■ Financial services
Li to head Citigroup Taiwan
Citigroup Inc, the world's biggest financial services company, appointed Morris Li (利明獻) as country officer and head of corporate and investment banking for Taiwan, the US company said in a statement late Friday. Li's appointment will take effect after obtaining the country's regulatory approval, the statement said. Li is succeeding and will report to Chan Tze-ching (陳子政), who has relocated back to Hong Kong as country officer and head of corporate and investment banking for greater China, according to the statement. Citigroup, which has been in Taiwan for 41 years, employs about 2,500 people here, according to its company Web site.
US recession odds double
The likelihood of a recession has doubled in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, credit rating agency Standard & Poor's said on Friday. The likelihood of a recession has increased from less than 12 percent to 25 percent following Katrina, the agency said. "What would drive it is US$100 [a barrel] oil prices," said Beth Ann Bovino, a senior economist at S&P. "While the possibility has risen, we're pretty confident of the health of the US economy." Insurance risk assessment companies estimate that insurance claims from Katrina could top US$25 billion, but once damage to roads and bridges is factored in, Katrina could cost US$50 billion, S&P said.
Katrina benefits growers
Hurricane Katrina may have destroyed about 1.5 million sacks of coffee stored at warehouses in New Orleans, raising the global price of coffee and benefiting coffee growers across the world, officials said on Friday. "There were about 750,000 sacks of coffee in New Orleans certified by the New York Board of Trade and private importers had a similar amount," said Gabriel Silva, head of Colombia's National Coffee Federation. Colombia is one of the world's top coffee exporters. Silva said the markets have deemed the coffee wrecked and he noted the price of coffee on global markets has risen notably in the five days since Katrina hit New Orleans, the US' top coffee port and a major warehousing and roasting center. The coffee lost in New Orleans represents about 8 percent of annual coffee consumption in the US, according to a study by the Colombian coffee federation. Silva said lower global coffee production combined with the flooding means that Colombia's coffee exports this year will likely bring in between US$1.6 billion and US$1.7 billion compared to US$1.056 billion last year.
EU, Mercosur to revive talks
Foreign ministers from the EU and South America's four-nation Mercosur trade bloc on Friday agreed on a framework to relaunch stalled trade talks which would create the world's biggest free-trade area. "Today we carried out a clear reality check and we have a roadmap," said Argentinian Economy Minister Roberto Lavagna, who currently chairs the Mercosur group. Ministers from both sides agreed to meet again early next year. Technical negotiations will try to find agreement ahead of WTO talks in Hong Kong. Mercosur comprises Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. An EU-Mercosur free trade area would cover almost 700 million people and boost trade by cutting tariffs between Europe and South America. Negotiations on a free trade pact started between the two sides in 1999 but have been slow to generate results.