Protest against Shell

LONDON: Shell has become the dominant oil major in a controversial Alaskan project at the heart of legal challenges from environmentalists and indigenous peoples against George Bush. The energy giant has paid the US government millions of dollars forlicences in the Beaufort Sea off the northern coast of Alaska, just 16km from the protected Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. Shell plans to drill this summer but campaigners say environmental impact assessments were rushed without adequate consultation. They have launched a legal challenge to halt work.— The Observer

Tycoon in trouble

SEOUL: Police were questioning one of South Korea’s richest tycoons Sunday in a sensational case involving the alleged abduction and beating of bar workers in apparent revenge for an altercation with his son. Kim Seung-youn, chairman and CEO of the Hanwha Group, South Korea’s ninth-largest business conglomerate, appeared at a Seoul police station after reportedly refusing earlier summonses. The questioning was over an alleged incident involving Kim’s 22-year-old son, Dong-won, in which he suffered an injury to his eye that required 11 stitches in a scuffle with some off-duty bar employees.—AP

Banks lose customers

BEIJING: A soaring stock market has led to record-low interest among Chinese savers for putting their money in bank accounts, state media reported Sunday. A new central bank survey showed an all-time high of 30.7 per cent of the public saw stocks as their most important financial asset in the first quarter, up from 19 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2006, the Xinhua news agency said. By contrast, 59.4 per cent of the public regarded bank deposits as more important, the lowest level on record.—AFP

ICICI’s earnings hit

MUMBAI: India’s largest private-sector lender ICICI Bank Saturday posted lower-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings on the higher cost of funds. The New York stock exchange-listed bank said net profit for the three months ending March 31 rose to 8.25 billion rupees from 7.89 billion rupees a year earlier. Total income for the bank rose 54.2 per cent at 84.95 billion rupees, it said. —AFP

Largest Chinese mine

BEIJING: Construction started Sunday on the biggest coal mine in China’s far west Xinjiang region, state media said. China is the world’s biggest producer and user of coal, which fills 70 per cent of the country’s energy supply. It is anxious to increase output to meet growing demands from its rapidly expanding economy. Xinhua News Agency said the mine in Ili in western Xinjiang would be the first in the region to have an annual output capacity of 10 million tonnes.—AP

Strikes in Germany

BERLIN: Hundreds of industrial workers walked off their jobs briefly early Sunday in the first wave of union-organised warning strikes aimed at winning wage increases of up to 6.5 per cent. Some 800 workers in the western state of Rheinland-Palatinate staged hour-long strikes at auto parts supplier Continental and other industrial plants, among the first to launch a wave of walkouts expected to spread throughout the coming week.—AP

Bid for power project

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s Zelan Holdings is bidding for another 2 billion ringgit ($571 million) power plant project in Indonesia as well as one in Botswana in southern Africa,

a report said Sunday. In February, a Zelan-led consortium won a 2.12 billion ringgit ($606 million) project to build a coal-fired power plant in Rembang in the Indonesian province of Java. Zelan chief executive Albert Chang was quoted by The Edge Daily as saying that the company has tied up with China’s Dongfong Electric Corp to bid for a second 600 megawatt power project at Tanjung Jati, also in Java. — AP