Sony may sell retail outfits
Sony Corp, the world's second-biggest consumer electronics maker, may sell some of its retail-related businesses as it focuses on reviving its unprofitable electronics unit, which accounts for about 70 percent of sales. "We are looking for an outside alliance to make these retail-related businesses independent and strengthen their competitiveness," Sony spokesman Kei Sakaguchi said. Sony is in the final stages of negotiations to sell more than 50 percent of four subsidiaries that sell cosmetics, household goods, and operate restaurants and a mail-order company, the Nihon Keizai newspaper said without citing anyone. Nikko Principal Investments Japan Ltd and MKS Partners Ltd are possible buyers, the paper said. Sony is reportedly looking to sell part of its import-retail shop Sony Plaza Co, cosmetics maker B&C Laboratories Inc, restaurant chain Maxim's de Paris Corp and mail-order company Sony Family Club Inc.
KEB joins US boycott
Korea Exchange Bank (KEB), South Korea's fifth-largest bank, said on Friday that it cut ties with Macau's Banco Delta Asia, which Washington has accused of laundering money for North Korea. The South Korean bank said in a statement that it ended foreign-exchange transactions with the Macau bank on Feb. 1 as "a pre-emptive" step to protect itself from possible US sanctions. KEB has become the first South Korean financial institution to join US financial restrictions imposed in September on Banco Delta Asia. The US Treasury Department called the Macau bank "a willing pawn for the North Korean government" and said its clients were involved in smuggling and counterfeiting.
Tokyo, Seoul up crisis fund
Japan and South Korea's finance ministers yesterday agreed to more than double the amount available for a currency-swap framework to US$15 billion to help each other in case of a financial crisis. Japanese Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki and Han Duck-soo, South Korea's deputy premier and finance and economy minister, reached the agreement in the first annual, bilateral finance ministers' meeting, a Japanese official said. Under the deal, Japan would extend as much as US$10 billion to South Korea, which in turn promised to release as much as US$5 billion to Japan in a case of financial emergency, such as a currency crisis, the official said. The changes would be made official possibly later this month, he said. Currently, Japan has promised to give as much as US$7 billion to South Korea when a financial crisis hits Asia, but there was no agreement for Japan to receive funds from Seoul.
UK insolvencies hit new high
The number of Britons becoming insolvent soared to its highest level since records began in the 1960s, according to UK government figures released on Friday. More than 20,400 people in the UK went insolvent during the final three months of last year, rising 15 percent more than the last previous three months. During the period, 13,501 people went bankrupt, nearly 11 percent more than in the previous three months and 57 percent higher than the same period in 2004, the UK Insolvency Service said. The number of people taking out Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs), a form of personal bankruptcy, more than doubled in the past year to 6,960. Under IVAs, individuals agree to repay a set amount each month in exchange for interest on their debts being frozen.