Sun, Dec 14, 2003 - Page 11 News List

Business Briefs

AGENCIES

■ ComputersMS drops support, swastika

Microsoft Corp will stop offering support services next month for computer users whose machines are still running Windows 98, though the company said it might still release security patches if threats appear serious enough. About 20 percent of all Windows-based computers still run Windows 95 or 98, according to International Data Corp, a technology market research firm. Support for Windows 95 stopped Dec. 31, 2001. People whose machines run Windows 98 will not be able to call Microsoft for help after Jan. 16. Online assistance will still be available. Meanwhile, Microsoft also said Friday that it would delete the swastika, a Nazi emblem, from new versions of its widely used Office program and offer tools to remove and replace the offending characters from existing versions of the software suite. The company said the symbol was included in Microsoft's "Bookshelf Symbol 7" font and was derived from a Japanese font set.

■ Petroleum

Sinochem acquires stake

China's Sinochem Corporation has paid US$100 million to acquire a 14 percent stake in an oil field in Ecuador operated by the US firm ConocoPhilipps, the China Daily said yesterday. Spanish company Repsol YPF has a 55 percent stake in the field while Taiwan's Chinese Petroleum Corp (中油) has a 31 percent share. Through the deal, Sinochem would be entitled to 8,000 barrels of oil per day, which it could either ship to China or sell on the international market. Sinochem specialises in deals both on the international and domestic markets for oil, fertilisers, rubber, plastics and chemicals. It also invests in industry, finance and insurance.

■ Transportation

Singapore to expand MRT

Singapore transport authorities have unveiled the final plan for a S$6.7 billion (US$3.9 billion) circle subway line that will link residential towns and industrial estates to the city center. The 33km, 29-station, ring line will be built in three sections with the first expected to be completed by 2007, the Land Transport Authority said in a statement. Holland Village, a popular neighborhood for Western expatriates, will be a stop on the line's final stage, which will be completed by 2010, the authority said. Singapore, an island of 4 million people, boasts one of the world's most modern subway systems. Singapore's Mass Rapid Transit, or MRT, first opened in 1987. Singapore has three MRT lines.

■ Trade

S Korea to start FTA talks

South Korea said yesterday it will begin negotiations this month with Japan on a free-trade pact between the Asian economic powerhouses. The talks will open Dec. 22 in Seoul, the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry said in a news release. The two major trading partners agreed in 1998 to push the trade pact. South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi agreed in October to conclude the trade accord by the end of 2005, saying it would bolster bilateral trade and investment. Last year, South Korea exported US$16.4 billion worth of goods to Japan, its third-largest market. Japan shipped US$30.3 billion worth of goods South Korea, which is Japan's third-largest export market.

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