March 1999



TOURISM TO AUSTRALIA INCREASING AFTER 1998 SLUMP


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  • Tourism to Australia Increasing After 1998 Slump
  • Levi Strauss Cuts 30% of US Workforce and Moves Production Abroad
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  • Australia's Trade Deficit Reaches Record AUS$1.4 Billion
  • News Corp. Seeks European Partner for BSkyB
  • UK Makes Initial Preparations to Join Euro
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  • Australia -- According to the quarterly American Express tourism leading indicator survey, tourism to Australia is on the rise -- with better than expected levels for 1999. This follows the 1998 decline in tourism by 4% (equivalent to 157,000 fewer tourists and AUS$645 million in lost revenues), resulting largely from the Asian economic crisis. The biggest tourism decline was among Japanese visitors to Australia -- an 8% decline. Japanese visitors represented the largest segment of the Australian travel market; about 18% of visitors were from Japan.

    The strongest tourism segment visiting Australia last year was among visiting friends and relatives. In fact, this segment grew by 3.3% during the overall industry decline of 1998. The business market showed the next best results, with a decline of just 0.9%. Holiday visitorship fell sharply by 14.3%, while convention and conference business fell by 10.8%.

    Domestic travel within Australia is also losing ground to outbound, 'bargain' overseas (Asian, in particular) travel. The industry needs to be more competitive to attract its own citizens to travel domestically. The American Express travel intentions survey revealed that more Australians planned to travel overseas in the next six months (11%), compared with the 1998 measure (10%). Though the year-on-year difference is only minor, this demonstrates the need to make domestic travel more attractive to local travelers. Only 1/4 of respondents indicated definite plans to travel within Australia this year, down from 27%, reported the previous year.

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    LEVI STRAUSS CUTS 30% of US WORKFORCE AND MOVES PRODUCTION ABROAD

    SAN FRANCISCO, USA -- Levi Strauss & Co. is America's leading blue jeans manufacturing brand and one of the world's largest brand-name apparel marketers with 1998 sales of $6 billion.

    Last week, the company announced plans to cut approximately 5,900 jobs, equivalent to 30% of its American and Canadian workforce. This announcement came after North American factories reported a 13% loss in sales in 1998. This move will shut down 11 of Levi's 22 remaining owned-and-operated North American manufacturing facilities. Though the company made similar reductions last year, this year, they plan to reallocate the production facilities to more affordable, more flexible foreign factories to "improve its competitive position," according to Levi's.

    Though the headquarters will remain in the US, this overseas transfer of production could have an impact on the brand's image both in the US and abroad. This jeans maker has been an American icon for over a century and remains one of the last major U.S. clothing companies to maintain a sizable North American owned-and-operated production base.

    John Ermatinger, President of Levi Strauss, the Americas, said: "Our strategic plan in North America is to focus intensely on brand management, marketing and product design as a means to meet the casual clothing wants and needs of consumers. Shifting a significant portion of our manufacturing for the U.S. and Canadian markets to contractors throughout the world will give the company greater flexibility to allocate resources and capital to its brands. These steps are crucial if we are to remain competitive."

    Tidbit: Levi Strauss, the inventor of the world-renown blue jean, was born in Buttenheim, Bavaria in 1829. In 1853, he became an American citizen, moved to San Francisco and the rest is history. [ More History]

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      AT [11:47am] NY TIME ON [5/27/99]
    • 5 YES, it will hurt Levi's US image

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    AUSTRALIA'S TRADE DEFICIT REACHES RECORD AUS$1.4 BILLION NEWS CORP. SEEKS EUROPEAN PARTNER FOR BSkyB
    Australia -- According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australia's trade deficit reached a record (nearly) AUS$1.4 billion in January, in large part due to weak overseas demand combined with strong domestic activity and growth.

    Imported goods and services increased by 4% to a little more than AUS$10.4 billion. But exports including farm products, minerals and manufactured products fell sharply, by 5% to just over AUS$9 billion.
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    MIDDLESEX, U.K. -- Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. continues its search for a European base, after its failure in Italy. This time, British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. (BSkyB), which is 40% owned by News Corp, is talking with the French prospect, Canal Plus. Any merger agreement would create the largest pay-TV company in Europe.

    BSkyB is the world's most successful pay television operator, with 6.9 million subscribers in the UK. Last October, BSkyB launched SkyDigital, offering over 140 channels, providing digital quality sound and crystal clear pictures. SkyDigital includes 11 Movie Screens, 49 Music channels, 10 Documentary channels, 6 Sports channels and the 48 channels of Box Office - providing near video on demand movies and live events on a pay-per-view basis.
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    UK MAKES INITIAL PREPARATIONS TO JOIN EURO LEADING SWISS INSURANCE COMPANY EXPANDS EUROPEAN OPERATIONS
    LONDON, U.K. -- After the British government announced initial plans to partake in Europe's single currency, the euro, the London stock exchange reached a record high. Despite the optimism, the euro itself, fell again against the dollar and is now 7% below its launch price in January.

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      AT [11:47am] NY TIME ON [5/27/99]
    • 5 YES, Euro will succeed

    • 3 NO, Euro will not succeed

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    Switzerland -- Swiss Life/Rentenanstalt , Switzerland's largest and oldest life insurance and long-term savings company, announced plans to acquire Lloyd Continental for FRF 3.24 billion. Lloyd Continental is one of the largest private insurance companies operating in the French health sector. As a result, Swiss Life will acquire more than a million new customers (bringing its French customer base to 3 million), and become the number 3 ranked healthcare provider in France.

    Swiss Life will also acquire the majority of shares of Gotthard Bank, in the amount of 53.5%, from Japan's Sumitomo Bank. Gotthard Bank provides Swiss Life with core competencies in private banking and asset management. Gotthard has an excellent reputation, not only in Switzerland, but also has attractive international connections.

    These acquisitions are in line with the company's strategy to expand its activities into the entire long-term savings and protection market, with competencies in asset management and risk management. At the same time, Swiss Life wants to expand its business activities abroad, where it now earns well over CHF 6 billion in health insurance premiums. Swiss Life/Rentenanstalt has been active in France for more than 100 years, as such, they see it as one of the most important growth markets for the company, together with Germany and the UK. Swiss Life maintains a strong presence in almost all European countries.

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    Updated 3/12/99