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Iraq Resurrects Oil Contract With China; Olympic Ticket Scam Robs Thousands


Iraq is resurrecting an oil contract with China after five years, and an on-line scam selling tickets for the Beijing Olympics has robbed thousands of people from Australia, the United States and Europe. Kate Pound Dawson in Bangkok has our roundup of Asia business news, prepared by Naomi Martig.

Iraq's Oil Ministry plans to reinstate an oil deal with China that collapsed in 2003 because of United Nations sanctions. The contract will grant China exploration rights to an oil field south of Baghdad. Iraqi officials say a delegation will travel to China in the next few days to work out details of the agreement.

The original deal from 1997 included 23 years of exploration rights to the oil field, valued at $700 million.

Five top Japanese automakers saw operating profit drop in the second quarter of the year. Toyota's profit dropped more than 38 percent and Nissan's fell around 46 percent. The declines are mainly the result of rising costs of raw materials, the strong Japanese yen, and slower sales in the United States.

Honda motors bucked the trend, reporting an unexpected rise in quarterly profit. The automaker is still predicting falling profit for the year, however.

For the business year that ended in March, Japanese automakers posted record-high operating profits. However, due to the continuing economic slowdown in the United States, many automakers have announced plans to scale back production at U.S. plants until the market recovers.

Thousands of people from Australia, the United States and Europe are without tickets to the Beijing Olympics after an on-line scam sold bogus tickets. The U.S.-based website has since been shut down.

The head of the Australian Olympic Committee, John Coates, says victims of the scam include parents of Olympic athletes, as well as Olympic officials. Coates says little can be done to help those who were caught up in the ticketing scam.

"We made it quiet clear: We can't be expected, I'm afraid, to go over the [Internet] net and find the sites that might be misleading," he said. "I'm afraid we just do not have the ability."

HSBC, one of the world's largest banks and the dominant financial house in Hong Kong, reported its net profit fell almost 29 percent in the first six months of this year, to $7.7 billion. The bank, which operates throughout Asia, said most of the decline came in its United States operations, and reported growth in other markets.

Its Hong Kong subsidiary, Hang Seng Bank, reported net profit rose just over two percent, to about $1.2 billion.

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