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Singapore Lets Currency Strengthen to Help Control Inflation - 2004-04-19


Singapore is allowing its currency to appreciate and two of India's high-technology giants top $1 billion in sales.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore, the country's central bank, surprised financial markets last week by announcing the Singapore dollar will be allowed to strengthen modestly.

The Singapore dollar trades in a controlled band against a basket of currencies. The Monetary Authority did not say how much it would be allowed to rise. The Singapore currency now is trading at about 1.68 to the U.S. dollar.

Thio Chin Loo, a currency strategist for the bank BNP Paribas in its Singapore office, says the move is a sign of growing confidence in Singapore's steady economic growth. "As a result, they have actually indicated that growth could exceed expectations," she says. "They have as well increased the inflation forecast for this year."

Ms. Thio says letting the currency strengthen will help control inflation, which is one of the Monetary Authority's main duties.

India's technology giants saw their earnings surge in the year that ended in March. Two of the country's biggest software exporters, Infosys Technologies and Wipro, both said their revenue topped $1 billion for the first time.

Infosys, India's second-biggest software company, said its net profit for the year was $280 million, a jump of 30 percent. Wipro, the country's number three software exporter, reported its net profit rose 23 percent over the year, to $230 million. Both companies said new overseas customers drove up earnings.

San Miguel, the Philippine brewer that produces one of Asia's best-known beers, is buying a Thai brewery to enter that lucrative market. San Miguel says it will pay $102 million for Amarit Brewery. The deal is part of San Miguel's ambitious plan to move further in to Southeast Asia and China.

The chairman of the Australia's largest telecommunications company, Telstra, has resigned, saying the "bond of trust" on the board of directors has been broken. Telstra's stock rallied on the news. Bob Mansfield's departure comes a few months after he backed a plan for the company to take over the Australian media company John Fairfax Holdings. The board voted down that idea.

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