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Mon, Mar 31, 2003 - Page 12 News List

World Business Quick Take

AGENCIES

■ Six continentsAll Bar One up for sale

Six Continents Plc, the owner of All Bar One pubs and InterContinental hotels, may get more than £3 billion (US$4.7 billion) for its bar unit as more suitors come forward before next month's spinoff, four analysts said. The British company last week rejected a £2.8 billion bid, saying it was too low. The offer was from UK private equity firm BC Partners Ltd, people familiar with the companies said. Entrepreneur Hugh Osmond, whose earlier offer for all of Six Continents was spurned, didn't rule out a bid for the pubs. Buyers are lining up because Six Continents was able to pick the best 550 locations three years ago when it joined Punch Taverns Plc to buy pubs from Allied Domecq Plc, analysts said.

■ Australian Beef

Japan extends tariff law

Japan extended for a year a law that allows it to raise the tariff on Australian beef products by almost a third to 50 percent to prevent a surge in imports. The law, passed by the parliament on Friday, lets Japan raise its tariff on beef from Australia and other countries when quarterly beef imports rise 17 percent compared with year-earlier levels, according to the Ministry of Finance's Web site. The higher tariff, to be implemented Aug. 1, may continue until March next year, Meat & Livestock Australia, a North Sydney-based trade group, said earlier. Japan's beef consumption is recovering from a 70 percent drop last year when mad cow disease scared off consumers.

In 2001, US beef exports to Japan were worth US$1.6 billion. Australia's were worth about US$1 billion.

■ Economy

S Korea's GDP may decline

South Korea's central bank will probably cut its economic growth forecast for this year and revise other economic projections next month as global demand slows, Yonhap News reported, citing an unidentified official. The Bank of Korea may cut the growth forecast for GDP to as low as 4 percent from 5.7 percent, the report said. The economy grew 6.3 percent last year, according to the central bank. The current account, the broadest measure of a nation's flows of money, will probably turn to a deficit because of higher oil prices, from the US$3 billion surplus previously expected, the report said. Consumer prices will probably rise more than 4 percent this year, compared with the 3.4 percent expected, it said. Although Central bank Governor Park Seung and other officials have said the economy will grow slower than what was forecast in December, Bank of Korea hasn't revised its official projections.

■ Chipmakers

Japanese to raise spending

Japan's five biggest semiconductor makers may boost capital spending in their next business year for the first time in three years to stay competitive, the Nikkei English News said, citing unidentified industry officials. Spending by Toshiba Corp and four other Japanese semiconductor makers will rise 50 percent to ¥350 billion (US$2.9 billion) in the fiscal year starting next month, Nikkei said. The companies, which have cut spending since 2001 because of a slump in demand, say holding back investments will leave them behind overseas rivals, Nikkei said. Toshiba will almost double investments in the next fiscal year to ¥120 billion, from ¥66 billion this year. Renesas Technology Corp, a venture between Hitachi Ltd and Mitsubishi Electric Corp that starts this week, plans to spend ¥100 billion on its chip facilities.

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