Sun, Jul 25, 2004 - Page 11 News List

Business Briefs

AGENCIES

■ Banking
Islamic licenses offered

Malaysia will gradually award full Islamic banking licenses to all banks as part of efforts to grow the seg-ment and encourage the expansion of such services offshore, reports said yesterday. "Domestic banks cannot be left far behind in offering Islamic banking products ... that is why the government is considering granting the new Islamic banking licenses which can also be given to foreign conventional banks," an official was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times. "We will approve them in stages." Last week, RHB Bank and Bumiputra-Commerce Bank announced they had obtained approval from the finance ministry to set up full-fledged Islamic banking operations and would get the licenses once all conditions were met. Malaysia has two full-fledged Islamic banks now. The central bank has said it would issue three new licenses to foreign banks this year to fast-track the liberalization of the Islamic financial sector to make the country a key Islamic financial hub in Asia.

■ Internet

Google loses Froogle battle

Google Inc's right to use the name "Froogle" for its online shopping service came into question on Fri-day when an arbitration panel rejected its challenge of a Web site named Froogles.com. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) panel rejected Google's argument that Froogles.com was "confu-singly similar" to Google. The loss has no immediate impact on Google's use of the name Froogle. But it means that the Froogles.com name will remain with Richard Wolfe, a New York carpenter who started the Web shopping site in March 2001. But in a separate proceeding in the US Patent and Trademark Office, Wolfe has challenged Google's attempt to register Froogle as infringement of his Froogles.com mark.

■ Aviation

United move angers unions

United Airlines said it plans no further payments to its employee pension funds in bankruptcy in order to improve its chances for attracting exit financing, a move that upset union leaders. The disclosure came Friday, nine days after United deferred a required quarterly payment of US$72 million to the pension funds, which are under review as it scours its operations for further cost cuts in a bankruptcy restructuring now set to last into the middle of next year. The carrier said its new US$1 billion interim financing package lined up this week effectively prohibits further pension contributions before it leaves bankruptcy. United's biggest unions swiftly condemned the move, and one said it is considering legal action to fight it.

■ Publishing

Slate may be on the block

Microsoft said on Friday that it was exploring the sale of Slate, a pioneer in digital publishing. Accord-ing to company executives, Microsoft is considering a sale of Slate because the model of creating a Web magazine of cultural criticism and political analysis to attract visitors to its MSN Network has little business salience in an age dominated by search applications. Micro-soft executives said several media companies were interested but the two most prominently mentioned -- The Wash-ington Post Co and The New York Times Co -- declined to comment on whether any discussions had taken place.

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