■ Energy Supply
China suffering blackouts
Serious power shortages have hit southwest and central China, causing many blackouts in some areas during one of the coldest months of the year, Hong Kong press said yesterday. Officials in Sichuan Province said shortages were so severe that it was not abnormal for power to be cut off at one point in time in more than 1,500 locations within a single day, The Sun newspaper reported. Sichuan boasts one of the richest hydropower resources in the country with reserves estimated at a quarter of the national total but other power plants are running low on coal and natural gas, the newspaper said. China first reported failures to meet power demand in 2000 and the situation has deteriorated steadily since then.
Deutsche policy unchanged
Deutsche Telekom has no intention of making acquisitions or stepping up investments for its mobile phone business in the US, in spite of the planned merger of rivals Sprint and Nextel, the head of German telecommunications giant said yesterday. The US market, with 280 million people and a penetration rate of only 60 percent, was large enough for the current number of players, Deutsche Telekom chief Kai-Uwe Ricke told the Financial Times and Financial Times Deutschland in an interview. "It does not matter whether you have four, five or six players, as long as our positioning is right, and as long as we have the critical mass" of at least 15 million subscribers, Ricke said. Deutsche Telekom's mobile phone arm, T-Mobile, has been growing rapidly in the US, adding 3.2 million customers during the first nine months.
Japanese data mixed
The latest Japanese data yesterday painted a mixed picture of the world's second-largest economy, with a sharp improvement in the unemployment rate offset by continued deflation and modest industrial output. The unemployment fell to 4.5 percent in November from 4.7 percent in October, and the number of people out of work dropped by 400,000 to 2.9 million, showing companies have begun hiring after years of job cuts. Significantly, job offers hit a 12-year high at 92 for every 100 job seekers after 88 in October, marking the best level since 93 in December 1992. Meanwhile, industrial output rose 1.5 percent in November, the first gain in three months after a fall of 1.3 percent in October, but this was less than forecasts for a 1.7 percent increase.
Japan to rescue Daiei
The Industrial Revitalization Corp of Japan (IRCJ) said yesterday it will bail out troubled retailer Daiei in an arrangement costing ?597 billion (US$5.8 billion). Under the rescue package, the government-backed revitalization body asked Daiei's creditor banks to forgive ?405 billion in debts. Daiei's three main creditor banks -- UFJ Bank, Mizuho Corporate Bank and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp -- will also give up ?192 billion in Daiei's preferred shares, the government body said. Daiei, Japan's third-largest supermarket chain, is trying to restructure under debt of about US$10 billion. The ICRJ said it planned to force Daiei to write-down its common capital by 99.6 percent and would also invest ?50 billion in the troubled retailer, which will leave it with a one-third stake.