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The Week Ahead in Asia Business - 2002-02-11

In this week's look at business news from Asia, South Korea's top automaker posts its best-ever results, and consumer prices fall in Taiwan for the third month in a row.

Hyundai Motor of South Korea said last week that its net profit rose 75 percent last year from the previous year. Earnings totaled nearly $900 million, a record for the firm.

Sales of large cars and sport utility vehicles increased. Mark Barclay, an auto analyst at Samsung Securities in South Korea, says new models and exchange rates also boosted profits. "You have new vehicle releases. You also have a very weak won [local currency]. With these new vehicle releases, you see improved sales in overseas, specifically in the U.S. market," he says. "That, as well as the weak won, translates into very strong improvement in margins and bottom-line profitability."

Hyundai also has plans for a joint venture with a mainland Chinese partner. It signed a deal Tuesday with Beijing Automotive Industry Holding to manufacture more than 100,000 cars a year in China.

One of Southeast Asia's largest telecommunications companies saw its profit decline. Singapore Telecommunications said Friday it booked net profit for the nine months to December of $792 million, down about 20 percent from the same period a year earlier. The fall was related to SingTel's purchase of Australian phone company Optus.

However, revenue grew for both SingTel and Optus. SingTel's sales rose just over one percent, while they rose six percent for Optus.

Taiwan's government reported that the island's consumer price index fell in January for the third consecutive month. However, the drop was less than economists expected. The CPI fell about 1.7 percent from the same period last year. An official from the state statistics agency says he sees no signs of deflation, and predicts that consumer prices will shift higher in the second quarter of the year, as the economy recovers.