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Tue, Jul 24, 2007 - Page 10 News List

World Business Quick Take

AGENCIES

■ AVIATION

Virgin to buy stake in FAX

Richard Branson's Virgin Group will sign an agreement next month to take a 20 percent stake in Fly Asian Xpress Sdn Bhd (FAX), the new long-haul budget airline owned by the main shareholders of Malaysia's AirAsia, executives familiar with the plan said yesterday. Branson's Virgin Group Ltd is scheduled to sign an agreement Aug. 10 to take the stake in FAX for approximately 24 million ringgit (US$6.9 million), pending approval from Malaysia's Foreign Investment Committee, which oversees all foreign

investments, one of the executives told Dow Jones Newswires. AirAsia, the region's most prominent low-cost carrier, will exercise an option to buy just under 20 percent of FAX as well, the executive said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the negotiations. FAX is presently 100 percent owned by AirAsia's founders, including its chief executive Tony Fernandes and deputy chief executive Kamarudin Meranun. The fundraising will allow FAX to partially finance its operational expenses and buy new aircraft, another executive said.

■ ELECTRONICS

TomTom bids for Tele Atlas

TomTom NV, Europe's largest maker of navigation systems for cars, said yesterday it will bid 1.9 billion euros (US$2.6 billion) for Tele Atlas NV, the digital mapping company. TomTom said it would offer 21.25 euros per share for Den Bosch, Netherlands-based Tele Atlas, a 28 percent premium to the company's closing price of 16.55 euros on Friday.

■ TRADE

US gives up on Thai FTA

The US has given up hopes of a free-trade agreement (FTA) with Thailand because of the political situation since last year's coup, a US official told a Singapore newspaper. "In the case of Thailand, FTA negotiations stalled before the coup," US Trade Representative Susan Schwab said in an interview with the Straits Times published yesterday. "With the coup, it obviously became impossible to proceed. We have given up having an FTA with Thailand," she said.

■ INSURANCE

UK insurers mull merger

Friends Provident PLC and Resolution PLC said yesterday they are in advanced talks about a possible merger of two of Britain's largest life insurers in an all-share-deal. The combination would have a market value of more than ?8 billion (US$16 billion). The proposed merger would see Resolution shareholders holding 50.9 percent of the combination and Friends Provident shareholders taking 49.1 percent, the companies said. Friends Provident shares rose 7.4 percent on the London Stock Exchange to ?2.0075. Resolution shares gained 2.2 percent to ?6.40.

■ TRADE

EU urges China on controls

Europe urged China yesterday to ensure that exports met European standards amid a series of scares about Chinese products ranging from toothpaste to tires. EU Consumer Protection Commissioner Meglena Kuneva said she saw some improvement in how China handled EU warnings of faulty or substandard goods, but much more was needed to satisfy expectations. "Yes, there is an improvement but also it's equally valid that there is need of more step-up of the reforms on the market and on the market surveillance," she said.

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