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Fri, Feb 07, 2003 - Page 12 News List

World Business Quick Take


■ Currency
Chavez imposes controls

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez imposed a series of new foreign currency controls yesterday as his government sought to ease the economic bruising from a two-month opposition strike that failed to oust him. Chavez said currency trading -- suspended for two weeks -- would resume under a fixed exchange rate and tighter controls to shore up international reserves and the battered local bolivar currency. Chavez, who survived a coup in April, warned he could limit US currency access to private sector leaders he accuses of trying to topple him by weakening the oil-reliant economy. "We have come to the ideal decision on how to defend the Venezuelan economy," Chavez said in a national broadcast. Under the new currency mechanism, an initial exchange rate was set at 1,596/1,600 bolivars to the US dollar. The Venezuelan currency last traded at 1,853 bolivars to the dollar when the government suspended markets on Jan. 22 while it drafted the controls.

■ Online auctions

Sotheby's to end service

The auction house Sotheby's Holdings said that it would stop holding online auctions on its Web site, sothebys.ebay.com, which was built by and linked to eBay. The alliance between Sotheby's and eBay will end in May, officials said. "As our online auctions offered by our dealer associates and Sotheby's have not generated a profit for Sotheby's, we are discontinuing separate online auctions," said William F. Ruprecht, president and chief executive of Sotheby's Holdings Inc. The company plans to continue operating a Web site, officials said, to provide details on its live auctions and for other company information. The auction house said that it has lost about US$100 million on Internet operations in about three years. In June, Sotheby's started selling its fine art, antiques and other collectibles on the Web. But online sales did not meet company expectations; Sotheby's said it made about US$135 million through its eBay-affiliated site.

■ Manufacturing

Airbus awarded contract

Airbus has won a US$2.1 billion deal to sell 43 passenger planes to Indian Airlines, French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin and the airline said yesterday. While at Aero-India exposition in Bangalore, India's technology hub, Raffarin also witnessed the signing of joint production deals between two French companies and an Indian aircraft engine maker. There are 176 foreign companies vying for Indian defense and civilian deals worth billions of dollars at the show, which is India's first since allowing private investment in defense production.

■ Precious metals

Gold futures decline

Gold futures dropped for a second day after US Secretary of State Colin Powell failed to convince some members of the UN Security Council that Iraqi weapons violations justify an immediate assault. Gold futures rose almost 2.9 percent in the first two days of this week to a six-year high as speculators bet Powell's address to the UN may hasten conflict.Gold for April delivery fell as much as US$8.20, or 2.2 percent, to US$369 an ounce in after-hours electronic trading on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. It traded at US$371 at 4:15pm Sydney time after falling 0.7 percent yesterday in floor-trading.

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