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Sat, Aug 11, 2007 - Page 10 News List

World Business Quick Take

AGENCIES

■ AUTOMOBILES

Toyota mulling sports car

Toyota Motor Corp and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd are in discussions to develop a low-cost sports car targeting younger drivers, the Asahi Shimbun reported yesterday. The new sports car would likely be sold by Toyota, on track to become the world's No. 1 automaker by production, and carry a horizontally opposed engine developed by Fuji Heavy, it said. The car will have a relatively low price tag of under ¥2 million (US$16,780) to attract younger drivers, Asahi said. Both companies declined comment, but spokesmen said they were in talks on several possible collaborations.

■ BANKING

HSBC taps into rural China

Global bank HSBC said yesterday it had received the official go-ahead to open a wholly owned banking subsidiary in rural China, making it the first foreign bank to tap into the nation's countryside. The HSBC Rural Bank will be based in Cengdu County in Hubei Province, HSBC said in a statement. The operation, which is expected to be established by the end of the year with up to 25 staff, will cover an area of 6,900km2, the statement said. "We very much support China's policy priority to develop its rural economy and intend to play a full part in these ambitions," HSBC group chairman Stephen Green said in the statement.

■ AVIATION

Virgin buys AirAsia X stake

Billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Group yesterday purchased a 20 percent stake in Malaysia's long-haul budget carrier AirAsia X, in an alliance that could transform the face of Asian aviation. Virgin's purchase of the stake in Fly Asian Xpress (FAX), operator of the new airline, was announced in a company statement. It did not say how much the stake is worth. FAX is owned by the founder of the region's largest low-cost carrier AirAsia. AirAsia X has been granted rights to fly to Stansted airport near London and to Australia's Gold Coast, with first flights to Australia to begin next month or early October, the statement said.

■ PHARMACEUTICALS

EU warns off Thai regime

EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson has warned the Thai government against moves that would force drugmakers to drop their prices on expensive medication, the Financial Times reported yesterday. In a letter seen by the business daily, Mandelson wrote that Thailand "may be taking a new approach to medicines," adding that the country's military government "stated that if drug companies wish to do business in Thailand, they should offer their drugs for no more than 5 percent above the generic cost." "This approach is a matter of concern for the European Union and would be detrimental to the patent system, and so to innovation and the development of new medicines," Mandelson said.

■ OIL

PetroChina plans issue

Shareholders of PetroChina Co (中國石油天然氣), China's biggest oil firm, approved a plan yesterday to sell its first shares to domestic investors in a move that could raise up to US$6 billion. The plan was approved at a shareholders' meeting in Beijing. The company, which is traded in Hong Kong and New York, said earlier it would issue 4 billion shares on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. Chinese companies have been issuing shares on the country's booming domestic markets in recent months following a string of multibillion-dollar initial public offerings abroad.

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