■ Auto Industry
Steel shortage cuts output
Nissan Motor, Japan's second largest automaker, said yesterday in an unprecedented move it will have to cut back output due a shortage of steel material. It said three of its four plants will stop assembly line production intermittently from Nov. 29 to Dec. 8 for a total of five days, resulting in a production loss of 25,000 vehicles. "It is an unprecedented incident," a Nissan spokesman said, adding that the company will try to make up the shortfall in January. "We face a shortage of steel. Our needs have turned out to be higher than expected [due to robust car sales] and supply cannot catch up," a spokeswoman said earlier. The Nihon Keizai Shimbun said that the cost-cutting drive under Nissan president Carlos Ghosn has backfired, with the company reducing the number of its suppliers.
■ Auto Industry
Workers to vote on strike
Thousands of Jaguar car workers will begin voting next week on strike action over plans to halt production at a British plant with the loss of over 1,000 jobs, union leaders said Wednesday. US parent company Ford announced in September plans to end production at a site in Jaguar's hometown of Coventry, central England, because of poor demand for the luxury brand. Ballot papers for industrial action will be issued to workers at the Browns Lane site on Monday. The ballot will close Dec. 13. Jaguar workers also plan a mass demonstration on Saturday through Coventry, where around 750 white collar workers and 400 production jobs are to go.
■ Movie Piracy
Fines for Web distribution
A US judge has slapped a US$600,000 fine on a bit-part actor who allowed his advance copies of movies in contention for Oscars to be digitized and distributed over the Internet, the trade paper Variety reported Wednesday. The report said that in a separate case, a federal court in Los Angeles fined a Malaysian man US$23.8 million for running Web sites that allowed paying members to watch pirated movies. Tan Soo Leong ran film88.com and a company called MasterSurf Inc, which set up computer servers overseas to protect the business from liability in the US, the report said. US District Judge Stephen Wilson found that Carmine Caridi, who played two minor roles in The Godfather movies, sent copies of his screener tapes of Mystic River, Big Fish, Something's Gotta Give and The Last Samurai to an Illinois man who digitized them and released them over the Internet late last year.
■ Air Travel
Hong Kong OKs fuel levies
Twenty-six airlines, including Air France and British Airways, have been cleared to extend and raise levies charged to passengers flying into or out of Hong Kong due to high global oil prices, the territory's Civil Aviation Department said yesterday. The fuel levy raises and two-month extensions take effect Dec. 1, said Civil Aviation Department spokeswoman Stella Tse. British Airways PLC will more than double its surcharge from US$10 per flight to US$27, while the Air France fuel levy will rise from US$13 to US$22, Tse said. Australian Airlines and its owner Qantas Airways Ltd both got approval to raise its surcharges from A$22 (US$17) to US$29 the most expensive levy charged in Hong Kong, she said. Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd's fuel levy for short-haul flights will rise from US$7 to US$9.2, and for long-haul flights to US$27 from US$19.