Passenger numbers plunge
Air France-KLM Group, Europe’s biggest airline, said passenger traffic last month fell 1.9 percent and cargo shipments plunged as the global recession reduced demand for business travel and retrained trade. The load factor, or proportion of seats filled, was 76.6 percent, a 0.5 percentage-point decline from a year earlier, the Paris-based carrier said yesterday in a statement. Cargo traffic contracted by 23 percent. The global recession will cause industry passenger numbers to fall by 3 percent this year and airlines to log combined losses of US$2.5 billion, International Air Transport Association estimates show. The decline in freight “is absolutely horrendous and that says a lot about where corporate Europe is,” said Andrew Fitchie, a London-based analyst at Collins Stewart. “It’s not looking good at all.” Global air freight plunged almost 23 percent in December, the International Air Transport Association said on Jan. 29. The decline was the largest the trade body had ever recorded.
China, Malaysia ink deal
The central banks of China and Malaysia have signed a currency swap agreement, the Chinese government said, as Asia’s second-largest economy strengthened regional ties amid the global crisis. The People’s Bank of China and Bank Negara Malaysia announced the three-year, 80 billion yuan (US$11.7 billion) agreement on Sunday, the Chinese central bank said in a statement on its Web site. “The arrangement aims to promote bilateral trade and investment to boost the economic development of the two countries,” the brief statement said. Arrangements such as these ease liquidity trouble as they boost the amount of yuan that Malaysian banks can draw on while servicing local companies that use the Chinese currency when trading.
S Korean banks downgraded
International agency Moody’s said yesterday that it had downgraded ratings for eight South Korean banks, citing their dependence on the government to secure foreign currency funding. The foreign currency long-term senior debt ratings of the eight banks, including the country’s largest lender Kookmin Bank, were cut to “A2.” The revised ratings carry a stable outlook, except for state-run Korea Development Bank, which has a negative outlook. Because the banks rely on government support to secure foreign currency funding during the crisis, Moody’s believes their foreign currency debt ratings should not be higher than that of the government, senior credit officer Beatrice Woo said in a statement. “Therefore, their foreign currency debt ratings are best measured and constrained at the A2 foreign currency sovereign bond level,” she said.
SingTel reports growth
Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) yesterday reported a 35 percent increase in regional mobile subscribers, despite stiff competition and the global economic crisis. SingTel’s combined regional mobile customer base reached 232 million on Dec. 31, Southeast Asia’s largest telecommunications firm said. On a quarterly basis, the increase was 7.3 percent, or 16 million customers, it said. All six of the company’s regional mobile associates posted double-digit customer growth, ranging from 13 percent to 55 percent, compared with a year earlier, SingTel said. The company has stakes in Thailand’s Advanced Info Service, India’s Bharti, Globe Telecom of the Philippines, Indonesia’s Telkomsel, Pacific Bangladesh Telecom and Pakistan’s Warid Telecom.
HONG KONG SECURITY: The president blasted regulations requiring Taiwanese agents or political organizations to provide information on their Hong Kong-related activities President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday warned of countermeasures should controversial Chinese national security legislation imposed on Hong Kong undermine or harm Taiwanese interests. Article 43 of the legislation empowers the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to serve written notices to Taiwanese political organizations or individual agents to furnish information on their Hong Kong-related activities, including their personal particulars, finances, assets, expenditure and capital in the territory. Failure to comply or providing false or incomplete information can result in a fine of HK$100,000 (US$12,903) or imprisonment of six months or two years respectively. Tsai said that Taiwan would keep a close watch on how
CAUTION: Taiwanese should be alert, even if they have just liked or shared posts that would breach Beijing’s national security legislation for Hong Kong, the council said Due to the newly implemented Hong Kong national security legislation, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) has drawn up a list of what it described as “high-risk groups,” cautioning them not to travel to Hong Kong. People who support independence for Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang; those who are critical of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the Hong Kong government and the “one country, two systems” concept; and those who donated to or voiced support for the Hong Kong anti-extradition bill movement are urged to refrain from visiting Hong Kong, the council said on its Web site. It released two posts on
MORAL COURAGE: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged the global community to face China’s intention to subdue Taiwan and reject such irrational requests The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday strongly condemned the Chinese government for meddling with US officials’ interactions with Taiwan after FBI Director Christopher Wray revealed China’s efforts to discourage US officials from visiting Taiwan. The greatest long-term threat to the US’ information security and intellectual property, as well as its economic vitality, is China’s counterintelligence and economic espionage operations, Wray told a video event at the Hudson Institute in Washington. Beijing is engaged in a highly sophisticated and maligning foreign influence campaign, with methods that include bribery, blackmail and covert deals, he said. Giving an example, Wray said that when a US official
CAUTION: Taiwan had zero cases of death from food poisoning for six years until last year, when two people died after eating wildlife, an FDA official said The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday urged the public not to eat wildlife or unidentified wild plants, as they could be fatal, with nearly 7,000 people affected by food poisoning last year, including two deaths due to wildlife consumption. The number of food poisoning incidents increased by nearly 50 percent last year, from 398 cases involving 4,616 people in the previous year to 503 cases involving 6,944 people, FDA data showed. That figure was the second-highest in history, the FDA said, adding that the highest number was recorded in 1997, with 7,235 people. Among the 503 cases, 87 were food poisoning clusters