Japan to aid Mekong states
Japan yesterday pledged US$7.4 billion in aid over the next three years to help five Mekong states, in an attempt at fostering development in a resource-rich region also being courted by China. “The stability and prosperity of East Asia will not be possible without the stability and prosperity of the Mekong region,” Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told a joint press conference after the six-way summit in Tokyo. “The Japanese government will recognize the Mekong region as a significant destination of assistance and continue its cooperation strongly.” Noda met the five government leaders of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, as Japan’s export-dependent economy is on the lookout for cheap labor and investment to power growth.
GE tops Wall Street forecasts
General Electric Co topped Wall Street’s profit and revenue forecasts for the first quarter, helped by strong demand for energy equipment and railroad locomotives. The largest US conglomerate said on Friday industrial orders had risen 20 percent in the quarter and that selling prices had improved in most of its businesses. This should help CEO Jeff Immelt achieve his goal of boosting profit margins this year. He confirmed the company’s growth forecast for this year, saying: “Everything we see in the first quarter supports double-digit earnings growth.” GE reported net income of US$3.03 billion, or US$0.29 per share, down from US$3.43 billion, or US$0.31 per share, a year earlier. Factoring out one-time items, earnings came to US$0.34 per share, topping the analysts’ average forecast of US$0.33 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
McDonald’s income rises 5%
McDonald’s ever-evolving mix of affordable menu items and new offerings, like the Chicken McBites, is helping the chain solidify its dominance in the fast-food industry. The world’s biggest hamburger chain said on Friday that its net income rose 5 percent in the first quarter, in line with Wall Street expectations. McDonald’s Corp said global sales rose 7.3 percent at stores open at least 13 months, driven by gains from all regions. The figure is key metric because it excludes the impact of newly opened stores. In April, the fast-food chain expects the figure to increase another 4 percent.
Spain to scrap free medicine
Spain’s cash-strapped government on Friday approved reforms to scrap free medicine for pensioners and charge students higher fees, aiming to save an extra 10 billion euros (US$13 billion) a year. The reforms tread on sensitive ground, since Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had promised to safeguard pensioners’ purchasing power, while cuts in health and education have already sparked street protests. Traditionally Spaniards do not pay to visit the doctor and only pay part of the cost of medicine, with an exception for pensioners who currently pay nothing. Now pensioners will have to pay 10 percent of the cost at the pharmacy, up to a maximum of 18 euros a month, depending on their income. Spaniards in employment will see their contribution rise from 40 to 60 percent of the cost of the medicine. The government said 3 billion euros will be saved through education reforms, allowing regional governments to expand class sizes by 20 percent and raise university fees to an average 1,500 euros from 1,000 euros.