A Seoul court has sentenced the chairman of South Korean conglomerate SK Group to four years in prison for embezzling millions of dollars of company money for personal investments. Seoul Central District Court said Thursday that Chey Tae-won was guilty of embezzling 46.5 billion won ($42.7 million) from two SK Group affiliate companies, which he invested in stock futures and options. Chey had denied the charge. SK Group is South Koreas third-largest chaebol, or family-controlled conglomerate, with telecoms and energy businesses. The ruling comes after President-elect Park Geun-hye vowed to toughen punishment of crimes by chaebol bosses. Chey received a suspended prison term in 2008 for accounting fraud but was later pardoned by President Lee Myung-bak.
Fall in discretionary spending in India: CS
Indians are cutting down on discretionary purchases such as apparel, electronics and automobiles as consumer optimism in the country is on a decline, according to an emerging markets consumer survey report by Credit Suisse. High inflation and slower growth continues to worry Indian consumers with more people expecting lower salary increases, said the survey, which interviewed 2,602 respondents across 10 cities and rural areas in India. This is in sharp contrast to other fast-growing economies like Indonesia, where the increase in minimum wages is likely to keep consumer sentiment robust, and in China, where sentiment remains strong on the back of purchases by consumers from lower income groups, the report released on Wednesday said. There are signs of down trading in discretionary items in India. Fewer people are buying smartphones and more now want to buy an entry-level car, said Arnab Mitra, research analyst with Credit Suisse.
UPS earnings trail Wall Street estimates
United Parcel Service Inc reported fourth-quarter earnings below analysts' estimates and set a weaker-than-expected profit forecast for 2013, sending its shares lower. UPS, the worlds largest package-delivery company, said on Thursday that it expected earnings to rise 6% to 12% in 2013, to $4.80 to $5.06 per share, below the average Wall Street forecast of $5.11. The company posted a fourth-quarter net loss of $1.75 billion, or $1.83 per share, after a $3 billion noncash charge for pension accounting. In the year-earlier period, it earned $725 million, or 74 cents per share. Factoring out one-time and noncash items, the profit came to $1.32 per share, below the analysts' average estimate of $1.38, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Revenue rose 2.9% to $14.57 billion from $14.17 billion.
China looks to expedite rural land reforms
China will draw up policies aimed at speeding up the transfer of rural land as part of efforts to improve efficiency and promote large-scale commercial farming, the government said on Thursday. The central government said in its number one document for 2013, focusing on modernising agriculture, it would grant more subsidies to large-scale landholders, family farms and rural cooperatives as it tries to provide more incentives to bring economies of scale to the fragmented countryside. The number one document is a key indicator of policy priorities and has focused on rural matters every year since 2003.
Viacom net falls on lower revenue from movies
Media conglomerate Viacom Inc said on Thursday that quarterly revenue fell 16% mainly on weaker results from its Paramount movie unit but profit topped estimates Revenue totaled $3.3 billion, while analysts, on average, expected Viacom to report revenue of $3.48 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Revenue from its media networks, home to cable channels MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central, slipped 2% to $2.4 billion on weaker advertising revenue. Net income fell to $473 million, or 93 cents per share, from $591 million, or $1.06 per share, for the same period last year.