Spare oil capacity at a low
Global spare oil production capacity is at its lowest level in 20 years, Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, Qatar's oil minister said in remarks prepared for a conference in New Delhi. The "fear factor" that has helped the oil price move higher will remain as long as spare production remains low, he said. "Today's spare oil production capacity is the lowest in 20 years and is in fact less than the production capacities of several individual producers," he said. "This means that the loss of production of any of these producers will create a shortage in supply and higher prices," a copy of al-Attiyah's speech said.
■ Display Panels
Sharp to start new plant
Sharp Corp, Japan's biggest maker of liquid-crystal display panels, will invest more than ?100 billion (US$960 million) in a second liquid crystal display plant making large panels. The plant will be on the site of the existing facilities in Kameyama, Mie prefecture, west of Tokyo, President Katsuhiko Machida said. The Osaka-based company is planning to spend as much as ?200 billion on a more efficient eighth-generation plant making 45-inch panels, the Nihon Keizai reported on Dec. 19.
WorldCom board may settle
Ten former board members of WorldCom Inc have tentatively agreed to pay US$54 million to settle their portion of a class-action lawsuit brought by investors who lost billions when the company collapsed following a massive accounting scandal, according to a published report. The outside directors have agreed in principle to pay US$18 million from their own funds, with the remaining US$36 million to be paid by the directors' liability insurers, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday on its Web site.
Japan to slash port costs
Japan's transport ministry plans to cut costs at the nation's major ports by as much as 40 percent in a bid to compete with Northeast Asian rivals. The ministry aims to bring costs in line with ports in South Korea, Taiwan and other neighboring countries, which are between 30 percent and 40 percent lower, said Hiroshi Ishihara, a government official at the ministry's Port and Harbor Bureau. Entry procedures for vessels will be simplified, he said. The ministry last year selected Tokyo-Yokohama, central Japan's Nagoya-Yokkaichi and Osaka-Kobe in the west to participate in its program to increase competitiveness.
■ Music Industry
US album sales rise
US music album sales rose 1.6 percent last year, the first increase in four years, helped by acts including Usher and Norah Jones, according to figures from Nielsen SoundScan. Album sales increased to 666.7 million units last year, SoundScan said in an e-mailed statement. Universal Music Group and EMI Group Plc gained larger shares of the market, while Sony BMG Entertainment and Warner Music Group declined. Usher, a hip-hop singer signed with Sony BMG's Arista label, sold the most albums with 7.99 million copies of Confession. EMI's Norah Jones was second with 3.84 million copies of Feels Like Home. Encore, by Universal Music's Eminem, was third with 3.52 million. Album sales rose for the full year, but sales declines in October and November have raised concerns the recovery may be sputtering.