TCRAP_Public/000314.MBX      T R O U B L E D   C O M P A N Y   R E P O R T E R

                           A S I A   P A C I F I C

              Tuesday, March 14, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 51


* A U S T R A L I A *

NATIONAL TEXTILES LTD: Workers to receive full entitlements
TELSTRA: Faces fines on service delivery

* C H I N A  &  H O N G  K O N G *

ALLIANCE CONSTRUCTION LTD: Facing winding up petition
BAO YUAN ECONOMIC & TRADE CO.: Facing winding up petition
CHARM KE TRANSPORTATION CO.: Facing winding up petition
CHEUNG YIP TRADING LTD: Facing winding up petition
CHUN TAI INDUSTRIES LTD: Facing winding up petition
FAR EAST WAGNER CONSTRUCTION: Facing winding up petition
ICHIBREAD BAKERY LTD: Facing winding up petition
IDEA FASHION TRADING CO.LTD.: Facing winding up petition
MASTER DEPARTMENT STORE LTD: Facing winding up petition
MASUTOYO CO.LTD.: Facing winding up petition
MINGS VISION: Loss-maker acquired by Grand Orient
PEARL RIVER TYRE HLDGS: Suffers bottom-line puncture
SANWON INVESTMENTS LTD: Facing winding up petition
STANDARD DRAGON INT'L LTD: Facing winding up petition
SUPEROLE LTD: Facing winding up petition
WINLOK INT'L LTD: Facing winding up petition

* I N D O N E S I A *

PT BANK CENTRAL ASIA: IPO put off till May
PT BANK CENTRAL ASIA: Ibra takes over pair of Salim stakes

* J A P A N *

DAICEL CHEMICAL INDUS.: US price-fixing suits settled
HIKARI TSUSHIN: Execs spat draggging stock down
HIKARI TSUSHIN: Shares fall on arrest rumour
LION CORP.: Bites bullet on radical reforms
NIPPON IRIDIUM CORP.: Starts shutdown
NIPPON SYNTH.CHEM.INDUS.: US price-fixing suits settled
SOFTBANK CORP.: Execs spat draggging stock down
TOKYO SOWA BANK: Reborn LTCB keen to buy failed retail bank

* K O R E A *

DAEWOO MOTOR CO.: GM refuses to include truck, bus plants
KOREA TOBACCO AND GINSENG CORP.: Tobacco lawsuit starts
SAMSUNG MOTORS: Renault faces tough battle in takeover bid

* P H I L I P P I N E S *

BELLE CORP.: Posts annual loss, mulls listing jai alai biz
NATIONAL POWER CORP.: Share in bond issue for debt re-fi
PRIME SAVINGS BANK: BSP files criminal case vs.officials

* S I N G A P O R E *

CLOB INT'L: Clob decision seen as positive for Malaysia

* T H A I L A N D *

M GROUP: Assets to go into receivership
TELECOMASIA: Set to issue special shares
THAI FINANCIAL TRUST: Banknotes, artwork to go to auction
THAI PETROCHEM.INDUS.: Stock market awaits court ruling


NATIONAL TEXTILES LTD: Workers to receive full entitlements
The sacked National Textile workers will receive their full
entitlements within the next two weeks.

The Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union says all parties
have now signed documents clearing the way for the $11.2
million to be paid.  Union spokesman Steve Davis says for
many of his members the payments will come just in the nick
of time.

"Well I would say at least 75 per cent of them are in that
category," he said.  "The fact is most of them have not
found jobs because simply the jobs aren't there, they need
retraining if they're going to have any chance of getting a
full-time job.  The Federal Government put up $2 million
for a training package, they haven't seen a penny of that
yet, so we're hoping that that monies will start flowing at
the same time as the monies for their entitlements."

Mr Davis says the process really should not have taken so

"I would have liked to see it done two months ago but the
money wasn't there, the company collapsed without the
directors setting aside monies for each worker's
entitlements and we've had to go through this process over
a large and ultimately effective campaign to get these
workers their entitlements," he said.  "They should not
have to go through this kind of thing just to get what is
justly theirs." (ABC News Online  12-March-2000)

TELSTRA: Faces fines on service delivery
Telstra would be monitored "like a hawk" and hit with fines
of up to $10 million if it breached performance benchmarks,
the federal Communications Minister, Senator Richard
Alston, said yesterday.

The communications giant is under fire around the country
after it revealed plans last week to shed about 10,000 jobs
over the next two years.

"We'll be monitoring Telstra's performance like a hawk and,
if there is any systematic breach they're liable to fines
of up to $10million and we'll come down on them like a ton
of bricks," Senator Alston said.

He said Telstra, which was 50.1 per cent Government-owned,
was covered by the recent promise by the Prime Minister, Mr
John Howard, to end the erosion of services in the bush.

"I think Telstra comes within that commitment ... and
that's why it's critically important to understand that we
have a legislative regime that imposes obligations on
Telstra to deliver improved service outcomes both in terms
of connections and fault repairs. And this is a world first
and it applies irrespective of ownership," Senator Alston
told Channel 10's Meet the Press.

The Customer Service Guarantee sets a range of benchmarks
that telecommunications companies must meet when delivering
services, including the time it takes for new phone
services to be connected. If these are not met, the
customer can be financially compensated.

News last week that Telstra planned to shed thousands of
jobs came on the same day it announced a record half-year
profit of $2.09billion. The job cuts provoked outrage from
the Federal Opposition, National Party MPs, the Australian
Democrats and the Queensland Premier, Mr Peter Beattie.

The National Party's Senate leader, Senator Ron Boswell,
said last week's events made it harder for regional voters
to back the full privatisation of Telstra.  Telstra's chief
executive, Dr Ziggy Switkowski, yesterday confirmed that
8000 of the jobs to go at Telstra would be redundancies.

Dr Switkowski defended Telstra's performance. He told
Channel 9's Business Sunday that service under a partially
privatised Telstra was better than it had been under total
government ownership.  The Opposition's communications
spokesman, Mr Stephen Smith, said Senator Alston's threat
of large fines was hollow.  Mr Smith also questioned
Senator Alston's claim that most Telstra job cuts would be
in metropolitan areas. (The Age  13-March-2000)

C H I N A  &  H O N G  K O N G

ALLIANCE CONSTRUCTION LTD: Facing winding up petition
The High Court of Hong Kong SAR, Court of First Instance,
has scheduled a hearing for April 5 on the petition of
Chung Shui Cheung for the winding up of Alliance
Construction Limited. A notice of legal appearance must be
filed on or before April 4.

BAO YUAN ECONOMIC & TRADE CO.: Facing winding up petition
The High Court of Hong Kong SAR, Court of First Instance,
has scheduled a hearing for April 19 on the petition of Lui
Suk Yin, Annie for the winding up of Bao Yuan Economic &
Trade Co.Limited. A notice of legal appearance must be
filed on or before April 18.

CHARM KE TRANSPORTATION CO.: Facing winding up petition
The High Court of Hong Kong SAR, Court of First Instance,
has scheduled a hearing for April 5 on the petition of Chan
Yin Ka for the winding up of Charm Ke Transportation
Company Limited. A notice of legal appearance must be filed
on or before April 4.

CHEUNG YIP TRADING LTD: Facing winding up petition
The High Court of Hong Kong SAR, Court of First Instance,
has scheduled a hearing for March 22 on the petition of Lee
Mark & Associates Architects & Surveyors Limited for the
winding up of Cheung Yip Trading Limited. A notice of legal
appearance must be filed on or before March 21.

CHUN TAI INDUSTRIES LTD: Facing winding up petition
The High Court of Hong Kong SAR, Court of First Instance,
has scheduled a hearing for March 29 on the petition of
Electrade Company Limited for the winding up of Chun
Industries Limited. A notice of legal appearance must be
filed on or before March 28.

FAR EAST WAGNER CONSTRUCTION: Facing winding up petition
The High Court of Hong Kong SAR, Court of First Instance,
has scheduled a hearing for March 22 on the petition of
Pneumoconiosis Compensation Fund Board Limited for the
winding up of Far Wagner Construction Limited. A notice of
legal appearance must be filed on or before March 21.

ICHIBREAD BAKERY LTD: Facing winding up petition
The High Court of Hong Kong SAR, Court of First Instance,
has scheduled a hearing for April 5 on the petition of Tse
Ka Fai for the winding up of Ichibread Bakery Limited. A
notice of legal appearance must be filed on or before April

IDEA FASHION TRADING CO.LTD.: Facing winding up petition
The High Court of Hong Kong SAR, Court of First Instance,
has scheduled a hearing for March 22 on the petition of
Upwill Trading Limited for the winding up of Idea Fashion
Trading Company Limited. A notice of legal appearance must
be filed on or before March 21.

MASTER DEPARTMENT STORE LTD: Facing winding up petition
The High Court of Hong Kong SAR, Court of First Instance,
has scheduled a hearing for April 5 on the petition of
Leung Yau Hing for the winding up of Master Department
Store Limited. A notice of legal appearance must be filed
on or before April 4.

MASUTOYO CO.LTD.: Facing winding up petition
The High Court of Hong Kong SAR, Court of First Instance,
has scheduled a hearing for April 12 on the petition of
Liauw, Khin Tjhen for the winding up of Masutoyo Company
Limited. A notice of legal appearance must be filed on or
before April 11.

MINGS VISION: Loss-maker acquired by Grand Orient
Grand Orient Holdings said is exchanging $129.5 million in
shares with a company owned by its main shareholder in
return for Mings Vision, a loss-making mainland Chinese
eye-health-care shop, which it wants in order to broaden
its operating base.

Grand Orient said it is acquiring Mings Vision to diversify
its operations, which currently centre on investment
holding, property investment and development, trading,
securities trading and financial services.  Investing in
optometry, health care and its related services, including
information dissemination on the Internet "will bring
synergistic value to the operation of the group," it said.

"Moreover it is believed that the group will benefit from
the increasing popularity of e-commerce and the enormous
expansion of the optometry industry in the coming decade,"
it added.

It said in a published statement that it will issue New
Vision, a unit of Grand Orient substantial shareholder
Shenzhen International Holdings (SIHL), shares in Grand
Orient at 28 cents a share. That is a 26.8-per-cent
discount to Grand Orient's last trade at 35.5 cents before
being suspended last Friday.

Mings Vision provides eye-related health-care treatment,
diagnosis and facilities and other services and also has an
Internet website offering eye-health-care and dealing in
medial equipment. It posted a $1 million loss after tax and
extraordinary items between its December 1997 incorporation
and December 31, 1998.

Unaudited consolidated financial statements for the year to
December 31, 1999, showed a loss after tax and
extraordinary items of $2.5 million.  As a result of the
share swap for Mings Vision, SIHL's effective stake in
Grand Orient will rise to 33.1 per cent from 24.7 per cent.
Grand Orient recorded an interim loss of $27.9 million in
the six months to last June 30. That compared with a net
loss of $246.4 million in the first half of 1998. (Hong
Kong Standard  13-March-2000)

PEARL RIVER TYRE HLDGS: Suffers bottom-line puncture
Pearl River Tyre (Holdings) has unexpectedly skidded into
the red, posting a net loss of $5.6 million for the year to
December, a big drop on the $42.7 million profit in the
previous year.

The company, which is listed in Australia and Hong Kong,
said it had an operating loss of $6.15 million, down from
operating profit of $67 million a year earlier. Its 1999
performance, its first loss, took it by surprise, it said.

"Price pressure, as a consequence of local manufacturers'
aggressive prices cutting . . . led to a difficult trading
environment," the company said.

Pearl River Tyre said some competitors cut prices by as
much as 25 per cent in an already tough market.

"Extended credit and sales gimmicks aggravated the
situation.  Despite measures taken to offset some
anticipated decline in profitability, unfavourable trading
factors accounted for our decrease in sales turnover," the
company said.

Pearl River Tyre said it was not going to enter any price
wars to win market share.  Turnover fell to $430.2 million
in the year, down from $547.6 million in 1998. Its result
was further eroded by exceptional losses totalling $2.5
million, compared with $1.5 million exceptional profits in
the year-earlier period.  However, minority interests
contributed $952,000 to Pearl River's pre-tax profits. In
the previous year they had drained $20.8 million from the
pre-tax profit. (Hong Kong Standard  13-March-2000)

SANWON INVESTMENTS LTD: Facing winding up petition
The High Court of Hong Kong SAR, Court of First Instance,
has scheduled a hearing for April 5 on the petition of
Cheung Man Keung for the winding up of Sanwon Investments
Limited. A notice of legal appearance must be filed on or
before April 4.

STANDARD DRAGON INT'L LTD: Facing winding up petition
The High Court of Hong Kong SAR, Court of First Instance,
has scheduled a hearing for March 22 on the petition of
Gear Printing Limited for the winding up of Standard Dragon
International Limited. A notice of legal appearance must be
filed on or before March 21.

SUPEROLE LTD: Facing winding up petition
The High Court of Hong Kong SAR, Court of First Instance,
has scheduled a hearing for April 5 on the petition of Lam
Yuk for the winding up of Superole Limited. A notice of
legal appearance must be filed on or before April 4.

WINLOK INT'L LTD: Facing winding up petition
The High Court of Hong Kong SAR, Court of First Instance,
has scheduled a hearing for April 5 on the petition of Au
Kwan Lau for the winding up of Winlok International
Limited. A notice of legal appearance must be filed on or
before April 4.


PT BANK CENTRAL ASIA: IPO put off till May
The Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency postponed the
initial public offering of PT Bank Central Asia --
Indonesia's biggest private bank before the 1997 economic
crisis -- again, pushing it back to May.

That makes it the second delay in selling shares in the
bank, which is controlled by Ibra. The government, which
had hoped to sell shares before the end of March, now
expects the sale to come after the release of the bank's
1999 financial results.

"We want its December earnings to get the appreciation of
the investors, as a result March isn't a sensible time,"
said Jerry Ng, Ibra's deputy chairman. The bank earned more
than 100 billion rupiah (S$23 million) in 1999, compared to
a loss a year earlier.

The second delay is a blow to Ibra's credibility as it
tries to convince investors that it's ready to swiftly sell
assets under its control. It's tasked with recovering the
US$86 billion (S$147 billion) cost of fixing the banking
system.  The delay also renewed concerns in the investment
community that the government's efforts to sell assets is
getting bogged down by political considerations,
threatening the country's fragile economic recovery.
(Singapore Business Times  11-March-2000)

PT BANK CENTRAL ASIA: Ibra takes over pair of Salim stakes
The Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (Ibra) has taken
over tycoon Liem Sioe Liong's stakes in the Batam and
Bintan Industrial estates which he developed jointly with
Singapore parties.

It is now looking for foreign investors to take over those
stakes as it speeds up its asset sales programme this year.
Some of Singapore's major corporations have co-invested in
the two industrial estates.

Because the projects were developed with tacit support from
both the Indonesian and Singapore governments as part of
the "growth triangle" involving Singapore, Johor state in
southern Malaysia and Indonesia's Riau islands, Indonesian
officials are cautious about the disposal of Ibra's stakes
in Mr Liem's Batam and Bintan projects.

The stakes in the Batam and Bintan industrial estates are
among assets of 107 companies once owned by Mr Liem's Salim
group that were transferred to Ibra as part of a multi-
billion-dollar settlement agreement between the country's
largest conglomerate and the government.

Mr Liem and others were forced to transfer assets and
shares of their companies to Ibra as settlement for funds
that the central bank pumped in during the height of the
Asian financial crisis to shore up their tottering banks
that were on the brink of collapse.

Mr Liem's Salim group operates the country's largest
private bank, Bank Central Asia (BCA). His empire came
crashing down in August 1998 when BCA was taken over by the
government following a run on the bank.  The Salims were
forced to hand over their share of the corporate empire in
Indonesia and abroad to repay the group's 52 trillion
rupiah (S$12 billion) debt to the government. Ibra
subsequently transferred these assets to Holdiko Perkasa, a
holding company which will oversee the sale of these

The projects not only comprise the industrial estates but
also include the Bintan Beach International Resort, Alam
Indah Bintan, which manages the Nirwana Garden Resort, and
Bintan Resort Corporation.

"The sale of these assets is sensitive but we are not in a
hurry to find investors for the property sector within our
portfolio," Simon Subrata, Holdiko's chief operating
officer, told The Business Times. "This is not the right
time to dispose of these assets as they need to be
restructured first."

For the longer term, however, Holdiko "will look at all
options, including seeking strategic and financial
partners", he added.  But even if these assets are sold to
foreign investors, Mr Subrata said, it is unlikely to
affect the investors who have already sunk in money in the
projects. The immediate priority, he said, is to sell off
some 30 Salim group companies this year with the hope of
raising between four trillion and five trillion rupiah for
the government's 2000 fiscal budget.

The sale will include 24 plantation companies as well as a
number of companies engaged in the consumer goods and
natural resource sectors.  Ibra, separately, also plans to
list BCA through an initial public offering in May.

"Our intention is to go mainly to the capital markets to
raise the money," noted Mr Subrata. "These companies are
ready to be put on the market without having to resort to
fire sales."

This route is preferred, he added, primarily because it
ensures transparency and allows for the establishment of a
benchmark price.  If the sales are successful, they will
form a large chunk of the 18.5 trillion rupiah that Ibra
has been mandated to raise from asset sales.

While Holdiko is moving ahead with its timetable, it is
facing growing opposition from certain political and vested
social interest groups who do not want to see some of the
country's best corporate assets in foreign hands. The
Salim group has been a prime target in this move, which
some analysts said, was being orchestrated by certain
political factions to tarnish the regime of former
president Suharto, who has some lingering influence within
the military and other power structures.

A recent report by the Ministry of Forestry and Plantations
fingered the Salims for further investigation for alleged
misappropriation of land on which the Batam and Bintan
projects were built. With so much social and political
opposition, it is unclear as to whether the Salims can ever
regain their once powerful position at the top of the
country's business ladder.

They do, however, continue to manage the companies under
Holdiko's control given that they are the most qualified to
do so.  According to Mr Subrata, the Salims have every
right to buy back their former companies from Holdiko once
they are put up for sale as the family has settled its
debts with the government.

"The Salims can buy back these assets in competition or
partnership with any other investor through a clear and
transparent process," he noted.

But as prominent Indonesian watcher James van Zorge notes,
the potential for political backlash against the government
if that does occur remains real. "If Ibra acts with
anything but an arm's length fashion in these transactions,
it will be seen as favouring the Salims and that could
create a serious backlash," he said.

The Salim group is just one of several once-powerful
conglomerates which have had to face rising social
discontent from disgruntled villagers who accuse them of
stealing their land during Mr Suharto's New Order regime.
Over the past two months, thousands of local villagers have
confronted companies operating palm oil plantations,
industrial estates and even coal mines for allegedly
misappropriating land that the villagers claimed belonged
to them.

When Indonesia's economy came crashing down in 1998, a
large part of the blame was placed squarely on the
shoulders of the country's large ethnic Chinese-owned
conglomerates. Decades of crony capitalism and close links
with Mr Suharto had enabled these corporations to grow and

The largest of these conglomerates was the Salim group,
which controlled an estimated 200 companies ranging from
listed blue chips such as Indofood and Indocement in
Indonesia; QAF in Singapore; and First Pacific Co in
Hongkong. The conglomerate also controlled a sprawling
corporate empire of private companies that ran palm oil
plantations, owned coal mines and produced textiles.

The 320-hectare Batamindo Industrial Park is owned by a
consortium comprising the Salim group, which has a 60 per
cent stake; Singapore conglomerate SembCorp Industries,
which holds a 30 per cent share; and the city-state's
largest industrial landlord, Jurong Town Corporation, which
holds the remaining 10 per cent.  Apart from SembCorp,
other heavyweight Singapore investors that have invested in
the Bintan industrial estate and resort projects include
Keppel Land, Overseas Union Bank, United Overseas Land and
Wah Chang. (Singapore Business Times  11-March-2000)

The Jakarta commercial court has granted PT Dharmala Sakti
Sejahtera relieve from debt repayment to PT Hanil Bakrie
Finance for 40 days, the Jakarta Stock Exchange said.
PT Hanil Bakrie Finance sued PT Dharmala Sakti to recover
unpaid loans to the company.  The exchange said it has yet
to receive the court's official ruling, adding that trading
in PT Dharmala Sakti's shares will remain suspended.  (AFX
News Limited  10-March-2000)


DAICEL CHEMICAL INDUS.: US price-fixing suits settled
NIPPON SYNTH.CHEM.INDUS.: US price-fixing suits settled
Daicel Chemical Industries Ltd. (4202) and Nippon Synthetic
Chemical Industry Co. (4201) announced Friday that they
have settled civil suits that charged that the two
companies fixed sorbic acid compound prices in the U.S.

Daicel paid about 27 million dollars in damages, and Nippon
Synthetic Chemical paid some 13 million dollars.  A major
U.S. food processor filed the suits at the federal district
court in San Francisco in October last year. It charged the
chemical makers with manipulating prices for sorbic acid,
which is used as an antiseptic to preserve foods, to
maintain market share, thus violating U.S. antitrust law.

Nippon Synthetic will book the settlement amount as an
extraordinary loss in the current fiscal year ending March
31. As a result, it is expected to suffer a parent-only net
loss of 1.4 billion yen, down from an earlier projection of
600 million yen in profit.  Daicel will offset the
settlement cost with proceeds from the sale of its
securities holdings. Its earnings projection will not be

In July last year, the U.S. Department of Justice fined
Nippon Synthetic 21 million dollars. The department is
still investigating Daicel. (Nikkei  11-March-2000)

HIKARI TSUSHIN: Execs spat draggging stock down
SOFTBANK CORP.: Execs spat draggging stock down
A pair of feuding executives are having a negative effect
on their companies' stocks. Yoshitaka Kitao, Softbank's
finance director, on Friday launched a blistering attack on
Yasumitsu Shigeta, president of Hikari Tsushin and a
Softbank non-executive director.  Speaking in Hong Kong, Mr
Kitao called for Mr Shigeta to resign from his position at
Softbank, and accused him of copying the Japanese internet
investment group's ideas at his own company.

"Hikari Tsushin is imitating everything that Softbank is
doing," said Mr Kitao.  "I asked him [Mr Shigeta] to get
out of the board [of Softbank]. I hate what he is doing."

Hikari could not be reached for comment.  The astonishing
outburst signalled the eruption of a public feud between
two of Japan's top 10 companies by market capitalisation,
both of which are competing to establish themselves as
internet leaders.

"These are two giants trying to grab as much of cyberspace
as possible. It's cyberwar and it's getting ugly," said one
analyst in Tokyo.

Even before Mr Kitao's tirade, Hikari Tsushin, a supplier
of mobile telephone handsets and an internet investment
group, was reeling from a series of attacks. This week, a
magazine called Bungei Shunjyu made serious allegations
against Mr Shigeta and Hikari Tsushin's business model.

The company said on Friday that the article contained
factual errors, but it also felt obliged to issue a
statement denying market rumours that Mr Shigeta had been
arrested for tax evasion.  The spat has hit Hikari
Tsushin's stock price hard, with the shares plunging 24.8
per cent - or Y31,000 - to Y94,000, wiping Y958bn from its
market capitalisation.

Last month the shares had been as high as Y241,000, valuing
the company at Y7,448bn.  Softbank, however, has also been
under pressure. Its shares fell 12.9 per cent or Y14,800 on
Friday to Y99,200.  That is 50 per cent below its peak of
Y198,000 on February 15.

Since then, Softbank's market capitalisation has plunged
Y10,772bn and the value of the 38.2 per cent stake owned by
Masayoshi Son, Softbank's president, has dropped by $38bn.
Analysts warned that the feud could further damage investor
sentiment for internet stocks in Japan.

"This sort of thing reminds investors just how risky these
ventures can be," said one analyst. "There's a danger they
could turn the internet space into Chernobyl."  (Financial
Times  11-March-2000)

HIKARI TSUSHIN: Shares fall on arrest rumour
Hikari Tsushin Inc shares plunged 25 per cent yesterday on
speculation that president Yasumitsu Shigeta had been
arrested for insider trading. Mr Shigeta and the company
said the rumours were unfounded.

Mr Shigeta, interviewed here, said he wasn't aware of any
investigations of himself, other board members or the
company itself. "That's impossible," he said, adding there
weren't any undisclosed developments at the company that
should adversely affect the stock price.

Shares in the Internet investor -- which is a 2.5 per cent
shareholder in Richard Li's Pacific Century CyberWorks and
owner of cellular phone stores -- fell 31,000 yen to
94,000. Almost 595,000 shares changed hands, more than
triple the daily average for the past six months.

"We have no way to determine the source or the scope of the
rumour, so there's nothing I can really comment about," Mr
Shigeta said.

Rumours of the arrest circulated on the exchange, traders
said. A report this week in Bungei Shunju, a Japanese
magazine, also criticises the company's business practices.

"We first heard yesterday about a rumour out of Hongkong
that the president had been arrested on charges of insider
trading," said Keisuke Yamamoto, a Hikari spokesman. "It
has absolutely no grounds."

The speculation shouldn't detract from the company's
prospects, said Winston Barnes, senior manager of WestLB
Securities Pacific's equity division.

"I like Hikari Tsushin and the idea of its financing
Internet plays," he said. "When you're incorporating this
in a new growth market, you're bound to run into rumours
and speculation about how you're conducting business."

After yesterday's decline, Hikari shares are down 54 per
cent for the year. Analysts said the shares have fallen
partly on investor concern that they may have risen too
much late last year.  Hikari shares more than tripled in
the fourth quarter last year after they moved from the
over-the-counter market to the first section of the Tokyo
Stock Exchange. (Singapore Business Times  11-March-2000)

LION CORP.: Bites bullet on radical reforms
Often criticized for failing to adopt needed reforms, Lion
Corp. has started to implement a drastic restructuring
program, including factory closures, distribution-
facilities consolidation, an early-retirement program and a
merit-based pay system.

Lion President Michinao Takahashi, who took office six
years ago after serving as head of the Small and Medium
Enterprise Agency, has generally avoided taking drastic
action, his thinking being that the company's employees
were not accustomed to painful reforms.

Sluggish consumer spending and depressed prices amid
intensifying competition have changed all of that. Lion's
earnings have deteriorated, causing the competitive gap
with rival Kao Corp. to grow wider and forcing the company
to abandon its traditional soft-hearted policy and
seriously pursue reform.

On Feb. 18, Lion announced a series of reorganization
measures, including a plan to close its Kyushu factory, the
company's first factory closure.  Last autumn, the company
moved to cut fixed expenses, traditionally seen as safe
from cost-reduction efforts, by introducing a merit-based
pay system in place of seniority-based wages.

In December, Lion entered a broad-based tie-up with German
household-products maker Henkel KGaA despite an earlier
attempt at cross-marketing each other's products that ended
in failure and the wind-up of two joint ventures. In early
2000, Lion started an early retirement program.

"Our share of the kitchen-detergent market has slipped
below the 30% line; sales have fallen to 13 billion yen
from 22 billion yen," Takahashi said.

The household-products division saw its sales decline by
more than 10 billion yen in fiscal 1999 for the second
straight year of decline.  Referring to the poor
performance, Takahashi frankly admitted that Lion had lost
battles to rivals for many reasons, including its failure
to introduce attractive products and use of ineffective
advertising campaigns.

Lion still holds the top slot in terms of revenue from
household products. However, the company lags far behind
Kao in terms of scale of operations, stock price and other
factors.  The gap became noticeable in 1987 when Kao
introduced Attack laundry detergent in a compact box. Kao
strengthened its earnings power with the product, which
proved a big hit, helping the company diversify into
information and other businesses. Although it withdrew from
the information business in the latter half of the 1990s,
Kao's management became more aware of the importance of
investment efficiency through its experience.

As long ago as 1983, Lion adopted an aggressive long-term
management plan aimed at doubling sales by the early 1990s.
On a parent-only basis, the plan called for 20 billion yen
in pretax profit in fiscal 1991, three times the level
posted in fiscal 1983, and 500 billion yen in sales, up
100%.  Delayed launch of a new detergent, however, forced
Lion to revise the plan several times over the years. It
has not even approached the target figures.

In fiscal 1999 ended last December, for example, the
company said it posted 8.8 billion yen in pretax profit on
sales of 310 billion yen.  Also prodding the company toward
reform are remarks frequently made by founder and former
Chairman Atsushi Kobayashi, who died on Feb. 12. Kobayashi
constantly urged the company to strive to boost its stock

Kobayashi pressed Takahashi to take immediate steps to
reorganize the Lion group. He argued that, although
corporate management policies should be tough, relations
within the company must be warm.  In the rapidly changing
business environment surrounding Lion, it seems the company
has finally come to realize the urgent necessity of
introducing more radical reforms,. analysts say. (Nikkei

NIPPON IRIDIUM CORP.: Starts shutdown
Nippon Iridium Corp., a satellite-based phone-service
operator now preparing to shut down services, has applied
for permission to the Ministry of Posts and
Telecommunications to stop accepting new subscribers.
Services could end as early as March 18, company officials

The DDI Corp. affiliate will begin buying back handsets
from its 4,200 subscribers upon ministry approval.
Iridium LLC of the U.S., meanwhile, has lost a key backer
in its restructuring bid, and now seems unlikely to
survive. (Nikkei  13-March-2000)

TOKYO SOWA BANK: Reborn LTCB keen to buy failed retail bank
Long-Term Credit Bank of Japan (LTCB) Ltd, which is being
revived under new foreign ownership, wants to buy failed
Tokyo Sowa Bank to enhance retail business, its president
said yesterday.

The Japanese financial authorities put Tokyo Sowa Bank
under state control in June last year after endorsing an
application by the troubled regional bank for its
liquidation.  The bankruptcy administrators looked into
Tokyo Sowa's finances to forcefully write off bad debts.
Its liabilities exceeded assets by more than US$3 billion
(S$5.1 billion) at the end of last September. The Financial
Reconstruction Commission has been looking for other
financial institutions willing to take over the bank's
sound loans.

The buyout would enable LTCB to "enter retail business at a
good scale in two years, although it would take five years
otherwise", LTCB president Masamoto Yashiro said in a talk
show on Television Asahi. "It is natural that we enter
(bidding) if there is such a chance."

Tokyo Sowa has more than 100 outlets in the Tokyo
metropolitan area, while LTCB, serving mostly corporate
clients, has only 24 outlets in Japan.

LTCB, one of Japan's three long-term credit banks, had been
under temporary state control since collapsing in October
1998 due to massive levels of bad debts amassed in Japan's
late 1980s investment boom.  It was bought this month by a
syndicate led by US financial group Ripplewood Holdings,
becoming the first Japanese bank to fall outright into
foreign ownership.

The group plans to relaunch the bank under the new name
Shinsei (rebirth) Bank Ltd in June. Mr Yashiro, a former
representative in Japan of Citicorp of the US, voiced hopes
of making the bank put more emphasis on retail business
like commercial banks.

"Supposing we are a plane, the fuselage is the business we
have done since old times, with the right wing being retail
and left wing investment banking," Mr Yashiro said. "We
would not be able to fly without attaching them (the
wings)."    (Singapore Business Times  13-March-2000)


DAEWOO MOTOR CO.: GM refuses to include truck, bus plants
General Motors Corp., competing with four other global car
makers for the control of Daewoo Motor Co., refused to
include Daewoo's bus and truck plants in its bidding

David Jerome, president of GM Korea, said that the American
automaker wants to buy Daewoo's passenger car plants and
affiliated Ssangyong Motor, but is not interested in taking
over the firm's commercial vehicle operations.  Jerome's
remarks, running directly counter to creditors' wishes to
sell Daewoo's commercial and passenger plants in a single
package, are expected to sharply slim GM's chances of
winning the ongoing international bidding, analysts say.

On March 7, Chung Ju-ho, president of Daewoo Motor, told
reporters that bidders ready to acquire Daewoo's entire car
operations will be given preferential treatment, noting
that some of the five bidders expressed such an intent.
Further clouding the U.S. automaker's outlook, the GM Korea
president said that GM is not willing to propose a higher
price than rival Ford Motor.

Asked to comment on press reports that Ford offered up to
$7 billion to acquire Daewoo Motor, Jerome said that
takeover prices should not be the key criteria in
determining the successful bidder.

"Earning trust among Koreans is most important. GM is most
qualified and committed to keeping Daewoo a Korean company
even after the acquisition," said Jerome, meeting with
Korean reporters at a launching event for the "Cadillac
Deville 2000" model in Yongin, south of Seoul, Friday

Lee Kay-sup, an aide to Jerome, also explained that GM will
not consider buying Daewoo's commercial vehicle plants.
Daewoo has a truck plant in Kunsan, North Cholla Province,
and a bus plant in Pusan, which have annual output capacity
of 12,000 units and 5,000 units, respectively. Daewoo
creditors hope to include the commercial vehicle plants in
the package deal, which also covers Daewoo Motor Sale,
Ssangyong Motor, Daewoo Capital and Daewoo Telecom's
transmission division. GM, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Fiat and
Hyundai Motor are now in the process of conducting due
diligence on Daewoo.

Amid the intensifying debate surrounding the Daewoo
auction, meanwhile, nearly 90 percent of Korean adults were
found to be opposed to a foreign takeover of Daewoo Motor,
according to a recent poll. Local intellectuals and
economists also appeared sharply divided over the economic
and industrial impact from a foreign-owned Daewoo Motor.
(The Korea Herald  13-March-2000)

KOREA TOBACCO AND GINSENG CORP.: Tobacco lawsuit starts
Korea Tobacco and Ginseng Corp. is absorbing the costs of
defending itself as the Seoul District Court yesterday
began hearing testimony in the nation's first tobacco
lawsuit, filed by 31 sick smokers and their families
against the state and the state-run Korea Tobacco and
Ginseng Corp.

A 57-year-old man suffering from terminal lung cancer,
identified only as Kim, and five other smokers and their
families filed the lawsuit last December, seeking 307
million won ($260,000) in state compensation for smoking-
related illnesses.

In his testimony, Kim claimed that smoking for 37 years had
resulted in his diagnosis last year with terminal lung
cancer.  He accused the state-run tobacco company of
failing to remove cancer-causing ingredients such as
nicotine and tar from its cigarettes, and of not adequately
warning consumers of the health hazards of smoking.

Bae Keum-ja, one of a group of lawyers representing the
plaintiffs, presented medical reports from the United
States, Britain and Japan as evidence of the links between
smoking and lung cancer.  She also made an application to
inspect the Korea Ginseng & Tobacco Research Institute in

"An investigation of the facility would allow us to gather
compelling evidence of the dangers of smoking, such as data
on harmful ingredients like tar and nicotine, inspection
data on new tobacco products and statistics on nicotine
content," Bae said.

The lawyers' group also requested the right to collect
medical records from hospitals where lung cancer patients
are diagnosed, and to take court testimony from plaintiffs
in advance. The group said many of the plaintiffs are
terminally ill and might not live to see the end of the

Meanwhile, Park Kyo-son, a lawyer defending the state
tobacco firm, said there is no evidence linking smoking to
lung cancer.  Even in the United States, no single lawsuit
has ever been won by an individual seeking damages for a
tobacco-related illness, Park said. (The Korea Herald  11-

SAMSUNG MOTORS: Renault faces tough battle in takeover bid
Renault SA's faces a tough battle to secure control of
South Korea's Samsung Motors - a move analysts believe
could revolutionise Asia's second biggest auto market.

The start of bargaining is just a week away, but
disagreement has already erupted with Samsung's creditors
dismissing the French company's proposed takeover price of
$450 million as unacceptably low.

The creditors value the company at more than a billion
dollars.  Narrowing the gap will be difficult but analysts
believe a compromise is likely.

"The creditors can hardly abandon the deal as Renault is
the only possible bidder interested in taking over Samsung
Motors," said Ji Sung-Chul, an auto analyst at LG
Securities in Seoul.

Hanvit Bank, Samsung Motors's main creditor, expects the
negotiations to get underway next week, when a Renault
delegation is due to arrive here with an end-of-March
deadline for winding up the deal.  Renault said last week
it had already targeted a 10 to 15 percent share of a
market which is currently virtually closed to overseas

A combination of nationalist public sentiment, high import
duties and other non-tariff trade barriers mean only only
around 2,500 of the 1.6 million cars sold here annually are
foreign-made.  As well as a significant slice of the large
domestic market, analysts believe Renault could use its
South Korean operations as a launching pad for sales to
other Asian markets.

"Renault is using good judgement by eyeing this country as
a strategic bridgehead to tap into the huge Chinese
market," said Kim So-Rim of the Korea Automobile
Manufacturers' Association (KAMA).

A Renault acquistion of Samsung would represent a milestone
in the opening up of South Korea's economy.  But Seoul may
have to pay a political price if Renault succeeds in
establishing a presence here, said Oh Kyu-Chang, an auto
analyst at the Korea Institute for Economics and Trade

"Renault's takeover of Samsung Motors would usher in the
start of the first real competition between foreign and
domestic carmakers here," he said.  "Just imagine Japan's
popular Nissan cars being locally produced and marketed at
a competitive price. The impact will be huge, and it could
hurt local firms which have virtually monopolized the
market for years."

Renault said in a statement that the new joint firm would
continue to produce Samsung models derived from a Japanese
Nissan vehicle, and would gradually introduce a range of
Renault- and Nissan-based vehicles.  Hank Morris, of
business consultancy IRC in Seoul, warned that Renault
would find it tough to claw a decent share of the market
from local competitors, especially Hyundai, which he said
could end up with a virtual domestic monopoly.

Samsung Motors' plant in the southern port of Pusan has a
production capacity of only 240,000 units a year, currently
focussed on only one model.  And he warned the foreign sale
may have an adverse long-term impact on the auto industry
here if the authorities see it as a green light to award
bankrupt Daewoo Motor to Hyundai instead of a foreign firm
as planned.

"Such a move aimed at easing nationalstic pressure would
retard progress in the local industry for some time to
come," he said. (Business Day  13-March-2000)


BELLE CORP.: Posts annual loss, mulls listing jai alai biz
Listed leisure firm Belle Corp. is reportedly studying the
possibility of listing its jai alai business in the local
stock market through an initial public offering.

At the same time, BusinessWorld sources said the company is
eyeing better mass penetration and wider coverage through a
tie-up with Lopez-led Sky Vision Corp. to air jai alai
games in SkyCable.  Belle officials were not immediately
available for comment.

At present, Destiny Cable is providing the television and
video coverage for the jai alai games. Likewise, a free
showing of the special llave game is also being made
through PTV Channel 4.  Sources said the company expects
better income from the jai alai business as manifested in
its daily sales which increased to between 7.5 million
Philippine pesos (PhP) and PhP10 million (US$183,000 to
$244,000 at PhP40.023:US$1) from only PhP3.5 million ($85.5
million) in the third quarter last year.  The firm has 250
terminals. Sources claimed it would have to install 200
more terminals to break even.

Earlier, Belle reported a PhP3.3-billion ($80 million) net
loss in 1999, a complete turnaround from the PhP104-million
($2.5 million) earnings it posted in1998. It blamed past
investments made by former Trade and Industry Minister
Roberto Ongpin who was ousted from the group.  Belle said
PhP904 million ($22 million) of its 1999 net loss was
caused by the decline in net revenues -- PhP828 million
($20.2 million)in 1999 from PhP2.12 billion ($51.8 million)
in 1998-- as well as the PhP796-million ($19.4 million)
financing charges that rose from outstanding loans,
incurred mostly in 1997.

Belle subsidiaries APC Group, Inc., Sinophil Corp. and
Belle Bay Plaza Corp. accounted for over PhP2.2 billion of
the company's consolidated net loss.  Mr. Ongpin blamed
Belle's new management for the losses. He said his group
was supposed to bring in $250 million worth of foreign
investments for the company had they not been ousted from
the board in June last year.

These reportedly include a $50-million equity investment by
Colony Capital; the acquisition of subsidiary MagiNet Corp.
for $100 million by Pacific Century CyberWorks; and a
planned investment by two international companies in
PhilCom for $100 million. (Business World  13-March-2000)

NATIONAL POWER CORP.: Share in bond issue for debt re-fi
The National Power Corporation (NPC) is expecting to secure
as early as May this year its $500 million share from the
$1.2 billion Yankee bond offer being conducted by the
Philippine government before the United States market.
The NPC's share would be used to re-finance its maturing
loans this year.

The first tranche of these loans amounting to $100 million
is due for retirement in May.  NPC president Federico E.
Puno bared the government, led by the Department of Finance
(DOF), already concluded the roadshow presentations last

"So far, the market prospect was favorable. They are
already determining the pricing of the bond issue," Puno
pointed out.

He added the Philippine government is looking at 300 to 400
basis points as initial indication of the bond price.
Despite the earlier pronouncement of the US Federal Reserve
that it would raise interest rates soon, the government is
confident that the bond issue would turn out successful.
US Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan earlier said the
US central bank was contemplating on raising short term
interest rates to 6.0 percent from the current 5.0 to 5.5
percent, so that overheating of the US economy could
be avoided.

The Fed is scheduled to lay down its decision on March 21
during its monetary policy meeting.  Of the NPC's share,
$300 million will be used for the re-financing of its
loans acquired in 1993; and the $200 million will partly
bankroll its 2000 capex.

"We are hoping we can already get our share from the
proceeds of the bond issue before May to settle our
maturing loans and to fund our capital expenditures," Puno

The first tranche of the retrievable loan was acquired
through the power firm's Euro bond offer in 1993; while the
second tranche of $200 million will mature in November this
year.  The NPC said instead of restructuring the loans with
its creditors, it would be better to just re-finance them
by raising cash from bond issues.  Meanwhile, the power
firm allotted P20 billion capex for year 2000. Its key
projects are the upgrading, rehabilitation and completion
of its transmission facilities.

In the past, NPC conducted a number of bond issues which
bore successful results. In 1993, it issued Eurobonds worth
$200 million, and later, the Dragon bond offer worth $145
million.  The last time, it issued bonds was in May, 1998
with Salomon Smith Barney as lead arranger. (Manila
Bulletin  13-March-2000)

PRIME SAVINGS BANK: BSP files criminal case vs.officials
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has finally filed
with the Department of Justice criminal cases against
officials of Prime Savings Bank for violation of Section 35
of Republic Act No. 7653 (the New Central Bank Act).

The charges were filed against Prime Savings Bank president
Apolinario Antonio; Domingo Meneses, senior vice president
and comptroller; and Benedicto Guo, assistant vice
president.  BSP said that based on affidavit and other
supporting documents, the Prime Savings Bank officials
"wilfully made and submitted to the BSP false and
misleading satements on the true financial condition of
Prime Savings Bank, which is now under the receivership of
the Philippine Deposit Insurance.

Under Sec. 35 of the BSP charter, the wilful making of a
false or misleading statement on a material fact to the
Monetary Board or the BSP examiners is punishable by a fine
of not less than P100,000 nor more than P200,000, or by
imprisonment of not more than five years or both, at the
discretion of the court.

Based on BSP findings Meneses signed and submitted to the
BSP a consolidated statement of income and expense of Prime
Savings Bank as of Sept. 30, 1998 which reflected an
interest income of P107.80 million on loans and interest
expenses of P3.366 million on deposits.

According to the BSP, the interest income of P107.08 for
September 1998 was unusually high while the interest
expense for the same month was unusually low.

The BSP found the explanations of Antonio, Meneses and Guo
on the sudden increase of the interest income for September
1998 and the sharp decrease of interest expense for the
same month to be false, misleading and unfounded because
the subsidiary ledgers support the unusually high interest
income and unusually low interest expense.

The BSP added further that Meneses also signed and
submitted to the BSP a consolidated statement of condition
of Prime Savings Bank as of Nov. 26, 1998 which reflected
an "accrued interest receivable" in the sum of
P55,654,142.27 and another consolidated statement of
condition as of Nov. 25, 1998 which showed an "accrued
interest receivable' of only P5,437,987.28.

The BSP found the sudden and sharp increase by P50 million
in one day of the accrued interest receivable account of
Prime Savings Bank to be highly improbable.  The BSP found
the explanation of Meneses, Antonio and Guo on the sudden
and sharp increase of the bank's accrued interest
receivable to be false, misleading and unfounded.
(The Philippine Star  12-March-2000)


CLOB INT'L: Clob decision seen as positive for Malaysia
The resolution of the Central Limit Order Book (Clob) issue
has been hailed by many as another positive point for
Malaysia in its economic recovery process.

Even after having achieved a "near perfect" environment for
a full swing recovery somehow the overhanging Clob issue
was still lurking at the back of every investors' mind.
Thus, the agreement reached between the KLSE and the
Singapore Exchange Ltd (SGX) to resolve the issue had been
positively received by many.

"It should help allay foreign investors' skepticism about
investing in Malaysia and pave the way for the country's
reinstatement into the Morgan Stanley Capital International
(MSCI) index," said foreign research house Merrill Lynch in
its latest economic report.

Clob, the over-the-counter market set up by Singapore, was
a product of a rare accident in history--when the two stock
exchanges, the KLSE and the SGX opted to go separate ways
in 1989.  From day one, Malaysia had never recognised the
existence of Clob, and the Singapore authorities and
investment community in the republic had never given their
opinion on Clob's future, saying that "it is a very
sensitive matter to the Singaporeans".

In September 1998, trading of Malaysian shares on Clob were
terminated to seal off the outflow of funds from the
country when Malaysia imposed the selective exchange
control.  For those who did not understand the history of
Clob, it was very easy to accuse Malaysia as the "bogeyman"
deliberately causing misery to the 172,000 Clob investors
trapped with a sizeable investments (RM18.8bil as at Feb
25) in Clob.

The KLSE was trading at less than 300 points when Clob was
dissolved and had reached 1,000 points as of Feb 25.
But all that had been put to rest with the amicable
solution reached late last month when the two exchanges
agreed on two schemes for the settlement of the issue.
Merrill Lynch said in a report since the suspension date of
Sept 15, 1998, prices of Clob shares had risen by an
average of 187%, outperforming the KLSE composite index by

"Given that the share prices have done so well, we believe
the majority of the Clob shareholders would opt for
Effective Capital's proposal which allows investors to lock
in their gains earlier," noted the report.

The deal between the KLSE and SGX involves two schemes, the
first one by Effective Capital that will allow all the
shares to be released by end July.  The second scheme is
between Securities Clearing and Automation Network Services
(Scans) and the Central Depository (Pte) Ltd (CDP) which
will see the shares released by end September 2003.

The Merrill Lynch report noted that the release of the Clob
shares would not have an adverse impact on the market given
that the total value of the shares, at RM18.8bil, only
accounts for 2.7% of the market capitalisation on the KLSE.
Heavy weight index-linked stocks like Telekom Malaysia Bhd,
Tenaga Nasional Bhd and Petronas Gas Bhd are not among the
shares frozen.

Weighting of the Clob shares, that are also component
stocks in the KLSE composite index and the MSCI, are at
2.8% and 3.2% respectively.  The report said some of the
shares frozen belonged to major shareholders and these
shares are unlikely to find its way back into the market
even after they are released.

"A good example of this is Public Bank. Out of the 13.2% of
Public Bank shares held in Clob, we estimated that 10% is
owned by its major shareholder, Tan Sri Teh Hong Piow and
family," the report said.

The report also cautioned on the status of Clob shares
(second and third liners) with a high percentage of Clob
holdings (between 30% and 64%) that were most actively
traded before the suspension.

"We believe these shares could potentially suffer from an
overhang problem," it noted.

So, how does the settlement of the Clob issue affect the
KLSE?  Merrill Lynch thinks it would pave the way for
Malaysia's reinstatement into the MSCI.

"Already, some RM7bil or US$1.8bil worth of foreign
portfolio funds have flow into the country in the first
seven weeks of the year. We expect more to come.
Following our recent marketing trip to Europe and the US,
we sensed that the bulk of fund managers we met are still
underweight on Malaysia and are now looking to increase
their weighting," the report added.  "The US and Japan-
based fund managers, on the other hand, especially those
benchmarked against the MSCI, are still grossly underweight
in our opinion."

When contacted on their response to the offer made by
Effective Capital, the Clob investors were generally
receptive and had no complaints on the 1.5% fee imposed by
Effective Capital. (The Star  13-March-2000)


M GROUP: Assets to go into receivership
The Central Bankruptcy Court yesterday ordered the assets
of media tycoon Sondhi Limthongkul into receivership in a
bankruptcy case filed by Siam City Bank.

The court also dismissed a suit against M Group for
procedural violations.  Siam City Bank filed a bankruptcy
suit against M Group and Mr Sondhi on Nov 1, 1999, for
failure to repay a bond of 150 million baht.  The bond,
issued by M Group and guaranteed by Mr Sondhi, was
purchased by Siam City Credit in April 1995, with a coupon
rate set at minimum lending rates plus one percentage

Siam City Bank purchased the bond from Siam City Credit. M
Group failed to pay the principal when the bond matured,
despite two separate efforts to call in the debt. The court
heard testimony from Mr Sondhi last week. Mr Sondhi said a
bankruptcy ruling would have a severe impact on efforts to
restructure debt for Manager Media Group, publisher of
Manager Daily and a subsidiary of M Group.

He said he did have the means to repay the bonds, since
under the restructuring plan he would receive shares in
Manager Media Group after five years.  The court ruled
yesterday that Mr Sondhi had not demonstrated efforts to
settle his debt and had failed to present sufficient cause
why the borrower should not be declared bankrupt.

For M Group, the court dismissed the bankruptcy suit filed
by Siam City Bank, ruling that the bank had failed to
follow procedures set under the bankruptcy code where
pledged collateral had to be valued first.  Mr Sondhi
declined to comment on the court ruling.

The ruling is certain to have an impact on the
rehabilitation plan for Manager Media Group. One official
at the Legal Execution Department said the ruling meant
that Mr Sondhi lacked the credentials to be a planner for
the rehabilitation of the company. Creditors of Manager
Media Group would be called to select a new planner for the

Mr Sondhi built up a media empire in the mid-1990s which
counted dozens of publications, including Asia Inc and Asia
Times, aimed at servicing the entire region, but his rapid
expansion led to a massive buildup which proved to be his
downfall, with hundreds of journalists laid off and
numerous publications closed during the economic crisis.

Mr Sondhi last year moved to downsize operations, filing
suit against four firms within the group. Express Printing
Co, a subsidiary of Eastern Printing Co, a company within
the M Group, filed suit against Manager Information
Service, Ibis Publishing, Asia Network Publication and New
Generation Publishing. The court has ruled the assets of
the four firms into receivership. (Bangkok Post  11-March-

TELECOMASIA: Set to issue special shares
Kreditanstalt fur Wiederaufbau (KfW), TelecomAsia's (TA)
major creditor, is to offer a new option to the company's
existing shareholders, a statement released by TA said.

TA notified the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) that it
would close its Share Registry, suspending registration of
share transfers from noon of March 24 until noon, March 31.
The move is to to verify list of shareholders entitled to
buy shares from KfW.

According to agreements on financial restructuring signed
on December 23, 1999, KfW agreed to subscribe 702 million
preferred shares to be issued by TA for KfW at the sum of
$150 million. This will enable TA to use the proceeds to
settle debts owed to creditors other than KfW.  KfW,
however, allows existing shareholders, whose shares may be
diluted, to purchase shares at special prices.
(Business Day  13-March-2000)

THAI FINANCIAL TRUST: Banknotes, artwork to go to auction
Christie's Auction (Thailand) Co will auction rare
banknotes, as well as paintings by famous Thai artists,
with starting prices half the estimated market value.

The paintings, including works by Thawan Dachanee, Hem
Wechakorn, Damrong Wongse-upparaj and Chuang Moolpinit,
belonged to Thai Financial Trust Plc, one of the 56 defunct
finance companies.

The auction on March 18 is on behalf of the Financial
Sector Restructuring Authority (FRA), which is trying to
recover money for the company's creditors. An exhibition
showing the items to be auctioned will be held from March
15-17 at the Sindhorn Building on Wireless Road. The
starting prices for the 66 paintings range from 12,000 baht
to 550,000 baht. In addition, 14 sets of rare banknotes-
2,151 notes in total-will be offered, in denominations
ranging from 20 baht to 500 baht. Special features, for
example, include notes with serial numbers such as 999999.

The paintings and banknotes had been placed as collateral
by borrowers from the finance company. Twelve of the
paintings had been lodged by Thammanoon Inkutanont and the
rest by Chatchawan Boonyarangsarit. All the banknotes were
lodged by Worachai Siribavornratanakul. All these debtors
were well-known dealers in antiques. The starting prices of
the paintings total 8.6 million baht, and the banknotes 4.4
million baht.

"We will allow the three debtors to participate in the
auction if they are interested. We believe the auction will
attract many members of the public, as was the case in past
auctions, and that bids might go as high as 100% of the
starting price," said Montri Chenvidyakarn, the FRA's
secretary-general. He said that the FRA was waiting for the
Council of State to confirm formally that the liquidation
was fair and in compliance with the law, so that repayment
of creditors could be accelerated.

The confirmation was necessary to protect FRA staff against
any legal action by creditors alleging that their
allocation of the proceeds was unfair.

"The existing law does not give the FRA the same authority
as that held by receivers at the Legal Execution
Department, who are immune to lawsuits. The law just allows
the FRA to sell the assets and liquidate the company, but
without such protection," Mr Montri said. (Bangkok Post

THAI PETROCHEM.INDUS.: Stock market awaits court ruling
Sentiment on the Thai stock market this week depends on a
landmark decision by the Central Bankruptcy Court on
restructuring the debts of Thai Petrochemical Industry

Analysts said the case, in which a judgment is expected on
Wednesday, was viewed by foreign investors as a litmus test
of efforts across the economy to restructure massive debts
left by the economic crisis.  Creditors shackled to TPI by
more than US$3 billion in debts are trying to get the firm
declared insolvent.

Last week the SET Index rose 19.27 points, or 5.03 per
cent, to close at 402.4 as investors looked for bargains in
oversold sectors. The SET-50 Index added 1.5 points, or
5.45 per cent, to 29. (South China Morning Post  13-March-

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