Hyundai, Kia settle suits
Hyundai Motor Co and Kia Motors Corp, affiliated South Korean automakers, agreed to spend as much as US$395 million to settle lawsuits brought by customers claiming the companies overstated fuel-economy ratings. Hyundai’s US unit said in a statement on Monday that it will make payments totaling as much as US$210 million to people who bought 2011 to last year’s model vehicles affected by the ratings. Customers have the choice of a lump-sum payment from Seoul-based Hyundai or to remain in a fuel-reimbursement program for as long as they own their vehicle. Kia Motors said in a separate statement that its payments to owners of about 300,000 vehicles would total as much as US$185 million.
Chevron contests fine
Chevron filed a motion with a court in Ecuador on Monday seeking to reverse a ruling requiring it to pay US$9.5 billion for pollution in the country’s Amazon basin region. The US oil giant, which claims it was the victim of a trial riddled with fraud, was ordered in September to cover the fine for pollution caused by its predecessor Texaco for the 26 years it was in the Ecuadoran region. The company has also challenged the massive penalty in a US court. Last month, Chevron asked US Judge Lewis Kaplan to block Ecuador from enforcing a US$9.51 billion Ecuadoran court award against the company, alleging widespread corruption in the case.
Minimum wage to rise
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Monday confirmed a rise in the minimum wage to 724 reals (US$306) per month, equivalent to a 6.8 percent rise. The leftist leader announced the measure on Twitter following Congressional approval last week. Dilma said she had signed the measure into law and it is to take effect from next month. Sao Paulo commerce federation Fecomercio calculated the move would inject 46 billion reals (US$19.5 billion) into the economy next year. Economists have raised their inflation forecast to 5.97 percent next year from 5.95 percent, according to a weekly central bank survey.
Budget can tackle crisis
Senators in Italy on Monday gave their final approval to next year’s budget, which is intended to tackle an enduring social crisis even after the formal end of the country’s longest post-war recession. The government has said the budget “reverses” the austerity trend of recent years, but critics including trade unions and the business lobby Confindustria warn that it is not enough to stimulate growth. The budget includes the creation of a fund with proceeds from bureaucratic cuts to be used to lower income tax, as well as measures to encourage the hiring of workers, higher taxes on large pensions and the introduction of a new benefits scheme for the unemployed.
Biggest budget approved
Saudi Arabia’s Finance Ministry has announced the largest annual budget ever to be adopted by the kingdom, projecting spending and revenue at 855 billion riyals (US$228 billion) each for next year. The ministry also recorded a budget surplus this year. Revenues were projected at 829 billion riyals and expenditures at 820 billion riyals. The Finance Ministry said on Monday that both exceeded initial projections, with revenues at 1.131 trillion riyals and spending at 925 billion riyals.