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Sat, Apr 22, 2006 - Page 10 News List

World Business Quick Take

AGENCIES

■ Automobiles

Hyundai chief summoned

The day after his son was questioned by investigators, Hyundai Motors chairman Chung Mong-koo is to be summoned over alleged bribe payments, the public prosecutor's office announced in Seoul yesterday. The head of South Korea's largest auto maker is to report on Monday to the prosecutor's office as part of an ongoing investigation into whether Hyundai operated slush funds to bribe government officials and politicians with millions of dollars. The chairman's son, Chung Eui-sun, president of Hyundai affiliate Kia Motors Corp was questioned on Thursday on allegations of illegal political lobbying and management transfer of the group.

■ Fast Food

KFC relaxes franchise rules

US fast-food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) has relaxed franchising rules in China to boost its expansion in the world's most populous country, state press reported yesterday. KFC, a unit of Yum Brands Inc of the US, said its franchise fees would fall to as low as 2 million yuan (US$250,000) compared to a previous minimum of 8 million yuan, the Shanghai Daily said. KFC, which entered China in 1987, runs only 37 franchised restaurants out of its 1,700 restaurants in the country, well below its five percent ceiling.

■ Internet

Softbank invests in 3G

Japanese Internet conglomerate Softbank Corp said yesterday it would step up investment at the mobile telephone operator it recently bought from Vodafone, amid reports it will inject over US$2 billion. Softbank is determined to improve the unit's third-generation (3G) cellphone service by the end of the year to compete with local rivals NTT DoCoMo Inc and KDDI Corp, company spokesman Naoki Nakayama said. The Nihon Keizai newspaper reported Softbank would invest ?250 billion (US$2.1 billion) in the year to March to increase the number of base stations for its 3G services to 30,000 from 20,000. The company also plans to introduce handsets designed for easier use of the Internet this year, the economic daily said without citing sources.

■ Oil

Prices reach record high

Oil prices touched a new record above US$73 a barrel yesterday amid concern about Iran's nuclear ambitions and declining US gasoline stocks, but then fell back as traders took profits. Light, sweet crude for June delivery, which became the front-month contract yesterday, opened in electronic trading at a high of US$73.50 a barrel -- setting a new intraday record for a front-month contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange. As trading progressed in Asia, the price fell US$0.72 to US$72.97 a barrel. The June contract had previously been trading at these levels, even reaching as high as US$74.50 a barrel on Thursday. As London's ICE Futures exchange opened, Brent crude for June delivery fell US$0.73 to US$72.45 a barrel. The May contract, which expired on Thursday, fell US$0.22 to settle at US$71.95 a barrel. The price of oil had traded as high as US$72.49 the day before.

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