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SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea's Samsung Electronics vowed on Tuesday to take "all necessary measures" to keep its products on US store shelves, in response to Apple's request for a ban on sales of some smartphones.

After winning a $1.05 billion US court judgement in a patent suit last week, Apple on Monday filed a court request to ban eight Samsung mobile devices including versions of its Galaxy and Droid smartphones.

Samsung, the world's biggest technology firm, countered in a statement: "We will take all necessary measures to ensure the availability of our products in the US market."

Rival Apple says that it reserves the right to seek permanent injunctions banning the sale of all 28 Samsung devices which a jury on Friday found infringed its patents.

But it presented a shorter list of Samsung products "to address a portion of the immediate, ongoing irreparable harm that Apple is suffering".

The phones that Apple included on its list for a sales ban are old models but still available through wireless carriers and online retailers. Samsung's newest flagship products -- Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note -- were not included.

The jury in San Jose, California decided Friday that Samsung "wilfully" infringed six Apple patents for smartphones or tablet PCs.

Samsung has vowed to contest the verdict, saying courts in other countries had previously ruled it had not copied Apple's designs.

The company did not elaborate on its strategy but it is considering removing or modifying features found to have infringed Apple's patents to keep its products on the market if the sales ban is granted.

"As a last resort, we can think about workarounds," a Samsung official told AFP on condition of anonymity, referring to possible modifications.

Judge Lucy Koh has set a hearing for September 20 to consider enforcement of injunctions against Samsung devices.

She will also hear Samsung motions to reduce or dismiss charges and Apple's request for "punitive" damages, which could triple the award.

Friday's ruling -- part of a legal battle in nine countries between the two technology titans -- was seen as a major defeat for smartphone makers that use Google's Android operating system.

More than 90 percent of the latest smartphones from HTC, Lenovo Group, ZTE Corp., Huawei Technologies and LG Electronics use the Android operating platform.

Samsung officials say their company could develop new products or software to avoid being a future target of patent litigation.

Samsung and other smartphone makers are working with Microsoft to launch Windows-based devices later this year. Samsung also has been working with Intel on a free and open mobile platform.

Samsung shares ended 1.27 percent higher at 1,195,000 won Tuesday, a day after plunging 7.5 percent -- the biggest single-day percentage drop the electronics giant has seen in nearly four years.

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NAGA, Philippines (AFP) - Philippine President Benigno Aquino led a state funeral on Tuesday for one of the country's most respected politicians, who died in a light-plane crash.

Thousands of people lined the streets as Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo's funeral cortege made its way from a Catholic basilica to a nearby crematorium in his home town of Naga in the far east of the Philippines.

In his eulogy, Aquino paid tribute to Robredo as a leader who got things done while rising above the corruption that infests Philippine politics.

"He was a trail blazer. He showed you can succeed in politics without becoming a traditional politician," Aquino said during the funeral that was broadcast live on national television.

"All of Naga feel like they have lost a father," he said, wearing a black arm band as a sign of mourning.

Aquino's entire cabinet attended the funeral of a colleague whom they had hailed as perhaps the most hard working among them.

They stood beside Robredo's grieving widow and three daughters -- aged 12, 18 and 24, -- some of them teary eyed as police and military honour guards in crisp blue and green uniforms carried the coffin.

As the mournful bugle music "Taps" played, Aquino handed the Philippine flag that draped Robredo's coffin to his widow.

A three-volley salute by 21 military riflemen followed, before the coffin was wheeled inside the crematorium for a private ceremony reserved for family members.

Robredo, 54, was on his way home to Naga aboard a twin-engine airplane when it encountered engine trouble and plunged into the deep sea in the central Philippines on August 18.

After a three-day search, divers pulled Robredo's remains from the wreck on the seabed. The pilot and his co-pilot also died, while Robredo's security aide survived.

Aquino appointed Robredo shortly after he won the presidency in 2010 on a platform to end corruption.

Robredo was widely praised for leading reforms in the country's 143,000-strong corruption-plagued police force and seeking to implement a policy of transparency in government.

His political star rose in 2000 when he won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for good governance. The well-respected award recognises achievers annually across the region.

 

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by Cecil Morella

 

MANILA (AFP) - Philippine Airlines announced Tuesday it had ordered 54 Airbus aircraft with a list price of $7 billion, and planned to buy dozens more planes in a spectacular move to rejuvenate Asia's oldest carrier.

The initial orders would more than double PAL's current fleet of 39 planes, and allow it to serve more long-haul international routes while meeting the challenges of intense low-cost competition at home.

"The orders we are placing with Airbus will play a key role in revitalising PAL and growing trade and tourism in the country," PAL chairman Lucio Tan and president Ramon Ang said in a joint statement.

In a separate statement Airbus said the "firm orders" were for 44 single-aisle A321 planes and 10 long-haul A330-300s. Delivery would start next year with the final planes of the batch ready to start flying in 2015.

PAL said the orders had a list price of $7 billion. But airlines typically negotiate big discounts on such deals and PAL officials refused to say exactly how much the airline would pay.

Ang told reporters PAL was looking to buy 100 new planes in total, and that discussions were under way with Boeing as well as Airbus to secure the extra aircraft.

"Our intention is to buy up to 100 aircraft, 26 of that will be long range, wide body," Ang said.

The PAL announcement comes after San Miguel, one of the Philippines' biggest conglomerates, bought a 49-percent stake in the loss-making carrier for $500 million in April, and took over management.

Ang is president of San Miguel while billionaire Tan, an ethnic Chinese tycoon who is the country's second-wealthiest man, remains PAL's controlling shareholder.

Ang said raising the money to finance the fleet expansion would not be a problem, with PAL to initially use the $500 million injection from San Miguel, and loans potentially also to be taken out.

He said San Miguel, famous for its beer but which has embarked on an aggressive and successful diversification programme over the past decade, was prepared to put more money into PAL if needed, as was Tan.

Ang also emphasised that the carrier had returned to profit following some major restructuring that included the outsourcing of 2,600 jobs, although he said balance sheet specifics would not be released for a couple of months.

PAL, which began flying in 1941, reported a net loss of $33.5 million in the three months to December, reversing a profit of $15.1 million from the same period the previous year.

It had said the losses were mainly due to soaring fuel costs.

However the airline's reputation had also declined, with passengers complaining of old planes, limited flight options and poor service.

PAL also lost its status as the nation's top carrier, with low-cost airline Cebu Pacific establishing itself in recent years as the biggest in terms of ticket sales and number of routes.

Cebu Pacific last year ordered 23 Airbus 320 and 30 Airbus A321 neo aircraft to add to its fleet of 25 A320s, and in January leased eight A330s for long-haul flights.

With Tuesday's deal, PAL has set itself on a course to regain its status as the biggest player in the Philippine aviation industry.

"This is the right strategy for the PAL Group," Brendan Sobie, chief analyst for Australia-based Centre for Aviation, told AFP in an e-mail.

"But it still faces many challenges and PAL has to overcome many obstacles in order to achieve sustained profitability."

He said PAL was adopting strategies employed by other Asian airlines of building a budget brand -- Airphil Express -- to take on low-cost rivals while also building its premium and long-haul products.

Manila-based Security Bank economist Patrick Elia said PAL would be able to access extra capital, with lenders taking into account San Miguel's strong financial position and track record in successfully entering new industries.

Shares in PAL's locally listed parent firm, PAL Holdings Inc., closed 0.70 percent higher on Tuesday at 7.15 pesos (16.90 US cents).

Asian airlines recruiting aggresively

PARIS  (AFP) - Asian airlines that are now recruiting pilots abroad will need more than 180,000 over the next two decades, according to a study released on Tuesday by the US aircraft manufacturer Boeing.

The group's 2012 Pilot and Technician Outlook said that the Asia/Pacific region will require "185,600 new pilots and 243,500 new technicians" and that for China alone the figures were 71,300 and 99,400 respectively.

Fast-growing airlines in Asia and the Middle East have begun to look for trained pilots in Europe and the Americas, as many established carriers there seek to downsize, in part owing to high personnel costs.

The trade magazine FlightGlobal reported recently that Chinese carriers had hired 100 US pilots during a three-day road show in the United States.

According to WASINC International, which organised the events, starting wages for a three-year contract in China were as much as $200,000 per year, compared with $180,000 in the US.

Boeing's statement quoted global sales director Bob Bellitto as saying: "This great need for aviation personnel is a global issue, but it's hitting the Asia Pacific region particularly hard.

"Some airlines are already experiencing delays and operational interruptions because they don't have enough qualified pilots."

 

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