Crude oil prices drop

LONDON: World oil prices fell as traders discounted OPEC’s recent output cut in the face of healthy crude reserves in the United States, which is the world’s biggest energy consumer, dealers said. New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in December, shed 66 cents to 58.67 dollars per barrel in electronic deals before the official opening of the US market. In London, Brent North Sea crude for December delivery lost 77 cents to 58.91 dollars per barrel in electronic trading. — AFP

Share prices increase

SHANGHAI: Chinese share prices closed sharply lower on Monday, losing 1.73 per cent on profit-taking and a dose of investor caution ahead of the A-share debut of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) this Friday, dealers said. They said news of ICBC pricing its Initial Public Offering (IPO) at the very top of its indicated range sparked some concern that gains on its listing Friday could be limited, especially as retail investors are likely to sell for a quick profit. — AFP

Eurozone deficit dips

BRUSSELS: Eurozone and EU countries trimmed back their public deficits last year, although debt levels nudged higher, the European Union’s Eurostat data agency said Monday. The combined deficit of the 12-nation eurozone fell to 2.4 per cent of gross domestic product in 2005 from 2.8 per cent in 2004 while in the combined EU deficits fell to 2.3 per cent of GDP from 2.7 per cent. At the same time, eurozone debt rose to 70.8 per cent of GDP in 2005 from 69.8 per cent in 2004 while in the EU as a whole debt rose to 63.4 per cent from 62.4 per cent. — AFP

Zambia discovers oil

LUSAKA: The first-ever reserves of oil and gas have been discovered in Zambia near the border with Angola, the presidential office said on Monday. Samples taken at 12 sites in the northwestern provinces of Zambezi and Chavuma confirmed gas and oil residues, the statement quoted President Levy Mwanawasa as saying during a visit to the area on Sunday. “These results confirm the presence of oil and gas in the sub-surface of the two districts of Chavuma and Zambezi,” Mwanawasa added. —AFP

EU for Suez-GDF deal

BRUSSELS: The European Commission is poised to clear the planned takeover by French energy group Suez of state-controlled Gaz de France after recent concessions to EU regulators, a source close to the matter said Monday. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said antitrust regulators found that recent promises by the two groups would be sufficient to ensure that the deal would not threaten competition on the EU energy market. The commission is due to adopt the decision formally at a November 14 meeting in Strasbourg. —AFP

Macquarie for Techem

FRANKFURT: An investment fund operated by Australia’s Macquarie Bank said it offered to buy German utility services company Techem AG in a deal worth euro1.1 billion (US$1.4 billion). Macquarie Bank, Australia’s biggest securities company, said its MEIF II Energie Beteiligungen GmbH & Co. KG unit offered euro44 (US$55.52) per share for Techem. The bank, and its fund, already hold a 17-per cent stake in the Eschborn-based company. —AFP

Beijing cancels meet

BEIJING: A gathering of high-level officials from five major energy-consuming nations that was to have been held this week in Beijing has been postponed, Chinese and South Korean officials said Monday. The meeting, expected to bring together China, the United States, Japan, India and South Korea, will now take place December 4-7, they said. “I understand China accepted a US request for rescheduling as Washington plans to send its energy secretary to Beijing in December anyway,” said Han Kyo-Hyoung, an official of South Korea’s commerce, industry and energy ministry. —AFP

Vietnami inflation rise

HANOI: Vietnam’s inflation rate hit 6.7 per cent year-on-year in October but reached an encouraging 5.4 per cent compared with January, according to preliminary figures. Compared with September, the October consumer price index increased 0.2 per cent, meaning all the figures “are quite good”, a spokesman from the General Statistics Office (GSO) said. “In October, the goverment raised the basic salary for employees. The decision should have impacted the consumer price index considerably. However, stable oil and gold prices have really helped,” he said. —AFP

Less jobless in Taiwan

TAIPEI: Taiwan’s unemployment rate fell to 3.96 per cent from 4.09 per cent in August on a decline in the number of temporary and first-time job seekers, the government said. The September jobless rate was also down from 4.14 per cent last year, the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) said. On a seasonally adjusted basis, the September unemployment rate came in at 3.84 per cent, easing from 3.85 per cent a month before and from 3.99 per cent a year earlier, it said. —AFP

ICBC sets IPO price

SHANGHAI: Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, the country’s biggest bank, announced Monday it is on track to raise a whopping $22 billion in the world’s biggest initial public offering. The state-owned bank priced its shares for the domestic market in Shanghai at 3.12 yuan ($0.39) a share, citing overwhelming demand from investors. The bank also exercised its so-called greenshoe option, raising the number of yuan-denominated shares to be issued on the Shanghai Stock Exchange to 14.95 billion, up from the original allotment of 13 billion, it said in a statement. —AP