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Thu, Aug 05, 2004 - Page 12 News List

World Business Quick Take


■ OilPrices rise again in US.

US oil prices struck a fresh record high above US$44 a barrel yesterday, on contin-uing concerns that any hiccup in the tightly stretched supply chain could lead to a major dis-ruption in global crude flows. US crude struck US$44.28 a barrel, US$0.13 up from Tuesday's settle-ment and the highest since oil futures were launched on the New York Mercantile Exchange in 1983. London's Brent crude was US$0.18 higher at US$40.82 a barrel. Oil's latest boost was triggered on Tuesday, when the head of the OPEC producers' cartel said there was no spare oil imme-diately available to cool ed-hot prices.

■ Oil

PetroChina scraps gas plan

A Chinese state oil company has called off plans for a foreign consortium inclu-ding Royal Dutch/Shell and ExxonMobil to invest in a multibillion-dollar pipeline to supply natural gas to China's booming eastern cities, according to Shell. The announcement came as PetroChina Co said its workers on Tuesday welded into place the last segment of the 4,000km-long pipeline that links gas fields in the northwest to Shanghai and nearby cities. The US$5.2 billion pipeline was the first major energy project opened to foreign investors. Shell said the consortium failed to find "common ground" with PetroChina.

■ Banking

Foreign firms' limits eased

China has announced new steps meant to ease the expansion of foreign banks, cutting capital requirements and scrapping a waiting period for opening branch offices. The measures take effect Sept. 1 and will help China comply with inter-national standards, the China Banking Regulatory Commission said in a statement issued late on Tuesday. The government has promised to let foreign banks compete on an equal footing with Chinese banks by 2006 under the terms of its WTO membership. The latest changes affect foreign banks licensed to handle the yuan, China's tightly regu-lated currency, and will "reduce the operating costs of foreign banks and pro-mote their healthy develop-ment," the commission's statement said. The capital requirement for branches dealing with Chinese com-panies will be cut by 25 percent to 300 million yuan (US$36 million), while the limit for branches handling individuals will fall by 15 percent to 500 million yuan, the agency said. It said a one-year waiting period between the openings of new bank branches will be scrapped.

■ Pharmaceuticals

Bristol-Myers to pay SEC

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co, the largest US maker of AIDS drugs, will pay at least US$75 million to settle a US Securities and Exchange Commission probe of whether the company encouraged wholesalers to buy excessive supplies, people familiar with the matter said. The settlement may be announced today, the people said. The com-pany has been under SEC scrutiny since 2002 over "channel stuffing" -- giving incentives to wholesalers to buy more drugs than they could sell. Bristol-Myers agreed last week to settle related shareholder lawsuits for US$300 million, the largest payment by a drug company in a securities-fraud case in US history. Bristol-Myers in March last year restated more than US$2.5 billion in revenue, saying it improperly booked sales to two of its largest wholesalers after shipping more goods than they needed for retail demand.

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