■ FOREIGN EXCHANGE
PRC eases forex rules
China has scrapped rules requiring domestic companies to convert a portion of foreign earnings into Chinese currency, the government said yesterday, in a move that could ease pressure on Beijing's foreign exchange system. Chinese companies will now be allowed to decide on their own how to use money earned abroad, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange said. Previous rules requiring companies to convert at least 20 percent of their foreign earnings into Chinese yuan boosted demand for the currency and increased pressure for it to rise against the US dollar and other currencies.
Seiyu to remain in the red
US retail giant Wal-Mart's Japanese unit, Seiyu Ltd, said yesterday it no longer expected to break even this year after its revenue slipped in the first six months. "We didn't achieve a satisfactory level of performance in the first half 2007, but we see signs of improvement in various parts of our business," said chief executive Ed Kolodzieski, who was parachuted in by Wal-Mart in 2005. For the first half, net losses narrowed nearly eight-fold to ¥6.9 billion (US$58.5 million) from a year earlier. For the full year, Seiyu said it now expects to post a net loss of ¥5.9 billion.
US asks for WTO mediation
The office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) on Monday said it had asked for a WTO panel to look into a dispute between the US and China over intellectual property rights. Beijing has failed to address US piracy concerns during three months of formal discussions, USTR said in a press release. As a result, the US now wants the WTO to step in, saying three aspects of Chinese law make it easier for counterfeiters to operate. The US wants China to drop quantity thresholds, which it says are high enough that wholesalers and distributors can escape prosecution while selling pirated goods. Also, the US wants China to tighten its rules on disposal of copyrighted goods.
Sony to set up battery plant
Electronics giant Sony Corp plans to invest ¥1.5 billion (US$97.24 million)to build a cellphone battery factory in Singapore to help meet global demand spurred by the spread of mobile electronic devices, the company said yesterday. The lithium ion polymer battery plant is scheduled to start operations in August next year, the Tokyo-based company said in a statement. The plant's monthly production capacity is expected to reach about 8 million units once it is fully operational in 2010, it said. The factory will be its first for the batteries in Southeast Asia, Sony said.
Chevron expanding in Java
Chevron Corp, the only foreign business developing geothermal energy in Indonesia, is expanding operations at one of its power plants on Java island to bring electricity to an additional 700,000 homes, the company said yesterday. The US energy firm, which has operated two geothermal fields in Java since the 1980s, said in a statement it had started commercial run at its 110-megawatt (MW) Darajat III plant in Garut, West Java province. The renewable energy produced will bring the number of homes receiving electricity from Chevron's geothermal projects in Indonesia to 3.9 million, up from 3.2 million at present, a company official said.