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Mon, Aug 08, 2005 - Page 12 News List

World Business Quick Take

AGENCIES

■ Banking
HSBC eyes bank stake

HSBC Holdings Plc, Europe's largest bank by market value, seeks to increase its 20 percent stake in China's Bank of Communications (交通銀行) should the Chinese government change its banking rules, the Observer reported yesterday, citing an HSBC executive. HSBC, which acquired its stake last year for US$1.8 billion, would like to raise its holding if rules limiting foreign investment are changed, Peter Wong, head of HSBC's Hong Kong and China operations, told the newspaper. The investment in one of China's big four banks contributed US$90 million in profits in its first year, Wong said, the newspaper reported. Chinese government rules restrict single foreign investors to a 20 percent stake in a Chinese bank, and two or more foreign investors to 25 percent, the Observer said.

■ Internet

Amazon may do downloads

Amazon.com is exploring a possible entry into the music and video download business, music industry executives said Friday. The Seattle-based company, which pioneered the sale of books, CDs and other products over the Internet, has been in talks with major record labels about licensing and pricing issues for the service, said executives at three labels involved in the discussions. Amazon's discussions with the music labels were preliminary and more concrete steps, if taken, are likely still weeks away, said the executives, who spoke on condition of anonymity because nothing has been officially announced. The service Amazon is considering would sell individual tracks as well as offer songs on a monthly subscription basis, one of the executives said. Amazon also told at least one record company that it may use the New York-based music service MusicNet to power the subscription component of its service.

■ Automobiles

Audi touts writing system

Navigational systems of the future will be able to recognize their driver's handwriting. That is the plan at auto maker Audi, fuelled by the idea that the technology will minimize distraction and open electronic navigation for new language zones as well. Audi developers are working on a touch-sensitive monitor that would be linked to a handwriting recognition system, the company reports. Instead of cumbersome letter-by-letter touch screen or knob-driven entry, as is currently common, the driver will be able to write out the destination onscreen using a finger. This step would not only make it easier to enter in destinations, but would also allow the navigation system to be used in more exotic language zones, says Audi researcher Carlo Rummel. "Conventional systems have no chance on the growing Chinese market because the alphabet there includes 60,000 characters, including 3,000 that are used actively," Rummel says.

■ Telecom

News Corp made Skype bid

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. made a failed bid for Skype Technologies SA that may have valued the Internet phone company at almost US$3 billion, the Independent reported yesterday, citing unidentified people. Talks broke down last month and Skype has denied it is for sale, the newspaper said. Skype, based in Luxembourg and operated out of London, would have fit well with News Corp.'s satellite interests including DirecTV Group Inc. in the US and British Sky Broadcasting Plc in the UK, the Independent said yesterday.

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