Thu, Mar 02, 2017 - Page 10 News List

World Business Quick Take

Agencies

AUSTRALIA

Economic growth surprises

The nation’s economy expanded at a faster-than-expected 1.1 percent annual pace in the final three months of last year, as resurgent coal and iron ore prices helped the country avoid recession. The growth followed a shock 0.5 percent decline in the previous quarter. Growth for the whole of last year was 2.4 percent, up from 1.8 percent for the year through September. Mining and agriculture saw relatively strong growth in the fourth quarter. Iron ore and coal are the nation’s biggest exports, and reduced demand from China has cooled a mining boom and hurt the Australian economy. Treasurer Scott Morrison welcomed a 2 percent increase in business investment in December last year, the first rise after a dozen quarters of decline. Treasury Department Secretary John Fraser told a Senate committee yesterday that the fundamentals of the economy were “sound, but finely balanced.” The third quarter of last year showed that the economy remains sensitive to shocks, Fraser said. The quarter was the nation’s first quarter of economic contraction since early 2011.

TRANSPORT

Singapore mulls drones

Singapore is considering using drones and unmanned vehicles to inspect its underground railway tunnels, its transport regulator said yesterday, its latest experiment with new technology. The nation’s Land Transport Authority has put out a request on the possibility of industry participation in the use of unmanned aircraft and vehicle technology for inspections of its Mass Rapid Transit system and road tunnels. Labor-intensive manual inspections are carried out regularly on the rail system and road tunnels to check for problems such as cracks or water leaks. Singapore has announced plans to begin testing driverless buses and trucks. Self-driving cars are already being tested on public roads in a high-tech district in the west of the city.

TRANSPORT

Eurotunnel posts best year

Eurotunnel, which manages the rail link under the English Channel, yesterday said that last year was the best year in its more than 20-year history as profits tripled and passenger numbers grew. Despite fears over Britain’s exit from the EU and terrorism jitters in France, Eurotunnel posted profit of 200 million euros (US$210.75 million), helped by recent acquisitions. “It’s the best year we’ve ever had at the Eurotunnel group since the opening of the tunnel,” company chief executive officer Jacques Gounon told reporters. Last year’s net profit included 50 million euros from the integration of ElecLink, an electric link under the Channel purchased the previous year, as well as 64 million euros from discontinued activities, the group said in a statement. It was a sharp gain from the 75 million euros posted in 2015 and all important passenger numbers showed “strong growth” with 2.66 million tourist vehicles and 1.64 million lorries transported through the tunnel. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation were 514 million euros, an annual increase of 26 million euros, while turnover was 1.02 billion euros, up 4 percent from the previous year. Looking forward, Gounon said the firm is “extremely confident” about this year and next year. Opened in 1994, the Channel Tunnel carries passenger vehicles and freight lorries on special trains under the sea linking England and France, as well as Eurostar passenger trains connecting London with Paris, Brussels and other points in Europe.

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