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Thu, Mar 04, 2004 - Page 12 News List

World Business Quick Take


■ Metals
S Korea to cut exports

South Korea will restrict exports of scrap iron and steel bars to ease a worsening domestic supply shortage, officials said yesterday. The temporary ban will go into force Monday, according to the ministry of commerce, industry and energy, which also called for action to stop brokers from stocking up on steel products. Anti-trust regulators have launched a probe into importers, who are suspected of selling raw materials far above import prices or of delaying shipments. Prices of scrap iron and other raw materials have risen sharply recently, sparking a severe supply shortage in South Korea.

■ Trade

Senate mulls tax breaks

The US Senate was to start work yesterday to end a tax break for manufacturers that was declared an illegal subsidy by international courts and that prompted new European tariffs on US exports in retaliation. An array of US products face a 5 percent penalty tariff that started Monday. It ratchets up 1 percentage point each month over the next year. Despite the Senate's quick response, leaders don't expect their debate to finish until the end of March. The House of Representatives hasn't yet scheduled time for debate. Sanctions will end when the US eliminates the offending tax break, worth US$5 billion annually to US exporters.

■ Meat

Disease crimps exports

About one-third of global meat exports was destroyed by recent outbreaks of animal diseases, which would lead to a loss of US$10 billion in world trade this year if the bans on meat import are maintained, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said Tuesday. The Rome-based FAO said in a study that trade losses would likely accrue in about a dozen countries facing export bans or market constraints following outbreaks of avian influenza and BSE, known as mad cow disease. FAO said the value of global trade in meat amounted to about US$33 billion under normal conditions.

■ Brewing

Interbrew, Ambev hook up

Interbrew SA, the Belgian brewer of Rolling Rock and Beck's, agreed to combine with Brazil's Cia de Bebidas das Americas through a share exchange to create the world's largest beer maker with annual revenue of US$11.9 billion. Belgium's Interbrew will issue 141.7 million new shares to offer Ambev shareholders, the company said in an e-mailed statement. Ambev, based in Sao Paulo, will issue 9.5 billion ordinary shares and 13.8 billion preferred ones. Interbrew, like European competitors Heineken NV and SABMiller Plc, is expanding abroad to tap rising demand for beer as consumption slows in Europe.

■ Music

Warner to cut staff

Warner Music is to cut a fifth of its workforce, 1,000 people, as part of a restruct-uring designed to cut costs at the world's largest indepen-dent music company. The announcement comes a day after the music group was taken over by a consortium led by Edgar Bronfman Jr, the former head of music and drinks business Seagram. The job cuts, which will hit the legal, finance and label sales divisions hardest, are to take place over the coming month and are expected to save between US$200m and US$300m. Bronfman said the "painful changes" were necessary to remain number one in a "rapidly evolving marketplace."

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