NEC invests in government
NEC Corp, Japan's second-largest chipmaker, and Fujitsu Ltd, the nation's biggest business computer maker, plan to set up data-processing centers for local governments, spending as much as Japanese Yen 30 billion (US$253 million), Nikkei English News reported. The companies each plan to establish 50 centers by March 2005 as demand for such services increase after local governments next month start distributing electronic identity cards to citizens, the newswire said, without citing the source of its information. NEC will provide computer equipment to local companies as well as expertise on how to design and operate such facilities, Nikkei said.
Cable wins from net phones
Cablevision Systems Corp, the largest cable-television company in the New York area, and its peers may eventually dominate calling via the Internet, Barron's said, citing an interview with Legg Mason analyst Blair Levin. In the coming months, Cablevision plans to begin selling a service that lets customers make telephone calls over the Internet, Levin said. "That shift is going to get worse with Voice Over Internet Protocol on the horizon. In the future, cable will be doing more VoiP," Levin said. Smaller companies, such as Vonage, which use other companies' broadband networks as well as equipment linked to a telephone to let customers make phone calls over the Internet, are also poised to benefit from growing demand for the service, Levin told Barron's.
Le Meridien fights for life
Le Meridien Hotels, the operator of London's Grosvenor House, may be placed into administration this week if talks with Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal to refinance the company fail, the Sunday Telegraph reported, citing no one. Negotiations aimed at avoiding administration may continue today after Le Meridien's lenders rejected an offer from Hands and the Saudi prince to inject ?150 million (US$238 million) into the company provided the banks exchanged a portion of debt for a 10 percent equity stake. The hotel chain has been close to bankruptcy since it missed a ?20 million rental payment to Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc two weeks ago. RBS leases 11 UK hotels to Meridien and wants to appoint a new hotel operator for them, the paper said. Lehman Brothers Inc, another of Le Meridien's lenders, wants to hand over the management of the company's 130 hotels overseas to Hyatt Corp, the US hotels group, the paper said.
■ Luxury goods
Cartier opens Ginza outlet
Cie Financiere Richemont AG's Cartier opened the biggest outlet in its chain of luxury goods stores in Tokyo's Ginza district, following similar moves by rivals such as Christian Dior SA and Gucci Group NV, the Mainichi Yomiuri said. Cartier this weekend opened the 1,030m2 Parisian Mansion-style boutique, the biggest of its 212 outlets worldwide, the Yomiuri said. The company plans to invest aggressively in the Japanese market, Cartier International president Bernard Fornas said. Japan provides a fifth of the Cartier's profits, the paper quoted him as saying. Several foreign luxury goods makers have opened or plan to open stores in Tokyo's top shopping district,indicating Japan remains an attractive market for global luxury goods makers.