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Thu, Aug 10, 2006 - Page 10 News List

World Business Quick Take


■ Media
Li buys stake in HK paper

Richard Li (李澤楷), son of Asia's richest man Li Ka-shing (李嘉誠), has bought a controlling stake in the Hong Kong Economic Journal, raising fears among journalists and lawmakers for its editorial independence. The newspaper, first published in 1973, is widely respected for its independent, critical and rational views and has a reputation as a paper of choice for the city's intelligentsia. Li is taking a 50 percent stake in the newspaper through a trust company he owns. A source close to the deal put the price at between HK$200 and HK$300 million (US$25.7 million and US$38.6 million). The sale follows a year of difficult negotiations with the Journal's owners, who insisted that retaining the newspaper's editorial independence was a pre-condition for the deal.

■ Investment

Softbank's rating upgraded

Moody's Investors Service said yesterday that it has upgraded Japanese Internet firm Softbank, saying its purchase of Vodafone's Japanese unit should buoy its competitiveness. The risk evaluator upgraded Softbank's long-term debt rating and issuer rating to Ba2 from Ba3, with a stable outlook. Softbank, which owns search engine Yahoo Japan, completed a deal in April to buy Vodafone Japan for US$15 billion. It plans to rebrand it "Softbank Mobile" on October 1, ditching the name of the British giant which struggled to penetrate the tough Japanese market. The rating action followed Softbank's announcement on Tuesday it returned to profit in the first quarter on a broad business turnaround.

■ Trade

Seoul cuts beef from talks

A South Korean official said yesterday a dispute over Seoul's resumption of US beef imports was separate from bilateral free trade talks, rejecting US senators who said the beef row could scuttle the trade deal. Last week, about 30 US senators sent a letter to South Korea's president saying the months-old dispute over US beef exports to the country could jeopardize talks on a bilateral free-trade agreement. "The two are separate issues," Deputy Finance Minister Kim Sung-jin told a Seoul radio program. "The government considers public health as the most important factor in its decision to allow the resumption US beef imports," he said. South Korea agreed in January to resume imports of boneless beef from US cattle less than 30 months old but has repeatedly delayed a return of imports, saying it needed more data to see if their were proper checks for mad cow disease.

■ Industry

Machinery orders rise

Japanese private sector machinery orders in June rose 8.5 percent from the previous month, soaring past market expectations of a decline, the government said yesterday. The market had expected core machinery orders to fall by 1.6 percent. Year-on-year, core private orders, excluding demand from electric utilities and for ships, gained 17.7 percent in June, the Cabinet Office said. The manufacturing sector placed orders worth 25.6 percent more than June, while orders from the non-manufacturing sector fell 3.6 percent. Year-on-year, the manufacturing sector orders rose 28.7 percent, with the non-manufacturing sector orders rising 9.4 percent. Public sector orders also rose 9.3 percent month-on-month and rose 5.2 percent year-on-year. Japan's economy has gradually returned to the ranks of the world's top performers.

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