China adds wireless players
An Alibaba Group (阿里巴巴) unit and 10 other companies are to compete for wireless subscribers in China after regulators awarded new operating licenses, a step toward opening the world’s largest mobile market. Alibaba’s HiChina unit, which offers Web site development services, and the other new operators can lease wireless capacity from the nation’s existing carriers in a trial intended to boost competition in the US$213 billion market, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said yesterday. The country’s current carriers, China Mobile Ltd (中國移動), China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd (中國聯通) and China Telecom Corp (中國電信), are all state-run. Opening the market to new operators aims to help cut prices and bring more choices to the nation’s 1.2 billion wireless users. For Alibaba, it allows China’s largest e-commerce group to develop new services to boost user loyalty.
China urbanization quickens
China’s urbanization rate is expected to hit 60 percent by 2018, according to a prominent government think tank report, two years ahead of previous official expectations, bringing a potential economic boost to the world’s second-largest economy. China’s urban population has boomed over the last three decades, with over half of all Chinese living in cities for the first time last year. Around 54 percent of the population lives in cities now, according to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ blue book report, the Xinhua news agency said yesterday. China’s leaders are pushing for a larger number of the country’s near 1.4 billion population to live in cities, a drive to boost economic output and reignite growth that slowed to a 13-year low of 7.8 percent last year.
Textron buys plane maker
American industrial conglomerate Textron announced it has agreed to pay US$1.4 billion to purchase US business and defense plane builder Beechcraft in a cash deal. The transaction is due to be finalized in the first half of next year, subject to regulatory approvals and closing conditions, the companies said. Beechcraft, previously known as Hawker Beechcraft, exited Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection just 10 months ago to restructure its debt while being shielded from creditors and solving its financing problems. After purchasing all outstanding equity interests in Beech Holdings — Beechcraft’s parent company — Textron, which produces Cessna planes and Bell helicopters, will namely buy up patents for the Hawker 4000 business jet.
US benefits claimants fall
The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits dropped by 42,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 338,000, the biggest drop since November last year. However, economists say the figures from late last month and this month are warped by seasonal volatility around the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays. The US Labor Department reported on Thursday that the less-volatile four-week average rose 4,250 to 348,000. Claims had jumped 75,000 over the two weeks that ended Dec. 14 before plunging last week. The Labor Department struggles to account for seasonal hiring by retailers and other businesses and for temporary layoffs of cafeteria workers and other employees at schools that close for the holidays.