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Japan Starts Privatization of Postal System


Japan's postal service has started to go private and the British Broadcasting Corporation has bought one of the world's most famous publishers of travel guides, Australia's Lonely Planet. Claudia Blume at VOA's Asia News Center in Hong Kong has more on these and other business stories from the region.

Japan's postal service went private, after more than 130 years of public operation. Japan Post was split into four different business units for managing mail delivery, savings, insurance and counter services. Under a 10-year privatization plan, the units will initially be held under a government-controlled holding company before becoming fully independent in 2017.

The privatization creates the world's largest commercial bank, as Japan Post has assets of more than three trillion dollars. The Japanese government hopes the reform will boost competition in the country's banking sector.

BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the British Broadcasting Corporation, bought a controlling stake in Australian traveling publisher Lonely Planet for about $200 million. Lonely Planet founders Maureen and Tony Wheeler will keep a 25 percent stake. The Melbourne company publishes more than 500 travel guides, and became famous for producing hip, comprehensive travel guides for younger travelers with modest budgets.

Speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Company, Tony Wheeler said that Lonely Planet is increasingly expanding into other areas such as Web sites and TV production and needs a partner for this expansion. He said the takeover by the BBC will make the company stronger.

"I think it is going to provide a lot more opportunities for everything within Lonely Planet. We are partnering with somebody who is, we think, a name that is eminently trustworthy and people value it and it's also a worldwide name, it's a worldwide operation," said Wheeler. "So we think we are going with the right people and I think it is just going to provide a lot more opportunities."

Vietnam Airlines split orders for mid-sized passenger jets between rivals Boeing and Airbus. The airline agreed to buy 12 787 Dreamliners from Boeing in the United States for about $1.9 billion.

In the same week, Vietnam Airlines signed a draft agreement to buy 10 A-350 planes and 20 A-321 jets from Boeing's European competitor Airbus. The deal is worth about $3.8 billion.

Vietnam Airlines also announced it will start direct flights between Ho-Chi-Minh City and Los Angeles next year.

Tourist arrivals in Nepal went up by more than a third in the first nine months of this year. The Nepal tourism board said more than 250,000 visitors came in the months until September, up 32 percent from the same period last year. Arrivals from Europe and the United States were particularly strong.

Nepal's tourism sector, one of the country's biggest foreign exchange earners, suffered during a decade-long Maoist insurgency. The industry started to recover after Maoist rebels signed a peace deal with Nepal's government last year.

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