June 1998


  • World News Today... daily headlines and abstracts
  • India's Telecom Market Opportunities Realized by Private Sector
  • Brazil's Telecommunications Giant Prepares for Privatization
  • Economic Improvements in France Uncertain
  • World Bank Grants Loans to China to Preserve Forest Resources
  • Vietnam Modernizes Manufacturing to Become More Competitive in Global Market
  • Tobacco Banned From Canadian Advertising -- Delayed
  • Chilean Trade Mission Seeks to Recapture Asian Business
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  • INDORE, India -- In 1994, when India began opening its telecommunications sector, companies such Motorola, Nynex Corp., of the United States, Bell Canada and Alcatel of France began to set up operations there. And private companies entered the mobile telephone sector.

    This month, India's first private network was unveiled in the commercial capital of central Madhya Pradesh state by Bharti Telenet, a joint venture between Telecom Italia and a local Indian telecommunications company, Bharti Enterprises. Bharti Telenet paid a licensing fee of US$162.5 million for 15 years to operate in this region. They expect to breakeven within 2 years, and service around 2 million customers within 3 years. Their key points of difference vs. India's state-owned enterprise is that Bharti Telenet will deliver phone service within 72 hours vs. the customary 6 months wait. They also claim superior technology over the state-run cables, which delivers unreliable service. Bharti's network is made up of optical fibers which can provide high speed quality transmission of both data and voice.

    According to government figures, there are presently 17.7 million lines in India, and 14.5 million telephones for a population of 960 million people. Growth was estimated at 16.5% during the past five years to 1997. India has the lowest telephone density in Asia, with a demand for around 80 million telephones is expected during the next decade. Nearly 24 million people are currently waiting for telephone service.

    While there is a tremendous amount of red-tape and other barriers to market entry, India appears a tremendous opportunity for companies in the telecommunications sector.

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    RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- Next month (July 29th), Brazil's telecommunications monopoly, Telebras will move forward with privatization plans. The plan calls for dividing the company into 12 separate companies. There will be three units of fixed phone line companies, eight cellular phone companies and Embratel, the long-distance service holding company. The government now owns less than 20% of Telebras and expects this to be worth about US$20 billion in the sale.

    Firms that expressed interest in buying up Brazil's telecommunications giant include: Air Touch, Sprint and MCI of the United States, France Telecom, Portugal Telecom, Telefonica de Espana of Spain, STET-Italia and Brazilian companies Lightel, Andrade Gutierrez, Cowan and Splice do Brasil.

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    PARIS, France -- The jobless rate in France continues to hover around 12%, despite its first fluctuation below 12% since 1996 -- reported at 11.9% this past April -- forecasted to drop further to 11.3% in 1999, but still one of the highest jobless rates in the European Union.

    The socialist government came to power in France in June 1997 and is claiming credit for this "economic improvement" as well as those that were already underway when they took office, including a growing trade surplus and a renewed increase in domestic consumption.

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the economic ministry acknowledges that a return to growth in Europe, in general, a rise in the US dollar and low interest rates leading to the launch of the EU's euro (single currency) have played a role. But he claims that the government is making the most of these circumstances.

    Despite the view that this slightly decling umemployment rate is seen as a positive economic sign, it may not, in fact, represent an improved economic outlook, since the improved numbers reflect the increase in French citizens who are now working in temporary or part-time jobs -- they are no longer included in the calculation of workers seeking jobs.

    France has announced plans to make the workforce more flexible and increase jobs by reducing work hours to 35/week, in an effort to reduce the jobless rate. However, more fundamental reforms are likely to be needed to effect a true and lasting change that will have a positive impact on the economy. Unfortunately, the cost of implementing such needed programs may be too costly in light of complying to the conditions required for the euro.

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    CHINA -- As the world's third largest consumer of timber, China's poor continue to exploit its forest resources and face a severe imbalance between supply and demand for wood products. To help preserve and develop forest resources in China, the World Bank approved loans worth US$200 million, to be added to China's own contribution of US$164 million for this effort. This reforestation effort will focus on the mountain regions in the central and western parts of the country, where poor households will be taught and encouraged to plant bamboo, fruits, nuts and medicinal trees.

    China was granted an additional US$600 million in World Bank loans for infrastructure improvements, including (re)building roads and sidewalks in Guangzhou and Hebei province and improving inland water transportion in Guangdong and Jiangsu provinces.
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    HANOI, Vietnam -- Vietnam will spent nearly US$200 million over the next two years to modernize its manufacturing facilities to compete more effectively against its Southeast Asian neighbors. Nearly a third of this will be spent to upgrade the garment industry. Garments have been among Vietnam's key exports, but sales were down considerably this year. During the first five months of 1996, textile and garment exports grew 39%; but they grew only 7.1% in 1998 through May '98.

    The balance of Vietnam's investment in modernization will be spent to upgrade its mechanical engineering industry, including the manufacturing of fans, bicycles and ships.

    Vietnam intends to act quickly to avert a similar demise as in Indonesia. But there has been a noted drop in exports already. Economists reported that until last year, exports were growing at a rate of 25% per year. This year, the rate is expected to be nearly half.
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    OTTAWA, Canada -- Canada's new bill, "The Tobacco Act", has been amended by the Ministry of Health to gradually phase out tobacco advertising in Canada over the next five years. It was originally scheduled to go into effect this October, but according to this new legislation, sports and other events organizers will be given a little more time to get new corporate sponsors for future events.

    According to the amendments, organizers of sporting and cultural events will be the first affected, with regulations to eliminate tobacco sponsors from their events by the year 2000. In line with the global ban on tobacco products, the Canadian government also plans to spend close to US$70 million (CAN$100 mil) on anti-smoking campaigns.

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    SANTIAGO, Chile -- The government of Chile plans a trade mission to China, Japan and S. Korea this month in an effort to recapture the Asian markets, where exports of agricultural and forestry products have been declining. Chile's export prices have dropped 10% as a result of this decline.

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