumption of debt, creating Europe's
second-largest cellular-phone company.
Canadian aluminum producer Alcan may
announce as early as Thursday that it will raise its buyout bid for Switzerland's Algroup
to $4.4 billion or more, according to published reports.
Sony Pictures Entertainment, a
unit of Japanese electronics giant Sony Corp., on Thursday said it acquired online game
company Verant Interactive Inc., known for the blockbuster game "EverQuest," to
expand Sony's online game businesses.
ThomsonCommunity Newspaper Holdings:
Holdings Inc. said Thursday it has bid (about $500 million for 16 dailies and a number of
weeklies) for newspapers owned by Thomson Corp., which is selling all but one of its
papers to concentrate on electronic publishing.
Motorola Inc., the world's
second-largest supplier of wireless phones, signed a $30 billion manufacturing alliance
Tuesday with contract electronics manufacturer Flextronics International Ltd.
Finnish paper maker Metsa-Serla agreed on
Wednesday to acquire Modo Paper from two Swedish rivals for 2.3 billion ($2.14 billion),
including debt, in the latest consolidation of the Scandinavian paper sector.
U.S.-controlled Western Power Distribution (WPD)
joined the battle for U.K. water and electricity supplier Hyder Wednesday with a £2.36
billion ($3.53 billion) counterbid to top an agreed offer from Japanese investment house
France's unemployment rate fell to 9.8 per cent in April, dropping
through the symbolic 10 per cent barrier for the first time since late 1991, according to
official data released Wednesday.
Paris leads European surge
Europe's major stock markets all posted strong gains Thursday as
investors turned again to telecom and technology stocks to push the blue-chip index in
Paris into record territory with a 2.7 per cent gain while London and Frankfurt also
The CAC 40 in Paris closed up 173 points at a record 6,599.71 having
earlier nosed above 6,000 as investors piled into its heavyweight telecom and media
shares. technology stocks continuing to recover, outweighing weakness among retail stocks.
London's benchmark FTSE 100 index advanced 111 points, or 1.75 per
cent, to close at 6,470.50 as its own media and telecom components urged in late afternoon
Frankfurt's Xetra Dax closed up 163 points, or 2.29 per cent, at
7,272.76, with broad-based gains.
The pan-European FTSE Eurotop 300,a broader index of the region's
largest stocks, rose 1.21 per cent to close at 1,614.70, with media and tech sub-indexes
posting the strongest gains, while food and chemicals shares lost ground.
U.S. stocks fly higher
Investors looking for some sign that the red-hot economy could be
slowing its pace were rewarded Thursday, after economic data raised hopes that interest
rate hikes may be near an end, making it safe to start buying stocks.
The Nasdaq composite index gained more than 5 per cent as technology
stocks started to pique buyers' interest. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones industrial average also
advanced, with Hewlett-Packard taking the blue-chip index higher.
Reports indicating a slowdown in manufacturing activity and
construction spending hinted that the six Federal Reserve rate hikes since last June may
be starting to work.
The Nasdaq rose 181.59 points, more than 5 per cent, to 3,582.50. The
index is up nearly 12 per cent since the start of the year.
Meanwhile, the Dow jumped 129.87, or more than 1 per cent, to
10,652.20. The blue-chip index is up 7. 3 per cent for the year. The broader S&P 500
gained 28.21 to close at 1,448.81.
Boots: Annual profit rose 5 per cent at health and beauty
retailer Boots. Revenue for the year ended March 31 rose 3 per cent to £5.19 billion
($7.7 billion), and underlying pretax profit rose to £587.4 million. Earnings per share
gained 6 per cent to 45.4 pence.
NTT: Japan's Nippon Telegraph and Telephone said Friday its
annual operating profit rose 12.6 per cent. The firm said operating profit rose to ¥980.3
billion ($9.2 billion) for the year to March 31 from ¥870.3 billion a year ago.
Air France: Air France said its net profit in the year ended
Mar. 31 rose 42 per cent to 354 million. The airline said revenue rose 13.5 per cent to
10.3 billion, lifting operating income by just over a third to 358 million and giving
earnings per share a 38 per cent boost to 1.75.
U.S. stocks to trade in HK
Seven Nasdaq-listed U.S. companies will begin trading on the Hong Kong
Stock Exchange on Wednesday, in the latest move toward forging a global stock market.
Technology bellwethers Cisco Systems, Intel and Microsoft plus
biotechnology firm Amgen and coffee retailer Starbucks will for the first time be bought
and sold on Asia's second largest exchange. Dell Computer and Applied Materials, the
semiconductor equipment maker, round out the list.
Currently, Asian investors buying U.S. stocks must go though their
broker, who places the order and handles the currency conversion.
IMF urges Japan boost
The IMF on Monday urged Japan to consider another boost to public
spending to revive the economy, but Finance Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, fretting over the
nation's runaway debt, said he was in no hurry.
Stanley Fischer, the International Monetary Fund's first deputy
managing director, told Miyazawa he thought it wise to consider downside risks to the
economy, which has yet to pull decisively out of its worst postwar downturn, a Finance
Ministry official said.
Fischer was quoted as noting that Japan regularly compiles extra
budgets every year and that the government should consider one early for the fiscal year
that began in April, to avoid a drop-off in fiscal support.
Miyazawa reiterated that gross domestic product would probably show a
hefty rebound in the January-to-March period, but that he was unsure about April-June. Any
decision on an extra budget can await the publication of economic growth data for
April-to-June, due out in September, he said.
U.S. to overhaul export plans
The United States announced Monday that it will press ahead with its
plans for overhauling a multi-billion-dollar U.S. export programme, despite objections
from the European Union.
The EU said a U.S. proposal aimed at bringing the controversial U.S.
Foreign Sales Corporation (FSC) scheme into line with global trade rules "does not
meet basic WTO requirements."
"We regret that the [European] Commission has chosen not to engage
in serious negotiations based on our proposal," Deputy U.S. Treasury Secretary Stuart
Eizenstat said in a statement.
Little investor yen for ¥
The Japanese yen hit six-week lows against the euro and fell to a
two-week trough against the dollar Thursday amid worries about the health of Japan's
The closure on Wednesday of medium-sized Japanese insurer Daihyaku
Mutual Life triggered new fears about the state of the financial-services industry. On
Thursday, Kyoei Life, another troubled Japanese insurer, resorted to outside financial
help when it accepted U.S.-based Prudential Insurance Co.'s proposal to inject ¥30
billion ($278 million) into Kyoei.
While that news helped buoy Japanese shares it did not provide support
to the beleaguered yen, traders said.