Tue, 06 Aug 2002

Sumitomo to import tires from Indonesian

TOKYO: Japan's third largest tire maker Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd. said Monday it would start importing tires for minicars this month from a factory in Indonesia to cut costs.

"It is much cheaper to make tires at our Indonesian plant and import them," said Sumitomo spokesman Mitsuru Igarishi, comparing the cost with Japanese-produced tires.

The company, which has a tie-up with U.S. counterpart Goodyear Tire Rubber Co. Ltd. in Japan, the United States and Europe, would import 20,000 Goodyear-brand tires a month from PT Sumi Rubber Indonesia, for minicars made by Mitsubishi Motors Corp, he said.

Daily production capacity at the Indonesian plant would be increased to 20,000 tires from 15,000 by the end of the year.

Sumitomo Rubber would reduce output from a domestic tire plant in Nagoya, 160 kilometers (100 miles) southwest of Tokyo, to compensate for the rise in Indonesian imports.-- AFP

Unocal plans gas pipeline for Vietnam fields

BANGKOK: U.S. energy giant Unocal Corp. (UCL) plans a pipeline connecting its gas fields in Vietnam to markets in Thailand and Malaysia as part of its 2004 investment strategy, The Nation newspaper reported Monday.

Unocal is Thailand's largest natural gas producer and is also active in Myanmar, Vietnam and Indonesia.

The Nation quoted a company official as saying that Unocal's investment plans over the next five years would place importance on the Arthit field in the Gulf of Thailand, in which the company has minority interest, and adjacent blocks in Vietnamese territory where it has a majority stake.

Company officials couldn't be immediately reached for comment.

The Thai and Vietnamese gas exploration blocks are estimated to have gas reserves totaling about 10 to 14 trillion cubic feet.

Unocal is looking to purchase larger stakes in the Arthit field from the Thai state-run PTT Exploration & Production PCL (H.PTT), Randy Howard, Unocal's vice president for international energy operations in the region, was quoted as saying.

For the Vietnamese blocks, Unocal would like to invest in a 350-kilometer gas pipeline to connect to a power plant in Vietnam in 2004, Howard was quoted as saying.

"After that we would negotiate to connect our Vietnam pipeline to PTT PCL's (H.PTX) third parallel gas pipeline in the gulf, enabling us to sell our gas to Thai and Malaysian markets," he was quoted as saying.

PTT's Thai gas grid would be connected to Malaysia in the next two years, he said. --AP

Daihatsu to announce plan on Indonesia

TOKYO: Daihatsu Motor Co. a Japanese maker of minicars, will soon announce its response to a request from Indonesia's Astra International to contribute more capital to their existing carmaking joint venture in Indonesia, Daihatsu said Monday.

"We will make an announcement very soon," a Daihatsu spokeswoman said.

Daihatsu's comments follow a report in the Nihon Keizai Shimbun's Monday morning edition that Daihatsu will boost its stake in P.T. Astra Daihatsu Motor to around 60 percent, from 40 percent, by purchasing additional shares to be issued by the joint venture.

The spokeswoman said Daihatsu will not comment on the newspaper's "speculation" that it plans to hike the annual production capacity of its Malaysian joint venture Perodua Manufacturing Sdn. Bhd. to 150,000 units, from 130,000 units, by 2005.

She also called the part of the report that Daihatsu and Toyota Motor Corp. are considering jointly entering the minicar segment in China "speculation" and declined to elaborate on the company's plans in the Chinese market. Toyota has a 51.1 percent stake in Daihatsu.

During the midday break on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Monday, Daihatsu shares were flat at 406 yen. By comparison, the auto- sector subindex of the Nikkei 225 Stock Average was down 0.06 percent. --Dow Jones

Daimler-Chrysler to develop new model in Thailand

BANGKOK: Daimler-Chrysler has agreed in principle with its Japanese partner Mitsubishi Motors to use Thailand as the production base for the development of a new car, a newspaper reported Monday.

The report by The Nation quoted Mitsubishi Motors officials as saying that a new model will be assembled in Thailand in order to be price competitive.

"What we will do here is build a new model that has never been introduced anywhere in the world before," Vatchara Panchate, executive vice president of MMC Siitipol, Mitsubishi Motors' joint venture in Thailand, was quoted as saying.

He declined to reveal the project's timeframe or specify the production site for the new model, The Nation said.

Company officials weren't immediately available for comment.

Vatchara said Daimler-Chrysler and Mitsubishi Motors, which have a global alliance, would cooperate in Thailand in the same way Ford and Mazda have done. Ford and Mazda formed a joint venture in Thailand to produce pickup trucks. The operation uses the same platform to produce both Ford and Mazda pickups.

The president and CEO of Daimler-Chrysler (Thailand), Karl Heinz Heckhausen, had said earlier that the alliance with Mitsubishi Motors would result in the introduction of a new small car sometime in 2004.

Thailand is one of the biggest manufacturers of foreign cars in Asia along with Malaysia and Indonesia. --DJ

SingTel mobile subscriber nearing 25 million

SINGAPORE: Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel) said Monday its Asia-Pacific mobile phone subscriber base is nearing 25 million.

Subscribers from its operations in Singapore, Australia, Thailand, India, the Philippines and Indonesia totaled 24.8 million as at end June, up 11 percent compared to 22.3 million as at end March.

SingTel shares were trading at S$1.34 (76 US cents) early Monday afternoon, down one cent from Friday's close. --AFP

Indian cement maker ACC to cut 1,000 jobs

BOMBAY: India's leading cement maker, Associated Cement Companies Ltd. (ACC), plans to cut its workforce by around 1,000 in the financial year to March 2003 as part of efforts to reduce costs, a company official said Monday.

To offset the brunt of the economic slowdown seen in the past two years, ACC has been implementing a series of cost cutting and restructuring measures which also included exiting many non-core operations.

"For the past few years we have been restructuring our operations. One part of it has been manpower rationalizing," said Nand Kumar, spokesman of ACC.

"ACC has been able to withstand falling cement prices and high economic pressures only due to its ability to implement various cost cutting measures. Job cuts is just one part of it."

After the job cuts, the company's workforce would be around 8,000.

ACC, with an annual cement capacity of over 10 million tones, was badly affected by the economic slowdown.

It has however started seeing some increase in cement sales in the past few months on the back of a revival in the economy.

The company's April-July 2003 cement dispatches were up at 4.7 million tones against 3.9 million tones a year earlier.

Profits however remained low due to prevailing poor cement prices, with net profit during the first quarter to June at 198.4 million rupees (US$4.0 million) against 439.5 million rupees a year earlier.

Sales during the quarter were 8.81 billion rupees against 8.30 billion rupees a year earlier. --AFP