Sun, Jul 06, 2003 - Page 11 News List

Business Briefs

AGENCIES

■ China busts money ring

China has cracked a US$40 million foreign-currency smuggling operation, the biggest ever by law-enforcement officials, state-owned newspaper <

■ Telecom

Thai national heads SingTel

The president of Thai conglomerate Siam Cement, Chumpol NaLamlieng, will take over as chairman of Singapore Telecommun-ications (SingTel) when incumbent Ang Kong Hua retires next month, the telecom operator said. In a statement released late Friday, SingTel said Ang "indicated his desire to step down to his fellow directors in May this year in order to have more time to pursue his other interests." Chumpol's appointment by the SingTel board also marks the first time that a foreign national will assume the post of chairman of a major government-linked company. SingTel is the city-state's biggest telecom operator and is almost 70 percent owned by the government. The 56-year-old Thai national has been a non-executive independent director at SingTel since last June.

■ Regulation

China Rare Earth probed

China Rare Earth Holdings Ltd, China's biggest processor of elements found in magnets and mobile-phone batteries, is under investigation, Hong Kong's market regulator said, after the company refused to make the announcement. "The stock exchange asked the company to make an announcement. This request was refused," a Securities and Futures Commission statement said without specifying the nature of the investigation. China Rare Earth in May denied a report by Caijing magazine that it had fabricated sales records to meet listing qualifications in Hong Kong when the company went public in October 1999. The magazine's claims were called ``unfoun-ded, groundless and libelous.'' Profit at Rare Earth plunged 71 percent last year as sales dropped by about a quarter on lower demand and falling prices.

■ Airlines

SIA offers early retirement

Singapore Airlines (SIA) is offering an early retirement package to its male cabin crew members in the latest of a series of cost-cutting measures, a spokesman said yesterday. The deal is open to those with 25 years of service who are over 45. The deal is similar to the one the flag carrier offered to its ground staff. Some 40 percent of SIA's 6,600 crew members are male, and they can work up to age 57. Spokesman Rick Clements said all of SIA's female crew members were on five-year renewable contracts, and there was no need for early retirement packages for them. The slump in the industry triggered by the SARS epidemic plunged SIA into the worst crisis in its 56-year history. The airline recently said it had been losing S$6 million (US$3.4 million) daily since April. A wage cut for 1,600 pilots amounting to 16.5 percent for captains and 11 percent for first officers went into effect July 1 and will last until March 31.

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