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Mon, Jun 25, 2007 - Page 10 News List

World Business Quick Take

AGENCIES

■ AUTOMOBILES

Toyota plans new hybrid

Japan's Toyota Motor Corp plans to begin selling a second dedicated brand of hybrid automobiles in 2009, following up on its market-dominating Prius hybrid, a news report said yesterday. Japan's No. 1 auto maker plans to sell as many as 100,000 of the as-yet-unnamed hybrid annually around the world at the outset, the Nikkei Shimbun said. The vehicle would be Toyota's second hybrid-only brand following the Prius, the newspaper said. Toyota offers several other hybrid models, including hybrid Camry and hybrid Lexus models. The new vehicle is expected to play a key role in Toyota's plans to increase hybrid sales to 1 million vehicles a year after 2010.

■ AVIATION

Branson may join AirAsia

British billionaire Richard Branson of Virgin Group is reportedly ready to take a stake in Malaysia's new AirAsia long-haul budget airline, the Star newspaper reported. Branson would take a 20 percent stake in Fly Asian Express, teaming up with Asian aviation tycoon Tony Fernandes to run flights from Malaysia to China, Europe and Australia, the newspaper reported, citing sources familiar with the negotiations. It said AirAsia CEO Fernandes and his deputy, Kamarudin Meranum, would sell 20 percent of their stake to Branson. Although Fernandes had previously denied Branson's involvement, he admitted that the two parties were in discussions.

■ ENERGY

Natural gas hydrate found

South Korea said yesterday it has successfully recovered samples of natural gas hydrate, a potential future energy source, from the floor of the Sea of Japan. The samples were collected last week at a depth of 135km in the sea northeast of Pohang, the commerce, the industry and energy ministry said in a statement. South Korea is the 5th country to recover natural gas hydrate samples, following the US, Japan, India and China, the ministry said. Gas hydrate, also known as "combustible ice," is found in seabeds or tundras. It has the potential to be converted into liquid natural gas and hence used as an energy source.

■ FOOD

Genetic tomatoes a hit

Israeli researchers say they have genetically engineered tomatoes to give hints of lemon and rose aromas that have done well in testing on volunteers. The transgenic tomato includes a gene from a variety of lemon basil, Ocimum basilicum, that produces an aroma-making enzyme called geraniol synthase, said Efraim Lewinsohn of Newe Yaar Research Center and colleagues. A panel of 82 people have tested the experimental fruit against unmodified counterparts. The GM tomatoes were preferred by 49 members of the panel, while 29 preferred unmodified tomatoes.

■ ECONOMY

Vietnam growth to continue

Vietnam, already growing at one of the fastest rates in the world, is set to continue that momentum for several more years, a senior government official said yesterday. Its economy expanded nearly 8.2 percent last year -- one of the world's fastest rates after China -- and First Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung said that pace of growth would continue for the period from 2010 through 2015. "We expect that we will retain such an economic growth of eight to 10 percent per annum," he said. Vietnam's economy grew 7.7 percent in the first quarter.

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