EU seeking free-trade pact
The EU trade chief said yesterday there is a solid case for a free-trade pact between the EU and Southeast Asia, and that he would seek a mandate from EU members to launch talks. EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, who is visiting the Philippines, said a feasibility study prepared by senior officials from both sides highlighted promising prospects for a free-trade agreement between the 25-member EU and the 10-member ASEAN. "A solid case has now been made for the deepening and extending of our economic cooperation and moving forward in our trade relationship," Mandelson told reporters after meeting ASEAN trade ministers who were holding an annual working retreat. "I now have to take that report back to our European Union member states and should they agree to provide a mandate, we would be able to go forward on that," he said.
Disney numbers fall short
Hong Kong's new US$3.5 billion Disneyland theme park is falling short of attendance targets and is less than a quarter full on some holiday days, a report claimed yesterday. Attendance at the Disney park, which opened last September, has been consistently below 10,000 since the Lunar New Year holiday in January, the South China Morning Post reported. During this month's week-long Labor Day holiday, there were less than 7,000 visitors on the first day and only slightly more in subsequent days, the newspaper claimed, quoting a theme park source. The park has a capacity of around 30,000 people and a target of 5.6 million visitors in its first year, or more than 15,000 a day. Disney has repeatedly refused to release detailed attendance figures.
Honda may build new plant
Honda Motor Co plans to build a new automobile factory in North America for an estimated 50 billion yen (US$450.5 million), a news report said yesterday, as the Japanese carmaker tries to cope with skyrocketing sales. The plant would be Tokyo-based Honda's sixth in a region that accounts for about half of the company's annual global sales. The location of the factory is not yet decided, but it is slated to open in 2009 with a capacity of 150,000 vehicles a year, the Nihon Keizai newspaper said, without saying how it got its information. Honda spokesman Shigeki Endo declined to comment on the report, but said it was "just based on speculation." Honda sold 1.65 million units in North America last year and forecasts sales to rise to 1.72 million units in the current year. It currently has two plants in Ohio, and one plant each in Alabama, Canada and Mexico.
Profitability down last year
The growth in profits at South Korean companies slowed last year for the first time in six years due to an appreciating currency and high oil prices, the central bank said yesterday. The recurring profit ratio of 4,738 companies surveyed stood at 6.2 percent last year, compared with 7.0 percent a year earlier, the Bank of Korea said. The ratio measures recurring profit as a proportion of sales. It was the first fall since the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998 prompted a massive consolidation in the country's banking and corporate sectors. Oil prices soared 31 percent last year in South Korea, while the won strengthened 2.3 percent against the US dollar. The won has jumped more than eight percent so far this year.