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Asia Business: The Week Ahead - 2002-08-26

A Hong Kong conglomerate makes a billion dollar corporate purchase overseas and a Singapore technology company comes under investigation.

Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing's Hutchison Whampoa has made another European investment. The company has purchased Dutch drugstore retailer Kruidvat Group for $1.3 billion. Hutchison Whampoa's European interests already include its A.S. Watson drugstore and supermarket business as well as mobile phone licenses and container ports.

The all-cash acquisition, combined with Hutchison's existing drugstores, will create one of the world's largest pharmacy chains. The acquisition marks the latest move in Hutchison's expansion overseas, following its purchase of UK discount retailer Savers two years ago.

"It is such a big company, even in Hong Kong it owns the local grocery store chain, a telecoms business, a property business, a shipping and ports business, so it has outgrown Hong Kong to some extent," says Geoff Galbraith, an associate director with South China Securities in Hong Kong. "So they are expanding more elsewhere. They are already into all the good investments in Hong Kong and that is why they look to grow overseas."

In Singapore, computer and telecommunications company, Datacraft Asia, has come under government investigation.

Datacraft's chairman says he does not know exactly what the investigation concerns but that the company is cooperating fully. The government's white-collar crime unit has asked Datacraft to turn over documents related to stock sales by some directors ahead of a profit warning in November.

The news pushed the company's stock to a four-and-a-half-year-low Friday.

Meanwhile in Tokyo, the municipal government is publicly demanding compensation from Mizuho, the world's largest banking group, after the collapse of the lender's computerized payment system in April.

The city wants $140,000 for the cost of delays in the payment of water bills due to the bank's computer glitches. Other companies, including Tokyo Electric Power, have asked for compensation but have made their requests privately.