China monopolistic: Germany
Germany said on Wednesday that Chinese support of solar-power equipment suppliers might be an effort to create a monopoly. Chinese makers of solar devices benefit from “offensive, unlimited state financing,” German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen said in Berlin. That support may be designed to “drive out German companies as competitors to reach a technology leadership or even a technology monopoly.” Last year’s slump in solar-panel prices of about 50 percent, spurred by a surge in output from Chinese companies, squeezed margins for German producers, including Q-Cells SE, while German panel maker Solon SE and Solar Millennium AG sought protection from creditors last month.
Carrefour expects big losses
French retailer Carrefour SA said its sales grew minimally last year, but that it expected to report losses of up to 20 percent for the year. Europe’s largest retailer by sales said yesterday that its profits last year would likely be at the bottom of the last range it gave, losses of between 15 and 20 percent. The company posted 91.5 billion euros (US$117.4 billion) in sales last year, up 1.1 percent, driven largely by strong demand in Asia and Latin America as Europe’s debt crisis decimated consumption in Carrefour’s largest markets. Carrefour said the rollout of its upmarket Carrefour Planet stores for this year would be “pragmatically reviewed” in light of economic conditions. The company hoped they would re-energize EU sales.
Peacocks in administration
British high-street clothing chain Peacocks collapsed into administration on Wednesday amid tough trading conditions and falling consumer spending, putting about 9,600 jobs at risk. Administrators KPMG said in a statement that it would seek a buyer for the business, which has 611 stores and 49 concession outlets across Britain, as well as parent firm The Peacock Group. KPMG added that clothes chain Bonmarche, which is also owned by The Peacock Group and employs 3,800 staff, had not entered administration and a buyer was being sought.
Goldman Sachs profits drop
Banking titan Goldman Sachs on Wednesday reported a steep drop in profits, staff and pay last year, as the firm battled global economic headwinds. The New York-based bank — once described as a “great vampire squid” for its ability to profit in any situation — saw net earnings fall 47 percent to US$4.4 billion before dividend payments. During a call with analysts, Goldman Sachs chief financial official David Viniar said worries about a sovereign debt default in Europe and the political debate in the US about raising the debt ceiling had weighed on client’s risk appetite. “We are clearly in a cyclical downturn,” he said, adding: “It will come back.”
African investment planned
A Chinese company said on Wednesday it would invest US$1.3 billion to develop rice and rubber agriculture in Sierra Leone, the biggest investment to date in the country’s farming sector. Shanghai Construction Investment and Sierra Leone’s agricultural ministry signed a memorandum of understanding on Wednesday that said the company “will cultivate over 30,000 hectares of land” in the northern region of Tonkolili. The project will begin in the middle of this year and is expected to create about 100,000 jobs for Sierra Leonean workers.