E.ON, GDF Suez fined by EU
EU antitrust regulators imposed a combined fine of more than 1.1 billion euros (US$1.54 billion) on E.ON and GDF Suez yesterday for secretly carving up gas markets. The European Commission fined each company 553 million euros for agreeing in 1975 not to compete with one another in their respective national gas markets when they jointly built a pipeline to import Russian gas. “This decision sends a strong signal to energy incumbents that the Commission will not tolerate any form of anticompetitive behavior,” EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said.
Confidence on the rise
Consumer confidence rose last month as more people said they expected better times by the end of the year, a finance company said yesterday, but a drop in a closely watched house price survey tempered optimism about a recovery. The Nationwide Building Society’s Consumer Confidence Index, based on opinion polling, rose to 58 last month, up from 54 in May, its highest level since October. A third of the sample believed the economy would be better in six months, the highest figure in a year, though 42 percent expect no difference and 23 percent thought it would be worse.
Bankruptcies top 8,000
Corporate bankruptcies topped 8,000 in the six months to last month, the highest first-half level in six years, as the global economic downturn deepened, a survey showed yesterday. The number of companies that failed with debts of ¥10 million (US$105,000) or more totaled 8,169 in the January to last month period, up 8.2 percent from a year earlier, Tokyo Shoko Research reported. Their combined debts jumped 47.3 percent from a year earlier to ¥4.69 trillion. Last month alone, 1,422 firms went under, up 18.2 percent from May and the highest in a month since June 2002, the research firm said.
Mitsui wins lithium contract
Japan’s Mitsui & Co Ltd said yesterday it had won exclusive rights from a Canadian firm to sell lithium in Asia to meet rising demand for lithium-ion batteries for eco-friendly products such as hybrid vehicles. Mitsui said it will import 2,000 tonnes of lithium per year from Canada Lithium Corp. The quantity of Mitsui’s imports would be equal to around 80 percent of Japan’s annual demand for lithium. Mitsui said it would also sell lithium in China, Japan and South Korea.
Two plead guilty to charges
A former investment banker at brokerage CLSA and a former fund manager have pleaded guilty to charges of insider dealing, Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) said late on Tuesday. Allen Lam (林嘉輝), a former investment banking director at Hong Kong-based CLSA, and Ryan Fong (方仁宏), a former hedge fund manager at HSZ Ltd, pleaded guilty at the District Court to two charges involving shares in Media Partners International Holdings, the SFC said.
S Korean firms win orders
Three South Korean construction firms said yesterday they had won orders totaling US$2.8 billion to build part of a refinery and petrochemical plant in eastern Saudi Arabia. Daelim Industrial, SK Engineering and Construction and Samsung Engineering said they had signed the deal for the Jubail project with Saudi Aramco Total Refining and Petrochemical.