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Chinese Car Exports Exceed Imports for First Time

China says it has become a next exporter of cars and trucks for the first time, while U.S. automaker Ford plans to build an engine plant in the Philippines.

China's official Xinhua News Agency says vehicle exports jumped more than 130 percent in the first 10 months of this year - exceeding imports by 7,000 units. China mainly exports trucks and low-cost vehicles, while the majority of imports are luxury cars from the United States, Japan and Europe.

Up to now, Chinese auto companies have primarily targeted developing countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. But Michael Dunne, president of the Beijing-based consulting firm Automotive Resources Asia, says automakers are now looking at entering the U.S. market.

"Initially, Chinese manufacturers, in terms of quality and emission standards, are not sophisticated enough to enter the U.S. market, but by 2007, 2008, we should see the first Chinese vehicles in America," he said.

In other news from the automobile sector, U.S. automaker Ford will invest $20 million to build a plant in the Philippines manufacturing flexible fuel engines. Flexible fuel engines are designed to operate on either conventional gasoline or a combination of gasoline and bio-ethanol fuels.

Ford expects the plant, close to the capital, Manila, to produce 100,000 engines worth about 100-million dollars over the next five years. About 80 percent of the output will be for export to the region, and the remainder for the local market.

Australia's largest investment bank, Macquarie, has bought one of Taiwan's largest cable TV operators for $880 million.

Macquarie's media fund bought a 60-percent stake in Taiwan Broadband Communications, TBC, while Macquarie Bank holds the remaining 40 percent. TBC controls 12 percent of Taiwan's cable television market. It also offers Internet connections, digital television programming and telephone services.

The acquisition is the first foreign purchase for Macquarie's media fund since it was listed on the Australian stock market in November.

Britain's third-biggest bank, Barclays, has opened its first branch office in China. The Shanghai office will offer money market and foreign-exchange services, and advice on risk management and debt financing.

Unlike many of its competitors, Barclays has not tried to buy a stake in Chinese state-owned banks before the opening of China's financial markets to foreign competition next year.