■ SRI LANKA
Gas prices up again
Sri Lankan oil companies said yesterday they had raised gas pump prices by 17 percent, the sixth increase this year amid high crude oil costs. Gas now costs 117 rupees (US$1.05) per liter, Ceylon Petroleum Corp chairman Asantha de Mel said. The price hike also covers fuel retailer Lanka IOC, which controls a third of the local gas market, managing director K. Ramakrishnan said. Other refined fuel prices have also increased this year. Diesel has risen 16 percent to 75 rupees per liter since April.
Travel industry seeks help
The US travel industry and its allies are pressing Congress for a marketing program of as much as US$200 million to help restore the US' "brand image" with international visitors. With overseas visits still below levels from before the 2001 terror attacks and the US' image battered, the travel industry is pinning its hopes on a new promotional effort led by the federal government. Industry leaders are lobbying for legislation to create a government-led corporation for travel promotion. This would be funded by voluntary business contributions and a US$10 fee imposed on visitors from countries qualifying for visa "waivers."
Carmaker eyes merger
Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp, parent of China's biggest carmaker, will discuss a merger of its publicly traded unit with the country's oldest automaker to boost sales in the world's fastest-growing major economy. Nanjing Automobile Group Co and Shanghai Automotive Industry agreed on Friday to form a committee to discuss a partnership, including "related asset restructuring" and a "complete union," the Shanghai-based company said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. No timeframe has been set for the start of talks, it said.
Strike forces mine closure
El Teniente, the world's largest underground copper mine, remained closed on Saturday as a security measure after subcontracted workers went on strike, a company official said. On Thursday El Teniente managers closed down operations until they could be guaranteed security from the strikers, who blocked roads and hurled rocks at passing vehicles. The mine, owned by the Chilean state-run consortium Codelco, is located some 80km south of Santiago. "We are keeping it closed for security reasons," a company spokesman said on Saturday. Codelco executive president Jose Pablo Arellano said earlier the strike was resulting in losses of US$9 million a day. Normally the mine produces some 418,000 tonnes of copper a year.
LLC seeks more debt
Lend Lease Corp (LLC), Australia's biggest property developer, will increase its borrowings to as much as 40 percent of assets to fund projects, making it difficult for private equity firms to mount any takeover. The Sydney-based company is committed to about A$50 billion (US$43 billion) in construction projects and will need to raise more debt, chief executive officer Greg Clarke told the ABC's Inside Business program yesterday. The company has a debt ratio of about 15 percent. Speculation that private equity firms are poised to bid saw credit default swaps on Lend Lease debt rise to the highest since August 2005 earlier this month.