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Thu, Nov 18, 2004 - Page 12 News List

World Business Quick Take

AGENCIES

■ Insurances

Executives pled guilty

Two top executives of the Zurich American Insurance company, a unit of Zurich Financial Services, have pleaded guilty to charges in connection with alleged rigged bids being investi-gated in New York, a com-pany statement said. The two men who pleaded guilty on Tuesday were suspended by ZFS, the largest Swiss insurer, last week and face up to a year in prison, but have agreed to cooperate with an investigation by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. They were identified as John Keenan and Edward Coughlin by the Financial Times, which quoted a plea agreement read aloud at their arraign-ment at the New York State Supreme Court. In their depositions, the two men acknowledged having "fol-lowed and executed direc-tives of a supposedly neutral broker aimed at submitting offers designed to be refused."

■ Aviation

Virgin Blue's profits drop

Soaring fuel costs and tough competition pushed Austra-lian airline Virgin Blue's first-half profit slightly lower, the airline said yes-terday. The budget carrier set up in 2000 reported a 1.8 percent drop in net profit to A$63 million (US$48 mil-lion) for the six months to Sept. 30, despite a 27.6 per-cent rise in sales to A$786.9 million. The airline said record fuel prices, increased domestic competition and weakening yields had out-weighed moves to make more seats available on its busiest routes. "The outlook remains uncertain," Virgin Blue said. "While fuel continues to be volatile and at record prices, Virgin Blue remains exposed to further increases in fuel prices that may not be recoverable through fare increases. Virgin Blue controls about one-third of Australia's domestic market.

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