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Australia's Qantas Airline Pleads Guilty to Price-Fixing


Australia's Qantas airline has pleaded guilty to price-fixing and Vietnam will soon have its first aircraft-related production facility. Claudia Blume at VOA's Asia News Center has more on these and other stories in our weekly summary of business news from the region.

Australia's biggest airline Qantas pleaded guilty to fixing prices for international cargo shipments and agreed to pay a $70 million fine.

The U.S. Department of Justice had accused Qantas of conspiring to eliminate competition by fixing the rates for cargo shipments to and from the United States from January 2000 to the beginning of last year. As part of the plea agreement, Qantas agreed to cooperate with a continuing investigation into the matter.

Qantas became the third international airline this year to admit to price fixing, after British Airways and Korean Air Lines pleaded guilty in August.

Peter Harbison is the managing director of Sydney consulting firm Asia Pacific Aviation. He told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that he does not expect Qantas' guilty plea to affect the airlines' passenger business.

"This sort of thing tends to stay pretty much beneath the surface," he said. "It's obviously not something that they want to have against their name but it's not something that reverberates with passengers, I think."

Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries said it will build a $7 million factory in Vietnam to make parts for commercial planes. The plant, Vietnam's first aircraft-related production facility, is scheduled to open next year in the capital Hanoi. It will assemble wing flaps for Boeing's 737 airplanes.

Japanese automaker Toyota began recalling more than 260,000 cars to repair defective fuel pipes. Included in the recall are 49,000 luxury Lexus cars sold overseas, mainly in the United States.

U.S. film producer Universal Studios will build a $1.3 billion theme park in South Korea by 2012.

The park will be built about 30 kilometers southwest of the capital Seoul and include hotels, golf courses and attractions based on Universal Studios' movies. South Korean officials hope the park will attract 10 million visitors annually.

Universal Studios opened its first Asian theme park in the Japanese city of Osaka in 2001. The company is also developing parks in Singapore and Dubai.

And the Philippine economy expanded 6.6 percent in the third quarter from a year ago, fueled by strong consumer spending and bumper harvests, which offset the impact of slower exports. The expansion was slower, however, than the second quarter growth of 7.5 percent, the country's fastest economic growth rate in more than two decades.

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