■ Online Music
Apple plans store in Japan
Apple Computer Inc will launch an online music store in Japan starting in August, offering more songs than any other online stores already in the market at a lower price, a newspaper said yesterday. Apple plans to charge about ?150 (US$1.40) for a song, while competitors currently charge ?210, the Nihon Keizai newspaper, Japan's leading business daily, reported. Major Japanese recording companies are expected to distribute songs to the maker of Macintosh computers and iPod portable music players, but some, such as Sony Music Entertainment Inc, have yet to reach an agreement with Apple and may not join at the start, the report said. Apple will offer up to 1 million titles, about five times more than the number of songs available from Label Gate Co, the largest provider in Japan, the paper said.
LG.Philips wins HP contract
LG.Philips LCD Co, the world's biggest maker of liquid crystal displays, won a contract to supply US$5 billion worth of panels to Hewlett-Packard Co over the next three years, its largest ever transaction. The order for notebook computer screens and LCD monitors, which starts this month and lasts until May 2008, is worth about 63 percent of LG.Philips's total revenue last year, LG.Philips said in a regulatory filing. The size of the transaction is subject to change depending on market conditions, according to the statement. The contract makes Hewlett-Packard, the world's second-largest maker of personal computers, the South Korean company's biggest customer, said Lee Bang Soo, a LG.Philips spokesman.
UK bank plans Tokyo branch
Standard Chartered Plc said it will open its first retail branch in Tokyo on July 5 to target wealthy individual customers in Japan. Standard Chartered Bank, a unit of the UK lender, will try to attract doctors, lawyers, company owners and others who have more than ?20 million (US$187,021) of deposits, said Joji Aonuma, Standard Chartered's country head of consumer banking in Japan. "We are a latecomer to private banking in Japan," Aonuma said. "That's why we are targeting those middle classes as they need asset management services, but are too busy to be proactive. We want to offer high interest rates and low commissions as Singapore and Hong Kong do." Merrill Lynch & Co, the world's second-biggest securities firm by assets, and UBS AG, Europe's biggest bank, are both planning to expand their private banking business in Japan, chasing ?1,400 trillion in household savings.
Share sale disappointing
The French government earned only 3.4 billion euros (US$4.6 billion) on the sale of 6.2 percent of its share of the telecommunications giant France Telecom, the finance ministry announced yesterday. On Monday, the government sold a total of 152 million shares at an average price of 22.37 euros per share, well below the price range it had announced. As a result of the sale, the state's share of France Telecom sank to 34.9 percent. The sale of the stock had been announced Sunday. The government is expected to use the proceeds from the sale to reduce its budget deficit and perhaps help finance new programs to fight the country's chronically high unemployment, currently at a five-year high of 10.2 percent.