Sun, Sep 26, 2004 - Page 11 News List

Business Briefs

AGENCIES

■ PlasticsEU to ban chemical from toys

EU governments were congratulated by campaigners on Friday for finally agreeing to ban a type of chemical from children's toys following five years of debate. The chemicals, known as "phthalates," which are used to soften toys made of otherwise rigid PVC plastic, are suspected to cause cancer, kidney damage and disruption of the body's hormonal and reproductive systems. EU ministers agreed to ban three phthalates -- DEHP, DBP and BBP -- from all toys and childcare articles. Three other phthalates -- DINP, DIDP and DNOP -- would be banned from use in toys intended for children under three years of age and which could be placed in their mouth. Environmental campaigners urged the European Parliament to endorse the agreement to enable it to take effect.

■ Media

Viacom reaches out in China

MTV and Nickelodeon, two cable channels owned by the media conglomerate Viacom Inc, announced several deals on Friday to expand their reach in China. MTV is tripling the reach of its 24-hour channel in China's Guangdong Province to 10 million by the end of the year, the company said in a statement. It also entered an agreement with Beijing Television, a regional broadcaster, to produce Chinese-language music and entertainment programs for BTV. China's state broadcaster, CCTV, also expanded its agreement with Nickelodeon to gain rights to all episodes of Nickelodeon's animated shows CatDog and The Wild Thornberrys, which have been top ratings performers on CCTV's new channel for children.

■ Telecoms

DoCoMo, Cingular join hands

Japan's NTT DoCoMo will join hands with Cingular Wireless of the US, aiming to unify technical specifications for third-generation (3G) cellphones and services, a press report said on Thursday. The alliance between the biggest Japanese and US cellphone service providers is expected to lead to cheaper handsets and improved services, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun said, without naming sources. Cingular is set to become the largest US mobile service firm through its planned acquisition of AT and T Wireless Services, in which DoCoMo has a 16-percent stake. DoCoMo and Cingular have already entered behind-the-scenes negotiations centering on technical aspects, the daily said, adding they aimed to reach an accord in the first half of next year. A DoCoMo-Cingular partnership would cover some 90 million customers, making it second only to the UK's Vodafone Group among cellphone service providers in Japan, the US and Europe, the Nihon Keizai said.

■ Auto Industry

Toyota expands US plant

Toyota on Friday announced plans to double the size of its engine plant in Huntsville with a US$250 million expansion that will add 300 jobs. Toyota officials said they plan to increase the number of V8 engines built at the plant for the Toyota Tundra and Sequoia SUVs. The move would be in addition to plans announced last year to expand the Huntsville operation to include production of V6 engines for the Tundra and for the Toyota Tacoma pickup truck. Toyota Motor North America senior Vice President Dennis Cuneo said there are currently 365 employees at the plant and the two expansions will increase the total number of workers to about 800. Cuneo said construction would begin early next year and that the plant hopes to be turning out the additional engines in 2006.

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