Spain improving: Moody’s
Moody’s raised its rating outlook for Spain to “stable” from “negative” on Wednesday, citing signs of real improvement in the economy and government finances. Moody’s left the overall rating for Spanish debt unchanged at “Baa3” — just above junk-bond level — but the change in the outlook reduced the likelihood of another downgrade as the country works to rebound from its financial crisis. Evidence that the economy is adjusting to new market conditions and improved growth prospects for the medium term “supports Moody’s view that Spain’s public finances are on a slowly improving trend,” it said.
Survey hints at US growth
A US Federal Reserve survey showed on Wednesday that the US economy continues to grow steadily, with gains in all regions and most industries. The Fed’s regular Beige Book report, which will feed into its policy meeting on Dec. 17 and Dec. 18, painted a generally good picture of the economy in the wake of October’s government shutdown. Even so, growth was described as still just “modest to moderate,” shy of the robust pace policymakers have been aiming for with their huge stimulus program.
Firms move on Russia
Japan Tobacco (JT) and Philip Morris will each buy a 20 percent stake in Russian distributor Megapolis for a total of more than US$1.5 billion, as the rivals move to tap the world’s second-biggest cigarette market. JT said it would pay US$750 million for its share in the firm, plus another US$100 million tied to the distributor’s “operational performance.” US giant Philip Morris separately announced a deal with similar terms. Megapolis has a 70 percent share of Russia’s distribution market, delivering more than 260 billion cigarettes last year, JT said.
French connection for China
Beijing has approved a long-awaited US$1.3 billion joint venture between French automaker Renault — the last of the global top 10 automakers without production in the world’s biggest market — and China’s Dongfeng (東風), the Chinese firm said yesterday. Renault and Dongfeng will each have a 50 percent share in the new company, which will produce 150,000 multipurpose vehicles and engines per year. The two will invest a total of 7.8 billion yuan (US$1.3 billion) in the joint venture, which will be based in Wuhan, Hubei Province, Dongfeng said.
‘SpongeBob’ made free
SpongeBob SquarePants and other Nickelodeon children’s programs will be dubbed into Mandarin and made available to watch free online in China over the next 12 months. The deal between popular Web portal Sohu.com (搜狐) and Viacom announced yesterday is the latest to give a foreign company more access to China’s viewing market. The companies say the deal will enable an estimated 389 million Chinese online video users to access free Nickelodeon programming on Sohu’s Web site.
Nokia takeover gets nod
The European Commission approved on Wednesday Microsoft Corp’s nearly 5.5 billion euro takeover of the mobile phone business of Finland’s Nokia which once dominated the global industry. The acquisition does “not raise any competition concerns, in particular because there are only modest overlaps between” the two companies, the Commission said in a statement.