National debt rises
The average national debt shouldered by Taiwanese has reached NT$210,000 (US$7,297), up NT$1,000 from the end of March, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday. However, last month’s figure was NT$1,000 lower than the debt-level recorded at the end of February, the ministry said. The per capita value is calculated from the NT$4.63 trillion in outstanding central government loans with a maturity of more than one year, as well as NT$245 billion in short-term debt with a maturity of one year or less. The government has highlighted national debt data since setting up a “national debt clock” in December.
Android takes US top spot
Smartphones powered by Google software widened their lead on BlackBerry handsets in the US market during the first quarter, industry tracker comScore reported on Friday. Android smartphones dethroned BlackBerry in January by capturing 31.2 percent of the US market and that share grew to 34.7 percent by the end of March. BlackBerry ended March with 27.1 percent of the US market, while Apple’s iPhones commanded 25.5 percent of the market, according to comScore.
Unilver to buy hair company
Unilever has reached an agreement with the US Department of Justice that allows its US$3.7 billion acquisition of hair care company Alberto-Culver Co to move forward. Federal regulators said that the deal posed antitrust issues by reducing competition in the market for low-price shampoo, conditioner and hairspray. Under the agreement announced on Friday, Alberto-Culver will divest its VO5 hair care brand and Unilver its Rave brand. The deal is now expected to close on Tuesday.
PVSA production hit
State oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PVSA) says the failure of an air circulation system has affected production at the country’s largest refinery, but the problem will not affect oil shipments. PVSA says the problem prompted the shutdown of some units at the Paraguana Refining Complex in the northwestern state of Falcon. The complex has the capacity to process about 900,000 barrels of crude oil a day and produces 200,000 barrels of gasoline daily.
Ethanol production boosted
Brazilian state-controlled energy giant Petrobras will boost its production of ethanol as part of a government effort to contain fuel prices, Energy Minister Edison Lobao announced on Friday. “We are going to make rapid advances to produce [an additional] 10, 12, 15 percent in three to four years,” Lobao told reporters. “With this, Petrobras will be transformed into an important factor in the supply and pricing of ethanol.” According to the official, Petrobras currently accounts for 5 percent of total ethanol production in the country, but expects to be the largest producer by 2017.
Buffett profits down
Warren Buffett’s conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway Inc reported a smaller profit for the first quarter, as reinsurance losses from the March 11 earthquake in Japan dragged down results. Berkshire reported a net profit of US$1.51 billion, or US$917 per Class A share, compared with a profit of US$3.63 billion, or US$2,272 per Class A share, a year earlier. The conglomerate reported US$41.18 billion in cash and cash equivalents at the end of the quarter.