■ FOREIGN EXCHANG
French minister concerned
French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde on Friday expressed concern about the “maisalignments” of global currencies, but said the problem was broader than simply the a weak dollar. “It is not just the dollar,” Lagarde told reporters following a speech in Chicago. “It’s the whole question of volatility and the whole question of misalignment between the currencies relative to the other and relative to the fundamentals of the economy.” Lagarde said the European economy had, so far, proven “more resilient than expected” in the face of a credit crunch spurred by the subprime lending crisis.
Argentina talks deadlocked
Talks between Argentina’s government and the country’s farm sector, a major exporter of grains and soybeans, remained deadlocked on Friday, with two new protests scheduled for today looming. Most of Argentina’s grain production is for export, and a disruption could affect supply to the strained world grain market. Large protests are planned today in the cities of Rosario and Tucuman. Rosario, northwest of Buenos Aires, is an industrial and key grains center.
Mine closed after storm
Heavy rains and flooding that killed five people and displaced thousands in south-central Chile have closed the world’s largest underground copper mine, the government said on Friday. Landslides caused by the rains forced the shutdown of the giant El Teniente copper mine, owned by state miner Codelco. The firm said it could take 48 hours to clear rock, earth and floodwaters blocking access to the mine, which lies 80km south of Santiago and was recovering from disruptions from the latest in a series of strikes by subcontractor workers.
Price hikes limited in China
Coal prices in China, the world’s biggest consumer of the fuel, have limited room to rise as the industry faces potential overcapacity, the China Coal Transport and Distribution Association said. China’s coal demand may increase at a slower pace of about 6 percent to 2.74 billion tonnes this year, compared with growth of 8 percent last year, Yang Xianfeng (楊顯峰), secretary of the lobby, told reporters after a conference in Beijing yesterday. “Growth in coal demand will continue to fall after 2009 because of government efforts to cool the economy and increase energy efficiency,” Yang said. Coal output in China rose 7 percent to 2.54 billion tonnes last year, while demand rose to 2.58 billion tonnes, Yang said. The average price of raw coal at China’s biggest mines climbed 13 percent to 272.3 yuan (US$39) a tonne, he said.
Battle erupts for Expro
A full-blown takeover battle erupted for European oil field contractor Expro International Group PLC on Friday as an initial bid from Halliburton Co was swiftly followed by a sweetened offer from a private equity consortium led by London-based Candover Group. Halliburton made an all-cash proposal of £15.25 per share before the market opened, valuing the British-based company at £1.7 billion (US$3.36 billion). Candover-backed Umbrellastream Ltd reacted quickly on Friday, increasing its own offer to £15.50 per share, valuing the company at £1.73 billion. Halliburton acknowledged the move by Umbrellastream, which also comprises Goldman Sachs Capital Partners and AlpInvest Partners NV, and said it was continuing discussions with Expro but may or may not make an offer.