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Fri, Mar 17, 2006 - Page 10 News List

World Business Quick Take

AGENCIES

■ Automobiles
GM Daewoo rehiring

The South Korean subsidiary of US auto giant General Motors said yesterday it was re-hiring some 1,700 workers laid off five years ago during retructuring. GM Daewoo said in a statement that 1,081 had already been rehired and the remainder would resume work by May. The firm laid off the workers as part of corporate restructuring amid violent labor strife in February 2001. Management promised to reinstate them if the money-losing firm made a profit and labor relations improved. Although figures have yet to be released, the company is believed to have made a profit for the first time last year. Helped by robust exports, GM Daewoo sold 1.15 million cars last year, up 28.6 percent, with exports rising 32 percent to 1.05 million vehicles. Analysts said the reinstatement at GM Daewoo Auto is seen as part of crisis-hit GM's strategy to downsize expensive US and European operations and expand lower-cost Asian car plants.

■ Automobiles

BMW makes record profit

BMW, the world's leading luxury car-maker, said on Wednesday it would make a record 4 billion euros (US$4.8 billion) pre-tax profit and come close to its target of selling 1.4 million cars this year -- two years ahead of schedule. The continuing success of BMW, which sold 1.33 million cars last year, outselling Mercedes for the second year in a row, contrasts with steep declines at rival Jaguar, which saw sales plunge 25 percent last year to 89,804 and is said to be losing £1 million (US$1.7 million) a day. The British firm, part of Ford's premier automotive group, which includes Volvo and Aston Martin, dragged down profits at the US group's European operations to US$36 million.

■ Investment

New York sues H&R Block

New York state filed a US$250 million fraud suit on Wednesday against H&R Block Inc, the largest US tax preparing service, charging the company fraudulently steered customers into a losing retirement account plan. The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan's state Supreme Court, says Block advised clients to buy an "unsuitable, fraudulently marketed, poorly performing, fee-ridden `retirement vehicle' called the Express IRA," an account that actually shrinks over time. The court papers, filed by Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, say the money in the retirement account decreases because the only investment option offered is a money market account with an interest rate so low that it does not cover the fees -- "fees that H&R Block fails to adequately disclose."

■ Telephony

US bid for Vodafone K.K.

Two US investment firms are preparing a US$15 billion bid for Vodafone's struggling Japanese unit to try to thwart a possible purchase by local group Softbank, a report said yesterday. Cerberus Partners LP and Providence Equity Partners Inc are expected to bid for the Japanese operations of the British group, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter. The US private equity firms have been racing in recent days to secure financing for the offer, the newspaper said in its online edition. Vodafone announced earlier this month it was in talks to sell the unit, Vodafone K.K., to Japanese Internet and telecoms group Softbank Corp.

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