February 29th, 2012
02:23 AM GMT
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Hong Kong, China – After a white knight failed to come to its financial rescue Monday, Japan’s biggest memory chip maker – Elpida – filed for bankruptcy protection.

The company's been running from a $5.5 billion specter of debt, but now lays claim to the unenviable title of being the biggest Japanese manufacturer to file for bankruptcy protection since World War II.

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February 28th, 2012
03:49 PM GMT
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(CNN) - The fact that Greece is not officially regarded as defaulting is ridiculous – and how anyone can say the 70% net debt “haircut” for the private sector is truly voluntary simply beggars belief.

But now that Standard and Poor’s has downgraded Greece’s credit to “selective default,” that part of the fig leaf has been stripped away – and the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) must declare that a “credit event” has now happened in Greece if the organization is to maintain any shred of credibility.

A “credit event” will enable anybody who’s holding Greek debt to enact a credit default swap (CDS), a form of insurance that investors use to protect against default. For these insurances to pay out, there has to be a “credit event.”

When the Greek parliament decided unilaterally to change the terms of its bond agreements with investors, that was the “credit event,” and now the ISDA must act. FULL POST



February 28th, 2012
05:17 AM GMT
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(CNN) - Greece may be known for its tragedies and Iceland famous for its sagas but recent history tells us these stories may turn out to have very different endings–from an economic point of view at least.

In October 2008, Iceland became one of the earliest victims of a credit crunch whose ugly effects many Europeans are still living with today.

The North Atlantic island was the first entire country to almost go under, sunk by the weight of a banking sector whose debts amounted to more than six times Iceland's entire economy.

However, three years on, Iceland is poised to re-emerge from economic purgatory.
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February 27th, 2012
06:31 AM GMT
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Hong Kong (CNN) – It’s the stuff of urban myth that if a billion Chinese all jumped off a chair at the same time, the earth would shift off its axis.

Now the World Bank is considering just such a question in the context of China’s breakneck growth: Can a billion Chinese become middle class without disrupting the world, fouling the environment and tearing apart the fabric of their own society?

The World Bank report “China 2030: Building a Modern, Harmonious, and Creative High-Income Society,” released on Monday, says China has the potential to become a modern and creative high-income society – but it won’t be easy.
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February 27th, 2012
06:18 AM GMT
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Hong Kong (CNN) – A local airline has found itself in hot water with environmentalists over a recent cargo flight of dolphins.

According to the Chinese newspaper China Daily, the airline transported five dolphins from Japan to Vietnam on January 16. An internal memo to the airline staff was leaked boasting of the transaction’s success saying that it earned the company HK$850,000 (US $110,000) in cargo revenue. The memo also included a photograph of the dolphins lying in shallow, narrow containers with their fins protruding, inside the Boeing 733F cargo plane.

The controversy has sparking an online petition at change.org pressuring Hong Kong Airlines to stop carrying live dolphins as cargo. So far, 4000 people have signed.
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February 27th, 2012
04:55 AM GMT
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Barcelona (CNN) - It seemed only fitting that I use my mobile phone to make my way to Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress, so for the first time I downloaded my boarding pass to my iPhone, checked in while on a bus, and handed my phone to the British Airways check-in staff upon arrival at Terminal Five. She did not blink an eye. I'm not sure why I waited so long to fully use the BA app.

Then, of course, I promptly turned my phone off after getting to the gate, and then had to stand aside to restart the damn thing (why does the iPhone take so long to boot up?).

Lesson learned.

Then we were packed into the A321 full of tech geeks and gurus. I had a look around and saw the normal amount of iPhones, BlackBerrys and iPads. But I also noticed a healthy number of Nokia phones with Windows OS. Nokia’s Lumia phone was a star at the CES in January. We await Nokia's press conference Monday to see what handsets Europeans can get their hands on.
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February 24th, 2012
08:10 AM GMT
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Hong Kong (CNN) - Proview Electronics - a little known Asia-based company that claims it has rights to the “iPad” trademark in China - has taken its legal battle against Apple to the technology giant’s home turf.

In a lawsuit filed last week in the U.S. Superior Court of California in Santa Clara County, the Taiwan affiliate of Proview International Holdings accuses Apple of deception when it purchased the iPad trademark in 2009, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The suit alleges that one of Apple’s law firms set up a company - IP Application Development Ltd (or IPAD) - to buy the trademark from Proview for $55,000, according to the report.

Apple has maintained the purchase gives it worldwide rights to the trademark; Proview Electronics claims that Apple acted deceptively by hiding its involvement.

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February 23rd, 2012
02:56 PM GMT
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Dubai, UAE (CNN) – The Middle East’s airlines are venturing into new markets, connecting the region with new and distant destinations.

Emirates Airlines is making its mark on international aviation. Launched in 1985, it's one of the fastest-growing airlines in the world, with a fleet of 169 planes serving more than 100 destinations.

At the heart of its success is a strategy that looks east, actively targetting emerging markets that are often unserved by Western carriers.

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February 22nd, 2012
05:40 PM GMT
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Hong Kong, China (CNN) – With a Greek debt deal successfully brokered on Tuesday, the world’s economic skies seem a bit less likely to fall. That new $173 billion bailout for Greece on the brink of bankruptcy is now staunching a bit of the hemorrhage of confidence in the continent.

As for the “stuff” that actually flies through those economic skies? The volume of that over our heads, homes and offices is, in fact, falling.

And Hong Kong is one of the best places to take a measure of it all.

This Asian hub of commerce boasts the busiest air cargo airport in the world. And air cargo volumes are an excellent thermometer to gauge the health of global trade.

According to Hong Kong airport data, 3.9 million tons of cargo passed through this Chinese territory in 2011. But for all that volume, the huge number actually revealed a drop of nearly 5% year on year.

Just as Hong Kong is the world’s number one cargo hub, Cathay Pacific Airways is the world’s number one air cargo carrier. In 2011, Hong’s Kong’s flagship airline transported more than 1.6 million tons of cargo around the world. But that represented a drop as well – of nearly 9% year on year.

The reason for this season of slumps is found not in Asia but halfway around the world: in the United States and Europe.

The U.S. is still clawing back from its Great Recession.

Europe, which buys 30% of all of China’s exports, is still focused on its highly-indebted nations. And for the next several months and years, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy– and yes Greece- will still be the word.

It’s a decline in demand from all these places – for cheaper Asian-assembled electronics and your Wal-Mart apparel – that led to a slump in air cargo traffic last year.

And the 2012 skies don’t look much brighter.

The International Air Transport Association, more famously known as IATA, forecasts absolutely no growth for global air cargo traffic this year.

Cathay Pacific’s CEO John Slosar predicts his company’s air cargo business might not take off again until the second half.  That’s not great news since the company relies on cargo for 30% of its annual profit.

And some oil analysts foretell of $150 per barrel ifIrantensions boil over into conflict.

All this may be conspiring for a collision course with catastrophe.  But reroutes do exist.

To offset losses, airlines have successfully booked more people into their seats. Cathay reported nearly 12% more passengers this past January, year on year.

That’s on top of rising ticket prices as any flier – frequent or not – can attest. 

And just this past December, Cathay announced it would delay the purchase of two new Boeing 747-8F freighters until 2013.

The bottom line for the air cargo industry? Despite short-term fixes, its long-term recovery will depend on the pace of improvement in the U.S. and Europe. 

Until then, better profits from global air cargo will hang on a wing and a prayer.



February 21st, 2012
06:22 PM GMT
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(CNN) - Back on track, the finance minister cried, giddy from all-night negotiations. Back on track they shrilled, grateful that they had got a deal to shovel another €130 billion into Greece to prevent a default… for now.

Wait a moment. From the second my Blackberry buzzed with economists’ analysis this morning, there has been an uneasy truth they may be “back on track” - but for how long?

It may be raining on the eurozone’s parade. There are a lot of private economists who basically say this deal is not good enough because no matter how much money is being shovelled into Greece, it still leaves the country with a debt-to-GDP ratio that is too high.
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