Microsoft widens CEO search
Microsoft Corp’s board is focusing on Ford Motor Co chief executive Alan Mulally and internal executive Satya Nadella as part of a group of more likely candidates to become the next chief executive of the world’s biggest software company, according to people familiar with the matter. While internal candidate Tony Bates and former Nokia Oyj chief executive Stephen Elop remain in the mix, they are currently considered less likely to be offered the job, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private. Preferences remain fluid, and other people are being considered and could emerge as front-runners, said one of the people, without identifying anybody. The board is aiming for a quick replacement for longtime chief executive Steve Ballmer within the next 12 months.
Free-trade zone disappoints
China’s new free-trade zone has drawn just 38 overseas firms in its first two months of operations, officials said yesterday, as foreign companies await concrete policies and deeper reforms. Authorities set up the zone in the commercial city of Shanghai in late September with pledges of reform, including free convertibility of the yuan, but a lengthy “negative list” of what is barred in the zone and an open-ended deadline to introduce financial reforms have made foreign firms hesitant to set up there, analysts said. The 38 overseas companies newly established in the zone have total registered capital of US$560 million, figures released yesterday showed. More than a third of the companies — 14 — are from Hong Kong, an autonomous region of China whose firms are counted as being from overseas.
Surplus hits record high
The nation’s current account surplus surged to another all-time high of US$9.51 billion last month on brisk exports of automobiles and mobile devices, the central bank said yesterday. The current account figure shattered the previous record of US$8.64 billion set in May, according to data from the Bank of Korea. That compared with a surplus of US$6.54 billion posted in September and US$6.35 billion the previous year. It was the 21st consecutive month that South Korea has posted a current-account surplus since it last posted a deficit in January last year. Exports rose 8.2 percent year-on-year to US$52.23 billion, while imports expanded 5.6 percent to US$45.2 billion, resulting in a surplus of US$7.03 billion in the goods account. The surplus in the services account, which includes transport, travel and other services, nearly doubled from US$870 million in September to US$1.65 billion last month.
No decision on deposit rate
The European Central Bank (ECB) would only take its key deposit rate — currently at 0 percent — into negative territory in an extreme situation, ECB Vice President Vitor Constancio said on Wednesday. Earlier this month, the ECB pared back its central “refi” refinancing rate by a quarter of a percentage point to a new all-time low of 0.25 percent and although ECB President Mario Draghi said the central bank was technically ready to introduce negative interest rates on its deposit facility, it left that rate unchanged at 0 percent. “We have announced many months ago that from a pure technical point of view we are ready to do it, but certainly no decision about that, because it is certainly open to measures that are certainly unprecedented,” Constancio said.