■ Technology \nSony profits fall 23 percent \nSony Corp said profit at its electronics business fell 23 percent in the third quarter as price cuts lowered earnings from its older television models, portable audio equipment and video cameras. Operating profit at the unit, which accounts for about 70 percent of Sony's sales, fell to 49.4 billion yen (US$478 million) in the three months ended Dec. 31, from 64.4 billion yen a year earlier, the Tokyo-based maker of the PlayStation Portable game machine said today while releasing final earnings for the period. Sony, the world's second-largest consumer-electronics maker, has had to lower prices to compete with companies such as Apple Computer Inc in music players and Samsung Electronics Co in flat-panel televisions. \n■ Auto Sector \nSsangyong out of the red \nSouth Korea's Ssangyong Motor, acquired by China's Shanghai Automotive Industry, emerged yesterday from a five-year creditor-led debt workout program, company and bank officials said. "Ssangyong Motor has put an official end to its debt workout plan today, finally returning to the position of a normal firm which can stand on its own," said Chun Hyung-jin, a Chohung Bank official handling Ssangyong's debt. The announcement coincided with a board of directors meeting which voted a Shanghai Automotive executive onto the board. Ssangyong, which specializes in sports utility vehicles and large sedans, was placed under a debt restructuring program by creditors in 1999 when parent Daewoo Group collapsed. The Chinese automaker signed a contract in October to buy a controlling 48.9 percent stake in Ssangyong for US$500 million. \n■ Hotels \nThe Plaza to be revamped \nThe Plaza Hotel, the New York landmark where children's book heroine Eloise romped and Neil Simon's movie Plaza Suite unfolded, will close at the end of April and reopen next year as a condominium-hotel-retail complex, its owner said on Wednesday. At its reopening, scheduled in the fourth quarter of 2006, the hotel at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue that looks like a baroque stone wedding cake overlooking Central Park and Grand Army Plaza, will contain about 200 luxury condominiums and 150 hotel rooms. The hotel now has 805 rooms. The condos will range from one to four bedrooms on the top 12 floors of the building as well as some lower floors facing Central Park. The new hotel rooms will be located on lower floors along the property's 58th Street side. \n■ Retail \nStarbucks' earnings up \nStarbucks Corp said strong sales of holiday drinks, gift cards and music helped boost quarterly earnings by 31 percent, and the coffee retailer raised its earnings forecast slightly for its current fiscal year. The Seattle-based retailer on Wednesday reported earnings of US$144.9 million, or US$0.35 per share, up from US$110.4 million, or US$0.27 per share, in the same period last year. Revenue for the 13 weeks ended Jan. 2 was US$1.59 billion, up 24 percent from US$1.28 billion in the comparable year-ago period. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call were expecting earnings of US$0.34 per share on revenue of US$1.59 billion. Michael Casey, Starbucks' chief financial officer, said the company's quarterly growth showed that Starbucks is able to draw loyal customers despite an October price increase in its lattes, cappuccinos and other specialty coffee drinks.
FORCED LABOR: Customs officials have seized a 11.8 tonne shipment of products made from human hair on suspicion they were produced by people facing human rights abuses Federal authorities in New York City on Wednesday seized a shipment of weaves and other beauty accessories suspected to be made out of human hair taken from people locked inside a Chinese internment camp. US Customs and Border Protection (CPB) officials said that 11.8 tonnes of hair products worth an estimated US$800,000 were in the shipment. “The production of these goods constitutes a very serious human rights violation, and the detention order is intended to send a clear and direct message to all entities seeking to do business with the United States that illicit and inhumane practices will not be tolerated in
HONG KONG SECURITY: The president blasted regulations requiring Taiwanese agents or political organizations to provide information on their Hong Kong-related activities President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday warned of countermeasures should controversial Chinese national security legislation imposed on Hong Kong undermine or harm Taiwanese interests. Article 43 of the legislation empowers the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to serve written notices to Taiwanese political organizations or individual agents to furnish information on their Hong Kong-related activities, including their personal particulars, finances, assets, expenditure and capital in the territory. Failure to comply or providing false or incomplete information can result in a fine of HK$100,000 (US$12,903) or imprisonment of six months or two years respectively. Tsai said that Taiwan would keep a close watch on how
JUST QUESTIONS: Expelled reporter Ai Kezhu said that every member of Southeast Television had complied with the law and had not appeared on any talk shows Two Chinese reporters yesterday left Taiwan after the government revoked their accreditation and ordered them to leave amid a probe into allegations that several Chinese media outlets have set up studios and produced political talk shows in Taiwan. The two reporters — Ai Kezhu (艾珂竹) and Lu Qiang (盧薔) — worked for Fujian Province-based Southeast Television and arrived in Taiwan in December last year. The Mainland Affairs Council has launched an investigation after local media reported that Chinese broadcasters — including China Central Television, Southeast Television and FJTV — had set up studios in Taipei and produced political talk shows. Council Deputy Minister
PROBE LAUNCHED: An officer who served as a supervisor in the drill died in an apparent suicide after the accident, which was caused by unexpected waves Two marines who were on Friday injured in a military exercise in the waters off Kaohsiung passed away yesterday, Navy Command said. The marines — surnamed Tsai (蔡), 26, and a sergeant surnamed Chen (陳), 36 — were in a seven-member Marine Corps team that encountered rough seas during a simulated response to enemy forces landing on Taiwan. Their rubber craft overturned in waters off Taoziyuan (桃子園) beach in Zuoying District (左營), injuring four of the marines. They were rushed to hospital, where three of them — Tsai, Chen and a 34-year-old sergeant — were taken to an intensive care unit