Alitalia receives new loan
Conditions are in place for an alternative bid for Alitalia now that the cash-strapped Italian airline has been extended a loan for 300 million euros (US$478 million), Italian prime minister-elect Silvio Berlusconi was quoted as saying yesterday. The outgoing center-left government issued the emergency loan on Tuesday evening after Air France-KLM yanked its bid for the state-run airline. “Now conditions are in place for those who want to take part in the group [of investors] to come forward,” Berlusconi was quoted as saying by Corriere della Sera and other reports yesterday. The comments were made on Tuesday night in Rome. Berlusconi said those who are interested can now check Alitalia’s books and “put forth a significant offer,” Corriere said.
Malaysia drops bullet train
Malaysia has scrapped plans for a multibillion-dollar high-speed bullet train connecting Kuala Lumpur and Singapore because of high costs, a government official said yesterday. An Economic Planning Unit spokeswoman confirmed a report in the Star that the government was no longer considering the project. “The government will not go ahead with the project because the financial model submitted involves a significant cost to be borne by the government,” said Sulaiman Mahbob, director general of the Economic Planning Unit, the Star said.
BHP chief slams Rio chief
BHP Billiton chief Marius Kloppers launched a scathing attack on takeover target Rio Tinto yesterday, as figures showed his company’s iron ore production at a record high. BHP, which earlier this year launched a hostile US$147 billion takeover bid for Rio, had consistently outperformed its quarry, Kloppers said in an interview with Financial Times Asia published yesterday. He also questioned growth projections released by Rio chief Tom Albanese and accused his rival of “missing the boat” on China, where rapid industrialization had created unprecedented demand for resources such as iron ore.
TNK-BP hit with huge tax
Embattled Russian-British oil company TNK-BP has been hit with a tax demand of 161 million euros (US$257 million), the business daily Vedomosti reported yesterday, citing unnamed company officials. TNK-BP, which is jointly owned by BP and a group of Russian investors, confirmed it had received a bill for the 2004 to 2005 tax year, but refused to say how much for. “It’s the normal of course of business,” company spokeswoman Marina Dracheva said. The company warned investors in September that it was expecting a new tax bill. On Tuesday, Russia’s environmental watchdog confirmed it was extending by a month an investigation into TNK-BP’s largest oil field, English-language daily the Moscow Times reported yesterday.
Toyota’s global sales rise
Toyota Motor Corp said yesterday its global sales rose 2.7 percent from a year ago in the three months through March on the back of steady demand in Asia and Europe. Toyota’s global sales for the quarter stood at 2.41 million vehicles, it said. Its worldwide production expanded 7 percent from a year earlier to 2.54 million vehicles. Output of popular, fuel-efficient small cars such as the Corolla model grew strongly in China, the company said, while production of pickup trucks rose steadily in Thailand during the quarter.