■ TourismVisitors return to Singapore
Singapore announced Friday arrivals slipped 8.2 percent last month compared to the year-earlier period, but rose from the month before. About 586,016 people visited Singapore last month, 1.1 percent higher than in September, data from the Singapore Tourism Board showed yesterday. Visitor numbers, though down from last year, have steadily climbed over the past six months following the end the city-state's outbreak of SARS. During the SARS epidemic last spring, tourist figures dropped as much as 71 percent, and hotel occupancy rates plunged below 50 percent. The city-state was declared free of the deadly flu-like virus on May 31.
Yukos merger suspended
The completion of a merger between Russian oil giant Yukos and its smaller rival Sibneft, expected to have been reached yesterday, has been suspended, the two companies announced. A joint company statement said the decision had been taken "by mutual agreement" of the major shareholders of the two oil companies, which were to combine into the world's fourth-largest oil and gas producer. "The completion of the merger between Yukos and Sibneft has been put on hold in accordance with a mutual agreement reached by the shareholders of both companies," said the statement received by reporters. The statement did not explain why the decision was reached, but it came amid a massive government inquiry into Yukos that has seen its top shareholder and former chief executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky thrown behind bars.
China starts blackouts
Short of electricity, the capital of a central Chinese province plans to cut power to most homes and businesses for one day out of every four, an official said yesterday, illustrating the precarious nature of the country's power supply. Changsha, a city of nearly 6 million people and the capital of Hunan province, is suffering a severe shortage in its electricity needs, said Qi Mingjun, director of the Changsha Electricity Bureau, in a telephone interview. "Beyond a shortage in coal supply, we are also having difficulty making use of hydropower this year. The whole province is suffering from drought due to the constant high temperatures this summer," Qi said. The rolling blackouts, set to begin Sunday, will likely last until February, when water is expected to return to the river, he said. The government will cut power supply in designated districts for one day out of every four days, he said.
DVD standard approved
Toshiba Corp and NEC Corp said yesterday the DVD Forum, an international association of electronics makers and movie studios, has approved the two Japanese companies' standard for next-generation DVDs. The move gives Toshiba and NEC a leg up on a rival standard based on the Blu-ray disc format, which has a larger recording capacity, advocated by Sony Corp, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co, which makes the Panasonic brand, and Philips Electronics NV of the Netherlands. But it does not rule out the development of Blu-ray disc products. Sony, Panasonic and Philips are also members of the DVD Forum. Next-generation DVDs will be able to record five times the amount of information of current DVDs. A DVD today can record about two hours of conventional analog TV.