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World Business News Quick Take

AGENCIES

■ PRODUCE

Camembert wins battle

France’s creamy raw milk Camembert cheese won a battle of exclusiveness on Thursday after producers and a government body agreed on a revision of criteria for a coveted label after months of conflict. Under new rules the iconic cheese must be made from raw milk from a region half the size of the previous area in Normandy. Major groups Lactalis and Isigny-Sainte-Mere which together make more than 80 percent of Camembert with the Appelation d’Origine Controllee label had contested the exclusive use of raw milk for health reasons.

■LUMBER

Company fined

Brazilian environmental authorities on Friday announced a nearly US$280 million fine on a lumber company owned by a Swedish sporting goods magnate for alleged illegal logging activities. Gethal Amazonas SA was fined 450 million reals (US$279 million) for the illegal logging, transportation and sale of nearly 700,000m³ of timber, the equivalent of roughly 230,000 trees, said Marcelo Dutra, a spokesman for Ibama, Brazil’s environmental agency. Gethal is owned by Johan Eliasch, chairman and chief executive officer of sporting goods manufacturer Head and co-founder of Cool Earth, an environmental activist group based in Britain that seeks to buy portions of the rain forest for preservation purposes.

■OIL

Caracas seeks investment

Venezuela says it will encourage investment by private companies in part of the country’s oil-rich Orinoco River basin. Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez says investment in each of three oil fields will be about US$8 billion. He said the main aim is building heavy crude upgrader plants in partnership with the state-run Petroleos de Venezuela SA. The company said in a statement Thursday that it will soon announce a bidding schedule. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s government took majority control of the last remaining privately run oil projects last year. US-based Exxon Mobil Corp operated in the eastern Orinoco area before pulling out last year.

■BANKING

Credit Agricole raises capital

French banking giant Credit Agricole launched a 5.9 billion euro (US$9.1 billion) capital increase on Friday aimed at shoring up its resources after suffering losses on its US subprime exposure. Europe’s leading retail bank, which has lost 4.2 billion euros since the start of the subprime crisis in August, wants to boost its capital ratio to 8.5 percent from about 7.7 percent as of late March. Capital ratios measure the financial health of a bank by weighing its own funds against its liabilities. The bank, in a move favoring existing shareholders, will offer shares at 10.60 euros a piece, representing a discount of about 37 percent compared with the closing level on Tuesday.

■INTERNET

Amazon hit by glitch

Amazon.com’s Web site experienced problems in North America for more than two hours in the middle of the day on Friday because of system issues, the online retailer said. The company’s retail Web site shut down, giving an error code to anyone visiting it, said Keynote Systems Inc, a California-based company that measures Web site performance. “Amazon’s systems are very complex and on rare occasions, despite our best efforts, they may experience problems,” Amazon spokesman Craig Berman said in a brief e-mail statement. “We work to minimize any disruption and to get the site back as quickly as possible.”

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