Burger King aims for China
The world’s second-largest hamburger chain says it will open 1,000 restaurants in China over the next five to seven years. It is the largest multi-unit development deal in Burger King’s history. There are currently just 63 Burger King restaurants in China, compared to McDonald’s Corp’s more than 1,400 venues. Burger King, which has more than 12,500 restaurants worldwide, said on Friday that its China expansion is a joint venture with the Kurdoglu family, which runs 450 Burger King restaurants in Turkey, and private equity firm Cartesian Capital Group.
Amazon takes on iTunes
Amazon.com Inc reached agreements with the four major US record companies to start a music service that lets users store songs on a remote server and access them online, people familiar with the matter said. Amazon plans to start the US service in the first week of July, with European service availability shortly after, said the sources, who asked not to be identified because the plans are confidential. With the agreements, Amazon’s music service will work similarly to Apple Inc’s iTunes, letting multiple devices access a centrally stored music collection. Amazon, whose Kindle Fire tablet computer sells for US$199 — a lower price than Apple’s least-expensive iPad — is seeking to make money by offering higher-margin digital content on the device, such as books, music and movies. Amazon’s music service will also be available on iPads and iPhones through the Kindle application for Apple devices, the sources said.
Stimulus measures unveiled
The government on Friday announced measures worth 80 billion euros (US$100 billion) to spur economic growth, streamline the notoriously bloated public sector and lower national debt, part of its attempt to convince international investors that its finances are sustainable. The 60 wide-ranging measures approved by the Cabinet include the sale of government property, issuing preferential bonds for infrastructure projects and reducing staff for the premier’s office and Treasury Ministry. Besides reducing staff, the government will also close agencies within the Treasury Ministry and reassign their functions to existing departments. The actions take aim at one of the most persistent criticisms launched at Prime Minister Mario Monti’s administration: too many reforms, like raising the pension age and re-imposing a tax on primary residences, penalize ordinary Italians while not reducing the nation’s bloated public sector.
China loses WTO case
A WTO panel on Friday handed the US a victory in a case against Chinese import duties on a specialty steel product primarily made in Ohio and Pennsylvania. “With respect to each of the 11 programs at issue, the panel concluded that China had acted inconsistently with WTO rules governing the use of countervailing duties, which are used to counteract unfair subsidies,” the panel said in its ruling. The case involved Chinese duties on potentially hundreds of millions of US dollars of “grain-oriented flat-rolled electrical steel,” a specialty steel product made by AK Steel Corp of Ohio and ATI Allegheny Ludlum of Pennsylvania. “The panel upheld our claims that China’s duties on US exports of steel products failed to comply with many WTO rules. This decision sends another clear signal to China that it must do more to fulfill its WTO commitments,” US Trade Representative Ron Kirk said.