Fortis expects US$29bn loss
Belgian bank Fortis said on Sunday it “expects” to report a record loss of 22.5 billion euros (US$29 billion) for last year, when the world financial crisis drove it to be nationalized and sold off. “That means there is no room for the payment of a dividend at the moment,” Fortis Holding said in a statement. It said it would publish full results for last year on March 31. Fortis Holding was formed last year when the damage wrought by the US-born international credit crisis forced it to be split up, with the Belgian and Dutch states taking control of its operations in those two countries. Belgium has since been negotiating to sell Fortis’ Belgian operations to the French bank BNP Paribas.
Pension funds to sue RBS
British pension funds are to sue Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) for compensation for “massive losses” incurred when the bank had to be bailed out and the share price collapsed, the Times reported yesterday. Two local government funds claim that RBS and former chief executive Fred Goodwin “falsely reassured” investors the bank was in good health when it was “effectively insolvent” because of bad loans, the Times said. RBS is 70 percent state-owned after taking £20 billion (US$28 billion) of government funds as it struggled to cope with the global financial crisis. Last month it posted Britain’s biggest ever corporate loss. The Times reported that the two funds had hired Cherie Blair, the lawyer wife of former British prime minister Tony Blair who works under the name Cherie Booth, to file the lawsuit in a New York court.
No need for bailout: HSBC
HSBC’s finance chief said the banking giant would not require a British government bailout even if economic conditions in Britain or the US worsen, the South China Morning Post said in a report yesterday. Douglas Flint, the chief financial officer of HSBC holdings, said the company’s recently announced rights issue would provide more than enough capital, the report said. “The US$17.7 billion we are raising seemed to be an amount that made us extremely robust in any set of circumstances we could foresee,” the Post quoted him as saying. Flint said HSBC would not have to follow Lloyds TSB and Royal Bank of Scotland into taxpayer-funded bailouts. “We are in a totally different position. We were one of the few banks in the world that were profitable last year. It is unthinkable,” he told the paper.
Bebo offers more languages
Social networking Web site Bebo yesterday announced the launch of five new European-language versions, its first major expansion outside the English-speaking world. Owned by America Online, Bebo claims to have more than 22 million users worldwide, almost half of them in Britain. Until now Bebo was available only in English and in Polish, compared with the 40 language versions offered by market leader Facebook. Users can now choose French, German, Italian, Spanish or Dutch. “We think there are lot of opportunities in the Western European market, both for user potential and for monetization,” Bebo international vice president Nicole Vanderbildt said. “International expansion is a key part of our growth strategy,” she said, adding that Bebo had “very ambitious plans” for the European market. Once a niche for teenagers and technophiles, social networking has exploded into the mainstream, with industry research suggesting more people logged on to membership community Web sites than e-mail services in December.
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS: Several of the PLA fighter jets that crossed the median line of the Strait came within 68km of Hsinchu, drawing warnings from Taiwan, the ministry said At least 18 Chinese military aircraft yesterday flew into the nation’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on the second day of a US delegation’s visit, the Ministry of National Defense said, adding that the military responded by deploying an air defense missile system to monitor their activities. A delegation led by US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach on Thursday started a three-day visit to Taiwan. The ministry from Thursday started publicizing the actions of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Taiwan’s ADIZ on its Web site and Twitter. According to ministry reports, 18 PLA aircraft
TWO CASES: The five allegedly conspired with conglomerates, threatening the nation’s governance and subverting the rules of ethical conduct, a deputy chief prosecutor said Taipei prosecutors yesterday charged three legislators and one former lawmaker with contravening the Anti-Corruption Act (貪污治罪條例) in a case linked to former Pacific Distribution Investment Co (太平洋流通) chairman Lee Heng-lung’s (李恆隆) battle with the Far Eastern Group (遠東集團) over ownership of the Pacific SOGO Department Store (太平洋崇光百貨) chain, while independent Legislator Chao Cheng-yu (趙正宇) was indicted in a separate case involving two funeral services companies and a plot of land in a national park. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) and Sufin Siluko (廖國棟), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) and former New Power Party legislator
PENGHU INSPECTION: Taiwan cannot let its enemies strut around in its airspace, Tsai said, one day after a Chinese spokesman denied a median line exists in the Taiwan Strait Following China’s assertion on Monday that there is no “median line” in the Taiwan Strait, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday pledged to defend the nation’s airspace during a visit to an air force base in Penghu, saying that Taiwan cannot allow others to flex their military muscle in its territorial airspace. Tsai praised the “heroic performance” of the pilots of the Indigenous Defense Fighters who have been intercepting Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force planes in recent days. “I have a lot of confidence in you. As soldiers of the Republic of China [ROC], how could we let enemies strut
Swedish Member of Parliament Hampus Hagman is pushing for changing the name of the nation’s trade office in Taipei to signal improved relations with “Asia’s perhaps foremost democracy.” Hagman on Wednesday last week proposed renaming the Swedish Trade and Invest Council to “Sweden’s Office in Taipei,” following similar changes by other nations. The Swedish Trade and Invest Council, part of Business Sweden, is owned by the Swedish government and Swedish industry. Taiwan and Sweden share important values such as respect for democracy, human rights, the rule of law and freedom of speech, Hagman said in the motion, adding that the two nations