BIGGEST BANKS' EARNINGS RISE
The net earnings of the world's
biggest banks rose by a third last year, due to large amounts of loans
and a drop in the cost of risk, according to a Bank of France study.
"The strong growth context
of the world economy, particularly a drop in business failures, was
favourable to the activity of the large international banks in
2004," the bank said in an October statement.
Despite an overall 33 per cent
profit hike in 2004, the study warned banks to be aware of growing risk
in the current, less favourable, economic climate.
Switzerland posted a
particularly high profit rise of 79.1 per cent, or 10.2 billion euros
($12.4 billion) in 2004.
Net profit rose in Italy by
45.3 per cent (6.6 billion euros), in France by 32 per cent (14.1
billion euros) and in Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg (Benelux)
by 30.1 per cent (17.3 billion euros).
Bouncing back from net losses
in 2003, Germany had a net profit of 1.5bn euros and Japan had a net
profit of 4.5 billion euros.
After dropping 1.6 per cent in
2003, the net earnings from banking activities of all the banks reached
669 billion euros in 2004, up 5.5 per cent.
The report said that last year
there had been a drop in bad debt and a reduction in the global risk of
loans, down by 35 per cent after a drop of 17pc in 2003.
European banks should maintain
adequate funds and risk cover to take into account a possible rise in
risk in coming months, partly due to high oil prices, the study warned.
Banks should show an
"increased commercial aggressivity" towards businesses and
individuals due to competitive pressure and low interest rates, it
The Bank of France carried out
its 2004 study on the five main banking groups in Benelux, Britain,
France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the United States.
CHINA SEEN IMPORTING MORE RICE
China, the world's largest rice
consumer, is likely to import more rice than it exports in the coming
years even though a bumper harvest this year will boost exports next
year, industry officials said.
China's rice output this year
will be 182 million tons, up from 179 million tons last year, Zhou
Guanhua, a deputy director at the State Grain Administration, told a
rice conference in Beijing.
"Imports should be higher
than exports in the next few years," he said.
Because China's consumption was
five times global rice trade, it had to rely on itself for supply, the
officials told the conference. Significant imports were impossible.
"Chinese can afford to
import some different qualities from the international market because
incomes have improved," said Yang Hong, a rice manager at the China
National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation (COFCO).
"The increase in imports
is not because of the shortage of supply. It is because people like to
try different varieties," said Yang.
But she said annual imports
were unlikely to hit 2m or 3m tons in the coming years.
China has recently approved
imports of basmati rice from Pakistan. The initial amount was 100 tons.
Pakistani traders had tried to
teach Chinese to cook the rice differently so it would not taste the
same as local rice, Mohammad Yasin, general manager of Midtrans
Commodities International was quoted as saying.
China had opened its rice
market to four countries so far, but not to India, another major rice
exporter, he said.
China's rice imports jumped 196
per cent in 2004 to 761,674 tons, of which 96 per cent came from
Thailand and rest from Vietnam.
China's rice exports are likely
to recover to more than 1 million tons next year following years of
decline, industry officials said.
'INDIAN ECONOMY TO GROW AT 7PC'
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
said that India's economy was poised to grow at seven per cent in the
fiscal year ending March 2006, but that a slump in the farm sector was
styming growth prospects.
"We grew at almost seven
per cent last year and this year too, we expect growth to be in excess
of seven per cent," Singh was quoted as saying.
"However, this is based on
a growth in agriculture of less than two per cent," he said.
"If we have to achieve our ambitions of growing at a rapid pace of
over eight per cent per annum, we must aim at an agricultural growth
rate of over four per cent per year.
"Unfortunately, this has
not been so in the recent past with average agricultural growth rates of
just 1.5 per cent in the past three years," Mr Singh said, urging
agricultural scientists to find ways to improve output.
HIGH OIL PRICES EARN WINDFALL
The oil producing Gulf Arab
states are reaping the benefits of higher oil revenues, with highest
ever oil revenues in decades. Saudi Arabian economy, the largest and the
dominant in the region, is now projected to grow by 6.8 per cent this
year and 5.1 per cent in 2006, driven by surging oil revenues and
increased government and private sector spending, Samba Financial Group
said in its quarterly report.
Revising up a July forecast of
6.5 per cent real GDP growth this year, Samba said record oil prices in
late August and a growth in state expenditure in the last three months
had contributed to the higher estimates.
Kuwait is also heading for
highest ever oil revenues for the current financial year.
As per the Samba report the
Saudi revenues are expected to surge to SR551bn ($150bn), resulting in a
record budget surplus of 208 billion riyals ($55.5) billion. The
government spending was projected to reach a "moderately
stimulative" SR343 billion, Samba predicted.
WTO RULES AGAINST EU BANANA
The World Trade Organization on
Thursday struck down a proposed European Union tariff on bananas, saying
it was too high to allow fair competition from Latin American exporters.
In its decision, the global
referee said the new duty Brussels was proposing in order to comply with
a previous ruling would still skew the banana trade.
US DURABLE GOODS ORDERS FALL
Government reports suggested a
possible cooling in the housing market and some economic slowdown due to
high energy prices, but analysts said the economy remained robust enough
to permit the Federal Reserve to keep raising borrowing costs.
The Commerce Department said
sales of new homes rose more slowly than expected last month and house
prices dropped, while new orders for durable goods fell sharply.
However, another report from
the Labour Department showed a bigger-than-expected drop in first-time
claims for jobless benefits last week. Claims had shot up in the wake of
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but have come down in the past two weeks.
EU BUDGET DEAL DIFFICULT: BLAIR
The European Union faces a
"tall order" in settling its budget dispute, Tony Blair has
Following an informal summit at
Hampton Court, near London, he said countries were "in strong
support" of plans to reduce regulations.
Leaders meet again in December,
at the end of the UK's six-month EU presidency, to recommence formal
discussions on a budget for 2007-13.
Talks collapsed in June amid
rows over Britain's rebate and farm subsidies.
The European Parliament voted
to increase the budget by about four billion euros (nearly $5bn; £3bn)
next year - despite demands from member states that it should be cut.
BOOTS SEES INTERIM PROFITS SLIP
British health and beauty
retailer Boots posted on Thursday a 9.6-per cent fall in pre-tax profits
for the first six months of its financial year. Pre-tax profits at Boots
stood at 163 million pounds for the six months to September 30, compared
with 180m pounds for the same period one year earlier, the group said in
a statement. That was just above analysts' consensus forecasts of
between 140 and 160m pounds.
DUBAI GOLD IMPORTS SEEN RISING
Strong demand is seen boosting
Dubai's gold imports to 525-540 tons by the end of 2005 despite the
recent jump in prices, the Dubai Metals and Commodities Exchange's gold
executive director said. Imports were 503.5 tons in 2004 while exports
stood at 260.909 tons.
WORLD BANK FOR 75PC CUT IN FARM
Developed countries must cut
their highest farm tariffs by 75 per cent if the world's poorest nations
are to benefit from a World Trade Organization attempt to liberalize
agricultural trade, experts at the World Bank said on Wednesday.
WTO members are due to meet in
Hong Kong in December to put together a deal that would lower global
trade barriers in an attempt to lift millions out of poverty. But
efforts to agree first on cutting rich nations' farm subsidies and
duties have run into trouble.
"Unless you have a 75 per
cent cut in the highest tariffs there would be very little outcome at
all," Will Martin, lead economist of the World Bank development
research group, told Reuters in an interview.
Fiat's struggling auto unit may
see profits in 2006, Fiat Group Chairman Luca di Montezemolo said on
Wednesday. Montezemolo also said in a television interview that orders
for new Punto model, which is crucial for the carmaker's recovery, have
come in at 35,000 in less than five weeks after its launch.
EDF, AEM WIN NEARLY FULL
CONTROL OF EDISON
French power giant EDF and
Milan's utility AEM with partners have won nearly full control of
Italy's second-biggest power group Edison, the Italian stock exchange
EDF and AEM, backed by some
smaller Italian peers and banks, earlier this year agreed to share
control of Edison in a major deal, which ended a four-year dispute over
energy markets between Rome and Paris.
CHINA TEXTILE EXPORTS GROW BY
China's textile and clothing
exports have grown by more than one fifth since the controversial end of
global quotas at the beginning of the year, the International Labour
But although jobs were lost in some other
textile producing nations following the change, ILO experts said the
free rein given to the world's biggest textile producers had not
produced as big a shock as originally feared.
MITTAL STEEL BUYS UKRAINE GIANT
With a bid of $4.8 billion, the
world's top steel maker Mittal Steel won a re-run auction of Ukraine's
Kryvorizhstal giant on Monday, in a sale the "orange
revolution" government hopes will calm investor jitters and attract
MTN 'IN IRAN MOBILE NETWORK
South Africa's MTN phone
company says it is to take a 49% stake in the new Irancell mobile
network in Iran.
MTN has also given a 300m euro
($358.4m ; £203m) payment guarantee towards a GSM licence, it said.
US oil giant Exxon Mobil has
posted a quarterly profit of $9.9bn (£5.55bn), the largest in US
corporate history, on the back of record oil and gas prices.
CHIRAC WARNING ON EU TRADE
French President Jacques Chirac
has warned European negotiators he will oppose any further moves on
farming designed to keep trade talks alive.
It comes a day before the EU
tries to revive talks by proposing a revised farm offer to other trading
Earlier, European Commission
President Jose Manuel Barroso told French paper Le Figaro Europe would
make new concession on agricultural support. But Mr Chirac told EU
leaders France is prepared to veto any such moves.
DRUG FIRM PROFITS BEAT
Drugs giants AstraZeneca and
GlaxoSmithKline have unveiled forecast beating results, buoyed by strong
demand for key drugs.
AstraZeneca said operating
profits had surged 49% to $1.7bn (£952m) in the three months to the end
MARCONI IN £1.2BN ERICSSON
Telecoms equipment firm Marconi
has agreed to sell the bulk of its assets and its name to Swedish firm
Ericsson in a deal worth about £1.2bn ($2.1bn).
FRANCE IN NUCLEAR SELL-OFF
The French government has
cancelled plans to part-privatise nuclear power group Areva, claiming
strategic and safety concerns for its U-turn.
The announcement by Prime
Minister Dominique de Villepin comes as privatisation plans continue for
other state firms.
He said ongoing state control
of Areva would ensure the necessary assurances.
Shares in Areva were due to be
issued next year, with the sale set to raise up to 3.6bn euros ($4.4bn;
SONY PROFITS DOWN
Sony has seen its profits
tumble in the second quarter. Net profit was 28.5bn yen ($247m; £138m)
in the three months ending 30 September, down from 53.2bn last year.