■ SecuritiesAnalyst fined over rumor
The National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) fined an analyst US$75,000 for circulating "a false and sensational rumor" about RF Micro Devices Inc, the first time the regulator has disciplined an analyst for rumor-mongering. Walter Piecyk called or sent instant messages to at least eight clients on Aug. 22, 2002, with a bearish rumor that chipmaker RF Micro was delaying shipments to Nokia Corp, its biggest client, the NASD said. "As he circulated the rumor, Piecyk sold short a total of 3,000 shares" of RF Micro, earning a profit of US$7,815 when he closed his position more than a month later, the NASD said. RF Micro subsequently denied the rumor, but the company's stock fell about 10 percent in morning trading, which the NASD said was "due at least in part to the rumor." The NASD also censured Piecyk for failing to conduct a reasonable inquiry into whether the rumor was true.
HP combines printing, PCs
Hewlett-Packard Co has combined its printing unit with its personal-computer division, helping end speculation that the technology giant would follow competitors in spinning off divisions. The move aims to strengthen the company's market position and get new products out faster, the company said on Friday. In December, Hewlett-Packard Chairman Carly Fiorina said the company's board had three times considered breaking up the technology giant, but decided its diversified portfolio of printers, computers, digital cameras, servers and information-technology services helped it weather fluctuations in the cyclical technology sector. Palo Alto-based HP named Vyomesh Joshi head of the newly created division. Joshi currently leads the printing unit, the company's most profitable.
Sales soar in western Europe
Western European car sales jumped by 7.7 percent on the year last month, due to higher demand in Germany, the Association of European Auto Manufacturers (ACEA) said on Friday. Registrations of new cars, which mirror sales, totaled 1.04 million vehicles in 15 western EU countries, including non-EU countries Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. The number of cars sold in December 2003 stood at 968,855. "While calendar effects this time had a positive influence, this result points to an encouraging end of the year," the ACEA said. In Germany, December car registrations rose 21.5 percent over 2003, reaching 281,749 after 231,985 a year ago. Denmark and Sweden also posted gains of more than 20 percent. For the whole of last year, the ACEA reported a 2.1 percent increase for newly registered cars, reaching 14.51 million, compared with 14.21 million in 2003.
■ Low-cost carriers
Singapore awards contract
A contract to build a terminal at Singapore's Changi Airport for low-cost carriers was awarded to Sanchoon Builders, the Civil Aviation Authority announced yesterday. The terminal, to be made up of two adjacent single-storey buildings connected via linkways, is scheduled for completion early next year. Four low-cost carriers are currently using Changi. They are Valuair, Tiger Airlines, Jet Star and Thai AirAsia. The terminal will have an initial capacity of 2.7 million passengers a year, the authority said in a statement. The S$24.7 million (US$15 million) contract stipulates construction work to begin during the first quarter of this year.