Chip research to go on
IBM Corp, the world's largest maker of chips for game consoles, said it extended a research agreement with Sony Corp and Toshiba Corp to create new consumer electronics semiconductors. The five-year agreement extends a relationship between the three companies that began in 2000 and produced the Cell chip used in Sony's forthcoming Playstation 3, IBM said in a statement. Sony's new console is set to debut this year. IBM also makes processors for Microsoft Corp's Xbox 360, which made its US debut in November. Development of so-called 32 nanometer chips will take place at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York, and at the company's chip plant in Fishkill, New York.
Ford's rating lowered
Moody's Investors Service lowered Ford Motor Co's credit rating further into junk status on Wednesday, predicting the company will remain under considerable financial stress through next year even with a pending restructuring. Moody's downgraded Ford to Ba3 from Ba1. Moody's also lowered the long-term rating of Ford's credit arm, Ford Motor Credit Co, from its lowest investment-grade rating of Baa3 to Ba2. The moves will make it more difficult for Ford and Ford Credit to borrow money. Moody's action comes a week after Standard & Poor's Ratings Services lowered Ford's corporate credit rating further into junk territory.
■ Real estate
Property sales easing
Property sales in China are expected to rise by 20 percent this year, slowing from 30 percent annual growth last year, the state planning agency said in a report published yesterday. "The property sector has entered a medium-term correction since the middle of last year, which may last for at least three years," the National Development and Reform Commission said in the report, carried by the state-run newspaper China Securities Journal. Some of the weaker property developers are bound to succumb to the correction, saddling banks with unpaid loans, the report said, without elaborating. It said it would be "unrealistic" to expect any rebound in the next two years. The report did not give a dollar figure for property sales. However, it said the value of property investments rose 21 percent last year to 1.59 trillion yuan (US$197 billion).
Outsourcing market to grow
A study of outsourcing trends in the Asia-Pacific region forecast the processing services market will exceed US$16 billion by the end of this year, a research agency said yesterday. International Data Corp. (IDC) findings showed the market amounted to US$14.9 billion last year for the region, excluding Japan. Human resources tops the processing service market in size, followed by finance and accounting, billing, claims processing and data management. "Processing services will still continue to be the dominant form of business outsourcing in the region," the Business Times quoted Conrad Chang, IDC's senior analyst, as saying. Chang noted the services tend to be more readily adopted in high-cost countries such as Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and South Korea. The processing services market in the region would grow at an average annual rate of 11.4 percent from 2005 to 2009 to reach US$23 billion, he said.