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Asia Business: The Week in Review

A bribery scandal involving a U.S. computer giant has rocked South Korea as authorities indict almost 50 executives and a Hong Kong company will acquire a larger stake in a Dutch container port.

South Korea 48 company executives and government officials were indicted on corruption charges linked to the South Korean affiliate of IBM, the American computer giant.

The prosecutors allege that IBM's South Korean branch and its local affiliates bribed government agencies to win $55 million worth of contracts.

Hong Kong's Hutchison Whampoa conglomerate says it will buy a larger stake in the container port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Hutchison, one of the world's leading port operators, will purchase a 19-percent stake for about $13 million from the Dutch company RCPM. Hutchison also will take on about $715 million in RCPM debt.

Danni Schutte, a shipping analyst with investment bank CLSA in Hong Kong, says Hutchison is eager to gain greater exposure to the potential growth of European ports. "If you look at what Hutchison has been doing over the last couple of years, the Hong Kong port is slowing down and the strategy has been to gain exposure elsewhere in the world."

The purchase will boost Hutchison's total interest in the port's holding company, ECT Beheer, to 98 percent from 79 percent.

Singapore's tourism office reported that visitor arrivals to the city-state rose 7.9 percent in November compared with the same month in 2002.

It was a year-on-year increase following the start of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak early last year, which caused tourist arrivals to plunge 70 percent.

While the SARS outbreak in Singapore was brought under control sooner than it was in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan, the lingering fear of the new disease kept travelers away.