Saturday, October 18, 2008

Fog causes closure of expressways in E China

Fog shrouded many areas in eastern and northeastern China on Saturday morning, causing the closure of expressways.

Foggy weather began to hit northeastern Liaoning Province on Wednesday and continued on Saturday with a visibility of 200 meters to 500 meters in some areas.

Sections of five expressways in the province were shut down early Saturday morning, the provincial expressway administration authorities said. They might be reopened at midday when the fog disperses.

The foggy weather, usually in the morning hours, would continue in the coming three days, said the meteorological observatory of the provincial capital Shenyang.

At least four major expressways in eastern Shandong Province were also closed on Saturday morning. The coastal cities of Rizhao, Qingdao and Yantai had a visibility of less than 1,000 meters.

Airports in Qingdao and the provincial capital Ji'nan remained normal operations.

The foggy weather would continue the whole day, according to the provincial meteorological observatory.

Source: Xinhua

Association sues 100 Beijing karaoke bars for copyright violation

The China Audio-video Copyright Association filed lawsuits at seven courts in Beijing on Friday against 100 Beijing-based karaoke bar operators refusing to pay royalties for songs and MTV videos they used.

On the list were popular bars including Tongyishouge and Huayangnianhua, the association said.

The CAVCA, which is responsible for charging karaoke bars, began to send notice to Beijing-based bars on Sept. 27. It urged them to pay the royalties before Oct. 10 and warned of legal actions if they failed to meet the deadline.

The association hoped the move could urge wavering karaoke bar operators to make the payment as soon as possible.

"Operators refusing to pay royalties would not only pay for using the products but also for their infringement on copyright," said the association's director-general Wang Huapeng.

The association didn't rule out the possibility of further legal actions against other Beijing-based karaoke bar operators.

At present, only about 10 operators out of more than 1,000 Beijing-based karaoke bars paid royalties for the copyrighted audio-video products they used. The figure stood at about 1,000 nationwide, according to the association.

Last year, 15 provincial-level areas, including Beijing and Guangdong, decided to collect karaoke copyright royalties. The practice has been spreading nationwide.

Karaoke operators must pay a daily charge of up to 12 yuan for each karaoke room -- less in underdeveloped regions -- for the use of musical and video products, according to a National Copyright Administration notice issued in November 2006.

The royalty in Beijing was set at 11 yuan at the beginning of this year, the second highest in the country compared with the highest 11.1 yuan in Shanghai and the lowest 8.1 yuan in northwestern Gansu Province.

Chinese karaoke operators have enjoyed free access to songs and MTV videos without paying royalties for more than 20 years.

The country has an estimated 100,000 karaoke establishments -- each with an average of 10 rooms -- collectively generating almost1 billion yuan in turnover annually.

Source: Xinhua

State 'committed to poverty goal'

Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu pledged on Friday that China will come up with "increased efforts" to alleviate global poverty and fulfill its international responsibility to ensure a harmonious world.

He was addressing a forum organized by the International Poverty Reduction Center in China and UN China to mark the 16th International Day for Poverty Eradication.

Hui told officials China will reciprocate the assistance it received in the past from the international community.

China will play an active role with its international partners in formulating policies to fight global poverty and share its own experiences, he said.

"We aim to bridge the wealth gap, ensure prosperity and develop a harmonious world.

"We will always remember the help given us by our foreign friends.

"What we have done and continue to do is to return the assistance and help we received," Hui said.

China has made great contributions to reducing global poverty since 2004. Developing countries are major recipients of its assistance.

Statistics show that by the end of June this year, China had cancelled a total of 24.7 billion yuan of debts for 49 poor and least developed countries in Asia and Africa and had provided 206.5 billion yuan in various forms of assistance.

Hui said China will extend its efforts to eradicate absolute poverty by 2020 after it becomes the world's first developing country in 2015 to meet the UN's target of halving a population's poverty.

China has reduced the number of people in absolute poverty from 250 million to 15 million in less than 30 years.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon applauded Hui's message to the forum. He said China had indeed made a great contribution to the world's efforts to improve human welfare, reduce poverty and hunger.

Nafis Sadik, special advisor to the UN secretary-general, said global anti-poverty efforts were now facing new challenges due to an unstable global economic environment.

He said the poor and vulnerable must be kept in mind as the world's economic problems are addressed.

"As attention and resources are focused on restoring sound financial systems, it would be all too easy to put out of mind the poor and vulnerable population," Sadik said.

Source: China Daily

2,500 mines to close before 2010

About 2,500 coal mines will be shut down and 1,600 restructured within the next two years. They each have an annual production capacity of less than 300,000 tons.

In a notice posted on the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety's website on Friday, its director, Zhao Tiechui, said the number of such mines will be reduced to 10,000 from the present 14,000 by 2010.

The number of mines to be closed in each coal-rich provinces has been circulated to local governments, he said.

The administration wants to encourage large mining firms to merge with smaller ones to boost work safety, he said.

The notice comes on the heels of another mine blast on Thursday in Shizuishan city, Ningxia Hui autonomous region, in which 16 miners were killed and 46 injured.

Police have held two men from the Guangdong Hongda Blasting Co Ltd for questioning.

The country had closed down more than 18,000 small coal mines by the end of last year. They had a total annual production capacity of 250 million tons.

More than 8,800 mines have also been merged into 3,700, increasing the annual production of each from 32,000 tons in 2005 to 60,000 tons last year.

The mergers have also helped reduce the industry's casualty figures.

A total of 2,900 people died in accidents occurring in small mines last year, about 15.5 percent down from that of 2006.

Experts said that the current clampdown on small mines will not affect market supply. Instead, it will help stabilize it, as the price of coal has seen a drop on the market.

"Shutting down the small mines at this time will help ease the problem of excessive productivity in the industry," Chen Liang, a senior analyst with Ping An Securities, told the Xinhua News Agency.

The new campaign will help keep down the industry's death toll as large mines often pay more attention to work safety, a mine owner surnamed Zhou in Shanxi, said.

For every 1 million tons of coal produced, the death toll at small mines is eight times that of the large State-owned ones, he said.

Source: China Daily

CSRC official refutes report on fund flow

The securities regulator will not implement extreme measures to regulate cross-border fund flows, an official from the China Securities Regulatory Commission said, refuting a media report saying the country will ban such fund flows.

Bloomberg said in a report on Friday that China "will ban cross-border fund flows, push publicly traded companies to return more money to investors and toughen rules to punish insider trading", quoting CSRC Chairman Shang Fulin at a forum in Beijing.

But the CSRC official said: "It's neither wise nor possible to ban all cross-border fund flows."

"It's ridiculous if all the cross-border funds are banned," said Zhao Xijun, finance professor at Renmin University of China.

Cross-border funds, including FDI, QFII , PE can benefit the development of China's economy, especially for the capital-thirst small and medium-sized companies, Zhao said.

"Some cross-border funds threaten the stabilization of the country's financial market and the regulators should have a close eye on this kind of hot money," Zhao added.

In order to increase the supervision of the QFII, the CSRC on Friday released a guideline that required QFII to put an internal supervisor in place. The supervisors can be selected from the staff in existence.

QFII was introduced five years ago and the related regulatory framework has been perfected gradually. "In general, the investment of QFII is normal and stable. As the important intuitional investors in China, QFII has accumulated valuable experience on the opening up on China's capital market and supervising cross-border funds," a CSRC official said.

According to the CSRC website, Shang attended the Sino-France financial forum held in Beijing on Friday and said "the regulators will enhance cooperation and seek the fundamental reason that caused the crisis. They will strengthen the risk management and internal control of securities futures companies, and toughen rules to punish the illegal activities on the financial market".

Source: China Daily

China's sovereign wealth fund raises stake in U.S. company to 12.5%

China Investment Corporation , the country's 200-billion-U.S.-dollar sovereign wealth fund, has raised its stake in U.S. investment group Blackstone LP to more than 10 percent -- still short of the 12.5 percent limit recently agreed between the two parties, a source close to the deal said.

"The investment exceeds 10 percent," the source was quoted by Saturday's China Daily as saying. But the source did not reveal when the investment portion might reach the 12.5 percent limit.

Analysts said the fundamentals of Blackstone might justify CIC's additional investment, although the prospects of the U.S. financial market remain murky.

According to a filing of Blackstone with U.S. regulators, a revised agreement was reached Thursday between the firm and CIC unit Beijing Wonderful Investments Ltd. to raise the limit of CIC's holding of Blackstone stake up to 12.5 percent from the previously agreed 9.99 percent.

There was no official comment from CIC on its additional share purchase.

CIC paid 3 billion U.S. dollars to acquire 101 million shares before Blackstone's June 2007 initial public offering, committing to hold those non-voting common units for four years. Its investment has lost more than two-thirds of its value as Blackstone shares slumped amid global financial turmoil since last year.

When CIC purchased its Blackstone stake last year, the shares were valued at 31 U.S. dollars apiece. They are now worth about 9 dollars.

The purchase of the additional Blackstone stake does not require regulatory approval and can be carried out through the open market and be resold freely.

Different from many U.S. financial institutions that have had to be bailed out by the government, Blackstone's liquidity and asset quality remain sound, the source said, suggesting the CIC investment is aimed at long-term interest.


China sees more than 50% decline in coal exports in September

China's coal exports have kept declining since the beginning of the second half of this year, partly as a result of limits in export quotas.

According to latest customs data, China sold abroad 2.08 million tonnes of coal in September, down 53.6 percent from the 4.48 million tonnes in the same month of last year.

After the coal exports hit 6.99 million tonnes in June, the highest within the year, the foreign sales began to fall in July and continued the downward trend in August and September.

Industry observers said the foreign sales were limited by absence of second-batch quota.

In the first half of this year, China set the first-batch quota at 31.8 million tonnes, or 60 percent of its total coal exports for whole of last year. But it declined to release the quota for the second half year as an effort to ensure domestic supplies.

Huang Teng, a coal trade analyst, said on Saturday that the new export quota would likely be issued within this month, so that exporters would be able to fulfill their contracts with importers from Japan and the Republic of Korea.

In the first three quarters, the coal exports stood at 35.72 million tonnes, down 6.1 percent from a year earlier, according to the General Administration of Customs. But the export value increased by 65.1 percent to 3.78 billion U.S. dollars.