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Air India Places Large Order For New Aircraft


India's national air carrier has placed the biggest aircraft order in its history, and an Italian chocolate maker has savored the sweet taste of victory in a piracy lawsuit in China.

Air India has signed an agreement to buy 68 Boeing airplanes, with a list price of $11 billion.

It was the largest order in Indian aviation history.

Peter Harbison is executive chairman of the Center for Asia Pacific Aviation in Sydney, Australia. He says government-owned Air India is under serious threat from a growing number of private competitors in India's booming aviation industry.

Harbison says an upgrading and expansion of Air India's outdated fleet was long overdue, but improvements in standards will not come immediately.

"It has been a government-owned airline for several decades, with a whole lot of political and social baggage, which slows it down commercially, and turning this great big tanker around is not going to be easy," he said. "I think we will probably see it improve its standards, but it obviously can't change from a frog to a prince overnight."

Several Western multinationals have won copyright piracy cases against Chinese companies in recent weeks. Now, Italian chocolate maker Ferrero Rocher has joined the group.

The Italian company accused Montresor (Zhangjiagang) Food of copying its flagship brand of Ferrero Rocher gold-wrapped chocolates.

A Chinese court ordered the local company to stop producing the copycat chocolates, and to pay Ferrero $87,000 in compensation.

Optus, the Australian unit of Singapore Telecommunications, has acquired full control over Virgin Mobile Australia. Optus paid more than $22 million for the 74 percent of the Australian mobile phone company it did not already own.

Virgin Mobile Australia was established in 2000 as a joint venture between Optus and the Virgin group, owned by British businessman Richard Branson.

And in South Korea, Posco, the country's largest steelmaker, has reported lowered earnings. Posco says its profits fell almost 70 percent in the fourth quarter compared to 2004, to $394 million.

Posco said the fall was largely caused by declining steel prices, the rising cost of iron ore and coal, and competition from cheaper Chinese products. Analysts predict the steel maker's profits will take a further drop this year.

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