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  April 21, 2000  

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Business in Asia Today

9 telecom firms seek advanced cell phone licenses
TOKYO - Nine companies affiliated with Japan Telecom Co (TSE:9434) Wednesday applied to the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications for licenses to operate radio stations and provide service under the IMT-2000 next-generation cellular phone framework. J-Phone firms in Tokyo, Tokai and Kansai will introduce the new service in December 2001, with the six other companies following suit in October 2002. The group expects its IMT-2000 operations to cover 90 percent of Japan's population by March 2004.

Rakuten sees 500% rise in profits for virtual mall in Q1
TOKYO - Rakuten Inc (TSE:4755), which began trading on the over-the-counter market Wednesday, reported the same day that both sales and pretax profit grew 500 percent or more in the first quarter. The virtual mall and electronic auction site operator booked 202 million yen in pretax profit in January-March, up 510 percent on the year. Sales sextupled to 427 million yen ($4.07 million). The earnings growth was attributed to strong gains in rent revenue collected from tenants opening shops in the firm's Rakuten Ichiba virtual mall, amid significant expansion of electronic commerce.

New plant to help Japanese oil giant reclaim lost ground
TOKYO - Chiyoda Corp will participate in two major overseas projects that are expected to help it to regain its footing in gas and petroleum facilities. In China, Chiyoda and Swedish construction firm NCC International will build an underground LPG storage cavern designed to hold 1.6 million tons of propane and butane a year. In Indonesia, Chiyoda will team up with Mitsubishi Corp on the basic design of an LNG export center in Papua for a project funded by an Atlantic Richfield Co affiliate and Pertamina, the country's national petroleum concern.

Renault to buy Samsung Motors for $540m
SEOUL - Renault will buy Samsung Motors for $540 million to $550 million, paying $100 million in cash, the Korea Economic Daily reported. Renault will assume Samsung's debts of $200 million and pay $200 million in an earn-out mechanism with 10-15 percent of profit annually for the next 10 years. The French car maker will set up a company to turn out Samsung cars with a capital of $335 million, in which it will hold 70 percent, domestic creditors 10 percent after converting debts of $40 million into equity investment, and Samsung, 19.9 percent.

Asia Banking Corp sold to Swiss consortium
SEOUL - Asia Banking Corp (ABC), a Korean merchant bank, has found a new owner from Switzerland. The main shareholder of ABC, Taihan Textile, sold 8.6 million shares to a consortium formed by five major Swiss banks headquartered in Zurich reportedly for only $10. The consortium will invest $30 million over the next three months and conduct a rights offering worth $50 million in the first half of this year. It also plans to invest an additional $500 million in the local financial sector, a consortium source said.

FSC withdraws Nara Merchant Banking's license
SEOUL - The Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) has decided to revoke the business license of Nara Merchant Banking Corp ten days after a hearing on its management personnel. FSC sources said Thursday the about turn came with the failure of Yongnam Merchant Banking to take over Nara due to Yongnam's demand of 1.3 trillion won ($1.17 billion) in public funds to supplement Nara's capital base.

Kookmin Bank faces legal action over stock options
SEOUL - Kookmin Bank (KSE: 23130) became the first listed company to face court action over the application of stock options, a management incentive which is gaining popularity among Korean companies. Kim Kang-tae, former outside director of Kookmin, sued the bank in demanding nullification of the stock option system that was endorsed in shareholders' meeting March 18.

Chinese bank acquires HK Union for $232m
BEIJING - The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) has bought a controlling stake of the Union Bank of Hong Kong Ltd at a price of HK$1.805 billion ($232 million), according to a spokesman for ICBC. The spokesman said ICBC signed an agreement on April 19 with the Hong Kong Merchants (Holdings) Co on the purchasing of over 239.9 million shares of the Union Bank, which were previously held by the Hong Kong Merchants (Holdings) Co.

Keppel Hitachi Zosen wins shipbuilding contracts
SINGAPORE - Keppel Hitachi Zosen Limited has announced that it is building four tugs and a crane barge in contracts totalling over US$17.44 million. Two tugboats are being built for River Wijs Pty Ltd, a joint venture company formed between the Wijsmuller Group of Holland and Riverside Marine of Australia, the company told the Stock Exchange of Singapore. Two more tug boats and a crane barge are being built for Bin Nowiran Establishment of Kuwait. All the contracts are being undertaken by Keppel Singmarine Dockyard, a subsidiary of the Keppel Hitachi Zosen Group, the company said.

San Miguel to bid for Australian brewer
MANILA - San Miguel Corporation has announced it will make an off-market takeover bid for all the issued shares in Australian brewer J Boag & Son Limited. San Miguel said in a disclosure to the Manila Stock Exchange that it would offer A$1.65 cash consideration for each ordinary share in J Boag & Son valuing the company at about A$92 million (US$54.6 million). The offer price represents a premium of 60.2 percent to J Boag & Son's closing share price of A$1.03 on Friday April 14, 2000. San Miguel said the company's premium brands had excellent potential to be sold through San Miguel's Asian distribution system and in Australia.

NRMA Insurance heads for the Australian stock exchange
SYDNEY - NRMA Insurance Ltd is headed for the Australian Stock Exchange after more than 1.3 million members - or 82.57 percent of those who voted - Wednesday backed plans to demutualize and list the business. Chief executive Eric Dodd said he confidently expected NRMA Insurance Group Ltd (NIGL), as it will be renamed, to be listed by mid-July. Experts have estimated that NIGL will have a market value of up to $A5 billion (US$2.97 billion), making it one of Australia's largest listed insurers.

Indian portal teams up with Stanton Chase International
NEW DELHI -, an India specific portal, has tied up with US-based company Stanton Chase International to set up a vertical portal on the career segment - The new entity will have holding 51 percent majority stake with the remaining held by Stanton Chase, Chief Executive Officer of Piyush Gupta said.

Cepa in JV to develop power plant in India
NEW DELHI - Reliance Power Ltd has signed an agreement with Hong Kong-based Consolidated Electric Power Asia Ltd (Cepa) to jointly develop a 3,960MW coal-based thermal power project at Hirma in Orissa state. The pit-head, coal fired 6x660MW thermal power plant would be commissioned within 51 months of financial closure with first of the six units becoming operational within 36 months, the company said. Cepa signed a MoU in September 1994 with the Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd to develop the project, which would source more than 19 million tons coal requirements per year from Ib Valley.

(Asia Pulse)


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