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Thu, Jul 22, 2004 - Page 12 News List

World Business Quick Take

AGENCIES

■ Telecoms

Ericsson exceeds forecasts

Swedish telecommuni-cations equipment maker Ericsson reported yesterday second-quarter profit that smashed market forecasts, driven by stellar margins. Ericsson posted net profit of 5.90 billion kronor (US$ 790,104) in the April to May period, compared with a loss of 2.728 billion kronor in the same period last year. Pretax profit amounted to 7.83 billion kronor, up from a loss of 3.585 billion in the same period a year earlier and well above average market expectations of 5.360 billion. The gross margin was 47.8 percent in the second quarter, com-pared with 35.1 percent in the same period last year, and well above analysts' expectations of 44.8 percent. Second-quarter sales came in at 32.6 billion kronor, up from 27.613 billion. Orders increased to 33.1 billion from 28.3 billion.

■ Technology

China getting online fast

The number of Internet users in China has risen 28 percent over the past year to 87 million, and use of broadband and online commerce is soaring, the government said yesterday. The number of broadband subscribers has jumped 78.7 percent in the past six months to 31.1 million, the China Internet Network Information Center said on its Web site. China says it already has the world's second-biggest online population after the US. China aggressively pro-motes Internet use for business and education, despite an average annual income of less than US$1,000 per person. At the same time, the government tries to crush attempts to use the Internet to spread criticism of authoritarian rule, imprisoning activists for posting political material online. According to the Network Information Center, a survey found that 58 percent of Chinese Internet users planned to start shopping online in the coming year.

■ Credit-Card Debt

Joblessness drives defaults

Unemployment is the main cause of credit-card pay-ment default in Singapore, not a change in spending habits, a study by Visa International said yesterday. Singaporeans now spend more on credit cards, but have increased repayments correspondingly. Nearly 40 percent of outstanding balances on cards between September and December of last year were repaid without incurring interest, the highest since 1999. The correlation between the default and delinquency rates with unemployment "indicates that the lift in the default rates in recent times has been driven by the economic cycle rather than a fundamental change in cardholder behavior," the Visa report said. The unemployment rate rose to a high of 5.5 percent last September amid a spate of layoffs, but fell to 4.5 percent in March.

■ Telecommuting

US numbers increasing

Some 44 million US workers will be telecommuting, or working from home at least on a part-time basis this year, according to a survey released this week. The survey by In-Stat/MDR released on Monday pro-jects the number of tele-commuters is expected to grow by 2008 to 51 million, with 14 million working full-time at home. The report notes that the rise has fueled growth in broadband by home users. "Companies too are supporting this movement, with some firms going so far as to sub-sidizing the equipment and service expense to allow their employees to work from home," the research firm noted.

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