Executive Business Briefing

Oct. 19, 2001 at 7:41 AM
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Here is a look at Friday's top business stories:

Stocks rise slightly in Tokyo

TOKYO, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Stock prices on the Tokyo Stock Exchange ended slightly higher Friday, lifted by short-covering in select technology issues, though trading was subdued and mostly centered on position adjustments ahead of the weekend.

Prices eased in Hong Kong and Sydney, Australia, but rose slightly in Taiwan and South Korea.

Japan's blue-chip Nikkei Average of 225 selective issue, which lost 280.60 points Thursday, rose 63.94 points, or 0.61 percent, to 10,538.79 after hovering in a tight 150 point range throughout the session. The broader Topix index added 2.17 points, or 0.20 percent,, to 1,070.65.

Declines outpaced advances 677 to 629, while another 152 issues settled unchanged.

Volume declined to an estimated 654.67 million shares from 703.73 million shares changing hands Thursday.

Analysts said the market essentially mirrored the mixed performance Thursday on Wall Street.

Although the benchmark was supported by technology issues, such as Advantest and Tokyo Electron, the overall market remained rather sluggish.

Experts said they will continue to monitor anthrax cases in the United States, ongoing strikes in Afghanistan and earnings reports from leading U.S. and Japanese corporations over the next several weeks.

In trading, among some of the technology issues, Kyocera rose 3.1 percent, Advantest gained 2.0 percent, Tokyo Electron added 1.6 percent and Sony Corp. rose 2.2 percent.

Hitachi added 0.8 percent after the company unveiled emergency restructuring steps for its loss-making semiconductor operations, centering on plant consolidation and additional staff reduction. Hitachi now plans to shrink its work force for chip operations by about 3,100 by next March, a further 1,100 on top of its August restructuring plan.

Toshiba jumped 6.9 percent amid speculation it would soon announce a deal to merge its memory-chip business with Germany's Infineon Technologies AG.

Pharmaceutical stocks rose following more news reports about a rising number anthrax exposures in the United States. Kyorin Pharmaceutical, which supplies antibiotics for Bristol-Myers Squibb, jumped 6.8 percent. Yamanouchi Pharmaceutical gained 1.5 percent and Eisai rose 3.3 percent.

Elsewhere in Asia, prices on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange ended slightly lower in light pre-weekend dealings. The blue-chip Hang Seng Index lost 54.77 points, or 0.55 percent, to 9,825.84.

In trading, mainland cellular phone operator China Mobile rose 2.6 percent, snapping its five-day losing streak. China Unicom eased 0.7 percent, Pacific Century CyberWorks lost 1.2 percent and China Pharmaceutical, a company that makes antibiotics including some of the building blocks for anthrax antibiotics, sank 8.8 percent.

Prices ended slightly higher on the Taiwan Stock Exchange. The Weighted Index gained 34.42 points, or 0.90 percent, to 3,845.62, supported by a 2.4 percent rise in United Microelectronics.

Meanwhile, Taiwan announced that it will boycott the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders' meeting in Shanghai this weekend.

Taipei had negotiated with Beijing over the past few days to allow former vice president Li Yuan-zu, now a senior adviser to President Chen Shui-bian, to lead Taiwan's delegation to the summit. But Taipei government officials said that China has failed to show any goodwill and had not even issued an invitation.

Elsewhere, prices also ended slightly higher on the South Korean Stock Exchange. The key Kospi Composite Index rose 3.83 points, or 0.73 percent, to 528.04.

In trading, Hynix Semiconductor jumped 5.8 percent despite posting a worse-than-expected loss of $1.3 billion in the third-quarter. Rival Samsung Electronics rose 4.3 percent.

Elsewhere around the region, stocks ended slightly lower in light trading on the Australian Stock Exchange. The blue-chip All Ordinaries Index lost 22.70 points, or 0.72 percent, to 3,111.40 despite a 10.8 percent surge in Qantas Air.

Investors welcomed the airline's announcement that it's in talks with Boeing and Airbus about a new aircraft order worth $766 million. Meanwhile, telecom giant Telstra lost 2 percent.

Nokia posts sharp decline in profits

HELSINKI, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Nokia, the biggest cellular-phone maker, posted a sharp decline in its third quarter results due to weak handset demand.

Nokia said its net income fell to $688 million from $835 million during the same period last year.

Sales fell 7 percent to $6.34 billion.

The company said its operating margin at the mobile-phone unit rose to 19 percent from 17.9 percent in the quarter.

Operating profit at Nokia's cellular-phone business fell 6 percent as sales declined 3 percent. The company gets 70 percent of its revenue from phones.

Nokia's network unit posted a 57 percent drop in operating profit as sales slipped 14 percent.

The company also forecast stronger earnings during the fourth quarter Christmas sales period.

Nokia, the industry's most profitable handset maker, said it expected to see fourth quarter earnings per share falling to $16 to $18 from $23 posted last year during the Christmas season, the most important sales period of the year.

Analysts welcomed the fourth quarter guidance as positive. Nokia, which sells a third of the world's handsets, cut its 2001 industry sales forecast to 390 million units from about 405 million. Yet the company expects its own handset sales to increase 25 percent this quarter from the third.

"While the market environment has had an inevitable impact on Nokia's top line growth, we have continued to translate our core strengths of strong brand, excellence in execution and winning products into profitable results," said Nokia Chief Executive Jorma Ollila.

Nokia also reiterated its 2002 forecast of reaching a sales growth of 25 to 35 percent some time during next year.

Rolls-Royce cuts 5,000 jobs

LONDON, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Rolls-Royce Plc said it plans to slash 5,000 jobs because it expects difficult market conditions for civil aerospace in 2002 and 2003 as a result of the terrorists attacks on Sept. 11.

The company also warned its expects profits at its main business will fall next year as the aviation industry crisis deepens.

The company said deliveries of civil engines would drop by 30 percent in 2002 as airlines hit by the sharp drop in air travel since the Sept. 11 U.S. attacks delay new aircraft orders and ground aircraft.

Rolls-Royce also forecast a $1.4 billion decline in sales at its civil aerospace unit, which accounts for over half of group sales.

The company, which employs 43,000 workers, said 3,800 of the cuts will be in Britain, and 1,200 would be overseas.

John Rose, Rolls-Royce chief executive, said, "Following the tragic events of 11 September, we have undertaken an assessment of their likely impact on our business.

"We expect difficult market conditions for civil aerospace in 2002 and 2003 and we are taking the necessary actions required to resize overheads and to align cost and capacity with demand. Regrettably this will have an impact on employment in the company and its supply base," Rose said.

"We will benefit from our broad business base, strong market positions and the steps already taken through the rationalization program announced in August 2000. Our longer term view is underpinned by our success in the market," he added.

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