■ SOUTH KOREA
Roh okays Samsung probe
President Roh Moo-hyun approved a bill yesterday calling for an independent investigation into allegations of slush fund and bribery at Samsung Group. The move came days after the country's legislature passed the bill seeking an independent counsel to delve into allegations against the country's biggest conglomerate as well as opposition claims that Roh received Samsung money before and after the 2002 election. "I decided to accept" the bill as a majority of the legislature voted for it, Roh said in a televised news conference.
Lending controls tightened
Beijing will tighten controls on bank lending to avoid measures that could result in a "hard landing" for the economy, Dow Jones Newswires reported yesterday, citing a memorandum of a meeting between regulators and bank executives. Banks, both foreign and domestic, were told to submit lending plans for next year, while authorities recommended quarterly lending quotas, a memo of the meeting said. Led by Yi Gang (易綱), a vice governor of the central bank, the meeting took place on Thursday and included China Banking Regulatory Commission officials and officials from 21 of the country's biggest banks.
Qantas reaches agreement
Qantas Airways Ltd said yesterday it has reached a five-year agreement with an employer group that will result in 2,000 new long-haul, full-time cabin crew jobs over the next three years. The agreement with the international division of the Flight Attendants Association of Australia, provides for an annual 3 percent pay increase, a sign-on bonus and improved pension arrangements for international cabin crew, Qantas chief executive Geoff Dixon said. Qantas said a new subsidiary will begin hiring full-time international cabin crew early next year, while the group will maintain offshore crewing levels at 25 percent.
Classmates.com seeks IPO
The pioneering online social networking firm that operates Classmates.com has sought approval from US regulators to launch an initial public offering of stock valued from US$120 million to US$144 million. The US company was founded in 1995. Its enterprises include Internet marketing firm MyPoints as well as StayFriends Web sites in Sweden and Germany. Classmates said in the SEC filing it would offer 12 million shares priced from US$10 to US$12 per share. Classmates parent company United Online will retain a controlling interest in the firm.
Sanyo invests in branches
Japan's ailing Sanyo Electric unveiled plans yesterday to invest US$3.2 billion in rechargeable batteries and other businesses as it reported a return to the black for the fiscal first half. The investment is part of Sanyo's efforts to revitalize its struggling operations after three straight annual losses caused by fierce price competition in consumer electronics. The company said it would invest ¥350 billion over three years from April in its facilities, close to ¥100 billion of which will be spent on expanding lithium-ion battery production capacity. The solar power and electronic devices businesses will also receive a large part of the investment.