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Tue, Apr 13, 2004 - Page 12 News List

World Business Quick Take

AGENCIES

■ TourismTravel bookings rise

Abacus International Pte, Asia's largest sales agent for airline tickets, said travel bookings increased 52 percent in February, as economic growth in the region picked up and diseases like bird flu and SARS abated. The company said it had more than 4.1 million bookings in February. Reservations in January rose 10 percent from the same month last year. "Business travel returned after the World Health Organization allayed many of the concerns surrounding bird flu," the company said in a statement. "Travel volumes have increased for nine consecutive months since June 2003." The increased airline reservations are good news for Asian carriers such as Singapore Airlines Ltd, which have been adding capacity this year to take advantage of improved economic growth in the region.

■ Electronics

Samsung plans LCD plant

Samsung Electronics Co, the world's second-largest maker of liquid crystal displays, said it plans to build a new LCD plant by 2006 to keep pace with Japanese rival Sharp Corp in meeting rising flat-screen demand. Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung plans will start operating the so-called eighth-generation plant by the second half of 2006, spokesman James Chung said, citing comments made by Lee Sang-wan, Samsung's LCD chief. Chung declined to comment further on the plant's capacity or on product details. Samsung will build the plant as Osaka-based Sharp is considering building a similar eighth-generation plant in Japan, Chung cited Lee as saying in Japan. In January, Sharp's Kameyama plant in Mie, became the world's first sixth-generation factory to begin operations.

■ Conglomerates

Foreign ownership surges

The level of foreign ownership in top South Korean conglomerates has surged to nearly 50 percent with foreign interest focusing on Samsung Electronics, official data showed yesterday. As of April 8, foreigners accounted for 104.66 trillion won (US$92 billion) or 49.4 percent of the market capitalization of firms affiliated with South Korea's 10 largest conglomerates, according to the Korea Stock Exchange. The level of foreign ownership was 38.4 percent a year ago. The foreign stake in Samsung Group, South Korea largest business giant, surged from 46.87 percent to 57.04 percent, in terms of value. Foreigners owned 61.7 percent of Samsung Electronics, the world's largest microchip maker. The Hyundai Motor Group was second with 47.3 percent, followed by SK at 43.6 percent.

■ Semiconductors

US chipmakers look abroad

US computer chip companies moving into emerging economies such as China and India are looking for expertise and product ideas, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing company executives. Naveed Sherwani, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who set up a chip-design center in India, says he went to the country to help improve reliability and predictability and not just to cut costs, the Journal reported. The growing number of engineers in Asia and Eastern Europe, and their increasing technical sophistication, could eventually cause companies in the US and other established economies to lose their dominance in areas such as chip innovation, the newspaper said.

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