■ Mobile phones
LG expects more shipments
LG Electronics Inc, Asia's second-largest mobile-phone maker, plans to ship more than 70 million handsets this year, the company said in a statement. The forecast suggests LG, which in October predicted shipments of 55 million units for last year, expects handset shipments to rise 27 percent this year, according to Bloomberg calculations. LG, based in Seoul, forecast in October that its mobile-phone shipments will rise 25 percent this year after growing about 23 percent last year. The company plans to double sales and profit by 2010, LG said in the statement. LG said on Friday that it expects sales of 24 trillion won (US$24 billion) this year, missing the 26 trillion won average estimate of 30 analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial.
Microsoft eyes telephony
Microsoft intends to break into the increasingly contested Internet telephony market in cooperation with phone company MCI, company officials announced in Redmond in the US state of Washington. MCI Web Calling for Windows Live Call will soon be tested as part of Windows Live Messenger in the US, France, Germany, Spain and Britain. Access to the service will be limited initially. On registration, clients will be able to phone free of charge for one hour using the network, according to information released by Microsoft. When the hour is up, clients will be charged US$0.0223 per minute for calls between the US, Canada and certain European countries. Links between more than 220 countries are being set up, with prices being published during the course of the year.
Toys `R' Us to close outlets
Toys "R" Us Inc, acquired for US$6.6 billion last year by an investment group, plans to close 73 outlets and convert 12 others to Babies "R" Us stores, the Chicago Tribune reported, citing spokeswoman Kathleen Baugh. After the closings, the company will have 587 Toys "R" Us and 230 Babies "R" Us stores left, the Tribune said. The stores will close by June, the newspaper said. Investors Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co, Bain Capital LLC and Vornado Realty Trust bought the retailer in July. Toys "R" Us has struggled to compete against Wal-Mart Stores Inc, which passed Toys "R" Us in 1998 to become the biggest toy seller, the Tribune said, citing George Whalin, president of San Marcos, California-based Retail Management Consultants. Babies "R" Us stores sell furniture, clothes and accessories for babies.
Malaysia Air left on its own
The Malaysian government said it will not interfere in the management of Malaysia Airlines amid speculation that the loss-making national carrier will sell its landmark headquarters to raise money, a newspaper reported yesterday. "We don't micromanage Malaysia Airlines," Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak was quoted as saying by the Sunday Star. Malaysia Airlines Managing Director Idris Jala last week informed staff at the headquarters in central Kuala Lumpur that they will be relocated to two other offices, prompting talks that the carrier is proceeding with a plan to sell the building. Malaysian senators had opposed the sale last month, saying it would seriously hurt the carrier's image. Idris, who was brought in on Dec. 1 to revamp the airlines, said then that the company needed 3 billion ringgit (US$794 million) to get it back on track.