Tue, 06 Aug 2002

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

BANGKOK: U.S. energy giant Unocal Corp. 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. -- AP

Daimler to develop cars 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. -- DJ

SingTel subscribers nearing 25m

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

Cement maker 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.

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

ACC, with an annual cement capacity of over 10 million tons, 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. --AFP

Chiyoda to build methanol plant

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's International Methanol Co. (IMC) said Monday it has selected Japan's Chiyoda Corp. and local firm Chiyoda Petrostar Co. to construct a methanol plant in the kingdom's eastern province.

The project involves engineering, procurement and construction of the plant with a daily production capacity of 2,900 metric tons, IMC said in a statement released by parent company Saudi International Petrochemical Co. (SIPC).

The deal, estimated at some US$400 million, also includes associated utilities and offsite facilities for the plant to be built in Jubail Industrial City.

IMC is a joint venture between SIPC and Japan-Arabia Methanol Co. SIPC is a privately held Saudi joint stock company established to invest in the petrochemical, chemical and hydrocarbon base industries. -- AFP

OCBC H1 profit down 30.4%

SINGAPORE: Singapore's Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. (OCBC) on Monday reported a 30.4 percent drop in group net profit for the first half of the year to S$301.61 million (US$171 million).

The results were attributed to higher provision charges, goodwill amortization arising from the purchase of competitor Keppel Capital Holdings, and the effect of a one-off gain achieved in the same period last year.

Total group income rose 22.5 percent to S$1.1 billion after the merger with Keppel, boosted by a 15.8 percent rise in net interest income to S$745 million.

Keppel TatLee Bank was legally and operationally merged with the OCBC group in February this year as part of a financial sector consolidation that saw Singapore's domestic banks consolidated into three groups, from five. -- AFP