A6 November 16 - 22, 2006 · The Epoch Times · Business NEW YORK (Reuters) 4Bank of America Corp., whose intro- duction of free online stock trad- ing last month roiled the brokerage industry, expanded the program to seven mid-Atlantic and Southeast states, and said it is speeding up the program 9s nationwide introduc- tion. The program lets investors make up to 30 free online equity trades per month through Banc of Amer- ica Investment Services Inc. if they deposit at least $25,000 in Bank of America accounts.
It is intended to encourage peo- ple to do more business at the No. 2 U.S. bank, which operates more than 5,700 branches.
Bank of America introduced the program in the U.S. Northeast last month. Monday 9s expansion ex- tended the program to Alabama, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Caro- lina, South Carolina, and Virginia.
cThe process is moving quicker than we originally planned, largely because of the strong market de- mand we 9ve seen, d spokesman Jon Goldstein said. He declined to say how much business the bank is at- tracting with the offer. The Charlotte, North Carolina- based bank now expects to com- plete the nationwide roll-out in early ... more. less.
2007.<br><br> It previously expected to complete the roll-out next spring. The bank has about 1.6 million bro- kerage customers. Rivals have not raced to match Bank of America 9s lowered fees.<br><br> The surprise October 11 launch of the program sent shares of rivals such as Charles Schwab Corp., E*Trade Financial Corp., and TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. down several percent that day. NEW YORK (Reuters) 4Gannett Co.<br><br> Inc., the largest U.S. newspaper company, and Maurice Greenberg, the former chairman of the insur- ance giant American International Group, are each considering bids for Tribune Co., according to me- dia reports. After putting in a bid for the whole company, Gannett execu- tives visited Tribune 9s Chicago headquarters to hear management 9s presentations, the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times 4both Tribune papers 4reported over the weekend.<br><br> The New York Times reported last Monday that Greenberg too is considering a bid for Tribune and has been reaching out to invest- ment bankers and lawyers about pursuing an offer. Greenberg has also expressed interest in pursuing The Boston Globe, owned by the New York Times, and Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal. Gannett 9s pursuit of Tribune forms part of an already crowded Keld of suitors, which includes several groups of private equity Krms.<br><br> Asked about Greenberg 9s interest in Tribune and other newspapers, a spokesman for the former execu- tive told Reuters that cGreenberg is exploring several options regarding media companies. d A Tribune spokesman declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Gannett, publisher of USA Today, also declined to comment. Tribune, with a market value of about $8 billion, is trying to sell itself against the background of weak Knancial results, an uncer- tain future, and pressure from the Chandler family, a major share- holder.<br><br> Tribune assets also include New York 9s Newsday and the Chicago Cubs baseball team. Its shares rose 48 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $32.39 in trade on the New York Stock Exchange. Since opening the bidding pro- cess, Tribune has reached out to several media groups, including Gannett, Hearst Corp., and Dean Singleton 9s MediaNews Group Inc., the Wall Street Journal reported last Sunday, citing people familiar with the matter.<br><br> The company also has been in contact with News Corp., which is interested in Newsday in New York, the Journal said. MediaNews had informal dis- cussions with Tribune about some of its assets, such as the Hartford Courant and the Stamford Advocate in Connecticut, but hasn 9t had any meetings with the company, the Journal said, citing one person fa- miliar with the matter. Bank of America Speeds Up Free Online Trading FREE TRADING: Bank of America is expanding its program to let investors make up to 30 free online equity trades per month.<br><br> Mario Tama/Getty Images Gannett, Greenberg Considering Tribune Bids SINGAPORE (Reuters) 4When fund manager Winson Fong visits corporate headquarters, he looks out for swanky ofKces and Lashy cars to see if the company is wasting money instead of enriching its shareholders. Poor corporate management, espe- cially by Chinese companies listed in Singapore, is a hot topic in the city- state following a slew of accounting problems cThere was a time when I passed through a car park, and I found all these sports cars, Porsches and Ferraris, d said Fong, SG Asset Management 9s chief investment ofK- cer, adding that the sight put him off investing. This kind of leg work is needed to weed out bad apples among Singapore 9s listed China plays.<br><br> Shares of these companies have out- performed the market, but some have plummeted in the wake of account- ing scandals or executive upheavals. More than 100 Chinese Krms have found their way to Singapore, giving the Singapore Exchange a welcome boost to its proKts. Listing and mem- bership fees jumped 50 percent to S$33 million to make up 8 percent of revenues for the year ended June 30.<br><br> China stocks have performed better than the overall market. The average, unweighted gain for Singapore-listed China plays this year is 32 percent, compared with a rise of 17 percent for the Straits Times Index. But there are risks, too.<br><br> On Tuesday, trade in shares of China-based cable-maker Hengxin Technologies was suspended after a local paper reported a civil suit Kled against its head in a Chinese court over a now-defunct Krm he once managed. cThe issue is somewhat worrying because investors are not clear about the situation at Hengxin, d Daiwa SB Investments Fund Manager Steven Lim. 8Bad Apples 9 cBecause of previous incidents, in- vestors are more aware of the risks of investing in China-based companies, but that is not to say Singapore com- panies have not had their fair share of accounting and management prob- lems.<br><br> It 9s always a matter of separat- ing the good apples from the bad, d Lim added. China Food Industries Ltd., which runs pig farms and distributes pork and animal feed, shocked investors last month when it said that an audit by Ernst & Young had cast cserious doubts on the accuracy, credibility, and reliability d of the accounting en- tries at a Chinese unit, while another had inLated proKts. The Hengxin and China Food hiccups come in the wake of a spate of bad publicity for Bio-Treat Technology Ltd., a China-based biotech waste treatment Krm with a $290 million market cap.<br><br> The former market darling 4it had cbuy d calls from Krms such as Merrill Lynch, which said it was a cgem d in China 9s water treatment sector 4re- ported a surprise 42 percent drop in full-year net proKt on August 29. Then Bio-Treat said it had found cmaterial differences d in the revenue and cost of sales items in its Knancial statements. cIf you buy a Chinese company, there is always a question mark, d said UOB Kay Hian director Chan Tuck Sing.<br><br> cThe issue of governance and accounting transparency is al- ways there. d China-linked IPOs are usually priced with single-digit to low dou- ble-digit price/earnings ratios to reLect the risk, bankers said. The Straits Times Index, by contrast, trades at about 15 times forward earnings. Gate Keeper The biggest scandal was China Aviation Oil Corp.<br><br> Ltd. (CAO), which in 2004 lost $550 million in a botched bet on oil prices. CAO shares resumed trading in March and have fallen about 23 percent since, but the resumption at least closed a chapter on Singapore 9s worst Knancial di- saster since the collapse of Barings bank.<br><br> Some analysts say the Singapore Exchange could help improve gover- nance by holding investment banks accountable for the quality of Krms they bring to market. cThere is a stronger gate-keeping role they can play, d said Jamie Allen of the Asia Corporate Governance Association. SGX last year barred Westcomb Capital Pte.<br><br> Ltd. 4an issue manager and underwriter 4from submitting IPOs for three months after some of the Krms that it brought to market, including Yaan Security Technology, Sinobest Technology Holdings, and Daka Designs had proKt warnings shortly after listing. The SGX said it has tightened its listing rules: Krms must now state the name of their issue managers in all company announcements for two years after their market debut, and at least two of their independent di- rectors must be Singapore residents, compared to one previously. Even so, analysts say investors have to learn to assess each Krm on its own merit.<br><br> cYou have to do everything, un- derstand the policy, understand the history, understand China, know the people. It 9s like you are going to marry somebody, d said Yang Liu, who runs $1 billion of China funds as managing director of Atlantis Investment Management in Hong Kong. Singapore 9s China Stocks Can Deliver Nasty Surprises REALITY CHECK: Chinese stocks have enjoyed positive gains recently, but some companies have plummeted in the wake of accounting scandals or executive upheavals.<br><br> AFP/AFP/Getty Images FOR SALE: The Los Angeles Times building in Los Angeles, Calif. Tribune Co., the parent of the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, has been the target of recent takeover rumors. David McNew/Getty Images Wal-Mart Further Cuts U.S.<br><br> Toy Prices LOS ANGELES (Reuters) 4Wal- Mart Stores Inc. said on Tuesday it would further cut prices on toys and games in its fourth set of mark- downs aimed at spurring sales growth during the crucial holiday season. Previously the company had re- duced prices in categories including electronics and home appliances in the face of sluggish sales.<br><br> Wal-Mart, which said the latest markdowns bring the total number of discounted toys to over 150, has been trying to reinvigorate growth after back-to-back months of disap- pointing sales. The company 9s more fashionable apparel line Metro 7 has not been a hit with shoppers, while remodeling projects have disrupted hundreds of U.S. stores.<br><br> U.S. Automakers Say Action Needed on Weak Yen WASHINGTON (Reuters) 4The chief executives of General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler Group said on Tuesday they discussed several competitive concerns with President George W. Bush during an hour-long meeting in the Oval OfKce.<br><br> cWe told the president that we are very willing to make difKcult deci- sions to transform our businesses to compete successfully, but we are not in a position to counter the ef- fects of an excessively weak yen. cWe asked the president to take action to address the weak yen, d the companies said in a joint statement issued after the meeting. Odds of a Fed Hike/Cut Roughly Balanced, Poole Says WILMINGTON, Delaware (Reuters) 4Federal Reserve Bank of St.<br><br> Louis President William Poole said on Tuesday that the odds of another rate hike were about the same as a rate cut, but he felt the current policy position was cabout right. d cInLation expectations are well controlled ... I believe that the out- look for Fed policy is roughly sym- metrical. I can imagine data com- ing in that would make me want to tighten policy.<br><br> And I could imagine data coming in that would lead me to believe that we ought to be eas- ing policy, d he told reporters after delivering a speech to the Chartered Financial Analysts Society of Philadelphia. cWould I like to see the inLation rate lower? Yes.<br><br> And if all the infor- mation taken together ... suggests that we are not making progress, I will be among those who will push for a tighter policy, d he told report- ers. cBut given the lags in the pro- cess, given the inherent uncertainty in this situation, it seems to me our policy stance is about right, and obviously, if I thought otherwise, I would have dissented at the last meetings, d said Poole, who is a vot- ing member of the Fed 9s policy-set- ting committee, Business Digest Publisher of Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times is on the auction block<br><br>