IN BRIEF (Page: 15, Date: 08/11/2004)
IBA net surges
International Bank of Asia (IBA), one of Hong Kong's smallest listed lenders, said yesterday its first-half profit nearly quadrupled as it set aside less money for bad loans amid the city's economic recovery.
IBA, which is 75-per-cent owned by Taiwan's Fubon Financial Holding Co, reported net profit of HK$198.84 million (US$25.5 million), compared with HK$52.39 million a year ago.
Bad or doubtful debt provisions fell to HK$24.5 million from HK$101.7 million a year ago, with executives citing fewer personal bankruptcies and rising property costs.
Steel firm profit up 15%
Angang New Steel, the listed unit of China's second-largest steel maker, reported a 15 per cent rise in first-half earnings yesterday despite higher costs for raw materials and lower steel prices.
The unit of Anshan Iron & Steel Group reported first-half net profit of 715.73 million yuan (US$86.44 million) based on international accounting standards, compared with 620.35 million yuan (US$75 million) in earnings reported a year earlier by the company, which is based in the northeastern province of Liaoning.
Asia's largest diversified commodity trader, Noble Group, said yesterday its quarterly profit more than quadrupled as trading with China rebounded after an abrupt slowdown.
Beijing's efforts to prevent economic overheating led to a curb on raw materials imports in April and May, and Noble's earnings tumbled from the first quarter. However, business has rebounded since early June, Noble said.
The Singapore-listed company said its net profit rose to US$45.3 million in the three months to June 30 from US$11.1 million in the year-earlier period.
Forte income declines
Mainland property firm Shanghai Forte Land yesterday recorded a 8.4 per cent decline in net profit to 220 million yuan (US$26.6 million) in the first half.
Its turnover reduced 20 per cent to 918 million (US$111 million).
An interim dividend of 0.06 yuan per share, representing a dividend payout ratio of 56 per cent, was declared.
New oil vessel
Oil trading firm Titan Petrochemicals Group said yesterday it has agreed to purchase a very large crude carrier for US$23 million to help expand its oil transportation capacity.
The new vessel, which has a deadweight tonnage of 239,783 tons, will bring Titan's fleet to 25 oil tankers and boosting its total capacity to over 1.3 million dead weight tons.
Passenger traffic rises
China Southern Airlines said yesterday that July passenger numbers jumped 58.6 per cent from the same month last year, when China's largest airline was recovering from the SARS outbreak.
China Southern said it carried 2.7 million passengers in July up from 2.136 million passengers in June.
The carrier said it hauled 46,190 tons of cargo and filled 76.2 per cent of seats available during the period.
Consumer prices jump
Guangdong Province recorded the largest annualized increase in Consumer Price Index (CPI) in five years last month, according to the provincial statistics bureau. CPI rose by 4 per cent year-on-year in July, driven mainly by growth in prices of grains, eggs, meat products and crude oil. A relatively low base in July last year is also a factor behind the surge, an official with the bureau said yesterday.
No further significant increase in prices is expected for the rest of the year with the impact of the national macroeconomic control to continue to exhibit, the official said.
China yesterday began an anti-dumping investigation against an imported chemical produced in the United States, the Republic of Korea and the Netherlands.
The Ministry of Commerce said in a statement that the investigation into the imported ethylene-propylene-non-conjugated diene rubber, which is mainly used in construction, wire and cable, and auto industries, will last about a year.
The investigation will cover whether dumping exists, the scope of the dumping and the damage it has caused if dumping is confirmed.
Siemens R&D base
Siemens Medical Solutions Group, one of the world's largest medical solutions providers, said it will establish its Asian research and development base for magnetic resonance (MR) in China, which will be located in its joint venture Siemens Mindit MR Ltd in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province.
Heinrich Kolem, the group's president of the MR division, said that the establishment of the R&D centre proves the importance of China in Siemens' global MR imaging development strategy.
The base, involving a total investment of 30 million yuan (US$3.6 million), is planned for completion at the end of this year.
China Unicom's service
China United Telecommunications Corp (China Unicom), the country's second largest mobile carrier, is to kick off wireless data service - "Olympics Express" especially for the upcoming 28th Olympics in Athens between August 13 and September 30.
By teaming up with domestic Internet portals and value-added services providers such as Sina.com, TomOnline and Hurray, the data service is aiming to provide its subscribers with the quickest and up to date news and information about the Olympics.
Payment for such service will be 10 yuan (US$1.20) a month, according to Wang Yingpei, general manager of China Unicom's Value-added Business Department.
Parmalat Finanziaria SpA, the bankrupt Italian dairy company, will give creditors until September 18 to present claims for repayment of debt and to submit comments on the list of creditors eligible for compensation.
Agreeing on the final creditors list will allow the company to go ahead with a planned debt-for-equity swap that will give creditors shares in a new Parmalat, which will return to stock market trading.
Parmalat caused Italy's biggest-ever bankruptcy in December after announcing that a 3.95 billion-euro (US$4.8 billion) bank account did not exist and that it could not pay back bonds.
Record exam failures
A record number of financial analysts, bankers and traders who took the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exam in June failed the test.
Almost two-thirds of the 24,241 people who took the first of the three tests needed for certification did not pass, according to the CFA Institute, the Charlottesville, Virginia-based organization that administers the test.
The institute said it was the fifth straight year that the pass rate declined. In 1999, 36 per cent of candidates flunked; this year, 64 per cent failed.
More people than ever are taking the test, with an estimated 85,000 enrolled for all levels of the June exam. Many securities-industry employers consider the CFA an essential credential.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world's largest retailer, said August sales are rising within expectations as shoppers buy shoes and clothing before the school year begins.
Wal-Mart had forecast a gain of 2 per cent to 4 per cent from a year earlier. Merchants including Wal-Mart rely on demand for merchandise such as jeans and notebooks to boost sales in the weeks before schools reopen, the second-biggest retail period after the pre-Christmas season. Sales at Wal-Mart rose 6.9 per cent in August last year when consumers received child-credit checks from the federal government.
UBS AG, Europe's biggest bank by assets, said second-quarter profit climbed 28 per cent as higher fees from managing wealthy clients' money made up for a drop in investment-banking earnings. The company predicted second-half revenue will drop as "flat" stock markets curb trading income.
Net income rose to 1.97 billion Swiss francs (US$1.57 billion) from 1.54 billion Swiss francs (US$1.23 billion) a year ago, Zurich-based UBS said. Revenue rose 6 per cent from the year-ago period and fell 8 per cent from the first quarter to 9.48 billion francs (US$7.58 billion).
UBS, which owns the world's No 1 private bank and a US retail broker with 2 million clients, makes about half of its earnings from the securities division.
German exports fell for the first time in four months in June as companies received fewer orders for investment goods such as machines and tools.
Sales abroad - adjusted for seasonal changes - dropped 5.8 per cent from May when they rose 3.6 per cent, the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden said.
Demand from abroad for German factory goods declined at the fastest pace in 18 months in June and industry production slipped the most in 10 months after economic growth in the United States and China slowed last quarter. The two, which buy about 13 per cent of Germany's exports, have been drivers of the global recovery.
In Germany, which makes up about a third of the economy of the euro nations, the seasonally adjusted trade surplus narrowed to 13.8 billion euros (US$16.83 billion) from a record 15.3 billion euros (US$18.66 billion) in May.
(HK Edition 08/11/2004 page15)
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