Seoul suspends four banks
South Korea’s financial watchdog yesterday suspended four savings banks because they failed to meet financial-strength standards, after one bank boss was caught trying to flee to China. The four ordered to halt their operations for six months are Solomon, Mirae, Hanju and Korea Savings Bank, the Financial Services Commission said, amid moves to tighten the banking industry. They were told to appoint new managers and improve their finances within 45 days. They will be put on sale if they fail to do so. Depositors would be allowed to get back up to 50 million won (US$44,000) to avoid a run, the commission said. It promised to investigate any irregularities by major shareholders and executives of the banks. They were ordered to stay in South Korea for questioning.
Rosneft, Statoil sign deal
Russia’s state oil champion Rosneft on Saturday struck a US$2.5 billion Arctic exploration deal with Norway’s Statoil, its third major tie-up in a month and a sign of its growing global ambitions. The alliance’s signature was overseen personally by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in advance of his third stint in the Kremlin in which Russia’s stalling oil production will be one of his biggest concerns. The deal will see Norway’s state-held group win one-third ownership in a new joint venture that will explore one of the Russian firm’s many fields in the Barents Sea. The agreement also covers three Rosneft blocs in the Far Eastern Sea of Okhotsk. Rosneft said it should be able to acquire stakes in undisclosed Statoil international projects in return and also explore sections of the Norwegian part of the Barents Sea. Rosneft President Eduard Khudainatov said he expected Statoil to invest US$1 billion in the Arctic bloc while spending the rest on the Sea of Okhotsk.
Judge sanctions Samsung
Samsung Electronics Co, sanctioned by a US judge for its failure to produce source code in a patent-infringement case in San Jose, California, will not be able to use some evidence to defend itself against Apple Inc, US Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal ruled. Grewal said in his Friday ruling that Samsung “plainly violated” a court order requiring it to turn over code to Apple, and ruled that Samsung will not be able to offer evidence in the case about its efforts to “design around” three patents at issue in the case. In its lawsuit, Apple claims that Samsung’s 4G smartphone and Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet computer infringe its patents. In December, US District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose ruled against Apple’s request to block Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung from selling that phone and tablet in the US.
IMF agrees to relax austerity
The government has sealed an agreement with international lenders to restore public wages to their previous levels, a senior official said, as part of its efforts to ease an unpopular austerity program. The IMF has said the nation has some space to ease austerity, which included a 25 percent cut in public sector salaries in 2010. Some have since been restored. The center-right government collapsed last month when it lost a vote of confidence in parliament, underscoring public dissatisfaction with its austerity program. Parliament is likely to back a new leftist government today. Romania aims for a budget gap below 3 percent of GDP this year.