Ecuador may reverse decree
Ecuador’s oil minister says his government is willing to boost private companies’ share of soaring windfall oil profits to 30 percent, reversing a decree signed last October. The decree, signed by President Rafael Correa, nearly doubled the state’s share of windfall oil profits, leaving private companies with just 1 percent. But Oil Minister Galo Chiriboga on Friday told reporters that Ecuador wants “good business” with foreign oil companies and may restore part of their cut.
Lestari aims for expansion
PT Astra Agro Lestari, Indonesia’s biggest publicly traded agriculture company, may raise palm oil production 7.5 percent this year and double capital expenditure to fund expansion and takeovers. The unit of PT Astra International expects to boost output to 990,000 tonnes this year from 920,600 tonnes last year, according to a company statement released to the stock exchange. A total of 1.52 trillion rupiah (US$164 million) has been set aside for investments, up from 736 billion rupiah last year, the statement said. Higher palm oil prices, which climbed 43 percent in the past year, have boosted earnings at growers and prompted others to expand into the industry. Charoen Pokphand Group, Asia’s biggest animal-feed producer, plans to start producing palm oil from 2010.
Prices hit six-week low
Rice prices slumped to a six-week low as the prospect of exports from Pakistan and Japan eased concern that a global food shortage is worsening. Pakistan, the fifth-biggest exporter, will permit shipments of 1 million tonnes because local needs have been met, Mohammad Azhar Akhtar, chairman of the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan, said on Friday. Rice has fallen 13 percent in Chicago this week. Rough rice for July delivery fell US$0.275, or 1.4 percent, to US$20.065 per 100 pounds (45.4kg) on the Chicago Board of Trade, after earlier dropping to US$19.32, the lowest for a most-active contract since April 2. The price reached a record US$25.07 on April 24 and still is up 85 percent from a year ago.
HSBC eyes Indian brokerage
HSBC Holdings Plc plans to buy 73.2 percent of IL&FS Investsmart Ltd, an Indian brokerage, for 10.03 billion rupees (US$235 million) to tap rising incomes in the world’s fastest growing major economy after China. Europe’s largest bank by market value will acquire 43.85 percent from a Mauritius-based unit of E*Trade Financial Corp and the rest from the Indian brokerage’s founder, Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Ltd, for 200 rupees a share, HSBC said in a statement e-mailed from Hong Kong. HSBC will also make an offer to buy an additional 20 percent from other shareholders.
Lehman Bros to trim staff
Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc will begin to cut about 5 percent of its staff on Monday as part of an overall plan to streamline its balance sheet amid further turbulence in the financial markets, a person familiar with the plan said. About, 1,400 employees of its overall 28,000 will be informed next week that they have lost their jobs, said the person who was not authorized to speak publicly. The fourth-biggest US investment bank is not the only one to trim staff. Similar moves have been made recently at Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch & Co, and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.