S Korea plans to intervene
South Korea's new finance minister said yesterday that the government will intervene in currency markets to prevent excessive fluctuation of the country's currency, the won. "We'll have to employ various means and cooperate with the Bank of Korea to smooth operations if the won movement is too volatile," Han Duck-soo told reporters on his first day at work. "It would be difficult to tolerate the exchange rate fluctuating on speculation and unstable sentiment." Han said that in principle, the exchange rate for the Korean won should be determined by market forces, supply and demand, and economic fundamentals. The won has risen 3.3 percent against the dollar this year, after strengthening more than 15 percent last year. A sharp rise in the local currency hurts exporters, whose products become more expensive abroad.
IBM to acquire Ascential
IBM said on Monday that it would acquire the Ascential Software Corp for US$1.1 billion in an effort to broaden its offerings in the market for corporate software. Ascential makes software that helps companies gather and combine information from different computer sources into one unified system. The acquisition makes IBM the largest player in the emerging business of data integration, one of the fastest-growing categories in the corporate software market. The company, based in Westboro, Massachusetts, with nearly 900 employees, will become a part of IBM's software unit, which in the last four years has made 20 acquisitions. Last year, Ascential had revenue of US$271.9 million, an increase of 46 percent over the year before.
■ Energy futures
Brokerage joins bourse
Morgan Stanley Japan Ltd, a unit of the world's second largest securities company, joined the Tokyo Commodity Exchange, Asia's largest energy-futures market, as the first foreign member brokerage that can trade for clients. Morgan Stanley Japan joined the bourse as a broker member for trading of gasoline, kerosene, gasoil and crude oil futures contracts, Shigeharu Amari, vice president of public relations at the Tokyo exchange, said today. The Japanese subsidiary of Morgan Stanley joins the Fimat Group, a unit of Societe Generale SA, which got membership allowing direct trading on the Tokyo exchange in May last year. Fimat doesn't have approval to execute trades for clients.
OPEC won't cap prices
OPEC producers yesterday considered a Saudi proposal for a modest oil supply increase but warned they could not guarantee to cap record prices. OPEC, which is meeting today, is under pressure from consumer countries to take action to bring prices down from US$55 for US crude. Saudi Arabia is proposing OPEC lift output limits by a modest 500,000 barrels per day to 27.5 million for the second quarter. Others, including Iran and Libya, oppose the move arguing that demand usually eases in the second quarter after the northern hemisphere winter. OPEC President Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahd al-Sabah of Kuwait is suggesting a compromise that would delay an increase, triggering more crude only if prices stay high. "There is not much we can do, we can make a good will gesture," said Algerian Oil Minister Chakib Khelil. "We hope just to cool the market," said UAE Oil Minister Obaid bin Saif al-Nasseri.