■ Free trade Seoul, EFTA to hold talks \n \nSouth Korea and a bloc of four European countries have reached a tentative agreement to launch talks early next year on a bilateral free trade agreement, the foreign ministry here said yesterday. South Korea plans to hold the talks with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), a free trade bloc made up of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. The association was launched in 1960. South Korean officials said a free trade agreement with the group would increase South Korean exports to that region by 26 percent annually and imports by 27 percent. South Korea signed its first free trade agreement with Chile last year. It is seeking to conclude similar agreement with Singapore and Japan. \n \n■ Beverages \nSoft drink labels revised \n \nNo more having to do the math to figure out exactly how many calories and carbs are in that 590ml bottle of soda. New nutritional information on labels of Coca-Cola, Pepsi and other popular soft drinks will soon break it down for you. Coca-Cola Co's North America division and PepsiCo Inc's Pepsi-Cola division made separate announcements on Friday that, starting next year, they will roll out new labels on bottles that will show nutritional information for the entire container as well as the traditional 236ml serving. The new labels will appear on all of the two soft drink giants' products. The move meets a recommendation from the US Food and Drug Administration for food and beverage companies to revise labeling for packages that can be consumed at one time, such as a 590ml bottle of Coca-Cola or Pepsi. Nutritional labels include information on calories, fat, sodium, carbohydrates, sugars and protein. Currently, in accordance with FDA regulations, Coca-Cola and Pepsi's labels carry nutrition information for a 236ml serving and indicate the total number of servings per package. \n \n■ Electronics \nSamsung earnings fall \n \nThe electronics maker Samsung Electronics said its profit rose 46 percent from the comparable period a year earlier on a 27 percent increase in sales, but its shares came under pressure because of falling prices for electronics components. Samsung said it earned 2.69 trillion won (US$2.37 billion) on sales of 14.34 trillion won in the period, but both figures were down from its results in the second quarter. Its share price fell 1.6 percent. \n \n■ Telecoms \nSprint planning layoffs \n \nThe Sprint Corp said on Friday that it planned to lay off 700 sales representatives and write down the value of its long-distance network to reflect more accurately the erosion in the market for traditional phone services. The job cuts will affect workers who sell phone and data services to companies and come on top of the elimination of 7,500 positions this year. The company said that its focus on selling bundles of services rather than individual products had reduced the need for sales workers. The jobs will be entirely eliminated by July next year and will leave Sprint's business solutions division with 8,300 workers, or 7.7 percent fewer than now. Sprint employs a total of 60,000 workers. Sprint also said it would reduce the value of its long-distance network, a step that its larger rival, AT&T, took earlier this month. Sprint will announce the size of that reduction when it releases third-quarter earnings figures on Tuesday. AT&T said it would write off US$11.4 billion in assets.
NOT ALL GOOD: Analysts warned that other data for last month might be less rosy due to the virus and analysts expect the PMI to contract again next month Chinese factory activity saw surprise growth last month as businesses went back to work following a lengthy shutdown, but analysts said that the economy faces a challenging recovery as external demand has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, while the World Bank said that growth could screech to a halt. China is slowly returning to life after months of tough restrictions aimed at containing the virus, which put millions of people into virtual house arrest and brought economic activity to a near standstill. The strict measures saw a closely watched gauge of manufacturing plunge to its lowest level on record in February,
The output of the global smartphone industry this year is to contract by 7.8 percent on an annual basis as the COVID-19 pandemic ushers in a global recession, Taipei-based market researcher TrendForce Corp (集邦科技) said in a report on Monday. The global production of smartphones is expected to fall to 1.29 billion units, as the pandemic dampens demand for consumer electronics, leading to a decline in shipments across Europe and North America, TrendForce said. With consumers delaying smartphone purchases and thereby lengthening the device replacement cycle, overall prices would suffer a setback that is expected to negatively affect the profitability of smartphone
ELECTRONICS Lite-On delays sale of unit Lite-On Technology Corp (光寶科技) yesterday said it would postpone the sale of its solid-state drives (SSD) business to Kioxia Holdings Corp, formerly known as Toshiba Memory Holdings Corp, due to disruptions amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, the Taiwan-based electronics components supplier struck the deal with the Japanese firm, agreeing to sell the unit for US$165 million. Citing unfinished integration work due to the pandemic, Lite-On has deferred today’s closing date until further notice, adding that the delay would not have a negative effect on the unit’s operations. AUTO PARTS Hiroca approves dividend Automotive interior parts supplier Hiroca
ALL ABOUT STRATEGY: The company is optimistic, saying that its gross margin should increase year-on-year, but it is scaling back on its plans to expand capacity Quang Viet Enterprise Co (QVE, 廣越), which makes down jackets and garments for sportswear and outdoor brands including Adidas AG, yesterday said that revenue might drop 5 to 10 percent annually this year as some customers trimmed orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. That would mark its first revenue decline since 2016. Quang Viet posted record-high revenue of NT$16.26 billion (US$537.45 million) last year, up 22 percent from 2018. Down jackets made up 40 percent of it revenue last year. North Face Inc and Patagonia Inc are this year likely to reduce orders by 20 to 30 percent from a