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China: Chalco Profit down 99% in 2008

Aluminum Corporation of China Ltd (Chalco), reported a 99.9 percent plunge in full-year net profit to 9.2 million yuan ($1.35 million) in 2008, due to product price fluctuations on the international market, the company's annual report revealed Monday. "The company suffered major losses from the snowstorm at the beginning of last year, and the earthquake disaster," said the statement. The shock from the financial crisis, rises in raw material prices and consecutive plunges of finished product prices had posted "unprecedented difficulties and challenges" for the company, said the statement.

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India Engineers loose 50,000 Jobs

EEPC India, the apex body of engineering exports from India, has attributed the loss of 50,000 engineering jobs to the global recession. Around 80 percent of these losses will come from small and medium sized businesses. Even though the engineering sector has experienced 35 percent growth last year, the shrinking economy may constrict this number to around 20 percent of negative growth. Many officials in the industry are hoping that the up-coming stimulus package will help sustain the jobs in the industry, but there are yet to be any announcements that this will happen.

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Russia: Sargut Buys 21% of MOL for $1.8 Billion

Cash rich oil producer Surgutneftegaz agreed to buy 21 percent of Hungarian refiner MOL from Austrian oil and gas company OMV for 1.4 billion euros ($1.8 billion). The purchase appeared to give Surgutneftegaz a controlling stake in the refiner, which listed the largest portion of its shares, 24 percent, as belonging to "foreign investors (mainly institutional)" as of December 2008. "The purchase of an interest in MOL will be a serious basis for the start of long-term mutually beneficial cooperation between our companies," Surgutneftegaz chief Vladimir Bogdanov said in the statement.

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Northern Vietnam's IZs and EPZs Draw More Investment

Vietnam's northern industrial zones (IZs) and export processing zones (EPZs) attracted more than $2 billion in investment from foreign investors on the first day of a two-day investment promotion conference that started on March 26 in northern Bac Ninh province. The conference brought together 700 local and foreign investors and provided them opportunities in northern industrial zones, export processing zones and economic zones. Foreign direct investment projects account for 17 percent of Vietnam's gross domestic product.

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Thailand: Saha Calls For Subsidies

Saha Group, Thailand's biggest consumer products conglomerate, called for the government to provide subsidies to companies to help them save their workers from layoffs during the economic crisis. Boonchai Chokwatana, president of Saha Pathanapibul, a subsidiary of Saha Group, said that the government should switch some of its intensive vocational training budget worth 6.9 trillion baht to help save workers from layoffs, arguing that training people does not guarantee them a job. The National Economic and Social Development Board predicted that Thailand would have at least 1 million unemployed people this year, about 2.5 percent of its workforce.

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Myanmar Forests Could Earn Nation $1b

Myanmar could earn an estimated $1 billion if the country reduces deforestation under a carbon trading initiative proposed at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in November 2008. Under the plan, industrialized nations would pay rainforest nations such as Myanmar to protect their forests to offset their own greenhouse gas emissions. Money from industrialized countries would flow into a forest conservation fund that Myanmar could draw upon depending on its success in reducing its deforestation rate. Through this plan, Myanmar could increase its income by over 25 percent.

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Laos Government Draws Up Master Plan To Develop Mass Media

The Lao Government has developed its master plan to develop the country's mass media. The government had been setting aside some money from its budget to improve and expand the mass media of the country. It also recently passed a new media law that should boost support for the development of this sector. The focus is on improving the quality of information services, getting linked to overseas news networks, and expanding media services to the rural areas. Moreover, one of the important goals is to switch from analog to a digital system by 2015.

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Singapore Tourist Arrivals Dip 15%

Visitor arrivals to Singapore declined 15 percent in February compared to a year ago as the global economic downturn cut consumer spending and holiday plans. Only 689,000 tourists arrived in February, compared to 813,000 last year. This is the biggest decline since June 2008 when tourism arrivals started declining. Visitor arrivals in 13 of the top 15 markets - except Vietnam and the Philippines - registered negative growth over January. The five top markets were Indonesia (103,000 arrivals), China (80,000), Australia (51,000), UK (47,000) and Malaysia (46,000), which accounted for about 48 percent of total visitor arrivals in February.

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Philippine Inflation To Ease Further In March

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said inflation is likely to fall within the range of 5.9 percent and 6.8 percent in March due to the downward adjustments in transport fares and electricity rates. Inflation in February was at 7.3 percent. The BSP projected inflation to decline to 3.9 percent this year from 9.3 percent las year due to slower economic activities and lower oil and food prices. Inflation is expected to reach 4.7 percent in 2010. The BSP had set an inflation target range of 2.5 percent to 4.5 percent for this year and 3.5 percent to 5.5 percent for 2010.

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Malaysia: Ringgit Bond Issuance To Drop In 2009

The Malaysian Rating Corporation Bhd (MARC) is expecting that Ringgit bond issuance will drop further to between RM25 billion and RM30 billion as the global economic downturn continues. Total bond issuance dropped by 8.3 percent to RM49 billion in 2008 after hitting a record high of RM54 billion in 2007. It is hoped that the establishment of the Financial Guarantee Institution (FGI) will encourage lower rated issuers to come back to the market.

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Indonesia Casts Doubt On ASEAN Integrated Capital Market

Indonesia expressed their doubts on the viability of an integrated capital market among ASEAN member states by 2015. The chairman of the capital market and financial institution supervisory agency (Bapepam-LK) Fuad Rahmany said that there is a lack of a common regulatory framework shared between the countries for the region to implement an integrated capital market by 2015. He also added that the region has the problem of synchronizing the regulations that were issued by each member country particularly because most of the ASEAN member states have inherited deep-rooted legal systems from their former colonial occupiers, making it difficult to adopt a single regulation to suit all needs.

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Cambodia Opposition Calls For Tariffs As Economic Crisis Mounts

Cambodia's opposition lawmakers are calling on the government to increase trade barriers and boost agricultural subsidies to cushion the impact of the global economic slowdown on the country's farmers. This is the first time parliamentarians have urged a protectionist response to the crisis. The opposition wants the government to increase tariffs on imported goods to cut the trade deficit with neighboring countries, citing the US$1.35 billion combined shortfall with Thailand and Vietnam.

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