■ Online musicVirgin to offer new service
Virgin Group Ltd, the company founded by British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, plans to start an online music service in the US and the UK later this year, the Wall Street Journal reported. The service, called Virgin Digital, will be provided by Internet music wholesaler MusicNet and consumers will be able to buy individual songs, music albums online or subscribe to a membership service, the paper said. London-based Virgin plans to offer the service through kiosks in its stores and also via its mobile phones; the company declined to provide information on the cost of the service, the newspaper said.
Investors taking chances
Investors have given international financial markets a boost by recovering their "robust appetite for risk," the Bank for International Settlements said in its quarterly review yesterday. The BIS found that the investment climate had improved so much since markets rallied one year ago that it was not even unsettled by fresh revelations of major accounting scandals such as the collapse of the Italian dairy giant Parmalat. "Financial markets around the world rallied into the new year, adding to the impressive gains recorded in 2003," the BIS said. "Improvements in global growth prospects and corporate finances, coupled with a robust appetite for risk, underpinned increases in equity and credit prices," it added.
Singapore to go shopping
The Singapore government's investment arm will spend S$100 million (US$58.6 million) to buy stakes in small and medium-sized companies throughout Asia over the next 12 months, a spokeswoman said yesterday. Acquisitions in commodities and agricultural companies may be included in addition to further investment in manufacturing and services in the region, said Rachel Lin, a spokeswoman for the government's Temasek Holdings. Through Temasek, the government has spent S$72 million (US$42.2 million) on small and medium-sized companies since July 2002, including stakes in electronics distributor Autron Corp, water company Hyflux Ltd, and car parts distributor YHI International. It also invested in Chinese shipping company, Cosco Corp.
Macquarie buys ING unit
Australia's Macquarie Bank Ltd said yesterday it had agreed to buy the Asian share-dealing businesses of Dutch financial services company ING Groep NV, including operations in nine countries of Asia. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed. Macquarie chief executive Allan Moss called the deal "significant" because of its earning potential. He said it would also increase Macquarie's staff numbers by 8 percent. The transaction, which would be completed before July 31, will help Macquarie's position in the Asia Pacific region, Moss said. "Macquarie's management team is enormously excited about the potential for financial services in Asia and the opportunities this acquisition presents to strengthen our business and team in our region," he said in a statement.