Air France-KLM traffic drops
Air France-KLM, Europe’s biggest airline, said yesterday that passenger traffic fell sharply last month as the economic situation deteriorated. “March saw another, sharp deterioration in the [economic] environment,” it said in a statement, adding that a near 3 percent cut in capacity was not enough to offset the wider downturn, with revenues slipping accordingly. It said it carried 5.6 million passengers last month, down 9.8 percent from February, with the load factor falling 5.5 percentage points to 75.5 percent. Cargo traffic was up 1.3 percent, it said.
Eurozone GDP shrinks 1.6%
The eurozone economy shrank 1.6 percent in the last three months of last year from the previous quarter amid collapsing exports and dwindling investment, official EU data released yesterday show. The figure was slightly down on a March 5 estimate for a contraction of 1.5 percent in GDP, the Eurostat statistics agency said. Compared with the same period in 2007, GDP shrank 1.5 percent. The combined economy of the 27 EU nations also contracted, down 1.5 percent in late last year compared with the previous quarter, and 1.4 percent compared with the last three months of 2007.
Thales, Binladin to ink deal
French defense group Thales and construction giant Saudi Binladin Group were to sign contracts yesterday on a 2 billion riyal (US$533 million) contract to build Saudi Arabia’s ambitious North-South Railway, government and company officials said. The two companies have been chosen to build signaling and security systems for the main 1,800km section of the US$2.8 billion railroad, they said. The railway will link rich bauxite and phosphorus mines in the far north with planned Gulf coast processing and export facilities at Ras al-Zour.
Rio Tinto to cut 700 jobs
Rio Tinto Ltd said yesterday it would cut more than 700 jobs at Australian mines owing to a drop in aluminum demand and prices. The miner said it would also slow expansion of a refinery at one mine and cut this year’s production of bauxite — the chief mineral used to produce aluminum — by 22.7 percent to 15 million tonnes from 19.4 million tonnes last year.
Bids received for AIG unit
About half a dozen investment managers have put forward bids, ranging from US$400 million to US$800 million, for troubled insurer American International Group’s (AIG) asset management business, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Private equity firms Ashmore Investment Management, Hellman & Friedman LLC, Rhone Group and TA Associates as well as mutual fund manager Franklin Templeton and asset manager Southgate Alternative Investments are among those who have shown interest, the Journal said in a report on its Web site.
Vietnam to hike state wages
Vietnam will raise the minimum salary for state employees by 20 percent to ease cost of living increases, the government said yesterday. Starting from May 1, the minimum monthly salary for civil servants and those who work for state-owned enterprises will increase to 650,000 dong (US$37) from 540,000 dong (US$31), the government said on its Web site. The government warned businesses not to make use of the minimum salary increase to hike prices of goods and services.