Bank lending nearly doubles
The nation’s banks last month lent nearly twice as much money as in February, official data showed yesterday, as Beijing beefed up efforts to bolster a faltering economic recovery. Banks granted a total of 1.06 trillion yuan (US$171 billion) in new loans last month, up from 620 billion yuan in February, the central People’s Bank of China said in a statement. Total social financing, a broader measure of credit, surged to 2.54 trillion yuan, it said, more than doubling from 1.07 trillion yuan in February, although that month had fewer working days because of the Lunar New Year holiday.
Unemployment rate rises
The nation’s unemployment rate jumped 0.2 percentage points to 5.6 percent last month with 36,100 fewer people employed, following a sharp rise in positions created the previous month. The Australian Bureau of Statistics said the unemployment rate was up from 5.4 percent, defying analysts, who had broadly tipped the rate to remain steady. The number of jobs lost, seasonally adjusted, was nearly half the upwardly revised 74,000 gained in February, a result that was a near 13-year high and smashed forecasts.
Korean Air inks CSA deal
South Korean flag carrier Korean Air said yesterday it had finalized a deal to buy a 44 percent stake in troubled Czech Airlines (CSA) in a bid to expand lucrative long-haul routes to Europe. With the deal signed on Wednesday, Korean Air has become the second-largest shareholder in the state-run carrier following Czech Aeroholding, which holds a 51.7 percent stake, Korean Air said in a statement. Korean Air paid 2.64 million euros (US$3.44 million) for the stake.
Fast Retailing lifts forecast
Fast Retailing Co, Asia’s largest clothing retailer, raised its forecast for annual profit as the seller of Uniqlo apparel expanded overseas and benefited from the yen weakening to a three-year low. Net income will probably be ￥91.5 billion (US$918 million) for the year ending August, higher than its previous forecast of ￥87 billion, the company said yesterday in a statement. The company has said it expects to have 1,000 stores in China, matching the number in Japan, by 2020. Outlets would total 1,000 in the rest of Asia, matching the combined number in Europe and the US, according to the company.
T-Mobile bid sweetened
Deutsche Telekom AG on Wednesday said it submitted final, sweetened terms it hoped will win shareholder backing for a merger of subsidiary T-Mobile USA with rival wireless carrier MetroPCS. Under the revised terms, Deutsche Telekom would trim US$3.8 billion from the debt load carried into the union by T-Mobile, reducing to US$11.2 billion the amount of “shareholder loans” to the company. Deutsche Telekom also said it would lower the interest rate charged on the loans.
Axa agrees to sell unit
Axa SA, Europe’s second-largest insurer, agreed to sell a US unit and transfer certain obligations to Protective Life Corp for US$1.06 billion. Axa is selling Mony Life Insurance Co to Birmingham, Alabama-based Protective, which will reinsure some life policies, the companies said yesterday in separate statements. Axa said it will still offer life insurance and retirement products in the US and the agreement does not include the Mony distribution network.