■ Insider Trading
Singapore suspends brokers
A state investment agency managing Singapore's massive foreign reserves has suspended three officers involved in an insider trading case in Japan. The suspensions without pay were in addition to fines totalling S$715,000 (US$436,000) earlier slapped on the three staffers of the Government of Singapore Investment Corp (GIC). The GIC said in a statement issued late Friday that the suspensions would last from three to six months, with effect from Dec. 1. The three have also been relieved of all responsibilities for Japanese financial markets. The suspensions were announced more than one month after the case was made public. The GIC, a highly secretive agency, manages over US$100 billion of the city-state's reserves. The fines imposed on the three GIC officers fell short of criminal action. The case involved shares of Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. (SMFG) listed on Japanese stock exchanges.
China, Spain to boost flights
China and Spain will increase from two to 21 the number of direct flights permitted weekly between the two countries under a bilateral agreement, a Spanish transport ministry official said on Friday. The slots will be available for any airline that applies for them, the source said. Earlier bilateral agreements specified Iberia and China Eastern Airlines as official operators. However, Iberia has already said it does not intend to establish new routes to China in the short term because it does not think they would be profitable. The country's second airline, Spanair, has announced that it will operate services to China in code-sharing partnership with the Star airline alliance. But Spain's third carrier, Air Europa, said that it would inaugurate flights to Beijing next spring and eventually to Shanghai. The Spanish charter company Air Plus comet also said it was interested in starting flights under the agreement.
India to invite bids
India will invite bids for exploration of 20 oil and gas exploration blocks early next year, it was reported yesterday. India's Petroleum and Natural Gas minister Mani Shankar Aiyer said these would include on-land, shallow offshore and deep water blocks, state-run Doordarshan television reported. The bid would be open to foreign and domestic firms. He said in recent months British oil exploration major Cairn Energy had made two recent oil discoveries in the northern state of Rajasthan while India's Reliance Industries had discovered gas in two blocks off the northeastern and southeastern coasts.
Mitsubishi in joint venture
Troubled Japanese auto-maker Mitsubishi Motors Corp said yesterday it will tie up with Merrill Lynch and Co in North American financing operations as part of its business rehabilitation efforts. The two companies are also considering establishing a joint venture tasked with collecting automobile loans and raising funds as early as this year, Mitsubishi Motors said. "In an effort to improve [Mitsubishi Motors'] financial standing by reducing assets and interest bearing debt, the company decided to sell off a portion of the assets of Mitsubishi Motors Credit of America Inc," the firm said in a statement. Mitsubishi Motors will sell about US$2 billion worth of assets, such as lease and loan receivables, to Merrill Lynch out of the total US$4 billion assets held by Mitsubishi Motors Credit of America.