February 1998


  • World News Today... daily headlines and abstracts
  • Canada's Banking Industry Struggles with Globalization
  • China's Socialist Staple - Cabbage - is Shunned
  • German Beer Trends Show Decline
  • Largest Acquisition in the History of the The Computer Industry
  • Argentine Airports Are Getting a Face-Lift
  • Finance-Asia: Taiwan Sees Opportunity in Region's Misery
  • Coca Cola Set for Further Expansion in Vietnam
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  • TORONTO, Canada -- Two of Canada's six major banks, the Royal Bank of Canada and Bank of Montreal, announced their plan to merge in a deal valued at US$26.2 billion, yielding combined assets of US$310 billion. The merger would form the 2nd largest bank in North America (behind Chase Manhattan Bank), and the 22nd largest bank in the world. While this merger would make the newly formed bank competitive internationally, there is key opposition in Canada where the government sees this move as a disruption to the local economy. However, without such a merger, Canada's banks are not large enough to compete effectively against global banks that encroach on their own local territory.

    Furthermore, this merger is expected to dramatically restructure Canada's banking industry by sparking further mergers and acquisitions. Because of the Canadian government restrictions on domestic mergers and foreign ownership, until now, Canada has not been part of the global trend toward banking consolidation.

    The Royal Bank of Canada is presently Canada's largest bank. The Bank of Montreal is the 3rd largest in the nation.

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    BEIJING, China (IPS) -- Once touted as China's most prominent vegetable, the cabbage's status is on the decline. Now that days of austerity and food shortages are over and have freed the Chinese from eating cabbages all winter long, eating the lowly vegetable is regarded with disdain. So weary are Chinese today of the years of enforced cabbage-eating that when the prices of the vegetable dropped to as low as 0.10 yuan (1.2 U.S. cents) after government restrictions were lifted this winter -- people were still buying the more expensive tomatoes.

    Unfortunately, farmers were not prepared for the end of government subsidies and expected that consumers would continue to buy truckloads of cabbage in preparation for the Chinese New Year. They were wrong. And now the streets of China are piled with unsold cabbage.

    During the years of the socialist planned economy and a poor distribution system, the government would buy farmers' cabbage harvest every autumn and put it on sale in the cities for urban dwellers to stock up on. As in other developing market economies, consumer tastes are changing as their choices widen.

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    BONN, Germany -- Beer consumption in Germany, one of the world's biggest consumers of the beverage, was reportedly down slightly this year. Despite mildly declining beer consumption in western Germany, consumption was actually up in eastern Germany. And overall, beer exports were on the rise. According to the Federation of German Brewers (DBB) , beer consumption in Germany for both 1996 and 1997 was around 112.6 million hectoliters.

    Brewers in eastern Germany (with the exception of Berlin) showed sales increases of more than 6%; Berlin's sales rose only 1.3%. Comparatively, beer sales in western Germany were down 1.2% to 92.9 million hectoliters.

    We will post relevant replies with e-mail contacts during the month, if you wish to share your thoughts on this.

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    NEW YORK, USA -- After two and a half years of negotiations, marking the computer industry's largest acquisition in history, COMPAQ Computer Corp. announced the purchase of Digital Equipment Corp. for US$9.6 billion. This makes Compaq one of the world's largest computer products companies and expands Compaq's breadth by adding global customer service capabilities. Moreover, analysts expect this move will help build an even stronger position in Europe.

    Compaq is a Fortune 100 company; it is the fifth largest computer company in the world and is now the largest global supplier of personal computers, as well as high-end internet and enterprise computing solutions. In 1997, Compaq reported worldwide sales of US$24.6 billion throughout more than 100 countries

    Despite the company's financial strength, Standard & Poor's revised its outlook on Compaq to negative from stable, following this announcement.
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    BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- A recent bid to remodel and update 33 airports throughout Argentina, submitted by The Aeropuertos Argentina 2000 consortium, a group of Argentine, Italian and US companies, was accepted according to the Argentine cabinet chief, Jorge Rodriguez . They agreed to invest US$171 million/year over 30 years to renovate and operate the airports.
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    By Yojana Sharma

    HONG KONG (IPS) -- Whenever top Taiwanese officials take a swing through Asia, Beijing routinely protests, but the latest visit by Prime Minister Vincent Siew to Manila and Jakarta drew anger from China.

    Official newspapers warned Taipei not to capitalise on the financial turmoil in Asian countries, none of which have diplomatic ties with Taiwan although it is the biggest investor in many of the countries.

    As Siew visited Manila and Jakarta for unofficial talks last week, China accused Taipei of taking advantage of the economic crisis and trying to gain political and diplomatic allies in return for offering cash to the region's stricken economies.

    Beijing has often accused Taiwan of using economic aid to gain friends and supporters for its bids to join key international organizations such as the UN and the International Monetary Fund as well as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

    [Full text article]

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    HANOI, Vietnam -- While the news stories conflict with Coca Cola's take on this, Coca Cola is planning to build a third bottling plant this year in Danang in a US$25 million joint venture between the Coca-Cola Indochina Pte. Ltd. holding company and Danang International Soft Drinks Co. Assuming all moves forward as planned, they will retain a 25 year license and the foreign partner will maintain a 70% stake; the local partner 30%. This third plant will bring Coca Cola's investment in Vietnam to nearly US$100million. While operations of the two two-year-old plants in the country are not yet showing profits, they are happy with the current performance and are optimistic about growth prospects. Coca Cola's sales grew 89% last year and they report a 62% market share of Vietnam's soft drink business.

    Conflicting news in the local press indicates that Industry Minister Dang Vu Chu had rejected the application for this $25 million Danang plant on the basis that it was "unnecessary" due to heavy reliance on imported ingredients. Coca Cola maintains that this is false and they have a license to begin.

    See Vietnam, an Insider's Perspective.

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    LAST MINUTE TRAVEL BARGAINS -- Special Discounted Fares

    American Airlines' Net SAAver International offers last minute travel bargains for travelers departing from the USA. You can schedule a last minute meeting or a weekend getaway to selected destinations throughout Europe, the Caribbean, Central America or South America each week and benefit from these discounted rates.

    Through this program, you can fly at discounted rates, as long as you can plan to travel on short notice. These low round-trip fares are good for travel only on the dates specified. They expire on Fridays. Check back each Monday for the week's destinations!

    From Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX (DFW) to:

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  • US$257 -- Bogota, Columbia (BOG)

    [Restrictions apply. Check with American Airlines for details.]

    To take advantage of these fares, you must depart on Thursday or Friday, February 19 - 20, 1998. Thursday departures return anytime the following Monday and Friday departures return anytime the following Monday/Tuesday. To take advantage of these last minute bargains, or any travel needs, Call 1-800-715-4440 and ask for a Net SAAver International Fare. Be sure to give the agent this PIN#: 27035 to book your flight. Or send e-mail to travel@pangaea.net, include your name and telephone number, please.

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