■ SemiconductorsMicron Tech moves up
Micron Technology Inc of the US probably overtook South Korea's Hynix Semiconductor Inc as the world's second-largest computer-memory chipmaker during the third quarter, market researcher IDC said. Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung Electronics Co retained its spot as the world's largest maker of dynamic random access memory, or DRAM, chips, said Kim Soo Kyoum, IDC's semiconductor analyst in Seoul, in an interview. Icheon-based Hynix slid to third from second and Germany's Infineon Technologies AG remained fourth-largest producer, said Kim, citing a preliminary tally.
■ Auto industry
Low demand for hybrids
The DaimlerChrysler concern has dampened optimism on hybrid technology, saying that it expected demand for the combination of combustion engine and electric motor to remain small. Thomas Weber, head of Daimler-Chrysler research, says that one year after the debut of the F 500 eight-cylinder diesel and electric hybrid, the electric motor saved about 10 percent and the automatic generation of energy through the brake system saved another 5 percent to 7 percent, Weber said. However, in actual daily use these results could not be achieved, Weber said. Especially on long country trips the additional weight of the hybrid led to higher fuel consumption.
■ Credit cards
Card suppliers to be charged
New Zealand regulators are filing criminal charges against eight credit card suppliers, including five major banks, for allegedly charging hidden fees for offshore transactions, the competition watchdog said yesterday. The charges follow an investigation into the failure of credit card providers to fully disclose to their customers their fees for currency conversions on overseas transactions, the Commerce Commission said. Local media said up to US$24 million of overcharged fees had been racked up in the past year.
Vodafone starts 3G services
The British mobile telecommunications operator Vodafone launched mass-market third-generation mobile phone services yesterday in 12 countries, providing customers with music downloads, film clips and video games on the move. Vodafone's basic 3G package offers 500 voice minutes, 100 text messages and 50 video calling minutes, as well as unlimited film, news and sport video clips, for £40 (US$74) per month. For £60 per month, subscribers can add on a further 500 minutes. Songs cost £1.50 (US$2.73) to download.
Lay-offs after scandal
Marsh & McLennan, the largest US insurance brokerage, said it will lay off 3,000 employees, or about 5 percent of its work force, because of fallout from a bid-rigging scandal that has engulfed the insurance industry. Marsh & McLennan made the announcement on Tuesday as it reported that third-quarter earnings plummeted 94 percent, a drop the company blamed in large part on having to set aside money for settlements. The company also announced that it reached a tentative US$40 million agreement with the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle allegations of questionable brokerage practices at its Putnam operation.