East Asia talks wrap up
China, Japan and South Korea yesterday concluded a first round of talks on securing a free-trade pact to bind three economies that account for 20 percent of global GDP. The three days of talks in Seoul that began on Tuesday were largely procedural, setting the agenda and scope of future negotiations when substantive trade issues will be discussed. The second round of the trilateral FTA talks will be held in China in June or July, followed by a third round in Japan later in the year.
Swiss Re settles dispute
Swiss Re, one of the world’s biggest insurers, yesterday said it had settled a dispute with billionaire Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway over a 2010 life retrocession deal, and would accept a settlement of US$610 million from the US company. Swiss Re said in a statement it had agreed to take back some of the risks covered by the reinsurance contract with Berkshire Hathaway. The total protection provided by the US firm to Swiss Re will be reduced from US$1.5 billion to US$1.05 billion, it added.
US merger deal approved
A US bankruptcy court judge on Wednesday approved the merger of American Airlines (AMR) and US Airways, which will create the country’s largest airline, the two companies said. However, the judge left undecided the US$19.9 million payout planned for AMR chief executive Tom Horton, who will lose his job in the merger. The combined airline, to keep the American Airlines name, is to be led by current US Airways chief executive Doug Parker.
Telecom plans job cuts
Up to 1,200 people will soon lose their jobs at the nation’s largest telecommunications company. Telecom New Zealand yesterday announced that by midyear it plans to reduce its workforce by between 900 and 1,200 people, or 12 and 16 percent. Spokesman Andrew Pirie said customers are paying less for their telephone and Internet bills in a competitive market. He said the majority of the reductions would come through layoffs. Most jobs cuts will be in New Zealand, with about 120 in Australia.
Retail sales improve
Retail sales showed an unexpected increase last month, after already rising strongly the previous month, official data showed yesterday. Retail sales rose by 0.4 percent last month compared with January in price, seasonally and calendar-adjusted terms, according to provisional figures by the federal statistics office Destatis. However, on a 12-month basis retail sales were down by 2.2 percent last month, but that was partly because there was one fewer shopping day last month than in February last year, the statisticians said.
GS Yuasa shares hit
Shares in GS Yuasa, the Japanese battery supplier for Boeing’s troubled Dreamliner, plunged yesterday after its power packs overheated or caught fire in Mitsubishi’s electric and hybrid vehicles. The stock dropped 11.11 percent to ￥392 by the close in Tokyo after the automaker said on late on Wednesday that lithium-ion batteries made by a joint venture including GS Yuasa had suffered malfunctions in at least two instances. No one was injured in the incidents, which involved Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV model and its Outlander PHEV. Neither of the cars involved had yet been shipped to customers.