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Sat, Dec 18, 2004 - Page 12 News List

World Business Quick Take

AGENCIES

■ Clothing

Levi Strauss in hot water

Iconic US jeans maker Levi Strauss & Co has the blues. The company, whose founder invented rugged denim pants during the California Gold Rush of 1849, warned on Thursday that it might file for bankruptcy if business does not improve and new financing is not available. The announcement marked a new low point for the San Francisco company, which has seen sales slide in recent years, is trying to cut costs, revitalize its brand and introduce new products. In papers filed on Thursday with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Levi Strauss said it was unsure whether it could generate enough cash or loans to complete the new business plan and pay interest on its debts of around US$2.3 billion. "We may be forced to sell assets, or we may go into default, which could cause other indebtedness to become due, result in bankruptcy or an out-of-court debt restructuring," the company said.

■ Beverages

China guzzles most beer

The Chinese are toasting their economic growth with beer as the country for the first time surpassed the US as the world's top beer guzzler, a global survey by a Japanese brewer said. Chinese drinkers chugged down nearly 25 billion liters last year, accounting for 17.3 percent of the world's beer consumption of 144 billion liters. The US accounted for 16.5 percent, the study by Kirin Brewery showed. "The growing middle class in China was the main factor behind the increasing beer consumption," said Hiroki Umezawa, Kirin spokesman. "Japanese and foreign beer makers believe the Chinese beer market has a lot of growth potential. As the Chinese economy grows stronger, its beer consump-tion should rise," he said. However, on a per capita basis, the Chinese were still a long way behind their US peers. With a population of 1.3 billion people, consump-tion worked out at 19.7 liters of beer per capita last year compared with 81.6 for each American.

■ Macroeconomics

Japan assessment lowered

Japan's central bank yesterday downgraded its assessment of the economy for the first time in more than a year, citing weakening industrial production and slowing export growth. The Bank of Japan has not given a lower assessment of the economy in its monthly report since May last year. Friday's report said the economy is continuing to recover overall, despite some cause for concern. Earlier in the day, the bank decided to keep monetary policy unchanged. The Bank of Japan's decision, reached at the end of a two-day policy board meeting, kept the target for liquidity in a range of ?30 trillion (US$286 billion) to ?35 trillion (US$334 billion).

■ Telecoms

Telstra to trim management

Telstra Corp, Australia's biggest phone company, will next year begin cutting the number of workers among its 4,500 middle managers, spokesman Michael Grealy said. A report in an Australian newspaper that as much as 10 percent of the Melbourne-based company's workforce could be cut was "grossly exaggerated," Grealy said in an interview. "This is a program about reducing bureaucracy and improving customer service. Cutting jobs is not the main driver,'' he said. Telstra is reducing costs as the former government monopoly loses market share to Singapore Telecommunications Ltd's Optus unit. The reduction in middle management would take place over 18 months, Grealy said.

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